Pixel Scroll 11/24/17 It’s Only 37 Pixel Scrolls To Christmas

(1) NYT NOTABLES. Here are some of the New York Times’ picks for the “100 Notable Books of 2017”.

THE BOOK OF JOAN. By Lidia Yuknavitch. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99.) In this brilliant novel, Earth, circa 2049, has been devastated by global warming and war.

THE CHANGELING. By Victor LaValle. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) LaValle’s novel, about Apollo Kagwa, a used-book dealer, blends social criticism with horror, while remaining steadfastly literary.

THE ESSEX SERPENT. By Sarah Perry. (Custom House/Morrow, $26.99.) This novel’s densely woven plot involves an independent-minded widow and the possible haunting presence of a giant serpent.

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO. By George Saunders. (Random House, $28.) In this Man Booker Prize-winning first novel by a master of the short story, Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his son Willie in 1862, and is surrounded by ghosts in purgatory.

THE POWER. By Naomi Alderman. (Little, Brown, $26.) In this fierce and unsettling novel, the ability to generate a dangerous electrical force from their bodies lets women take control, resulting in a vast, systemic upheaval of gender dynamics across the globe.

THE STONE SKY: The Broken Earth: Book Three. By N.K. Jemisin. (Orbit, paper, $16.99.) Jemisin won a Hugo Award for each of the first two novels in her Broken Earth trilogy. In the extraordinary conclusion, a mother and daughter do geologic battle for the fate of the earth.

(2) BLACK FRIDAY BONUS. Scott Edelman says, “This completely unpredicted, absolutely unanticipated, and totally unexpected new episode—with horror writers Brian Keene, Lesley Conner, Mary SanGiovanni, Damien Angelica Walters, J.P. Sloan, and Eric Hendrixson—is one I had no idea I was going to record until I was about to record it.”

Listen in to Eating the Fantastic where “Six horror writers reveal publishing realities (and more)”:

(L-R) Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Damien Angelica Walters, Lesley Conner, J.P. Sloane, Scott Edelman.

But luckily, since the group had planned to grab a bite to eat after their  panel before they hit the road, we did get to chat while breaking bread together. I was able to sit with them at a large round table in the Frederick Community College cafeteria, and as we inhaled salads and stromboli, I pushed them to share some of the brutal truths of horror publishing, the ones they didn’t reveal on the panel for fear of crushing the hopes and dreams of young, innocent, beginning writers. Which I hope you’ll feel is a good enough excuse to justify sharing the panel itself as part of the episode before that meal.

Scott adds, “The previously announced next episode with comics legend Marv Wolfman will still be uploaded December 1 as planned. I guess this one is a Black Friday bonus! Hope you had a good turkey day!”

(3) WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS. Did you finish your novel? Pam Uphoff tells you how to spend the rest of the month in “No Mo NaNo”, a rerun at Mad Genius Club.

Welcome to the last week of NaNoWriMo, where we all despair! Let me throw out some ideas that might help you get going again.

Finished? Ha! Go back a make a searchable mark (I use ///) everyplace where you told us about something instead of showing us, instead of pulling us into the situation.

Then go back to the start and search those out. Rewrite them. Use lots of dialog. Don’t be stiff and terse. Have some fun. Have your hero call something pink. Have your heroine disagree. “Don’t be silly! It’s obviously a soft dusty salmon.” “It’s a fish?” Or flip the genders on it. He’s an artist, he sees these colors. Make the reader laugh. Or cry. Or get mad.

(4) HOW INFLUENCERS PROFIT. The Guardian follows the money: “George Takei saga sheds light on the murky world of pay-to-promote news”.

News that several online media companies including Mic, Slate and Refinery29 have severed commercial ties with Star Trek actor George Takei following allegations of sexual assault has shone a light on the little-understood practice of online news sites paying celebrities to post links to their content.

Millennial-focused website Mic reported that it and five other media sites had “ended paid promotion partnerships that once had their articles and videos shared on Takei’s social media platforms” in the wake of an accusation that Takei sexually assaulted a young actor in 1981. Takei denies the claim.

Slate, Refinery29, viral site Upworthy, media brand Good and Futurism all confirmed to Mic that they had cut Takei out of their “social media influencer” networks of paid celebrities and other high-profile social media users who often have millions of followers.

…Top influencers can make $75,000 for a product post on Instagram and a staggering $185,000-plus for a plug on YouTube, according to a report in the New York Times.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman

(6) KEEP THOSE TURKEYS COMING. A.V. Club wields the drumstick: “Netflix celebrates Turkey Day by renewing Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

For MSTies, Thanksgiving is about Mitchell and Manos: The Hands Of Fate as much as it is about turkey and cranberry sauce. Yes, the traditional Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon just wrapped up its 11th edition on Shout Factory TV, and with it comes an exciting bit of news: MST3K: The Return has been renewed for a second season on Netflix! (That’s the 12th season overall, for those of you who are keeping count—which is presumably everyone reading MST3K news late at night on Thanksgiving.)

(7) OKAY. Tor.com’s Molly Templeton insists “You’ll Never Sink My Love of Battleship”.

But few movies are as simultaneously wonderful and dumb as Battleship, which is, in a very slight big dumb action movie way, a little bit subversive. Yes, it has a very pretty, hardheaded, relatively attractively frowny white guy as its lead, but it introduces him via a misguided quest for a chicken burrito and then spends the rest of the movie illustrating the many ways in which we are all doomed if he cannot take a breath and listen to other people. And fast. Battleship is two hours of exploding boats and alien frog-ship-things and some solid infrastructure damage for good measure, but it’s also two hours of international cooperation and heroics—from people who are not often the big damn heroes.

(8) EVOLUTION OF CLICKBAIT. Darwin would be proud: “Galapagos finches caught in act of becoming new species”.

This new finch population is sufficiently different in form and habits to the native birds, as to be marked out as a new species, and individuals from the different populations don’t interbreed.

Prof Butlin told the BBC that people working on speciation credit the Grant professors with altering our understanding of rapid evolutionary change in the field.

In the past, it was thought that two different species must be unable to produce fertile offspring in order to be defined as such. But in more recent years, it has been established that many birds and other animals that we consider to be unique species are in fact able to interbreed with others to produce fertile young.

“We tend not to argue about what defines a species anymore, because that doesn’t get you anywhere,” said Prof Butlin. What he says is more interesting is understanding the role that hybridisation can have in the process of creating new species, which is why this observation of Galapagos finches is so important.

(9) HEROIC UNCHASTITY. John C. Wright deconstructs Glory Road in “Fooled by Heinlein for Fourty Years”.

What if Oscar the hero had fathered a child during his one-night stand? Does a father have no moral obligations running to a child, to love, to cherish, to protect, to see to its upbringing? The mother of Moses sent her babe off in a basket down the river because the soldiers of Pharaoh were coming to kill it; but Oscar here apparently is sending his child down the river because he wishes to enjoy a momentary sexual pleasure with an unnamed woman, and because he does not wish to offend ugly customs of outlandish people.

I look at the perfect face of my own cherubic child, and I wonder, what kind of man would let his child be raised as a bastard by strangers? If the child is a daughter, will she be sent to whore around with other wondering heroes?

If the customs of the land had demanded our hero sacrifice a captive to Tezcatlipoca, would his bitchy girlfriend have brow-beaten him into doing that, too?

The bitchy girlfriend turns out to be an Empress, and she marries the hero. I must laugh. What kind of girl would marry a man (or even give him the time of day) after he has sported with harlots? How did Clytemnestra react when her husband lord Agamemnon come back from the wars, having slept with many a golden slave-girl from Illium? She killed him with an axe in the bath. Compare Heinlein with Aeschylus. Who do you think knows more about how women really act?

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A WRITER’S CAREER PATH. This new theory tries to account for what we’ve been seeing.

(12) THERE WERE NEVER SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS. And this was news to me.

(13) WEIR INTERVIEW. I think I’ve had enough of Andy Weir for awhile, but maybe you haven’t: from Reason.com, The Martian‘s Andy Weir Talks Economics (and Sex) on the Moon in Artemis: Podcast”.

“One thing we’ve learned from The Phantom Menace is don’t start a story with a dissertation of economics,” says Andy Weir, author of The Martian. Last week he released a new novel, Artemis, about a settlement on the Moon. Where The Martian, which was turned into a blockbuster starring Matt Damon, is powered by plot-driving engineering mishaps and triumphs, Artemis gave Weir a chance to unleash his inner “economics dork.” The political economy of the moon is a fascinating part of the new book, featuring guilds, crony capitalism, reputation mechanisms, a non-state quasi-currency, sex tourism, smuggling, and more.

(14) THESE AREN’T THE DRUNKS I’M LOOKING FOR. The Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn, “A Stormtrooper checks your ID at this new Star Wars-themed pop-up bar”, describes the opening of The Dark Side Bar, a pop-up bar that has opened in Washington, Manhattan, and the Chinese Theatre in LA. The idea, says creator Zach Neil, is “that you’re in a bar inside the Death Star, or a bar where a Stormtrooper would go after work and complain about how mean the Emperor was that day.”  Entertainment includes trivia nights, “alien speed dating,” and burlesque with “sexy aliens.”  But don’t expect any Skywalker cocktails or t-shirts for sale because this bar is NOT authorized by Lucasfilm.

Once you’re in, the house cocktails are not the cocktails you are looking for. The Red Force and Blue Force are college-party sugar bombs — the latter is Hendricks Gin, blue curacao and a sugar rim — with glow-in-your-glass ice cubes. The Imperial sounds promising, with spiced rum, maple syrup, lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper, but it was as balanced as the Force at the end of “Revenge of the Sith.” You’re better off ordering a regular cocktail or a can of DC Brau.

(15) ERADICATOR OF ERROR. Wonder Woman drops some knowledge in Galsplaining with Gal Gadot.

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

Sci-Fi Roundup for November 24

Compiled by Carl Slaughter. (1) The Joss Whedon Wonder Woman movie that wasn’t (fortunately). ScreenRant reveals “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Joss Whedon’s Canceled Wonder Woman Movie”.

  1. Cobie Smulders was (maybe) going to be Wonder Woman

Whedon ended his post announcing that his involvement with Wonder Woman was over by saying, “Finally and forever: I never had an actress picked out, or even a consistent front-runner. I didn’t have time to waste on casting when I was so busy air-balling on the script.

However, in a post-script, he mentions, facetiously or not, that he was looking at Cobie Smulders for the role. We mention this not because we think it was actually going to shake out that way, but because we think that, jokes aside, that would have been some solid casting. We love Gal Godot’s take, but we would have also loved Smulders’ version.

Whedon eventually directed Smulders in his Avengers movies, so at least that worked out.

(2) Another ScreenRant list: “15 things you completely missed in the Punishe”

  1. Pete Castiglione

If you thought the alias Frank Castle took on to hide his identity sounded familiar, there’s a good reason for that. It’s his family’s given name in the comics.

As immigrants came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century to gain citizenship to the United States, many surnames were changed to be simpler for officials to spell or pronounce. (Ever wondered why there are so many “Smiths” in the U.S.?) The Castiglione family came to the States from Italy, but upon arrival, their name became the simpler Castle.

Of course, the name does pop up in alternate timelines and “What If” comic book stories as well where the family didn’t change their name.

It was also revealed in more recent comics that there are other members of the Castiglione family in the U.S. besides Frank Castle, but they’ve all been living under assumed names. Maybe Frank still has some family out there in the MCU as well.

(3) Discover “15 superpowers you never knew the Punisher had” at ScreenRant.

  1. Invulnerability to the Penance Stare

Ghost Rider has some of the coolest superpowers, both known and unknown. By far his most powerful is the Penance Stare. By making eye contact the Rider can force someone to experience all the pain they’ve ever caused anyone while simultaneously reliving every painful memory they’ve ever had.

The end result is your eyeballs catching fire, insanity, death and, in some special cases, spontaneous combustion. To say the least it is not a pleasant experience. There are only a few in a existence immune to Ghost Rider’s deadly glare, and Frank Castle is one of them.

You would think if anyone was to feel the repercussions of the Penance Stare it would be the Punisher. After all he has brutally killed millions of people in any number of excruciating ways. Remember, the time he shot Wolverine in the face and groin? You just know that had to hurt.

Yet amazingly the Punisher was unaffected when he locked eyes with Ghost Rider. Why? Because he feels no guilt for the suffering he’s caused his victims. That’s badass. Realize for a second that the Penance Stare once brought Galactus to his knees. It didn’t even make the Punisher blink.

(4) Marvel Heroes players demand refund. ScreenRant reports: “Marvel Heroes Players Are Demanding Refunds Since It’s Shutting Down”

Fans of Marvel Heroes are not happy with the announcement of the game’s closure, and have begun to demand refunds for purchases made. Disney confirmed that the free-to-play RPG was being closed down earlier this week, with the company officially planning to shut the game down at the end of December and bringing with it the end of its relationship with developer Gazillion.

(5) 15 trivia facts about the Upside Down world of Stranger Things courtesy of ScreenRant.

  1. Eleven may be the first person to have encountered it

In season 1, we get multiple glimpses of Hawkins Lab’s cruel, torturous methods of training Eleven to cross dimensions and space in order to learn confidential information. However, during one of her sensory deprivation attempts, it isn’t a government entity or foreign message that Eleven comes across, but rather, the Demogorgon itself.

It’s in this expansive, black, void-like space that Eleven first encounters the Demogorgon and presumably the suggestion of the Upside Down with it. Further, she even comes into physical contact with the monster, perhaps establishing a physical link between the two.

Yet, while this is the first sign of the Upside Down’s existence (or creation?) that we are given, we still have no real idea about what this jarring moment suggests. Did the Upside Down exist before this point in time? Did the Demogorgon? Or was Eleven’s interference in the breach somehow responsible for their creation?

(6) ScreenRant fills in the blanks — “Star Wars: 15 Things You Never Knew Happened Between Episodes 3 And 4”.

  1. Han Solo Marries… someone who isn’t Leia

One of the most surprising moments in the Star Wars comics set after A New Hope was when a female smuggler showed up claiming to be the wife of Han Solo. Perhaps Leia wasn’t always the woman for him…

The backstory for this goes back to Han’s early days as a smuggler, long before that fateful cantina meeting in Mos Eisley. A crime lord had become known for double-crossing spice smugglers, and a gang of such smugglers devised a plan to get revenge. As part of this con, two of the gang – Han Solo and Sana Starros – had to have a marriage ceremony.

So it wasn’t exactly a marriage of love, and it wasn’t even completely legitimate. But that didn’t stop it being incredibly awkward when “Sana Solo” later crossed paths with Han and Princess Leia.

(7) Paranormal Action Squad pilot.  Think Ghost Busters meets Scoobie Doo with a bit of Futurama.

(8) Bizarre movies coming out in 2018.

(9) Movies that will blow everyone away in 2019.

(10) Jason Isaacs and Shazad Latif talk about Discovery at Den of Geek: “Jason Isaacs & Shazad Latif interview: Star Trek Discovery”

What was your relationship to Star Trek before you were cast?

Shazad Latif: My granddad was obsessed with it, my uncle had every episode on VHS. I grew up with TNG, which was on after Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.

Jason Isaacs: Yeah I’m so much older than you. I watched the original series when I was a kid, crammed on the couch with my brothers and parents. We always argued about which of the existing three channels we should watch, but we never argued when Star Trek was on, so I watched TOS on repeat many many times and I’ve watched nothing since then. None of the other series.

(11) It’s not a prop, it’s not a trinket. “Star Trek fans: Live your best life with this Bluetooth communicator”

However, there is one piece of merchandise that hovers above the rest — possibly because it literally looks like it fell straight out of the show’s set. The Star Trek Bluetooth communicator is the thing that fans never knew they needed.

The Bluetooth communicator seriously looks like an exact replica of the one from the original series. The attention to detail can be attributed to the fact that it was designed using a literal 3D scan of one of the last remaining communicator props. To boost the authenticity even more, it features 20 voice clips and conversation fragments from the show. Who else can say they can have a conversation with Spock when they’re bored?

Pixel Scroll 11/23/17 Secondfox Scrollbit In My Pixelmoth

(1) JURASSIC PEEK. Colin Trevorrow, co-writer of Jurassic World: Hidden Kingdom, sent out a tweet with the first six seconds of this 2018 film.

(2) AT THE CORE. James Davis Nicoll says there are “Twenty Core Urban Fantasies Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. They include —

(3) SANTA’S VENGEANCE. Naomi Kritzer has a very handy list: “Gifts For People You Hate, 2017”. You’ll love the wine-holder. It would be unfair of me to gank the picture, so hurry there to gaze upon it.

…Sometimes you’re shopping for a gift because it’s worth that $15 to keep the peace and even though you know that, you resent every moment trying to figure out what would please this person. And that’s where my shopping guide comes in! Free yourself from the burden of trying to make an asshole happy, and embrace the idea of giving them something that won’t.

There are certain basic principles that apply every year. It should be cheap, but untraceably cheap. (Buying them a hand-crocheted who-knows-what for $2 at a thrift shop and pretending it came from a craft show is a terrific idea but you will need to make sure it looks new and doesn’t have that distinctive, identifiable Smell Of Savers wafting from it.) It should be easy to get, and it should look like a gift you might honestly have picked out because you thought they’d like it….

… There are a whole lot of terrible movies in this ad. Based on the Rotten Tomato ratings, it looks like Fifty Shades Darker is probably the absolute worst of any of the movies in here, but I do not recommend giving it to your mother-in-law, especially if there is any chance that she’ll pop it in while you’re still visiting. Warcraft is also supposed to be pretty terrible and the best anyone can say about the Angry Birds movie is that it’s better than you’d expect of a movie based on this video game. If you’re willing to splurge $8, The Emoji Movie (shown in a different section of the ad) was heavily regarded as the worst movie of 2017. For $10, you can get it on Blue-Ray!

(4) REUSED ARTWORK. Walter Jon Williams discovered a piece of cover art that is awfully popular.

John Scalzi sent me the cover of the Italian edition of his novel The Collapsing Empire, which may look just a little bit familiar to you.  It uses the same piece of stock art (by Innovari) that I used for my own editions, ebook and paperback, of Angel Station.

Furthermore, I know of at least one other ebook that’s using that piece of art….

(5) CRAFT TIME. She did it herself: “A Real Wonder Woman Spends 50 Hours And $30 On Crafting This Costume From A Cheap Yoga Mat And Duct Tape”.

Some superheroes inspire people to get super crafty. Australian makeup artist and children’s party entertainer Rhylee Passfield took inspiration from everyone’s now-favorite female superhero, Wonder Woman, and using a yoga mat, duct tape, and a little magic from a heat gun, she created a wonderful costume.

“Basically, I started by duct-taping myself”, the artist explained the process to the Daily Mail Australia. “Then I cut out a pattern from the duct tape form, copied it onto a Kmart yoga mat and glued it together using contact adhesive.”

(6) BEYOND PRONOUNS. The BBC observes from across the Channel how “‘Sexist’ inclusive writing row riles France”.

The French, as is well known, are obsessed by one thing – language.

The latest topic to consume a nation of lexicologists is “inclusive writing”.

This is the attempt to erase all trace of sexism in a language where gender is a central feature – French nouns are either masculine or feminine, dictating all adjectives and some verbal forms (a point that is sometimes made painfully clear to foreigners who happen to get those wrong).

In such a charged linguistic context, the fight for sex equality is not exactly new. In recent decades the names of traditionally male professions have been feminised.

French people now often talk about “la juge” or “la ministre”. Many writers add an etymologically daring “e” to “professeure” or “auteure”.

But supporters of “inclusive writing” go further. They want to expunge any vestige of male chauvinism from the language of Molière.

…The Académie française – which, contrary to legend, not every French person regards as the final arbiter in those things – pronounced that inclusive writing constituted a “mortal danger” for the language.

(7) LEST WE RUN OUT OF ENGLISH. “Twenty-six words we don’t want to lose”:

Now, Paul Anthony Jones has compiled 366 ‘forgotten words’ in his new book The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities. It has a different phrase for every day of the year (including 29 February) – with entries ranging from ‘ambilaevous’, or ‘equally clumsy in both hands’, to ‘stirrup-cup’, ‘one last drink before a departure’. While it offers titillation for the curious mind, it also serves a more noble purpose – retrieving words from languishing unread and unspoken.

Lingo lovers

In September, academics in Britain uncovered 30 words ‘lost’ from the English language: researchers spent three months looking through old dictionaries to find them, in the hope they could bring the words back into modern conversations.

Purist Chip Hitchcock, who provided the link, adds: “I’ve sent a complaint about their referring to Smoot’s ‘attempt’ to measure the Harvard Bridge.”

(8) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. Superversive SF, seeking new lows to descend to, harassed K. Tempest Bradford with remarks like this —

Bradford responded with a long tweet soliloquy worth a look. While there doesn’t seem to be an individual tweet that links to the whole exchange, they aren’t difficult to find on her page.

(9) JUSTUS OBIT. Meg Justus (1959-2017), who published supernatural historicals as MM Justus died November 22 of cancer. Prior to her death she prepared this obituary for her blog:

But Meg’s true passions were writing and travel. She published a number of books under the moniker M.M. Justus. She liked to say what she wrote was 90% history and 10% fantasy, set in the Old West. Due to her background she was a stickler about getting the history right, and her books were set in places she’d traveled to herself. Her travels included two long trips of multiple months each; the first was documented in the travel memoir Cross-Country.

She liked to call herself a professional dilettante. Her other passions included quilting and other needlework, gardening, meteorology, and wild plant identification, especially wildflowers.

Meg is survived by her three older sisters, Susan Moore, Nancy Nowell, and Ann Mattas, her best friend of 52 years Jan Hanken, who was the sister she should have had, and more wonderful friends than she ever expected to make.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 – The first Doctor Who aired in the UK.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff

(12) FLAT EARTH. Will he wind up flatter than the Earth? “‘I Don’t Believe In Science,’ Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket”.

On Saturday, a limousine driver plans to launch himself on a mile-long flight over the Mojave Desert in a rocket of his own making.

His name is “Mad” Mike Hughes, his steam-powered rocket is built of salvaged metals, his launch pad is repurposed from a used mobile home — and he is confident this will mark the first step toward proving the Earth is flat, after all.

“It’s the most interesting story in the world,” Hughes told The Associated Press of his jury-rigged quest to overturn more than two millennia of scientific knowledge. And the whole thing is costing him just $20,000, according to the AP. (It goes without saying, but we’ll say this anyway: Do not try this at home — or anywhere.)

“I don’t believe in science,” Hughes added. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.”

(13) THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES. Or so it looks from space: “Earth Is Lit, And That’s A Problem”

The ever-widening use of artificial lights is making the nighttime Earth glow increasingly brighter, with the amount of global light growing about 2 percent each year.

That worries advocates for the protection of dark skies, who say that artificial night glow can affect wildlife like migrating birds and keeps people from connecting to the stars. What’s more, they say, all that wasted light sent out into space is effectively wasted money.

The findings are in a new study in the journal Science Advances that used five years of data from a satellite launched in 2011. This satellite has an instrument that gives scientists a more reliable way to measure nighttime light than they’ve had in the past.

(14) GLOBAL WARMING WITH THAT? “Deep fat fryers may help form cooling clouds”

Fatty acids released into the air from cooking may contribute to the formation of clouds that cool the climate, say scientists.

Fatty acid molecules comprise about 10% of fine particulates over London, and such particles help seed clouds.

But researchers dismiss the idea that cooking fats could be used as a geo-engineering tool to reduce warming.

Instead, the research is designed to help reduce uncertainties about the role of cooking fats on climate.

Researchers believe the fatty molecules arrange themselves into complex 3-D structures in atmospheric droplets.

These aerosols persist for longer than normal and can seed the formation of clouds which experts say can have a cooling effect on the climate.

(15) MR. MEMORY. Little Brother is watching, too: “More than 480 web firms record ‘every keystroke'”.

Hundreds of web firms are tracking every single keystroke made by visitors, a study from Princeton University has suggested.

The technique – known as session replay – is used by companies to gain an understanding of how customers use websites.

More than 480 websites used the technique, according to the study.

Experts questioned the legality of using such software without user consent.

“These scripts record your keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behaviour, along with the entire contents of the pages you visit, and send them to third-party servers,” the researchers said in a blog.

(16) ARTS AND SCIENCES. From BBC we learn, “World’s only particle accelerator for art is back at the Louvre”.

The world’s only particle accelerator used regularly in the analysis of art has gone back into use at the Louvre museum in Paris.

The accelerator has been rebuilt to allow it to investigate paintings without risking damage to the artworks.

The upgrade cost €2.1m (£1.8m; $2.5m). The machine is 37m (88ft) long.

Paintings were rarely analysed with earlier versions of the accelerator because of fears that the particle beam might change the colours.

(17) TODAY’S LYRIC. Dave Hutchinson, author of the Fractured Europe trilogy and the Tor.com novella Acadie, broke out in song – with emphasis on the broke,

(18) FILE MAINTENANCE. If you’re not getting comment notifications from File770.com, it may be possible that you have hit the individual thread comment subscription limit. Not that I really know about how comment notifications work — I have no control over it, and just use what Jetpack provides.

However, there are Filers who have gone into their WP dashboard and deleted a bunch of subscriptions, or have abandoned individual thread subscriptions and just turned on “All Comments for File 770,” and reported afterwards that they’re getting notifications again. So if you are having this problem, give it a whirl.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

FANAC Fan History Project Update 4

From the press release by Joe Siclari

“Keeping You Abreast of the Past”

November 20, 2017

Here are some highlights of the last 6 months:

Fan History Spotlight: Nearly everyone has heard of the Cosmic Circle and Claude Degler’s notorious fannish exploits in the ‘40s. If you haven’t, check the article at Fancyclopedia.org. However, few people have ever read the original “writings” by him, or the reports that fans wrote about him. This last summer, we added a section with over 40 of his original pubs and the investigations by T. Bruce Yerke and Jack Speer. (See http://fanac.org/fanzines/Cosmic_Circle_Pubs/)

Access: We’re trying some new ways to keep you aware of what we have online. Providing a bit more quick information has been a priority. On our Fanzine Index pages, you can now find the number of issues that we have online for that title. The last column will tell whether it is New, Complete or Updated. Another item is our Newszine Directory started last year. It’s a chronological list of all the Newszines (2,338) we have so far on FANAC.org. If you want to know the S-F and fan news of any given period, you can navigate directly to that month. The first ones are from way back in 1938 and the last in 2011. Finally, at the end of this FANAC Update, we provide direct online links to everything mentioned.

FANAC Fan History Project website: We keep adding more Newszines as we acquire them. In the last month, thanks to Richard Lynch, we’ve added a run of Chat, the Tennessee newsletter edited by Nicki & Dick Lynch in the early 1990s. We have been continually uploading issues of Mike Glyer’s File 770. Mark Olson has scanned dozens of them.

Since our last Update, we have added about 250 other pubs with “news from the past”. These issues come from 19 different titles. We are doing a lot to fill-in the runs of different zines. Unfortunately there are some issues I just can’t find or don’t have. Here’s where I need your help. If you can provide missing issues (zines, scans, even photocopies), please let me know. In particular, right now, I’m looking for:

Jack Speer’s Stefnews #58 (1946)
Merv Binns’ Australian SF News #1, 2 (1978), 47 & 48 (c1989)
Taurasi’s Fantasy Times #3 (1941)

Laney: We’ve added multitudes of material. Francis Towner Laney’s notorious memoir, Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, is the most requested item and it’s now online, plus lots of material about FTL in FanHistorica.

FAPA: So is Dick Eney’s A Sense of FAPA, a huge sensational historical anthology of fannish writings (nearly 400 pages), with contributors such as James Blish, Redd Boggs, Charles Burbee, Joe Kennedy, F. Towner Laney, John Michel, P. Schuyler Miller, Milt Rothman, Bill Rotsler, Jack Speer, Harry Warner, Jr., Donald A. Wollheim, C. S. Youd (John Christopher) and many others from the Fantasy Amateur Press Association.

LASFS:  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society has given us permission to put their primary publications Shangri-LA and both runs of Shangri-L’Affaires online. So far, we have added 20 issues from the 40s and 50s, with many more to come.

Mirage: We’ve also been given permission to put Jack Chalker’s Hugo nominated fanzine, Mirage online. Mirage was one of the best sercon zines of its time.

FANAC Fan History YouTube Channel: We have over 50 videos/audios online at YouTube! In the last week or so, we put up a Harry Harrison talk (1971 Eastercon) on “Stonehenge and Sex”. It includes a roaringly funny discourse on the introduction of sex into science fiction stories in the 60s, with anecdotes about well-loved authors and editors including Brian Aldiss, Mack Reynolds, Ted Carnell and George O. Smith.  He also talks about the filming of an editorial lunch with John Campbell, and just how much of the iconic fiction of the classic Astounding Magazine was intimately shaped by John.

We keep adding great recordings and subscribers get first notice. We’re over 180 subscribers and nearly 18,000 views, with 3 pieces having over 1000 views. It’s heartening that even for the less viewed videos, many get an intense response from their audience. As always, if you have audio or video material that we might use, please let us know.

FANCYCLOPEDIA 3: This is our encyclopedia (yours and ours), so we hope you are using it (and adding to it!). Going to a convention this year? Read about the “first conventions”. Want to know more about famous fans, infamous fans (see Degler above), convention facts, clubs in your area, or fanspeak (the jargon of our people)? It’s all there. But is your local club or convention listed? If not, contribute an article (or the beginnings of an article). It’s easy. Just follow the instructions on Fancyclopedia.org.

Outreach for Fan History: FANAC has a Fan History Project Table at conventions whenever we can. In February, we will be at Boskone 55 in Boston and we will be at Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

FANAC was at Balticon earlier this year. The Fan Lounge Discussions we helped organize were well attended and great fun. You can listen to the Steven Brust/Geri Sullivan discussion on the raucous history of Minneapolis fandom on our YouTube channel (link below). Most recently, we were at Philcon this month. In addition to showcasing our history project websites, we have been showing selected fannish artifacts, including fanzines, original art, convention publications, and video and audio recordings from as far back as the 1940s.

When you next see our table, come say hello and help us preserve and promote our fan history. Take a sticker for your badge and/or your contributor ribbon. Bookmark http://fanac.org and click on What’s New every week to find our most recent additions.

As we keep saying, this is a community effort and we can only say “Thanks” to those of you who have helped us make our Fan History websites successful over the years. We’re continually adding to our contributors list. We have 248 of you listed so far and adding more as we update our older files. If you DO want to let people know you are a contributor, ask for our “I Help Save Fan History” ribbon. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fanacproject/

We’ve added more: Photos, fanzines, and convention publications, video and audio recordings, and Fancyclopedia entries.  We provide information for fans, academic researchers, fan writers, and film documentaries. We’ve made some changes to the website to make it easier to use, with more to come.

Those who don’t know fan history may not be condemned to repeat it, but those that do know that Carl Brandon is not dead! Thanks for your interest our mutual fan history.

Regards…Joe Siclari

Sci-Fi Roundup for November 23

Compiled by Carl Slaughter. (1) From about 30 seconds to about 1 minute and 45 seconds is delicious verbal sparing between Aquaman and Batman that I haven’t seen in any other trailer.  And no battlefield screaming and grunting and no accent, so everything Aquaman says is easy to understand.

(2) Justice League cast interview.

(3) Aquaman story trimmed in Justice League. ScreenRant says “Justice League Reshoots Erased Aquaman’s Mythology”.

… Remember when Willem Dafoe was revealed as Vulko, the citizen of Atlantis who watches over Arthur in the comics, grooming him to one day take over the crown as the people’s king? Well, some predicted his role in Justice League was in serious jeopardy when his character was included on an official poster… crudely hidden behind Amber Heard’s Mera (no editing, that is the real poster above).

The early seeds of that lifelong link to Atlantis were expected before Dafoe joined the solo Aquaman movie, and according to Momoa, that’s exactly what Snyder originally filmed:

“What Zack and I did, we were kind of trying to establish that he was taken down there as a boy, and he was an outcast, he was a half-breed. And he was built up as a young boy because he was fed all these ideas by Vulko – that he was the rightful king. And he gets down there and he’s a half breed, he’s impure, and I’m just made to feel like I’m this disease. So after that, I was like, ‘F*** you, f*** you, I’m on my own.’

That’s not the only key piece of Aquaman’s original Justice League arc, but his emotional turn (thanks to Diana’s lasso) still arguably relies on this groundwork being laid beforehand. Now, let’s take a step into the real mythology….

(4) No Zack Snyder director’s cut for Justice League. ScreenRant tells why in “Don’t Expect a Zack Snyder Cut of Justice League”.

While it’s true that Snyder did all pre-production and principal photography, a close (or casual, in some cases) look at Justice League will show that his influence didn’t extend much farther. Thanks to some wonky green screen work, and awkward CGI upper lip on Henry Cavill, and alternate versions of scenes from the trailers, it’s fairly easy to pick apart the fingerprints on the final product, and Whedon’s imprint is clearly far more than advertised, with only a shot or two (and next to no dialogue) of Snyder’s Superman remaining. The leak of a few deleted scenes show even more that Snyder’s version included far more fleshed out backstories and a darker, higher contrast color grade. It makes sense that fans are petitioning for a Zack Snyder cut of the movie

(5) Justice League deleted scenes.

(6) Geez, how many Justice League clips are there?

(7) Brutal Punisher moments Netflix won’t show you.

(8) Marvel’s New Warriors Pulled Might Go to Other Networks

A Visit with Robby the Robot

By Steve Vertlieb: With the most beloved robot in movie history…the original “Robby, The Robot” from Forbidden Planet. Robby and I met at film director William Malone’s home and, for me, this was a lifelong dream come true. Robby captured my childhood imagination in 1956 when I was just ten years old, and I couldn’t stop grinning when I saw him in person. Bill has offered Robby to the world once more, and this beloved robot has been sold during a bidding selection offered through Bonham’s and Turner Classic Movies. I am forever indebted to Bill Malone for allowing me to spend precious moments with our beloved Robby at his home several summers ago.

I was as giddy and as excited as a star struck ten-year-old (my age when I first encountered Robby in “Forbidden Planet” at the Benner Theater in 1956) when I met “Robby, The Robot” in person in August, 2014. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and befriend many of my lifelong heroes over the past seventy-odd years, but few were able to generate the excitement and little boy wonder I felt when actually standing next to and touching my beloved “Robby” three summers ago in Los Angeles.

Pixel Scroll 11/22/17 By Jove, Who Scrolled The Quartz Monkey Pixel Fudge?

(1) WORLDCON 76 HOTEL RESERVATIONS. Worldcon 76 emailed the passkey to members today and opened reservations today at 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The Marriott and the Hilton, the two hotels directly connected to the CC, and the least expensive of the official hotels, almost immediately became unavailable, presumably due to being booked up.

The Fairmont, the party hotel ($199/night), The Hyatt Place, Westin and The AC Hotel by Marriott remain available on the convention dates (Thursday-Monday) at this writing. However, when I added Wednesday to my request, only The Fairmont was available.

(2) NEW “NOTHING TO READ” UPDATE. North Carolina schoolteacher Becky Sasala (sister of John Joseph Adams) has received hundreds of donated books for her classroom library since her appeal was posted in September (item #2).

Updated classroom library. #englishteacher

A post shared by Becky Donovan Sasala (@becky_sasala) on

(3) NEW HUMBLE BOOK BUNDLE. The “Humble Book Bundle: Stellar Sci-Fi & Fantasy by Tachyon” is offered for a short time at the usual pay-what-you-want rates. Pay more, unlock more books.

$1+

  • Falling In Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (World Fantasy Award Winner)
  • The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
  • Invaders by Junot Diaz, Katherine Dunn, Jonathan Lethem, contributors
  • Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

$8+

  • The Very Best of Kate Elliott
  • The Very Best of Tad Williams
  • Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts
  • Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology by John Kessel, James Patrick Kelly, contributors
  • Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

$15+

  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror by Stephen King, Clive Barker, George R. R. Martin, contributors
  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Locus Award Winner)
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick (Hugo Award Winner)
  • Hap and Leonard Ride Again by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Hugo Award Winner)

$18+

  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Campbell Award Winner)
  • Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress (Nebula Award Winner)
  • Led Astray: The Best of Kelly Armstrong
  • Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter Beagle, Jacob Weisman, contributors

(4) SPEED SHOPPING. Pornokitch’s 2017 gifting guide begins with Becky Chambers’ suggestions:

Becky recommends:

If they need a laugh after this garbage fire of a year, then get them season one of The Good Place, because we’re all messy humans, we’re all caught up in stupid systems beyond our control, and we all could use some frozen yogurt.

If they’re still ride or die for Game of Thrones while simultaneously nursing a bitter resentment over how much better this show could do by its female characters, then get them the Skyrim Special Edition and let them live their own high fantasy adventure. It’s got all the time-sucking goodness of the original game, but the art’s gloriously remastered, the DLC’s unlocked, and the bugs are (mostly) fixed.

If they aren’t religious but love the winter holidays for symbolizing love and kindness in the face of the freezing dark, then give them The Bonobo and the Atheist by primatologist Frans de Waal. It’s a thought-provoking, perspective-altering, brain-calming book about compassion as natural instinct….

(5) PIXAR EXEC PLACED ON “SABBATICAL”. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Disney animation guru John Lasseter takes leave after sexual misconduct allegations” follows up The Hollywood Reporter piece about John Lasseter being sidelined on sexual harassment allegations by noting that Lasseter is “one of the most important figures in modern entertainment…in charge of hundreds of people, making discipline a more fraught affair.”

Citing a six-month “sabbatical,” Lasseter closed the letter to employees saying he looked forward to “working together again in the new year.”

It remains unclear whether Disney could extend the leave or make it permanent. The company released a short statement late Tuesday saying that it is “committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

…The Hollywood Reporter piece cited one woman as saying Lasseter was prone to “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Another woman said that Lasseter’s statement Tuesday that centered on hugs minimized the alleged offenses. Many of the accusers were anonymous.

The story said that the writer-actor Rashida Jones had left “Toy Story 4” because of Lasseter’s behavior. But she and writing partner Will McCormack later issued a statement that “we did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances.  That is untrue.” They said instead that diversity concerns played a role. “There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films.  But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice,” they wrote.

(6) BLABBING FOR DOLLARS. SyFy Wire says “J.J. Abrams is selling Star Wars spoilers for a good cause”.

When J.J. Abrams directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was his usual secretive self right up until the end. But something seems to have changed in the Star Wars/J.J. Abrams universe since he was tapped to direct Star Wars Episode IX. He’s now selling Star Wars spoilers to the highest bidder.

After Ron Howard’s masterful use of social media when it came to getting fans engaged with Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy announced a shift in the company’s attitude toward sharing more information with the fans, and we even saw a verified Twitter handle pop up for Abrams (no tweets yet, but we remain hopeful), but J.J.’s appearance on HBO’s Night of Too Many Stars definitely qualifies as a new development.

To help raise money for autism, J.J. offered up the plot of Star Wars Episode IX to one lucky bidder. What happened next? Well, you’ll just have to watch….

(7) UNLIKELY PAIR. Yahoo! Entertainment writer Gwynne Watkins, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: 7 things we just learned”, summarized  the Entertainment Weekly issue devoted to the film, and says that a reunion between Luke and Leia is highly unlikely and General Leia’s successor is her childhood friend Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern.

One of the biggest questions for longtime Star Wars fans is whether estranged twins Luke and Leia will find one another in The Last Jedi, since Carrie Fisher died before shooting any scenes for Episode IX. (Lucasfilm has said they will not digitally recreate the character to conclude her storyline.) EW won’t say either way, but their coverage suggests that a reunion may have been planned for the third part of the trilogy, which is slated for 2019 and hasn’t begun production. Nevertheless, director Rian Johnson chose to pair Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia on one of EW‘s four covers. “It’s nice seeing them on the cover though. Even if all we have is that,” Johnson told the magazine.

(8) PROP WORTH MORE THAN MOVIE. After Bonham auctioned Robby the Robot for over $5.3M, Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia did a little checking —

According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true!), the movie cost $1,968,000. It took in $2,765,000 at the box office. So Robby alone has earned nearly double what the film earned.

(9) TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES FOR FORTY THOUSAND BUCKS, Another sff treasure sold at yesterday’s auction was “A Harper Goff scrapbook pertaining to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, for $40,000 including premium.

“Forget Robby,” says Andrew Porter. “Click on images to see gorgeous preproduction paintings and behind-the-camera photos.”

Titled “A history in informal photography,” this is production designer Harper Goff’s personal scrapbook documenting every stage of the making of his masterpiece, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is a mother lode of original artwork, rare photographs, and ephemera from the film, curated throughout with Goff’s handwritten captions. Goff’s original art in this lot includes an incredible series of 5 vividly-colored, action-packed sequential paintings of the submarine Nautilus’ attack on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(10) PHOENIX EVENT CANCELLED. From Nerdvana we learn — “LepreCon 44 cancels 2018 Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo”.

The Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 16-18, 2018, in conjunction with and presented by LepreCon 44, is apparently canceled — but may be retooled.

…According to the group’s Facebook page and website, “LepreCon 44, in the form of the Phoenix Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 2018 at the Unexpected Art Gallery, has been cancelled. LepreCon, Inc. is no longer associated with any event of that name.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. Dominic Winter Auctioneers will be handling the sale of The Library Of Richard Adams on  December 14. The catalog is now available in print and online.

Comprising 1500 books sold singly and in groups in a total of 134 lots, the antiquarian highlights include a Shakespeare Second Folio, 1632, a uniformly calf-bound set of the first editions of Jane Austen, a very rare first edition of John Milton’s Lycidas, 1638, and a two-volume first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, 1755. Among the highlights of the children’s books are first editions of Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and the four Winnie-the-Pooh books. Adams’s deep interest in the history of English literature, poetry, nineteenth-century fiction and country matters is also reflected throughout the collection, many of the highlights of which bear his bookplate.

(12) COCO. NPR’s Bob Mondello says: “In ‘Coco,’ Pixar Finds Joyous Life — In Death”

We get there alongside young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who lives with his shoemaking family in a Mexican village. He’s a happy kid, except for one thing: His family has lived an entirely music-free existence for three generations. His grandmother (Renee Victor) has forbidden it all — no blowing into soda bottles, no listening to passing car radios and absolutely no mariachis.

Miguel knows why. Years ago, his musical great-great-grandfather grabbed his guitar and left, never to return. On Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead — when it’s said the deceased return to visit their families, no one so much as mentions great-great-granddad. Which means Miguel gets a bit of a shock when he strums a guitar in a cemetery on that day and finds himself and his street puppy Dante — get it? — transported to the land of the dead.

(13) TANZER REVIEWED. NPR’s Jason Sheehan approves of subtlety: “‘Creatures Of Will And Temper’ Is A Slow-Burn Slide Into Deviltry”

The biggest problem with most urban fantasy is that, by nature, it becomes alternate history. It’s Renaissance Italy, but with vampires. Or Victorian England, but everyone wears cool goggles and has an airship!

And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are stories out there that have done wonders with their skewed versions of our shared past. I’m just saying it’s rare for a writer to be able to do one (insert a fantasy element into a historical setting) without doing the other (letting the dragons eat the townsfolk, thereby giving rise to Bert the Dragonbasher, hero of West Crudwell, or whatever). And when someone pulls it off as well as Molly Tanzer in her new novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, it’s worth checking out just to see the restraint and careful worldbuilding gymnastics required.

Honestly, if that was the only thing Tanzer accomplished here, I’d be impressed. She has created a Victorian England which is, in all noticeable ways, exactly the Victorian England we know — the mother of our modern world, by turns smoky, smutty, gross and backward, then beautiful, wondrous and louche with the turn of a corner. And yet, embedded in it — woven so closely into the fabric of normalcy that almost no one can see it — Tanzer has given us … demons.

(14) DON’T SPARE THE ROD. John W. Campbell would have been thrilled to hear it: “U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods To Find Pipes”.

Most of the major water companies in the United Kingdom use dowsing rods — a folk magic practice discredited by science — to find underwater pipes, according to an Oxford Ph.D. student and science video producer who accidentally discovered the practice is still in use.

Ten out of the U.K.’s 12 regional water and sewer utilities confirmed to Sally Le Page that they at least occasionally use dowsing rods, also known as divining rods or “witching sticks,” to locate underground water sources. Many of the companies later emphasized that dowsing is done by individuals, not as a company-wide policy, and that it does not cost any money.

Le Page began asking water companies about the practice after her parents told her that they saw a water technician holding “two bent tent pegs” to decide how much of the road needed to be closed off. Le Page was incredulous and started asking water companies if this was an actual practice they used.

(15) FREQUENT VISITOR. It’s been in and out of Europe multiple times: “Plague reached Europe by Stone Age”.

Plague was present in Europe during the late Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains.

Writing in Current Biology journal, researchers suggest the deadly bacterium entered Europe with a mass migration of people from further east.

They screened more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the full genomes of plague bacteria from six individuals.

These six variously date to between Late Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

The plague-positive samples come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

“The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest plague-positive samples published. They are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia],” co-author Alexander Herbig from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.

The plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, was responsible for several major historic pandemics, including the infamous Black Death in the 14th Century, which is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrinbuting editor of the day Kip W.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.

I LOVED IT!

Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

AggieCon Will Skip A Year

Cepheid Variable, the Texas A&M University student group that hosts AggieCon, says university has requested that the convention take a year off. No explanation was given for the request.

The group, which says AggieCon is the oldest, largest student-run fan convention in the world, will host AggieCon 49 at the Hilton College Station & Conference Center over the March 22-24 weekend in 2019. The past two cons were held at the Brazos County Expo Complex.

They concluded, “Sadly, this means there will be no convention in 2018, but the good news is that this allows us to put together a bigger and better convention for 2019.”

How Robby the Robot Was Salvaged

By Alan White: Pretty cool about Robby the Robot going for millions.

I wrote about this in Delineator so long ago, and just wanted to add a bit to the story FYI.

The Uncle Simon head.

Following the MGM auction in 1970, I was working for Ed “Big Daddy” Roth at “Movieworld” in Buena Park.

After the dust had settled on the auction, the owners bought scavenging rights for the MGM lot.

I think they paid $10,000 for anything they could haul out of there. This was only a few weeks prior to the whole place being bulldozed for condos and stuff.

The owner, Jimmy Brucker, Ed Roth and I found tons of stuff abandoned in boxcars on the lot.

I don’t recall how they got their hands on Robby, but I could see across the lot on the other side of some tall underbrush, all the wall panels from inside the United Planets Cruiser C57D, plus the large ray guns placements they used when fighting the ID monster.

I set out through all this shoulder high plants, and half-way across, stumbled into Robby’s hot rod hidden amongst all this vegetation.  It was a wreck as you can see in the pic. Yes, I’ll have to rescan these pics one of these days.

The wall panels and control desk without the big space globe could never be rebuilt. Everything had been left to the elements since, I suppose, 1956.

Thanks to ‘The Kustom Car King” Ed Roth, Robby and the car were rebuilt and put on display at Movieworld.

I printed this card  – an insert into my fanzine which I took to a WesterCon in ummm, 1971 or maybe 72.

The car came inches from winding up under a construction site.

So there you see only 3 degrees of separation between Rat Fink and the ID Monster!