Pixel Scroll 3/19/17 1984 Was Not Supposed To Be An Instruction Manual!

(1) FAKE REVIEWS FOR CHARITY. For Red Nose Day, March 24, 2017, “Pay a fiver to Comic Relief and TQF will review your book. (But we won’t read it.)”.

The Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction team have written for the most respectable reviewing publications in the world, including Interzone! Black Static! The BFS Journal! And the Reading University student newspaper! But on Friday, 24 March 2017, for one day only, they will cast aside their scruples and review books they’ve never read, all in aid of Comic Relief.

For authors and publishers, big and small, this will be a great way to publicise your books while supporting a good cause. And maybe it’ll help people to recognise fake reviews when they see them. The book doesn’t have to be yours. You could order a review for a friend’s book. Or your favourite novel. Or your least favourite. Or buy several reviews. Anything you like!

We are taking bookings in advance. Once you have made a donation of five pounds, email us with the cover and blurb, or just include an Amazon link to the book in your message when making the donation, and we’ll book you in.

(2) GRUMPY OR DOC? The Guardian’s Zoe Williams asks “Beauty and the Beast: Feminist or Fraud?”

Has Disney really turned Beauty and the Beast into a feminist fairytale? Or is it all just posh frocks and women’s work with a slice of Stockholm syndrome thrown in? We delve beneath the furry facade

1) Incomplete subversion of the genre

The main – indeed the only – stated piece of feminism is that Belle has a job, so escapes the passivity and helplessness that has defined heroines since Disney and beyond. Eagle eyed feminist-checkers noted even before the film’s release that Belle’s inventing is unpaid – so it’s not a job, it’s a hobby. I don’t mind that. The future of work is automation, and even feminists will have to get used to finding a purpose outside the world of money.

I do, however, feel bound to point out that Belle’s invention is a washing machine, a contraption she rigs up to a horse, to do her domestic work while she teaches another, miniature feminist how to read. The underlying message baked into this pie is that laundry is women’s work, which the superbly clever woman will delegate to a horse while she spreads literacy. It would be better if she had used her considerable intellect to question why she had to wash anything at all, while her father did nothing more useful than mend clocks. It’s unclear to me why anyone in this small family needs to know the time.

(3) WHAT IF THEY THROW ROCKS? Eavesdrop on the “Confessions of an asteroid hunter” in The Guardian.

Space physicist Dr Carrie Nugent talks about the chances of Earth being hit by a giant asteroid – and why she owes her job to a Bruce Willis movie

The New Scientist reported research that speculated that millions could die if an asteroid came down over a city. Or that a tsunami would kill 50,000 people in Rio de Janeiro if it landed in the sea off the coast of Brazil. How likely is that? An asteroid impact in the worst-case scenario is a terrifying thing. It seems very uncontrollable: in popular culture it’s often a metaphor for human powerlessness over the world. But when you actually look at the problem and you look at statistics, you realise that we can find asteroids, and we can predict where they are going incredibly accurately. That’s kind of unique for something that’s a natural disaster. And, if we had enough warning time, we could actually move one away. It’s a solvable problem.

And these include firing a nuclear missile at the asteroid? Certainly. I interviewed Lindley Johnson who’s got the coolest title in the world: planetary defence officer. He makes the point that nuclear is something that’s being considered, but he also says that it’s a last resort. One thing I found surprising is that the most effective thing might just be to get out of the way. If it’s a small asteroid – and depending on where it’s going to come down – you might just want to evacuate. In the same way you would deal with a flood.

(4) IT’S ACCURACY IN JOURNALISM. This past week George R.R. Martin and the Mayor Santa Fe helped launch The Stagecoach Foundation, whose assets include a small office building. Martin wrote immediately after the launch —

Stagecoach will be a non-profit foundation. Our dream is to bring more jobs to the people of Santa Fe, and to help train the young people of the city for careers in the entertainment industry, through internships, mentoring, and education.

Apparently news reports got significant facts wrong, even the nearest big city paper. When when he saw the news reports, GRRM wrote a list of corrections:

— the Stagecoach building is not 30,000 square feet. Someone pulled that number out of their ass, and dozens of other reports have repeated it. That’s a rough approximate figure for MEOW WOLF, an entirely different place on the other side of Santa Fe. The Stagecoach building is perhaps a third that size,

— I did not “build” Stagecoach. David Weininger did that in 1999, as the headquarters for his compnay, Daylight Chemical Information Systems,

— I am not “opening a film studio.” Stagecoach is a non-profit foundation dedicated to bringing more film and television production to Santa Fe, it is not a film studio,

— there are no sound stages at Stagecoach (though there are several here in town, at the Santa Fe Studios and the Greer Garson Studios). It’s an office building, and will be used primarily for pre- and post-production purposes,

— I am not going to be “running” a foundation, much less a studio. That task I’ve given to a dynamic young lady named Marisa X. Jiminez, who helped open Santa Fe Studios here in town, and who will have total charge of the day-to-day operations of Stagecoach, under a board of directors.

(5) OVER THE TRANSOM. Compelling Science Fiction editor Joe Stech says they’re once again open for submissions. He’s looking for stories to include in issue 7 (and beyond). The submissions window will remain open until 11:59pm MDT on June 1st, 2017. Full details on the submissions page.

(6) MONTAIGNE OBIT. An actor who appeared in two original Star Trek episodes, Lawrence Montaigne (1931-2017) has died.

StarTrek.com is saddened to report the passing of Lawrence Montaigne, the veteran actor who played the Romulan, Decius, in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror” in 1966 and returned a year later to portray Stonn, a Vulcan, in “Amok Time.” The actor died on Friday, March 17, at the age of 86.

(7) BERRY OBIT. Famed guitarist Chuck Berry (ob-sf — he was referenced Back to the Future) died March 18. The Guardian has the best obit says Cat Eldridge.

Chuck Berry, who has died aged 90, was rock’n’roll’s first guitar hero and poet. Never wild, but always savvy, Berry helped define the music. His material fused insistent tunes with highly distinctive lyrics that celebrated with deft wit and loving detail the glories of 1950s US teen consumerism.

His first single, Maybellene, began life as “country music”, by which Berry meant country blues, but was revamped on the great postwar Chicago label Chess in 1955. It was not only rock’n’roll but the perfect indicator of just what riches its singer-songwriter would bring to the form. Starting with a race between a Cadillac and a Ford, told from the Ford-owner’s, and therefore the underdog’s, viewpoint, this immeasurably influential debut record featured one of the most famous opening verses in popular music: “As I was motorvatin’ over the hill / I saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville …”

Berry’s recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on the disk attached to Voyager, per a birthday letter sent from Carl Sagan.

(8) WRIGHTSON OBIT. Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson (1948-2017) died March 18 of brain cancer. He was 68.

Wrightson was best known for co-creating the DC Universe character Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein and for illustrating the Swamp Thing comic in the early ’70s. His many other projects included a comic book version of the 1982 Stephen King-penned anthology horror film Creepshow and a 1983 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for which he spent seven years creating around 50 illustrations. Wrightson also worked as a conceptual artist on a number of films including the original Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, and Creepshow director George A. Romero’s zombie movie Land of the Dead.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

History of International Read To Me Day International Read To Me day was established by the Child Writes Foundation to encourage the growth and spread of adult literacy. It became clear that in countries throughout the world adult literacy is a problem, and many adults simply lack the ability to read even for pleasure. When trying to find ways to help offset this, it became apparent that being read to as a child helped to encourage literacy and a love of reading in adults. The result of these findings was obvious! A holiday needed to be established to encourage the foundations of literacy by reading to our children, and thus was born “International Read To Me Day”!

(10) PORTALS OF DISCOVERY. Will you want to read the book after you play the game? “Joycestick: The Gamification of ‘Ulysses’” on the Boston College website.

A literary critic once asserted that the characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses – the sprawling, modernist opus that has bewitched or bedeviled readers for decades – were not fictitious: Through them, Stuart Gilbert said, Joyce achieved “a coherent and integral interpretation of life.”

Now, through a project titled “Joycestick,” Boston College Joyce scholar Joseph Nugent and his team of mainly BC students have taken this “interpretation of life” to a whole other realm.

Joycestick is Ulysses adapted as an immersive, 3D virtual reality (VR) computer game – a “gamification,” in contemporary parlance. Users don a VR eyepiece and headphones and, with gaming devices, navigate and explore various scenes from the book. Nugent, an associate professor of the practice of English, and his team are continuing to develop, refine and add to Joycestick with the hope of formally unveiling it in Dublin this coming June 16 – the date in 1904 on which Ulysses takes place, now celebrated as Bloomsday in honor of the book’s main character, Leopold Bloom.

(11) CAN’T BE FOUND. The author’s influence on pop culture is pervasive. So “Where Are All the Big Lovecraft Films?” asks this video maker.

H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most important horror and science fiction writers of all time, yet there really aren’t that many large scale adaptations of his work, and even fewer successful ones. So where are all the Lovecraft films?

 

(12) KEEPING UP THE RAY QUOTA. Just in case Camestros Felapton ever does another count….

FATHER ELECTRICO: RAY BRADBURY LIVES FOREVER! is a documentary film based on a collaboration between the author and sculptor Christopher Slatoff.

The frontal view of the sculpture depicts a young Ray’s father carrying him home from a very long day spent at two circuses. Turn the sculpture around and the image of the Illustrated Man and his tattoos come to life and tell their stories.

The other namesake, Mr Electrico, was a carnival magician who charged 12 year-old Ray to “live forever!” The budding author begin writing that day and never stopped.

The video can’t be embedded here, it has to be watched at Vimeo.

(13) NEITHER SNOW NOR SLEET. See Ellen Datlow’s photos from the March 15 KGB Reading.

Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam read their stories (and parts of stories) the day after NYC’s mini-blizzard when the temperature was still icy

(14) EMAIL ASSAULT. “Shades of Langford’s ‘basilisks’,” says Chip Hitchcock — “US man held for sending flashing tweet to epileptic writer”.

A man accused of sending a flashing image to a writer in order to trigger an epileptic seizure has been arrested, the US justice department says.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Maryland, sent Kurt Eichenwald an animated image with a flashing light on Twitter in December, causing the seizure.

He has been charged with criminal cyber stalking and could face a 10-year sentence, the New York Times reports.

“You deserve a seizure for your post,” he is alleged to have written.

Mr Eichenwald is known to have epilepsy. He is a senior writer at Newsweek magazine, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a best-selling author of books including The Informant.

(15) HOW THEY DID IT. The Mummy (2017) Zero Gravity Featurette goes behind the scene of a stunt shown in the trailer.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Ellen Datlow for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day lurkertype.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/17 Nomination Street

(1) PATEL SURFACES, THEN SUBMERGES. A new Sunil Patel story that went online two days ago has been taken down. In its place, David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots (and the Long List Anthology) has posted “An Apology, Regarding Sunil Patel’s Story”.

On March 15th, I sent a story to Diabolical Plots publishing newsletter subscribers written by Sunil Patel. The story had been purchased and contracted in August 2016, before stories about Sunil’s abusive behavior surfaced (in October). I neglected to remove the story from the schedule and it went to the inbox of 182 subscribers of the newsletter.

This was not the right choice for me to make. Diabolical Plots is here to serve the SF publishing community, and I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I can’t unsend an email, but the story will be removed from the publishing lineup scheduled on the Diabolical Plots site (and replaced with a different story if I can work it out). If anyone wishes to provide further feedback, please feel free to email me at editor@diabolicalplots.com.

The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –

(2) SLICING UP THE PIE. New from Author Earnings, “February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”.

Greg Hullender says “This report just came out, and it’s fascinating. Although it doesn’t have the breakdown by genre (so probably not useful for File770 yet) it shows big-five publishers continuing to lose ground in e-book sales—mostly to small/medium publishers, not to independents.”

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

(3)  IN MEMORY YET GREEN. A St.Patrick’s Day coincidence? Cat Rambo has a new entry in her Lester Dent retrospective — “Reading Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre”.

Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and his footwear worthy of a J. Peterman catalog.

In this read, book eighteen of the series, we finally get to see another of Doc’s men, electrical engineer Long Tom. I do want to begin with a caveat that this book starts in Alexandria and initially features an Islamic villain, Pasha Bey; while I will call out some specific instances, this is the first of these where the racism is oozing all over the page and betrays so many things about the American popular conception of the Middle East. I just want to get that out of the way up front, because it is a big ol’ problem in the beginning of this text….

(4) DRIVING THE TRAINS OUT OF IRELAND. On the other hand, our favorite train driver James Bacon says explicitly that the new Journey Planet is “Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

This is our second issue looking at comic connections, in one way or another, to Ireland. I thought you would be interested, and hope you are.

Co-edited with ‘Pádraig Ó Méalóid and Michael Carrolll, this issue features an interview with Steve Dillon when he was living in Dublin, and an interview with Neil Bailey who co-edited The comic fanzine Sci Fi Adventures where Steve’s comic work began. We have an interview with Steve Moore about Ka-Pow the first British comic Fanzine and the first British Comic Con. We have and extended looks at the fan art of Paul Neary and fan and professional art of Steve Dillon and we reprint a piece about Steve Dillon that I wrote for Forbidden Planet.

This fanzine is all about histories, stories and in many respects is an oral history.  We have a lovely cover by co–editor Michael Carroll.

I’ve loved reading and writing about the comic connections, interesting, yet I feel historically significant happenings. The Fanzine connection, the Irish Connection, the comics connection. It is all connected and it is fascinating fun to find out about them. I am exceptionally graceful to Neil Bailey, Alan Moore, Paul Neary, Dez Skinn, Michael Carroll, Paul Sheridan, and of course to my co-editors Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Michael Carroll and Christopher J Garcia who have grafted very hard on this one. My thoughts are with those who mourn Steve Dillon and Steve Moore and I hope we remember them well here.

(5) FLEET OF FOOT. A scientific study from the University of Felapton Towers, “What Are Pixel Scrolls About?”, shows I haven’t been running nearly as much Bradbury material as I thought. So maybe I don’t really need the excuse of St. Patrick’s Day to plug in this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Irish story “The Anthem Sprinters.”

(6) AURORA AWARDS CALENDAR. The Aurora Awards calendar is up.

Nominations for the 2017 awards will open on March 31, 2017….

Online nominations must be submitted by 11:59:59 PM EDT on May 20th, 2017.

Voting will begin on July 15, 2017. Online votes must be submitted by 11:59:59 EDT on September 2nd.

The Aurora awards will be presented during at Hal-Con / Canvention 37 on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017 in Halifax.

(7) NEW MANDEL STORY. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in collaboration with Slate’s Future Tense channel, just published “Mr. Thursday,” a new short story by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) about time travel, determinism, and unrequited longing. Read it (free) here, along with a response essay, “Can We Really Travel Back in Time to Change History?” by Paul Davies, a theoretical physics professor at Arizona State University and author of the book How to Build a Time Machine.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 17, 1755 – The Transylvania Land Company bought what became the state of Kentucky for $50,000, from a Cherokee Indian chief.

(9) A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS. Matt Wallace’s award suggestion rapidly morphed into a vision for a deadly cage match competition.

(10) PEWPEW. In Myke Cole’s interview by Patrick St.Denis the author does not hold back.

Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you’re selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I’m not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.

You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters’ team.

Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.

Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don’t know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer – Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying “manhunting” and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.

It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I’m most pleased that it’s a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.

(11) DIY CORNER. Charon Dunn knows a good interview helps publicize a book. But who, oh who, could she get to do the interview?

Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.

IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.

CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old….

II: Hard military science fiction, then?

CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.

And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.

I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.

That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.

The jacket copy is here. And Cora Buhlert ran the cover together with an excerpt from the book at Speculative Ficton Showcase. There’s even a photo of Charon with, as she calls it, “my humongous SJW credential.”

(12) THE CREATOR. With the impetus of the American Gods series, Neil Gaiman is becoming a television maven.

The comic book legend will develop projects from his library as well as original ideas.

Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.

The creator and exec producer of Starz’s upcoming American Gods has signed a first-look TV deal with FremantleMedia.

Under the multiple-year deal, Gaiman will be able to adapt any of his projects — from novels and short stories — as well as adapt other projects and original ideas.

“Working with my friends at FremantleMedia on shepherding American Gods to the screen has been exciting and a delightful way to spend the last three years,” Gaiman said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”

(13) ALL ABOARD! The Digital Antiquarian tells how Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley cooked up Railroad Tycoon.

The problem of reconciling the two halves of Railroad Tycoon might have seemed intractable to many a design team. Consider the question of time. The operational game would seemingly need to run on a scale of days and hours, as trains chug around the tracks picking up and delivering constant streams of cargo. Yet the high-level economic game needs to run on a scale of months and years. A full game of Railroad Tycoon lasts a full century, over the course of which Big Changes happen on a scale about a million miles removed from the progress of individual trains down the tracks: the economy booms and crashes and booms again; coal and oil deposits are discovered and exploited and exhausted; cities grow; new industries develop; the Age of Steam gives ways to the Age of Diesel; competitors rise and fall and rise again. “You can’t have a game that lasts a hundred years and be running individual trains,” thought Meier and Shelley initially. If they tried to run the whole thing at the natural scale of the operational game, they’d wind up with a game that took a year or two of real-world time to play and left the player so lost in the weeds of day-to-day railroad operations that the bigger economic picture would get lost entirely.

Meier’s audacious solution was to do the opposite, to run the game as a whole at the macro scale of the economic game. This means that, at the beginning of the game when locomotives are weak and slow, it might take six months for a train to go from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. What ought to be one day of train traffic takes two years in the game’s reckoning of time. As a simulation, it’s ridiculous, but if we’re willing to see each train driving on the map as an abstraction representing many individual trains — or, for that matter, if we’re willing to not think about it at all too closely — it works perfectly well. Meier understood that a game doesn’t need to be a literal simulation of its subject to evoke the spirit of its subject — that experiential gaming encompasses more than simulations. Railroad Tycoon is, to use the words of game designer Michael Bate, an “aesthetic simulation” of railroad history.

(14) CAT MAN DUE. Zoe Saldana enlists the help of Stephen Hawking to solve a quantum riddle in order to get Simon Pegg’s cat back in Quantum is Calling. Released by a CalTech production group in December 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, Cat Rambo, Joey Eschrich, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/17 Let’s Go Scrollin’ In Pixel Land

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. The panel is getting younger. “This week actual high schooler (for about two more months) Raya joins the crew, says James Davis Nicoll. “Like most of the others, she’s familiar with recent genre but not the older material.”

Her first assignment: Joan D. Vinge’s “A View From A Height.”.

1978’s Hugo Nominee “A View From a Height” first appeared in the June 1978 issue of Analog. It was selected for Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, #8, Gardner Dozois’ Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Eighth Annual Collection, Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder, the Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, as well as other collections and anthologies. The theme of irreversible life decisions cast into doubt by new revelations seemed to me one that would have aged well. Let’s see if I was right.

(2) ORWELL PRIZE. The Orwell Prize for Books 2017 Longlist consists almost entirely of nonfiction, with one exception of genre interest —

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking)

It starts with teenage girls. At 14 or 15, the age when in our present world girls are waking to an awareness of their own sexuality tangled up in all the ways society will seek to stifle or exploit it, Alderman has them come alive to the thrill of pure power: the ability to hurt or even kill by releasing electrical jolts from their fingertips. “Something’s happening. The blood is pounding in her ears. A prickling feeling is spreading along her back, over her shoulders, along her collarbone. It’s saying: you can do it. It’s saying: you’re strong.”

The shortlist will be announced on May 15, and the winner on June 8.

(3) MAKING MUSIC. Sammy Cahn (“Come Fly With Me,” “Three Coins in the Fountain”) used to tell people he got his inspiration when the check arrived. Disney songwriter Alan Menken says he needs a little more.

“Where does it start and where does it end, and what’s the title and what song might it remind us of? …” Menken asks. “A million questions and only then will I sit and … start to play the piano.”

Menken’s musical chops were developed off-Broadway. He and lyricist Howard Ashman’s success with the 1982 comedy rock horror musical Little Shop of Horrors got Hollywood’s attention.

But when he first started working at Disney animation, he had some reservations. “I can’t tell you how many people said to me: Ugh, man, take a powder. Nobody takes animated musicals seriously,” he recalls.

Menken and Ashman’s first musical film — The Little Mermaid animation in 1989 — was a life saver for Disney. It lifted the studio out of a slump, and led to more big hits.

(4) UNSPOKEN MEETS UNSPEAKABLE. About a currently-running horror movie:

The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it’s primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a “social thriller.”

The movie tells the story of a young black man named Chris whose white girlfriend, Rose, takes him to meet her parents for the first time — without first telling them he’s black. Rose’s parents go out of their way to show Chris how open minded they are, but there’s something suspicious in the liberal facade they present. The film takes several twists and turns (which we won’t spoil here) as Chris figures out what is going on.

Peele wanted the audience, regardless of race, to see the subtle racism through Chris’ eyes. “It was very important to me to just get the entire audience in touch in some way with the fears inherent [in] being black in this country,” Peele says. “Part of being black in this country, and I presume being any minority, is constantly being told that … we’re seeing racism where there just isn’t racism.”

(5) DOPPLEGANGERS. NPR’s “Movie Twins? Weirdly Similar Films That Came Out Within Months Of Each Other” cites many genre examples.

The new movie Life, which opens March 24, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn’t uncommon in Hollywood.

Rival studios often stare each other down, refusing to blink, in showdowns that didn’t need to happen. In 1998, Earth-snuffing asteroids were blown up in the nick of time by nuclear warheads not once, but twice: with much electronic beeping and enormous special effects in Armageddon, and slightly higher beeping and enormous special effects in Deep Impact. That same year, animated insects skittered onto movie screens in both Antz and A Bug’s Life — and all of that just one year after dueling lava flows erupted in Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

(6) ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu was interviewed in New York Times Magazine.

Do you really think Democrats need to take pages from the Trump playbook? I would say we need to speak with our hearts more. The typical Democratic way of talking about, say, wealth inequality is to bring out Robert Reich, who will give a cute academic presentation. But at the core, wealth inequality is about people’s dreams for their families and their children. It’s friends my age who are dying to have a child and don’t know if they can afford to do that. The Democratic Party tends to have this hypereducated ruling-class mentality, and we need to realize that’s not making us connect with a lot of voters.

Considering the internet culture leading up to the election, some have said 2016 was a banner year for internet trolls. Do you think that’s accurate? Absolutely. I’ve rarely talked about Obama’s share of the blame for the rise of the alt-right and Gamergate. I had two separate calls with the White House, and they were telling me they had some ideas they were putting together to address Gamergate without needing to go through Congress, and nothing came of it. And what happened is a lot of people learned that there are no consequences to harassing women. If I play Grand Theft Auto and I decide to blow up a police helicopter, there are going to be consequences to that; eventually I’m going to go to jail and maybe pay 100 virtual dollars. We don’t even have that…..

In the aftermath of Gamergate, you said that you and the other women who were harassed “did everything right, and the system failed us.” Now you’re saying you want to be a part of that system. Do you think you can make changes inside of it? To me, the only way to get further gains on these issues is for more women to be represented in Congress. I don’t even care if it was a higher percentage of Republican women: I genuinely believe that if that number were closer to 50-50, we wouldn’t have ludicrous policies like the Hyde Amendment going through and devastating women’s access to reproductive health care. I want women out there to look at how incredibly unqualified Trump is and then ask themselves: “What on earth is holding you back? Do you think you don’t measure up with Donald Trump in the White House?”

(7) CHARACTERIZATION. Marko Kloos, whose Angles of Attack won two Rampant Manticore awards, explains how the novel came to have a gay Russian space marine.

Truth be told, when I wrote Dmitry, I didn’t know he was gay until I got to the scene in ANGLES OF ATTACK where Dmitry and young master Andrew have a drink together and show each other pictures of their main squeezes, as soldiers do when they have downtime and some alcohol in front of them. I’m not the kind of writer who claims that my characters have their own will—they do what I tell them to, goddammit, because I’m the master of their universe—but that was a moment where a character revealed a little detail that I hadn’t intentionally sketched out, but that felt natural and proper. Dmitry pulled out the picture of his spouse, and my brain just went, “He has a husband. Huh, Of course he does.”

So no, I don’t sit down with a character creation sheet and a checklist for Maximum Diversity(tm) and threw in a gay character to advance an agenda, score Social Justice Warrior brownie points, or engage in virtue-signaling. Dmitry is gay because he is, and with all the crap these soldiers have to deal with in their alien-besieged dystopia, I found it appropriate that at the very least, showing someone else a picture of your same-sex spouse is not worthy of special commentary above and beyond “Nice picture” in that version of the future.

(8) CHOOSING THE POWER. Abigail Nussbaum shares the Best Novel and Campbell Award categories on her Hugo nominating ballot. The first of her four novel picks is –

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman (review) – As I’ve said, this feels more like a Clarke award book than a Hugo award one, but nevertheless Alderman’s chilling, Handmaid’s Tale-esque story about a world in which women suddenly develop the ability to shoot bolts of electricity from their bodies, upending the world’s balance of violent potential, is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking works of science fiction I’ve read in some time.  What’s most interesting about The Power is that while it is undeniably a book about gender and the role that violence plays in maintaining gender roles, that’s not its main interest.  What Alderman is doing with her premise is using it to discuss the role that violence and the use of force play in organizing our society, even when we pretend to be beyond them.  That feels like a vital issue at this point in time.

(9) SIR POT. Mashable reports that Sir Patrick Stewart has announced that he has used medical marijuana for several years to help with his arthritis.  Stewart made this announcement to support an Oxford University proposal calling for more research into marijuana’s medical benefits. The piece is called “Patrick Stewart reveals that he uses medical marijuana every day”.

But Stewart isn’t rolling up a joint or hitting the bong, he says he typically uses sprays, ointments and edibles.

“I purchased an ointment, spray and edibles. The ointment, while providing some relief from the discomfort, was too greasy to use during daytime and so I only use it at night.”

Patrick went on to describe how he uses his medicine, later adding that he can now make a fist with his hand, which was impossible for him to do before using cannabis.

As the Captain might say, “Make it grow!”

(10) NEW PIXAR MOVIE. Coco, a Disney-Pixar movie, opens in US theatres in 3D on November 22.

(11) EYE-SEARING. Starz new American Gods trailer is violent and gory. Beware!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories.Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/17 I’m Scrolling On My Knees Looking For The Answer

(1) NO FLY ZONE. John Brunner in The Shockwave Rider said that ‘The future arrives too soon and in the wrong order.’ And here’s proof of that — “French hoverboard inventor banned from flying in France”.

The man who invented the Flyboard Air has been barred from flying his jet-powered hoverboard in France, sparking a debate over the country’s policies on innovation. In a Facebook post on March 10th, Franky Zapata, founder of the company that bears his name, said there is a “strong probability that the Flyboard Air will never fly again in France,” after officials from the French air gendarmerie told him he would be placed under criminal investigation if he continued to pilot the craft. Zapata added that he will now be “obliged to leave France” in order to continue his work.

“That is how innovators are treated in our country,” Zapata wrote in a French-language post. “I leave you [to] imagine my disgust after having produced more than 10,000 ‘made in France’ Flyboards.”

(2) DO YOU DIG IT? A road that is too close to Stonehenge will probably be buried, but there are many issues with the proposed tunnel.

It’s one of the world’s most famous ancient monuments: an instantly recognisable icon from a forgotten world, a place for quiet wonder and contemplation.

And yet for many people, the first and perhaps only glimpse they get of Stonehenge is from a traffic jam on the A303, one of the main routes between London and southwest England.

This could be about to change. A bold £1.4bn plan proposes ripping up much of the existing road and replacing it with a new route that includes a 2.9km (1.8 miles), deep-bored tunnel just a few hundred metres south of Stonehenge….

A far bigger priority is ensuring that the context of the wider landscape is preserved, such as that the sightlines between the area’s various monuments and barrows – thought to have been deliberately designed by the Neolithic engineers of ancient Britain – are left intact.

For instance, a key area of concern with the current proposal, and something that McMahon and others hope to be able to persuade Highways England to address, is the positioning of the western entrance. “It’s too close to one of the major funerary monuments in the landscape called the Normanton down barrow cemetery,” says McMahon, “and the road coming out also sits for part of its route on the same astronomical alignment as the midwinter setting Sun.”

(3) GRAMMAR’S SLAMMERS. Walter Jon Williams declares “Victory for the Oxford Comma”:

I stand proudly with the Oxford comma, as it stands for reason, clarity, and mitigates against incertitude.  (Try reading that sentence without the Oxford comma and see where it gets you.)

I am pleased to know that the US Court of Appeals agrees with me, insofar as they ruled that a missing Oxford comma was the deciding factor in the case of Kevin O’Connor v. the Oakhurst Dairy….

(4) 10-SIDED DICE YES, BLACK HELICOPTERS NO. An Ars Technica writer at SXSW found “The CIA uses board games to train officers – and I got to play them”.

Clopper recalls one day in 2008 when his “boss’s boss” called him into a meeting and asked him to develop new internal training exercises. Normally, these exercises test whether recent lessons and seminars have been absorbed by officers, and they usually involve “teams, flip charts, and briefings,” Clopper says. “Incredibly boring.” But Clopper had now been at the CIA long enough to reshape its exercises, his boss said, and he got excited: “I’m a gamer. I enjoy games, video games, tabletop games. Could we bring games into learning?”

He used SXSW to present three board games made for his training exercises over the span of a four-year period, one of which is still in development. The first is the one we got the most hands-on time with during SXSW: Collection. If that dry-as-a-desert name isn’t a good indicator, rest assured—this is not a game meant for retail or for the highest ratings at BoardGameGeek.

Collection compares favorably to the popular cooperative game Pandemic. In Clopper’s game, a group of players must work together to resolve three major crises across the globe. The object is for players, who each represent different types of CIA officers, to collect enough relevant intel to resolve all three crises. If any one of the three impending disasters boils over (as represented by three increasing “fire” meters), the team loses. Every game must have at least three players to fill the roles of “political analyst,” “military analyst,” and “economic analyst.” Those three are only able to collect intel in their specific fields, while additional players (up to seven on a team) have their own specialties.

The difficulty comes from the low number of actions each player can do per turn, along with how quickly the fire meter ratchets up.

(5) WIZARDRY. Bradbury biographer Sam Weller tells why you should “Pay Close Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: 8 Things I Learned About Writing from Ray Bradbury”.

In 12 years, as one might imagine, I observed many of Bradbury’s creative secrets. I peered behind the Oz-ian curtain, as it were, and paid close attention. Bradbury was a master storyteller and visionary artist who created across an unprecedented nine decades. Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles. Dandelion Wine. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Massive collections of poetry. Massive collections of essays. Hundreds of short stories across every conceivable genre. He owned and operated his own theatre company. He wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. On a whim, he scripted an animated short film that was later nominated for an Oscar. He earned an Emmy for an animated television adaptation of his own YA novel, The Halloween Tree. Bradbury developed architectural concepts for shopping malls, the 1964 World’s Fair and EPCOT. There is a crater on the moon named, by NASA, for Ray Bradbury’s book 1957 novel-in-stories, Dandelion Wine.

The man was a force.

Not surprising then, that much of my own creative ethos is culled from what I learned working alongside Ray Bradbury….

(6) HARRIS OBIT. Jack Harris, producer of the original horror film The Blob (1958) died March 14 at the age of 98. He was also a producer or executive producer of Paradisio (1962), Beware! The Blob (1972), Schlock (1973) and other genre films.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • The Ides of March – Julius Caesar finds out what happens when you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

(9) TODAY IN BEER HISTORY

  • March 15, 1937 – H.P. Lovecraft joins the choir invisible.

(10) FRANCHISE CROSSOVER. CBS gets its clicks on Route 66 with “19 Star Trek References on The Big Bang Theory”. First is —

“Game over, Moon Pie.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Wil Wheaton is a regular guest star on The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon’s arch nemesis makes his first appearance in “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” (Episode 5, Season 3), where he tricks Sheldon into throwing a Mystic Warlords of Ka’a card tournament.

(11) APOCALYPSE IN REVERSE GEAR. The Guardian interrupted the memorial service for paper books with this flash – “Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations driver appetite for print”.

Readers committed to physical books can give a sigh of relief, as new figures reveal that ebook sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing – and the shift is being driven by younger generations.

More than 360m books were sold in 2016 – a 2% jump in a year that saw UK consumers spend an extra 6%, or £100m, on books in print and ebook formats, according to findings by the industry research group Nielsen in its annual books and consumer survey. The data also revealed good news for bricks-and-mortar bookshops, with a 4% rise in purchases across the UK.

While sales through shops increased 7% in 2016, ebook sales declined by 4%. It is the second year in a row that ebook sales have fallen, and only the second time that annual ebook sales have done so since industry bodies began monitoring sales a decade ago.

(12) PERIODICAL PERFORMANCE. The March ratings are up at Rocket Stack Rank. Sarah Pinsker, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, and Michael Flynn have the top-ranked stories.

(13) EQUALS? Natalie Luhrs does her annual slice-and-dice of the Locus Recommended Reading List to show how many listed works are by people of various genders and races.

I wrote yesterday that one problem with pure counting exercises is that they don’t tap into the experience or emotion of the subjects. Today in Luhrs’ report I ran into a further  question – if the goal is diversity, and an analyst is considering numbers in isolation, what number equals winning? This came to mind when I read this passage in her section on race. Luhrs found that works by people of color on the list increased from 15.61% to 26.47% in one year. She commented —

Race Breakout by Year, Percentages

Nearly three quarters of the works are still by white people. Representation of POC has jumped by over 10% and that is a really good thing, but I believe there is still room for improvement.

Does Luhrs have a target number in mind that Locus has yet to reach, or is she failing to put in perspective what seems to be a radical effort to get diverse works listed?

(14) GROWTH IN AFRICAN SFF. This isn’t the first time someone has asked “Why Is science fiction so white?” The news is that the question was posed today by a journalist in Zimbabwe, Mako Muzenda.

The presence of these spaces – websites, magazines and publications – goes a long way in introducing readers to different writers, and getting aspiring authors the visibility they need. Ivor Hartmann has been involved in speculative fiction since 2007, with the release of his first book Earth Rise. After going from publisher to publisher, looking for someone to put his book on the market, Hartmann (a Zimbabwean) was finally able to get his story out with Something Wicked, which at the time was the only science-fiction magazine for the whole of Africa.

“While I did publish it with them (Something Wicked), I was distressed at the lack of publishing venues for speculative fiction in Africa. So rather than moan about it I started up an online weekly magazine,” explains Hartmann. His decision led to the creation of StoryTime, which ran for five years until Hartmann switched to solely publishing anthologies. With enough experience in the industry behind him, Hartmann decided to take the plunge and address the inadequacies in African science fiction head-on with AfroSF, the first Pan-African science fiction anthology.

“Of course, now there are loads of African online magazines but back then it was all new territory for writers and readers. No longer were we held back by the excruciating logistics and heavy capital needed to run a print magazine.”

What had started off as a fringe movement is growing into a vibrant community of people dedicated to letting Africa’s voice be heard in speculative fiction….

(15) IN THE JURY ROOM. The Shadow Clarke Jury has produced three more thoughtful reviews.

The Underground Railroad is, perhaps, the best novel of 2016.

I qualify that statement only because I have not read every novel published in 2016. Nobody has. But I have seen nothing to suggest that I am wrong in this assessment. And I am not alone in this view; the novel has, after all, won America’s National Book Award.

I consider it the best, in part, because it is a novel that speaks to the moment the way that few other books do. It captures the screams of Ferguson, the anger of Black Lives Matter, the despair in the face of the renewed racism that celebrated the last American election. It is a book that places the experience of being black in America today on a trajectory that puts it closer to slavery than we ever like to think. And it does all of this with intelligence, with beauty, with subtlety, with wit and with invention. It uses the tools of the novel the way those tools are meant to be used, but so seldom are.

It is a book that held me with its first sentence, and continued to hold me, with horror and delight, through to its last sentence.

It is a good novel, perhaps the best novel; but does that mean it is the best science fiction novel?

What is Kavenna’s book actually about, though? This question is harder to answer than it first appears, no doubt intentionally so. As suggested above, the outline appears simple: Eliade Jencks, having failed to enter Oxford as a student, takes a job waiting tables in the cafe of the Tradescantian Ark Musuem and continues to conduct her researches in the evenings and weekends. While working at the cafe she makes the acquaintance of a Professor Solete, an eminent don whose magnum opus is the eponymous Field Guide to Reality, a theory of everything that will finally bring together his lifelong researches into the nature of life, death and the origins of the universe. Unfortunately, Professor Solete dies before the book can be published, and when his acolytes enter his rooms in search of the manuscript they find only a locked box, labelled ‘For Eliade’.

I start with Achimwene because he reminds us that one of the central themes of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is the telling of stories, and science-fiction stories in particular. Indeed, the narrative itself is an embodiment of a pivotal moment in sf storytelling: the move from short story to novel. The earliest sf novels weren’t novels as such; they were formed from several closely connected short stories, sometimes reworked to strengthen those connections, and were known as ‘fix-ups’. Central Station is a fix-up par excellence, bringing together Tidhar’s various Central Station stories, some of them substantially reworked, with a couple of new stories added to the mix, and a Prologue that introduces the novel as an act of storytelling, while itself participating in the act of storytelling not once but twice.

(16) A (SUIT)CASE OF CONSCIENCE. Is this “the perfect Tyrion Lannister cosplay” as Reddit  says, or in incredibly bad taste? YOU decide!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Merrick Lex, Andrew Porter, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/17 Leather Goddesses Of Phobos And The Scratch And Sniff Card

(1) ROBOWATCH. Of course, I’ll understand if you don’t have any money left for this item after running out to buy yesterday’s featured rocket pen with the tiny astronaut. Which is okay! Because this post is from 2015 and the auction is long over.

MB&F has just announced that they will be donating a unique Melchior (co-created with L’Epée 1839) to the Only Watch auction taking place in November of this year. The Melchior, released at Baselworld earlier this year, is a highly functioning robot-form timepiece that was created in a limited series of 99 pieces. This is the 100th piece.

 

(2) LEARNING CURVE. Ann Leckie has been thinking about rejection.

…Hence my ambivalence–the difficulties are real, and I know every writer has to make their own decision about what to go through, how much rejection to deal with (and whether or not they can handle cluelessly–or maybe intentionally–hurtful comments along with that rejection, including offhand remarks about certain sorts of people not really existing or not being interesting or worthy of stories, when that would include you, yourself). At the same time–if you can do it, if you can stomach it, well, the chances may be really small, but you never know.

And there’s a thing that Mark Tiedemann said to me a while back that I thought was really smart. He said that really, when you submit to an editor over and over (we were mostly talking about shortfic here but still), you’re teaching them how to read your work.

Part of that systemic prejudice, part of what upholds it, is the way people are only familiar with certain kinds of stories. Other kinds feel off, weird, unrealistic (no matter how accurate and realistic they may be). It’s that incessant repetition of the “right” kind of story that keeps reinforcing itself. And this didn’t happen by accident–we’ve many of us been trained from small to appreciate certain kinds of stories, just like we’re taught from infancy to appreciate certain kinds of music. Most of the work, most of the training, is exposure to a high volume of work that fits the culturally approved model.

The way a reader learns to appreciate other sorts of stories, from other points of view, is to be exposed to them over and over. Editors and agents and slush readers–every time you submit, they are being exposed to your work.

(3) IT GOES AROUND. Atlas Obscura’s article about the world’s oldest globe is complete with photos and map recreations. Just about the time it was finished, Columbus was finding something unexpected that would fill the big empty space between Cipangu (Japan) and the Azores.

If the world’s oldest surviving globe has taught us anything, it’s that just when we think we’re starting to figure out how the world works, turns out we barely know anything at all.

Known formally as the Erdapfel (literally “Earth Apple,” or in some colloquial translations “potato”), the oldest globe is an impressive and beautiful artifact, even if its cartographic science is a little off. The Erdapfel dates back to 1492, and is far from the first globe ever created, but it is, so far, the oldest discovered terrestrial globe still in existence.

Round representations of the Earth go back to Ancient Greece, and the earliest spherical maps of the world were being created in the Islamic world in the 13th century or earlier. But none of those are thought to survive. Other than descriptions and flattened maps that would have covered earlier globes, the Erdapfel is the oldest remaining artifact of its kind.

(4) END OF DISCUSSION. At Chaos Manor Jerry Pournelle quotes what he had to say about required FDA drug testing and approval as part of a discussion in a SFWA Forum – which was shut down by a moderator.

That was too much. A SFWA moderator, backed by the officer who had requested that the discussion halt, locked the conference, and it sits in frozen silence. The reason given was that it was too personal, and I was privately informed that there were complaints about me. Since I named no one at any time, I mildly protested that I was unaware of what was personal about it that would be personally offensive to professional writers voluntarily reading a topic no one could possibly feel required to read.

The answer I got was that these discussions upset some members, and that a SFWA forum was no place for political discussions at all. And that’s the point: we have come to this, that a professional writers’ association finds that we can no longer have discussions that include politics because some members (who voluntarily read the topic) find it upsetting, and toxic, presumably because they disagree with the opinions expressed. For the life of me I cannot tell you what professional science fiction writer would find anything I said there personally offensive. Disagree, yes, of course; many disagree; that is to be expected, and it is those the FDA will rally to support the proposition that the FDA should insist that generic prescription of Name Brand drugs whose patents have expired be forbidden until double blind tests of the generic drug’s effectiveness have proved its effectiveness.

I think health care costs can be drastically lowered by letting doctors have more room to try different remedies; obviously only with informed consent of the patient, but medical associations I would suppose will work to assure that; but apparently the entire discussion can’t be discussed in a science fiction professional organization because some members are upset over encountering opinions contrary to their own – and if it can’t be discussed there, where the devil can it be discussed?

(5) WHY YOU CAN’T TELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Huffington Post picked up on Nnedi Okorafor’s discussion of a time publishers whitewashed her book cover.

Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor wrote a book in 2007 called The Shadow Speaker. The story followed its protagonist ? a Muslim girl named Ejii, who the author described as “black skinned” ? through Niger in 2070.

So Okorafor was understandably unhappy when her publisher suggested putting a white woman on the book’s cover.

Today, the author shared the anecdote as part of a Twitter conversation about whitewashing in fiction. She tweeted the cover suggested by the publisher and the revised cover, updated to feature the story’s black protagonist, per the author’s request.

(6) HUGOS RECS. Abigail Nussbaum explains her 2017 Hugo ballot nominees in the media categories.

Best Related Work: This is the category that I always feel most guilty about not nominating more widely in.  There’s a lot of great non-fiction being written in genre right now, on- and off-line, but since my threshold for substantiveness excludes most individual blog posts, I often end up with very little that I want to nominate here.  The solution, obviously, is to read more long-form non-fiction–UIP’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction is a great source that I somehow never get around to–but happily this year has been a good one for long-form online essays and blog series. (Not listed in this ballot, because he’s asked people not to nominate it, but still very much worth reading and remembering, is Jonathan McCalmont’s “Nothing Beside Remains: A History of the New Weird”, which delves into the short half-life of this genre, and the critical conversation that surrounded it.)

  • A People’s History of the Marvel Universe by Steven Attewell – The only criticism I can make of Attewell’s series is that it seems to be on permanent hiatus, just when we could use an independent history of this corner of pop culture, told from a decidedly leftist perspective.  Attewell delves into the origins of several key Marvel characters and concepts, from Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor, to the infamous “mutant metaphor”.  He describes both the evolution of ideas we’ve come to take for granted, and the pitfalls the Marvel writers fell into as they tried to grapple with social upheaval and the need to reflect it in their world of heroes and villains.  With superheroes currently one of the dominant forms in our pop culture, a perspective like Attewell’s is invaluable.
  • Boucher, Backbone, and Blake – the Legacy of Blakes 7 by Erin Horakova – One of the many remarkable things about Erin’s essay is how accessible and thought-provoking it is even to someone like myself, who has been hearing about Blakes 7 for years, but has seen almost nothing of it.  This is by no means an introductory piece or a guide to newbies.  Its focus is specific, one might almost say deliberately fannish.  And yet, by turning her eye on some very particular aspects of the show, and the people who were instrumental in achieving them, Erin builds a larger argument about the intersection between art and politics, about the capacity of popular entertainment to grapple with difficult, even radical ideas, and about the specific circumstances on the set of Blakes 7 that allowed it to do so, and how modern work would struggle to achieve the same effect.  It’s a brilliant piece of cultural commentary (as already acknowledged by the voters for the BSFA award’s non-fiction category) and one that absolutely belongs on this year’s Hugo ballot.

(7) A LINE IN THE CHROME. Scalzi does not object to award eligibility posts – he makes them – but he doesn’t want to be directly asked for a Hugo nominating vote. Does that mean an ethical lesson is being imparted here, or is this a lesson in netiquette?

(8) PRATCHETT BUSTED. The BBC has the story.

A bronze bust of Sir Terry Pratchett has been unveiled ahead of plans to install a 7ft (2.1m) statue of the author in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

It was created by Paul Kidby, who illustrated Sir Terry’s Discworld novels, before his death in 2015.

The statue of the author, who lived locally, is due to be erected in the marketplace or Elizabeth Gardens.

Mr Kidby said getting his expression right so “he’s not unhappy” but “not smiling too much” was the hardest part.

(9) THE GREEN FLASH. Skyboat Media’s Kickstarter has funded – so there will be an 11 hour digital audiobook of Lightspeed Magazine’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

  • March 14 – 3.14 – is Pi Day.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 14, 1968 Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, aired its last episode.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 14, 1887 — Sylvia Beach, founder of the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Co. “Ray Bradbury visited this bookshop every time he was in Paris, usually in July,” remembers John King Tarpinian. “They would save signed first edition Jules Vern books for Ray.”

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GENIUS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

(14) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian was amused by another Star Wars reference in Brevity.

(15) STARDUST IN OUR POCKETS LIKE GRAINS OF SAND. AKA, The Mote In Your Eye. Because the New York Times says there are “Flecks of Extraterrestrial Dust, All Over The Roof”.

After decades of failures and misunderstandings, scientists have solved a cosmic riddle — what happens to the tons of dust particles that hit the Earth every day but seldom if ever get discovered in the places that humans know best, like buildings and parking lots, sidewalks and park benches. The answer? Nothing. Look harder. The tiny flecks are everywhere. An international team found that rooftops and other cityscapes readily collect the extraterrestrial dust…

(16) APPLY TO BE A HARPER VOYAGER.  The Harper Voyager line is putting out a call for any SFF-obsessed bloggers and social media “bigmouths” to apply to join their team of super-readers.

Harper Voyagers are granted special access to early review copies, private author chats, and more. The application period runs from now through May 4 – use the application form at Google Docs.

ARE YOU A HARPER VOYAGER?

Are you a fan of Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy or Horror? Would you like special access to e-galleys, author interactions, and swag? If so, the Harper Voyager US team invites you to apply to become a “Harper Voyager” super reader!

As a Harper Voyager super reader, you’ll get special access to early review copies, special entry to an exclusive online forum where they can post reviews and thoughts about the exclusive book previews, engage in private author chats, and special interactions with Harper Voyager authors at regional events.  Most of all, we hope our super readers will help generate excitement for our stellar authors!

Please Note: This program is asking super readers to post honest reviews on Goodreads and consumer sites, participation in online Voyager events; virtual support of Voyager authors across social media. If you chose to post these reviews online at consumer websites, you must disclose in the review that you received your copy for free and send us a link to the review.

(17) LISTEN IN. DMS says Ian Tregillis tells a pretty good story beginning at 8:25 of this interview.

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He was born and raised in the Minnesota Territory, where his parents had settled after fleeing the wrath of a Flemish prince. (The full story, he’s told, involves a Dutch tramp steamer and a stolen horse.) He holds a Ph.D. in physics for his research on radio galaxies and quasars, and is an alumnus of the Clarion workshop.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jerry Pournelle, DMS, Daniel Dern, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/17 Do Androids Dream Of Crottled Greeps?

(1) UNENDING DANGER. Jared takes a look back at Ellison’s never-published “The Last Dangerous Visions” at Pornokitsch.

The Last Dangerous Visions might be the most famous science fiction book to never exist. ‘TLDV’ was the long-mooted and nearly-almost-published sequel to Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) – two vastly important and influential publication in modern speculative fiction.

This ambitious anthology, seemingly intended to be the final word in contemporary SF, was delayed for numerous reasons, documented elsewhere by both Ellison and many others. The anticipation, the delays, and the numerous authors it affected made for, to put it mildly, a great deal of drama….

(2) THE BIRDMAN OF AL-LAWZ. John Ringo’s “The Raptor God Incident” has its rough spots but the last four lines are sweet. (This is an excerpt from the middle).

One day as I was preparing to come off night guard duty I noticed some big birds flying by. It was dawn (another pretty time) and there were three of them in a group just beginning to catch the thermals. They ended up going by right at eye level and no more than fifty meters away. I identified them as goshawks, large black and white raptors. They were involved in their annual migration from Africa up to Northern Europe.

I sat and watched as more and more of the groups came by. They were one of the first signs of beauty I’d seen in a long time. And it was clear the migration was just starting.

I thought about that for a while that day and I thought about how much I hated to be woken up at O Dark Thirty to go freeze my ass off in the shack.

So I made a deal with the other guys. I’d take ALL the day duty. Every day. Seven days a week. IF I didn’t have to take a night watch.

‘The Deal was made in Sinai, on a hot and cloudless day…’ (Hmmm… That even scans…)

(3) CARD TRICK. Cat Rambo advises pros about “Working Comic Conventions” at the SFWA Blog. First on the list —

Make sure you have a business card. This should have your contact information, your social media presence (you’ll see why in the at the convention tips) and at least one way to find your books. You will also use it for networking; make sure there is enough blank space on it for you to jot a note down on it before handing it to someone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cards but I would also suggest not cheaping out. The lowest rate cards are often flimsy and can look unprofessional….

(4) CAMPBELL AWARD ANTHOLOGY. Jonathan Edelstein, in a comment here, let everyone know that this year’s Campbell anthology, “heroically thrown together at the last minute” by Jake Kerr, is now available. It has stories from over six dozen writers, including Edelstein. Get the free download here.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is presented annually at WorldCon to an outstanding author whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the previous two years. This anthology includes over 75 authors and nearly 400,000 words of fiction. A resource of amazing new writers for both Hugo Award voters and those interested in seeing the brightest new lights of fantasy and science fiction, Event Horizon is exclusively available via this page until July 15, 2017.

(5) CONS THAT WISH THEY WERE FOR-PROFIT. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie posted about two more cons with financial problems.

Effectively, organizer Ben Fritzsching told the event’s guests that there was no money to pay them at the event. Fritzsching then, at several guests’ request, gave them written IOU’s with the promise that the money would be paid by the end of 2016. Agent Nery Nolan Lemus posted a copy of one of the IOUs to the group Rate that Comic Con on Facebook…

As it’s now March of 2017, and we’re writing about this, you can imagine how well those IOUs held up.

No reasons were given for the event’s cancellation beyond “complications with the facility,” though we can speculate it’s likely for the normal reasons any con cancels — no one is buying. Frankly, we’ve heard reports of sub par experiences from their 2016 event, so there’s been a distinct lack of surprise. The event organizers did go on to say in the comments that they were unsure of their plans for the con in 2018 as well.

(6) RESISTANCE RADIO. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the resistors separated from the transistors. “Amazon launched a fake radio station to promote ‘The Man in the High Castle.’ Angry Trump supporters thought it was real.” The Washington Post has the story.

An ad campaign for a dystopian television show has some Trump supporters seeing red.

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” loosely based on a Philip K. Dick novel, is ramping up for its third season. The thriller, set in 1962, imagines a world in which the Axis powers won World War II and America is controlled by fascist leaders. The East Coast belongs to Nazi Germany; the West Coast is in the clutches of Imperial Japan.

At SXSW in Austin last week, as part of a marketing campaign for “The Man in the High Castle,” Amazon launched “Resistance Radio,” a fake Internet-based radio station broadcast by the fictional American “Resistance” from the show.

“Hijacking the airwaves, a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive,” the website said. Click through, and an interactive image of an antique, dual-knob radio appears while mod tunes drift through your computer’s speakers. In between songs, DJs on three different stations speak about how to fight the “Reich” in America.

Soon #ResistanceRadio, the campaign’s sponsored hashtag, spread like wildfire on Twitter. Some Trump supporters seemingly mistook it for an anti-Trump radio station and expressed their displeasure. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

….It’s important to note that well before Amazon launched this campaign, #ResistanceRadio had been used, however sparingly, on social media while promoting certain anti-Trump podcasts.

 

(7) FAREWELL. Gardner Dozois, in a public Facebook post, told about Saturday’s memorial service for his wife, Susan Casper.

We had people who came in from New York City, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, and England, and celebrities in attendance included Samuel Delany, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, artists Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Ginjer Bucanan, John Douglas, Moshe Feder, Tom Purdom, and Greg Frost. After the speaking part of the function, everyone fell on a huge fish-and-coldcuts platter from Famous Deli, one of the last traditional Jewish Delis left in the city, and devoured nearly all of it.

This half-hour video slideshow of Casper played in the background. (YouTube has muted its soundtrack, which contains copyrighted music.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein was released, starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster and Bela Lugosi as Ygor.
  • March 13, 1969 The Love Bug, a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell (astronomer)
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(10) TODAY’S COINCIDENCE

  • March 13, 1930 — The discovery of Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet, was officially announced on this date, which was Percival Lowell’s birthday. Lowell was founder of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

(11) STUFF THEY DON’T KNOW YOU ALREADY KNOW. ScreenRant offers “Lord Of The Rings: 15 Things You Never Knew About Galadriel”. Titles like this are one of the recurring motifs of the internet, so don’t take offense when you find how many of these things you already know. I can say there were a couple I’d never thought about before.

  1. SHE’S MARRIED

It speaks to Galadriel’s significance that her husband hardly figures into the picture. Still, it’s important to acknowledge his existence, even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall story of Lord of the Rings. Galadriel actually rules over the land of Lothlórien alongside Celeborn. While all elves are relatively old, Galadriel is older than Celeborn. Galadriel was born before the first age began, and Celeborn was born in Doriath before it fell, which suggests that he’s at least 500 years younger than his wife.

While this age difference probably isn’t all that significant in the extended lives that elves live, it’s still interesting to consider, especially alongside the fact that Galadriel is much more well-known than her husband. He may not be as wise as his wife, but Celeborn is still considered one of the wisest elves in Middle Earth, and stayed in Middle Earth for a time into the Fourth Age before joining his wife in the Undying Lands.

(12) 2017 PRIX BOB MORANE. Locus Online has reported the winners of the 2017 Prix Bob Morane, awarded by a jury of French-speaking writers, journalists, critics, and collections directors.

Romans francophones (French Novels)

Manhattan Marilyn, Philippe Laguerre (Éditions Critic)

Romans traduits (Translated Novels)

Les enfermés [Lock In], John Scalzi, translated by Mikael Cabon (L’Atalante)

Nouvelles (Short Stories)

Il sera une fois, Southeast Jones (Éditions Séma)

Coup de coeur (Favorites)

L’exégèse de Philip K. Dick (J’ai Lu)

Rae Armantrout

(13) WELL VERSED. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination presents Entanglements: Rae Armantrout & the Poetry of Physics on April 13 at 6 p.m. in Atkinson Hall Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus. It is free to the public.

One of the favorite subjects of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout (Professor Emerita, UCSD) is physics–from the big ideas of cosmology to the infinitesimally small wonders of the quantum world. To celebrate the publication of Entanglements, a chapbook selection of her science-minded poems, Brian Keating (Astrophysics, UCSD) and the Clarke Center are hosting an evening with Rae Armantrout, who will read selections and discuss the creative process behind her work. Keating, along with Brandon Som (Creative Writing, UCSD) and Amelia Glaser (Literature, UCSD), will join her in a conversation about how these poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(14) SOLVING FOR X. Melissa Leon’s really thoughtful and well-written review of Logan appears in The Daily Beast.

Logan, Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final outing as the Wolverine, is really a profoundly hopeful film. It loves and deeply understands its characters and the fraught, familial relationships between them. Its action scenes—brutal, bloody, and thrillingly inventive in a way comic book beat-em-ups rarely are—are as character-driven and impactful as its story. (Like, really impactful: You feel each punch, stab and dismemberment. Bless that R-rating.) This is a Western that happens to star superheroes; a road movie grounded in quiet, tender moments. It’s an elegy, wholly unconcerned with franchise-building or connecting distant universes. And with the introduction of Laura, a young mutant with powers similar to Wolverine’s, it becomes a portrait of makeshift families, empathy, and finding normalcy, too. That’s what the best X-Men stories are usually about. Turns out no one knows this better than her.

(15) TANGLED TECH. At SWSW, Disney showed plans to add AI to animatronics.

It’s rare that the company delves too far into how the “magic” – as they call it – works. Their logic is a magic trick doesn’t get better if you know how it’s done.

On Saturday, Disney – quite uncharacteristically – gave us a bit of an insight into how they plan to use technology to bring their much-loved brand of storytelling to new forms, by using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Jon Snoddy, the company’s senior Vice President for research and development, explained how soon you’ll be able to interact with story-telling robots at Disney parks.

“I think AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning is going to be very important for what we do,” he told the BBC.

“Things like characters that can move around among our guests. They’re going to need to understand where they’re going, have goals, and they’re going to have to know how to navigate in a world with humans….

During a panel discussion, the company shared footage – which unfortunately we’re not able to republish here – of a robotic Pascal, the cute lizard from 2010 movie Tangled.

It’s a terrific recreation of the digital character, but the real challenge for Disney will be to avoid the so-called “uncanny valley” – the theory that if something is very lifelike, but not exactly right, it can be slightly creepy or disturbing.

“Obviously we’re not the business of scaring kids!” Mr Snoddy said….

(16) THE PEN FROM OUTER SPACE. The perfect placeholder while you’re waiting to win your Hugo — the Astrograph.

….As you first encounter it, the Astrograph is an elongated teardrop, with window-like depressions picked out in black lacquer at the narrow end. The wider end has three curved metal elements ending in sharp points, and there’s a miniature ladder going up one side of the barrel that ends in a tiny door.

The door is actually a hidden lever that, when pulled, deploys those curved elements, which are the landing gear – and suddenly the pen is a miniature spaceship.

The spaceship illusion is underscored by touches like a red “thruster” at the pen’s base. The landing gear has actual working shock-absorbing struts, and with the gear down, the bottom half of the pen acts as a pen-holder.  The pen itself is housed in the upper half of the Astrograph, which you release simply by unscrewing it (it’s available either as a fountain pen or rollerball pen, but both work the same way)….

The Astrograph, in keeping with its philosophy of taking a toy to its logical extreme, also comes with, naturally, a tiny astronaut figurine with a magnet in its chest that lets you pretend the little guy’s climbing up or down the ladder, the better to explore strange new worlds; it also comes with a landing pad base that doubles as the pen’s box. Did you really expect anything less? I didn’t think so.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jonathan Edelstein, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/17 The Band Played Scrolling Matilda

(1) ALL WISDOM, Last October, The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar interviewed Talmon Marco, CEO of Juno, a ride-hailing app that is trying to take business from Uber and Lyft by offering its drivers more pay and stock options.

When I asked Marco why he was so sure that Juno would still be around, he said, half jokingly, that he had acquired all the wisdom he needed by reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. “Oh, my God,” he said. “It’s the Bible.  Everything is there.”

…I asked Marco to share what he had learned from the book, and he hesitated.  “Now you’re really putting me on the spot,” he said.  After thinking for a few seconds, he went on, “It claims the math never works in a restaurant, which explains why the bill never adds up.” He wasn’t sure if that was still true, because, he said, he stopped looking at restaurant checks a long time ago — preemptively handing your credit card to the server saves the five minutes it takes to get the bill, look at it, and send it back with the payment.

“It was a very popular book, especially when I was growing up, among geeks in the eighties and nineties,” Marco went on.  “You have to ask the founders of Snapchat.”

(2) A BOOK OF HER OWN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Gabby Rivera, whose “Latina, queer, superpowered and superpopular character” America Chavez has made appearances in the Marvel books Young Avengers and The Ultimates and has now appeared in her own comic book from Marvel, America.

 “Superhero comics seemed so out of my league that I never even imagined it as something I could do. But the second the opportunity came my way, it felt so right,” Rivera told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’ve always dreamt up wild, powerful and carefree superheroes that look like me and my family: thick, brown, goofy, beautiful. And now I get to see them come to life. ‘America’ is going to be all those things and it’s [going to] be wild.”

Before beginning to write “America,” the new solo series (illustrated by Joe Quinones) that debuted in print and digitally last week, Rivera dived into stacks of comic books featuring the superstrong heroine who can fly and punch star-shaped dimension-hopping holes into the air. Rivera called it her “crash course” on all things America.

(3) PODCASTING TIME LORD. Scott Edelman writes, “I was very pleased to have gotten live on the second weekend of March 2017 an episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded the second weekend of March 1995! How? You’ll see.”

Episode 31 is a 1995 World Horror Con Flashback:

So prepare to time travel back to a 1995 mall food court lunch as I talk about my first job at Marvel Comics, how I broke into writing for Tales from the Darkside, and the beginnings of Science Fiction Age magazine, while Adam-Troy Castro reveals how he created the first story in the first issue of that magazine, as well as how a cab ride he feared he wouldn’t survive turned into one of his most memorable works of fiction.

(4) AS THE TWIG IS BENT. Crooked Timber is running one of their seminars on Ada Palmer’s “Terra Ignota” books — Too Like the Lightning, and the just-released Seven Surrenders. So far they have posted –

Ada Palmer’s new book – Seven Surrenders – is out today. So too is our seminar….

Almost all science fiction, as J.G. Ballard remarked in the introduction to Vermilion Sands, is really about the present day. This is certainly less true today than it was in 1971, but it is still often the case that the relationship between our present and the future world that is depicted – or between the present of the imagined world and that future’s past, when anyone inside the story decides to look back – is oddly straightforward and uninteresting. This is certainly not something that can be said of Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota books.

In the genres of science fiction and fantasy, when a book is written in an unusual mode, it’s usually either a gimmick or window-dressing. Window-dressing is when for instance a Victorian feeling book has a faux Victorian style as part of that feel. An example of this would be Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where Heinlein doesn’t have to tell us that the English spoken on the moon is heavily influenced by Australian and Russian, he gives us a first person narrative devoid of articles and peppered with Russian borrowings and Australian slang. It’s great, but really it’s just scenery, everything else would be the same if he’d chosen to write the book in third with just the dialogue like that. It’s quite unusual to read something where the mode is absolutely integral to what the book is doing. In Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, the decaying grammar and vocabulary of the first person narrator, Lola, mirrors the disintegration of society around her, and we the reader slowly move from a near future with a near normal text to a complete understanding of sentences that would have been incomprehensible on page one, in a world that has also changed that much.

Too Like the Lightning and Seven Surrenders tell the story of beautiful, brilliant, compassionate people who are also terribly vulnerable. They are Eloi who have convinced themselves Morlocks do not exist; they are victim-beneficiaries of two hundred years of willful ignorance of growing rot. Like the dragon Smaug, they’ve rested on their hoard for centuries, adding layer after layer to their invulnerable bejeweled armor—but they cannot see the armor’s chink, the soft space waiting for Bard the Bowman’s arrow.

The arrow is shaped like God.

(5) AMERICAN GODS. The creators of the American Gods TV series told attendees at a SXSW panel the show has new meaning in “a climate that vilifies immigrants”.

When Neil Gaiman’s American Gods comes to television next month, it’s going to look a little different than fans of the book remember — and its creators hope they’ll take away a subtle political message alongside the myths and magic.

“Our first task of adapting is to make the show that we wanted to see as an audience member,” said Bryan Fuller, one of the showrunners. But “it’s definitely a different show than we set out to make, because the political climate in America shat its pants,” he said. “We are now telling massive immigration stories in a climate that vilifies immigrants. And so we have a strange new platform to start a different kind of conversation.” Fellow showrunner Michael Green agreed. “The book is joyful, it celebrates a lot of things that we love about America, and have since become weirdly odd about America,” he said.

Neil Gaiman echoed the sentiment on Twitter after the panel. “I don’t think we preach,” he told a fan. “And we didn’t think we were making a politically relevant show, just adapting a book about immigrants and America.”

(6) POLITICAL ACTION FIGURES. You may or may not ordinarily be interested in a review and photos of Pinhead Hellraiser III 1/6th action figure by ThreeZero, but Cat Eldridge predicts many readers will be entertained by the political statement at the very end of the review…

(7) NAFF. The National Australian Fan Fund, to send one Australian fan to the Natcon, has opened voting. The winner will attend Continuum 13 in Melbourne, June 9–13.

There are four candidates from three states:

  • Jason Fischer (SA)
  • Talitha Kalago (QLD)
  • Fe Waters (WA)
  • Jay Watson (WA)

More details available here. Voting ends April 16.

(8) AT THE BACK OF THE PACK. Rolling Stone has ranked all the cast members from Saturday Night Live since the beginning of the show in the 1970s. Although he went on to have a hugely successful acting career in the Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man movie franchises, this fellow came in last place —

  1. Robert Downey Jr.

Era: 1985-1986

Robert Downey Jr. is a comic genius. Making him unfunny stands as SNL’s most towering achievement in terms of sucking. How do you fuck up a sure thing like Downey? He’s funny in anything. I mean, dude was funny in Weird Science. He was funny in Johnny Be Good. He was funny in Iron Man. But he met his Kryptonite, and it was SNL, where he spent the 1985-1986 season sucking up a storm. His greatest hit? A fart-noise debate with Anthony Michael Hall. In a perverse way, the Downey Fail sums up everything that makes SNL great. There are no sure things. No rules. No do-overs. No safety net — when you flop on SNL, you flop big. And that’s the way it should be. The cameras roll at 11:30, ready or not. Live from New York — it’s Saturday Night.

(9) COSTUMING HISTORY. A video compilation of Kat Bushman’s convention masquerade entries from 1967-2000.

(10) LONG-LASTING HORROR. On Fivebooks, Darryl Jones, who teaches at Trinity College in Dublin, is asked to recommend the best horror stories. He turns to 1897 and reminds us why The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Great God Pan are still worth reading.

Can you give some examples?

One of the best places to look for examples is late-Victorian England. Think of 1897, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which marks the zenith of the British Empire.

1897 also saw the publication of a number of landmark works which were very anxious about the status and lasting power of the British Empire. These works often envisage colonial or intergalactic Others coming to invade London, the imperial metropolis. London gets invaded, London gets destroyed.

(11) KEEP ON TINGLING. A reworking of a popular meme —

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Standback, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/17 It’s Always In The Last Pixel You Scroll

(1) VAMPIRE DIARIES GOES GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. As the series goes off the air, The Guardian asks “Better than Buffy? Spare a thought for the Vampire Diaries”.

The eight-season run of the Vampire Diaries ended quietly on Friday night, without a hint of the outsized media fanfare so liberally bestowed on series finales in television’s so-called golden age. The glossy adaptation of LJ Smith’s young-adult novel series, even before its latter-season decline in form and ratings, never did inspire the type of sophisticated critiques reserved for the major-network or cable darlings. But even amid a landscape that’s only been further crowded by the emergence of Netflix and Amazon, there is a place for the pure concentrated entertainment that was offered up for years by the CW’s deliciously pulpy supernatural soap opera. Television will be poorer – and a less fun place – without it.

(2) HUGO REMINDER. Worldcon 75 sent members an alert that the deadline to nominate for the Hugos is only days away.

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections as long as the nomination period continues. But we recommend that you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

You may make changes to your nominations until 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Greenwich Mean Time, 08:59 in Finland, all on 18 March), by using the following link to sign in again:

(3) FOLLOW THAT CAT. Timothy the Talking Cat has stolen the keys to Camestros Felapton’s blog and posted his own “appalling” Hugo slate

Remember that this year the rules have changed! The social justice witches have put their broomsticks together and decided that you can no longer just vote for Dune over and over again. But no fear! As a grandmaster of non-euclidean hyperbolic  7-dimensional chequers, I can adjust my plans accordingly. See below!

(4) DEEP POCKETS. The Deep Space: Nine Documentary by Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone and Adam Nimoy hit 420% of its Indiegogo goal. The extra money will be used to add 50% more latinum minutes to the video, and lots of bonus features. Space.com has the story — “’Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Doc Warps Way Beyond Crowdfunding Goal”.

 After nearly quadrupling their Indiegogo goal to produce a new documentary on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9), the creators are busy trying to figure out how to best deploy their newfound wealth.

Today (March 10) is the final day of the campaign to produce “What We Left Behind,” and backers on the crowdfunding site have raised more than $575,000 for the film. The show is co-led by DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, produced by David Zappone and directed by Adam Nimoy. Zappone and Nimoy are known for the 2016 documentary “For The Love of Spock,” and Zappone also produced the 2011 “Star Trek” documentary “The Captains.”

In an interview with Space.com, Behr and Nimoy, who is the son of the first “Star Trek” series’ actor Leonard Nimoy, said they are reconfiguring their plans for the now 90-minute documentary, which is 30 minutes longer than their original vision, because of the extraordinary response to the crowdfunding effort.

(5) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. Naked Security analyzes “How online gamers use malware to cheat”.

“We typically think of malware as something used to steal data from corporations or knock down websites in politically motivated attacks.  But if you’re a gamer, sometimes it’s simply a tool for winning. “SophosLabs threat researcher Tamás Boczán has been studying this trend, and recently gave a talk about it at BSides Budapest.  This article reviews his findings and offers us a chance to share some of his presentation slides.”

…As cases of cheating have risen, so have the examples of anti-cheat technology from various companies. As various sides have upped the ante, both sides have drawn in people of greater skill. He said:

Hacking an online game is not that easy any more. In the old days, script kiddies could to do it, but now hacking is a serious game that requires a skilled attacker. So why would a skilled attacker waste their time and skill on a video game?

He mapped out the sequence of events this way:

  • All this was originally about having fun.
  • Then the gaming industry grew.
  • The games went online.
  • People began to cheat for profit, just as hackers often do when targeting companies.
  • In response, an anti-cheating movement has sprouted up that mirrors security companies….

(6) FORGEHAM OBIT. John Forgeham (1941-2017): British actor, died Friday, aged 75. Best-known for a long-running role in the UK soap Crossroads, other screen appearances included The Avengers (one episode, 1965), The Stone Tape (1972), Sheena (1984), T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus (one episode, 1991).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is published

(8) LE GUIN’S NEXT BOOK. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection No Time to Spare comes out December 5.

Her next book, No Time to Spare, will be a collection of recent essays. It comes with an introduction from Karen Joy Fowler, who, like Le Guin, knows a thing or two about writing across genres.

As Fowler notes in her introduction to the collection, Le Guin is currently enjoying a moment of mainstream cultural appreciation: Filmmaker Arwen Curry recently raised funds on Kickstarter for a documentary on the author, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, and back in October, The New Yorker ran a profile on Le Guin and her enduring influence.

You can read an excerpt from Fowler’s introduction at the linked post.

(9) BURIAL IN SPACE. At Krypton Radio, Thaddeus Howze reviews the long history of Star Trek, then dares to ask: Is it time to retire the franchise?

My point of all of this review is this: Since Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the three Kelvin Timeline Star Treks, (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Beyond) we have stopped looking to the future. Star Trek has become as lame as the political rhetoric many of us despise in our real lives…

“Make America Great Again” is the rallying cry used to talk about the past as if it were some great thing to be reclaimed and returned to. When the truth of the matter is the past is never as good as it seems and to seek refuge in the past is to deny the present and refute the future altogether.

CBS’ latest television series Star Trek: Discovery also takes place in the past (presumably the original timeline past, not the Kelvin Universe past) some time after Archer but before (or maybe during Kirk’s Enterprise) period. What we do know is this is not a far future Star Trek.

It is not an extrapolation of all we can be. It is not a look at the future of Humanity at our best and our worst. It is a remix of Treks, mashing costumes, designs, ships, and probably stories.

(10) SHADOW CLARKE DOINGS. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest activity includes two reviews and a FAQ.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season casts a long shadow on the Clarke submissions list, having won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and having been shortlisted for almost everything else. Thousands of words have already been spent praising it, critiquing it, speculating about it online since it came out in the US in 2015 and I imagine few people reading this are encountering it for the first time. In spite of its pedigree I was sceptical going in. The only other book by Jemisin I’d read – The Killing Moon – wasn’t a highlight. I thought its excellent world-building came at the expense of almost everything else. Then there was the thorny issue of eligibility and whether or not The Fifth Season conforms to the Clarke requirement that books be science fiction rather than more broadly speculative. When I shortlisted it I did so partly because it offers an opportunity to wade into the eligibility question and partly as a test for myself, to see if I would admire it as much as everyone else. I almost hoped I wouldn’t because, let’s be honest, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t work in fiction than what does.  Also, dissent prompts debate and this project is all about that. But, sorry folks, I’m afraid I’m about to tell a familiar story. The Fifth Season is just as good as everyone said it was and the genre controversy is dead in the water. It’s perfectly eligible for the Clarke Award.

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

What is the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury?

An initiative developed by Nina Allan and hosted by the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in 2017, the Shadow Jury is a panel of talented, passionate members of the SF community who come up with their own personal shortlists and winners for a given year.

(11) CRITICAL MASS. Charles Payseur analyzes the nature of book reviewing and his own reasons for doing it.

Let me say that there’s a great many reasons why people review. Some want to become authorities on a particular form or genre. They want to be engaged in creating a canon or they want to help determine the boundaries of genres or any number of other things that essentially boil down to gatekeeping. They want to be able to say what is and what is not, what should and what should not be considered when talking about science fiction or literary fiction or horror. When they review they might refuse to look at certain works because they don’t cleave close enough to what they expect and enjoy. This is not the kind of reviewer I hope to be. And there are reviewers out there who just want to express their opinions as honestly as they can. They want to go onto Goodreads and Amazon and rank what they liked good and what they didn’t bad and concentrate mostly on their immediate reaction to a story or work. This is actually much closer to what I do but it’s not quite what I aim for….

(12) KONG KILLED AGAIN. Reader’s Digest version – Locus film reviewer Gary Westfahl says the new Kong movie sucks little black rocks – “Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not achieve – namely, a King Kong film that recaptures the charm and élan of Merian C. Cooper’s classic 1933 production. Unfortunately, the film devolves into an iterative, and increasingly unpleasant, series of variations on the two basic set pieces observed in all giant monster movies: humans vs. monster, and monster vs. monster; and the only suspense involves which character will next be dispatched to a gory demise….

 (13) RED PLANET RADIO. It’s Mars Season on BBC Radio 4, with fiction, interviews, documentaries, and quizzes.

William Shatner introduces the “We Are The Martians” series, which explores the Mars of imagination, science and history.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, and David K.M.Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]