Pixel Scroll 5/31/17 I Watched TBR Piles Grow In The Dark Near Tannhäuser’s Gate

(1) THE UGLY SPACEMAN. Adam Roberts tells New Scientist readers, “If I were a Martian, I’d start running now”.

Exploration has never been neutral, and it’s hard to believe that future exploration of the cosmos will be different. So: doesn’t SF have a duty to flavour its fantasies of boldly going with a smidgen of ideological honesty? “Exploration Fiction” is, after all, better placed than any other kind of literature to explore exploration itself.

(2) IN VINO VERITAS. The Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival takes place in Waukegan on June 3. The Chicago Tribune has the story —

Ray Bradbury wrote about the happiness machine in his iconic novel “Dandelion Wine,” published in 1957 and reminiscent of his early boyhood days exploring the ravines of Waukegan.

Sixty years later, the annual Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival in Bowen Park offers participants the chance to create pictures of their own “happiness machines” for the community art project….

“The festival is an important way to honor and pay tribute to Ray Bradbury and it’s a great time for everybody to finally get over winter — spring’s here — and it kicks off summer,” Rohrer said.

Bradbury served as the festival’s honorary chairman until his death in 2012. The festival tradition ensures his legacy will live forever in Waukegan. Typically more than 1,000 adults and children come to the festival each year, Rohrer said.

John King Tarpinian says of dandelion wine, “I am told it tastes like grass.”

(3) LITERARY TOURIST. Laura J. Miller’s “Dark Futures” adapts the age-old literature vs. science fiction dichotomy as a vehicle to administer a kick to Donald Trump from a different angle. However, that still forces her to discuss actual writers and books, a discussion she ends with this malediction:

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.

The article enraged a whole handful of sf writers, quoted by Jason Sanford in his rebuttal post, “Laura Miller, or what happens when a literary critic loathes genre fiction but knows that’s where the best stories are?”

So. Much. Fail. In. One. Essay. And before you believe I’m biased because I’m one of those lowly SF authors who need step aside for my literary betters, check out the reaction of other authors to Miller’s words:

Part of the problem with the essay, beyond Miller’s actual condescending words, is that she overlooks the ability of SF authors to write at the level of the authors she’s praising. She grudgingly gives William Gibson and Karen Joy Fowler minor props but ignores the stylistic and literary ability of SF masters like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis and so many others.

(4) TRAINING WHEELS. The Telegraph explains “Why Harry Potter fans will like the new Bank of Scotland £10 note”.

An image of the Glenfinnan Viaduct – part of the West Highland Railway Line that was made famous by the Harry Potter movies – will remain on the reverse of the design, but with the addition of a steam locomotive hauling a heritage tourist train.

(5) BINDING PLANS. Provided they don’t let the Doctor himself navigate, “A TARDIS-inspired shared library is coming to Woodbridge” this weekend.

Fans of Doctor Who will have a new destination to check out in Detroit. On Saturday, June 3 at noon, a TARDIS-inspired shared library will be installed at the corner of Vermont and Warren.

Dan Zemke has been a fan of Doctor Who and wanted to build a TARDIS (a Police Box time machine that stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It can transport a person anywhere in time and space, kind of like a great book. Inspired by his brother Jon, who rehabs houses in Woodbridge and had a large mural painted on one prominent home last year, Dan decided to create a practical use for it and build it into a library. With the help of his dad, the time machine/library is now ready to be installed.

It’s big — 10 feet tall and likely weighs a ton — and they’re seeking book donations since it can hold so many. Zemke says he’d like to include a large book where people can write and share their own stories.

The public is invited to the installation at noon on June 3. And if you have some books to contribute, feel free to bring them.

(6) FOURTH STAGE LENSMAN. Joe Vasicek experiences “What it’s like to write after a life interruption”. His post takes readers from Stage Zero through Four.

Stage 0: Procrastination

I guess I should write — but first, I should check my email. Also, there’s a couple of publishing tasks I need to do. I’m also kind of hungry, come to think of it.

Wow, those publishing tasks took a lot longer than I thought they would. I could start writing now, but I’d only have half an hour, and what can I possibly get done in that time? Maybe I should just relax for a bit and play this addictive online game…

Stage 1: BIC HOC

All right, no more excuses. It’s butt in chair, hands on keyboard time!

What’s wrong with my chair? Did someone put a magnet in it? It seems like my butt gets repulsed every time I try to sit down in it. I can knock off a couple of paragraphs, but then I have to get up and pace for a while. Or do some chores. Or–

No! I’ve got to focus. But man, it feels like I’m pulling teeth. The words just aren’t coming. It’s been more than an hour, and how much have I written? Holy crap, that’s pathetic.

Well, it’s the end of the day, and I only managed a few hundred words, but that’s better than nothing I guess.

(7) BACK FROM THE SHADOWS. Carl Slaughter observes:

NBC cancelled the Constantine live action series after only one season. CW’s Arrow series brought the Constantine character in for 2 episodes. Now CW is giving the Alan Moore-created comic book character another crack at a television series through animation. Constantine actor Matt Ryan will return to voice the animated version. Here’s a history of Constantine.

 

(8) BERKELEY OBIT. Makeup artist Ron Dursley Berkeley (1931-2017) died May 9.

His 50-year career included working on George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, and Star Trek. He won one Primetime Emmy, and was nominated four times altogether.

His non-genre work spanned The Manchurian Candidate, Anne of a Thousand Days, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the librarian humor in today’s Farcus.

(10) ADA PALMER. In May 2017, Ada Palmer came out with Seven Surrenders, the second in her Terra Ignota series. The Will to Battle comes out in December 2017.

 

SEVEN SURRENDERS

In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war — a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed locations, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

(11) MARVEL INVADES GOTHAM. You can find Marvel at BookCon 2017 starting tomorrow:

This weekend, Marvel returns to New York’s Javits Center for BookCon 2017, spotlighting how Marvel continues to branch out and bridge the divide between pop culture and book buyers, librarians, and book fans of all ages.

This Thursday, June 1st, join novelists Jason Reynolds (Miles Morales: Spider-Man), R. L. Stine (Man-Thing), and Margaret Stohl (Mighty Captain Marvel) as they are joined by some of the biggest names from the House of Ideas — as well as some surprise Mighty Marvel Guests! These blockbuster creators will discuss bringing their prose skills to Marvel’s graphic fiction, bringing Marvel characters into the prose world, and the exciting universal appeal of Marvel’s new wave of graphic novels.

Can’t make it to the convention? Follow along on Marvel.com and @Marvel on Twitter.

 

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. The passing of actor Roger Moore prompted Dwayne Day to consider the actor’s legacy as the face of the James Bond franchise in an article for The Space Review.

Roger Moore passed away on May 23 at the age of 89. Moore, who was born in London in 1927, was best known for playing James Bond in seven movies between 1973 and 1985, more Bond movies than any other actor. Moore’s Bond appearances included the 1979 film Moonraker, the highest-grossing Bond movie until Daniel Craig rebooted the franchise in the 2000s. Moonraker is one of several Bond movies with a space theme, but the only one where James Bond travels into space.

Moonraker often tops critics’ lists of the worst Bond movie made, although it sometimes ties for that dubious honor. Like most Bond films, it recycled a lot of over-used plot devices: the megalomaniacal billionaire bent on world destruction, lame double-entendres, blatant sexism, dumb quips Bond makes upon dispatching a bad guy, the amazing coincidence that Bond happens to possess exactly the right gizmo he needs at the moment of maximum peril, and the absurdity of a “spy”with brand name recognition whom everybody recognizes the second he walks through the door. But these were the franchise’s fault, not Moore’s…

Moonraker was made because producer Cubby Broccoli saw the box office returns from Star Wars and decided that his next Bond movie should be set in space. Broccoli was shameless, but his decision paid off handsomely, with a worldwide gross of $210 million in then-year dollars. Although Moonraker frequently rates among the worst Bond movies, it made more money than any other Bond film for the next 16 years. Moore reprised the role three more times.

(13) WHEN VENUS WAS A SOGGY MESS. A Bradbury story with sound effects — radio reinvented! “THE LONG RAIN, by Ray Bradbury, sound-designed & narrated by Alexander Rogers”.

THE LONG RAIN is my personal favorite short story from Ray Bradbury’s classic body of tales, The Illustrated Man. Written in 1950, it paints a deadly and seductive image of an interminably rainy planet of Venus. Admittedly, science now shows us Venus is more of a lead oven than a drenched rainscape, but let’s not take Venus literally in this sense. I’ve always felt that planets in sci-fi are more of a mental/spiritual arena in which to place relatable, earthly characters.

Bradbury’s writing here is so poetic and so visual, I just knew a vocal narration wasn’t enough. An audiobook like this deserves a rain soundtrack, complete with soggy footsteps and storms and rivers and shimmering things. May you enjoy the sound design as well as the characters!

(14) THE DOG DAYS. Once I read John Scalzi’s opening tweet I knew it was going to be a slow news day….

(15) REALLY FINICKY. Mashable has a funny video: “Cute kitty devastates the crew of the Nostromo in this recut trailer of ‘Aliens'”.

The spacecraft Nostromo has an unwanted guest wreaking havoc on the crew. No, it’s not a bloodthirsty Alien… but an adorable kitten? Watch what happens in this re-imagined trailer.

 

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Sci-Fi Video Roundup

By Carl Slaughter: (1) Aquaman. With Smallville being one of the longest running science fiction shows in television history, fans have long ago demonstrated their commitment. Television executives haven’t always gotten the message, as evidenced by the Aquaman pilot.

“The Aquaman pilot was expected to debut in the fall schedule of 2006, but following the merger of the WB and UPN, the resulting CW Network opted not to buy the series. After they passed on the pilot, it was made available online through iTunes in the United States and became the number-one most downloaded television show on iTunes…The concept of Aquaman stemmed from a fifth season episode of Smallville, “Aqua”. The episode featured Arthur Curry (Alan Ritchson) coming to Smallville to stop an underwater weapons project being developed by LuthorCorp. “Aqua” became the highest rated episode for Smallville that season, but it was never meant to be a backdoor pilot for an Aquaman series. [7] However, as work progressed on “Aqua”, the character was recognized to have potential for his own series… Discussing the excitement surrounding the project, Lou Diamond Phillips said, “The funny thing about the Aquaman project is that there’s so much buzz about it already. Which is amazing, I mean you don’t usually get that with a pilot, because they’re sort of sight unseen.””…On July 24, 2006, the pilot became one of the first shows offered by Warner Brothers on the iTunes Store (available only to US customers) for $1.99, under the title Aquaman. Within a week, it reached the number-one spot on the list of most downloaded TV shows on the digital store’s list, and it held that spot for over a week.[33] Gough stated, “At least the pilot is now getting its day in court with the fans, and the reviews have all been very positive.”…By March 24, 2007, the pilot reached #6 on the Video Marketplace’s top downloads.[37] On June 9, 2007, Canadian television network YTV, aired the pilot as part of their “Superhero Saturday.”

 

(2) If you can make it there. Why do so many Marvel characters live in New York?

(3) Discovery. Very detailed, very positive analysis of the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

(4) Doomed. Top 5 Reasons Why Star Trek Discovery Will Suck:

(5) Before Mulgrew. We’ve all been told that the original Janeway actress tried to make the transition from movies and was not able to able adapt to the much more rigorous TV production schedule. This reviewer has a different theory: Bujold’s delivery was too mechanical, Mulgrew owned the role.

(6) A dynamic duo. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart discuss Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Shakespeare, and answer questions from fans.

(7) Teasing an icon. Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Colbert spoof Ripley.

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Robert J. Sawyer: Calling Us To the Future

By Carl Slaughter: Robert J. Sawyer talks science premises, scientific method, philosophy of human existence, and the themes and messages in his stories.

CARL SLAUGHTER: You said of your latest novel, Quantum Night, that the theme is, “The most pernicious lie humanity has ever told itself is that you can’t change human nature.” You list 50 books you consulted for Quantum Night. Why is this so important?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: It’s important to recognize that this canard that you can’t change human nature is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card; if you accept it, you can forever be racist, sexist, transphobic, jingoistic, militaristic, religious, and so on, then say, well, it’s always been that way so it always must be that way. And that is pernicious. Even when invoked on a small scale, when we forgive someone for being “tone deaf” rather than recognizing that they’re a dyed-in-the-wool racist or misogynist, or whatever, is to excuse the behavior as being an acceptable, normal gaffe rather than something that we rightly demand should be changed, and can be changed.

When I teach science-fiction writing, I tell my students that one of the standard story-generating engines for the genre is to take something we normally only think of as metaphoric and treat it as literal — from H.G. Wells’s making concrete the fantasy of knowing what the future holds, to Robert Charles Wilson’s recent The Affinities, which turns the online notion of “social networking” into a real-life paradigm. And so, in that same vein, Quantum Night is quite literally about changing human nature.

If we don’t change — if we don’t find better ways of conflict resolution, if we don’t move from zero-sum thinking to win-win thinking, if we don’t discard and abjure our millennia-old prejudices — then we as a species are headed for disaster.

As for the bibliography, it’s proven to be extremely popular. I’ve had short ones at the end of a couple of my previous novels — my Hugo Award-winner Hominids and my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winner Mindscan — but this is by far the most elaborate one I’ve ever provided. Quantum Night is, among other things, a serious attempt to make sense of human consciousness — I was thrilled when Stuart Hameroff invited me to give a talk about the book in 2013 at the famed Tucson “Science of Consciousness” conference. I allude in the novel’s text to the work of many experts in many areas — psychology, neuroscience, quantum physics, philosophy — but didn’t want to bog down the narrative with excessive exposition. The annotated bibliography is there for those who want to go deeper into the underpinnings of the novel.

CS: I was intrigued with the story Far-Seer as well as its cast of characters, both rational and irrational. What lessons does Far-Seer offer society?

RJS: In 1999, I give a talk at the Library of Congress entitled “Is There a Place for Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century?” Far-Seer — as well as its sequels, and my 2001 Hugo-nominee Calculating God — are exemplars of the point I made in that talk, so I’ll just quote the conclusion of it:

Does science fiction have a role in the 21st century? Absolutely. If we can help shape the Zeitgeist, help inculcate the belief that rational thought, that discarding superstition, that subjecting all beliefs to the test of the scientific method, is the most reasonable approach to any question, then not only will science fiction have a key role to play in the intellectual development of the new century, but it will also, finally and at last, help humanity shuck off the last vestiges of the supernatural, the irrational, the spurious, the fake, and allow us to embrace, to quote poet Archibald Lampman, “the wide awe and wonder of the night” but with our eyes wide open and our minds fully engaged. Then, finally, some 40,000 years after consciousness first flickered into being on this world, we will at last truly deserve that name we bestowed upon ourselves: Homo sapiens — Man of Wisdom.

CS: Are there any parallels between Far-Seer and the Trump era?

RJS: That’s an interesting question. Far-Seer came out in 1992, and its sequels Fossil Hunter and Foreigner came out in 1993 and 1994. It’s been observed that there were three great blows to the human ego. First, the Copernican/Galilean revolution — ironically named, if you think about it — that says we aren’t at the center of the universe; we revolve around the sun. Second, the Darwinian revolution, which punctuated thousands of years of our equilibrium, so to speak, by showing that we weren’t divinely created in God’s image, but rather were the results of mindless evolution; and the Freudian insight, which demonstrated that we don’t even really have conscious volition but rather are driven by unconscious forces and the impacts of our early experiences.

But, you know, all of those were academic victories for us. It might be irritating to try to argue with a young-Earth creationist, but what he or she believes — and, for that matter, what we believe — doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect how either of us do our jobs, treat our families, or, indeed, our ultimate fate.

But for that trilogy — which I’ve just reissued as ebooks and is collectively called the Quintaglio Ascension — I wanted to tell parallel stories of the three great ego blows on an alien world, but have it be desperately important that the aliens learn these truths. They face an existential threat — doomsday — unless they come to grips with, in turn, the facts of cosmology, evolution, and their own psychology.

When I wrote the books, we weren’t really conscious of the existential threat our species is facing, but now, in the current era — and this existed before Trump, but has gotten substantially worse since he was elected — acknowledging radical climate change is crucial; the science deniers, if they continue to have political clout, will result in doomsday for us, too. So, yeah, to answer your question: this trilogy is 100% relevant right now, as its core message — accepting reality; embracing science; thinking rationally not emotionally — is the only thing that will save this planet.

Robert J. Sawyer in 2009.

CS: Here’s a report about how Canadian scientists fought the good fight and won. Being a Canadian science fiction writer, can you tell us if this report is accurate and if it offers hope to the American science community and its supporters?

RJS: The report is absolutely accurate. Canada is very much better off than the US right now in terms of government support for intellectualism, art, and science but it was only a short time ago that the reverse was true. To quote from Quantum Night:

“Actually, until recently, Canada had had a much more conservative leader than the United States did. When Stephen Harper came to office in 2006, George W. Bush had been in the White House and, to liberal Canadian sensibilities — the kind found on university campuses — he seemed the lesser of two evils. But once Barack Obama was elected, Canada had by far the more right-wing leader. Harper managed to hold on to power for almost a decade, but Canada was now ruled by the left-leaning Liberal Party….”

So, how did we get out of the anti-science mess that was the horrific Harper regime? We voted him out of office. Trump has already started his bid for re-election; let’s hope you have palatable alternatives — on the left and the right — in your next election.

CS: How do the cognitive sciences define a mind? How do you prove a mind exists? If a mind is an object, what is its location, appearance, and molecular structure?

RJS: The only mind you can prove exists is your own, as Descartes so handily showed: cogito ergo sum; I think therefore I am. As to whether others have minds or just appear to do so, that’s the whole notion behind Australian philosopher David Chalmers’s “philosopher’s zombie” thought experiment, which I expand upon at length in Quantum Night. Dave, who introduced me when I gave a keynote address at the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson in 2010 — the first of two times I’ve spoken there — reviewed my novel in manuscript for me.

The mind is an emergent phenomenon of the brain, not an object. You can no more point to its location, describe its appearance, and define its molecular structure than you can do that for any of the things mind produces, such as patriotism, which is love of the things a nation stands for. It would be as wrong to point to the borders of Canada or the United States and say “patriotism is these neurotransmitter molecules or synaptic webs in relation to all atoms circumscribed by this border.” Mind is emergent; patriotism is a feeling created by mind in response to a concept — a nation’s principles — that only exists within minds.

CS: OK, now what’s the connection between consciousness and mind?

RJS: Consciousness, as I mostly use the term, refers to self-awareness and self-reflection. HAL 9000 claimed to be conscious; maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But in both science fiction and computer science we definitely used to conflate the notions of “artificial intelligence” and “artificial consciousness” into one thing. That’s wrong.

We’ve got some great AIs now — Deep Blue and Watson, or even Siri and Cortana — but none of them have any consciousness. They may look like they pass the Turing test in some narrow ways, but they’re only Turing machines, and that’s a key distinction: a Turing machine is an idealized, bare-bones computer that can only perform three basic operations, but can simulate any algorithm, no matter how complex; everything Deep Blue, Watson, Siri, or Cortana does can be reproduced on a Turing machine; they just do it very fast. But as mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who wrote the 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind — and who I got to spend time with last year in Tenerife — would argue, self-reflection can’t be simulated on a Turing machine. In other words, we have fast calculators now; we don’t having self-aware devices. To put it in old sciffy jargon, we’ve got electronic brains, sure, but not a single electronic mind.

Not all brains are conscious, but any entity that passes the cogito — that can say only to itself and understand what it has said — that “I think therefore I am” is conscious. The conceit in Quantum Night is that four-sevenths of the human race can’t pass the cogito and therefore are not conscious. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.

CS: How exactly can a consciousness theoretically be transferred or downloaded?

RJS: My friend Andrew Porter used to publish the wonderful Science Fiction Chronicle, and many years ago he won a charity auction to be Tuckerized in one of my novels (where I described him affectionately thus: “Andrew Porter was a tall bear of a man, sixty or so, slightly stooped from dealing with a world populated by shorter people. He had squinty eyes, a beard, and hair combed straight back from a high forehead. His kindly face was home to eyebrows that seemed constantly in motion, as if they were working out, in training for the body-hair Olympics.€).

In my 2007 novel Mindscan, Andy plays the part of a scientist who does precisely what you’ve asked about — transferring consciousness to artificial bodies — so I’ll let him answer for me:

“Consider it like this: I don’t know anything about music. When I was in school, they thought I’d be a menace to every hearing person if they gave me a musical instrument to play, so I was assigned to the vocal class, along with all the other tone-deaf people. So, I know nothing at all about what makes Beethoven’s Fifth a great piece of music. But as an engineer, if you brought me a CD recording of it, and asked me to copy it onto a MemWafer, no problem — I could do that. I don’t look for the ‘musical’ stuff on the CD; I don’t look for the ‘genius’ on the CD. I just copy everything to the new medium. And that’s exactly what we do when we’re transferring consciousness.”

CS: Have you read much literature about the subcognitive – dreams, premonitions, discernment, instinct? People often claim to know things, even though they don’t know how they know, even though they have no scientific proof, and are often vindicated by experience. How do you explain this aspect of human existence?

RJS: I don’t explain it; I reject it. People claiming things is not evidence, and the plural of anecdote is not data. None of that has been replicated under controlled conditions. I’m a rationalist, an empiricist, and a skeptic — in other words, a science-fiction fan.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Robert J. Sawyer?

RJS: My longtime friend (and fellow judge for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award) Barry Malzberg has just retired from doing the science-fiction column for the bimonthly Galaxy’s Edge magazine and editor Mike Resnick has tapped me to take over. My first column will appear in the July-August 2017 edition.

Beyond that, I have a development deal with a major Canadian broadcaster for an original science-fiction TV series, and am having a blast working on that.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Michelle Pincus.

2017 Sunburst Awards Longlist

Sunburst medallion.

The 2017 longlist for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic was announced on May 29. Below are the works longlisted by the jury.

ADULT FICTION

  • Gail Anderson-Dargatz, The Spawning Grounds [Knopf Canada]
  • Madeline Ashby, Company Town [Tor Books]
  • Jay Hosking, Three Years With the Rat [Hamish Hamilton]
  • Claire Humphrey, Spells of Blood and Kin [Thomas Dunne Books]
  • Ami McKay, The Witches of New York [Knopf Canada]
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Certain Dark Things [Thomas Dunne Books]
  • Sylvain Neuvel, Sleeping Giants [Del Rey]
  • Jerome Stueart, The Angels of Our Better Beasts [ChiZine]
  • Jo Walton, Necessity [Tor Books]
  • Robert Charles Wilson, Last Year [Tor Books]

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • Jonathan Auxier, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard [Puffin Canada]
  • Karen Bass, The Hill [Pajama Press]
  • Kate Blair, Transferral [Dancing Cat Books]
  • Lena Coakley, Worlds of Ink and Shadow [HarperCollins]
  • Marina Cohen, The Inn Between [Roaring Brook Press]
  • Catherine Egan, Julia Vanishes [Doubleday Canada]
  • Ian Donald Keeling, The Skids [ChiTeen]
  • Arthur Slade, Flickers [HarperCollins]
  • Jeff Szpirglas, Sheldon Unger vs The Dentures of Doom [Star Crossed Press]
  • Moira Young, The Road to Ever After [Doubleday Canada]

SHORT STORY

The Sunburst Award official shortlist come out in late June. Sunburst Award winners will be announced in Fall 2017.

The jurors for the 2017 award are Nancy Baker, Michel Basilières, Rebecca Bradley, Dominick Grace, and Sean Moreland.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is an annual award celebrating the best in Canadian fantastika published during the previous calendar year. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Sunburst Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction.

[H/t SF Site News.]

Pasadena Memorial Day Ceremony

By John King Tarpinian: Today was the dedication of the statue created by Christopher Slatoff, known by us as the man who created the Father Electrico bronze inspired by Ray Bradbury.

Here is a close-up of some details of the statute: Razor blade, bullet, matches, and Legos. Baseball not pictured.

This morning was also the annual fly-over of the San Gabriel Valley by WW2 aircraft. This photo was taken looking towards the Pasadena Elks Lodge, with the Rose Bowl being to the left.

Pixel Scroll 5/29/17 The Time Has Come, The Pixel Said, To Talk Of Many Scrolls

(1) TO THE MAX. George R.R. Martin’s never-produced Christmas script for Max Headroom finally came to life — at the Jean Cocteau Theatre: “Merry Xmas to All, and to All a Good Max”.

Our week-long M-M-Maxathon concluded on Satuday night at the Jean Cocteau with a staged table reading of “Xmas,” my thirty-year-old unproduced (until now) MAX HEADROOM script. And I have to say, we went out on a high note. We had a sold-out theatre, and the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of the performance, laughing and applauding at all the right places. After thirty years, I was not at all sure how well my old script would hold up… especially with an audience of Max Headroom fanatics, many of whom had just sat through an entire week of Max, watching every one of the produced episodes. MAX HEADROOM was a really smart show, with some fine writing… tough acts to follow. But most of the viewers seemed to think “Xmas” was just as good as what had gone before, which gratified me no end…

 

(2) SUPER SNIT. There was some huffing and puffing at the London Comic Con between a pair of famous actors although no blows were actually struck, no matter the New York Post’s headline — “Flash Gordon and The Hulk fight at Comic Con”.

It was a real-life battle of the superheroes at a comic fest over the weekend — when Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno got into a brawl with “Flash Gordon” star Sam Jones, and fans had to jump in and break them up.

“I don’t know if I was the real superhero, because if there was a clash of the Titans, I would have got squashed,” said Darryn Clements, who stepped in to help separate the musclebound actors at London’s ComicCon on Saturday, according to the Sun.

In fact, the duo were back at their adjoining tables the next day peaceably signing for fans.

The Hulk talking to Flash Gordon! #IncredibeHulk #flashgordon #MCMComicCon #LouFerrino #superheroes #legends #ExcelLondon #londoncomiccon

A post shared by Social Work Helper, PBC (@socialworkhelper) on

(3) TROLL PATROL. A Twitter troll prompted a question during an MSNBC interview: “George Takei shuts down racist criticism of new “Star Trek’ series”.

“People are finding the time to hate on “Star Trek’ for having diversity,” host Joy Reid prompted. “What?”

“Well you know — today, in this society, we have alien life-forms that we call trolls,” Takei replied.

He explained: “And these trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about. And some of these trolls go on to be presidents of nations.”

(4) URSINE DESIGN. I don’t know why this surprises me. Build-A-Bear offers a whole flock of Star Wars-themed products, including Darth Vader Bear.

Never underestimate the power of the dark side. Our exclusive Darth Vader Bear comes with his signature helmet, cape and control chest panel, permanently attached. Complete your destiny and add Darth Vader’s iconic Breathing Sound, Imperial March Song and his red Lightsaber.

(5) THE (DONUT) HOLE TRUTH. Scott Edelman writes: “Yes, I know, the William F. Nolan episode of Eating the Fantastic was only released Friday — but I couldn’t resist bringing live this donut celebration of Balticon as it was ending, to assuage the sadness of the guests who’d have to wait another year to return — Eating the Fantastic — 13 guests devour 12 donuts and reminisce about 51 years of Balticon.”

Since last July’s Readercon Donut Spectacular episode of Eating the Fantastic has proven to be so popular, I thought I’d try harvesting memories about another long-running con, and so plopped myself down in a high-traffic area of the Balticon hotel with a dozen Diablo Donuts. But first, I shared this photo on social media so the hungry hordes would know to be on the lookout for me.

(6) UNRAVELING THE SLEEVE OF CARE. Camestros Felapton, recognizing the world’s hunger for quality writing advice, nevertheless has decided to let them starve a little longer — “If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Third 5 Minute Interval in a Period of 15 Minutes, Also Never Sleep”.

Here at Felapton Towers and via our leading Science Fiction/Fantasy/Military History publishing arm Cattimothy House, we meet and train many aspiring authors — people who we’ve turned from mere robotic vacuum cleaners into leading voices in modern fiction. We’ve compiled all our experience and writing advice into this one article that WILL help you turn your dreams into a book!

So you are about to write a book? Remember, on the day you start, millions of others will be starting a book also. Worse, BILLIONS of people live on Earth and many of them are also capable of thinking about starting a novel. Bear in mind that approximately only SIX books are published each year and of those FOUR are guide books to Disneyland. In order for your book to be published, it has to be better than the books those several billion people on Earth might write. Most of those people have more interesting lives than you and also probably nicer personalities.

Lesson 1: You have to defeat your rivals. Your book has to be better than your rivals. Looking at that the odds, that implies you’d be best trying to sabotage them from finishing their book. But how? Well, articles like this can help! Find a blog, a writers group or maybe a popular online media organisation and instead of writing a book, write an article full of bad writing advice! BINGO! All those billions of rivals will read it, follow your advice and either write a terrible book or give up in exhaustion…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 29, 1889 — James Whale, who said: “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder and robbery.”

(8) COMIC SECTON. Cat Eldridge recommends xkcd’s “Opening crawl”.

(9) HOW THE DRAGON ROLLS. Click to read Declan Finn’s recommendations for the Dragon Awards. Hey, you got to respect the guy’s frankness —

DISCLAIMER: I have not read all of the following. In some cases, I’ve had less and less time to read the more I write. And I’ve submitted to … a lot this year, so I’m a little all over the place. Also, there are some genres I just don’t read, usually. I tend to avoid Horror and Alternate History, even though there are some books that are going to change my mind (Brian Niemeier and Lou Antonelli, for example, for horror and Alt History, respectively). If you have thoughts or suggestions, then by all means, COMMENT. And now, UNLEASH THE DRAGONS

(10) WORDS & PICTURES. Joe Sherry resumes “Reading the Hugos: Graphic Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

We continue our Reading the Hugos series with a look at Graphic Story. I can’t help but compare a bit to the five finalists from last year’s ballot and only Invisible Republic would make the cut here. I was already impressed with Monstress, Saga, and Paper Girls as each collection was on my nominating ballot. Heck, I was impressed enough by Paper Girls to include both of the published collected editions on my ballot – so I was definitely glad to see the first book make the cut. Beyond that, this list is dominated by two publishers with an even split between Marvel and Image. Granting that these are generally some excellent books and were on my ballot, I still would have liked to have seen a wider variety of publisher’s on the list. I just can’t say specifically what because I’m not well read enough in what’s going on in comics today – which I would also guess might be the case of a lot of voters. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Either way, let’s get to this year’s finalists.

(11) FILMMAKER TEASES NEXT PROJECT. Popular Mechanics says “It’s Humans Versus Aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s New Sci-Fi Project” .

Teasing a new sci-fi studio called Oats Studios since April, Neill Blomkamp’s ready to show us what he has in store for his future sci-fi ambitions. A new trailer, released today, for a short film currently named “Volume 1” will stream on Steam “soon.” But while the particulars of the movie are lacking in detail, the trailer is nothing short of a top-notch sci-fi film.

 

(12) ONLY A MEMORY. Carl Slaughter recalls:

At age 27, Josh Trank became the youngest director to open a film at #1 with Chronicle. He was hired to direct a standalone Star Wars film and assigned to direct the Fantastic 4 reboot. The Fantastic 4 set was plagued with production problems and received a 9% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Lucasfilm fired him when Fantastic 4 controversies spilled onto the Internet. He has not been seen on the speculative front since.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

Hannu Rajaniemi’s Wild Future

By Carl Slaughter: Hannu Rajaniemi’s debut novel The Quantum Thief opened to rave reviews from critics and mixed reviews on Amazon. The sequels were The Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. In May 2017, Rajaniemi offered his first collection, Invisible Planets.

THE QUANTUM THIEF

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….

Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burgler, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy, from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars.

In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his powerۥin exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

The Quantum Thief is a breathtaking joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate via shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild.

But for all its wonders, The Quantum Thief is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, jealousy, and revenge. It is a stunning debut.

PRAISE FOR THE QUANTUM THIEF

  • “Spectacularly and convincingly inventive, assured and wholly spellbinding: one of the most impressive debuts in years.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • “A stellar debut.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “Outstanding… A storytelling skill rarely found from even the most experienced authors.” — Library Journal, starred review
  • “Rajaniemi has spectacularly delivered on the promise that this is likely to be the most important SF novel we’ll see this year.” — Locus
  • “Absolutely incredible… Endlessly inventive and compulsively readable. It’s one of the best books of the year.” — RT Book Reviews, Top Pick
  • “The best first SF novel I’ve read in years. Hard to admit, but I think he’s better at this stuff than I am.” — Charles Stross

THE FRACTAL PRINCE

“The good thing is, no one will ever die again. The bad thing is, everyone will want to.”

A physicist receives a mysterious paper. The ideas in it are far, far ahead of current thinking and quite, quite terrifying.

In a city of “fast ones,” shadow players, and jinni, two sisters contemplate a revolution.

And on the edges of reality, a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrödinger box for his patron. In the box is his freedom. Or not.

Jean de Flambeur is back. And he’s running out of time.

THE CAUSAL ANGEL

With his infectious love of storytelling in all its forms, his rich characterization and his unrivaled grasp of thrillingly bizarre cutting-edge science, Hannu Rajaniemi swiftly set a new benchmark for Science Fiction in the 21st century. Now, with his third novel, he completes the tale of the many lives, and minds, of gentleman rogue Jean de Flambeur.

Influenced as much by the fin de siècle novels of Maurice leBlanc as he is by the greats of SF, Rajaniemi weaves intricate, warm capers through dazzling science, extraordinary visions of a wild future ,and deep conjectures on the nature of reality and story.

In The Causal Angel we will discover the ultimate fates of Jean, his employer Miele, the independently minded ship Perhonnen, and the rest of a fractured and diverse humanity flung throughout the solar system.

INVISIBLE PLANETS

Hannu Rajaniemi exploded onto the SF scene in 2010 with the publication of his first novel The Quantum Thief. Acclaimed by fellow authors such as Charles Stross, Adam Roberts and Alastair Reynolds and brilliantly reviewed everywhere from Interzone to the Times and the Guardian he swiftly established a reputation as an author who could combine extraordinary cutting edge science with beautiful prose and deliver it all with wit, warmth and a delight in the fun of storytelling.

It is exactly these qualities that are showcased in this his first collection of short stories. Drawn from anthologies, magazines and online publications and brought together in book form for the first time in this collection here is a collection of seventeen short stories that range from the lyrical to the bizarre, from the elegaic to the impish. It is a collection that shows one of the great new imaginations in SF having immense fun.

Nano-jacked super-beings, carnivorous emergent technologies, the doors of perception yanked wide and almost off their hinges . . . put the barrel of Rajaniemi’s fiction in your mouth and blow your mind.

PRAISE FOR INVISIBLE PLANETS

  • Hannu Rajaniemi’s magnificent science fiction . . . is pure magic.” — NPR.com
  • This delightful trip into imaginative worlds brings a fresh take to timeless ideas.” — Publishers Weekly
  • The best and most original debut anthology since Angela Carter’s ‘Fireworks’ 40 years ago.” — Wall Street Journal

Pixel Scroll 5/28/17 No File For You Till You Scroll All Your Pixels

(1) THANKED AND EXCUSED. Mattie Brahan, in a non-public post, said her husband, Darrell Schweitzer, was told he won’t be needed as a Readercon 28 program participant –a piece of news Barry Longyear exaggerated in his public post as “banning”.

Readercon has been banning (“disinviting”) former guests from being guests, Darrell Schweitzer being the most recent about whom I’ve heard. I originally thought it was for political reasons (I was part of the Northern Maine Rebellion), but apparently the reason was age, experience, having been around for too long. It’s sort of like having an AA meeting and forbidding the attendance of anyone who has more than one year of sobriety….

Is it really because Schweitzer is too old? There are any number of men and women listed as part of the forthcoming Readercon program who are not young.

(2) THE FOREVER QUEUE. Io9 reports yesterday at Disneyland “Lines Snaked Through Entire Park for Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Ride Debut”.

Looks like the hype was real. Disney’s ride for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! opened at Disney’s California Adventure on Saturday… and the effects could literally be felt everywhere in the park.

The Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom also opened in Florida over the weekend. It took fans about two hours just to get into the Pandora park, and ride lines were averaging about three to four hours for rides. Hell, some people reporting three-hour lines to get into the damn gift shops. Insane amount of standing and slowly walking aside, fans seemed happy with both Mission: Breakout! and Pandora.

(3) OPEN CASTING. Yes, this needs to happen. Emily Asher-Perrin and Leah Schnelbach team up to answer “Who Could Play This Merry Fellow? Dreamcasting Tom Bombadil” at Tor.com.

Emily pointed out that there should have been a DVD extra of Bombadil material, and then, naturally, that led to a dreamcasting of Bombadil. We gave ourselves a few restrictions–these had to be people who would have fit the role in 1999-ish, when they would have been hired for The Fellowship of the Ring, and all of the actors have been cast on the assumption that supermodel Claudia Schiffer is playing Goldberry…

(4) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. As for my own attempt to cast the next Doctor Who — “Would Hayley Atwell Take The Role Of Doctor Who? Here’s What She Says”.

Hayley Atwell is frequent on fan’s most wanted lists, and while Atwell would likely kill it in the role, what does she actually think of all this? She wants that particular role to go to someone else.

I don’t want to play it. No. It’s just not my thing, but I really respect it. I’m a big fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, though. She plays the lead in Fleabag. There were talks of her being the next Doctor, and she’s so funny and eccentric and unique; she’d be great. I can’t really see anyone other than her playing it.

Appearing at Heroes and Villains Fanfest in London (via Geekfeed), Hayley Atwell made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to be the next Doctor.

(5) WHAT YOU MISSED. Chaz Boston Baden reports on his party at this weekend’s BayCon:

“A Bear’s Picnic” closed at 3:30 am, when the last four people left. As far as I know, no noise complaints were received about out party, even when Diane Osborne started singing about her rooster being dead….

Curious as to what song that might be I Googled “lyrics dead rooster” –you’d be surprised how many songs feature them.

(6) BODY WORK. Camestros Felapton went to the movies. He has posted the autopsy —“Review: Alien Covenant”.

…Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus are both variations on the theme of the original Alien. The same elements have to appear (some of which are shared with Aliens films), the horseshoe ship and the undiscovered planet and the body horror. The tone is serious and visuals are striking.

Covenant’s cast is sufficiently good and the dialogue strong enough that while the characterisation is not deep there is at least a sense of these people having some depth of character –it’s just that we don’t get to see it before they variously die horribly. Looking back at the original film, I suppose the same could have been said of it –even Ripley….

(7) FAN FILM. The Verge says “This Harry Potter prequel fan film looks even better than Fantastic Beasts” –and they’re right, it’s pretty slick.

The story follows a witch named Grisha Mac Laggen (heir to Griffindor and original character to this film), who suspects trouble when Hepzibah Smith, a descendant of the Hufflepuff family, was found murdered. The case goes cold, but Laggen suspects that there’s some sort of dark magic at play, and she believes that former Hogwarts student and future dark wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle is involved somehow. Visually, the teaser looks stunning, with visual effects and production design that feel like they fit alongside that of the official Harry Potter films.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

(9) A BIT OF FAME. Contributor Francis Hamit’s letter to the editors of TIME Magazine got a mention:

May 25, 2017

HACKING U.S. DEMOCRACY

Massimo Calabresi’s May 29 story about Russia’s use of social media to influence Americans was a reminder to be “wary of the source of that liked/upvoted social post,” wrote Sanjeev Verma of Sunnyvale, Calif. However, as Francis Hamit of Sherman Oaks, Calif., pointed out, foreign attempts to sway American politics aren’t necessarily new. “It’s just that we are finally paying attention,” he noted.

Hamit adds, “What TIME used was the tag line of a longer letter about Soviet €˜active measures’ during the Vietnam War.”

(10) SHAZAM. Adweek tells about a recent public service campaign: “Shazam Suddenly Started Forgetting Song Titles to Highlight a Little-Known Fact About Alzheimer’s”.

We’re naturally inclined to attribute human characteristics to the apps that continuously follow us around, which is part of why Siri is so amusing and Alexa so charmingly useful. But for Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam–the ability to forget…

 

The purpose of the campaign was to tell young people that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just concern seniors; it can affect people as young as 40 years old. Over 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the U.K. alone.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

(11) HUGO SHORTS. Camestros Felapton continues sharing his ballot, and the reasons therefore: “Hugo 2017: Short Story”.

  1. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.

(12) HUGO LONGS. Ethan Anderton’s Twitter robots made me look, but it was later pointed out to me that the material had been thieved from Mark Kaedrin, so here’s the direct link to Mark — “Hugo Awards: The Dark Forest and Death’s End”.

Those ideas that evoke the fabled SF goal of Sense of Wonder are what make these books work. The more sociological and philosophical aspects of the story are a little less focused and successful, leading to some inconsistency in terms of characters and pacing that perhaps make the series too long and pull the books down a peg or two. I suspect some things are lost in translation here, but this is not meant as a slight on Ken Liu (who translated the first and third books in the series), just an acknowledgement that translations naturally produce, for example, awkward dialog and pacing. I’ll put this on me too, as reading a book from another culture always presents challenges that I’ll readily admit I’m not always equal to. However, most of my complaints are far outweighed by what this series gets right, and this will rank high on my Hugo ballot, though I don’t know that it will unseat my current frontrunner (which remains Ninefox Gambit).

(13) THE DAMN DOGS DON’T LIKE IT. WIRED ponders “Why Are Colleges So Hostile to Fantasy Writers?”

For decades aspiring fantasy writers have been subjected to dismissive behavior from college professors who disparage genre literature, even though such professors often admit they’ve never actually read any fantasy or science fiction. This sort of hostility is unfortunately alive and well today, as college freshman Alina Sichevaya can attest.

“I’d heard everyone else’s horror stories, because occasionally this comes up on Twitter, and people will talk about their college experience,” Sichevaya says in Episode 257 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But I definitely wasn’t expecting such a strong response from my professor about genre fiction.”

Sichevaya says she attempted to defend fantasy, and to recommend high-quality examples to her professor, but she’s not optimistic it’ll do much good.

(14) HOW TO LOSE THE SALE. Stay away from these if you want to sell to Dave — “Dave Farland’s 10 Points to Avoid in Writing Short Fiction” at Writers of the Future.

…Seriously, though, I sometimes wish that I could explain to a young writer why I’m passing on a story. So I’m going to talk about it here.

Here are ten reasons why I reject stories quickly–usually within the first page:

  1. The story is unintelligible.Very often I’ll get submissions that just don’t make sense. Often, these seem to be non-English speakers who are way off in both the meaning of words, their context, or in their syntax, but more often it’s just clumsiness. I’ve seen college presidents who couldn’t write. But this lack of care is on a gradient scale, from “I can’t figure out what this is about” to “I don’t want to bother trying to figure this out” to “there are minor problems in this story.” For example, yesterday a promising story called a dungeon the “tombs.” Was it a mistake, or a metaphor? I don’t think it was a metaphor. The author had made too many other errors where the “almost correct” word was used.
  2. The story is unbelievable. “Johnny Verve was the smartest kid on earth, and he was only six. He was strongest one, and the most handsome, too. But the coolest part was when he found out he had magical powers!” At that point, I’m gone, and not just because there were four uses of “was” in three sentences…

(15) TROLLING. Squawks over women-only screenings of Wonder Woman in Texas.

Now unimpressed men are lambasting the idea on Facebook, claiming they are being discriminated against.

“Great, let us know when you have guys-only screenings of Thor, Spider-Man, Star Wars, etc. Let’s see you walk the walk now that you set this precedence [sic],” one man wrote.

“Very sorry if you feel excluded,” came the reply on the [Alamo DraftHouse] cinema’s official account.

(16) ALL WOUND UP. Picture of cyclones on Jupiter’s south pole: “Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter’s Poles”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter’s north and south poles.

That’s just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It’s the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet’s poles. It’s in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days.

(17) HOW TO TALK TO FILM CRITICS AT MOVIES. The BBC trashes the movie of Gaiman’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”: “This is one of the worst films ever made”.

It may seem harsh to say that How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one of the worst films ever made, given that it isn’t a cynical studio blockbuster, but an indie passion project with a budget that wouldn’t pay for the Botox on most Hollywood productions. But this shambolic punks-meet-aliens rom-com is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the acclaimed auteur behind Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s also adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, it has costumes by the triple-Oscar-winning Sandy Powell, and it features Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. If nothing else, then, it should seem vaguely professional. Instead, it’s like a shoddy school play put on by a drama teacher who thinks he’s cool for liking the Sex Pistols.

(18) MONSTROUS HIT. Carl Slaughter notes: “The Munsters wasn’t just a horror sitcom. It was a cultural phenomenon. After only 2 seasons and 70 episodes, it was buried by another cultural phenomenon: Batman.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Mark Kaedrin, Chip Hitchcock, Francis Hamit, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

LFS Special Award for Freefall, A Webcomic

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced it will give a Special Prometheus Award to the first chapter of Freefall, a webcomic by Mark Stanley.

Freefall is set on a planet in another solar system, Jean, colonized by a small number of human beings and a large number of robots. Its main characters are a squidlike intelligent alien, Sam Starfall; a robot, Helix; and a genetically enhanced humanoid wolf, Florence Ambrose. The strip is largely humorous, but a major storyline has explored the rights and legal status of created beings.

The first installment appeared on March 30, 1998. Installment 2835, on July 11, 2016, announced the completion of the first chapter, making it eligible for nomination as a completed work. (An index of all episodes can be found at http://freefall.purrsia.com/fcdex.htm.)

In addition to the annual Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Hall of Fame (Best Classic Fiction), the Libertarian Futurist Society gives a Special Award when an outstanding work with pro-freedom themes appears in a different form or medium.

Freefall, chapter one, is the first Webcomic to be honored, and the third graphic narrative work (following The Probability Broach in 2005 and Alex + Ada in 2016).

Mark Stanley will receive a plaque commemorating the award and a gold coin, “a symbol of free minds and free markets.”