Free weekend gaming event in March

Draconis is back again this year.

The event is free and is open to people of all ages and levels of experience

Draconis is a role-playing game festival that will take place the weekend of March 2nd to the 4th, 2018, at the CEGEP du Vieux Montreal. Many games will be available to play under a variety of systems.

Welcome to Draconis Festival 2018!

https://warhorn.net/events/festival-draconis (français)

GAME REGISTRATION

If you’re not already a member of the website Warhorn, register today, indicate your presence to Festival Draconis and add yourself to the game you wish to attend.

Just like last year, it will still be possible to put together pick-up games onsite.


CALL FOR GAME MASTERS

It has started! You can add your game(s) with this google form.


GARAGE SALE

We’ll be hosting another garage sale where you’ll be able to buy and sell second-hand gaming products. To sell items, download and fill out the sales form, then bring it with your games to the festival. At the end of the festival, come pick up your cash or unsold items. Or, you could simply donate unsold items to the festival itself.

An announcement will be made when the garage sale form is ready.


BOOTHS

This year, we’ll offer tables for artists and small shops who would like to sell their products on-site. Tables will be free for game designers who run demonstrations of their games. For shops, the cost will be 25$ for two tables. If you are interested, please contact us before February 11th, 2019, a festivaldraconis@gmail.com to make a reservation.


FOOD

This year, there will be a caterer on-site selling homemade sandwiches as well as soft drinks, juice, water, chips, etc… so that you can stay fuelled without leaving the CEGEP.


Obviously, we hope to see very many of you again this year, and please tell your friends and family about Draconis! If you have any questions about the festival, please post them on our Facebook page, and we’ll try to answer as quickly as possible.

 

WARP 100 is ready!

Greeting, MonSFFen and MonSFFriends!

WARP 100 is now on line!!! CLICK HERE!

For various reasons, I missed the November deadline which would have had WARP 100 published to coincide with our 30th anniversary. Would have been cool, but life happens, especially when a couple of dogs are involved.

As usual, the Table of Contents is linked to the articles.

Graphics at the end of articles are not just decorative, but serve a higher purpose: clicking on them will bring you back to the ToC.

The mouse will reveal other links!

A special big thank-you to Keith Braithwaite who created FOUR covers to mark this special issue, each featuring the same  “still” from a fictional movie  as it might have been depicted by four different artists of renown. The cover of this online edition is in the style of Ray Harryhausen.

Many thanks to our contributors:

  • Joe Aspler
  • Keith Braithwaite
  • Dom Durocher
  • François Ménard
  • Cathy Palmer-Lister
  • Lynda Pelley
  • Lloyd Penney
  • Danny Sichel
  • Barbara Silverman
  • Sylvain St-Pierre
  • Yves Tousignant
  • And the Blueberry Wizard for a new quiz!

 

 

LONG-DEAD NASA SPACECRAFT WAKES UP

Sometime between 2007 and 2018–no one knows when–IMAGE woke up and started talking. The satellite may have been chattering away at Earth for years unheard and unnoticed. Now, NASA has to find a way to answer.

LONG-DEAD NASA SPACECRAFT WAKES UP: Amateur astronomer Scott Tilley has a hobby: He hunts spy satellites. Using an S-band radio antenna in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, he regularly scans the skies for radio signals from classified objects orbiting Earth. Since he started 5 years ago, Tilley has bagged dozens of secret or unlisted satellites. “It’s a lot of fun,” he confesses.

Earlier this month, Tilley was hunting for Zuma–a secretive United States government satellite lost in a launch mishap on Jan. 8th–when a J-shaped curve appeared on his computer screen. “It was the signature of a lost satellite,” he says, “but it was not Zuma.”

In a stroke of good luck that has dizzied space scientists, Tilley found IMAGE, a NASA spacecraft that “died” more than 10 years ago.


An artist’s concept of IMAGE flying over Earth’s north pole.

Short for “Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration,” IMAGE was launched in 2000 on a flagship mission to monitor space weather. Mapping the ebb and flow of plasma around Earth, IMAGE was able to watch our planet’s magnetosphere respond almost like a living organism to blasts of solar activity, while its ultraviolet cameras took gorgeous pictures of Earth’s global auroras.

“It had capabilities that no other spacecraft could match–before or since,” says. Patricia Reiff, a member of the original IMAGE science team at Rice University.

IMAGE was in the 5th year of its extended mission on Dec. 18, 2005, when the spacecraft suddenly went silent. No one knows why, although suspicions have focused on a power controller for the spacecraft’s transponder, which might have temporarily failed.

The one hope was a reboot: When IMAGE’s solar-powered batteries drained to zero during a eclipse by the Earth, onboard systems could restart and begin transmitting again. “If revival occurs, the mission should be able to continue as before with no limitations,” noted NASA’s IMAGE Failure Review Board in their 2006 report.

A deep eclipse in 2007, however, failed to produce the desired result. “After that, we stopped listening,” says Reiff.


Radio signals from IMAGE, detected by Scott Tilley on Jan. 20, 2018. [more]

That is, until Scott Tilley started looking for Zuma. “When I saw the radio signature, I ran a program called STRF to identify it,” he says. Developed by Cees Bassa, a professional astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, STRF treats Earth-orbiting satellites much like binary pulsars–deducing their orbital elements from the Doppler shifts of their radio signals. “The program immediately matched the orbit of the satellite I saw to IMAGE. It was that easy,” says Tilley.

Sometime between 2007 and 2018–no one knows when–IMAGE woke up and started talking. Now, NASA has to find a way to answer.

“The good news is, NASA is working on a recovery plan,” says Reiff. “UC Berkeley still has a ground station that was used for realtime tracking and control. They are scrambling to find the old software and see it they can get the bird to respond. Apparently there are data side lobes on the transmission, so that is a good sign.”

Researchers would love to have IMAGE back. The spacecraft has a unique Big Picture view of Earth’s magnetosphere and “its global-scale auroral imager would be fantastic for nowcasting space weather,” says Reiff. “Fingers crossed!!”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.

Hot Earths may be stripped-down Jupiters

A recent study of rocky worlds orbiting their star in only a handful of days suggests that these ‘hot Earths’ may be stripped-down cores of gas giants, created by a process that depends on how their parent planet danced with their star. This is a different formation method than the ground-up process that built our own Earth, as well as other rocky worlds found farther out from their star.

“There could be several different origins for Earth-like masses,” says Arieh Konigl, a theorist at the University of Chicago. Konigl and his fellow scientists study hot Earths in search of how they may have formed. They found that the new class of exoplanets, born of hot Jupiters, could take two distinct paths as a gas giant moves dangerously close to its star.

 

READ MORE

Opportunity is still Roving!

This visualization of the Opportunity rover on Mars was created using “Virtual Presence in Space” technology developed at JPL.

Opportunity, one of the two Mars Exploration Rovers launched in 2003, landed successfully on the Red Planet at 04:54 UTC on January 25, 2004. Its original mission parameters planned for 90 martian days (called sols) of operation during the mild summer on the Meridiani Planum near the planet’s equator. As of January 16, 2018, Opportunity has been operational for 4,970 sols and driven 28.02 miles (45.09 kilometers) on the martian surface.

READ MORE

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer 2

Pacific Rim Uprising – Official Trailer 2

Pacific Rim Uprising in theaters March 23.

The globe-spanning conflict between otherworldly monsters of mass destruction and the human-piloted super-machines built to vanquish them was only a prelude to the all-out assault on humanity in Pacific Rim Uprising.

John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi)—who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite together in a global uprising against the forces of extinction.

Jake is joined by gifted rival pilot Lambert (The Fate of the Furious’ Scott Eastwood) and 15-year-old Jaeger hacker Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny), as the heroes of the PPDC become the only family he has left. Rising up to become the most powerful defense force to ever walk the earth, they will set course for a spectacular all-new adventure on a towering scale.

Pacific Rim Uprising is directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix’s Daredevil, STARZ’s Spartacus) and also stars Jing Tian, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona and Charlie Day.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Obituary

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

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Author Ursula Le Guin at home with her cat, Lorenzo, in 1996. The writer’s “pleasant duty,” she said, is to ply the reader’s imagination with “the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.” Credit Jill Krementz, All Rights Reserved

Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months.

Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.

Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Several, including “The Left Hand of Darkness” — set on a planet where the customary gender distinctions do not apply — have been in print for almost 50 years. The critic Harold Bloom lauded Ms. Le Guin as “a superbly imaginative creator and major stylist” who “has raised fantasy into high literature for our time.”

In addition to more than 20 novels, she was the author of a dozen books of poetry, more than 100 short stories (collected in multiple volumes), seven collections of essays, 13 books for children and five volumes of translation, including the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and selected poems by the Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral. She also wrote a guide for writers.

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“The Left Hand of Darkness,” published in 1969, takes place on a planet called Gethen, where people are neither male nor female.

Ms. Le Guin’s fictions range from young-adult adventures to wry philosophical fables. They combine compelling stories, rigorous narrative logic and a lean but lyrical style to draw readers into what she called the “inner lands” of the imagination. Such writing, she believed, could be a moral force.

“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly,” she told The Guardian in an interview in 2005. “Little kids can’t do it; babies are morally monsters — completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.”

The writer’s “pleasant duty,” she said, is to ply the reader’s imagination with “the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.”

She was born Ursula Kroeber in Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 21, 1929, the youngest of four children and the only daughter of two anthropologists, Alfred L. Kroeber and Theodora Quinn Kroeber. Her father was an expert on the Native Americans of California, and her mother wrote an acclaimed book, “Ishi in Two Worlds” (1960), about the life and death of California’s “last wild Indian.”

At a young age, Ms. Le Guin immersed herself in books about mythology, among them James Frazer’s “The Golden Bough,” classic fantasies like Lord Dunsany’s “A Dreamer’s Tales,” and the science-fiction magazines of the day. But in early adolescence she lost interest in science fiction, because, she recalled, the stories “seemed to be all about hardware and soldiers: White men go forth and conquer the universe.”

She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951, earned a master’s degree in romance literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance from Columbia University in 1952, and won a Fulbright fellowship to study in Paris. There she met and married another Fulbright scholar, Charles Le Guin, who survives her.

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Author Ursula K. Le Guin in July 1996. Credit Jill Krementz, All Rights Reserved

On their return to the United States, she abandoned her graduate studies to raise a family; the Le Guins eventually settled in Portland, where Mr. Le Guin taught history at Portland State University.

Besides her husband and son, Ms. Le Guin is survived by two daughters, Caroline and Elisabeth Le Guin; two brothers, Theodore and Clifton Kroeber; and four grandchildren.

By the early 1960s Ms. Le Guin had written five unpublished novels, mostly set in an imaginary Central European country called Orsinia. Eager to find a more welcoming market, she decided to try her hand at genre fiction.

Her first science-fiction novel, “Rocannon’s World,” came out in 1966. Two years later she published “A Wizard of Earthsea,” the first in a series about a made-up world where the practice of magic is as precise as any science, and as morally ambiguous.

The first three Earthsea books — the other two were “The Tombs of Atuan” (1971) and “The Farthest Shore” (1972) — were written, at the request of her publisher, for young adults. But their grand scale and elevated style betray no trace of writing down to an audience.

The magic of Earthsea is language-driven: Wizards gain power over people and things by knowing their “true names.” Ms. Le Guin took this discipline seriously in naming her own characters. “I must find the right name or I cannot get on with the story,” she said. “I cannot write the story if the name is wrong.”

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Ms. Le Guin speaking in 2014 at the University of Oregon. Credit Jack Liu

The Earthsea series was clearly influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But instead of a holy war between Good and Evil, Ms. Le Guin’s stories are organized around a search for “balance” among competing forces — a concept she adapted from her lifelong study of Taoist texts.

She returned to Earthsea later in her career, extending and deepening the trilogy with books like “Tehanu” (1990) and “The Other Wind” (2001), written for a general audience.

“The Left Hand of Darkness,” published in 1969, takes place on a planet called Gethen, where people are neither male nor female but assume the attributes of either sex during brief periods of reproductive fervor. Speaking with an anthropological dispassion, Ms. Le Guin later referred to her novel as a “thought experiment” designed to explore the nature of human societies.

“I eliminated gender to find out what was left,” she told The Guardian.

But there is nothing dispassionate about the relationship at the core of the book, between an androgynous native of Gethen and a human male from Earth. The book won the two major prizes in science fiction, the Hugo and Nebula awards, and is widely taught in secondary schools and colleges.

Much of Ms. Le Guin’s science fiction has a common background: a loosely knit confederation of worlds known as the Ekumen. This was founded by an ancient people who seeded humans on habitable planets throughout the galaxy — including Gethen, Earth and the twin worlds of her most ambitious novel, “The Dispossessed,” subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia” (1974).

As the subtitle implies, “The Dispossessed” contrasts two forms of social organization: a messy but vibrant capitalist society, which oppresses its underclass, and a classless “utopia” (partly based on the ideas of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin), which turns out to be oppressive in its own conformist way. Ms. Le Guin leaves it up to the reader to find a comfortable balance between the two.

“The Lathe of Heaven” (1971) offers a very different take on utopian ambitions. A man whose dreams can alter reality falls under the sway of a psychiatrist, who usurps this power to conjure his own vision of a perfect world, with unfortunate results.

“The Lathe of Heaven” was among the few books by Ms. Le Guin that have been adapted for film or television. There were two made-for-television versions, one on PBS in 1980 and the other on the A&E cable channel in 2002.

Among the other adaptations of her work were the 2006 Japanese animated feature “Tales From Earthsea” and a 2004 mini-series on the Sci Fi channel, “Legend of Earthsea.”

With the exception of the 1980 “Lathe of Heaven,” she had little good to say about any of them.

Ms. Le Guin always considered herself a feminist, even when genre conventions led her to center her books on male heroes. Her later works, like the additions to the Earthsea series and such Ekumen tales as “Four Ways to Forgiveness” (1995) and “The Telling” (2000), are mostly told from a female point of view.

In some of her later books, she gave in to a tendency toward didacticism, as if she were losing patience with humanity for not learning the hard lessons — about the need for balance and compassion — that her best work so astutely embodies.

At the 2014 National Book Awards, Ms. Le Guin was given the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She accepted the medal on behalf of her fellow writers of fantasy and science fiction, who, she said, had been “excluded from literature for so long” while literary honors went to the “so-called realists.”

She also urged publishers and writers not to put too much emphasis on profits.

“I have had a long career and a good one,” she said, adding, “Here at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river.”

Correction: January 24, 2018
An earlier version of this obituary misspelled the surname of the social anthropologist who wrote “The Golden Bough.” He was James Frazer, not Frazier.

Massive, deep deposits of ice found on Mars

Massive, deep deposits of ice found on Mars

By Jake Parks, Astronomy Magazine

Researchers studying the eroded edges of ridges on Mars have found that substantial deposits of water ice exist just a few feet below martian surface, reaching over 300 feet thick in some areas.
avalanche
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this astonishing image showing an avalanche of dusty snow racing down the weakened side of an eroded slope on Mars. In this image, the snow is made up of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide); however, researchers recently found similar slopes elsewhere on Mars with massive deposits of pure water ice. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Despite the fact that Mars has an atmosphere just 1% as dense as Earth’s, the surface of the Red Planet still has to deal with plenty of weathering and erosion. In 2008, researchers even captured a full-scale avalanche on Mars as it plunged down a 2,300-foot slope into a valley. These types of geological events often expose the structures beneath the martian surface, revealing layers of rock, dry ice, and even water ice.