Pixel Scroll 7/14/24 Petronius T Arbiter Says, I’m Currently Looking For A Door, Or, Even A Window, Into Winter, Which I Plan To Leave Open And Move My Bed Near

(1) DRAGONS, CARE AND FEEDING. George R.R. Martin has a long exposition about dragons, and not only those of Westeros, at Not a Blog:  “Here There Be Dragons”.

…Dragons need food.   They need water too, but they have no gills.  They need to breathe.  Some say that  Smaug slept for sixty years below the Lonely Mountains before Bilbo and the dwarves woke him up.   The dragons born of Valyria cannot do that.   They are creatures of fire, and fire needs oxygen.   A dragon could dip into the ocean to scoop up a fish, perhaps, but they’d fly right up again.  If held underwater too long, they would drown, just like any other land animal.

My dragons are predators, carnivores who like their meat will done.   They can and will hunt their own prey, but they are also territorial.   They have lairs.   As creatures of the sky, they like mountain tops, and volcanic mountains best of all.  These are creatures of fire, and the cold dank caverns that other fantasists house their pets in are not for mine.     Man-made dwellings, like the stables of Dragonstone, the  towers tops of the Valryian Freehold, and the Dragonpit of King’s Landing, are acceptable — and often come with men bringing them food.  If those are not available, young dragons will find their own lairs… and defend them fiercely.

My dragons are creatures of the sky.   They fly, and can cross mountains and plains, cover hundreds of miles… but they don’t, unless their riders take them there.   They are  not nomadic.  During the heyday of Valyria there were forty dragon-riding families with hundreds of dragons amongst them… but (aside from our Targaryens) all of them stayed close to the Freehold and the Lands of the Long Summer…

(2) ETHICS OF SPACE TRAVEL AND ALIEN CONTACT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Human beings are mucky creatures. As a bioscientist, and especially as one who engaged in germ-free and also specific-pathogen-free work in my gap year, I am acutely aware that humans are a home to a multitude of microbes and we continually shed them. (My work involved small chambers in which we kept an open agar plate on one side to ensure everything was clean; it was very bad news if ever we came in and something was growing as that meant that that particular experiment had to come to an abrupt end.)  So you can guess my ethical stance as to the proposed human landings on Mars. Yes, I know we defeated the Martians before with microbes, but that was on our own home turf in Blighty: there’s no need for us to contaminate putative Martians on Mars before we have done as much as we can using robots.  (Yes, I know that I constantly tell folk that the machines are taking over the world – though nobody ever listens – but, to be fair, I don’t mind them taking over Mars: I’m not that prejudiced.)

And even our bog-standard Lunar missions have seen us pollute our Moon.  Just a few weeks ago, at the end of May, there was research published that we might have already significantly contaminated Lunar polar ice with water from Apollo lander exhaust and that the proposed Starship craft will further contaminate it to a far, far greater degree. This is going to make ascertaining the origin of Lunar water ice trapped in permanently shadowed areas quite difficult. (Already on Earth we have contaminated Antarctic ice with isotopes from atomic bomb testing which is why those of us looking at palaeoclimatology through ice cores define ‘the present’ as being 1950 – can’t use any ice since then [other than for cooling one’s gin and tonic (it’s a silver lining)].  Betcha didn’t know you lived in the future!)

So, this week’s BBC Radio 4 programme Siedways – the first in a four part series – on the ethics of the search for aliens and alien contact piqued my interest. (Even though the programme trailer mentioned ‘inter-galactic’ aliens… I’d settle for detecting interstellar techno aliens.) Anyway, you can decide how good the panel was for yourself…  Access the programme here: “BBC Radio 4 – Sideways, A New Frontier, A New Frontier: 1. A Message to Ourselves”.

(3) TCA 2024. There are two genre shows among the winners of the Television Critics Awards 2024. (Complete list at the link.) The winners were selected by the TCA’s membership of more than 230 TV journalists from across the United States and Canada.

  • Outstanding Achievement in Family ProgrammingDoctor Who (Disney+)
  • Heritage AwardTwin Peaks

(4) PEACE IN SFF. “C.S. Lewis, Sci-fi, and the Normality of Peace” by Peter Jacobsen at the Foundation for Economic Education.

…One of the easiest ways to understand what Lewis is doing in Out of the Silent Planet is to look at the context in which he is writing. The book was published in 1938, when sci-fi works like H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds dominated.

In an article “Rehabilitating H.G. Wells: C.S. Lewis’s ‘Out of the Silent Planet,’” author David Downing argues that much of what Lewis was doing in the Space Trilogy was challenging sci-fi tropes he found objectionable. He says the novel started when “Lewis and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien agreed that there simply were not enough of their favorite sort of stories available [in the sci-fi genre], so they decided to try their own hand at it.”

Lewis goes out of his way to point out his debt to Wells in the novel, but it’s clear he disagrees with many Wellsian takes on sci-fi. One disagreement in particular stood out to me. Unlike the violent, malevolent Martians in The War of the Worlds, the extra-terrestrials in Lewis’s book are peaceful.

Brilliantly, Lewis makes it clear that the characters, like the reader, share the bias in assuming the creatures will be evil. The protagonist, Ransom, in his first encounter with one species of extra-terrestrial called the sorn, is repulsed and flees the scene. It didn’t help that Ransom was taken by other humans against his will. In that sense he had some reason to fear the sorn. But the only reason he was taken was that the other humans feared the sorn. The sorn simply wanted to talk, but the humans believed it was demanding a sacrifice.

As a reader, this point dawned on me slowly. The natives call the planet that Ransom lands on Malacandra, and there are several rational and animal species on the planet. As I read through the novel, I kept wondering, “Which of these is going to be the bad species? Which alien is the antagonist?”

Ransom shares this thinking. As he continues on the planet, he befriends a different species known as the hrossa who teach him the planetary language. In interacting with the hrossa, he tries to uncover which of the species on the planet rules the others. Which species is in control?

He slowly discovers that things are not as he expected. It isn’t the case that one species violently controls the others. Rather, each one specializes in a few things, and cooperates and exchanges with the others. This seems so foreign to Ransom that he’s skeptical that this could be true at first. However, he slowly discovers that the only hierarchy is a willing submission of all three species to the divine order.

As we continue through the book, Ransom soon discovers that the planet Malacandra is actually what we call Mars. Again, Lewis makes the contrast clear between his own works and works like The War of the Worlds. Mars, despite having been named by humans after the god of war, is a peaceful place.

The Martians are not violent invaders. Ransom asks about violent conflict: “If both wanted one thing and neither would give it… would the other at last come with force? Would they say, give it or we kill you?”

The Hrossa can’t understand why that would ever be necessary. Why would they want something like violence or war?

It’s a beautiful reframing of the issue. Peace is normal….

(5) STREET-LEGAL FLYING SAUCER. Of course, as Jacobsen says above, not everyone is prepared to encounter peace-loving aliens. “A UFO car drove cross-country. Officers thought it was out of this world” – behind a paywall in the Washington Post.

Adam Carnal, a deputy in Crawford County, Mo., wasn’t sure what he would find when he pulled over a flying saucer on Interstate 44 late last month. The vehicle had committed a lane violation, he said, and he wasn’t sure if it was allowed to be on the road in the first place.

As Carnal approached, he recalled the top of the cockpit lifting to reveal two people sporting green, alien-like glasses. The driver raised a hand and gave Carnal a Vulcan salute, the famous gesture from the TV series “Star Trek.”

“I come in peace,” Carnal said the man told him.

The traffic stop was one of four that lifelong alien-enthusiast Steve Anderson experienced during his multiday drive from Indianapolis to the Roswell UFO Festival in New Mexico. After being pulled over twice in Missouri and two more times in Oklahoma, he said, he was also welcomed to Roswell by officers who knew he’d be arriving, awaiting his lunar landing in the parking lot of his hotel.

“I thought, how cool would it be to get to ride in a flying saucer?” he said. “So since I don’t have the technology to make one that flies, I built a driving saucer.”…

…Anderson bought a tiny 1991 Geo Metro and rang up Dennis Bellows, a mechanic friend who had built a few other cars for him. Anderson asked Bellows if he could transform the Geo into a flying saucer, like the kind in old sci-fi movies….

…The car’s bubble-shaped top — adorned with an antenna — took an extra bit of ingenuity. Bellows ultimately warmed pie slices of plexiglass to form the contraption….

… Anderson is used to being stopped by law enforcement while he’s driving the space cruiser — one of roughly 45 cars he keeps at his home in Indiana. He said he often hands over a gag driver’s license identifying him as “Al Ien” and tells officers that he’s from the planet Krypton, before handing over his real identification….

(6) WILL THEY DOUBLE UP OR DOUBLE DOWN? The media asks, “Between ‘Gladiator II’ and ‘Wicked,’ is the new ‘Barbenheimer’ upon us?” Despite CNN’s fervent hope and best effort, the pairing doesn’t click the same way – and is missing a lyrical handle.

This year, two disparate, big-budget films will share a release date: One, an R-rated historical epic stacked with a starry cast of Oscar hopefuls. The other, a musical based on a beloved property with plenty of pink and a Billboard-friendly soundtrack.

Sound familiar?

With “Gladiator II” and the first part of “Wicked” sharing a release date, days before Thanksgiving, movie theaters are nearing their truest chance at another “Barbenheimer,” a viral phenomenon that in 2023 drove audiences to the movie theater by the millions, leaving a massive mark in pop culture and at the box office.

But what will we call it? “Gladiator II” star Paul Mescal thinks “Glicked” (pronounced glick-id) is the portmanteau that suits the prospective double feature best.

“’Wickiator’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?” he said in a new interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I think the films couldn’t be more polar opposite and kind of worked in that context previously, so fingers crossed people come out and see both films on opening weekend.”

But maybe we moviegoers (and Mescal) are getting ahead of ourselves. Tom Nunan, a lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV and the founder of the production company Bull’s Eye Entertainment, isn’t fully sold on “Barbenheimer” 2.0.

… It should be noted that after the smashing success of “Barbenheimer” summer, no release weekends have seen the same double-feature draw, though musings of “Saw Patrol” and “Garfuriosa” pairings did make the rounds online. Those were more jokes about how two seemingly incompatible films could reach the same audiences than genuine attempts at creating a viral trend — in no world does the über-graphic “Saw X” pair well with the kid-friendly “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie.”…

(7) SHANNEN DOHERTY (1971-2024). Actress Shannen Doherty, known in genre circles for Charmed, died July 13 of cancer at the age of 53.

…Doherty starred with Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano in “Charmed” from 1998-2001, at which point her character was replaced by one played by Rose McGowan…

She was best known for her work on Beverly Hills, 90210 and its reboots.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

July 14, 1939 Sid Haig. (Died 2019.) This Scroll, we come to honor not a performer who was known as a hero, one who was legendary mostly as a villain, Sid Haig, a role he played in fantasy, horror and SF. 

His most well-known role was as Captain Spaulding in the Rob Zombie films House of 1000 CorpsesThe Devil’s Rejects and 3 from Hell. Not for those easily offended, nor for those expected a storyline with a plot that make sense, the character is an icon of horror. SPOILER ALERT — Unlike Freddie Krugger, Rob Zombie has so far suggested this character is indeed dead. END SPOILER ALERT. Oh, and Spaulding is named for Groucho Marx’s Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding character from the Thirties Animal Crackers film. 

Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding

He had one major roles in SF, that being the evil Dragos on Jason of Star Command, the series James Doohan was. He appeared in every episode of the two seasons that series ran. Dragos, Jason’s main adversary, intends to rule the galaxy and it is up to Jason and the Star Command to stop him. Haig delightfully played him way over the top in the costume below.

Sid Haig as Dragos

He showed up in Star Trek in as First Lawgiver in “The Return of The Archons”.  I’m reasonably certain everyone here has seen it but if not, the plot is that Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the USS Archon on the planet Beta III, Kirk and his crew encounter an old-style Western community brainwashed and subservient to a sinister godlike figure called Landru. He was the First Lawgiver. 

The final role that I’m going to was on Batman in two episodes, “The Spell of Tut” and Tut’s Case is Shut”, he’s a minion on King Tut,  the enemy of Batman who created specifically created who was portrayed by Victor Buono as was this character, Royal Apothecary. As you can see, the costume that they gave was quite silly. 

Sid Haig as Royal Apothecary

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heart of the City finishes her Sunday crossovers.
  • Lio also has a crossover.
  • Thatababy sees some exotic birds.
  • Rubes reminds us wizards have discriminating palates.
  • Tom Gauld encounters declining standards.

(10) TINY L.A. “He built miniatures of LA buildings for fun. Now, Guillermo del Toro is among his fans” at LAist.

Many transplants come to Los Angeles to chase a dream. Kieran Wright kind of just stumbled onto his.

The New Zealander moved to the city about 8 years ago, with the humble goal of soaking in as much of L.A. as he could.

“I wanted to connect with the city as a local would, and I had so much catching up to do,” Wright said. “I started building this picture of L.A. that was different to the one that I had imagined, it turned out to be in the best way possible.”

Those quests took him on drives far and close to places famous and offbeat. Wright was fascinated with the diner, one staple in the American movies and TV shows he watched before moving to Los Angeles. It was at an icon of the genre, Rae’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, where his love for the city, architecture, and Americana all came together to nudge him to try out a hobby — to build miniature replicas of L.A. buildings that are as beautiful as they are painstakingly faithful….

…One of his career highlights, Wright said, came via a purchase notice he got on Twitter. The buyer was filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who would end up collecting several more pieces, including a mini replica of The Formosa Cafe, and The Jim Henson Company.

After Wright delivered the model to del Toro’s house, he asked the director to send him a photo of its final setting when he finds a place for it.

“Sure enough, a couple of days later, he sent me a photo of the miniature surrounded by everything in his house,” Wright said. “He’s got all sorts of interesting oddities and collectibles… and the art fits in there perfectly.”…

(11) STARLINKS IN WRONG ORBIT. [Item by Jeanne Jackson]. Last night [July 11], I watched a Starlink launch on the usual Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Space Patrol Base right after logging off from my Thursday night writers’ group meeting. Although the thing was hard to see owing to an intense shroud of pea-soup fog on the launching pad, the bird got off just fine. Except for the ground visibility problem (frequent in S. California), everything looked normal. There was a good bit of uncustomary frost on the upper parts of the second-stage engine, but the Spaceflight Now commentator (independent journalist, not part of Space X) thought it was probably harmless. The first stage landed perfectly on its drone barge in the Pacific Ocean.

 I went to bed last night with the erroneous idea that the launch was successful. The second stage had injected everything into orbit, and I’d never heard of Falcon 9 having any trouble with the later circularization burn, a 1 or 2 second shot upon reaching apogee. I entered the launch into the Log, sat down to watch two Perry Mason episodes, took Tillion (my dog) outdoors at midnight, and went to bed.

 Today, I found out otherwise. The 20 Starlink birds had indeed made into orbit—the wrong orbit. Indeed, it was the worst orbit possible short of getting listed as FTO (Failed To Orbit). The circularization burn had not taken place as planned. Instead, there was what the astronautics trade euphemistically calls a “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” of the upper stage motor. In plain English, the confounded thing blew itself to bits.

 Oops.

 I’ve made some changes in my Space Flight Log entries for these 20 Starlink satellites, of course.

 Independent sources tell me that the perigees of the twenty comsats were very, very low: mostly around 130-140 kilometers, with a few outliers around 115 and one up at 190. Apogees ran from 250 to 325 kilometers. This is not conducive to long spacecraft lifetime. 130 km is ~80 miles. It’s reported that Elon Musk ordered that the satellites save themselves by using their argon-ion maneuvering thrusters, but this is unlikely to be effective. It normally takes two weeks or more for these low-power, continuous-boost thrusters to move the satellites into their operating orbits, but the projected lifetimes of this bunch are probably measurable in days, if not hours. Each of them has a pair of solar panels giving a 30-meter wingspread, meaning gross quantities of atmospheric drag.

 In other words, Musk’s order is like Jim Kirk ordering Warp 9 when all Scotty has online is a single impulse engine in dire need of repair. Unlike in Star Trek, it ain’t gonna happen.

 I mentioned an anomalous frosty buildup on the 2nd stage engine, upstream of the combustion chamber. The current online buzz has it that this probably came from a small liquid oxygen leak. The frosty buildup may have accumulated enough to clog lines in the 40+ minutes between initial cutoff and reignition for the circularization burn, causing an explosion. The explosion was apparently of insufficient destructive force to prevent satellite deployment.

This has never happened before on a Falcon 9—it certainly isn’t a design flaw. Most likely, somebody goofed at some point during assembly of that upper stage, and nobody else caught the mistake. Either that, or some subcontractor supplied Space X with a faulty part (this has happened before), and no one in Space X tested the part properly prior to installation.

Most likely, the underlying cause of the failure was doing things in a hurry. The only good things about this incident are that astronauts were not involved, and no customer was discommoded by it—Starlink is an in-house operation of Space X. Just imagine what the public outcry would have been, had the payload been a billion-dollar space probe, space telescope, or reconnaissance satellite, paid for by taxpayers rather than corporate stockholders. Never mind the noise had it been a human flight mission.

In the past year or two, Space X has been emphasizing faster and faster launch tempos. Up to now, they’ve gotten away with it, but this is likely to draw them up short for at least a couple or three months while they track down the cause and come up with a remedy for it. Space is a harsh, hostile environment, and rocket science is unforgiving of mistakes.

Faster, better, cheaper—pick any two. And do it right, not do it Tuesday—if you want to deliver a product which satisfies your customers.

(12) PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS – MIND READING THE BRAIN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Nature comes news of brain scans now being sufficiently detailed that we can identify a single language word.  “Ultra-Detailed Brain Map Shows Neurons for Words’ Meanings”.

Ultra-detailed brain map shows neurons that encode words’ meaning. For the first time, scientists identify individual brain cells linked to the linguistic essence of a word…

To an extent, the researchers were able to determine what people were hearing by watching their neurons fire. Although they couldn’t recreate exact sentences, they could tell, for example, that a sentence contained an animal, an action and a food, and the order in which the words appeared…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended takes us to the Villain Pub to contend with “A Despicable QUIET PLACE”.

Fallout, The Last of Us, A Quiet Place – so many apocalypse stories! So what happens when a Ghoul, a Clicker and Death Angel walk into a bar and what do the other villains think about them?

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Jeanne Jackson, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Saint of Cat Doors” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/23 Mind The Pixels, And The Scrolls Will File Themselves

(1) HAPPY MOOMIN EASTER!

(2) AI AND RELIGION. The Guardian poses a question to a rabbi, a Muslim scholar, and a digital religions professor: “Are chatbots changing the face of religion? Three faith leaders on grappling with AI”.

….HadithGPT, for instance, uses hadiths or the narrations of the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad to answer questions about Islam. Its responses come with a disclaimer: the answers are AI-generated and may not be accurate, it says. “Islam is passed down from heart to heart and it is important to learn and consult real Islamic scholars for more accurate information.”

Even with this disclaimer, an average person may not have access to an actual scholar they can consult, making it easier to rely exclusively on Sheikh Google or services like HadithGPT, Turk says. The source material is also missing a lot of context typically considered when answering Islamic questions, he added. That includes the human layer of analysis of the hadiths and consideration of other texts such as the Qur’an, as well as scholarly opinions and Islamic jurisprudence. Different schools of thought also give weight to different customs and traditions, he said.

“The hadith are silent on a lot of questions that are more contemporary in nature, Turk said. “It’s much more complicated than just what do the hadiths say in a black and white fashion.”

In other faiths like Buddhism, many practitioners are less text and more practice-centric, making the religion “uniquely situated to shrug” the proliferation of chatbots off, according to the Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Roshi a Zen Buddhist priest in California.

“There’s a practice centricity that takes all of the text and sets them aside and says, it doesn’t matter how much you read, doesn’t matter what you get out of a chatbot,” Williams said. “That’s not the answer. The answer is in your life: do you feel the truth of those words that you speak? And if you don’t, that’s really the only measure.”…

(3) WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL. Some well-known genre figures will be part of The PEN America World Voices Festival, to be held May 10-13. The event will be led by festival chair Ayad Akhtar and guest chairs Marlon James and Ottessa Moshfegh. Ta-Nehisi Coates will deliver the Arthur Miller lecture which will be livestreamed. Speakers include John Irving, Roxane Gay, Reza Aslan, Min Jin Lee, Sarah Polley, Amor Towles, Padma Lakshmi, Masha Gessen, Jelani Cobb, Ben Okri, Han Kang, Imani Perry and so many more. The festival takes place on May 10-13 both in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles with selected events available online.

(4) A MODEST PROPOSAL. SF2 Concatenation tweeted a link to an advance post of its forthcoming seasonal edition’s news page editorial, and they’d love for you to click through and read the whole thing. Here’s the teaser:

With the Worldcon coming to Britain for the first time in roughly a decade, the mainly British-based SF2 Concatenation has a possible suggestion for the committee’s choice of special Hugo Award category.

What special Hugo Award category for the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon? In addition to the set Hugo Award categories, such as Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Best Short Story, Best Novel etc., each year that year’s committee organising the Worldcon gets the right to choose a category of their own.  Past such Hugo categories have included things like Best Game or Best Art Book.  Not all committee-proposed special categories in the past garnered sufficient nomination interest for them to appear on the Hugo Short-List ballot.  So really the trick is to come up with a special category that will engage with Hugo Award voters (Worldcon Attending registrants).
Here we have an idea…

(5) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books will host a “Flash Science Fiction Night Online Event” on Tuesday April 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Online Flash Science Fiction Reading. Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) with authors Susan Rukeyser, Todd Sullivan, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Night’s run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(6) WHERE’S MY FAINTING CLOTH? Literary Hub names “13 Adaptations Better Than the Books They’re Based On”. Station Eleven and American Gods are on the list! Is this blasphemy? (Are they right?)

Most of the time, when a beloved book is adapted into a film, or even into a television show, a form with a little more elbow room, shall we say, the magic doesn’t quite translate. Which isn’t to say the adaptations aren’t themselves good—it’s just that the books are usually better. Even very very good adaptations, like The Talented Mr. Ripley, can often only manage to be second fiddle to their source material.

But not always. Sometimes the movie really is better than the book. Below, the Lit Hub staff will argue the case for 13 adaptations which (in our humble/expert/individual opinions) manage to eclipse the books they’re based on. Add your own—or tell us why we’re wrong—in the comments….

(7) SPOIL SPORTS. Meanwhile, CBR.com harps on these “Facts Sci-Fi Movies Always Get Wrong”.

Sci-fi movies take scientific ideas and theories and make them fun, and in some cases even drive innovation. However, many sci-fi concepts are also flawed from the start. Indeed, many of the genre’s favorite tropes simply don’t comport with what scientists know about the universe….

5. Explosions in Space

Many science fiction movies feature battles between ultra-fast starfighters and enormous starships, with the requisite explosions fans have come to expect. Star Wars was the first franchise to prominently feature deep-space explosions, introducing the trope to its millions of fans.

However, this kind of fiery explosion is impossible outside of an oxygen-rich atmosphere (via Science ABC). It’s satisfying when an evil space station explodes, signaling a dramatic victory for the heroes, and spaceships should carry a substantial amount of oxygen for their air-breathing crew. However, most of the exploding starships fans have learned to accept over the years look nothing like actual explosions in a vacuum. If an exploding ship was moving at high speed, the explosion itself would continue to move at the same speed, and without gravity or friction, it would be much larger than the contained blasts viewers associate with violent deep space justice.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2006[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Now let’s talk about two volumes of stories that are among the best ones ever done. Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden, and that is where this Beginning is from, and The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice are some of most delightfully female centered tales that pass the Bechdel test continuously. 

Bantam Spectra published The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden seventeen years ago as lavishly illustrated by Michael Kaluta who of course would illustrate In the Cities of Coin and Spice too.  It would win both an Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award as well as being nominated for a World Fantasy Award. 

Observing Valente riffing off the much older A Thousand and One Nights with Scheherazade is a sheer delight. Not saying anything explicit about them, they are connected but they are such that they stand on their own rather well too. 

Though they are available as digital publications, I recommend purchasing the two trade paper editions.  They make most excellent reading. Really they do. 

Oh and you can hear SJ Tucker’s take on the girl in the garden in this song which is up on Green Man.

And now we meet the girl in the garden. 

PRELUDE

ONCE THERE WAS A CHILD WHOSE FACE WAS LIKE THE NEW MOON SHINING on cypress trees and the feathers of waterbirds. She was a strange child, full of secrets. She would sit alone in the great Palace Garden on winter nights, pressing her hands into the snow and watching it melt under her heat. She wore a crown of garlic greens and wisteria; she drank from the silver fountains studded with lapis; she ate cold pears under a canopy of pines on rainy afternoons.

Now this child had a strange and wonderful birthmark, in that her eyelids and the flesh around her eyes were stained a deep indigo-black, like ink pooled in china pots. It gave her the mysterious, taciturn look of an owl on ivory rafters, or a raccoon drinking from the swift-flowing river. It colored her eyes such that when she was grown she would never have to smoke her eyelashes with kohl. 

For this mark she was feared, and from her earliest days, the girl was abandoned to wander the Garden around the many-towered Palace. Her parents regarded her with trepidation and terror, wondering if her deformity reflected poorly on their virtue. The other nobles firmly believed she was a demon, sent to destroy the glittering court. Their children, who often roamed the Garden like a flock of wild geese, kept away from her, lest she curse them with her terrible powers. The Sultan could not decide—after all, if she were a demon, it would not do to offend her infernal kin by doing away with her like so much cut grass. In the end, all preferred that she simply remain silent and far away, so that none would have to confront the dilemma.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder StoriesGalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic to name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. (Died 1975.)
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 86. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • Born April 9, 1949 Stephen Hickman, born 1949, aged seventy four years. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 68. I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role (but as always I stand by to be cheerfully corrected if I’m wrong) was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 51. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She’s Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, who together form an private investigator team. Big Finish gave them their own line of audio adventures which I really should listen to soon. 
  • Born April 9, 1990 Kristen Stewart, 33. She first shows up in our area of interest in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas as a Ring Toss Girl (ok, it wasn’t that bad a film). Zathura: A Space Adventure based off the Chris Van Allsburg book has her playing Lisa Budwing. Jumper based off the Stephen Gould novel of the same name had her in a minor role as Sophie. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend Snow White and the Huntsman which has her in the title role of Snow White. It’s a really great popcorn film. Finally she’s got a gig in The Twilight Saga franchise as Bella Cullen. 

(10) FRANK ARNOLD REMEMBERED. Rob Hansen made a discovery that prompted him to remind readers that the first free ebook he put together for the TAFF site was The Frank Arnold Papers in 2017.

I edited this together from Frank’s papers, which had been passed to me after being saved from consignment to a dumpster 30 years earlier and had been gathering dust in my cellar ever since. Though Frank was a minor writer this was reasonably well received and I even had several requests from chums for the apocrypha, the material I hadn’t included in that volume. Needless to say, THE FRANK ARNOLD PAPERS is as close to an autobiography as we’re ever going to see. 

Hansen says he’s now discovered there’s also a biography, a long article by Dave Rowe in Outworlds #65 beginning on page 13. It includes details of Frank’s life that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.

He was the last regular link with the original London Circle. He was the keeper of the visitors’ book. He was a methuselahic Peter Pan, a pint-sized Mister Micawber. Practically everyone who had passed through The Globe’s and The One Tun’s portals on each months first Thursday night had known him and his radiantly pert smile, yet to quote Arthur 0. Clarke he was also “the most invisible person I ever met!” and Ted (E.C.) Tubb recalled “he was a very lonely person who was unable to allow people into his private world. In other words a typical fan of his time—as are many of his generation.” The number who knew him ‘at home’ could be counted on the fingers of two hands. To visit him there was like stepping into a living time-capsule. Time had ended in the fifties…

(11) BACK ON THE SHELF. “Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 2 Is Officially… Probably Not Happening” reports Yahoo!

… Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy shared some disappointing news regarding the future of Obi-Wan Kenobi at Saturday’s Star Wars Celebration in London.

Season 2 of the Disney+ series starring Ewan McGregor “is not an active development,” Kennedy told our sister site Variety, before adding, “But I never say never, because there’s always the possibility. That show was so well-received and [director] Deborah Chow did such a spectacular job. Ewan McGregor really wants to do another….

(12) STORMY WEATHER. “NASA Reveals What Made an Entire Starlink Satellite Fleet Go Down” at Inverse.

On March 23, sky observers marveled at a gorgeous display of northern and southern lights. It was a reminder that when our Sun gets active, it can spark a phenomenon called “space weather.” Aurorae are among the most benign effects of this phenomenon.

At the other end of the space weather spectrum are solar storms that can knock out satellites. The folks at Starlink found that out the hard way in February 2022. On January 29 that year, the Sun belched out a class M 1.1 flare and related coronal mass ejection. Material from the Sun traveled out on the solar wind and arrived at Earth a few days later. On February 3, Starlink launched a group of 49 satellites to an altitude only 130 miles above Earth’s surface. They didn’t last long, and now solar physicists know why….

(13) OOPS. “Magnets wipe memories from meteorites” in Science. “Researchers sound alarm over damage caused by popular meteorite-hunting technique.”

In 2011, nomads roaming the western Sahara encountered precious time capsules from Mars: coal-black chunks of a meteorite, strewn across the dunes. “Black Beauty,” as the parent body came to be known, captivated scientists and collectors because it contained crystals that formed on Mars more than 4.4 billion years ago, making it older than any native rock on Earth. Jérôme Gattacceca, a paleo-magnetist at the European Centre for Research and Teaching in Environmental Geo-sciences, hoped it might harbor a secret message, imprinted by the now-defunct martian magnetic field—which is thought to have helped the planet sustain an atmosphere, water, and possibly even life. But when Gattacceca obtained a piece of Black Beauty and tried to decode its magnetic inscription, he found its memory had been wiped—Men in Black style—and replaced by a stronger signal. He instantly knew the culprit. Somewhere along its journey from Moroccan desert to street dealers to laboratory, the rock had been touched by strong hand magnets, a widely used technique for identifying meteorites.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]