OVMF Concert: A real trip through time and space!

Five MonSFFen took in the OVMF Dr Who concert yesterday evening. What a great show! Small wonder it sold out twice. The Dr Who001music was wonderful, sometimes loud and brash as only horns can be, but sometimes soft, sometimes whimsical as well. The conductor, Jocelyn Lebanc,  is a real Whovian, and brought his insight to the performance. Not only did he compose all the musical arrangements, but he also spent hours reviewing episodes to create a montage to show above the heads of the musicians which was perfectly synchronized to the music. . Also, new to the OVMF, the addition of a choir which lifted the music to a whole new level.

Watch Video of opening number

Costumes? There were Doctors, Daleks,  and various companions everywhere, and not only in the audience. Some of the musicians were also costumed, notably a clarinet  player who wore a lovely white wedding gown. Sonic screwdrivers, Tardis tuques, Keep Calm and Don’t Blink shirts, fez, bow ties, Dalek dresses, everywhere you looked. A TARDIS and a Dalek in the hall drew in the fans for photo ops. (The Dalek was mobile, but not terribly menacing. The kids loved it! )

Fern won a pair of tickets to the next show which will feature theme music from SuperHero movies, March 19.  Star Wars will be the theme for two shows in June on the 12th and 19th. Mark your calendars!

Buy your ticket to the SuperHero show before the 20th of February, and you will be given a free CD of the Dr Who performance recorded at their first showing in November.



Roger Boisjoly dies at 73; engineer tried to halt Challenger launch

Roger Boisjoly was an engineer at solid rocket booster manufacturer Morton Thiokol and had begun warning as early as 1985 that the joints in the boosters could fail in cold weather, leading to a catastrophic failure of the casing. Then on the eve of the Jan. 28, 1986, launch, Boisjoly and four other space shuttle engineers argued late into the night against the launch.

Read Obituary at the LA Times

Near Earth sensors: Literature

Robot reads

  • Hugo Nominations open on line
  • Radio Imagination celebrates the life and work of  Octavia E. Butler
  • Jo Walton Seminar
  • Steven Brust writes a Firefly novel 

Hugo Nominations:  It is time to start filling in your nomination ballots for the 2016 Hugo Awards and the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards! Read More

Radio Imagination celebrates the life and work of Pasadena science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006). Organized by Clockshop, the program centers on ten contemporary art and literary commissions that explore Butler’s archive at the Huntington Library. New work will premiere alongside performances, film screenings, and literary events throughout the year. Read More

Jo Walton Seminar:  Over the next several days, as promised last year, we’ll be running a seminar on Jo Walton’s books, The Just City and The Philosopher Kings (the third book, Necessity, comes out in June). Read More

My Own Kind of Freedom: Steven Brust writes a Firefly novel:  My Firefly novel, released under a creative commons license. You are free to download it and share it with your friends as long as it is not used for commercial purposes.  The novel is currently available in multiple formats. Click here for download sites.


Very Long Range Sensors: Astronomy


Robot looks up

  • Increasing Chance of Solar flares
  • Intensifying Cosmic Rays
  • Edge of Space Thanks
  • The 5 planets in pre-dawn sky
  • Hunting for Exoplanets at Proxima Centauri


From http://spaceweather.com/

INCREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class flare today to 25%. The probable source would be sunspot AR2488, which has developed an unstable ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field with pent-up energy for strong explosions. Any M-flares today could produce minor shortwave radio blackouts.

INTENSIFYING COSMIC RAYS: For the past year, neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle have sensed an increasing intensity of cosmic rays. Polar latitudes are a good place to make such measurements, because Earth’s magnetic field funnels and concentrates cosmic radiation there. Turns out, Earth’s poles aren’t the only place cosmic rays are intensifying. Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching helium balloons to the stratosphere to measure radiation, and they find the same trend over California. Read more: http://spaceweather.com/

HEY, THANKS! The cosmic ray research of Earth to Sky Calculus is 100% crowd-funded. The latest flight on Jan. 24th was sponsored by ABC affiliate KOMO TV of Seattle, Washington. KOMO’s donation of $500 paid for all the supplies necessary to get the high-altitude balloon off the ground. To say “thanks”, we flew their logo to the edge of space.

THE GREAT NAKED-EYE PLANET SHOW: The mainstream media is buzzing with news about astronomy: From now until Feb. 20th, anyone who wakes up before sunrise can see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter all at once, no telescope required. These are the five brightest planets, and they are a beautiful sight lined up from east to west in the predawn sky. Click for observing chart.

From Sky and Telescope:

Hunting for Planets Around Proxima Centauri
The Pale Red Dot Initiative has begun its search for exoplanets orbiting the nearest star to Earth besides the Sun. – See more

Long Range Sensors

Most of these links come thanks to the File 770 Pixel Scroll. The first and second items merit discussion. Don’t be shy to click on Comment!

  • 10 Women who changed SF
  • The X Files returned to broadcast following a 14 year hiatus
  • Neil Gaiman’s poem “Orphee” and Documentary on the myth
  • Marvin Minsky, pioneer in AI, passes away
  • Star Trek: Mission New York
  • Town names streets after Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (not recent news, but it was new to me.)


  • 10 Women who changed SF, according to a BBC Radio 4 documentary I would agree with nearly all, but not sure ALL of them CHANGED SF.  For some reason, there are photos ofLeckiePhoto-160x240 only 9 of the women, so I bring you a picture of Ann Leckie. I think is is a bit too soon to claim a lasting effect on the genre, but her universe could well be a game-changer, especially as regards the use of AI and ancillaries, though it’s the non-gender roles that get the press.
  • The X Files returned to broadcast following a 14 year hiatus: The most interesting part of the article comes below the images, when the author ponders whether we can actually call the X-Files science fiction. There is a history of how the paranormal crept into the genre. He concludes by wondering if readers of SF are more inclined to be sceptics of the paranormal. Very interesting!
  • Neil Gaiman’s poem “Orphee”: Lovely, free verse, poem based on the Orpheus myth.  You can read it here.  Neil Gaiman’s documentary on the myth and its universal theme of bringing back the dead.  With contributions from writers Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Carroll, the late Russell Hoban and his daughter Phoebe Hoban, songwriter and cartoonist Peter Blegvad, and composer and conceptual artist Hannah Catherine Jones.   It’s 30 minutes, and well worth the time to listen to it. Would you look back?
  • Marvin Minsky, pioneer in AI, passes away:  a pioneering explorer of artificial intelligence, work that helped inspire the creation of the personal computer and the Internet, died on Sunday night in Boston. He was 88….Well before the advent of the microprocessor and the supercomputer, Professor Minsky, a revered computer science educator at M.I.T., laid the foundation for the field of artificial intelligence by demonstrating the possibilities of imparting common-sense reasoning to computers. Read the NY Times obit.
  • Star Trek: Mission New York:  A celebration of the 50th nniversary of Star Trek, Taking place Sept. 2-4 at the Javits Center, Mission New York comes from New York Comic-Con organizers ReedPOP. Lance Festerman, global svp for the company, said in a statement that the new convention “will be a completely unique fan event unlike anything seen before, giving [fans] the chance to go beyond panels and autograph signings, and immerse themselves in the Star Trek universe.”
  • Town names streets after Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (not recent news, but it was new to me.)
    If you go down to Wincanton in Somerset today you can wander down Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road, named after Sir Terry Pratchett’s fantasy series Discworld. Pratchett visited the town today to unveil the road names at a new housing estate, and was greeted by hundreds of fans – many dressed in costume.  Wincanton was twinned with the city of Ankh-Morpork from the novels in 2002, becoming the first UK town to link with a fictional place.


Meeting recap: January 24, 2016

Nothing was scheduled before 12:15, but when I arrived much earlier than that, I found a few early birds enjoying The Tourist’s Guide to Discworld. Wonderful silliness! Part 1 can be found here:

There are seven more episodes covering such topics as cuisine, religion, flora and fauna, and so forth.  Some episodes are much funnier than others.  It’s probably a fan-made production. Apparently, this guide was recorded some time ago, before the head librarian became an orangutan, which might explain why it is in B&W.

Being still in the silly mood, we watched a couple of videos that had been shared on our fb group. The Fernster recorded us watching one of them, and uploaded it immediately, so we were watching ourselves watching ourselves watching ….oh, well, you had to be there.

The planning meeting started sometime around 12:20, and a programme for the meetings of 2016 was hammered out. The June outing has been brought forward to the March meeting so that the club can visit the Dinosaurs exhibit at the Old Port.

14 roaring full-sized and strikingly real animatronic dinosaurs. … Explore spectacular prehistoric scenes telling the story of two major excavation sites, two skeletons, and twenty fossils. …probe into the most recent and remarkable discoveries about their appearance and behaviours. Take command of an animatronic dinosaur and explore our four interactive stations. 

DannyDanny Sichel gave an interesting talk on sports and games in science fiction. After the break, we held elections and appointed the editors of Impulse and WARP and the webmaster. All positions were filled with the incumbents: Cathy as president, WARP editor, and webmaster, Keith as VP and editor of IMPULSE, Sylvain as treasurer. There is one new position: Josée will be taking on the task of recording the names of participants due special recognition at our Christmas Feast.

Gnome of ThronesThe raffle held a special surprise: The Gmome of Thrones, donated by Sylvain.

After the raffle, we discussed planning again with the whole group. I was surprised by the interest shown in our webpage. Many asked that we have little workshops at every meeting rather than an early morning workshop. I would be very happy indeed to have more contributors!

MonSFFA 20160124-04bWe worked on creating the rocks and foliage for our stop motion project. Keith and François will be working on the puppets, and with a bit of luck, we film in April.


Steven Moffatt leaves the TARDIS

I have been hearing for awhile now that Steven Moffatt was leaving Dr Who. According to Radio Times, he is indeed leaving the show. Chris Chibnall who worked on Broadchurch and Torchwood is taking over. However, the bad news side of things is that there will be no Dr Who in 2016 except the Christmas special.  I hope we enjoy the OVMF concert on the 30th; unless Space does a marathon, 2016 is going to be a very lonely place for the timey-whimy fans.

…BBC1 has decided to air Moffat’s final 12-part series – the 10th of the modern era – in spring 2017. Chibnall’s debut series as head writer and executive producer will launch in 2018. ..

….A Christmas special WILL air this year overseen by Moffat, though it is unclear whether Peter Capaldi’s new companion will feature. The companion, who will replace Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, will definitely be in place for the spring 2017 series, say BBC sources….


Long Range Sensors: Astronomy

  • CERN discovery: Faster than the speed of light?
  • Signs of second largest black hole in the Milky Way
  • Planet 9 ?
  • In a Galaxy far, far away, a black hole is eating it live
  • CERN discovery:  Faster than the speed of light? “It is a tiny difference,” said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland, “but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent.”  Read More.
  • Signs of second largest black hole in the Milky Way:  Astronomers using the Nobeyama 45-meter radio telescope have detected signs of an invisible black hole with a mass of 100,000 times the mass of the Sun around the center of the Milky Way. The team assumes that this possible “intermediate mass” black hole is a key to understanding the birth of the supermassive black holes located in the centers of galaxies. Read More
  • Planet 9: Does a massive, extremely distant planet orbit the Sun? A new analysis of distant solar-system orbits argues that it should exist Read More
  • Most luminous galaxy is ripping itself apart:it has the highest power output of any galaxy in the universe, and it would appear to shine the brightest if all galaxies were at the same distance from us. The new study reveals that this galaxy is also expelling tremendously turbulent gas — a phenomenon never seen before in an object of this kind…This galaxy is an example of a rare class of objects called Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxies or Hot DOGs, which are powerful galaxies with supermassive black holes in their centers. Only 1 out of every 3,000 galaxies that WISE has observed is in this category.

Looking up! Observing highlights Jan 22-30

From Sky and Telescope, the observing highlights for this coming week. If the sky is clear on Sunday evening, after the club supper, we’ll see if we can pick out the winter hexagon.  Google for Winter Hexagon to see several images, some with all the stars and constellations labelled.

Start with brilliant Sirius at its bottom. Going clockwise from there, march through Procyon, Pollux and Castor, Capella high up, Aldebaran over to Capella’s right, down to Rigel in Orion’s foot, and back to Sirius.
In the meantime, you will find the sky charts and diagrams on this page really useful and interesting. There are 5 planets visible in the pre-dawn sky, a full moon on the 23rd (good time to see the rays from Tycho, binoculars will suffice) and on the 27th, Jupiter is just above the moon.

Remote Sensors check the latest on fb

Stories found circulating around Facebook, backed up by more reliable sources.

  • Costumers & the US Supreme Court
  • Gender discrimination ( and Cathy’s rant)
  • Tributes to David Hartwell
  • Cosplay Goes to the Supreme Court : The Supreme Court of the United States may get to decide the legal status of all those Jedi robes you’ve got squirreled away. The Supreme Court is considering a case that will set the standard for when clothing and costume designs can be covered by copyright—and when people who mimic them (such as costumers) can be sued for potentially enormous damages.

This article gives a really good explanation of the issues involved. Running a Google search on cosplay and the Supreme Court called up quite a few interesting links, esp from costumers. I read an article I thought gave a really good explanation of the problems, more in-depth understanding of the laws, but also another twist:

We’ve devoted a lot of time to copyright owners, but what about the cosplayers themselves? Even though cosplay is about the characters, there are still normal people behind the armor (for a given value of normal), and these people all have their own right of publicity. The right of publicity is an individual’s right to control the commercial use of their identity; however, unlike copyright, the right of publicity is a state law action.

  • Gender Discrimination: Lack of diversity in the arts is making headlines, especially with the “Lily-white” Oscar nominations. SF/F fans are well aware of how hard it is for “minorities” to have a voice in the genre.  I put minorities in quotes because I don’t consider the female half of the human population to be a minority. But we all know of authors who have had to hide their gender, and we all know about the Puppies (both the Sad and the Rabid–yes, they are still out to mess with the Hugos again this year.)  And we know about GamerGate–and the threats on the lives of women involved in the gaming industry.

Guess who doesn’t rate an action figure?

Guess who's missing?

The big brouhaha of this winter of our discontent is the toy industry, Disney in particular.

“One or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products,” Boehm reports. “Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise.” Allegedly, the industry insider was told, “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”

When I was a kid, I KNEW all the good toys were in the boys’ aisles, the good books had titles the started with, “The Boy’s Big Book of….” That was  50-some years ago, and nothing has changed.

For a look at gender discrimination in the comics/graphic novels department of the genre, look here. 

  • David Hartwell, respected editor, who died recently after a fall, is being remembered by friends, colleagues, authors, and readers.

Click here to view tributes on his facebook page

Click here to view Kathyrn Cramer’s post on fb. Apparently, a nurse spent 5 hours compressing a blue rubber bulb that substituted for the action of David’s diaphragm. It didn’t matter to his survival, but the fact that the nurse had to do this is really awful.

Rather, if you are thinking of David tonight and wish you could have done something, please follow THIS LINK http://www.ech.org/make-a-contribution.html and make a donation earmarked to buy ECH its own mechanical respirator. 

From Mary Robinette Kowal, an explanation of the unusual fashions he embraced. It wasn’t because they were tacky.

David Hartwell’s sartorial splendour 1941-2016