Archive for September, 2015

fallout into space

A couple of weeks ago, the retro-SF blog Galactic Journey talked about SF television from 1959 – in particular, Twilight Zone and Men Into Space. Everyone is familiar with Twilight Zone – it’s iconic enough that even now most people have at least heard of it. Men Into Space, not as much.

Meanwhile, we’ve been playing Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas again at the Lair, like y’do, in anticipation of Fallout 4 coming out soon. When I was playing before, I’d never yet seen any episodes of Men Into Space. I’d heard it mentioned, but never watched it.

What do these works have in common?

MiS feels very strange, as a viewing experience. It’s extremely-near-future SF of 1959; it started maybe a decade into that future. They’ve more or less got the science as understood at the time acceptably right, thanks presumably to the very close cooperation with the American space programme of the US Air Force. And it was shot very much like a radio drama with pictures; there’s lots of narration voiceovers and talking.

The resulting combination makes it feel like a series of short military documentaries, rather than fiction. Which is good, because it’s pretty dull, and you need an angle to make it interesting. That one works for me.

And where that ties into Fallout is that if you take the Fallout universe and have them get into space exploration with gusto rather than nuclear power and robots… this becomes a documentary about the history of that Fallout AU. If Fallout is specifically about the imagined future of the late 1940s and early 1950s, this is background clips for an almost identical world, based on the imagined future of just a few years later.

In some ways, Men Into Space feels more like Fallout than Fallout itself does. No, that’s unfair; it feels more like Fallout than does Worlds of Tomorrow: Science Fiction with a Difference, the collection of short SF stories cited by the creative team as possibly the largest single source of inspiration for the game world.

Fewer robots and more spaceships, but nuclear armageddon nonetheless

I never really expected to have a headcanon for 1959’s Men Into Space, but – apparently, that was going to happen, because it has. It’s not a world I’d want to visit; wow, sexist much? and, again, 1959, so it’s Whitey! Into! SPAAAAAAACE! which is a name I originally came up with for When Worlds Collide but certainly applies here.

But it’s kind of neat, just the same.

many intersecting lines

Aside from the Norwescon recruitment effort, I’m up to my neck in Day Jobbe. That will go on another week before things calm down to normal. So, yeah. Not romantic or musical or creative or fun, but that’s why I’ve been kind of quiet.

Anyway, I took this picture in the main library downtown a few weeks ago. I’m not actually fond of the building from the outside – I call it the Glass Anvil – but it has some interesting things going on in the interior, particularly around the edges, up near the top. Which is where I took this.

Many Intersections
(Seattle Public Library)

a recruitment call for my successors

Norwescon 2016 (the 39th Norwescon) is spinning up, and projects are well underway. I’m not part of it this year, but the festival I started – nwcMUSIC – absolutely is, and needs all the people it can get. I’ve talked about this before in some depth, of course, but in short form, it was time for me to step away and hand the reins to someone else, so that’s what I’m doing.

Now, they’ll be dividing my job up into many nice bite-sized pieces, so you don’t have to go all in at once. They’ve filled a couple of positions – daytime programming director, for example, which is a big one – but are without doubt still looking for more. The first all-hands meeting is September 19th, just eight days away, in SeaTac. It would be really great if anyone and everyone interested would show up. Or, if you’re interested but can’t make that meeting, let them know that, too.

Also, as I’ve said before, I will totally dump information at you. I will be a resource. I have a lot of institutional knowledge and I want to share it in order to keep this thing going. So, hie thee off to Norwescon and volunteer with Programming (for daytime events) or Special Events (for concerts and other large event items). Opportunities are available now.

To speak honestly: while it is definitely time for me to step away from the organisational side for a while, I’ve had some amazing experiences building nwcMUSIC, and met a lot of awesome people running events at Norwescon. It seems pretty damn likely you will too. Give it a shot, and find out for yourself.

Facebook eventConvention Event Page

now is the time to contact norwescon

Hey, music people! And, for that matter, anybody else interested in being an Attending Professional or Performer! NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT NORWESCON! Right now as in today – this week is in fact last call.

Here is the direct link to the contact form. There’s also a separate page for suggesting programming items, and you don’t have to apply as an attending professional or performer to suggest panel ideas, those are generally welcome.

So, yeah! Now’s the time. Go, now!

holy crow, you guys

Bone Walker and “Kitsune at War” are in play for Grammy awards.

I don’t mean that in some sort of abstract everything-that-gets-released-is-eligible sense. I mean as in a member of the Recording Academy has nominated both for consideration – Bone Walker for Best Folk Album, and “Kitsune at War” for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella.

These awards are given by The Recording Academy. Like the World Science Fiction Society and the Hugo Award, any voting member of the Academy can nominate any work for consideration for a Grammy. But unlike the Hugo awards, said nominations to go a jury for review, and unlike WSFS, TRA has qualifications for joining – it’s not like the Hugo awards where anyone can pony up their $40, become a WSFS member, and be involved. So there is in fact a higher bar here.

I don’t know what happens after the review jury, because I’m not a member. But six copies of CDs were requested for the jury, have been sent, and are now in the hands of the Academy. I have also seen some very strange play patterns on Bandcamp the last few days. These are probably coincidental. But they might not be.

Insert a million tiny eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee o/ here.

Don’t confuse this with being on the shortlist; it is not that. This is just one person doing a thing, albeit being a person who is a member of the actual Recording Academy tossing these into the actual ring for actual jury consideration for an actual industry award.

It is certainly true that the odds of getting past this stage are low. I mean, who the hell are we with our homebrew recording studio and $90 microphones and everything-is-DIY aesthetic, right? These are industry awards. The odds of making the next around – whatever that round might be – are very long. I know all this.

But it is also true that those odds are a hell of a lot shorter than they were a mere three weeks ago. While still very long, they have shortened dramatically. And even with those odds, it is further still true that, regardless of the probabilities involved…

Bone Walker and “Kitsune at War” are, at this moment, actively in play for Grammy Awards.

Holy shit, you guys. Grammies! O.o

see also

i don't even know where to start

Seagate and LaCie make wireless external hard drives for mobile use, so you can ‘expand your phone’ and carry around whatever external data you’d like to carry around without blowing your phone’s storage. I guess that’s useful. I imagine people also use them as ‘personal cloud’ devices, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, and other things.

But I don’t care, really, because THEY SHIP WITH AN UNDOCUMENTED TELNET SERVER RUNNING WITH ROOT ACCESS. You can read and write anything and everything.

This is… amazing. How do you let this happen? It’s another case where I need an Industrial Espionage Inside! logo sticker. Here, have a first draft.

On a related note, this talk at Black Hat 2013 on hacking z/OS mainframes is pretty cool, and tells me that back in my part of the problem days that I could’ve been a goddamn rock star in this admittedly-small field at Black Hat, because the shit I was doing on IBM mainframes was way more complicated and subtle than this.

There are mainframe people in comments telling the presenter not to be so glib about mainframe security because they know exactly what you’re doing via their monitoring systems. I heard that shit then, too; it was bullshit at the time and I’m pretty sure it’s bullshit now given the sploits he’s outlining. Hell, I submitted some reports through trusted third parties because they were just too easy – easier than these, even, and some of this is pretty damn easy.

I mean, seriously, ever seen a security patch for an unpublicised exploit released in one day? I have. That was caused by one of my third-partied reports. (Arbitrary access to any account in 19 keystrokes, completely unlogged. It was hilarious. But also too easy, so, reported. I knew exactly what they were doing wrong and how to fix it, so it’s not like they had to work at it.)

But enough of the past. Go play skeet shooting with your wireless Seagate and LaCie drives now. It’s probably more effective than trusting them.

life with supervillainy: product reviews

This is honestly how I feel about this product. I haven’t even put it away yet with the other emergency lighting, just because of this.

i guess i lied

I thought I was done with Worldcon and Hugo Award posts for the year, and said so, somewhere, possibly in comments; I guess I lied.

People are talking about a Best Series Hugo proposal. I think there’s an idea here, but it should be given every five years or so – that there aren’t enough series that reach the kind of level needed for this award to be meaningful on an annual basis.

I got jumped on over on LJ by someone who was “flabbergasted” that I don’t think enough series are published each year to make this award work, saying series make up half the field at this point, and generally asking what am I on? I’m elevating my reply to this post.

I think you misunderstand my meaning. I am saying that if you actually want to judge and award a series, you need time for that series to develop, and for fandom to become familiar with those series.

I’m not saying “a tiny number of series have books in those series published each year,” or “there are a tiny number of series.” I mean, let’s look at the pool from that standpoint for a second: it has to be a series that has a book out that year, I would presume, which tends to reward those series which have been going on and on and on and with tremendous regularity. Or, hey, maybe you wouldn’t have to have a book out that year, if the series is ongoing. Or maybe you do, but the latest instalment wouldn’t have to have to be particularly good – after all, you’re not judging the instalment, you’re judging the set. That widens the field.

Does a trilogy count as a series? I’ve been assuming not. Maybe that’s errant – it’s the kind of thing that hasn’t been defined yet. How about two books with intent for more. Is that a series? That makes the pool even larger.

Let’s assume all of those count. That is a very large number, as you say. Huge. Massive. How foolish of me not to realise that obvious fact!


As I told the sponsors, I’m willing to consider this proposal. But given the large investment involved in reading any individual series, I doubt that many people survey the vast range of eligible series when making their nominations, and I doubt even further that in the shortlist – the set of five series nominated in any given year – that many people will be adequately familiar with all five to make a cross-ballot judgement.

And what that gets us to is an important question: how many series are followed by enough people that you get that kind of overlap? Where it’s not just a series with its fans, but the sort of series that is so endemic across fandom WSFS fandom that a reasonable percentage of that fandom have read enough of the books to talk about any given series in comparison with others on the shortlist?

I strongly suspect that number is a lot smaller. I mean, through fannish history, what’s hit that kind of mass? Let’s keep in trilogies to bring it up a bit.

Lord of the Rings, of course. Foundation. White Mountains? I doubt it, but maybe. Pern. Darkover, maybe. Vorkosigan, as you note. Potter, certainly. Hunger Games, possibly. Ice and Fire. Newsflesh, I wouldn’t rule out, but that’s maybe just me. Dresden, maybe. I’ve never cared enough to pick one up and the entire series is in the library thanks to my partner’s interest, but maybe.

I do not contest that there are dozens, nay hundreds, of series every year with a new entry. I question how many are so endemic, so pervasive, that they can be part of a ballot which can be considered intelligently by any reasonable percentage of WSFS fandom, given that playing catchup between shortlist announcement and final voting deadline simply is not feasible.

That is a much smaller number. It’s certainly not “half the field.” More like, with books coming out within the year to trigger eligibility… two. Three, maybe.

And if that sort of cross-series comparison by fandom not the intent – and given that it’s effectively impossible, that can’t be the intent – the result is..

… a straight-up series popularity contest. Which series has the most fans any given year? Yay, a Hugo.

And those most popular series will make a lot of return visits to the ballot, it seems to me, for all the reasons I just outlined above.

That is what I’m talking about when I say there aren’t enough series to make this work on an annual basis. Not there aren’t enough published – that’s trivial and obvious. That there aren’t enough endemic across fandom that they can be compared seriously.

And that is the question Best Series proponents have to answer if they want this to be an annual award. If they can get me an answer that I buy – great! If not – it shouldn’t be annual. It should be, oh, maybe twice a decade, to give fandom time to be able to consider coherently. That, I can see. That could work.

But every year? I don’t see how.

life with supervillainy: junk mail

Supervillains get on the best ad mailing lists. I mean, honestly. We got this today. TWO titanium furnaces. Two! And a centrifugal melt unit! I’ve been saving just the right spot for these!

(Click to enlarge.)

some of the better displays

Some photos of the more interesting displays at PAX. The Mister Handy is really video fodder – he was articulated, animated, and talking. I need an easier place to put video of things like that because I have some video of that, but not the time to deal with it right now.

I’d write up a report, but I don’t really have a lot to say. It was nice, Fallout 4 didn’t have playable beta so WHAT EVEN IS THE POINT, I discovered that the classic Mutant League Football game is getting a reboot by the original creator who was there and I got a flyer autographed for Minion Paul. But while everything was gorgeous, nothing actually present really grabbed me the right way.

Oh, I did win a tiny prize for the time trials on Duke Nukem. I didn’t realise they’d started timing yet, I was just screwing around and not trying for speed. I guess my regular play on old-school FPS is pretty quick. XD

Anyway, pictures!

Do You Hear That Sound, Mister Handy?


MTG had their shit together, all their stuff looked great



Bigger on Flickr, like usual.

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