Recovered Writing, Unpublished Film Adaptation Essay on Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man (1999), Mar. 1, 2011

This is a 2,312-word essay on Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man (1999) for a cancelled companion titled When Worlds Collide: The Critical Companion to Science Fiction Film Adaptations for Liverpool University Press. I wrote my first draft and submitted it on May 30, 2009 (discussed here). A year-and-a-half later, the editors sent me suggestions and feedback on Jan. 31, 2011 (discussed here). I returned my substantially revised final draft (included below) on Mar. 1, 2011. My enjoyment of Isaac Asimov’s original novelette and novel-length-expansion with Robert Silverberg as The Positronic Man led me to write for this project when I first saw the call for contributors (even though I had not yet seen Columbus’ film!). I was thick in my PhD work when I wrote the first draft and nearing the end of that phase of my career when I submitted my revised copy. It is, unfortunately, a reminder that sometimes projects don’t work out for any number of reasons. I didn’t want my writing on these stories and its film adaptation to disappear, so I’m sharing it here. I am presenting it as-is based on the original document, which followed the house style provided by the editors–with only changes from British to American English spellings and punctuation use.

Bicentennial Man (1492 Pictures, 1999)

Adapted from Isaac Asimov, ‘Bicentennial Man’ (1976) and Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man (1993)

(Dir. Chris Columbus; Sc. Nicholas Kazan; Pr. Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, Laurence Mark, Neal Miller, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan; Cin. Phil Meheux; P.D. Norman Reynolds; SFX. Dream Quest Images; starring Robin Williams (Andrew); Sam Neill (Sir); Embeth Davidtz (Amanda Martin/Portia Charney); Wendy Crewson (Ma’am); Oliver Platt (Rupert Burns))

Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” (1976) won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novelette in 1976 and 1977 respectively, and it has appeared continuously in print in various anthologies over the past three decades. Later, Asimov and Silverberg co-wrote a novel-length expansion of the original novelette which appeared in 1993 as The Positronic Man. These two works share a nearly identical plot, and the only additions in the novel include elaborate descriptive language, ancillary dialogue, and notable chapter expansions relating to the history of robotic development and the robot-protagonist Andrew’s trip to the Moon. These expansions are largely insignificant and did not influence Columbus’ critically derided and commercially unsuccessful adaptation.

Asimov and Columbus use their respective media to tell a similar civil rights allegory about a robot with human-like qualities who aspires to a human identity and the rights that accompany it. In Asimov’s original novelette, the robot named Andrew overcomes real threats to his existence and he re-engineers his body in order to convince his society and government to grant him the legal status and rights of a human being, because he desires full self-determination. In this telling, Andrew seeks the legal authority to marry from his government. Both the film and the novelette carry an important message about equality and human dignity, but Asimov’s original story carries the burden much more confidently than the more recent film interpretation of that message.

“The Bicentennial Man” is a unique Bildungsroman about Andrew, a robot who desires and ultimately achieves his humanity by freeing himself from the bonds of robotic servitude through his creative works and personal biology-machine negotiations.  Andrew begins his life as a purchased NDR robot by the Martin family and he is assigned domestic duties in their household. Soon after, he is named Andrew by his youngest charge, Little Miss. However, he quickly displays an unexpectedly preternatural creativity at woodworking, carving, and original thought. Andrew’s abilities allow him to obtain his freedom, write a history of robots from a robot’s perspective, develop a new science of biological prosthetics, and transform his machine body into one that is organic. On his 200th birthday, and after orchestrating his own mortality, he achieves recognition from the World Government that he is indeed human. Humanity however besets Andrew’s development from robot to virtual human being, which positions the story as a veiled social critique. A significant scene early in the story establishes why Andrew desires a human identity despite his robotic physicality and grounds the story in the American civil rights era:  Lost in the countryside, Andrew is confronted by two men who agree that, “If it doesn’t belong to anyone, he could be ours as much as someone else’s” (Asimov, 1991: 262).   At this point, Andrew’s situation connotes the predicament of former American slaves prior to the Civil War who traveled with manumission papers fearing they might be enslaved once again. The men’s disregard for Andrew’s freedom and personhood constitutes a powerful episode in the novelette, because it demonstrates a threat to Andrew’s personhood and a reason for his continuing work toward becoming human. Its absence from the film adaptation is symptomatic of the mishandling of the source material, which will be elaborated below.

Columbus’ Bicentennial Man follows the narrative arc of the original, but it departs from Asimov’s novelette in a number of significant ways with the most consequential being Andrew falls in love with a human woman. It is Andrew’s desire to marry that provides the film a different allegorical message while maintaining a focus on Civil Rights. However, it is important to first note that in the original and adaptation, Andrew attempts to purchase himself from Sir, his human master. However, in the novelette, Sir initially refuses to grant Andrew’s freedom in exchange for money. It is only after Andrew wins a suit brought against robot freedom in the courts that Sir concedes to give Andrew his liberty in exchange for money. In the film, Sir immediately liberates Andrew with the caveat that Andrew vacate the Martin home immediately, and Sir says, ‘You wanted freedom. You must accept the consequences.’  In this regard, Andrew’s initial taste of freedom reflects how African-Americans were evicted from plantations following the Civil War with nowhere to go, but Andrew easily overcomes even this situation. It is on this point that the film fails where Asimov’s novelette endures. Andrew in the film never encounters a potentially hazardous circumstance on his journey to be human, and his battles are not convincingly hard-won. Then, finding himself alone in a world dominated by human beings, he serendipitously meets the cyberneticist Rupert Burns who helps his transition to a mortal human body so that he can romantically pursue Little Miss’ great-granddaughter Portia Charney. Instead of wanting the protections and rights of a human being due to his ambiguously defined legal status as in the original story, Andrew’s motivation for human identity comes from his desire to marry Portia. The film’s approach to a civil rights allegory is significantly different than Asimov’s story, but it is of significant importance to contemporary civil rights, which is addressed in the conclusion. Unfortunately, the film is marred by questionable issues in its handling of its source material and an unusual casting considering its subject matter. The first issue has to do with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. In the important closing scene moments after Andrew’s death, Portia orders the android Galatea to unplug the machine keeping her alive after Andrew’s death, which is a gross violation of Asimov’s First Law of Robotics: “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” (Asimov, 1991: 126)  More importantly, the film’s cast is overwhelmingly white except for the only two prominent characters of color: an unidentified jazz singer (Paula West), and President Marjorie Bota (Lynne Thigpen). Each of these African-American actresses plays an influential role at key moments in Andrew’s transformation from robot to human being. The singer presides over the dance where Andrew begins to understand his feelings for Portia and the President grants Andrew’s request to be recognized as a human being. However, it is surprising that more persons of color were not cast as principles in the film, despite Hollywood’s long history of whitewashing ethnic roles or embracing diversity in its films’ casts considering the allegorical subject matter of the original and its adaptation.

The presentation of the narrative in the original and film also greatly differs. Asimov builds momentum in the novelette through flashback and twenty-three short chapters. These chapters are snapshots in the long life of Andrew Martin as he attempts to transform from robot to human being. Additionally, these episodic chapters rise and fall with dramatic impact from event-to-event until the reader learns Andrew’s ultimate choice and his fate. On the other hand, the film is generally divided between Andrew’s life with the Martins, his search for robots like himself, and his transformation into a human being as he falls in love with Portia. The narrative is slow and plodding, and Robin William’s humor is lost behind the film’s script and special effects veneer. Through its narrative, the film presents a brighter and less dangerous narrative that follows Andrew’s human friendships and ultimately his courtship of a human woman. Besides its relaxed narrative that keeps Andrew out of harm’s way, the film has generally well lit and immaculately clean settings within the home and in the world-at-large, which conveys a sense of safety for Andrew as well as humanity. Furthermore, Columbus avoids dramatic tension by evading conflict or quickly diffusing stress between characters, such as between Andrew and Portia. The director also regularly employs wide shots, which lessens the emotional significance of many scenes. Despite its cinematographic deficiencies, the film endeavors to present a Civil Rights allegory that is closely aligned with its source.

The novelette and film respond to issues of equality and Civil Rights found in many of Asimov’s stories in which robots have to deal with demanding human ‘masters’ spouting slurs, which in other contexts would be considered racist (the use of “boy,” for example: Asimov, 1941: 124). For Asimov and Columbus, Andrew is a bonded servant on two levels – as a thing purchased, owned, and controlled, and as a robot bound by the Three Laws of Robotics first enumerated in Asimov’s short story “Runaround” (1942). Andrew transcends these restrictions on his being and his behavior in order to achieve personhood just as some former African-American slaves overcame their status as property in order to register themselves as persons deserving freedom and equality. In Asimov’s original novelette, Andrew overcomes the threat to his right of self-determination by convincing his society and its government to grant him identical status as a human being, a “Bicentennial Man” (Asimov, 1991: 290). On the other hand, Columbus’ film places its emphasis on a threat to Andrew’s and Portia’s family by calling into question the right of a robot to choose to marry a human being and vice versa. Both are momentous civil rights issues, but the film’s execution of its message appears weighted more toward Andrew’s socialization as Portia’s mate rather than the harsh realities of a society against the marriage of a particular group.

“The Bicentennial Man” deals with ontological concerns and identity politics as is true of many of Asimov’s robot stories. However, Andrew’s story more fully explores one robot’s path from robotic slavery to human freedom, and it does so by closely following models of American slave narratives that emphasize emancipation and personal development. These include Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1798), Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), and Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery (1901). These authors demonstrate their subjecthood as equals of all human beings through their lives and writings, and furthermore, they prevail over Thomas Jefferson’s comments on American slaves in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784): “that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous,” and he “never [saw] even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” (Jefferson, 1984, 267). Likewise, Andrew overcomes society’s expectations by demonstrating that he is artistically creative and an independent thinker who desires freedom. Asimov mirrors slave narratives in his futuristic story:  Andrew obtains a personal awareness of his oppressive situation as a robotic slave, he attempts to purchase himself from his master with money saved from his creative labour, he experiences a different way of interacting with humans and robots on the Moon, and he spends his life proving himself an equal of other humans. Andrew, like former American slaves, also demands to know why he is not considered an enfranchised human. He challenges his society’s beliefs about robots, and he ultimately convinces his society and government to grant him equal status with human beings. However, Andrew’s successes in the novelette and film are an oversimplification of the past and present difficulties of people of color to achieve the full benefits of civil rights and wider societal acceptance, but it could be Andrew’s desire to marry a human being in the film adaptation that gives the film more contemporary, perhaps even prophetic importance.

Despite Bicentennial Man’s problems, it may signify the future of civil rights issues in its handling of an individual’s right to marry. Asimov’s novelette appeared a few years after the landmark ruling of the United States Supreme Court in ‘Loving v. Virginia’ (1967), which made all anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional thus legalizing all mixed-race marriages. However, this issue was not explored in the original story. On the other hand, the film relies on the right to marry as the motivation for Andrew’s development in the last half of the film. In order to marry the human woman Portia, Andrew must transcend his robotic body and convince his society and government to allow him the right that human beings take for granted. This civil rights issue raised in the film is prophetic of the growing call for gay men and lesbians to share the legal right to marry. The film appeared three years after the passage of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which broke the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It dictates that the States must respect the laws of other States. Without DOMA, all States would have had to respect the marriages of gays and lesbians if any one State had made those marriages legal. Civil rights are and will continue to be a struggle for minority groups in the United States, and it is in this light that Bicentennial Man succeeds as a film veiling a message on an on-going civil rights debate.

Notes

Isaac Asimov, ‘Bicentennial Man’ in I. Asimov, Robot Visions (New York: ROC, 1991), pp. 245-290. Originally published in Stellar #2 (1976).

Isaac Asimov, ‘Runaround’ in I. Asimov, Robot Visions (New York: ROC, 1991), pp. 113-134. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction (April 1941).

Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man (New York: Doubleday, 1993).

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1845).

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London, 1793).

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (New York: Library of America, 1984), pp. 266. Originally published in 1784.

Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery: an autobiography (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1901).


More Fun with Air Cooling an AMD Ryzen 7 4700G

As I wrote about here, I swapped my homebuilt Intel i7-7700 computer for a Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with an AMD Ryzen 7 4700G and upgraded the new system’s cooling solution to a Silverstone AR11 heatsink and fan.

For the most part, I have been happy with the AR11’s cooling performance in most of my workflow. However, there were occasional temperature spikes as high as 80C, especially when running software that utilizes all eight cores. And, when higher temperatures were reached after a sustained workload, it took some time before a lower idle temperature in the 30-40C range was reached.

I hypothesized that the AR11 could perform better if it had more airflow (the AR11 comes with a Silverstone-branded 92mm x 92mm x 15mm fan that has straight blades and is nearly silent) and if it had better thermal conductivity (I had used the included disposable packet of thermal grease) between the CPU lid and the AR11’s four heat pipes.

However, I had some limitations to consider. As you can see below, there is only about 15mm of space between the stock AR11 fan and my 3.5″ Western Digital hard disk.

This amount of space would permit me to replace the 15mm tall Silverstone fan with a larger 25mm tall fan. I chose the Noctua NF-A9 PWM after reading so many people sing their praises for Noctua’s products and considering how this fan’s maximum airflow of 78.9 m³/h and static pressure of 2.28 mm H₂O, which make it a good fan for moving air over a heatsink.

After removing the four screws holding the Silverstone fan to the top of the AR11 heatsink, I attached the Noctua NF-A9 with four fine-thread 3/8″ screws that I had on-hand. I attached the fan so that it would push air down and through the fins of the heatsink.

When I had first removed the stock AR11, I had to clean the Silverstone thermal compound off. First, I wiped off the excess with a paper towel, and then, I used cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean off any residue. I continued cleaning until the swabs remained clean and the metal surfaces of the Ryzen 7 lid and AR11 heatpipes were immaculately clean. With these contact surfaces clean, I applied a very small pea sized amount of Arctic MX-4 thermal compound, which I had read performed very well and was on sale at the time, to the top of the Ryzen 7 lid. I painted the top of the lid with the thermal compound using an old credit card so that there was a very, very thin layer of compound across the top. Finally, I placed the AR11 on top of the Ryzen 7 CPU and affixed the nuts under the motherboard to pull the two together. As you can see in the image above, there is no excess thermal compound extruding out and absolutely no space left between the cooler and the CPU.

After reassembling the Ideacentre, there is about 5mm of space between the Noctua fan on the AR11 and the 3.5″ hard drive (see image above).

After rebooting, I ran Cinebench r23‘s multicore benchmark to max out the CPU. Before replacing the fan and thermal compound, Open Hardware Monitor reported a max temperature of 80C and the Cinebench score was 11,352. After replacing the fan and thermal compound, the max temperature was 69.8C and the Cinebench score was 11,446!

Needless to say, I am happy about the results of this inexpensive upgrade to my computer’s cooling system.

There are three caveats that I should mention in closing.

First, Lenovo’s BIOS has only two fan control settings for its PWM fan headers on the motherboard. These are “Performance,” which I have been using since I first got it–on the stock cooler and the AR11, and “Experience,” which should adjust system fan speeds according to rising or lowering temperatures. Since I want maximum cooling, I am leaving it on the “Performance” setting, but this has the side effect of an audible difference between the Silverstone (virtually silent) and Noctua (noticeable fan noise).

Second, some folks online recommend applying the thermal compound to the AR11’s heatpipes instead of the CPU lid. I didn’t do this, because the heatpipes extend across the Ryzen 7 CPU on two sides. Also, the milled fins between the heatpipes should make contact with the CPU lid, too. I wanted to make sure there was as much heat transfer as possible over the entire face of the Ryzen 7’s lid. Therefore, I applied the thin layer of thermal compound to the entire lid before installing the AR11.

Third, and finally, the AR11 is made for Intel 115x applications. I’m only using it with my Ryzen 7, because Lenovo seems to use the Intel 115x cooling solution hole pattern on both their Intel and AMD motherboards. Also, Lenovo’s chassis-integrated CPU backplate limits what kinds of headsinks that I can easily install. The AR11 uses bolts that don’t require a backplate. When I purchased it, I was unsure if another impressive cooler, the ID-Cooling IS-60, would fit (I think it would not). However, other low profile coolers that might fit within the IdeaCentre 5’s tight interior, such as the Noctua NH-L9x65 and Scythe Big Shuriken 3, use a backplate for installation. The built-in chassis backplate can be removed–the top part is glued down but removable, and the chassis ‘bump’ that hold it in place potentially could be cut out with a Dremel-type tool (but this might not be necessary depending on the thickness of the backplate used.

The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices

The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices poster

Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine launched a new award today called The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices. It is intended to recognize the work by writers who customarily identify as Black and are at the beginning of their careers.

Instead of simply purchasing and publishing the winning story, Analog is going further by providing mentoring, advice, and networking opportunities for the winner. This is a tremendous opportunity that I would encourage eligible hard science fiction writers (including those who are City Tech students with writing aspirations) to send their work for consideration. Submissions are accepted from May 14-July 23, 2021.

The winner and finalists will be announced at the next City Tech Science Fiction Symposium in late Fall 2021! Stay tuned for the next symposium’s call for papers.

Read the poster above or text below for all of the award’s details:

The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
analogsf@dellmagazines.com

Eligibility
Any writer over 18 years of age who customarily identifies as Black, has not published nor is under contract for a book, and has three or less paid fiction publications is eligible.

Logistics
Submissions will be open from May 14th – July 23rd to works of hard science fiction of greater than 1,000 words but not over 5,000. Finalists and the winning author will be announced at and in partnership with the Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction.

Judging
A diverse committee of science fiction professionals will judge. The panel for 2021 is: Steven Barnes (Lion’s Blood), Nisi Shawl (Writing the Other), Kim-Mei Kirtland (Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, Inc.), Trevor Quachri (Analog Science Fiction and Fact), and Emily Hockaday (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov’s Science Fiction). Finalists will be chosen and awarded one mentorship session with Analog editors including a critique of their submission and a chance to ask questions about the field.

Award Winner
With editorial guidance, Analog editors commit to purchasing and publishing the winning story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the intent of creating a lasting relationship, including one year of monthly mentorship sessions. These sessions will be opportunities to discuss new writing, story ideas, the industry, and to receive general support from the Analog editors and award judges.

Submit
Submissions will be read blind. Please remove all identifying information from the document before sending it. The file name should be the title of the story. Submissions should be .doc files and follow standard manuscript format. In the body of your email, please include a short cover letter with your contact information, address, the name of your entry, and a statement of interest describing eligibility. Stories can be submitted here: AnalogAward@gmail.com.

Reposted from Science Fiction at City Tech here.

Adventures in Upgrading a Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 Desktop

After spending the last year getting to know my i7-7700 PC that I had built several years ago better than I had ever known it before due to the shift to remote work and distance learning, I came to think that I needed a new computer that was better suited to my needs in the current situation. After a lot of research and patience price hunting, I replaced my old computer with the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a Ryzen 7 4700G CPU pictured above.

As an English professor at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY who teaches classes asynchronously with weekly posted video lectures anchoring each class, a lot of my time goes into planning, shooting, and editing these lectures in addition to designing course sites, writing syllabi, adding content and assignments, and corresponding with students via email.

Overall, my i7-based computer supported my work admirably except for the final step of rendering my edited videos into single files before uploading them to my YouTube channel. For a two-hour-long lecture, the rendering time could be as long as 30 minutes. While not excessive, I knew that a newer computer with a CPU with more cores and threads than the 4-core/8-thread CPU that I had built several years ago would render the videos much more quickly.

I didn’t want to reinvest in my desktop setup unless I could afford to double the performance of my current setup (a rule of thumb that I picked up from my friend Mark). As a point of reference, the i7-7700 has an average CPU Mark of 8,617. Considering the price and long-term support of Intel and AMD’s platforms, including the cost of a new CPU, motherboard, and RAM, I focused on AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X and OEM-only Ryzen 7 4700G, both of which seemed to fit the bill with CPU Mark scores of 22,804 and 19,863 respectively. The lower cost of processors and motherboards combined with higher out-of-the-box RAM speed support and a commitment to supporting multiple CPU generations across motherboard chipsets via the AM4 socket also weighed in AMD’s favor.

While I could reuse my PC’s case, power supply, and drives, I thought about how much room the i7’s Corsair Carbide Series 100R case, which I had purchased earlier in the pandemic to accommodate a large video card, takes in my small closet-sized work area (approximately 18.5″ x 7 7/8″ x 17″ or 2477 cubic square inches). My cramped work environment led me to lean toward a pre-built system using the OEM-only Ryzen 7 4700G, because these systems, primarily made by HP and Lenovo for sale in the USA, are relatively tiny desktop PC systems.

Additionally, the Ryzen 7 4700G’s integrated graphics are nearly as strong as the discrete graphics in the Radeon RX 550 video card that I had in the i7-7700 system. This would mean that I didn’t need to have a discrete video card if I went with a 4700G-based system.

Another plus for the Ryzen 7 4700G is that it supports dual-channel DDR4-3200 RAM out of the box without a need to overclock the RAM (and having a motherboard that supports this function). Having fast RAM is essential for my workloads and it is needed even more so if I am relying on integrated graphics, which would share the RAM with the operating system and applications.

However, I didn’t want to overspend on a pre-built system with a 4700G processor. I knew from tracking computer prices that there had been deep cut sales on HP’s 4700G system (an incredible $450) around Black Friday 2020 and early in 2021. In fact, my friend Mark in Atlanta had worked on such a system for a friend of his family, and he filled me in on his experiences with upgrading its RAM and heat-sink and fan (HSF).

Ultimately, I choose the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with Ryzen 7 4700G system, because commenters online seemed to have stronger out-of-the-box experiences with it than that HP Desktop M01-1024. In particular, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a 4700G CPU included two sticks of DDR4 memory (which enables dual channel, as opposed to a single stick not in a dual channel configuration) and two drives (one SSD and one HDD). Also, I was impressed by my experience with a Lenovo ThinkPad, including its long life and build-quality, which I hoped would carry over with the IdeaCentre-line of desktops.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 came with 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 RAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD, and a 1TB HDD. Its small footprint (13.5″ tall x 11″ deep x 5.75″ wide or 854 cubic square inches–almost 1/3 the volume of the Corsair 100R case!) saved space in my office, too. As I needed to begin working right away with the new system before making any upgrades, the Lenovo system seemed like the right way to go for me. Though, it took me about a month of price watching on Lenovo’s official eBay store before they lowered the price to an acceptable $560.69 with free shipping.

Below, I’m recording some of my experiences with the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5, including installing Linux Mint, upgrading the RAM, swapping out hard drives, installing an aftermarket heat-sink and fan, accounting of the costs involved, and concluding with a look ahead.

Installing Linux Mint

Since late last year, I’ve been using Linux Mint as my daily driver. My long-term issues with Microsoft Windows 10 and its data collection and forced upgrade regime, and frustration with Apple’s direction immediately before and certainly after Steve Jobs’ passing led me to switch to Linux where I have more control over my computer, my data, and the software that I use. Using Linux, I can get my work done without feeling that my computer isn’t mine, I’m being spied on, or I’m locked into a corporation’s walled garden.

The software that I use on Linux Mint supports my workflow great. For recording my weekly lectures, I use Google Slides (for the background), OBS Studio (to capture part of my screen with my webcam video overlayed), and Shotcut (to edit the video before uploading to YouTube). Also, I use open-source software, including LibreOffice (word processing and spreadsheet use), GIMP (image editing), Audacious (music playback), Firefox (web browsing), Thunderbird (email), Handbrake (trancoding), and SMPlayer (video playback), as well as proprietary software, including Wolfram Mathematica (mathematical modeling) and Zoom (video conferencing and online event management). While I could install Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat and run them in Linux via WINE, but I have found that their web-based, online counterparts work remarkably well when it is absolutely necessary that I use them.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I prefer Linux over Mac OS X and Windows 10 is how well the Linux operating system does disk and file system specific things like handling large numbers of files and nested directories. Throughout my career, I have collected copious notes, articles, and other research data that are organized in many nested folders, each potentially containing thousands of files. Mac OS X and Windows 10 would bog down when opening these directories of files. Searching through these files was also an ordeal with Apple and Microsoft’s offerings despite some third-party tools that made things better. Linux file systems and open-source tools give me far more control over my files both in handling and searching them, which helps me do my research more efficiently. Some of the search tools that I use include grep, Catfish, and Recoll.

Installing Linux Mint was a snap on the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a Ryzen 7 4700G CPU. On my old PC, I used balena Etcher to burn a copy of the installation media for Linux Mint 20.1 on a USB drive. Before installing Linux, I backed up the Windows 10 installation media to a separate USB drive in case I needed to reinstall Windows on the Lenovo for some reason. Then, I rebooted the Lenovo, went into the BIOS, changed the boot order so that it would load the USB drive first and disabled SecureBoot, which causes problems with some Linux drivers for the WiFi card and other hardware. Continuing with the bootup process, I directed Linux Mint to launch the desktop so that I could see that everything worked before installing. Everything did work out of the box except for high resolution graphics, which I figured might be due to the older long-term support kernel that might not have drivers for the 4700G’s integrated graphics. So, I erased the m.2 SSD, installed Linux Mint, and after booting in successfully with the 5.4.0 kernel, I updated to the 5.8.0 kernel, which solved the graphics issue and restored 2560×1440 resolution on my 32″ MSI Optix MAG322CQRV monitor.

Maxing Out the RAM and Swapping the HDD

After receiving the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 and testing out its stock capabilities, which were impressive compared to my i7-7700, I installed its first major upgrades: swapped the 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 RAM for 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4-3200 RAM, and swapped its included 1TB HDD (a Western Digital Blue) for my 4TB HDD (also a Western Digital Blue).

After taking out two screws on the back of the case, I slid the side panel off, which exposed the computer’s components–motherboard, CPU, RAM, PSU, and drive cage (to the left above). Before opening the drive cage to locate the RAM underneath, there are three plastic tabs on the front panel that need to be lifted to release the panel and then it can be unhooked on the opposite by swinging the panel open-and-out. To open the drive cage, there is a metal tab now exposed after removing the front panel. Press the tab down and the cage slides forward and then up.

The stock Lenovo RAM is a matched pair of SK Hynix 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM (HMA81GU6CJR8N CL22 Single Rank). This is good RAM, but I wanted to max out what this system could use, so I ordered a 32GB Crucial Kit (16GBx2) DDR4-3200 (CT2K16G4DFD832A CL22 Dual Rank x8 Unbuffered). As with any other desktop system, it was easy enough to replace the RAM. First, the tabs on both sides of a stick of RAM are depressed, which lifts the DIMM out of the slot. Pull the stick of RAM out, place the new RAM in the slot–paying attention to the placement of the DIMM’s notch (the RAM goes in only one way)–and press down until the tabs fold in and lock into place.

While I had the case open, I also swapped the stock 1TB HDD with my 4TB HDD from my i7-7700 PC. This involved several steps due to how tight the drive cage assembly is designed. First, the DVD-R drive has to be removed, which exposes the screws underneath holding the HDD in place. After disconnecting the SATA data and power cables, I removed the screws and vibration pads, pulled out the 1TB drive, put in the 4TB drive, replaced the screws and vibration pads, connected the cables, and reinstalled the DVD-R drive. Then, the drive cage can be swung back into place and locked, and the front panel can be notched and snapped into place, and finally, the side panel slid into place and screwed down.

Installing the Silverstone Argon Series AR11 HSF

After using the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 for a month, I noticed that the video editing software Shotcut would would bog down about halfway through rendering an hour-long video. Using CPU-X as root, I saw the CPU temperature rise to 72C and then the CPU voltage and CPU clock rate would decrease to lower the temperature. When the temperature decreased, the voltage and clock rate would creep up again. This feedback cycle would persist through the rendering process.

Lenovo, perhaps to cut costs by standardizing heatsink and motherboard designs, uses what they rate as a 65watt TDP (thermal design power) heatsink and fan (HSF). It’s made out of extruded aluminum with an offset 80mm, 4-pin fan mounted on top to blow air through the heatsink’s fins. What’s interesting about this part’s design is that its mounting hardware is for an Intel 1151 socket hole pattern instead of AMD’s AM4 socket, which the Ryzen 7 4700G processor uses.

My guess is that Lenovo sells many more computers with Intel CPUs than AMD CPUs, so even when they design a product that uses AMD parts, they design the motherboard and cooling solution to reuse the same hole pattern and heatsink fan as their Intel-based products.

While Lenovo’s HSF was rated for the 65watt TDP of the 4700G CPU, it didn’t seem capable of displacing the heat generated when the CPU was under a sustained load. This led me to replace Lenovo’s HSF solution with an aftermarket HSF that had a higher TDP.

Unfortunately, there were some constraints that I had to work around. First, as mentioned above, the cooler had to support a 1151 hole pattern. Second, the drive cage in the IdeaCentre 5 case overlaps the CPU area of the motherboard. This limits the height of the cooler to about 55-60mm (this was my best measurement due to taking it with Lenovo’s HSF installed). At the upper end of this range, it would be very tight, and airflow into the HSF might be restricted. Also, if a larger HSF with a wider fan were installed, it might not permit the installation of a 3.5″ HDD in the underside of the drive cage.

Ultimately, I decided to purchase the Silverstone Argon Series AR11 heatsink and fan.

It is only 47mm tall, but it features four heat-pipes that make direct contact with the CPU. Included in its height is the 15mm tall 92mm x 92mm fan, which should supply more air flow at the same rpm as the 80mm fan on the Lenovo-made HSF.

And, it has a 95 watt TDP rating, which means that it should give the 4700G’s 65 watt TDP some cooling headroom.

It included four nuts with spacers and a pouch of thermal compound.

To remove the Lenovo HSF and install the Silverstone AR11, I had to completely remove the motherboard from the case.

I could see that the Lenovo HSF was secured to (what I thought) was a backplate with threaded lugs that the spring-mounted screws on the four corners of the HSF would screw into. Since the Ideacentre 5’s case has the motherboard-side of the case riveted to the chassis, I had to remove the motherboard as I couldn’t see what the underside of the motherboard looked like from the other side (as you can in many aftermarket/hobbyist cases). Before dealing with the motherboard and the HSF, I began disconnecting all of the cables running to the motherboard, removing the drive cage, and removing the front-side frame around the USB connectors and the power button module.

Then, after removing all of the screws holding the motherboard to the chassis, I discovered that the motherboard wouldn’t budge. I had not yet removed the HSF, but it dawned on me that the HSF screws were connected to what I hoped were easily removable stand-offs beneath the motherboard. I would soon learn that this wasn’t the case. But, first, I removed the HSF to expose the 4700G covered in thermal compound underneath, which I cleaned off with a paper towel, a few Q-tips, and alcohol.

Underneath the motherboard, I found four stand-offs built into the chassis that were used to secure the HSF. I think that this design is a cost-saving measure on Lenovo’s part, because it might reduce a step or simplify the installation of the cooling solution during assembly of the PC.

Nevertheless, these four stand-offs were in the way of the nuts that would hold the SilverStone AR11 to the motherboard, so they had to be removed.

Thankfully, I was able to drill out each of these standoffs with a 1/4″ drill bit. Drilling each out, left a thin-walled bushing and it popped out the rivet underneath.

I was able to vacuum the metal shavings, which left four clean holes in the chassis.

With nothing obstructing my work now, I proceeded to install the AR11 HSF on the 4700G. I applied the included thermal compound to the 4700G and smoothed it with an old credit card. Then, I positioned the AR11 over the 4700G and through the four mounting holes. Carefully holding the AR11 in place with one hand, I used my other hand to flip the motherboard over. Balancing the motherboard on the AR11, I threaded each nut with spacer on the protruding studs from the AR11’s mounting hardware. I tightened the nuts slowly in a four bolt torque pattern until it was secure. Then, I reinstalled the motherboard with the new AR11 mounted into the IdeaCentre 5’s case.

While I had everything exposed inside the IdeaCentre 5 case, I canibalized the 80mm fan from the original Lenovo-supplied HSF and mounted it as an intake fan in the front of the case (lower right above). The exhaust fan (upper left above) came mounted with the computer. Both use 4-pin power connectors. The motherboard supports one 4-pin CPU HSF connector and three 4-pin case fan connectors.

With the drive cage re-installed, there is a safe clearance of about 10mm between the AR11 and the 3.5″ HDD installed above it in the drive cage.

With everything reassembled, the Lenovo fired up without any issues, and psensor reports lower minimum temperatures (24C after, 31C before) and lower maximum temperatures (60C after, 65C before). When I record this coming week’s lectures in Science Fiction and Technical Writing, I will have a better idea about whether the AR11 keeps the temperatures low enough to avoid excessive clock rate throttling during extended load times.

Calculating the Cost

As a computer enthusiast and retrocomputing preservationist, I wish that I could keep all of my old computers.

Unfortunately, the costs of living prohibit my holding on to everything. As such, I needed to sell my i7-7700 PC and its components, and sell/repurpose parts from the Lenovo IdeaCentre to lower the overall cost of switching to a new computer system.

Below, I am including a tally of my costs and profits surrounding the new system. The new components cost $777.67 (excluding tax), but I was able to sell my old PC and some components for $529.00. This makes the final cost for the new computer to be $248.67.


Purchases

Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 Desktop, Ryzen 7 4700G, AMD Radeon Graphics, 16GB
$560.69

Crucial 32GB Kit (16GBx2) DDR4 3200 MT/s (PC4-25600) CL22 DR x8 Unbuffered DIMM 288-Pin Memory - CT2K16G4DFD832A 
$168.99

Silverstone Argon Series (AR11-USA) Intel Socket LGA1150/1151/1155/1156 Compatible 
$47.99

==========

Total $777.67


-$300 (thanks to Patrick for getting this for his daughter)
i7-7700 PC, 16GB RAM, 480GB SSD, 1TB HDD (the HDD was from Lenovo PC)

-$99
SK Hynix 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200 RAM Kit HMA81GU6CJR8N CL22 Single Rank (from Lenovo PC)

-$110
MSI Radeon RX 550 AERO ITX 2G OC 2GB PCIe Graphics Card (from i7 PC)

-$20
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card [SB1570] (from i7 PC)

==========

$248.67

Looking Ahead

One of my goals in purchasing a pre-build system with a Ryzen 7 4700G processor was ultimately to get one of these OEM-only CPUs. In the USA, the options are few for purchasing one–either order it online from an overseas seller or buy a pre-built system that comes with one. In a sense, the latter turns into a shucking situation like many people have done for years with Western Digital external USB hard drives and now others are doing with pre-built systems that come with a video card. The market and pricing drive computer hobbyists to do things that save them a buck or land them a hard-to-find component. For me, this system serves this purpose in the long run. For the time being, I plan to run the 4700G in the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5, but if/when component prices return to saner price points, I would like to build a new system with a motherboard that can do more with the 4700G and its system RAM than the extremely limited Lenovo-made AM4 socket motherboard.

My needs change depending on the work that I happen to be doing at any given time. I imagine that I might get a dedicated graphics card again in the future, but I have no interest in dealing with the scarcity and market-inflated prices right now. I realize that there are a number of forces at play that are driving up prices, including the pandemic’s effects on workers, their families, and supply chains, ensuing component part scarcity, high demand among computer users working, learning, and playing remotely from home, and high demand among cryptocurrency miners. As we dig ourselves out of the pandemic, I think the former issues will sort themselves out. However, as we’ve seen before, cryptocurrency’s built-in blockchain inefficiencies and the proof-of-work concept that underlies their systems continues to wreak havoc on the cyclical graphics card market while simultaneously damaging the environment through its outsized and ever increasing energy needs. Crypto-mining doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, so it’s an issue that we need to collectively deal with before it virtually absorbs the graphics card market and inaugurates a new industrial-market revolution with detrimental environmental costs.

Videos from The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Race and SF, Nov. 19, 2020

The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on the topic of Race and SF was held on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 as a Zoom Webinar. You can read the full program here.

Included below are videos of each session as well as links to expanded presentations and SF writers reading their stories.

With the success of the event combined with how many attended on Zoom and the YouTube Livestream, it seems like video conferencing should be a part of future events that maybe combine in-person and online interaction. I hope that we will be able to meet again in-person next fall, but if 2020 has taught us anything, the future is uncertain. All we can do is plan, have contingencies, and adapt dynamically.

Opening

Opening
Jason W. Ellis
Justin Vazquez-Poritz, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences

Literary Afrofuturism Roundtable

Roundtable: Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century
Moderator: Lisa Yaszek
Panelists:
Rebecca Holden
Isiah Lavender III
Nedine Moonsamy
Lisa Yaszek

Pedagogy Paper Session

Paper Session 1: Pedagogy
Moderator: Jill Belli
Doug Davis – Teaching Afrofuturism with Open Educational Resources
Sadia Reza – Theory of Mind, the “Other,” and Composition
Peter Sands – Morrison’s Paradise: Slow Pedagogies for Generating Deep Conversations about Race

Film Paper Session

Paper Session 2: Film
Moderator: Wanett Clyde
Jacob Adler – A Sickness Known as Hate: Race and Identity in the Twilight Zone
Kanta Dihal and Stephen Cave – The Whiteness of the AI Uprising (in UK, 4 hours ahead)
Sharon Packer – Sinophobia and Tibetophilia: Recurring Racist Memes in SF Cinema and Comics
Jessica Wagner Webster – Race, Propaganda, and Sci-Fi/Horror Films During World War II

Student Roundtable

Student Roundtable: “If you had that kind of power … What would you do? What would you change?”: Thinking Critically about Race and Science Fiction
Moderator: Jill Belli
Students from Science Fiction, ENG2420:
Oscar Abundez,
Derick Bardales
Khoury Douglas
Ronald Gordon
Tommy Su

Pulps and Golden Age SF Paper Session

Paper Session 3: Pulps and Golden Age SF
Moderator: Lucas Kwong
Christopher Leslie – “The Menace of Mars”: Resistance to White Male Privilege in Golden Age Science Fiction
Steven Shaviro – Exorcising Lovecraft | View Expanded Presentation

Science Fiction Writers Roundtable

Roundtable: Science Fiction Writers
Organizer: Emily Hockaday
Moderator: Joy Sanchez-Taylor
Panelists:
Alaya Dawn Johnson | Reading from “Reconstruction”
Cadwell Turnbull | Reading “Loneliness in Your Blood”
Erin Roberts | Reading from “Sour Milk Girls”
Carlos Hernandez | Reading from Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

Theories and Readings of Otherness and Representation

Paper Session 4: Theories and Readings of Otherness and Representation
Moderator: Ann Matsuuchi
Matthew David Goodwin – Gloria Anzaldua and the Making of an Alien Consciousness
Subhalakshmi Gooptu – Livepods and Seedlings: Legacies of Colonial Labor in Contemporary Science Fiction
Rebecca Hankins and Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad – Islamicate Afrofuturuism: Visions of Muslim Afrofuturism and Beyond
Kathrin Lachenmaier – Defying the Colonial ‘Story of Indigenous Deficiency’ in Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God | View Expanded Presentation
Aaron Zwintscher – But They Aren’t Human and They Don’t Complain …: Writing Race(s), Diversity, and the Colonial Mindset on Roshar and Elsewhere in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere

Keynote Address by Johnathan W. Gray

Keynote Address by Jonathan W. Gray on “Past Tense, Future Perfect: American Atrocities in HBO’s Watchmen and Lovecraft Country
Introduction: A. Lavelle Porter

Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, On Race and SF, Thurs., Nov. 19, Online

This year’s City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, our fifth event since the inauguration of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, will be held as a Zoom Webinar on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

We have an outstanding line up featuring this year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Jonathan W. Gray who will give a talk titled, “Past Tense, Future Perfect: American Atrocities in HBO’s Watchmen and Lovecraft Country;” three roundtable discussions with SF writers, scholars, and City Tech students; and scholarly and pedagogically focused paper presentations.

While the event will take place in realtime on Zoom Webinar and simultaneously on YouTube Live, some supplemental material like author readings and expanded paper presentations are already available as online videos.

The symposium program and instructions for registering for the event are on the Science Fiction at City Tech site here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/.

Please feel free to circulate as the event is free and open to the public.

Recovered Writing (Archive)

Sunset in Brooklyn.

This post used to live as a page on DynamicSubspace.net. I’m archiving it as a post. All of the referenced content still lives at the links below.

As a new project for 2014, I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. I am calling this personal exploration and rediscovery of my personal digital archive, “Recovered Writing.” Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

Below, I am including links to my Recovered Writing posts as they are published:

  1. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Science Fiction Final Paper, Exploring SF Themes of Human Technomediation in Blake’s 7, July 26, 2002
  2. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Gender Studies Final Paper on Kathleen Ann Goonan’s Queen City Jazz and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, April 26, 2004
  3. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Postmodernism Final Paper, Family and Kinship in King Rat and American Gods, Summer 2005
  4. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Postcolonialism Final Paper, Identity and History in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Fall 2004
  5. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Time and Consciousness Module Final Paper, Artificial Self-Creation in the Science Fiction of Greg Egan, Jan 8, 2007
  6. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Genre Definitions Paper 1, Mega-text and the Cyberpunk Subgenre, Nov 13, 2006
  7. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Genre Definitions Paper 2, Projecting Victorians into the Future Through the Works of H.G. Wells and Steampunk, Jan 8, 2007
  8. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Thesis, Networks of Science, Technology, and Science Fiction During the American Cold War, December 12, 2005
  9. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Astronomy Class, PHYS 2021, Sunset Observation Project, Fall 2004
  10. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Augustine’s Confessions, Oct 20, 2004
  11. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Past Technology, the Altair 8800, Sept 28, 2004
  12. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Present Technology, Airport Express, Oct 28, 2004
  13. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on a Future Technology, Personal Computing Device, Nov 18, 2004
  14. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Final Essay Response on Communication Tech and World of Warcraft, Dec 8, 2004
  15. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technology & American Society Paper on Handheld Calculators, Nov 26, 2003
  16. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Special Author: Ursula K. Le Guin, Final Paper, Voices of the Alien Other During Wartime in the SF of Heinlein, Le Guin, and Haldeman, May 17, 2007
  17. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Utopias Module, James Tiptree, Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Bridging Herland to the Stars, June 8, 2007
  18. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Genre Definitions Module, Notes on New Wave SF, October 9, 2006
  19. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Genre Definitions Module, Notes on Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C+1, Sept 25, 2006
  20. Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Dissertation, Post-Cold War American Identities in Battlestar Galactica, Summer 2007 (16,376 Words, Long Read)
  21. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Independent Study, Networks Between Science, Technology, and Culture After World War II, August 4, 2005
  22. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, Leonardo da Vinci Essay, Feb 14, 2002
  23. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, Copernicus and Galileo Essay, March 19, 2002
  24. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Age of Scientific Discovery, More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince Essay, April 23, 2002
  25. Recovered Writing: The Project So Far
  26. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Science, Technology, and Race, Critical Commentary and Handout for Mark Hansen’s “Digitizing the Racialized Body…” Oct 24, 2005
  27. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Science, Technology, and Race, Critical Commentary and Handout for N. Katherine Hayles’ “Embodied Virtuality” Nov 16, 2005
  28. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate SF Lab Project, “Development of AI in Science Fiction,” Fall 2004
  29. Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Science, Technology, and Gender Course, Online Discussion Writing and Group Presentation Introduction, Spring 2005
  30. Recovered Writing: My First Professional, Academic Presentation, “Monstrous Robots: Dualism in Robots Who Masquerade as Humans,” Monstrous Bodies Symposium, March 31-April 1, 2005
  31. Recovered Writing: Handwritten Notes from 1st International Philip K. Dick Conference Dortmund, Nov 15-18, 2012
  32. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, African-American Literature Theme Analyses of The Black Atlantic, Cosmopolitanism, and Olaudah Equiano (and Others), Spring 2009
  33. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Semeiotics Midterm and Final Exam Responses, Fall 2007
  34. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Semeiotics Final Paper, Deconstructing the Human/Machine Hierarchy in the Works of Asimov and Dick, Fall 2007
  35. Recovered Writing: SFRA 2010 Paper, “James Cameron’s Avatar and the Machine in the Garden: Reading Movie Narratives and Practices of Production,” June 26, 2010
  36. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Independent Study with Mack Hassler, On Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “The Necessity of Atheism,” Sept. 17, 2008
  37. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Independent Study with Mack Hassler, David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick, and Transgressive Parody, Sept. 28, 2008
  38. Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Independent Study with Mack Hassler, Literary Characters, Online Persona, and Science Fiction Scholars: A Polemic, Dec. 9, 2008
  39. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Parts 3 and 4, January 29, 2008
  40. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Presentation on Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” and Introduction to Bodies That Matter Feb. 6, 2008
  41. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Eric Clarke’s “Visibility at the Limits of Inclusion,” Feb. 26, 2008
  42. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Eric Clarke’s “The Citizen’s Sexual Shadow,” March 2, 2008
  43. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Chandan Reddy’s “Asian Diasporas, Neoliberalism, and Family,” April 8, 2008
  44. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Elizabeth Freeman’s “Packing History, Count(er)ing Generations,” April 15, 2008
  45. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Final Paper, “Transsexual Technology: The Political Potential of Gender Shifting Technologies,” May 8, 2008
  46. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, World War I Literature, Presentation on Weapons and Tactics, 31 January 2008
  47. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Methods in the Study of Literature, Project 1/5, Literary Area and Reading List, September 25, 2008
  48. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Methods in the Study of Literature, Project 2/5, Postmodernism and Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, October 10, 2008
  49. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Methods in the Study of Literature, Project 3/5, New Wave Deconstruction in Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, November 8, 2008
  50. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Methods in the Study of Literature, Project 4/5, The Image of Women in Philip K. Dick’s Ubik Conference Paper, November 29, 2008
  51. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Methods in the Study of Literature, Project 5/5, The Image of Women in Philip K. Dick’s Ubik Publishable Essay, December 10, 2008
  52. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Teaching College Writing, Assignment Design: Team-Based Competitive Blogging with Portfolio Integration, July 1, 2008
  53. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Teaching College Writing, Annotated Bibliography of Teaching SF Resources, June 29, 2008
  54. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Teaching College Writing, Quiz, What do people do when they write? June 16, 2008
  55. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Teaching College Writing, Final Exam, July 1, 2008
  56. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Social Theory, Cultural Capital, Market Capital, and the Destabilization of the Science Fiction Genre Presentation, Nov. 17, 2008
  57. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Social Theory, Prize Based Cultural Capital Exchange and the Destabilization of the Science Fiction Genre, Dec. 10, 2008
  58. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Comprehensive Exam 1 of 3, 20th-Century American Literature, Dr. Kevin Floyd, 2 June 2010
  59. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Comprehensive Exam 2 of 3, Postmodern Theory, Dr. Tammy Clewell, 3 June 2010
  60. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Comprehensive Exam 3 of 3, Fiction of Philip K. Dick, Dr. Donald “Mack” Hassler, 7 June 2010
  61. Recovered Writing, Unpublished Essay, Michael Bay’s Transformers and the New Post-9/11 Science Fiction Film Narrative, 26 March 2009
  62. Recovered Writing, Brittain Fellowship, CETL Brown Bag, Writing the Brain: Using Twitter and Storify, Oct. 2, 2013
  63. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Dissertation Paragraph Summaries Before Defense, May 2012
  64. Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Dissertation Defense Opening Statement, May 15, 2012
  65. Recovered Writing, Unpublished Film Adaptation Essay on Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man (1999), Mar. 1, 2011

Call for Papers: Race and Science Fiction: The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, Deadline Sept 30, 2020

Below is the cfp for the Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium. Due to the pandemic, we will be holding it online. We hope that it will allow greater participation since geographical and travel-related issues won’t be a problem. Of course, working from home, childcare, stable Internet access, etc. present their own issues, but we encourage everyone with an interest to submit and/or participate.

Race and Science Fiction: The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

Date and Time: November 19, 2020, 9:00AM-5:00PM

Location: Online, Sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

Organizers: Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, and A. Lavelle Porter

“People who say change is impossible are usually pretty happy with things just as they are.” –N. K. Jemisin, The City We Became

Science Fiction, on a fundamental level, is always about the here-and-now in which it is produced, because it is from that point the author extrapolates an imagined future or alternate reality. The long and hard fight for civil rights and the latest unfolding of that struggle in the Black Lives Matter movement and its alliances calls on us to recognize the powerful possibilities within Science Fiction to imagine change, especially those promoting social justice and equality by writers of color and Afrofuturists, as well as reckon with the field’s patterns of racism, resistance to inclusion, and lack of representation.

The Fifth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the possibilities for change through the myriad connections between Race and Science Fiction with scholarly presentations, readings by authors, and engaging discussion. It is our goal to foster conversations that question, critique, or discuss SF as it relates to Race.

We invite proposals for 10-20 minute scholarly paper presentations, panel discussions, or author readings related to the topic of race and Science Fiction. Please send a 250-word abstract with title, brief professional bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) by September 30, 2020. Topics with a connection to race and Science Fiction might include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Histories of race and Science Fiction.
  • Representation of race in Science Fiction.
  • Representation of writers of color in the Science Fiction field.
  • Inclusion or exclusion of readers and fans due to race.
  • Issues of identity, including race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, culture, etc.
  • Subgenres and movements, such as Afrofuturism, Black science fiction, Indigenous Futurism, and speculative fiction by writers of color.
  • Race, Science Fiction, and Music, such as Sun Ra, George Clinton, Janelle Monáe, and Outkast.
  • Race and Comic Books
  • Engagement with civil rights movements in Science Fiction explicitly or metaphorically.
  • Pedagogical approaches to teaching race and Science Fiction or teaching about race with Science Fiction.

Due to the uncertainty in the months ahead, the symposium will be held online using a combination of pre-recorded video lectures hosted on the web and real-time interactive discussion on the scheduled day of the symposium using widely available video conferencing software.

This event is free and open to the public as space permits: an RSVP will be included with the program when announced on the Science Fiction at City Tech website (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/). Free registration will be required for participation.

The event is sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

The Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction is held in celebration of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. It is in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Library Building, L543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201). More information about the collection and how to access it is available here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/librarycollection/.

Personal Cloud Storage with Syncthing and a Tiny Raspberry Pi Zero W Computer

Raspberry Pi Zero W v1.1

I like Syncthing, the continuous file synchronization program. Syncthing helps me pickup and continue my work regardless of the device I happen to be using, because it synchronizes my files across all devices. Think Dropbox but on my own hardware.

Also, I like tiny, low-power computers, like the Raspberry Pi 2. The Raspberry Pi and other lightweight computers demonstrate how even small computers are powerful enough for servers and desktop computing.

When Dropbox became more bloated with the new app design and refusing to offer a lower cost tier for those of us with modestly lower file synchronization needs, I began using Syncthing to create a folder of files synchronized between my desktop computer (at home) and my Surface Go (laptop used at work). I’ve been wanting to add a third node in my personal cloud storage solution, in part as an exercise in Linux and tiny computing and in part as another safe repository of my files. So, it made sense to combine my use of Syncthing with my enthusiasm for tiny computing by adding a third node to my Syncthing setup with a $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W (RPi0).

Raspberry Pi Micro USB Power Supply, Raspberry Pi Zero W, and C4 Labs Zebra Zero Black Ice Case

I picked up a RPi0 version 1.1, a C4 Labs Zebra Zero Black Ice Case with heatsink from Microcenter using their curbside pickup, which cost about $26 total.

I setup the RPi0 as a headless computer, meaning that it doesn’t have a monitor or keyboard attached. I will configure and control it remotely over my LAN.

Before turning to the software and preparing the microSD card for the RPi, I assembled the case and installed the heatsink on the CPU. A case for the RPi0 wasn’t necessary, but I thought it prudent to get one for two reasons: 1) I have a cat and a small thing with a wire sticking out might be enticing, and 2) I plan to leave it on all the time, so a heatsink like the one included in this case kit will help dissipate heat produced by the RPi0’s CPU.

Before powering up the RPi0, I downloaded Raspbian Lite (a lean version of the Linux-based Raspbian OS for the RPi), balena Etcher (to burn the installer image to my microSD card), PuTTY (to SSH into the RPi0 to configure, administer, and install software), and Apple’s Bonjour network printer software (to easily connect to the .local hostname of the RPi0).

Then, I followed Mitch Allen’s excellent directions for setting up a headless RPi0.

Next, I followed these detailed directions for installing and configuring Syncthing to launch and load automatically when the RPi0 is powered up.

Since I installed Apple’s Bonjour software as part of Mitch Allen’s instructions above, I was able to easily connect to the RPi0’s Syncthing web admin page by going to “raspberrypi.local:8384” on my desktop’s web browser.

Before setting up Syncthing to sync files, I wanted to lockdown the web admin page by going to Actions > Settings > GUI where I checked “Use HTTPS for GUI” and added a “GUI Authentication User” and “GUI Authentication Password”.

As a test, I rebooted the RPi0 and confirmed that Syncthing launched automatically at bootup and confirmed that authentication was required to access the web admin page remotely.

Also, I made sure that I had Syncthing running on the desktop computer and the RPi0. Due to some initial problems with syncing, I unlinked my desktop and Surface Go from syncing, and moved the files and folders out of my default sync folder so that the sync folder is empty to begin with.

Then, I added a remote device to Syncthing on my desktop PC and on the RPi0 (both installations of Syncthing have to have the other device added).

On each Syncthing web admin page click “Add Remote Device” to add the other computers that you want to sync

First, on each computer (in my case, the desktop PC and the RPi0), click “Add Remote Device” on the Syncthing web admin page.

Enter the Device ID generated by Syncthing on the other computer. On my local network, it auto-suggested the ID of the desktop PC on the RPi0 and vice versa.

Second, on the “Add Device” screen that appears, type in the Device ID of the other computer. In my case, Syncthing auto-suggested the Device ID of the desktop PC when I was configuring the RPi0 and vice versa since these devices are on the same local area network.

On the Sharing tab, check all three boxes

Third, click on the “Sharing” tab on the “Add Device” screen, and check all three boxes: Introducer tells connected devices to add devices from the other synced devices, Default Folder is what folder is being shared, and Auto Accept will automatically include new folders created or shared within the default shared path. Finally, click “Save.”

After adding each other device on each Syncthing installation, they should begin syncing the default folder. I added one file back on my desktop PC to test this. After that file synced on both devices, I added my files back and they began syncing with the RPi0.

The final step in my setup was to add the Surface Go as another remote device. After starting Syncthing on the Surface Go, I added it to the desktop PC and I added the desktop PC to the Surface Go’s Syncthing configuration. While the Surface Go began copying files, the RPi0 added the Surface Go as a remote device automatically. Now, all three devices sync my files.

A better configuration would be to have the RPi0 off-site so that my files would be protected from burglary or fire. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend Syncthing as a foolproof backup solution that gives you the same sense of security as off-site storage unless you can arrange to have your files off-site (then, I would recommend going further than what I did and have your RPi0’s drive encrypted to protect your files should the off-site device be compromised).

For my purposes, using Syncthing on two work-focused devices and one tiny RPi0 computer server gives me some peace of mind through an additional layer of redundancy.

Now, I want to explore what else I can have this RPi0 do as a headless server!

Notes on A Science Fiction Walking Tour in New York City

Spaceman graffiti in Brooklyn.
Spaceman graffiti at NE corner of Court St. and Degraw St. in Brooklyn, New York.

Looking ahead to the New York City of Print NEH Summer Institute, I wanted to collect some notes and resources together for Science-Fiction-focused locations around the city, including the original Manhattan-based offices for the magazines Amazing Stories and Astounding Science-Fiction, and home and business locations in Brooklyn of importance to the SF writer Isaac Asimov.

Amazing Stories

Hugo Gernsback launched Amazing Stories in April 1926 as the world’s first magazine devoted to what he called “scientifiction,” a clunky term that would soon evolve into what we now call Science Fiction. Amazing Stories was based out of an office at 53 Park Place, Manhattan. Today, Google Map’s Street View of 53 Park Place reveals that the building looks remarkably unchanged from this early, undated photo held by the NYPL and this 1940 Tax Photo.

Astounding Science-Fiction

John W. Campbell, Jr., who oversaw the so-called “Golden Age of Science Fiction,” joined Street & Smith Publications as the third editor of Astounding Stories in 1937. Located at 79 7th Avenue, the Street & Smith office building where Campbell made his office for a number of years remains largely unchanged as seen in Google Street View from how it appeared in this photo from 1931 and its 1940 Tax Photo (albeit sans the Street & Smith sign).

Now known as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, it is based out of the 9th floor of 44 Wall Street, which seems largely unchanged today as compared to this 1940 Tax Photo.

Isaac Asimov

The FAQ for alt.books.isaac-asimov provides a useful list of family residences and storefronts from Asimov’s youth:

When the Asimov family came to the United States in 1923, they moved into their first apartment at 425 Van Siclen Avenue, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. In the summer of 1925 they moved one block away to an apartment at 434 Miller Avenue. They moved half a mile eastward in December 1928 to another apartment at 651 Essex Street, above the second candy store bought by his father. In early 1933, they moved to an apartment on Church Avenue, and after a brief stay there they moved to an apartment above yet another family candy store, at 1312 Decatur Street, in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. In December of 1936, Asimov’s father sold his third candy store and bought his fourth, at 174 Windsor Place, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, and the family moved to a house across the street.

FAQ for alt.books.isaac-asimov

The 174 Windsor Place address is particularly significant. Asimov was a teenager at this point, and he used this address in some of his early SF magazine correspondences, such as his “Feminine-less Issue” letter to Startling Stories (November 1939, p. 115), which he wrote when he was 16 years old. 174 Windsor Place doesn’t have a photo in the 1940 tax photo records, but its right side can be clearly seen as carrying “Stationary” and other goods on the left side of this photo of 172 Windsor Place. Today, the building is home to CNS Construction and Cabinets, which you can see on Google Street View here.

The earlier addresses might be where Asimov first encountered science fiction magazines. These include: