Pixel Scroll 2/19/18 The White Zone Is For Scrolling And Filing Only. There Are No Ticky-Boxes In The White Zone

(1) MORE MEXICANX. John Picacio announced more picks to receive Worldcon 76 memberships from the Mexicanx Initiative.

(2) MANY DOLLARS WERE MADE. From NPR: “‘Black Panther’ Breaks Records And Barriers In Debut Weekend”

Black Panther pounced on the weekend box office, breaking cultural barriers and earning the highest debut ever for a February film, with an estimated three-day domestic gross of $192 million, said Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

The opening was the fifth highest-earning of any film, according to Disney. The only other movies that have brought in more are Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World and The Avengers, according to The Associated Press.

(3) WAKANDA. Abigail Nussbaum weighs in on “A Political History of the Future: Black Panther” at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog:

From architecture to interior design to costuming, every aspect of Wakanda was designed from the ground up to incorporate traditional African imagery while projecting it into a bold, positive future. Costume designer Ruth Carter’s bywords for the film were “Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful.” Camille Friend, head of the movie’s hair department, has spoken about her determination to feature only natural black hair, in varying styles reflecting the different characters’ personalities. (In one amusing scene, no-nonsense Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) complains about having to wear a Western-style wig while undercover. Later, during a fight, she throws the wig in her opponent’s face as a distraction.) Star Chadwick Boseman has explained his decision to give T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, an African accent as an attempt to forestall the preconception that as a cosmopolitan member of the elite, he would naturally have been educated in Europe. In every respect, Black Panther is hard at work crafting an image of African life that is sophisticated, knowledge-based, and futuristic, while at the same time producing a society that is just, prosperous, and benevolent.

(4) CATALANO’S HAT TRICK. Frank Catalano has had three sf-related stories on GeekWire this week:

“I interviewed Peter S. Beagle about his memories of Pittsburgh, where he is getting his SFWA Grand Master Award this year, and also about Seattle, where he used to live. It was done as a study in contrasts between GeekWire’s home city of Seattle and Pittsburgh, a city it is highlighting for the month of February. I happened to think Beagle and the SFWA Nebula Conference were a natural tie.”

Beagle said he came to the University of Pittsburgh as a writing student in 1955, when he was 16 years old. “It was the Steel City of legend then: legendary for its griminess, its foul air, its wretched baseball team, the blazing mills along the river going night and day,” he recalled. “Seeing it from an airplane at night (which was my first sight of the city) was truly like being welcomed to hell.”

Yet the city grew on him. “I came to cherish Pittsburgh, as I still do, even though there literally isn’t a brick on a brick remaining of the mid-fifties town I knew,” he said.

“I also interviewed Ramez Naam, author of the Nexus trilogy of science-fiction thrillers, about his take on why the world is trending more toward the positive than the negative (plus the status of turning Nexus into something more than a novel), and had him re-visit some predictions he made in 2015, for my podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts. It led to two stories, the first on the state of the world and tech (and the state of Nexus), and the second on his predictions”:

If you were to ask globally known clean energy expert Ramez Naam what makes him optimistic about technology and the future, it may boil down to one word: scale.

Naam has a long history of thinking about the effects of scale, even before his current role as co-chair for energy and the environment at Singularity University. In his award-winning Nexus science fiction trilogy, Naam tackled the implications of widespread brain-to-brain communication. And in his past role as a computer scientist at Microsoft leading teams working on early versions of Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Bing, Naam came to appreciate what sheer magnitude can do.

“I learned that we can create tools that really improve people’s lives, and that technology can scale to help billions of people,” Naam said. “And that, I think, inspired me with the power of using our minds and our imaginations to make the world better.”

Many of these what-ifs recall a frequent theme of Naam’s writing and speaking: building resilience, both organizationally and individually, to technological change. “Technology moves faster than society, and society even has multiple strata,” he explained. Each is subsequently more sluggish, starting with how fast the next generation learns, to how fast we learn, to how fast organizations learn, and finally to how fast government learns.

So to deal with rapid change, Naam said, “We have to be more experimental as a society.” Governments may have to try different policies just to see which ones work. “That would be anathema to the way that politicians voice certainty of, ‘X will do Y.’ But that’s how science works. It’s how innovation in business works,” he said.

“Finally — and this is a personal favorite — a story that Tacoma will soon have a park named for Dune, honoring Frank Herbert. Why a personal favorite?  Back in 1986, I was asked by Frank Herbert’s family to help field news media calls about his literary legacy when he died (at the time, I was very active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and had been an officer of the organization).  And the park’s setting is especially appropriate, as my story notes.”

There likely won’t be any sandworms, but that’s not needed to spice up this news: Tacoma, Wash., native Frank Herbert, best known for the hugely popular Dune science-fiction novels, is getting a namesake park in his home town.

The Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners has approved naming an 11-acre waterfront site “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park,” and a winding pedestrian loop being built on the same site the “Frank Herbert Trail.” The public space is currently under construction on land that once housed the former ASARCO copper smelting operation, next to the Tacoma Yacht Club boat basin.

(5) JOE HILL ON VINYL. HarperAudio, the audio imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish Dark Carousel, a “vinyl-first” audiobook by New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill on April 20, a release timed to coincide with Record Store Day on April 21. Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover of Dark Carousel along with an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

 Says author Joe Hill, “My hard rockin’ fantasies are pretty well documented at this point — the hero of my first novel was, after all, a world-famous heavy metal rocker. I’ve always wanted to have my own LP, and the idea that one of my stories is being released as an audiobook on vinyl blows my Beatles-quoting, Stones-fixated, Zeppelin-obsessed mind. Even better, I’m on the record with Matthew Ryan, a great American rocknrolla. His cover of “Wild Horses” is the best version of the song since the original. I’m so excited for readers and listeners to drop the needle on this story and Matt’s song.”

Written about a balmy summer night in 1994. Dark Carousel is the tale of four teenagers out for an evening of fun on the boardwalk who take a ride on the “Wild Wheel” – an antique carousel with a shadowy past – and learn too late that decisions made in an instant can have deadly consequences. What begins as a night of innocent end-of-summer revelry, young love, and (a few too many) beers among friends soon descends into chaos, as the ancient carousel’s parade of beasts comes chillingly to life to deliver the ultimate judgment for their misdeeds.

(6) HAVE YOU ORDERED YOURS YET? Hasbro wants 5,000 pre-orders to greenlight production: “Hasbro’s first HasLab toy is a replica of Jabba the Hutt’s barge”.

At this year’s Toy Fair in New York, Hasbro announced HasLab, a new program that aims to bring to life special creations like a massive, four-foot long recreation of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge. The company is taking inspiration from platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, too: In order for the barge to become a real for-sale production item, Hasbro wants to gather 5,000 $499 pre-orders by midnight on April 3rd.

If the project reaches its funding goal, Jabba’s Sail Barge (or The Khetanna if you’re a Star Wars geek) will come with a 64-page booklet with behind-the-scenes details, set photos, interviews and blueprints of the actual set piece in the film as well as production information on the toy. The barge also comes with a 3.75-inch scale Jabba the Hutt and soft cloth sails for the top of the sand boat.

(7) JOHN BROSNAN. Kim Huett’s next Doctor Strangemind post is “John Brosnan & the Abomnibus”. In 1969 John joined a group of other young Australians who were planning to travel by double-decker bus to England. The attempt was somewhat less than successful…

Something that John wrote extensively about in the early days was his attempt to travel by bus from Australia to England. Up until the eighties there was something of a tradition among young Australians to visit ‘Mother England’ before settling down to lives of quiet desperation in the sun-baked suburbs of Australia. Most such adventurers travelled to the mother country via cruise liner, a few lucky ones flew there, but John, being inexplicably drawn to doing everything the hard way, decided that he would spend several months of 1969 travelling to ‘Ye Merry England’ with a group of other young Australians in a double-decker bus. My impression from what he wrote is that he enjoyed it more in retrospect than he did at the time…

Huett is keeping Brosnan’s non-book material alive. There’s a PDF collection that can still be downloaded for free from eFanzines. More recently Dave Langford asked Huett to put together a new, even larger version, which can be downloaded for free here.

(8) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver celebrates another author with “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Lostronaut’” at Black Gate.

…Lethem won the World Fantasy Award for his collection The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award four times, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, and the Shirley Jackson Award, Sidewise Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award one time, each. His novel Gun, with Occasional Music received the William L. Crawford Award and won the Locus Poll for best first novel….

(9) NEW TWIST ON PARK MAPS. Mental Floss reports “A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style”:

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports

Click here to see his impressive Yellowstone National Park map.

(10) HUGO RECS. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton wrapped up his Hugo recommendations with “Final 2018 Hugo Recommendation Post” – Semiprozine, Fancast,  Best Related Work, Professional Artist.

The others in the series are:

(11) FILLING IN SOME BLANKS. Mark Kaedrin also shares his picks for “Hugo Award Season 2018”, beginning with —

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo Awards is open, so it’s time to get out the vote before the requisite whining and bitter recriminations start in earnest. I’ve read a bunch of eligible works, but of course not all will make the cut. Here’s where I’m at right now:

(12) CHOCOLATE CHAMPS. Congratulations to Filer Daniel P. Dern for scoring second in Boskone 55’s Chocolate for Trivia event.

CHOCOLATE TRIVIA SCORES

Bob Devney  52
Dan Dern  44
Tim Liebe  27
Peter Turi  23

(13) QUICKER SIPPER. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Shimmer #41 [February stuff]”.

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

(14) GUITAR CITY. A popular movie has paid off in more than one way: “A Town In Mexico Sees Guitar Sales Soar Thanks To The Movie ‘Coco'”.

Real-life sales of guitars like Miguel’s guitar have soared thanks to the movie. And not just in U.S. stores. A small town in Mexico’s western highlands, famous for its generation of guitar makers, is also enjoying a Coco boon.

Paracho, in the state of Michoacán, is the former home of the very guitar maker who helped design the instrument seen in the film.

(15) NOT EXACTLY THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. A marker for the beginning of the Anthropocene: “‘Loneliest tree’ records human epoch”.

It’s been dubbed “the loneliest tree on the planet” because of its remote location, but the Sitka spruce might represent something quite profound about the age in which we live.

The tree, sited on Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean, records in its wood a clear radioactive trace from the A-bomb tests of the 1950s and 60s.

As such, it could be the “golden spike” scientists are seeking to define the start of the Anthropocene Epoch – a new time segment in our geological history of Earth.

The suggestion is that whatever is taken as the golden spike, it should reflect the so-called “Great Acceleration” when human impacts on the planet suddenly intensified and became global in extent.

This occurs after WWII and is seen for example in the explosion in plastics production.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. It’s 1963 and producer Roger Corman turns to Poe for his forty-seventh movie. Galactic Journey tells whether it’s worth seeing: “[February 18, 1963] An Odd Beast (Roger Corman’s The Raven)”.

The Raven hit theaters last month not so much to terrify audiences, but to reel them in with a star studded cast and a light, Edgar Allan Poe-flavored, fantasy comedy story. Starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Hazel Court, the film is very loosely based around the narrative Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. By this I mean that Hazel Court is, of course, the sassy and longed-for Lenore, and Vincent Price quotes segments of the poem. There the similarities end.

(17) A BETTER USE FOR THAT MONEY. K. Tempest Bradford argues her fundraiser is a bargain at half the price.

(18) SPEAKING UP. Sophie Aldred gives Uncanny Magazine readers a captivating account of “My Voice-Over Life”.

Sophie Aldred has been working as a professional actress, singer, and director for the last 35 years in theatre, TV, film and audio. She is perhaps best known as the 7th Doctor Who’s companion, Ace, who beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat….

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to read stories to her brother. She liked to put on funny voices for all the different characters and found that she was rather good at mimicking accents and odd vocal characteristics. Sometimes her brother would beg her to stop reading as he had had enough; sometimes she listened.

The little girl also liked listening to the radio programmes that her Mummy had on in the kitchen while she was making supper for Daddy who came in hungry and tired from the office (it was the 1960’s after all). Although she didn’t understand any of the so-called jokes, she loved a man called Kenneth Williams, whose strangulated vocal gymnastics she tried to imitate, and another one called Derek Nimmo, who you could tell was rather vague and very posh just by the tone of his voice….

(19) I SEE FOUR JELLYBEANS! A psychiatrist in a mental hospital has a disturbing conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician, in the SF short film The Secret Number by Colin Levy.

[Thanks to JJ, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, John Picacio, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob .]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/18 ’The Scroll of Doctor Pixel And Other Stories’ And Other Stories

1) EXTENDING LIFE FOR ISS? TechCrunch says: “The Trump administration is reportedly moving to privatize the International Space Station”. (“I’m sorry, Dave, but it will cost you $2.5 million to open the pod bay doors.”)

The Trump administration is planning to privatize the international space station instead of simply decommissioning the orbiting international experiment in 2024, according to a report in The Washington Post

According to a document obtained by the Post, the current administration is mulling handing the International Space Station off to private industry instead of de-orbiting it as NASA “will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”

The Post also reported that the administration was looking to request $150 million in fiscal year 2019 “to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS — potentially including elements of the ISS — are operational when they are needed.”

(2) PALEYFEST. PaleyFest LA puts fans in the same room with over a hundred TV stars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood from March 16-25. This almost throws Comic-Con in the shade. Deaadline reports: “PaleyFest LA Sets Talent From ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Queen Sugar’, ‘Riverdale’ For TV Event”.

In addition to the previously announced opening night tribute to Barbra Streisand, the lineup at this year’s fest includes over 100 stars from some of the best shows making waves on television  including Seth MacFarlane, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Freddie Highmore, Rutina Wesley, Ava DuVernay, KJ Apa, and Lili Reinhart.

PaleyFest LA 2018 gives fans access to special screenings, exclusive conversations, and behind-the-scenes scoops and breaking news from the stars and creative minds behind their favorite shows. This years shows include The Orville, Will & Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, Silicon Valley, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor, Mom, Queen Sugar, Riverdale, and Stranger Things….

Click the link to see all the stars who will be appearing for these shows —

Friday, March 16: Opening Night Presentation: PaleyFest Icon: An Evening with Barbra Streisand (7:30 pm):

Saturday, March 17: FOX’s The Orville (2:00 pm):

Saturday, March 17: NBC’s Will & Grace (7:00 pm): 

Sunday, March 18: Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2:00 pm):

Tuesday, March 20: CW’s Supernatural (6:45 pm):

Wednesday, March 21: CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon (7:30 pm) 

Thursday, March 22: ABC’s The Good Doctor (7:30 pm):

Saturday, March 24: CBS’s Mom (2:00 pm):

Saturday, March 24: OWN’s Queen Sugar (7:00 pm):

Sunday, March 25: CW’s Riverdale (2:00 pm):

Sunday, March 25: Netflix’s Stranger Things (7:00 pm):

(3) CHANGING THE CHANNEL. Abigail Nussbaum covers new TV shows in “Winter Crop, 2018 Edition”.

…I don’t know if I’m going to stay in love with all of these shows (three episodes in, I’m starting to lose patience with Counterpart, for example), but they have a hook that the fall’s carefully samey procedurals don’t even try for.

  • Black Lightning – There’s a scene about halfway through the premiere episode of the CW’s latest DC superhero show that really made me sit up, and think that maybe we were about to get a genuinely revolutionary take on this increasingly problematic concept.  Retired superhero turned school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) has just rescued his daughter from the clutches of a gang boss, in the process causing panic at a nightclub.  Wandering outside the club in a daze, he’s discovered by some cops, who immediately train their guns on him and order him to “get [his] black ass on the ground”.  Jefferson could comply–as he did earlier in the day when he was pulled over for “fitting the description” of a liquor store robber–and his powers mean that he isn’t in any immediate danger.  Nevertheless, a long litany of frustration, including from the earlier run-in with the police, takes its toll, and he clenches his fists and lets fly with his electric powers, leaving the cops alive but on the ground as he power-walks away.It’s a scene that feels important for two reasons.  First, because of how rarely black heroes–and black superheroes in particular–are allowed to express anger, much less allow themselves to be overcome by it.  Think, for example, of the MCU’s black heroes–Falcon, War Machine, Luke Cage, and Black Panther–and how often they’re positioned as the level-headed, or cheerful, counterpoint to a hotheaded or angsty white hero.  Even as heroes of their own stories, these characters are expected to proceed with calm deliberation, and are rarely allowed to express rage or frustration–in Civil War, T’challa is seeking justice for the recent murder of his father, and yet he spends the film acting cool and collected, while Captain America and Iron Man’s every temper tantrum is indulged and excused.  For Black Lightning to allow its titular hero to feel rage–to make that expression of rage our introduction to him as a person with powers–feels like a thesis statement, as well as a deliberate rebuke to the stereotype of the angry black man.

(4) LOST AND NOT FOUND. An interview with a student of manuscripts in The Guardian: “‘I really want to find it before I die’: why are we so fascinated by lost books? “

Does the Book of Kells lose any of its allure when a mass-produced paperback version is available to buy just feet away, in Trinity College Dublin’s gift shop? No, says de Hamel: “There are things you’ll see in an original manuscript that even a microfilm or digitised surrogate cannot convey – drypoint glosses, erasures, sewing holes, underdrawing, changes of parchment, subtleties of colour, loss of leaves, patina of handling – even smell and touch and sound, which can transform knowledge and understanding of the text when its scribes made it and first readers saw it.” So, when we mourn lost manuscripts, it’s not just over the disappearance of words, we are also losing an understanding of the process of their creation – the author’s scribbles, their hasty additions, their fraught deletions.

There are many lost books that de Hamel hopes to one day see: “The Book of Kells had more leaves in the 17th century than it does now. Are they somewhere in someone’s scrapbook? The 12th-century Winchester Bible, perhaps the greatest English medieval work of art, had a number of miniatures cut out, possibly as recently as the 20th century: some, at least, probably do exist. I really, really want to find one before I die.”

(5) HEFTY TOME. If you want a hardcover of Rosarium’s massive Sunspot Jungle, pledge the fundraiser – see details at “Sunspot Jungle: Kickstarter Exclusive Hardcover Edition”.

 On June 17, 2018, Rosarium Publishing will be turning five years old. So, we’ve decided to throw a little party. Since we like to say we “introduce the world to itself,” we just knew it had to be a global party!

Like any good party, we’ve invited some friends, acquaintances, associates, people we’ve heard good things about, and some complete strangers.

The end result is Sunspot Jungle!

A two-volume, spec fic anthology filled with stories from over 100 writers from around the world!!!

This campaign is for special hardcover editions of the anthology only available to you Kickstarter supporters.

(The paperback for Vol. 1 will be out in December while the one for Vol. 2 will be released in spring of 2019.)

(6) GAVIN OBIT. John Gavin (1931-2018): US actor who later became a diplomat, died February 9, aged 86. Screen appearances include the horror classic Psycho, the psychological drama Midnight Lace (both 1960), two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963/65). Reportedly signed up to play James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever until Sean Connery agreed to return to the role, but this apparent setback allowed him to fulfil a lifelong dream to become the US ambassador to Mexico.

(7) CATHEY OBIT. Reg E Cathey (1958-2018): US actor, died February 9, aged 59. Genre appearances include Star Trek: The Next Generation (one episode, 1993), The Mask (1994), Tank Girl (1995), Grimm (three episodes, 2013), Banshee (two episodes, 2014), Banshee Origins (three episodes, 2014), Fantastic Four (2015). He also provided a voice for the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic – Rise of the Hutt Cartel (2013).

(8) JONES OBIT. Mickey Jones (1941-2018): US musician and actor, died February 7, aged 76. Genre appearances include The Incredible Hulk (three episodes, 1978-81), Galactica 1980 (one episode, 1980), Starman (1984), Misfits of Science (one episode, 1985), ALF (one episode, 1986), Probe (one episode, 1988), Something Is Out There (six episodes, 1988), Total Recall (1990), It Came From Outer Space II (1996), Penny Dreadful (2006), Necrosis (2009), Deadtime Stories (one episode, 2013).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) WOODEN YOU LIKE TO KNOW? Another case where a gang of facts dismantle a wonderful story: “Did Abraham Lincoln sleep here?”

Visitors to a small log cabin in Kentucky are right to ask: Is it true that Abraham Lincoln slept here? On the eve of Lincoln’s 209th birthday tomorrow, Brook Silva-Braga has the answer:

Professor Henri Grissino-Mayer has come to Hodgenville, Kentucky to solve a mystery almost as old as Abraham Lincoln himself.

Silva-Braga asked, “So, someone pulls off the highway, sees you guys drilling into this cabin and says, ‘What are you doing here?’ what do you say to them?”

“What we’re trying to do is authenticate when this cabin was made by using the tree rings in the logs,” he replied.

(11) VESTED INTERESTS. In the past five years Disneyland has experienced growth in these social groups, and now two are in court — “They’re Disneyland superfans. Why a lawsuit is alleging gangster-like tactics against one social club”.

They stroll through Disneyland in packs of 20 or more, motley crews that resemble a cross between the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and a grown-up Mickey Mouse Club with their Disney-themed tattoos and their matching denim vests strewn with trading pins and logos.

Disneyland social clubs, by most accounts, are harmless alliances of friends and family who meet up at the park to share a nerdy obsession for all things Disney. With club names such as Tigger Army and Neverland Mermaids, how threatening can they be?

… But a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court has revealed a dark undercurrent to the pastime. The head of one club has accused another of using gangster-like tactics to try to collect “protection” money for a charity fundraiser at the park.

The lawsuit reads like mob movie set in a theme park. The plot revolves around the Main Street Fire Station 55 Social Club, whose leaders claim they have been bullied and terrorized by the head of the White Rabbits Social Club.

(12) LOOKBACK. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector does a science roundup in “Vector’s pick of science news in 2017”.

First of all, water. Two new inventions for increasing the supply of drinking water caught our eye:

In other exciting news regarding fluids, albeit less immediately applicable: scientists have made a fluid with negative mass. But then, the usefulness of inventions is often hard to judge….

(13) I’VE BEEN TO OKLAHOMA, BUT I’VE NEVER BEEN TO KLINGON. Even people in Tulsa have heard about it now — the Tulsa World ran a story about the Swedish production Hampus Eckerman brought to our attention last month — “Brush up on your Klingon for a new vacation hotspot”.

In search of a new and different vacation spot, with great food and cultural delights? Look no further.

A theater in Stockholm is playing host to a Klingon delegation seeking to promote tourism to Qo’nos (pronounced “Kronos”), the home planet of the ruthless yet honorable race of warriors from the cult TV franchise “Star Trek.”

(14) DOESN’T LEAVE MUCH TO WATCH. At Superversive SF, Anthony M tells about the unrewarding experience of trying to “retake the culture” — “The Problem of the Scold” [Internet Archive page].

Right now those of us on the cutting edge of the coming revolution in the entertainment field face a very thorny problem: We are scolds.

Brian Neimeier has – correctly, in my view – pointed out that we should simply be refusing to see films and shows written by people who hate us and that direct their hate at us.

So no Star Wars. No Star Trek. It is looking increasingly likely that Marvel movies are just about done. Television? Forget it, pretty much. Netflix, the exceptions are few and far between. Should we be supporting Netflix anyway?

… They get annoyed at me. I’m a killjoy. I’m a wet blanket. I see politics in everything. I’m ruining their fun. And of course, in a sense, they are exactly right. Nobody wants to hear me bash “Frozen”, because it will ruin the movie for them. And they like the movie!

I have turned myself into a scold. Many of us have. Nobody likes scolds. We’re negative and we annoy people. And scolding so far has not worked outside of getting people who already agree to clap their hands.

(15) PRECEDENT. NPR looks at influences on the world of the new movie — “Black Panther’s Mythical Home May Not Be So Mythical After All” – and finds a similarity to a historic African empire built on trade instead of military might.

There are different theories about the real-life inspiration for Wakanda. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who authored a reboot of the Black Panther comic series, explained his in this post for The Atlantic’s website. But the actor Chadwick Boseman, who plays Black Panther on screen, told The New York Times that Wakanda is a fictional version of “the Mutapa empire of 15th-century Zimbabwe.”

So how does the mythical Wakanda compare to the real-life Mutapa?

Stretching from modern-day South Africa into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia, the kingdom of Mutapa thrived from the early 1400s to about 1760.

“Mutapa operated on three basic levels: they had a capital city, provinces and little villages,” says Professor Angelo Nicolaides of the University of South Africa. Chiefs ruled at each of these levels under the supreme authority of the king, known as the Munhumutapa.

Like so many other kingdoms that believed in the divine right of kings, “the Mutapan people believed that their leaders were placed in positions of authority by the creator,” says Nicolaides. “The oral tradition tells us that they were involved in ancestral worship to a large extent, and the people believed that the kings had a very good relationship with the spirit world.”

(16) CONFERENCE OVERLOAD IN DC. T.M. Shine has a piece in Washington Post Magazine about how many conventions he could go to in Washington in a week.  Among the events he went to were Fortfest 2017, the International Fortean Organization convention, and Blerdcon, which started off as a con for “black nerds” and evolved into a con for people who like to wear superhero costumes — “Net neutrality, sex, falconry: In one week, I crashed as many D.C. conferences as possible”.

I’m romping around this convention, mingling with those dressed in costume, which is basically everybody. Blerdcon started as a celebration of black nerds, and then all minority nerds, but now it seems to be simply all of us — white, black, Hispanic, Asian. My costume is weak, I admit — just me with my various conference badges — but I begin to imagine everything from laser beams to android shrapnel bouncing off them. But what would my superhero name be? Evolution Man sounds too grand. I kind of like Symposium Man, but what would his powers be? Powerful personal anecdotes that freeze listeners in their tracks? The ability to spot a raised hand from 100 yards?

(17) WHAT DRONES CAN DO. The PyeongChang Olympics opened with 1218 drones filling the sky in the formation of the Olympic flag.

Good Morning America talks about how it was done.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Steve Green, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Carl Slaughter, Jeffrey Smith, ULTRAGOTHA, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/18 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.

Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.

If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.

For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.

(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”

Their names are Legion, for they are many.

According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.

I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.

So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….

(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.

The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.

From the FAQ —

What is the resolution mechanic in the game?

You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.

Example:
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.

Key features (no pun intended):

  • The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
  • It features a procedural adventure building system
  • A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
  • Five sets of generic maps
  • Mission cards
  • Location cards
  • Obstacle cards
  • Reward cards
  • Motivation cards
  • Character sheets

They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.

(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:

We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.

His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2.

The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net.

In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.

(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:

Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • February 4, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
  • February 4, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered.
  • February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.

(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….

(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.

The top candidates for my ballot are:

  1. Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….

(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.

The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.

(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”

On writing her first male hero

I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.

(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.

…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….

(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)

A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.

Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).

… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.

(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.

Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.

 

(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….

And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora Feuer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/18 Like A File Over Scrolling Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE. TASAT (There’s a Story About That) is a new community hub for applying science fiction to solve real world problems.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT will tap into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans to crowdsource science fictional stories (across media) that may provide applicable insight into the problems we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.

Applying Science Fiction to Solve Real World Problems

Envision: You work at an agency, corporation, or NGO, or you’re a citizen who has come across something… unusual. You’ve gathered a team to make recommendations. There seems to be a clear explanation. And yet, you wonder…

…might someone have thought about this very situation, in the past? Perhaps with an alternative idea your team missed? What if, already in some archive, There’s A Story About This?

As TASAT founder David Brin explains here, far-seeing tales can help us avoid mistakes, or at least give us a wider selection of scenarios to think about.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow. TASAT operates on two levels…

(2) MORE LIKE A BIG GULP. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur unveils “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The ‘There’s Something in My Eye’ Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”. I don’t quite understand all of it – perhaps you can explain it to me!

The 3rd Annual Sippy Awards keep right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s week it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for…
The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 

for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(3) BRIDGE PARTY. ConDor joins forces with SanDiegoLan.net to host the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator game at ConDor 25, to be held January 19-21 — “Artemis Bridge Simulation at ConDor”.

Artemis is a multiplayer, multi-computer networked game for Windows computers.

Artemis simulates a spaceship bridge by networking several computers together. One computer runs the simulation and the “main screen”, while the others serve as workstations for the normal jobs a bridge officer might do, like Helm, Communication, Engineering, and Weapon Control.

Artemis is a social game where several players are together in one room (“bridge”) , and while they all work together, one player plays the Captain, a person who sits in the middle, doesn’t have a workstation, and tells everyone what to do.

San Diego LAN is a group of people who love getting together and playing PC games over LAN. We always balance the teams and we have a very friendly bunch, (typically ages 18 to 45).

(4) SF IN SOCAL. The Pasadena Museum of History will host the free exhibition “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” from March 3 through September 2.

Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California… explores the history of science fiction in Southern California from 1930 to 1980, and how it interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society. Curated by Nick Smith, president of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the exhibition will feature historic artifacts, fine and graphic art, books and ephemera, and historic photographs.  This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The museum is at 470 W. Walnut St. , Pasadena, CA 91103.

(5) DEEP DISH. The next Great Deep Dish SFF reading in Chicago will be on March 1, 7 p.m.

The inaugural event in December at Volumes Bookcafe was reported by Mary Anne Mohanraj at the Speculative Literature Foundation.

…thanks again to all the readers and speakers (Mary Robinette Kowal, Stephen Segal, Michi Trota, Michael Moreci, Angeli Primlani, Dan Gonzalez, Sue Burke, Valya Dudycz Lupescu) and everyone else who worked to make it a success, esp. my co-host, Chris Bauer.

(6) DOCUMENTING JDA’S TROLLING. Jim C. Hines has written a lengthy summary of “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing”.

Del Arroz’s defenders claim he’s a nice guy, and accusations that he harasses or trolls people are absurd. Del Arroz told me on Facebook that he doesn’t “escalate feuds.” He claims he’s just the victim of blackballing, harassment, threats, and so on.

I’m not saying nobody has ever given Del Arroz shit online. He alleges that people once doxxed his children and sent a glitterbomb to his house. Both were done anonymously. I have no problem condemning both incidents, whoever was responsible. I’ve also heard that people mocked him for his last name, which…yeah, that just seems racist to me.

But if you look through Jon Del Arroz’s interactions with others… Well, here’s a sampling of what people are talking about when they say Del Arroz harasses, insults, and trolls others, and distorts things for publicity and what someone once described as martyrbatiuon.

My goal isn’t to trash Del Arroz, but to document a pattern of behavior.

Warning: there’s a lot of material here….

Hines does an excellent job of mapping many of JDA’s acts of harassment and misogyny over the past year.

(7) LEST WE FORGET. Hines also noticed —

(8) NUSSBAUM BRANCHES OUT. Abigail Nussbaum has launched a new series of articles at Lawyers, Guns & Money “A Political History of the Future: Introduction”.

My plan is to devote each installment to a particular work and discuss how its themes reflect current issues. Even more importantly, I want to talk about how science fiction imagines ways of ordering society that are different from the ones we know, that offer alternatives to the existing social order.

That’s by no means the norm. A lot of the time, when science fiction tries to engage with hot-button political issues, it does so in the terms of post-apocalypse or dystopia. Most climate change novels, for example, can more accurately be described as climate catastrophe novels. That’s not unjustified, obviously, but my interest is in stories that imagine functional societies, even if those societies are also flawed or predatory. And while talking about accuracy and realism in the context of science fiction worldbuilding is often just an excuse to be nitpicky and dismissive, I’m more interested in stories that show their work, that think through how a policy or an institution would come into being, and how it would affect society as a whole.

To give an example from the negative, while I enjoyed it very much as a piece of TV-making and a feminist statement, I’m not planning to write about Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (though that might change according to how the second season shakes out). When Margaret Atwood published the original novel in 1985, she constructed its gender-dystopia world in response to forces she saw around her, a combination of anti-feminist backlash, Phyllis Schlafly’s Christianist anti-women doctrine, and the Iranian revolution. That this was an incoherent patchwork didn’t matter because the focus of the novel was on Offred’s mental state, and its scope rarely extended past her confined viewpoint. The television series recreates that world more or less uncritically, and even with the gloss of topicality it layers over, the result doesn’t really hold water. That’s not a criticism of the show, which to my mind is one of the most essential pop culture artifacts of the current era. But it means that I don’t have much to say about it as a piece of political worldbuilding.

(9) PENROSE ON DARK MATTER. On January 19, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego and the Penrose Institute present a “Roger Penrose Lecture: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter”.

Sir Roger Penrose will give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger will explain a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme-where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors. The talk will blend Roger’s accessible style with an unapologetic detailed look at the physical principles. It should be of interest to practicing physicists and lay people who enjoy taking a more detailed look at physics.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

On January 19, 2018, 3 p.m. in Liebow Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public (seating first-come, first-served).

(10) OUTWORLDS LIVE. Fanac.org is the place to find “Outworlds Live! The 50th issue of Outworlds”, performed at the 1987 Corflu. Not sure if I’ve covered this before, so I’ll link to it now —

Bill Bowers was one of the most respected fanzine editors of his time. He started publishing fanzines in the 1960s. His most notable fanzines were Double-Bill, edited with Bill Mallardi, and Outworlds. Outworlds was published for 70 issues. Bill chaired Corflu IV, Cincinnati (1987). A highlight of the convention was this performance of the 50th issue of Outworlds, Outworlds Live! It featured readings and performances by Bill Bowers, Art Widner, Richard Brandt, Gary Hubbard, Al Curry, Bernadette Bosky, Arthur Hlavaty, Ted White, and Stephen Leigh. Featured is art by Steve Stiles and Joan Hanke-Woods.

Here’s the beginning of a 13-video playlist:

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 1981 — David Cronenberg’s Scanners debuted.
  • January 14, 1976 The Bionic Woman aired its first episode.
  • January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy can see how this might be a very short game — In the Bleachers.
  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian both demand to know “How dare they go out of business!” after viewing Pearls Before Swine.
  • John King Tarpinian finds aliens have changed their plans for the Earth in Frank and Ernest.

(13) FLOWER POWER. The BBC tells “How flowering plants conquered the world” (albeit after butterflies appeared):

Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, make up about 90% of all living plant species, including most food crops.

In the distant past, they outpaced plants such as conifers and ferns, which predate them, but how they did this has has been a mystery.

New research suggests it is down to genome size – and small is better.

“It really comes down to a question of cell size and how you can build a small cell and still retain all the attributes that are necessary for life,” says Kevin Simonin from San Francisco State University in California, US.

(14) CROWDSOURCED ASTRONOMY. They hit the jackpot: “Citizen science bags five-planet haul”.

A discovery by citizen scientists has led to the confirmation of a system of five planets orbiting a far-off star.

Furthermore, the planets’ orbits are linked in a mathematical relationship called a resonance chain, with a pattern that is unique among the known planetary systems in our galaxy.

Studying the system could help unlock some mysteries surrounding the formation of planetary systems.

The results were announced at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.

The system was found by astronomy enthusiasts using Zooniverse, an online platform for crowdsourcing research.

(15) THE ILLUSION OF DEPTH. From Germany, “The animation genius you’ve (probably) never heard of” (videos at the link.)

The charming story of how Lotte Reiniger became one of the great pioneers of early animation.

(16) ERROR OF THE DAY. Christopher Hensley shared a discovery of Facebook.

So, while doing a legitimate work thing I found out about the greatest HTTP error code ever invented: 418 Error – I am a Teapot. It was issued in RFC 2324 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324) by the IETF as part of an April Fool’s day gag in 1998. But here we are, 20 years later. We are living in an age of the Internet of Things, with networked devices of all kinds in their home. Including, internet enabled electric kettles. And, if you attempt to make an HTTP connection to that electric kettle on the TCP port it uses to communicate with the world the the standards dictate the response code 418 Error – I am a Teapot.

(17) DR. DEMENTO The Doctor has a theme album reports the LA Times “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

(18) BAD ROBOT. Quartz reports how “This robotics hobbyist makes a living creating shitty robots”

Simone Giertz’s morning routine involves a lot of really bad robots. They fail miserably at waking her up, brushing her teeth and making her breakfast. The 25-year-old Swedish robot enthusiast has parlayed their failures into a very successful YouTube channel, and full-time job.

Quartz’ video compilation is at the link. Here’s the introductory video from her channel:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/17 And Lockjaw The Teleporting Bulldog (Played By A Bunch Of Pixels)

(1) STONY END. At Asking the Wrong Questions, Abigail Nussbaum delivers a masterful review of the third novel in the acclaimed trilogy, “The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin”.

It might seem a bit strange to say that The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of the Broken Earth trilogy, had a lot riding on it.  For the past two years, the SF field and its fandom have been falling over themselves to crown this trilogy as not just good, but important.  Both of the previous volumes in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo.  When The Fifth Season won the Hugo in 2016, it made Jemisin the first African-American (and the first American POC) to win the best novel category.  When The Obelisk Gate won the same award earlier this year, it was the first time that consecutive volumes in a series had won the Hugo back-to-back since, I believe, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead thirty years ago.  That’s probably not considered the best company nowadays, but it speaks to the kind of zeitgeist-capturing work that Jemisin is doing with this series.  In that context, the third volume might almost be looked at as a victory lap, just waiting to be showered with laurels.

To me, however, a great deal depended on the kind of ending Jemisin crafted for her story….

(2) STAN BY ME. This doctor makes house calls? Here in LA in October!

(3) THEY WERE JUST RESTING. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have launched a Kickstarter to bring back “Pulphouse Fiction Magazine” after a 21-year hiatus.

Dean returns as editor of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, bringing back the attitude and editing eye that got Pulphouse three Hugo nominations and thousands of subscribers. Kris will function as executive editor. Allyson Longueira is the publisher, Gwyneth Gibby is the associate publisher, and Josh Frase will be the managing editor and website guru….

Pulphouse Fiction Magazine returns as a quarterly publication, with the first issue coming out in January 2018.

But before January, as was a tradition with Pulphouse Publishing, there will be an Issue Zero. Basically, Issue Zero will be a complete issue of the magazine, but will function as a test run.

Issue Zero will be given to anyone who supports this Kickstarter subscription drive if we make our goal.

They’ve already surpassed their $5,000 goal, with 17 days left to run.

(4) BURNING LOVE. The anonymous Red Panda Fraction calls Dragon Con their home convention, and seeks to justify one of their tactics to level the Dragon Awards playing field in “Why Did We Create a Red Panda Slate? 1st Post from Rad Sonja”.

Now that Dragon Con is over and our schedules have returned to normal, it seems like it’s time to explain why the Red Panda Fraction decided to create a slate for the Dragon Awards this year. It was the most controversial thing we did, and we noted the consternation among blog commenters. We appreciate the criticism that authors may not want to be on any slate because it would make them “political footballs” or put targets on their backs. If we create a recommendation list for the next Dragon Award, we will ask authors if they want to be taken off before sending anything out to the public….

“Rad Sonja” doesn’t really delve into the ethics of slating beyond the poetic “fighting fire with fire”, but instead indulges in lengthy speculation about the networking that led to certain results in the first year of the award.

Moreover, from the beginning, the most active boosters of the award have been Puppies. Among the first places to publish a story about the Dragon Awards (April 8th, 2016) was the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA), a closed Facebook group which includes a number of major Puppy organizers. It didn’t take much digging for us to figure out that Dragon Con’s SF=literature track director, Sue Phillips, and long-time SF-lit track volunteer, the Puppy-booster blogger and podcaster, Stephanie Souders, (aka “The Right Geek”, who added Phillips to the FB group in 2014) were also members of the CLFA Facebook group. The CLFA actively promotes the work of their members on their blog. See, for example, this post from this year….

(5) FROM ARES TO ARTEMIS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host “An Evening with Andy Weir” on December 9 at UCSD. Time and ticket information at the link.

 

Join us for the launch of the much-anticipated new novel by Andy Weir, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Martian. Weir will discuss Artemis—a crime caper set on the moon, in a near-future world that Weir builds with his trademark rich, scientifically accurate detail.

Artemis is the first only city on the moon. If you aren’t a tourist or an eccentric billionaire, life in this fledgling new territory is tough. Providence and imperial dreams have been nickel-and-dimed from those who have called the moon their home. That’s why Jazz doesn’t rely on her day-job. She moonlights, instead, as a smuggler, and gets along okay with small-time contraband that is, until the chance to commit the perfect crime presents itself.

Weir will discuss Artemis with Dr. Erik Viirre, Associate Director of the Clarke Center and the Medical and Technical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.

Book signing to follow. Copies will be available for purchase.

(6) JUST GUYS DOIN’ STUFF. Ashe Armstrong answers the question “What is Orctober?” at Fantasy-Faction.

Orctober seeks, as you may have guessed by now, to celebrate the orc. With the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft blowing up like they have, thanks to World of Warcraft and Skyrim, orcs have started to be viewed differently. While there are still those who love the old vision of them, grimy and lanky and full of malice, many of us are embracing a changing view of them. Orcs can be just as varied as the other races. They’re no longer an Evil Race of Evil, or at least not just that. It even happened with the Forgotten Realms books, with Drizzt and the orc, Obould Many-Arrows. In Warcraft, you had Thrall and Durotan. The Elder Scrolls had Gortwog go-Nagorm, who sought to reclaim the lands of Orsinium and help his people find respect.

(7) IN LIVING 3-D. This is great! Walk through the Center for Bradbury Studies using My Matterport.

In the spring of 2007, IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts created the nation’s first center for the study of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

(8) PERSONAL FANDOM STORIES WANTED. Joe Praska at The Continuing Voyage is looking for autobiographical contributions to their series “My Fandom. My Story.”

My Fandom. My Story. is a series on The Continuing Voyage that aims to share the stories of individuals; their fandoms, passions, identity, struggles and successes.  Maybe you have a passion for a certain science fiction franchise that’s helped shape your ideals as an adult, maybe your knitting hobby led you to find a sense of community, maybe your love for a specific book helps you feel a deeper connection to your family or your culture, or maybe your interest in science has shaped your career.  Whatever it is, we’d like to hear your story.

My Fandom. My Story hopes to bring to light personal stories that explore countless themes that may arise such as community, family, creativity, art, inspiration, identity, mindfulness, politics, social justice, and culture while of course exploring the fandoms and passions of the individuals writing.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the original and best The Wolf Man, Larry Talbot had been away 18 years working on Mt. Wilson Observatory in California.

(10) TRIVIALEST TRIVIA

Silent film actor Gibson Gowland appears in The Wolf Man as a villager present at the death of Larry Talbot. He also had been present during the Phantom’s death scene in the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925), becoming the only actor to appear in death scenes performed by both Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered on this day.
  • October 1, 1992 — The Cartoon Network started.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born October 1, 1935 — Julie Andrews (whose best-known genre work is Mary Poppins.)

(13) COMPELLING SF. Publisher Joe Stech has released the 9th issue of Compelling Science Fiction. You can buy the issue from the Kindle store, or download the issue from Patreon in DRM-free mobi and epub format if you’re a subscriber. They also welcome readers to their new Facebook page — facebook.com/CompellingSF

(14) CHEERING FOR CHAOS. Camestros Felapton, in “Separatism, Spain, Catalonia, Russia, the Alt-Right & Chaos-Fascism”, tries to fathom the motives behind the latest political posturing.

I don’t know what Putin’s perspective is on Catalonia but I can guess by looking at more accessible proxy mouthpieces. Our least favourite science fiction publisher, Vox Day, is very much against the Spanish government’s actions and supportive of the Catalonian government. Likewise Julian Assange. The Alt-Right, in general, are treating events in Catalonia and the Spanish government’s heavy hand suppression of the voting as vague proof of something – it isn’t clear what they think it proves but their choosing of sides is clear: Madrid bad, Barcelona good. For once they aren’t on the side of militarised police beating the crap out of ordinary people. Why not? After all, in many ways, the current Spanish government is also nationalist and its application of force to quash dissent would, under other circumstances be cheered by the Alt-Right as strong government protecting national identity.

The answer is that there is always at least 50-50 chance which side of a cross-nationalist conflict they will pick but they will tend to pick the side that creates the biggest headache for trans-national cooperation. Putin wants Western Europe divided, both as payback and strategically and the alt-right follows suit. Everybody loses except chaos-fascism.

(15) BLATANT LIVING. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds is ready to lament “The Death of Subtlety?” (if the answer turns out to be yes.)

The problem with our civilization is the death of subtlety.  Or – scratch that.  One of many problems with a lot of the culture of the United States in 2017 is that there is less subtlety than there maybe should be.

I continue to have – albeit with somewhat diminished enthusiasm as of late – hope that subtle questioning is on the whole a better method than bludgeoning people with the truth….

(16) IN ITS DNA. The Hugo Award Book Club argues that science fiction is, in some ways, a “more political form of literature” than other genres: “The Political Power Of Science Fiction”.

…You cannot write about imaginary futures and different worlds without showing how their societies are different than our own; how they are better and how they are worse. In this sense, as others have observed, science fiction is a medium of utopias and dystopias. And the determination of what makes a society dystopic or utopic is inherently about political values.

If you believe that all humans are really created equal, your utopia likely won’t include a caste system. If you believe that humans have a right to privacy, a government surveillance state will be depicted as a dystopia. If you believe that the world needs racial purity and genetically superior heroes to save us from corruption, you might write a fantasy about a man of high Númenórean blood who is destined to reclaim the Throne of Gondor.

These are all political beliefs.

Practical politics is about changing the world. Science fiction is about exploring worlds that have been changed. The two are intertwined.

This is what the Futurians and their critics at the first Worldcon all understood: By imagining utopias and dystopias, science fiction helps create blueprints that guide us towards, or away from, potential futures….

(17) TV TRIBUTE. Inverse has been eavesdropping: “Elon Musk Named ‘Moon Base Alpha’ After Grooviest Sci-Fi Show Ever”.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced Friday that his space exploration plans now include not just Mars but also the moon. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, Musk revealed the company’s planned next-generation rocket will make it possible to build a moon base — and the name he picked is just his latest homage to beloved science fiction, in this case, the British cult classic Space: 1999….

Musk’s proposed name for the base is Moon Base Alpha, which is a reference to the 1970s British cult classic Space: 1999.

(18) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT #@%! EASY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination shares episode 10 of its podcast Into the Imagination, “Pictures, Pastries, and the Matter of the Universe”.

Physics is cool–and sometimes very hard to understand. …We talk to Duncan Haldane, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize, about quantum topology and why the Nobel committee brought a bagel, a pretzel, and a bun to the award ceremony to explain his ideas. And with the inimitable Sir Roger Penrose, we explore the visual imagination as it relates to science, the work of artist M.C. Escher, and what it has to do with Penrose’s cosmological theory of the universe.

(19) ESKRIDGE PREMIERE. On October 5, the film OtherLife, written by Clarion Workshop alum Kelley Eskridge, gets its North American premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. In the film, OtherLife is a new drug that creates virtual reality directly in the user’s mind–a technology with miraculous potential applications but also applied to dangerous uses, like imprisoning criminals in virtual cells.

Click this link for time and ticket information.

(20) YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A SOUND DOG. Warts and all, “The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience” – from NPR.

Pescovitz approached his former graduate school professor — none other than Ferris, the Golden Record’s original producer — about the project, and Ferris gave his blessing, with one important caveat.

“You can’t release a record without remastering it,” says Ferris. “And you can’t remaster without locating the master.”

That turned out to be a taller order than expected. The original records were mastered in a CBS studio, which was later acquired by Sony — and the master tapes had descended into Sony’s vaults.

Pescovitz enlisted the company’s help in searching for the master tapes; in the meantime, he and Daly got to work acquiring the rights for the music and photographs that comprised the original. They also reached out to surviving musicians whose work had been featured on the record to update incomplete track information.

Finally, Pescovitz and Daly got word that one of Sony’s archivists had found the master tapes.

Pescovitz remembers the moment he, Daly and Ferris traveled to Sony’s Battery Studios in New York City to hear the tapes for the first time.

“They hit play, and the sounds of the Solomon Islands pan pipes and Bach and Chuck Berry and the blues washed over us,” Pescovitz says. “It was a very moving and sublime experience.”

(21) RED NOSES, GREEN LIGHT. Was this campaign meant to coincide with the clown consciousness-raising of Stephen King’s It? Or is it too funny for that to matter? From Adweek — “Audi Sends in the Clowns for This Madcap Ad About How to Avoid Them on the Road”.

A lot of car advertising treats the obstacles that drivers face on the road as literally faceless threats—an avalanche of rocks tumbling across a mountainside road, or a piece of cargo falling blamelessly off a pickup truck in the city.

But let’s face it. The real problem on the roads is the other drivers. Or, if you like, the clowns who share the streets with us…

As simple as it is, the concept also lends itself to brilliant visuals, as the Audi drivers have to deal with all sorts of clowns driving all sorts of clown cars (and buses). It’s all set to a whispering version of Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns” by Faultline and Lisa Hannigan.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Joe Stech, Chip Hitchcock, Camestros Felapton,  Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/17 Won’t You Jaunt Home, Lije Bailey?

(1) IT’S ABOUT TIME. The Sun tells about the actor’s latest project — “Tom Baker is back playing Doctor Who nearly 40 years after originally playing the Time Lord”.

He recorded final scenes for Shada, written by Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy creator Douglas Adams.

It was meant to be a six-episode tale for Tom’s fourth incarnation of the Doctor in 1979-80.

But production was wrecked by a BBC technicians’ strike and only half was filmed before it was shelved.

Tom and other members of the original cast — including Lalla Ward, 66, as companion Romana — returned for the recording in Uxbridge, West London.

They are voicing animated sequences that will replace the unfilmed material.

(2) NEXT LARA CROFT. Rick Marshall on Digital Trends has “First ‘Tomb Raider’ trailer introduces Alicia Vikander as the new Lara Croft”.

Two films based on Lara Croft’s adventures preceded the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot film: 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003’s Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Both films cast Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and collectively earned $432 million at the worldwide box office, making the series one of the highest-grossing film franchises based on a video game property.

Tomb Raider hits theaters March 16, 2018.

 

(3) THE SPIRIT OF SFF. Although I’ve become inured to this phrase being code for “more nutty nuggets, please,” author Joseph Brassey has only the original meaning in mind when he talks about “Keeping the Fun in Science Fiction” at Fantasy-Faction.

I firmly believe, however, that a story should be able to confront real problems without losing its soul, its sense of fun, and this is found in the conviction that things can always be better. It is in an explicit rejection of a tone of cynicism, because work that grapples with darkness doesn’t need to assume it is in the nature of our most misanthropic, derisive qualities to prevail. Hope is not a method, but it is the precursor of methods. The spark that ignites action and turns talk of change into moving feet and hands grasping for actions of worth. Hope is not the fire. It is the lighter of fires.

The human element is everything. Where the fantastical meets the machine. Where the magic meets the skycraft. Where the sword turns aside the crackling bolt of gunfire and the pilot spins the wheel to take her ship from the roaring path of the dragon’s breath. Where conflict assails the human spirit and we find our noblest qualities in the face of ravening hate, violent authoritarianism, and bone-chilling fear.

It is in the wonder that reaches for stars, responds to fury with mercy, hatred with love, having the courage to peer beyond a terrible present to embrace a future awash with a thousand hues of color.

(4) GENRE WALK WITH ME. Abigail Nussbaum delves into her psychology as a viewer, the history of a particular show, and generational changes in the television medium in “That Gum You Like: Scattered Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return” at Asking the Wrong Question.

My third try with Twin Peaks was just a few months ago, when, in preparation for the upcoming revival series, I mainlined the entire 30 episodes of the show, plus Fire Walk With Me, over a long weekend.  It was strange experiencing the show this way, simultaneously a newcomer and someone who knew quite a bit about it, including the major turns of plot.  What was even stranger was how much the existence of The Return changed the meaning and significance of the original Twin Peaks, even before a single frame of it had aired.  From a failed experiment, it became merely a chapter in a story, whose later installments might yet redeem it.  Watching Twin Peaks was suddenly no longer an exercise in nostalgia and self-flagellation, but that venerable Peak TV practice of binge-watching the previous seasons before the new episodes start.  I ended up enjoying this rewatch much more than I was expecting (Fire Walk With Me, in particular, turns out to be a great deal more rewarding than I’d been led to believe), but I wonder if I would have felt the same if I didn’t know that another chapter in the saga was just around the corner.

(5) YOUR HOST, BORIS KARLOFF. It’s 1962 in England and a wonderful sf anthology series has just completed its run: “[Sep. 20, 1962] Out of this World (the British Summer SF hit!)”. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard delivers mini-reviews of all the episodes.

As I mentioned before, this series was launched with Dumb Martian shown as part of the Armchair Theatre series.  The new series has a very spooky theme tune called The Concerto to the Stars, composed by Eric Siday, which plays against a background of moving microscopic tentacles that sets the tone for the show.  For those who are interested, Tony Hatch has expanded the theme tune into very catchy 45 record, available from all good record stores.

The format of the show has each episode introduced by Boris Karloff, who is disarmingly charming with his bon mots about the story to come.  There are two breaks for adverts, which is annoying, but this is commercial TV, so it is to be expected.  Then Mr. Karloff signs off the story with an announcement of the cast.

(6) LAWYER LETTERS GO GENRE. Adweek has the story: “Netflix Sent the Best Cease-and-Desist Letter to This Unauthorized Stranger Things Bar”.

Evidence for this comes from Chicago, where an unauthorized Stranger Things bar recently opened and has since become quite popular. Naturally, Netflix wasn’t OK with this. But instead of firing off a nasty, sharply worded missive, it sent a quite adorable letter to the owners in the style of the Stranger Things universe.

“Danny and Doug,” the letter started out…

My walkie talkie is busted so I had to write this note instead. I heard you launched a Stranger Things pop-up bar at your Logan Square location. Look, I don’t want you to think I’m a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I’m living in the Upside Down, I don’t think we did a deal with you for this pop-up. You’re obviously creative types, so I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build.

We’re not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you, but we ask that you please (1) not extend the pop-up beyond its 6 week run ending in September, and (2) reach out to us for permission if you plan to do something like this again. Let me know as soon as possible that you agree to these requests.

We love our fans more than anything, but you should know the Demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don’t make us call your mom.

(7) THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Early in Honest Trailers’ take on Wonder Woman comes this line:

Now, Patty Jenkins bravely asks the question, “What if a female-led superhero movie wasn’t absolute garbage from beginning to end, and had a powerful message for girls: Save the world, look flawless doing it, be a literal god, then men might begrudgingly half-tolerate your presence?”

 

“I pretty much howled,” says Rick Moen, who sent the link, “Fair cop.”

(8) VOICE OF OUR FRIENDS. Last night a thousand people paid tribute to the late June Foray. From The Hollywood Reporter, “Veteran Voice Actress June Foray Remembered by Lily Tomlin, More at Packed Event”.

Billed as “Hokey Smokes! A June Foray Celebration,” the grand gala was produced by animation veterans Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, Bob Bergen, Howard Green and Tom Sito and ably hosted by Evanier, who was June’s longtime friend and sometime employer.

Among the many eager to pay personal and professional tribute were Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson), Bill Mumy (who spoke of June’s guest appearance on an episode of Lost in Space), animation historian Charles Solomon, Teresa Ganzel (The Duck Factory) and a surprise guest — Lily Tomlin — who won a voiceover Emmy in 2013 the same night June received the Governors Award. Tomlin said of Foray, “The characters she played were so much more than cartoons; they were our friends.” …

Foray was also saluted for her tireless efforts to engender more respect for the world of animation as a founding member of the American branch of ASIFA (Association International du Film d’Animation), which produces the annual Annie Awards, and she is credited with helping to establish the Academy Award category for best animated feature film.

As a grand finale, Evanier invited a number of animation actresses who had been inspired by Foray’s pioneering work to come up onstage and pose for a sort of “class photo” (below) flanking a large portrait of Foray in her natural habitat — seated at a microphone….

Evanier remarked that Foray’s career began in the Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s and continued up to and including video games.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 20, 1979 – The theatrical release was edited down as the pilot episode for TV’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • September 20, 1985 Morons From Outer Space premiered theatrically on this day.
  • September 20, 1987  — Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future premiered its first and only season.
  • September 20, 2002 Firefly premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin

(11) MALTIN ON ELLISON BIO. Leonard Maltin approves “A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON: AN EXPLORATION WITH EXTENSIVE INTERVIEWS by Nat Segaloff (Nesfa Press)” which is more than I can say ‘til I read it. And maybe then.

Harlan Ellison is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. An author, activist, and professional provocateur, he is incapable of being dull, which makes this book a page-turner almost by definition. His fame in the field of science-fiction obscures other facets of his career, including writing for television and movies. It’s all chronicled in this highly readable profile by a longtime friend and follower. No single book could cover the entirety of Ellison’s life, or reproduce every one of his memorable rants, but Segaloff makes a healthy start in that direction.

(12) QUARTER CENTURY MARK. SyFy Wire continues to celebrate the channel’s 25th anniversary with lists – today “25 people we really miss”.

In the last 25 years, we’ve had some amazing new creators of science fiction, fantasy, and horror emerge – but we’ve lost many true legends in the field along the way, as well. These writers, artists, actors, and visionaries helped to make our world a richer place with the power of their imaginations and continue to inspire us long after they’re gone.

How often are you going to see David Bowie on a list sandwiched between Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury?

(13) LOTS TO TALK ABOUT. Amal El-Mohtar sees strengths and weaknesses in Annalee Newitz’ Autonomous: “In A Future Ruled By Big Pharma, A Robot Tentatively Explores Freedom — And Sex: ‘Autonomous'”.

I rarely dog-ear the books I read for review, trusting myself to remember their most notable aspects. I dog-eared enough of Autonomous‘ pages to almost double its thickness, such was the granularity of things I wanted to highlight, praise, and discuss. From startling insights to delicately turned prose to whole passages of unbearably tender musings on the intimate desires of artificial intelligence, there’s much more than I can feasibly talk about here. But here’s some highlights.

Autonomous‘ main interest is the danger our late capitalist modernity poses to personhood, and the intricacies of what it means to be free – from ownership, from programming, from the circumstances of one’s birth. But the parts that enthralled and moved me most – to laughter, to tears – were the musings on sexuality, and the contrast between Jack and Paladin’s respective experiences. Throughout most of the novel, Jack’s relationship to sexuality is written in clinical, chemical terms, a physical means to a physical end; Paladin’s, meanwhile, is explored in intimate, puzzled probings, often starkly contrasted with the extreme violence for which Paladin was built. I loved the contrast between seeing a woman treat sex as casually as an itch to scratch, and a genderless robot building romance and sexuality from first principles, through internet searches, conversations with other AIs, and awkward, fumbling experiments.

(14) BUGS M ‘LADY: Sophia Spencer and Morgan Jackson co-wrote a scientific paper on Twitter, entomology and women in science, after a tweet about Sophia’s love for bugs went viral: “Once Teased For Her Love Of Bugs, 8-Year-Old Co-Authors Scientific Paper”

We were hoping that we could find an entomologist or two, perhaps, that would be willing to talk to Sophie and share a little bit about their backstory,” he said. “We were blown away with the number of people who came charging to help Sophia.” The organization received more than a thousand replies and more than 130 direct messages.

(15) WOMEN IN POP CULTURE. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas takes a victory lap in “Hard Corps: Women in power and the politics of taking action”.

This same toxicity has recently riddled science fiction and fantasy literature as well. In 2015 and 2016, alt-right trolls took aim at the prestigious Hugo Awards and what they perceived as a leftist bias. Women, of course, have long had a forceful presence in this literary domain, particularly those driven by strong ideological motivations: Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler to name but a few. And in film, directors including Kristina Buozyte, Kate Chaplin, Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Phang and Lizzie Borden have each used science fiction codes and conventions in profound and often diverse ways.

But it is in front of the camera that the genre’s history of strong, active women is the most visible and diverse. Heroine Maria and her evil gynoid doppelga?nger in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, aggressive sex bomb Jane Fonda as the title character in Roger Vadim’s Barbarella, turbo-mum Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, resourceful Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, and – of course – the iconic image of the no-shit-taking woman, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien movies. For starters.

But if we’re going to lift the lid off of this particular Pandora’s Box, it’s worth doing it properly. Representations of strong women in cinema bleed outwards across eras, production contexts and the often blurry lines of film genre itself. Any prehistory of women characters in the recent Star Wars movies – Rey (Daisy Ridley) from The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) from Rogue One – must necessarily look far beyond the terrain of sci-fi itself.

(16) TERMINATOR WILL RETURN. Borys Kit’s Hollywood Reporter story “Linda Hamilton Set to Return to ‘Terminator’ Franchise”, says that James Cameron is producing a new Terminator film, to be directed by Deadpool director Tim Miller.

After waving hasta la vista, baby, more than 25 years ago, Linda Hamilton is returning to the world of Terminator, reuniting with James Cameron, the creator of the sci-fi franchise, for the new installment being made by Skydance and Paramount.

Cameron made the announcement at a private event celebrating the storied franchise, saying, “As meaningful as she was to gender and action stars everywhere back then, it’s going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she’s become return.”

With Hamilton’s return, Cameron hopes to once again make a statement on gender roles in action movies.

“There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys,” he said, referring to aging male actors still anchoring movies, “but there isn’t an example of that for women.”

(17) G AS IN GEEZER. Meanwhile, an octagenarian male hero gets the glory in William Shatner’s Zero-G: Green Space, released September `9.

In the second installment of William Shatner’s Zero-G series, Director Samuel Lord must identify a mole sabotaging the top-secret NASA project aboard the US space station Empyrean, while also fighting a fast-replicating virus that threatens humanity. In the year 2050, the United States sends the FBI to govern its space station, The Empyrean. Under the command of suave, eighty-year-old director Samuel Lord, the “Zero-G” men are in charge of investigating terrorism, crime, corruption, and espionage, keeping an eye on the rival Chinese and Russian stations as well….

(18)  PUNISHER. Nextflix has a new trailer up for the Punisher.

[Thanks to JJ, Meredith, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]