Pixel Scroll 12/27/17 A Very Modest Scroll

(1) SFWA IN TIMES TO COME. Cat Rambo’s yearly recap of all her activities includes a look ahead for SFWA —

  • SFWA’s excellent Executive Director Kate Baker said a few years back, “I want to make the Nebula weekend -the- premiere conference for professional F&SF writers” and I said, “Tell me what you need to do it.” This year’s Nebulas were fantastic; next year’s will be even more, including having Data Guy there to present on the industry, an effort that’s taken a couple of years to get in place.
  • The SFWA Storybundle had its first year and was wildly successful, as was the Nebula-focused HumbleBundle. The Storybundle program will grow 150% in size in 2017, which sounds really impressive but just means 3 bundles instead of 2. Plus – SFWA’s Self-Publishing Committee has taken that effort over, so no work for me! (Last year I read a bajillion books for it.)
  • A long, slow revamp of Emergency Medical Fund stuff driven by Jennifer Brozek, Oz Drummond, and Bud Sparhawk is coming to its final stages. I just saw the EMF stewards in action: they received an appeal, evaluated it within 24 hours, and within a week, if I am correct, funds had been disbursed. The Grants Committee just wrapped up its 2017 work; next year it’ll have even more money to play with, thanks to the aforementioned Nebula HumbleBundle.

(2) A BIT ICKY. A nine-year-old got a lovely note from the outgoing Doctor Who. BBC has the story: “Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi reassures fan over regeneration”

(3) SIPS. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241”

With its last issue of the year, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers two very dark fantasy stories about expectations and rules, curses and sacrifices. In both characters find themselves playing out roles that have been laid out for them, having to find ways to exist in stifling situations. In both, the main characters must contend with the weight of tradition and expectation. In both, the main characters are faced with strong willed women who want to change things. Who want to break the Rules. And in both stories the main characters have to face what the world is like, what their life might be like, should those Rules shatter. It’s an interesting issue that asks some very difficult questions and reveals some visceral hurts. To the reviews! …

(4) DOG STAR. The Storm Trooper K-9 division –

(5) CURTIS OBIT. The actor who famously played a disfigured Star Wars cantina criminal has died reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Alfie Curtis, the British actor who earned a place in the Star Wars pantheon for playing the menacing Mos Eisley Cantina scofflaw with the “death sentence on 12 systems,” has died, according to the BBC. He was 87. News of Curtis’s death was first reported by the fan site Elite Signatures.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 — J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London
  • December 27, 1951Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARGAZER

  • Born December 27, 1571 — Johannes Kepler

(8) YOUNG SETH MACFARLANE’S STAR TREK VIDEO. David Klaus sent this video and made these comments about it on Facebook:

I presume this is only an excerpt of a longer fan film Seth MacFarlane made as a teen, a far better film than I could have made when I had thoughts about trying to do when I was a teen many years before this.

His space background is an artist’s conception of gases spiraling into the event horizon of a black hole, pretty cool, along with what appears to be an AMT model of the refit Enterprise. His voice occasional verges into sounding like Shatner’s instead of his own, and he uses sound effects and music from the original series. I’d get a kick out of seeing the whole thing.

 

(9) NUKE HOBBYIST. He told NPR it’s not that hard, compared to what else is done today in manufacturing: “North Korea Designed A Nuke. So Did This Truck Driver”

To make his models, he drove 1,300 miles to Los Alamos, N.M., the birthplace of the atomic bombs. The museum there has accurate, full-scale replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man that he could work from. As he designed his models, he decided he’d write a brochure to go with them.

“The brochure turned into a 431-page book,” he says.

Coster-Mullen never sold a single model, but he has been adding to his bomb brochure ever since, building up what are basically complete specs for America’s first nuclear weapons. He has traveled the country, and the world, to glean all sorts of supposedly secret details.

“Nobody leaked anything to me,”he says. “I found all this information was hiding in plain sight.”

(10) SOI DISANT DISNEY PRINCESS. She’s willing to take the promotion!

(11) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Chris Nuttall argues the case for the original — “Classic Battlestar Galactica – The Review” at Amazing Stories.

Battlestar did it’s level best to depict a society that was different from ours, even though it had points in common. Everything from the ranks and uniforms to the games and terminology smacked of an alternate universe, not men and women who could have walked off a modern day aircraft carrier. It wasn’t that far from America, I admit, but it was different – again, unlike the remake. It’s really a pity they didn’t put quite so much thought into their FTL drive concepts, as the exact nature of ‘light-speed’ is never really addressed.

Like most other shows from that era, Battlestar needed a good cast – the special effects could not carry the show by themselves. And Battlestar had some very good characters – Commander Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Tigh and Boomer … and, on the other side, Baltar and Count Iblis. (Notably, Baltar was originally executed by the Cylons after betraying the Twelve Colonies, but he was later brought back because they needed someone as the face of the enemy, a problem the remake sought to solve with ‘skin-jobs.’)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Will R. Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

134 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/27/17 A Very Modest Scroll

  1. I’ve seen flags and/or national emblems in classrooms in a range of countries. I think it is common enough to be non-US specific but it looks very USian to UK audiences.

    The use of flags is very different in Italy (I cannot speak for other countries, and the UK of course has the additional complication that it’s several different nations). There are exactly two uses of national flags: football matches in international tournament, and the Governament. Town Halls, Province Houses, the Police HQ and so on show the EU and the Italian flag, to signal that that is the authority of the State. And people wave the flag enthusiastically when Italy wins. That’s it. Very few private individual in Italy own a flag and none would expose it – that was what you were obliged to do under Mussolini and has the baggage that goes with that.

  2. I’m just downright gobsmacked that people who regard the US flag and Pledge of Allegiance strange and abnormal, would make that judgment while taking it for granted that the picture of the current political leader of the country should be in every classroom. Cult of personality, much?

    I’m being completely honest when I say, that sends chills down my spine, and not in a good way. I’d expect a picture of Putin in Russian classrooms, but not the President or PM of any democratic country.

    No, the President of the Republic in Italy is not a politician, like the President of the Republic in France: he’s the equivalent of the Queen in the UK, or Canada, or Australia. He represents the State but has basically only a moral suasion power, if that. He is very much supposed to leave any partisan feelings behind, and usually does.

  3. Lis Carey on December 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm said:
    @Cora–

    Back on the first page of comments, where you may have missed it or not remembered it in reading my comment, Anna expressed apparent surprise at US schools not having pictures of the current President in schoolrooms.

    Lis, I was not surprised, I was curious. As I said, I don’t really remember if we had a picture of the President in our classroom. What we had was a crucifix, and that became a very hot issue later on, for reasons people can imagine, but back in my day I was not even aware of it.

  4. Harold Osler on December 28, 2017 at 10:09 pm said:
    Also-reading the court documents how the editor from Simon & Schuster tried toning down Milos whatever and watching him lose all patience was fun today.

    https://twitter.com/sarahmei/status/946347142012051456
    But already the snowflakes on the right are screaming about how it was CENSORSHIP!! JDA

    I read it all yesterday. It was quite an experience. And by that I mean that I am a more worldly, but worse person for having read that book. As I was explaining on Facebook, Milo apparently embraces the worst right-wing stereotype of a camp gay man: vain, cruel, obsessed with his looks and his sexual life – if you watch the original The Birdcage, the one with Tognazzi and Noiret, a movie that has not aged gracefully, and you imagine a much more offensive version of that, you sort of get the idea. Only in the Bird Cage the characters cared for each other, and were not in a lifelong mission to be as nasty as possible to as many people as possible while telling them how fabulous they are. It’s like a Pride Parade described in the Left Behind books. The editor, himself not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination, was moved several times to comment “leave the lesbians out of it”. Among the many, many, many, oh so many categories that Milo hates are lesbians. And gays. And transgender people. And anybody who is not white. And anybody who is the left of Attila the Hun. And Glenn Beck. And probably the rest of the world apart from Milo, come to think of it.

  5. @Aaron:

    Whether he was aware he was being a dick is entirely irrelevant. He was a dick to female actors. His intent is irrelevant. His self-awareness is irrelevant.

    Tell you what–let’s go find two people to hang out with on our two separate desert islands. You take the one who killed someone innocent, intentionally, in cold blood. I’ll take the one who killed someone innocent, accidentally, trying to help them. On the off-chance you live through the experiment, we can discuss your moral incompetence then.

    MacFarlane is just as much a part of the problem as Weinstein. The fact that he doesn’t realize it almost makes him worse.

    That you can barely differentiate serial rape from crude comedy as social problems makes you a social problem. A bad one, too. Collapsing the ethical continuum is utterly repugnant on its own and, when associated with political discussion, damaging to the causes it attaches itself to.

    (I tried to phrase that without making it a personal attack, but it sounded like what’s called passive-aggressive behavior, so there you are.)

  6. In any case, “X is a dick, therefore X isn’t funny/entertaining/a great artist” is a silly and nonsensical argument (at best). Creativity and dickishness seem to go hand in hand all too often. “X is a dick” may be a reason not to support X, but it doesn’t change the quality of X’s work.

    Now, if there were a correlation (positive or negative) between the quality of someone’s work and their dickishness, that would be nice, but in my experience, there really isn’t. Creative people seem to include a disproportionate number of dicks compare to the general population, but that’s as far as it goes.

    Which is why everyone has to decide where to draw their own lines when it comes to how much dickishness you’ll tolerate in your artists and writers and whatnot. I finally reached the point with Card where I’m no longer willing to buy his works, but that doesn’t change my opinion that a bunch of his books are outstanding. Some of my friends made a similar decision about him long before I did, while others are still on the fence. I think that’s perfectly reasonable, and I don’t run around trying to say that Card’s works aren’t good, nor that people who are still willing to hold their nose and buy an occasional book of his are evil people. Because that would be a dick move.

  7. “Defending Your Life” is one of my favorite movies (we watched it and another favorite, “Stranger than Fiction,” for Christmas here)

    STRANGER THAN FICTION is sublime.

  8. @Cat Rambo
    Thanks for the Doc Savage recap/review. I now want to see Doc demonstrating his cookie baking prowess.

    @Peer

    I guess that was meant tongue-in-cheek but I have to say I never saw a person smoke a cigar in my whole life (not counting TVseries or movies). But Im aware thats a small data point.

    I have, plenty of times in fact, but then I hail from the cigar capital of Germany. Honestly, Bremen has been a centre of the tobacco industry well into the 1980s. We have a monument dedicated to the cigar makers who also were a vanguard of the labour movement and the local museum has a section dedicated to the tobacco trade and cigar manufacturing. Once a month, one of the last surviving cigar makers in Bremen, comes to the museum to demonstrate how cigars are made. So in short, cigars are not something I have ever associated with the US in particular, though I do recall frowning at people smoking in space, because surely they should know better.

    Sports however: Basketball is very US-cetric. Apart from the US, the Philippines (where its no 1 sport) or the odd baltic state all countries would chose some other sport – mainly football (soccer).

    I always assumed that they went with basketball, because it takes up less space than soccer/football are pretty much any other sport. And space was clearly a premium in the cramped ships of the Colonial fleet.

    Poker is a very US-centric thing as well. Yes, thanks to high-stakes-tournaments and online play its played everywehre now, but mainly at tournaments and online. As a parttime its an US-Thing. I literally wrote a book on games played in other countries (in German) and Im quite confodent that in Germany people ususally play Skat, Doppelkopf, Schafkopf or Rummy, in the UK Bridge or Gin Rummy maybe, in Australia 500… Draughts, Chess, Mah-Jongg, Big Two, Go, Backgammon, Dominoes etc. would also be more played (and Im not even counting modern boardgames like Settlers)

    Yes, poker is a very American phenomenon and until fairly recently was something you saw in old westerns and James Bond movies and not in the real world. Germans would almost certainly have had the characters play Skat or Doppelkopf (if they play cards at all) rather than poker. I don’t think we ever see the characters playing any games in Raumpatrouille Orion and I have no idea if games are ever mentioned in Perry Rhodan, but I’m pretty sure if the characters were playing games, they wouldn’t play poker.

  9. @cora:

    I always assumed that they went with basketball, because it takes up less space than soccer/football are pretty much any other sport. And space was clearly a premium in the cramped ships of the Colonial fleet.

    Sleeping over it I think the most liekly sport being played would be Table tennis, because its very, very popular in asia and doesnt take too much space.

    RE Poker: Its funny that in the future they apparently play a variant, hardly played today (because its far less interesting than Texas Hold up). Plus I always thought that poker makes even less sense in Star Trek TNG, because they dont have money, but Poker makes only sense if you play with some stakes.

    “Im the only stalked God in New Cross”

  10. @Cora:

    I always assumed that they went with basketball, because it takes up less space than soccer/football are pretty much any other sport. And space was clearly a premium in the cramped ships of the Colonial fleet.

    I don’t remember whether the original BG explained how they could have built ships that large but not taken an even larger option: Rite of Passage proposed hollowed-out asteroids, each of which had room for enough people to plant viable colonies on several worlds. Once most of the people had been dropped off, the remainder had enough room not only for soccer (which was new enough to the US that IIRC the author included an explanation) but also for raising enough tigers that one could be hunted to death every few months. (I doubt Panshin thought at all about what would be necessary to raise tigers.)

  11. Defending Your Life:

    @Andrew: “For genre awareness training, you may need to provide footnotes to explain who ‘Shirley Maclaine’ is, and why her presence in the Past Life Pavilion is relevant.”

    I am embarrassed to admit this–actually, maybe I’m not–either way, I didn’t remember who that was till I saw the credits. Possibly I’m not such a good mentor after all.

    @Cat Rambo: “watching it will show you there’s been a definite shift in how we depict the elderly that I suspect started shifting as soon as the Baby Boomers first started spotting gray hairs.”

    Something good to chalk up to Boomers for a change. 😉

    Yeah, it seemed to me if the older folks were being restored to their more vital selves, things like the little old lady boring Albert Brooks on the tram wouldn’t be happening. Making the young folks the fish out of water was good, though, and made Streep’s initial attraction to Brooks plausible. It’s not like he had a lot of competition.

    It turned out the kid lost interest because there was no explanation given of what they did with deceased teenagers after they stopped bringing them to Judgement City. Oh, well. We still have music. On the way out of town, I played the kid Benjamin Booker’s Witness–Booker’s unbelievable live, and the record is real good on first listen–and the kid played me Taylor Swift’s Reputation, which was good, but not 1989, which was killer. The whipsaw on Reputation between “I love ’em and leave ’em” and “I love you so much” was weird. It seemed almost every song was one or the other. A fine collection of songs, an okay album.

  12. I had always thought the basketball-like game played in the original BSG was inspired by the Aztec/Mayan versions of the game, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.

  13. @John A Arkanasawyer – Yeah, it seems to me overall the movie is going to keep aging badly because of it. Maybe they’ll reboot it, but it would be hard to live up to the charm of the original one and all its great moments, like when Streep’s character goes back into the fire to save the box of kittens or her total enjoyment of the fact that you can eat anything.

    @KurtBusiek “Stranger than Fiction” is the BEST. The writing is so smart, and all the actors are in top form. I love that movie and every time I watch it I notice new details.

    @Cora – Me too! I’m thinking about using that in a story. Doc is so much fun.

  14. Was Battlestar Galactica set in the Future? Eventually it was set in 1980.

    If only Jimmy James had been allowed to expand upon Space Poker in the poker episode of NewRadio.

  15. @Cat Rambo: “all its great moments, like when Streep’s character goes back into the fire to save the box of kittens”

    What a great scene. Not just one kitten, but a whole box of them. Talk about overkill! I’m surprised they didn’t show her gathering them all up.

    “or her total enjoyment of the fact that you can eat anything”

    I’m afraid a remake would include someone at a nearby table saying “I’ll have what she’s having.”

    I love Brooks’ stuff–I mean, come on:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pdPtaHUiUo

    But Streep is on a whole ‘nother level as an actor. Brooks gives himself some great lines and does a good job with them–his answer to the comedian who asks him how he died on earth is killer–but she gets across that she was not very happy with her husband with one simple line. Without busting up the mood of the scene, too. She’s awesome.

  16. Matthew Johnson: I had always thought the basketball-like game played in the original BSG was inspired by the Aztec/Mayan versions of the game, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.

    According to the BG Museum Wiki, it’s a combination of football and basketball, baseball, and rugby.

  17. @Peer
    Yes, poker in TNG never made a whole lot of sense, because their society uses no money and it also doesn’t seem like the sort of game the Federation as depicted in that era would go for. I’d expect something like The Settlers of Catan rather than poker.

    Space tabletennis would have made a lot of sense, but was probably not popular enough in the US at the time. I guess we can count ourselves lucky that we didn’t get space baseball.

  18. At least once in TNG, the characters are playing poker for non-monetary stakes (as I recall, if Riker loses, he’ll shave his beard, or some such). Presumably, the chips they use are just for providing a score so they can figure out who won the evening’s play.

  19. Tell you what–let’s go find two people to hang out with on our two separate desert islands. You take the one who killed someone innocent, intentionally, in cold blood. I’ll take the one who killed someone innocent, accidentally, trying to help them. On the off-chance you live through the experiment, we can discuss your moral incompetence then.

    That’s not an apt comparison. MacFarlane wasn’t trying to “help” anyone. The apt comparison would be someone who thoughtlessly killed someone by firing a gun in his backyard to entertain his buddies.

    In short, you’re trying make excuses and you’re failing miserably.

    That you can barely differentiate serial rape from crude comedy as social problems makes you a social problem.

    Weinstein engaged in serial sexual harassment and possibly rape. MacFarlane joined in and made comedy out of that. For guys like Weinstein to be able to operate, guys like MacFarlane have to treat it like it is a joke and no big deal, which is what MacFarlane did. What MacFarlane did was sexual harassment done on a public stage, which gives all the guys who did it behind closed doors cover.

    The fact that you are defending him on this tells me you have no moral compass at all.

  20. Does anyone just play poker just for fun? Without stakes it seems lacking. At least they could play more interesting variants. I think in TNG they were mainly playing 5 card draw which was standard movie/TV poker before the boom in Texas Hold’em.

    Recently, they’ve been running commercials for apps that simulate slot machines and I keep wondering what the point is if you can’t win money.

  21. @Jack Lint, as a kid I played poker with pooled stakes (a big jar of pennies or beans, returned to the house jar after the game was over). I actually prefer to play that way. With real money involved I have anxiety issues. Without money it is a fun card game like any other.

  22. @Cora: “I guess we can count ourselves lucky that we didn’t get space baseball.”

    *cough* DS9 *cough*

  23. Rev. Bob on December 30, 2017 at 9:04 pm said:
    @Cora: “I guess we can count ourselves lucky that we didn’t get space baseball.”

    *cough* DS9 *cough*

    That’s different. Sisko is American, from New Orleans in fact. Of course he is into baseball.

  24. Re DS9 and baseball: And, it was made clear in the Star Trek Universe that baseball had died out . (there were previous references to baseball dying out in TNG). So Sisko was basically playing and interested in an otherwise dead sport. This makes the episode where a bunch of Vulcans who challenge Sisko and his crew to a game all the more poignant since they are, physically, so much better at it, but have no sense of what makes the game *fun*.

  25. There’s a widely held myth/stereotype that SF fans (and computer geeks) don’t like sports. In my experience, this is a wild exaggeration. The percentages may not be quite as high as in the general public, but fandom is full of sports fans. Heck, there’s even a few SF fans amongst the ranks of professional athletes!

    And, of course, plenty of writers are sports fans. George Alec Effinger did a whole collection of science-fiction sports stories, called Idle Pleasures. Which I, as a sports fan and SF fan, thought was excellent.

  26. I’ve read that there were baseball games played by fans at some early conventions, and that was revived at a Corflu.

    Fanhistorian Harry Warner was also a big baseball fan.

    During the first Worldcon several fans ditched the con to attend a Yankees game on Lou Gehrig Day.

  27. And during the last Chicago Worldcon, a group of (mostly) Bay Area fans attending Worldcon went to a Cubs game because the SF Giants were in town.

    I like a lot of sports. I also like playing some of them. I’m no good at them, but I enjoy them nonetheless. Indeed, I’ve taken to going bowling on Sunday mornings here at home when I’m not busy, as the local lanes (within walking distance of my house) have half-price games before noon on Sundays.

  28. @Aaron: I’ve been thinking the MacFarlane thing over. I feel pretty good about my moral compass, because it’s an upgrade: It does both direction and magnitude. It may not point quite where yours does, but I believe it’s likelier to get me closer to the place I want to be. Perhaps yours does the same for you.

    I’m willing to believe he did not intend sexual harassment because I’ve personally had the experience of trying to mock someone–a virulent racist, in my case–and ended up deeply offending the close friend I meant to defend. Two weeks I worried if I’d ruined a friendship before I could get up the nerve to apologize. Humor is hard.

    That’s really all I have to say for myself, but I did run into this article from Vulture yesterday which says things I wish I had said: How Seriously Does Dave Chappelle Want to Be Taken?:

    after I wrote about how I perceived Chappelle’s trans jokes at this summer’s Radio City show as failing, multiple comics I spoke to who were there told me they strongly disagreed. Their point is that it’s hard to be around people laughing at jokes and then read someone later say they didn’t work, as comedians depend on the audience’s reaction to determine what in their act is working.

    It’s worth reading the whole thing, especially since I snipped that out of a larger context.

  29. Some jokes might only seem to be working because the audience is drunk and hellbent on having a good time, funny or not.

    And the jokes might not be as fun when they are sober again.

  30. @Hampus Eckerman: “Some jokes might only seem to be working because the audience is drunk and hellbent on having a good time, funny or not.”

    That was in the next paragraph! Not the drunk part, but the good time part. It really is worth reading on its own merits.

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