Posts Tagged ‘Science Fact’

The gravitational assist trajectories at Jupiter were successfully carried out by both Voyagers, and the two spacecraft went on to visit Saturn and its system of moons and rings.  Voyager 1 encountered Saturn in November 1980, with the closest approach on November 12, 1980, when the space probe came within 124,000 kilometers (77,000 mi) of Saturn’s cloud-tops.  The space probe’s cameras detected complex structures in the rings of Saturn, and its remote sensing instruments studied the atmospheres of Saturn and its giant moon Titan.  (Wikipedia, “Voyager 1”)

Two items occurred to me to close out the weekend, the first that there were space probes prior to Cassini (cf. September 17, 11, 7), including Voyagers 1 and 2 which also paid a visit to Saturn.  Launched 16 days apart in 1972, Voyager 1 was actually the second, but was on a trajectory that had it reaching Saturn first, performing flybys of not just Saturn and Titan, but also the moons Tethys, Mimas, Enceladus, Rhea, and Hyperion.  And while Voyager 2 also went on to Uranus and Neptune, on August 12 2012 Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space.  Also, unlike Cassini, both Voyagers continue to journey outward.

So, why my interest?  Thirteen years after Voyager 1 and Saturn, a story of mine, one marking a breakthrough in my writing in my opinion, appeared in the July 1993 edition of Algys Budrys’s short-lived magazine TOMORROW.  Titled “Moons of Saturn,” it told of a couple watching a detailed series of news items on TV of the Voyager mission as it might have been, bringing in also the mythical origins of the moons’ names.  Added to this are fancied adventures on, e.g., the “jewel mines of Rhea,” these conducted through dreams or, possibly, astral projection, all through which the woman, Phoebe, 518B8qShonL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_named for one of the moons herself, grows progressively weaker as the man (“Enceladus,” as named by Phoebe) attempts to find a cure.  This latter possibly with tones of vampirism. . . .

And the thing is (or, here comes the plug!), while TOMORROW and its electronic successor TOMORROW SF are now long gone, “Moons of Saturn” has been reprinted in my collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.  For more information, or possible purchase, just press its picture in the center column.

Then one more item in the life of the writer:  Gehenna and Hinnom Editor/Publisher C.P. Dunphey emailed that the payment for my story in THE YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR 2017 ANTHOLOGY (see September 13, August 10, May 8) has been sent to Paypal — a thing good to know since Paypal seems no longer to bother to tell people themselves when they’ve received money.  The story in question here is called “Flesh” — and like “Moons of Saturn” may be a little on the surreal side although with a more domestic setting — and also a reprint originally published in Spring 1999 in MAELSTROM SPECULATIVE FICTION.  THE YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR can be pre-ordered now, by pressing here, in anticipation of a September 30 publication date.

 

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And this is it.  On Friday 15 September, after 20 years in space, 13 of which spent in Saturn’s system, Cassini plunged into the gas giant’s atmosphere.  NASA made this choice to prevented it crashing into and contaminating the moons Titan or Enceladus, which could host alien microbial life.  The end was quick: as described in details in this National Geographic’s article, “the spacecraft’s thrusters failed, overwhelmed by gravity and intense atmospheric friction.  It began to tumble, lost sight of Earth, and went silent forever around 4:55 a.m. PT.  Though scientists couldn’t observe the action, they knew that one or maybe two minutes after Cassini’s signal vanished, Saturn tore the spacecraft apart.  The probe shed flaming pieces into the planet’s atmosphere, streaking through the alien sky like a crumbling meteor.”

This is the start of this morning’s entry on Steph P. Bianchini’s THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, “So Long, Earthians.  Cassini, Over and Out.”  We may recall THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND from about a week and a half ago, referring us to a piece on Cassini on NATURE.COM (see September 7).  So returning the favor in a way, for Bianchini’s own final take (though with several more links there that can be pursued too) those interested are invited to press here.

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The caption on the picture reads:  An image created by the Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013, when the sun slipped behind Saturn and illuminated the planet in an eclipse, illuminating its magnificent rings all the way out to the faint E ring, which appears as a ghostly blue hue of icy particles.  And so another, extensive salute via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, “Farewell to the Greatest Space Mission of Our Time” by Jay Bennett, for which press here.  In four more days (cf. September 7) Cassini will be gone.  Quoting the article once again:  The Cassini spacecraft spent 13 years orbiting Saturn.  It revealed the planet and its rings in striking detail, found liquid around every corner, and invigorated the idea that alien life not only exists, but could be right on our doorstep.

Two items today, to look for in the near future:  The first is courtesy of Steph P. Bianchini’s blog THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, reminding us that the Cassini space probe will be sending its last signals to Earth just eight days from now.  Or from, as it were, the horse’s mouth, “on September 15, with its fuel tank now almost empty, the probe will make its final dive straight into Saturn, heading for the gas giant’s surface.”  And so, via THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, this sendoff:  “Cassini’s 13 Years of Stunning Saturn Science — In Pictures,” by Alexandra Witze on NATURE.COM.  To read (and see), press here.

For the second, we hark back a couple of months to an email from artist, poet, and sometime blog commentator Marge Simon:  Would you have a couple of vamp poems previously published that you could let Kathy Ptacek use for the HWA October newsletter?  If you’ve got an illo to go with it, great.  Maybe something we did for VAMPS?  The reference is to my poetry collection, VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), hopefully to be coming out in a second edition but for info on which, for now, click on its picture in the center column, and so I sent Kathy three favorite poems plus two of Marge’s illustrations.

So then a few days ago came the reply:  thanks, james! I appreciate you sending these to me!  and that’s great that marge sent the artwork for them!  this is going to be a fun issue, I think!  heh!  The issue in question will be the October Horror Writers Association NEWSLETTER with an extra flourish to celebrate the coming Halloween.  And the poems (with initial publication information):  “Night Child,” TOMORROW SF, Feb. 1998; “La Méduse,” ASYLUMS AND LABYRINTHS (Rain Mountain Press, 1997), with a note that it also serves as sort of a foreword to my THE TEARS OF ISIS (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013); and “Bon Appétit,” GOTHIC.NET, Aug. 2002).

I say crummiest because the subtle observer may note the disk in the picture is white whereas the point of a solar eclipse is that the disk should be black.  Shadowed by the moon, remember?  But here’s a weird thing, a photo in today’s local paper, via the South Bend Tribune, via Eddyville Illinois also shows a white-disked sun at totality (section 1, page 5), though the picture was set to show an observer in the foreground, the sun itself just a background detail.  So for the picture here, let’s cut it some slack, it was taken by the infamous $4.95 on Ebay camera (including shipping, see February 5), one which’s settings are completely automatic, not controllable by human hands or minds — and hence likely to take its hints from the foreground — although acquitting itself reasonably well on pictures of Morro Castle, etc., in Puerto Rico last month as well as of the Goth Cat Triana for which it was bought.  Also a friend with presumably more sophisticated equipment (in the world of fine optical instruments you can’t go much below $4.95 on Ebay), taking pictures of the partial eclipse locally, complained they all came out with the crescent sun looking “fatter” than it actually was.

My theory is that the sun, even with the moon blocking it, is so bright that the unsophisticated camera, lacking screening or special adjustments, exaggerates the extent of the white (becomes “overloaded” in a sense), encroaching into the adjacent sky in the case of my friend, or filling in the handy black disk in the center when it came to mine.  And anyhow it still shows the corona, which in some ways is the interesting part, so maybe it’s not the crummiest picture this year after all.

Since the path of totality was not that far from where I live (what my friend saw at its peak was 95 percent, even if her pictures made it look less), I was able to go on a charter bus trip to an area just outside of Hopkinsville Kentucky.  For a few observations:  the eeriest part was a little before totality, when the sky began dimming but in an odd over-all way, not in the east first as one might see before sunset.  I didn’t see moving shadows on the ground (from mountains on the moon as the sun became entirely blocked), but another person who’d spread out a white sheet saw them there — present, he said, but extremely subtle.  One man had six huskies on the site who were well-behaved and extremely quiet even through totality, but just after the sun “came back” started barking, as if to say “never do that again.”  Also while we didn’t hear birds or insects go quiet, possibly because with so many people on the site, the wildlife was frightened to silence anyway, but just after the dogs we heard loud cicada-like insect sounds all around us for several seconds.  Also, while NASA observers were, I believe, in Hopkinsville proper, we did have some TV people on our site, plus others with picture-taking equipment of much more sophistication than mine (for which see the second picture here, taken a little bit before totality but with the overall dimming beginning to be seen — this was at 1:10 or so p.m. local time on what otherwise had been a bright sunny summer afternoon [totality began at 1:24 p.m. CDT and lasted two minutes and forty seconds]; the buses parked just beyond them, incidentally, are two of the charters from Indiana that I had come with).

I also had some delicious barbecue from a food truck parked in our area, the grounds of the Casey Jones Distillery, that on non-eclipse days produces several boutique corn whiskeys — including, for the occasion, a special Eclipse “Moonshine.”

And for the first picture, the possibly still-crummiest eclipse picture for the year, it does have one special thing going for it.  It’s the picture that’s (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) mine.

Well, sort of, kind of, maybe in the ballpark, but science fiction writers and fans be alert.  More possibly Earthlike, possibly life-friendly planets, or at least their discovery,  may be on the way according to Tom Ward in “Our View of the Cosmos Is About to Get a Tremendous Upgrade” on FUTURISM.COM, courtesy of Steph P. Bianchini and THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND.  If curious, press here.  And, if even curiouser (okay, so I’ve watched a couple of ALICE IN WONDERLAND movies lately — warning:  avoid the Johnny Depp version of ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS if you possibly can), for some background via THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND itself, check into “Exoplanet Update — Where Are We Now?” by pressing here.

TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH postulates an exhausted, dying Earth with a climate increasingly hotter each year, a result, some speculate, of a sun that’s slowly swelling and getting redder.  One story, in fact, alludes to an exodus of part of humanity centuries, perhaps millennia before.  But what comes after that, that is after the sun has become a red giant, the Earth has been swallowed, and now the sun is shrinking back inward.  Could the exiles return?

Well, in terms of the story, we’re not nearly that far in the future by a long shot (truth to tell, if we’re going to bring facts in, even red-gianthood would still be billions of years off itself), but . . . maybe they could, according to Avery Thompson.  To find out more, one can check out his “Here’s the Last Place Humanity Could Ever Live” via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, including its own link to a 6-minute Youtube presentation on white dwarfs, by pressing here.

Then, entirely unrelatedly, Weldon Burge e-reminded us on Facebook today of an Amazon review of Smart Rhino Publications’s INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS mentioning . . . me:  “Excellent anthology with stories by modern masters of the macabre.  Lansdale and Ketchum are worth the read, but so are Mosiman and Dorr and Mannetti.  These are my kind of stories!” — Paul Dale Anderson

So what the heck, it’s the first review posted on Amazon’s site (including nine words omitted from the Facebook quotation) and can be found here.

Some fungi, viruses and bacteria have evolved a spine-chilling way of being transmitted from one host to another. They turn their hosts into witless zombies.  Say what?  But this is the subtitle of a decidedly non-fictional article,”Real-Life Zombies that Are Stranger than Fiction” by Chris Baraniuk, published earlier this week on BBC.COM.  To quote Baraniuk further:  The zombies we know from fiction are ferocious, flesh-eating post-humans.  And while such stories have never come true, nature is full of disturbingly similar cases of zombification among plants and animals.  Sometimes the parallels are striking.  And moreover this isn’t something new.  While the “victims” thus far seem to be confined to such lower life forms as insects and spiders, at least one zombie-inducing parasite will attack frogs.

So are humans next?  I have a story, “Swarms,” coming out on Earth Day, April 22, in MOTHER’S REVENGE (Scary Dairy Press, see March 8, et al.), that takes a similar spin from possibly mutated ichneumon wasps — another insect of interest in itself.  But according to Baraniuk, some ants, at least, have been so affected for 48 million years.

Interest whetted?  Then gird your stomach and take another big swig of green beer, then check it out by pressing here.  But do so at your own risk as, to quote its author once more, [t]here is something particularly disconcerting about the idea that an animal’s behaviour could be drastically changed by an infection or parasite, but it is a phenomenon well-established in nature.

Move over Soyuz (cf. December 12), it looks like NASA has a new heavy-lift rocket ready to be on the launch pad next year.  And now there’s some talk that its maiden voyage could be a manned one.  No, not to Mars yet, just a lunar gallery-1458845021-slsloop-around for now, but apparently this is the one that may be used to go there eventually as well.  But see for yourself via “NASA Is Considering a Manned Flight for First SLS Launch,” by Jay Bennett, on POPULARMECHANICS.COM by pressing here.  And if that is intriguing see, also by Jay Bennett, “All You Need to Know NASA’s Mammoth SLS Rocket in Less Than 3 Minutes” by pressing here.

So go the news cycles, days in which nothing happens at all, then periods where it all piles up, one or two happenings every day.  And so, today, a twofer the first of which is by William Herkewitz via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, “Behold Bat Bot, the First Flying Robot Bat.”  Yes, really, but not necessarily intended as an aid for blood drives, but landscape-1485967968-batbotrather activities where drones might otherwise be used, except they’re in close proximity to people.  That is, if there’s an oopsie, even mechanical bats are softer than something with four little whirling, sharp rotors.  And besides that, they’re cool!  But a robot bat does provide, it seems, some unique design problems, for more on which one can press here.

Then, actually a day before, what should be met in the computer cave mailbox but my authors’ copy of MEET CUTE (see December 31, 11, et al.), with my own tale of flying beings, “Butterfly.”  This is a small book of flash fiction concerning unexpected encounters between pairs of people, some romantic, some not so, but all with a touch of the unusual to them.  In this case, my story met up as well with an illustration by Marge Simon, but that wasn’t necessarily surprising — Marge and I being friends for some years, I had told her about it.

Edited by Kara Landhuis, MEET CUTE can be found on Amazon by pressing here.




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