Pixel Scroll 4/7/16 Pixels On Earth, Fifth To All Mankind

(1) CALL ME KATSU. The Awl author Silvia Killingsworth declares “You Can’t Make Me Call It A Robopus”.

“The researchers built another octopus-inspired bot called ‘Poseidrone’ that tackled the more difficult challenge of swimming. A few different tactics were employed before engineers decided the best swimming mechanism was to give up control of Poseidrone’s arms altogether. The end result is a little kooky-looking (think a chicken flapping its wings underwater), but it gets the job done.”

Biomimicry, soft electronics and smart control mechanisms help these robots get a better grip on a complex world

(2) MINNEAPOLIS MARATHON. David Stever writes: “We have a Twin Cities radio station KTMY that has touted itself as ‘all thing entertainment’ for the past few years (they have a gossip alert every 30 minutes throughout the day), and one of their sponsors has put together a Game of Thrones listener contest with a neat twist. Folks have been putting their names in to participate in a 46-hour Games of Thrones watching party by four individuals which will be followed by a GoT trivia contest to thin out the survivors, so that from the four, a single winner will be given two tickets for a tour of Iceland put together by a travel agency/sponsor.  If only it could have happened during Minicon weekend…

Click here for more information about The Nights Watch Marathon, a binge-fest of the HBO series presented by myTalk 107.1 starting April 19.

(3) KEEP REWATCHING THE SKIES. Hello Giggles found more candy in a Harry Potter movie — “This ‘Harry Potter’ professor got a new wand in the middle of the series and no one noticed”.

In the Harry Potter world, a wand is maybe the most important tool at a wizard’s disposal. In the real world, we obsess over each and every Harry Potter book and movie, searching for new tidbits we missed the first few hundred times around. Turns out, we’ve collectively missed one very big change involving a very big part of the wizarding world.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Flitwick, played by Warwick Davis, underwent some major, major changes. His entire look changed (and, we have to say, for the better)….

“I have two different wands in Harry Potter,” Davis explained. “In the first two films, when I played the older looking Flitwick, I had quite an intricate wand that consisted of many different materials. It was wood and it had a kind of pearlescent handle and then a kind of brass tip, and the brass tip connected with your hand.” …

(4) LOOSE ENDS. At Entertainment Weekly, “Harry Potter actors reveal the questions they still have for J. K. Rowling”

LUNA LOVEGOOD

EVANNA LYNCH: I think the big blank is her mom. I’ve always wondered what she’s like. We’ve just been told her name is Pandora and that she died doing an experiment, and I just wonder, I really am curious what was her relationship with Luna? Because obviously she’s so close to her dad, and I find that there’s always one parent that you have more in common with or that you confide in more, and I wonder … was that her mom? Or just what kind of person she was.

(5) CAMPAIGNER. James H. Burns has a bulletin from the political front:

I was at an event yesterday with President Bill Clinton, a local Long Island rally to help get out the vote for his wife’s Presidential run, in New York’s April 19th primary… [Here’s a video.]

It occurred to me how much of the President’s speech had a futuristic ring. (By the way, whether you agree with Mr. Clinton’s politics or not, he remains a charismatic, compelling, and humorous orator.) He mentioned that much of his work with his foundation (which has had success around the world with healthcare, human rights and “green” initiatives) has reinforced to him the importance of using available technologies in creative ways.

“We can have environmental policies that actually grow the economy,” said Mr. Clinton, citing the success of solar energy programs in Iowa, and other endeavors.

As to the obstacles by some factions to the implementation of certain new programs, Clinton stated, “That’s nothing new…  Rich people have always been greedy!”

It was under Clinton, of course, that the internet first flourished, which made another statement intriguing: “You can build all the walls you want around America; you can’t keep out social media.”

There was also one other idea that might strike particularly close to home, at least for those who remember a very famous William Shatner sketch (and this, from the most Kirk-like of our recent presidents):

“We have to take down the walls to participation,” said the President, referring to the continuing increasing costs of a college education, and student loans.  “College debt is the only debt in America that you cannot refinance…  A college education is a lifetime assset… Let’s make it like a mortgage

“Then, everyone could move out of their parents’ house.”

(6) PROPELLER BEANIES. Terence McArdle’s obituary for country singer Merle Haggard in the April 7 Washington Post tells how one mundane abused the quintessential faannish icon.

In 1957, [Haggard] was sentenced to five years in California’s San Quentin State Prison for car theft and burglary.

The burglary charge resulted from an inebriated attempt to pry open the back door of a restaurant in broad daylight. After his apprehension, Mr. Haggard simply walked out of the Bakersfield City Jail.

Having embarrassed the local police with his escape, he was captured at his brother’s house in Lamont, Calif., 25 miles away. Mr. Haggard recalled in his 1999 memoir, “Merle Haggard’s My House of Memories,” written with Tom Carter, that he had been spotted earlier that day in Bakersfield wearing a propeller beanie as a disguise.

(7) LINES FOR FELINES. Ebook Friendly compiles fun examples of the Twitter meme “What if book titles were rewritten for cats?”

(8) BAUERSFELD OBIT. American radio dramatist and voice actor Erik Bauersfeld died April 3. He was the voice of Admiral Ackbar (“It’s a trap!”) and Bib Fortuna in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

BoingBoing has assembled a tribute with YouTube clips and links.

Bauersfeld

(9) DRAGON AWARDS: MORE REACTIONS. Kate Paulk and Vox Day both wrote about the new awards today. They reacted — with approval, naturally, but without implying they were aware it would happen.

Vox Day react to the Dragon Awards announcement in “Making SF awards great again” at Vox Popoli.

Yes, indeed, I think the Hugo Awards might have just taken a few hits over the last decade or two. In any event, I’m sure the science fiction fandom community is every bit as delighted about people taking their advice and setting up a new and alternative award as they were about people taking John Scalzi’s advice to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards….

I am registered to vote in the Dragon Awards and I would encourage you to do so as well. I’ll post my recommendations here the week after the Hugo shortlist is announced, in the event that any of you might happen to be curious about them.

Kate Paulk recommends the new awards as “Another Way To Help End Puppy-Related Sadness” at Mad Genius Club.

Apparently someone at DragonCon has decided the field needs a new set of awards because, well… this. I like their set of categories: they fit nicely with the way the field is evolving, with no fewer than four game categories – one for each major type of game. Talk about comparing like with like.

They also separated comic books and graphic novels, and they have a dedicated YA category. Is that not wholly awesome?

Things aren’t 100%, yet – there’s a bit of a copy-paste artifact in their Best Fantasy Novel info that made me giggle but still… It’s nice to see a recognition that Fantasy is not Science Fiction is not Horror is not…

Even more interesting, the Dragon Awards are a complete people’s choice award. Anyone can sign up and vote, and it costs nothing. I’m really looking forward to comparing what comes out of the Hugo process and what comes out of the Dragon process – particularly in terms of numbers of voters and the like (hopefully the Dragon folks will be nice and give us that information to playahem… run statistical analysis with.

Faithful File 770 reader Christopher M. Chupik registered a palpable hit with this comment:

Sad Puppies was in it’s death throes a few weeks ago, according to them, and yet we also managed to manipulate DragonCon into doing our bidding.

But how often do you find Damien G. Walter in agreement with, in this case, nearly everyone?

(10) HEROIC PENS. New merchandise in the virtual window at the iPenStore

Cross celebrates three classic Marvel Super Heroes with the new Marvel Collection of pens from the Marvel Universe: Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. Available in the Classic Century II rollerball and the Tech 2 ballpoint pen/stylus.

 

Capt Am pens MarvelBanner

(11) THE OLD IN-OUT IN-OUT. Burgers were on John Scalzi’s agenda today in Los Angeles.

(12) THESE ARE THE JOKES. Horrible Tolkien-themed pun in Dan Thompson’s Brevity cartoon today. (In other words, I laughed…)

(13) ICON JOINS ALIEN DAY CELEBRATION. Birth. Movies. Death. has the story. “Sigourney Weaver Will Help The Alamo Drafthouse Celebrate ALIEN DAY”.

ALIENS’ female leads take center stage with Sigourney Weaver joining NY screening and Jenette Goldstein & Carrie Henn leading LA talent to mark chest-bursting 4.26.16 date – plus exclusive new Mondo T-shirt and line of official merchandise…

While it may be true that in space no one can hear you scream, they will be heard loud and clear on April 26, 2016 as Alamo Drafthouse and Mondo join in on 20th Century Fox’s nationwide celebration of LV-426 / ALIEN DAY / 4.26.16  – a date paying tribute, of course to the desolate LV-426 featured in both films.

While the Alien Queen instantly became the stuff of nightmares, it is the three female leads who hold iconic status with fans everywhere. In response, Alamo Drafthouse and Mondo are pleased to announce that star Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winner Sigourney Weaver – Ellen Ripley herself – will be on hand for a screening of ALIENS at New York City’s Town Hall. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Jenette Goldstein – AKA the tough-as-nails Private Vasquez – and Carrie Henn – the indomitable Newt – will be in attendance for ALIENS at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel – just around the corner from where Alamo’s first LA location is now under construction.  And last but not least, Alamo and Mondo will co-present a terrifying ALIEN + ALIENS double feature at Chicago’s beloved arthouse titan, The Music Box Theatre.

(14) IT’S NOT A WRAP YET. ScreenRant tells, “The Mummy Reboot Is Now Filming; Set Photos Feature Tom Cruise”.

Universal Pictures is now working on a reboot of The Mummy franchise in order to launch a rebooted version of Universal’s shared monster movie universe. Action veteran Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation), Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) and Jake Johnson (New Girl) are starring in the film, with Alex Kurtzman (co-writer of Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness) in the director’s chair. The plot sees Cruise’s ex-Navy SEAL take on a Mummy that is being played by Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service).

Coming Soon has posted the first set photos of Cruise and Wallis – who, in the latter’s case, is playing an archaeologist – filming scenes in Oxford, England for The Mummy reboot. The pictures show a night shoot somewhere in the center of the famous university city. While these images don’t really give much away, what the photos do confirm is that the film is set in the present day (as previously reported), as we can tell by the contemporary clothing being worn by the pair – something that makes all the more sense, what with Cruise playing a former Navy SEAL….

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Stever, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/16 I Was Thinkin ‘Bout A Pixel That Might Have Scrolled Me, And I Never Knew

(1) BIOPSY REPORT. Some good Kathryn Cramer health news. She posted to her Facebook page, after her Monday brain surgery.

“Tumor biopsied: it is benign.”

(2) MARYLAND WINNER. Andy Duncan is a recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council 2016 Individual Artist Award in the fiction-writing category.

These awards recognize the exceptional artistic achievements of talented artists from across the state.

This year’s IAA awards, totaling $218,000, go to 96 artists working within the disciplines of Creative Non-Fiction/Fiction, Media/Digital/Electronic Arts, Theater Solo Performance, Painting, and Works on Paper.

Selected from more than 585 applicants, the 2016 awardees receive grants for $1,000, $3,000 or $6,000 to honor their achievement and to support further advancement of their career.

Recipient artists’ names are available here.

(3) AUTHORS WHO ARE NOT GETTING PAID. Anna Grace Carpenter writes about — Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”.

On March 23, 2016, Bence Pintér published an article at Mandiner Magazine regarding numerous stories published by Galaktika Magazine in 2015 – most of them translated and reprinted without the knowledge or consent of the original authors…..

I first became aware of the unfolding story when an author acquaintance on Twitter began urging other authors to check and see if their work had also been stolen and pointed them to the thread at the Absolute Write Water Cooler which in turn linked to a FaceBook post by Sean Wallace (shared by Ellen Datlow) which contained the link to Bence Pintér’s article at Mandiner. There was also a link to the Galaktika website, which I followed and began looking through the bibliography. (Possibly the only word I am able to recognize in Hungarian.)

As I looked through the TOC for monthly magazines, I immediately began to recognize names and I reached out to a couple that I followed on Twitter.

Aliette DeBodard was the first to respond. I asked her about the translation and publication of her short story “Shipbirth” (Asimov’s Feb 2011) that had appeared in the June 2012 issue of Galaktika. She confirmed that it had been published without her consent and she had contacted them when she became aware. That inquiry was apparently ignored – the editor made no attempt to offer compensation for having printed her story, and, from what she can see reviewing the email at the time, did not bother to respond at all….

No one wants to see a magazine disappear, especially in a country with only a couple Hungarian language SF/F markets, but if that publisher is depending on either stealing or otherwise acquiring work for free, I think they are doing more damage than good. Especially now that it’s become apparent that this is not an occasional problem, but habitual theft of intellectual property.

I asked Mr. Pintér if the publisher had responded to the allegations of theft and he said they had declined to comment on the matter during a separate interview. “After that they sent an email, which is in the article. The boss said that “the area of copyrights is a complicated stuff”. Since then no word from them.”

(4) OCCASIONALLY FREE IS OK. Jim C. Hines is not keen on “Working For Exposure”. Ordinarily.

There are exceptions, of course. I’ve written free content for projects I believe in, for friends and people I like, and for the pure fun of it. But if all you’re offering is exposure, I get plenty of that here on the blog. And to be blunt, my time is valuable, and I only have a limited amount. Writing for you takes time that could otherwise go to other projects, or to hanging out with my family, or even to raking up the leaves and sticks in the back yard.

I’m pretty comfortable at this point with the idea that as a writer, I deserve to be paid. (Though I still struggle with interviews sometimes, depending on where the interview is supposed to appear and how much time will be involved.)

But what about non-writing stuff? I’m sometimes asked to speak at schools, or to present at libraries, or do talk about writing at a workshop. What about a half-hour Skype chat with a book club? Or speaking at the local NaNoWriMo kickoff event? …

(5) SIGNAL INTERVIEW. At SF Signal, Carl Slaughter interviews “Professor Tom Greene on Racism, Hard Science, Vampire Literature, and Hard Lessons about Writing”.

But of course none of my students ever believe me, and I was just the same. I spent more than 20 years writing unpublishable stories while vigorously not listening to people who tried to tell me what was wrong.

So around 2006 I finally accepted that it was a problem with my writing and not the publishing industry, which made it possible for me to begin trying to figure out what the problem was. This is where Critters.org was a big help. The revelation (that I’ve mentioned in other places) happened one day when I was critiquing another writer’s story. It wasn’t a bad story. The writing was competent and the central idea was interesting. But I didn’t really care about the character, and the character seemed to be doing things that didn’t make much difference, and I probably wouldn’t have read the story at all if I didn’t have to critique it.

Which, I realized, was exactly like all of my own stories.

So once that happened, I started working systematically on the problem of how to make a story more engaging. Within a couple of years, my stories started getting published.

(6) NINE’S TO BLAME. No wonder it’s been hiding! According to the Independent — “Planet Nine: Mysterious planet is to blame for mass extinctions of life on Earth, scientists claims”.

The mystery of the extinction events that happen every 27 million or so years is an equally long-investigated and mysterious problem. Nobody is really clear why the comets tend to arrive on such an apparently regular schedule — but potential other explanations include a companion star to our own sun or extra risk as we travel through the spiral arms of the Milky Way.

But the new theory suggests that if the idea of the periodic extinctions is true, then it may be that the particular orbit of Planet 9 is to blame. It proposes that as the planet moves around the solar system, it passes through the Kuiper Belt — an area of the outer solar system full of icy objects — every 27 million years, knocking comets towards us and into the inner solar system.

Once they arrive there, they can smash into the Earth and reduce the sunlight getting to us, potentially leading to the extinction events, the researchers claim.

(7) DEALING WITH HB2. North Carolina convention IllogiCon has posted this statement on Facebook.

Given the advent of that atrocious affront to humankind that is HB2, we wanted to make sure all our members would be safe and comfortable in our usual hotel. We reached out to them, and got this lovely response:

“Our bathrooms will be running as normal as years past. You will not expect anything different from the staff at the Embassy Suites regarding bathrooms. If any of your guests feel uncomfortable using our public restrooms they are welcome to use the bathrooms near the pool area. They serve as family style restrooms, have only one stall, and are lockable from the inside. I hope this helps because we love having you with us.”

Pee as thou wilt, people.

*To clarify for those who have never been to illogiCon before, “running as normal” means the hotel does not monitor bathroom use nor does it enforce use of one bathroom over another.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 30, 1945 – Eric Clapton. This birthday boy has had his music in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Men in Black.

(9) ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Another trailer from Official Disney.

(10) PRINT IS HERE TO STAY. From his vantage in 1961, The Traveler explains to readers of Galactic Journey why visual media won’t be driving printed sf/f to extinction.

All this hubbub is silly.  There are two reasons why printed sf/f isn’t going anywhere, at least for the next few decades.  The first is that the quality isn’t in the films or television shows.  Sure, there are some stand-outs, like the first season of The Twilight Zone, and the occasional movie that gets it right, but for the most part, it’s monsters in rubber suits and the worst “science” ever concocted.

But the second reason, and this is the rub, is the sheer impermanence of the visual media.  If you miss a movie during its run, chances are you’ve missed out forever.  Ditto, television.  For instance, I recently learned that an episode of Angel (think I Love Lucy, but with a French accent) starred ex-Maverick, James Garner.  I’m out of luck if I ever want to see it unless it happens to make the summer re-runs.

(11) EASTERCON FAN FUND ACTION. Jim Mowatt announced —

Fan funds auction at Eastercon raised 866 pounds to be split equally between Taff and Guff. Many thanks everyone helping at the auction; Kylie Ding, Carrie Mowatt, Fishlifter Claire, James Shields, Douglas Spencer, Fionna o Sullivan, Mary Burns, Anna Raftery. Also all the people who donated things and bought things. The fan funds continue to exist because of you folks.

(12) FUTURE PUPPIES. Brandon Kempner begins to collate his numbers in “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 3”.

Does this estimate tell us anything, or is it just useless fantasizing? I can see people arguing either way. What this does is narrow the range down to something somewhat sensible. We’re not predicting Ann Leckie is going to get 2000 votes for Best Novel. We’re not predicting she’s going to get 100. I could predict 450-800 and then match that against the 220-440 Rabid Puppies prediction. That would tell me Leckie seems like a likely nominee.

We can go destroy this prediction if we make different assumptions. I could assume that the new voters to the Hugos won’t vote in anything like typical patterns, i.e. that they are complete unknowns. Maybe they’ll vote Leckie at a 75% rate. Maybe they’ll vote her 0%. Those extremes grate against my thought patterns. If you know Chaos Horizon, I tend to chose something in the middle based on last year’s data. That’s a predictive choice I make; you might want to make other ones.

(13) RABID POPPINS. Vox Day is a bit touchy about Chaos Horizon’s estimates that Rabid Puppy performance may not be statistically perfect in every way — “Rabid Puppies 2016: updates and estimates”.

I, personally, consider this to be an inadvertent affront. I would be surprised if only 80 percent of the Rabid Puppies could be bothered to show up and nominate….

What Chaos Horizon means by “slate decay” is a simple failure of discipline. Last year, for example, far more Puppies submitted nominations in Best Novel than in other, less important categories or went lone ranger on occasion. And while I can’t see what slate decay could possibly have to do with what is merely a list of recommendations, and by no means a direct order to anyone, least of all the Rabid Puppies, the Sad Puppies, the Ilk, the Dread Ilk, the Vile Faceless Minions, or the Evil Legion of Evil, by their Supreme Dark Lord, I do think one would be remiss were one to fail to fill out the entire nominating ballot.

(14) HOLD ONTO YOUR WALLETS. Twentieth Century Fox announced Alien Day, a global celebration of the Alien franchise on April 26. IGN reports —

The date 4/26 is of course a nod to LV-426, the planet from the Alien films. The day will have nationwide screenings of the movies, the release of never-before-seen products, and the start of the Alien: Ultimate Trivia Challenge, which will allow fans to win prizes every 42.6 minutes on Twitter.

Reebok is releasing the Alien Stomper worn by Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, and the mid tops worn by Lance Henriksen as the Android Bishop.

There will also be a Lieutenant Vasquez and Newt figure from NECA, as well as a Kenner-toy inspired Ellen Ripley figure. More figures come in the form of an Aliens Queen & Power Loader and Ripley set in Funko’s ReAction series.

As for literature, Dark Horse Comics will feature exclusive covers at participating retailers for the ongoing Aliens series, and a deluxe 30th anniversary hardcover version of the original Aliens series from 1986. Meanwhile, Titan Books is launching a brand new novel, Alien: Invasion (The Rage War book 2) by Tim Lebbon.

(15) STRONG SIGNAL. SF Signal’s new Mind Meld, curated by Paul Weimer, delivers “Our Recent Faves from the Lighter Side of the Genre”.

Q: What books have you read, especially recently, that you’d recommend to others as a temporary vacation from the slings and arrows of our current world?

Melinda M. Snodgrass, Sue Burke, Rene Sears, Lyda Morehouse, Mari Ness, Kat Howard, Kelly Robson, Valerie Valdes, Charlie Jane Anders, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Ursula Vernon, Penny Reeve, and Erin Lindsey name those titles.

(16) NEOLOGIZER ROLL CALL. Popular words invented by authors (infographic)” Kate Funk has created a visual that puts together the words coined by authors and used for the first time in their books.

Will R. says, “Who knew Dr. Seuss invented ‘nerd’? Cyberspace is about as scifi as it gets here. Grok would have been a good one to include.”

(17) SPECTRAL POLITICS. Vox Day also is at work on a non-Hugo sekrit projectRelativity and the ideological spectrum – involving a 9-point scale of political figures. Readers were asked to chime in.

One is extreme left, nine is extreme right. The goal is to clarify, not obscure or start arguments, so leave Hitler and anyone else likely to spark debate out of it.

  1. Vladimir Lenin
  2. Karl Marx
  3. Angela Merkel
  4. Bill Clinton
  5. John F. Kennedy
  6. George W. Bush
  7. Ronald Reagan
  8. Thomas Jefferson
  9. Ayn Rand

I have to say, among the readers’ suggestions brentg’s are my favorites, even if he disobeyed the instruction to stop at nine.

  1. brentg

1. Windows 7
2. Windows XP
3. WFW 3.11
4. Windows 2000, sp3+
5. Windows 98 SE
6. Dos622
7. Windows 95
8. Windows98
9. Windows ME
10. Mac

  1. brentg

1. ungoliant
2. morgoth
3. sauron
4. sauraman
5. eol / feanor
6. tom bombadill
7. galadrial
8. gandalf
9. aragorn
10. boromir

(18) SCANNERS. A 1937 letter features in “Otto Binder on John W. Campbell” by Doug Ellis at Black Gate.

The letter is primarily of interest due to its discussion of John W. Campbell, a few months before Campbell would become editor of Astounding. It’s a shame that no more detailed record of the story telling game played at Binder’s house between him, Dr. John Clark, Frank Belknap Long, Campbell and Campbell’s wife exists; it would have been fascinating to sit in on this! Binder is clearly a fan of Campbell’s fiction (later on, when he found it difficult to sell to him at Astounding, he was not nearly as much a fan of his editing).

(19) IT’S ABOUT TIMES. John Scalzi tells about “My New Writing Gig”.

So here’s a cool thing: I, along with nine other folks, am one of the Los Angeles Times’ book section’s “Critics at Large.” This means from time to time in the pages of the Times, I’ll be writing about books, the universe and everything.

(20) DEADPOOL. Tom Knighton received word that a Special Edition Deadpool DVD is in the works. The release is quoted at his site.

I have to admit I have mixed feelings about this.  “Director’s Cut” could be awesome.  Then again, ramping it up to NC-17 could go either way.  Still.

(21) WHEN WINDOWS 95 WAS YOUR FRIEND. At BrainJet, “This Windows 95 Infomercial Stars Two ‘Friends’ And It’s The Best ‘90s Throwback Ever”.

While Microsoft would like to have us believe that it’s the actors “Jen” and “Matty” (Jen’s cutesy little nickname for Matthew Perry) starring in the video, we all know they’re really playing their “Friends” characters “Rachel” and “Chandler” without saying so in case NBC decides to sue. Not only is Aniston rocking the Rachel haircut and primping and fluffing every chance she gets, but Perry plays Chandler to a T, cracking bad joke after bad joke and letting no silence go unfilled. He even refers to the receptionist as the “wicked witch of Windows 95” (one of his better one-liners if you ask us).

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6 From the Mixed-Up Pixels of Mrs. Basil E. Frankscroller

(1) WITNESS FOR GOLLUM. Well-known Tolkien scholar Michael D.C. Drout is quoted in the New York Times’ “Is Gollum Good or Evil? Jail Term in Turkey Hinges on Answer”.

Michael D. C. Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College who edits an annual review of Tolkien’s works, is observing the situation from America. He said that those experts will be assessing the most complicated character in the English writer’s already complex world.

“I don’t think there’s any consensus that Gollum is evil,” Mr. Drout said in an interview. “He is the most tragic character in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

Middle Earth, the place where Gollum began his life as a creature named Sméagol, is full of complex characters and allegiances. But a single gold ring, forged with a dark lord’s evil powers, has the power to rule them all. Sméagol catches a glimpse of the ring, murders for it, and possesses it for centuries until it is mislaid and found by another hobbit. Sméagol struggles to redeem himself, but his obsessive bloodthirst for the ring wins out. He accidentally destroys himself and the ring, but also saves Middle Earth in the process. (It is the hobbit hero Frodo who gets most of the credit.)

“The context is this: Gollum accidentally, not intentionally, saves the entire world,” Mr. Drout said.

Mr. Drout said that no one would’ve appreciated the existential debate over Gollum more than the author who created him. Painfully and pitifully, Sméagol almost succeeds in overcoming his evil side, but fails. It is a scene that is said to have upset Mr. Tolkien to the point of tears as he wrote it, Mr. Drout said.

“He didn’t see him as irredeemably evil,” he said of Mr. Tolkien. “He saw him as someone who had been destroyed by this evil ring.”

(2) COMIC CON IN INDIA. The fifth Delhi Comic Con drew an estimated 40,000 people last weekend.

Thousands of fans cheered and clicked pictures with their favorite comic characters Saturday at India’s annual comic book fest at a sprawling fairground in southeast New Delhi.

The fifth Delhi Comic Con had something for everyone who attended on this mild, wintry day. Die-hard fans came dressed as their favorite comic characters. Others crowded the more than 200 stalls selling comic books, graphic novels and merchandise on cartoon characters.

There was real live entertainment, as well.

Crowds of college students and young people cheered and roared as Kristian Nairn, best known for his role as Hodor in “Game of Thrones,” ascended a stage and addressed them. Nairn was mobbed as eager fans pushed to get themselves clicked with the star of the popular television series….

Indian mythological heroes, dressed in gaudy costumes with bejeweled crowns and sparkly clothes, added to the carnival atmosphere, ready to oblige fans with an autograph, a selfie or a photograph.

Indian comics have seen a revival in the last decade thanks to new funding and technologies for printing, animation, digitizing and distribution.

(3) STAR WARS REWATCH. A new installment of Michael J. Martinez’ Star Wars rewatch has been posted: ”Star Wars wayback machine: Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer)”.

I know this movie by heart. In fact, while in my 20s and firmly in my barfly life-stage, several friends and I recreated the entire movie over pints at the pub. We didn’t miss a line. There are few cultural touchstones so firmly rooted in our global community as this one.

But I’m now looking at it with fresh eyes, and asking myself…is it really any good? Does it stand up to the test of time and the grey clouds of cynicism accumulated with age?

Largely, yes. Enthusiastically, yes. Are there things that I’ve noticed now, years later, both good and bad? Absolutely. Is it dated? Sure, but not as bad as you think. But ultimately, I think it works. The resonance it has in our culture is well deserved.

(4) STANDLEE ON SMOFCON. Kevin Standlee is running short notes on his LiveJournal about this year’s SMOFcon.

At 4 PM, I went to the panel about administering the Hugo Awards. A year ago, a panel on this subject would have been lucky to draw more audience than panelists. This year, it was standing-room-only. Had we two hours rather than one to discuss how the Hugo Awards are administered, we could have filled it.

 

After breakfast with Linda Deneroff, Mo Starkey, and John Sapienza, I went to the first panel of the morning, presented by Andrew Adams based on work that René Walling has done to accumulate available demographic information about Worldcon members. The slide above shows the memberships over time, attending and supporting, both in absolute numbers (line) and percentage (colored bars) for the 2015 Worldcon, showing how the numbers changed over time. (The upper line and the upper colored section are supporting members; the lower are attending.) Sasquan really was different. There were many more very interesting charts in this presentation, and you can see some of them if you click through the photo above, but Andrew said he’d publish the entire slide deck later and asked us not to keep taking photos.

 

How to Call Out Other Conventions. This was a discussion about how and whether you should point out other groups’ mistakes, particularly the most egregious ones that could poison your convention’s relationship with hotel facilities. I found it very interesting listening to the stories behind the panel title, but I was so sleepy that I couldn’t concentrate that well.

(5) ASTRONAUTS SEND MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Sasquan GoH Kjell Lindgren is one of the astronauts in the video “Call to Earth: Astronauts Send a Message from Space to Global Leaders at #COP21 Urging Action on Climate Change”.

In less than three days, an outpouring of messages streamed in from astronauts around the world – eyewitnesses to profound changes to our planet they’ve seen first hand while in orbit. The messages were produced by members of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the professional association of flown astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts. ASE assists members to communicate their unique perspective of Earth to help stimulate humanity’s sense of responsibility for our home planet.

Also in the video was Wubbo Ockels, Ph.D. Space Shuttle, the first Dutch citizen in space, who said “Our Earth has Cancer and I have cancer too.” He was filmed the day before he died.

(6) BUCKELL. Tobias Buckell offers 28 solid ideas for finding focus in the task of writing.

There are two places to lose focus. One: yourself sitting down to do the work. Two: inside the work as the work itself loses focus. I’ll tackle number one, as I think that was what was being asked.

Caveat: I believe most writing advice is only as valuable to someone as it works. In other words, I believe all writing advice is a hack to get you to a finished draft and help you find tricks to get there. You try something. If it works, it goes in your toolbox. If it doesn’t, you mark it as not currently effective and move on….

11) Don’t tell anyone about what you’re writing about before sitting down to do it

12) Tell someone how cool what you’re writing about is right before sitting down to do it

I really like this pair. Obviously the answer is to use the alternative that helps you. Larry Niven always perfected his story ideas by explaining them to select people before putting them on paper. In contrast, if I tell somebody an idea, then I never feel the need to actually do the writing…

(7) WRIGHT. Someone showed John C. Wright Liu Cixin’s remarks about the Sad Puppies in Global Times, which triggered Wright into writing a post headlined “Liu Cixin to Sci Fi: Drop Dead”.

Within the same fortnight that David Hartwell announced that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer be a bust of Lovecraft, but instead be the head of someone whose sole qualification to represent all of fantasy literature is her skin color, Liu Cixin, the first chinaman ever to win a Hugo Award has publicly spit in the face of those of us who voted for him….

That means that this man is gullible enough to believe either what his translator, or Tor Books, or the mainstream news told him, namely, that we who voted for him were motivated by race-hatred against non-Whites. So we voted for a non-White because his book was good, not because his skin color was correct. Because we treated the award as if it were for the merit of science fiction story telling, not as if it were a political award granted to whatever most helped the far Left. We ignored race. By Morlock logic, that makes us racist.

I realize, my dear readers, that if you read THREE BODY PROBLEM, and weighed its merits, and in your honest judgment you thought it was the best SF novel of the year, and your judgment does not matter because you are not the correct sort of people to have opinions.

Even though your opinion in this one case agreed with our Leftist insect Overlords, the mere fact that the opinion was your taints it.

You are wrongfans.

(8) COLLECTING HEINLEIN. Black Gate’s John ONeill compares the collectible paperback market for science fiction’s Big Three – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – and comes away surprised by the demand for Heinlein.

Whatever your opinion on their relative merits, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Heinlein has endured longer than Asimov and Clarke… and virtually any other Twentieth Century genre writer except H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Philip K. Dick. Much of his work is still in print in mass market paperback today.

Even more impressively, Heinlein has stayed popular and in print with virtually no help from the film industry. With the notable exception of 1997’s Starship Troopers (and the much lesser-known films The Puppet Masters, from 1994, and Predestination, 2014), Heinlein has endured chiefly on his own steam.

(9) MORLEY REMEMBERED. Available online now and for the next few weeks is the BBC 4 radio production 1977, about the creation of the soundtrack for Watership Down.

In 1977 the bestselling children’s novel Watership Down was made into an animated film. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queens music, had been hired as the film’s composer. But all was not well. Williamson, a notoriously difficult and complicated man, was under extreme pressure; it was the Queens jubilee year and he was over commissioned. When the film’s conductor, Marcus Dods, arrived looking for the film’s score he found to his horror that all that existed were two small sketches of music which amounted to no more than seven minutes of screen time. With an expensive orchestra and recording studio booked for the following week, the film’s future looked to be in jeopardy. In desperation he turned to the one person he knew could help; composer and arranger Angela Morley. But she, for her own reasons, was going to need some persuading…

Morley needed persuading because this would be her first high-profile composing job after transitioning to female. Morley later worked on other genre music projects, too, scoring for TV’s Wonder Woman, and assisting John Williams on several films including E.T.

(10) BULK SALES. Hey, John King Tarpinian saw rafts of these at his local CostCo and shot a photo.

GRRM at Costco by JKT COMP

Let Suvudu’s Shawn Speakman fill you in on the details —  “Gifts For the Geek – Day 6: George R. R. Martin leather Box Set”.

I’m always on the hunt for leather books!

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set fits that bill. It is a gorgeous representation of the bestselling series, perfect for that Game of Thrones fan in your life.

The books are not full-sized but instead of a traveling variety, easy to take with as well as looking beautiful on the shelf.

(11) EMPIRE PERIOD ARCHITECTURE. “Alamo Drafthouse Unveils ‘Star Wars’ Themed Movie Theater” at ScienceFiction.com.

If you happen to be curious about what it would be like to see a movie on the Death Star, you don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away. You can just head to Omaha, Nebraska. The Alamo Drafthouse just opened a Star Wars-themed cineplex that’s absolutely astounding.

There’s a 10-foot replica of the Death Star in the front lobby, and from the looks if it, you can purchase tickets at an Imperial Command center.

(12) SISTERS. The new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie Sisters will be released on the same day as The Force Awakens. How will they fight for their audience share? With a Star Wars trailer of their own called “Sisters – The Farce Awakens.”

(13) ALIENS DIG SECONDHAND SMOKE. Saturday Night Lives presents the Pentagon debriefing of three subjects of the first verified alien abduction.

An establishing shot of the Pentagon took us to a room where National Security Agency dudes Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan are interviewing the three participants in “the first verified alien abduction.” Cecily Strong and Gosling are all lah-dee-dah groovin’ on the cosmic beauty of the mind-expanding, I’ve-seen-God-and-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow Kenny-G-type experience. Then there’s McKinnon, slumped in her chair in a K-Mart blouse and jeans, her hair a rat’s nest, cigarette in hand, relating a series of experiences that were much more, let’s say tactile, than teleological.

 

[Thanks to Petrea Mitchell, JJ, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Alien in the Family Tree

alien-root-1795qxi2783_1470_1Hallmark likes to market its bizarre Christmas tree ornaments with the phrase “What better way…” Their focus groups must tell them the phrase works magic on customers, triggers them to think, “What better way for me to spend every waking moment, than figuring out reasons to give Hallmark money?”

For example —

What better way to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the science fiction thriller Alien, than to put the film’s frightening “Xenomorph” on your tree. You may even introduce a new generation of fans to this spine-chilling cult classic and its sequels.

This hideous piece of work is 4 inches tall and almost 4 inches wide; it is not going to be overlooked on the family tree. When the relatives stop in to admire the decorations they’re going to think that’s the world’s biggest Jerusalem cricket on the branch and start screaming for a can of Raid.

Yet in spite of my own peevish response this is a people-pleasing item. Among the product reviews on Amazon the only criticism I saw (if you can call it that) was that the ornament doesn’t also make a noise!

I won’t rate it lower stars for this because I knew when I bought the item, but I wish that it had been one that had sound. The hissing noise would have been fantastic but it’s still very neat.

In fact, so many people have already ordered their own Xenomorph ornament. Hallmark says it’s out of stock online and they’re advising people to call local stores to check availability.

Abraham Lincoln’s Suspenders of Disbelief

Two movies I made sure to see this summer were Prometheus and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Prometheus was an easy sell. The prequel to Alien promised to deliver the origin story of the franchise’s nemesis.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could have been a hard sell. After all, I quit reading the novel on page 15. The last vampire movie that was “must-see” for me starred Leslie Nielsen. And I’ve been self-conscious about films with splatter scenes since Watchmen (wondering, is this really my idea of entertainment?) Somehow the trailers for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hooked me despite these objections.

Prometheus came out first. It was so beautifully made and so stupidly written. The characters behaved so cluelessly it was impossible to understand how they avoided being killed in traffic on the way to the spaceport, never mind on an alien world. Overwrought horror movie fans used to yell warnings to the people on-screen. I wanted to shout, “Yeah, smack that egg! Pound those buttons! Evolution in action, baby!” What a disappointing film.

Then I saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It had its share of absurdities. A svelte Mary Todd and a handsome Abe Lincoln – clearly the originals could never get a job in Hollywood, even playing themselves. However, aided by the audience’s vague recollection of American history, and driven by characters who are consistently faithful to the tenets of this particular mythos, the movie overcomes its ridiculous premise in a very satisfying way. For two hours I was willing to believe what was on the screen.

Did I give Abraham Lincoln the benefit of a certain amount of “chronological snobbery” (as C. S. Lewis would call it)? And did Prometheus suffer in proportion? Chronological snobbery is the implicit (and erroneous) belief that people’s capabilities in earlier times were inherently inferior to ours today. If people today are wiser, as a corollary I am less likely to question bad choices made by 19th century characters – they simply couldn’t be expected to know any better.

Prometheus, on the other hand, is forced to shoulder the burdens that come with being about the future, a place created by people who have wisely used the intervening years to prepare for an alien encounter. I have the same prejudices as Bruce Willis’ character in Armageddon when he shouts in exasperation, “You’re NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!”

Maybe that’s why I was far more judgmental about future space explorers rushing unzipped into situations I would know better than to touch with a 10-foot pole than I was about seeing our Civil War president chasing danger on a battlefield with a 3-foot axe.

What Will They Eat Next?

“What will they eat next?” — there’s a question guaranteed to keep you reading to the end of “Diving into Squid Territory,” an interview with scientist Bruce Robison in the LA Times.  

He explains that the giant squid invasion off the coast of Southern California is a byproduct of ocean warming and the elimination through fishing of 90% of the big fishes that used to compete with squid for food and eat baby squid. These changes have contributed to the growing population of Humboldt squid and their expanding home range.   

What are the consequences of this movement?

They have a new impact. For example, a type of fish called hake has plummeted in population. Hake are an important commercial species off the West Coast.

From examining stomach contents, we know the squid are eating the hake. The hake population tanked, and it looks like it is going to stay that way. So the question becomes, what will the squid eat next?

Not us, happily (or disappointingly, if you were counting on a gruesome turn to this story.) Robison says there are “no legitimate stories of any humans being damaged.”

Asked how long squid live, Robison gives an answer appropriate to the Southern California lifestyle: “A full-grown Humboldt squid lives two years, max. Lives fast, dies young.”

Even better, he explains the species’ science fictional appeal:

They’re big and they’re fast and they can change color. They can create patterns on their bodies. They can make circles, spots, stripes.

The Humboldt squid are real masters at signaling back and forth this way. They are constantly talking to each other using displays of colors and patterns on their bodies.

We know that’s what they are doing, but what we don’t know is what it means. It is an alien communication that we’d love to understand.

Earth’s homegrown aliens — no wonder fans feel an affinity for this tentacled predator.

Dan O’Bannon (1946-2009)

Famed sf movie maker Dan O’Bannon died December 17. The Los Angeles Times reports his death was caused by complications of Crohn’s Disease, which he had battled for 30 years.

He is best known for writing Alien, winner of the 1980 Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, and the Guardian’s excellent tribute to O’Bannon insightfully comments:

Over the years, many connected with the film have greedily and not entirely accurately claimed credit for just about everything good about Alien. But if you search out the original script on the internet, you’ll see most of it was already there courtesy of O’Bannon.

Other science fiction films he co-authored include Lifeforce and Total Recall.

He also directed several movies. Bill Warren considers the best of these to be The Return of the Living Dead, a comedy sequel to the original film that opens with a title card revealing that everything you’re about to see is absolutely true and all the real names are used.

O’Bannon’s career began with the low-budget 1974 sf film Dark Star. It originated as a USC student project co-written with director John Carpenter. The movie was not a commercial success, but it developed a cult following among sf fans and inspired the name of the student sf club at UC San Diego.

Aliens: In Memory Yet Green

Stephen Worth has posted a wealth of classic images from the work of Chesley Bonestell and the Disney production of “Man in Space” at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

“Theory: Our Dreams of the Future” samples artists’ playful guesses about humanity’s future discoveries of life on other planets, from Nervy’s Nat’s zeppelin trip to Venus by James Montgomery Flagg, to a Coors’ ad where a bartending E.T. advises drunks to phone home.

[Via James Hay.]