What is this socket?

WallPlugPT

I recently moved, and the wall outlets in my new apartment include two standard three-pin electrical power sockets (two power blades plus a ground pin), which are used here in the United States and in some other countries. The wall outlets also have that mysterious four-pin socket. What is it? It took me a while, but I remembered. Do you know?

I’ll give you time to think.
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Hint: This building was constructed in 1973.
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Another hint: Ironically, this kind of socket, installed in several places in every room as a minor luxury, almost immediately became obsolete.
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Answer: It’s a 505A wall jack for a Bell telephone. This was where you plugged in your landline. In the 1970s, this kind of jack was replaced by the modular connector plug, which is still in use.

I graduated from high school in 1973, so I know about landlines. I remember the excitement when push-button touch-tone phones first came into use. (You could use the tones to play songs!) Still, I can’t figure out why I’d want a landline telephone now.

More news: “Semiosis” is a finalist for the Locus Best First Novel Award!

LocusAwardThe Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the finalists for its 2019 awards today. Semiosis is one of the ten finalists in the Best First Novel category.

Winners will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle, WA, June 28 to 30. Awards are presented in sixteen catagories. Locus Magazine has covering the speculative fiction field since 1968 with news, reviews, commentary, and data. No one knows the field as well as Locus!

The full list of Best First Novel finalists — all well worth reading:

Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Semiosis, Sue Burke (Tor)
Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine)
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
The Quantum Magician, Derek Künsken (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Annex, Rich Larson (Orbit US)
Severance, Ling Ma (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

“Semiosis” is on the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist!

Semiosis UK edition

The cover of the British edition. Cover design by Claire Ward. The tentacles are of a sundew, a carnivorous Earth plant that would find you much too big to be prey but otherwise delicious.

I am thrilled to announce that Semiosis is shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The shortlist was announced today, and the full list is:

Semiosis by Sue Burke (HarperVoyager)
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld)
The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag (Simon and Schuster)
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)

These are splendid books, and I am lucky and honored to be among them.

The award describes itself as “the UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature.” The winner will be announced on July 17 in London and receives an engraved bookend and a cash prize.

O fortuna! Homer tells your future

Homer

Homer depicted on an Ionian coin.

I’m studying Latin — a lively language, even if it’s nobody’s native tongue. Beginning students of Spanish learn to say “¿Dónde está la biblioteca?” (Where is the library?) and “Mi casa es grande y azul” (My house is large and blue). These sentences serve mere quotidian purposes. In Latin, we learn “Otium sine litteras mors est” (Leisure without literature is death) and “Angustus animus pecuniam amat” (The shallow mind loves money). These sentences soar with ancient wisdom.

Along with grammar and vocabulary, a language learner must study culture, since language and culture interlock. So far I’ve studied Rome’s legendary founding, its customs, and a few witty observations from Horace’s satires.

Romans were very concerned about the future, and among their many fortune-telling techniques is the Homeromanteion. To use this, you must formulate your question, then roll a dice three times. The resulting number corresponds to a numbered list of lines from the verses of immortal Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. For example:

Line 335: “He promised that the people would stay safe and not perish.”
Line 622: “Remembering our talent, such as to us.”
Line 263: “They might feast here for the last and final time.”

You can test your fortune at the online Homeromanteion, which comes complete with a virtual dice. Remember to pray to the gods so they will give you the wisdom to interpret the answer.

Vale (May you be well).

You can find more information on ancient fortune-telling at the British Library’s medieval manuscripts blog.

You can browse an archive of the Latin Word of the Day and see the word’s use in a wisdom-filed sentence at Transparent Language. From May 27: Hodie (today). Qui non est hodie cras minus aptus erit. (He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow.) Note the elegant juxtaposition of “hodie” and “cras” (tomorrow).

The Nerd Cantina interview

The Nerd CantinaA host of The Nerd Cantina podcast interviewed me at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo last month, and you can hear it in this week’s show, Episode 5.

Steve and Ken also discuss recent Game of Thrones episodes (beware: spoilers), The Boys trailer, End Game anticipation, and gaming news, and they interview the creators of Beaker Creatures.

My interview starts at about 51 minutes.

The Nerd Cantina book reviewer Megan McCarthy-Biank weighs in on my book: “Sci-Fi fans will enjoy what Sue Burke does with the genre and will have fun picturing the colorful and complicated world that she paints for us.”

It was a fun interview with insightful questions, and I’m glad Megan enjoyed my book.