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Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.
Classic Games (Games)

2016 Winners Announced For Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org) 24

An anonymous reader writes: This week IFComp 2016 announced the winners in their 22nd annual interactive fiction competition. After a seven-week play period, the entry with the highest average rating was "the noir standout 'Detectiveland' by Robin Johnson," according to contest organizers (while the game earning the lowest score was "Toiletworld.") A special prize is also awarded each year -- the Golden Banana of Discord -- for the game which provoked the most wildly different ratings. This year that award went to "A Time of Tungsten" by Devin Raposo. ("The walls are high, the hole is deep. She is trapped, on a distant planet. Watched. She may not survive...")
The games will soon be released on the official IF Archive site, but in the meantime you can download a 222-megabyte archive of all 58 games.
Sci-Fi

'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
Movies

How Stephen Wolfram Devised Interstellar Travel (And Code Samples) For 'Arrival' (backchannel.com) 102

The new movie "Arrival" depicts first contact with aliens, and its producers faced the question of how interstellar spacecraft would actually work. They turned to futurist Stephen Wolfram, who came up with an answer overnight, and also tasked his son with writing much of the computer code seen on displays in the movie. Slashdot reader mirandakatz brings us Wolfram's story: Christopher was well aware that code shown in movies often doesn't make sense (a favorite, regardless of context, seems to be the source code for nmap.c in Linux). But he wanted to create code that would make sense, and would actually do the analyses that would be going on in the movie... For instance, there's a nice shot of rearranging alien "handwriting," in which one sees a Wolfram Language notebook with rather elegant Wolfram Language code in it. And, yes, those lines of code actually do the transformation that's in the notebook. It's real stuff, with real computations being done...

For the movie, I wanted to have a particular theory for interstellar travel. And who knows, maybe one day in the distant future it'll turn out to be correct. But as of now, we certainly don't know. In fact, for all we know, there's just some simple "hack" in existing physics that'll immediately make interstellar travel possible.

Wolfram's theory posited that space is just one of the attributes emerging from a low-level network of nodes, where long-range connections occasionally break out of three-dimensional space altogether. His 6,900-word essay (originally published on his blog) also suggests film-making has "some structural similarities" with software development -- and grapples with the question of how we'd actually communicate with aliens once they've arrived.
Movies

Remembering The Creator of Marvel's Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko (hollywoodreporter.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: As Marvel publicizes its Doctor Strange movie, "there's one key figure you won't be hearing from: the person who created the Sorcerer Supreme." Steve Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee in 1962) introduced Doctor Strange in 1963, remembers The Hollywood Reporter, then abruptly left Marvel in 1966 to work for other publishers. "He would more or less be done with mainstream comics by the 1970s, though he would pop up from time to time (he co-created Squirrel Girl for Marvel in the 1990s)."

Ditko was recently involved in a Kickstarter campaign to honor the anniversaries of famous comics (in which 152 backers ultimately pledged $5,462). He celebrated his 89th birthday this week, but "He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger," says the director of Doctor Strange, adding "I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work."

The article includes fond memories of working with Ditko from both Jim Starlin and Stan Lee, who also praised his work in a book called The Art of Steve Ditko. "All I had to do was give Steve a one-line description of the plot and he'd be off and running. He'd take those skeleton outlines I had given him and turn them into classic little works of art that ended up being far cooler than I had any right to expect."
Sci-Fi

Will The New 'Starship Troopers' Reboot Stay Faithful To The Book? (hollywoodreporter.com) 457

HughPickens.com shares news from the Hollywood Reporter: "Columbia Pictures is rebooting Starship Troopers, the 1997 sci-fi film directed by Paul Verhoeven... The studio is not remaking the film but is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take." The original movie, considered a mixed success at the time of its release, went on to achieve a cult following, and during the DVD boom of the 2000s it became a mini-franchise for the studio, which produced three additional direct-to-DVD movies... "Starship Troopers [the novel] has been decried as promoting fascism and being racist in its creation of a society where democracy has been severely restricted..." writes Graeme McMillan. "The question then becomes: in updating Starship Troopers to make it more acceptable to today's audience, can it still manage to remain faithful enough to Heinlein's original to please the existing fan base?"
The script will be written by the writers of the upcoming Baywatch film starring Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed After Losing Showrunner Bryan Fuller (variety.com) 191

It looks like we're going to have to wait even longer for CBS's upcoming Star Trek Discovery series, as the production's showrunner, Bryan Fuller, is stepping back. He will however still remain the show's executive producer. Variety reports: The decision was made late last week to hand the day-to-day showrunning reins to "Star Trek" exec producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts as "Discovery" gears up for the start of filming next month and a May 2017 premiere date. Fuller, who will remain an executive producer, will still be involved in breaking stories, and the show will continue to follow his vision for the universe that this latest "Trek" series will inhabit. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman is also expected to join "Discovery" in a top creative role. He's envisioned as serving as producing support for Berg and Harberts, Fuller and exec producer Alex Kurtzman as they juggle the demands of the series that CBS is counting on to be the marquee selling point for subscriptions to its CBS All Access SVOD service. Sources said there had been some strain between "Star Trek" producer CBS Television Studios and Fuller over the progress of production on the show, as Fuller is also juggling the final weeks of shooting and post-production duties on Starz's upcoming drama "American Gods" and prepping a reboot of "Amazing Stories" for NBC. Fuller has penned the first two scripts for "Discovery" and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new "Trek" realm. But it became clear that he couldn't devote the amount of time needed for "Discovery" to make its premiere date and with production scheduled to start in Toronto next month.
Classic Games (Games)

New Text Adventures Compete In 22nd 'Interactive Fiction Competition' (ifcomp.org) 25

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: 58 brand-new text adventures are now available free online for the 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. The public is encouraged to play the games, and on November 16th the contest's organizers will announce which ones received the highest average ratings. After 22 years, the contest is now under "the auspices of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new, charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the technologies and services that enable IF creation and play..." according to the contest's organizers. "[T]he competition now runs on servers paid for by the IF-loving public, and for this I feel sincere gratitude."
Democrats

WikiLeaks Publishes Cryptic UFO Emails Sent To Clinton Campaign From Former Blink 182 Singer (gizmodo.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: The former lead singer of Blink 182, Tom DeLonge, has publicly admitted to his obsession with UFOs -- but that still doesn't explain why he was sending two cryptic messages about alien spacecrafts to Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier today. The former rockstar's UFO emails became public in the latest Wikleaks dump, published earlier this month. DeLonge, who is best known for his shitty guitar riffs and vocals in songs like "What's My Age Again," emailed Podesta at least twice from his personal account, urging him to meet in person so he could introduce Podesta to high-level officials (presumably with info about UFOs). Here's a small taste of one of the messages: "I would like to bring two very 'important' people out to meet you in DC. I think you will find them very interesting, as they were principal leadership relating to our sensitive topic. Both were in charge of most fragile divisions, as it relates to Classified Science and DOD topics. Other words, these are A-Level officials. Worth our time, and as well the investment to bring all the way out to you. I just need 2 hours from you." In another email, DeLonge said he's been working with someone named General McCasland, and explained some of the General's public comments. The email is rather strange, given that there's no specific request made or really any context at all for the message: "He mentioned he's a 'skeptic,' he's not.... He just has to say that out loud, but he is very, very aware -- as he was in charge of all of the stuff. When Roswell crashed, they shipped it to the laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. General McCasland was in charge of that exact laboratory up to a couple years ago." It's unclear if Podesta ever responded to the messages, but he has shown interest in UFOs in the past. When he stepped down from his role as a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, Podesta tweeted, "Finally, my biggest failure of 2014: Once again not securing the #disclosure of the UFO files. #thetruthisstilloutthere cc: @NYTimesDowd." The famous tweet now appears under the name of Obama's new senior advisor Brian Deese.
Sci-Fi

Why Is Science Fiction Snubbed By Literary Awards? (galacticbrain.com) 252

Slashdot reader bowman9991 quotes an essay from GalacticBrain: Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space," mocked Margaret Atwood, one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that...

Considered by the literary establishment, and frequently by non-SF award-giving institutions, to be trashy, pulpish, commercially driven lightweight gutter fiction, it's no surprise that very few works of science fiction have won major literary awards... Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning (not "literary" awards obviously) Mars novels, [in 2009] hit out at the literary establishment, accusing the Man Booker judges of "ignorance" in neglecting science fiction, which he declared was "the best British literature of our time".

The article ends with a simple question. "Will science fiction authors ever escape the publication ghetto?"
Movies

Upcoming Blade Runner Sequel Gets a Title: Blade Runner 2049 (theverge.com) 136

The sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" is officially titled "Blade Runner 2049." Harris Ford is confirmed to be returning as Rick Deckard. Other stars include Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Lennie James. The Verge reports: There's a hashtag included in the press release, of course (#BladeRunner2049), but other than that there's little else revealed about the story itself. There is a new picture out, however, with Scott, Villeneuve, Gosling, and Harrison Ford chatting over some Blade Runner weaponry. Whether you like or hate the new title will most likely depend on how excited you are about knowing the exact year that the new film takes place. The original was set in 2019, so it's good that they're tacking on an extra 30 years because the Los Angeles of today really doesn't look anything like the dystopian vision Scott wowed audiences with way back when. But hey -- there's still time. Blade Runner 2049 is scheduled to arrive in theaters on October 6th, 2017.
Sci-Fi

'Transformer' BMW Turns Into A Giant Robot (vice.com) 45

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Motherboard: Real-life Transformers are apparently already a thing thanks to a Turkish company called Letvision. They can't do battle with Decepticons, but they can turn their heads from side to side and move their arms and fingers and, erm, shoot smoke from between their legs. Oh, and they can do the whole changing from a 2013 BMW to an upright robot bit [video]. That's pretty cool, too.

But of course there's a catch. Each of the four available Transformers (which Letvision gave the copyright-friendly name of "Letrons") has a functional steering wheel, but you can only "drive" them remotely because Letvision stuffed the seating spaces with the hydraulics and electronics needed for the conversion.

Letvision's demo video has the clever title "Rise of LETRONS", and shows the vehicle spontaneously beginning its transformation after a newscaster announces, "Our country is under invasion by extraterrestrials."
Sci-Fi

SciFi TV Series 'Space Patrol Orion' Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary (wikipedia.org) 73

In Germany the phrase "Fallback to Earth!" is about as cult as "Engage warp drive," reports Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino: One of the oldest science fiction TV serials, the famous German "Raumpatrouille Orion" (Space Patrol Orion) turned 50 today. Heise.de has a scoop on the anniversary in German [or roughly translated into English by Google]. The production of Space Patrol Orion predates Star Trek by roughly a year and was a huge hit in Germany, gaining the status of a "street sweeper" (Strabenfeger), referring to the effect it's airing had on public life.
The special effects are pretty good for 1966 -- you can watch episode one on YouTube. (And feel free to share other related videos in the comments.) "In the series, nations no longer exist and Earth is united," according to Wikipedia, which reports that Commander Cliff McLane and his loyal crew fight an alien race called the Frogs, and "He is notoriously defiant towards his superiors."
Sci-Fi

28 Years A Smeghead: Red Dwarf Is Coming Back (theguardian.com) 153

BarbaraHudson writes: Unless you're a smeghead, you'll be excited to know that (after 28 years after the smash cult sitcom began) Red Dwarf seasons 11 and 12 are now in production. The Guardian reports: "'I've known these guys longer than I've known my wife,' says Charles (Lister). 'That was what it came down to -- a choice between staying in Coronation Street or doing this.' Last year, after 10 years on the cobbliest of soaps, Charles left. He missed comedy, and the opportunity to strap on the famous dreads came up. 'I was like 'I've got to do it.' It's a career-defining role.' As it was with Llewellyn's (Kryton) re-application of the rubber head: 'The only reason I do it now -- and I don't do any other acting, it drives me mad -- is because it's being with your mates for a few weeks.' 'There's nothing similar about us,' says John-Jules (Kat). 'Except we all have Red Dwarf.'"
Sci-Fi

Today Marks The 50th Anniversary of 'Star Trek' (ew.com) 204

Dave Knott writes: Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first television broadcast of Star Trek. The first episode of the science fiction series was aired on September 8, 1966. From its humble beginnings, Star Trek has gone on to become one of the best-loved and most successful television concepts of all time, an enduring pop culture touchstone that changed science fiction forever and spawned multiple series and movies that continue to this day. What does Star Trek mean to you? Are you a trekkie/trekker? What are your best memories of the series, and how has it affected your life?
NASA

NASA Launches OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft To Intercept Asteroid (cnn.com) 36

NASA has successfully launched the OSIRIS-REx space probe on Thursday, which aims to take a sample of asteroid Bennu and return to Earth. CNN reports: "The probe is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in August 2018. For months it will hang out -- take pictures, make scans of the asteroid's surface and create a map. Then in July 2020, OSIRIS-REx wil unfurl its 11-foot-long (3.35-meter) robot arm called TAGSAM and make contact with Bennu's surface for about five seconds. During those seconds, the arm will use a blast of nitrogen gas to kick up rocks and dust and then try to snag a sample of the dust and store it. NASA hopes to get at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and maybe as much as 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of asteroid dust and small rocks. OSIRIS-REx heads home in March 2021 and arrives back at Earth on September 24, 2023, but it won't land. In a bit of Hollywood-style drama, it will fly over Utah and drop off the capsule holding the asteroid sample. A parachute will guide the capsule to the ground at the Utah Test and Training Range in Tooele County." OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for the objectives of the mission: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer. It spells the name of the Egyptian god Osiris. The report adds that while the mission is a first for NASA, it is not a first for mankind. "Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft brought back a small sample of asteroid Itokawa dust in 2010."
Sci-Fi

Star Trek's LCARS Could Become Your Virtual Assistant (cnet.com) 145

H_Fisher writes: It has arguably inspired many other technological innovations in the fifty years since its premiere, and now another Star Trek-inspired touch could be coming to your device: the voice of Majel Barrett from the Star Trek universe's LCARS computer system. CNET reports: "The voice of LCARS was provided by Majel Barrett, who was married to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Although Barrett sadly passed away in 2008, she took several roles on the show over the years, including nurse Christine Chapel in Star Trek: The Original Series and Betazoid ambassador Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to a tweet by the official Roddenberry account yesterday, this has provided enough phonetic data to perhaps get Barrett's voice appearing in upcoming new 2017 TV series Star Trek: Discovery -- and maybe even a Siri-like virtual assistant."
Bitcoin

'SingularDTV' Will Use Ethereum For DRM On A Sci-Fi TV Show (rocknerd.co.uk) 78

It's "an epic sci-fi adventure about the human race's journey into a theoretical technological Singularity." Or is it an "entertainment industry boondoggle...part DRM snake oil marketing, part pseudo-Bitcoin scam and part sincere Singularitarian weirdness?" Long-term Slashdot reader David Gerard writes: SingularDTV is an exciting new blockchain-based entertainment industry startup. Their plan is to adapt the DRM that made $121.54 for Imogen Heap, make their own completely pre-mined altcoin and use that to somehow sell two million views of a sci-fi TV show about the Singularity. Using CODE, which is explicitly modeled on The DAO ... which spectacularly imploded days after its launch. There's a white paper [PDF], but here's an analysis of why these schemes are a terrible idea for musicians.
'Singular' will be a one-hour adventure/drama "that explores the impact technology will have on the future of our planet and how it will shape the evolution of our human race," set in the years 2021 to 2045, "as an unprecedented technological revolution sweeps over the world..."
First Person Shooters (Games)

100 Unofficial Mods Released for 'No Man's Sky' (vice.com) 72

Eleven days after its release, No Man's Sky already has over 100 unofficial mods by fans intent on improving the game. "We don't have time to wait for official dev tools to fix what can be fixed by us," one modder told Motherboard. "We definitely want the official tools ASAP but honestly, the players need a game that actually launches and plays at decent FPS first." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the article: In an email to one customer, Hello Games revealed that it will be releasing patches this week and next which will "help to improve the experience further for players" but it is unlikely that the promised official modding tools will be released in the near future...

Among the [unofficial] mods available for anyone to download are ones to...replace the system font with one from Star Trek, disable annoying audio warnings, and replace a "Units Received" alert with "the Rick 'Wubba Lubba Dub Dub' sound bite from Rick and Morty"... The Instagram Filter Remover mod is among the most popular on the No Man's Sky Mods website promising to remove "the stupid Instagram filter from the game"...making everything sharper and clearer.

That last mod has been downloaded 17,655 times so far, and by Friday the site had almost 800,000 views and 60,000 downloads. There's two other mods that add Dr. Who sound clips into the game, and the article notes fans are clamoring for more, "including one request to replace all the voice lines in the game with William Shatner quotes."
Sci-Fi

Star Wars Actor Kenny Baker Dies at Age 81 (theguardian.com) 51

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Guardian: The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3-feet 8-inches tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece told the newspaper that "He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world..."

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