Pixel Scroll 10/13/17 Pixel the Thirteenth, Part Scroll

(1) PKD DAUGHTER ACCUSES AMAZON STUDIOS HEAD OF HARASSMENT. The Hollywood Reporter says Isa Hackett, executive producer of two TV series based on the work of her father, Philip K. Dick series, has told the media she was harassed by the head of Amazon Studios — “Amazon TV Producer Goes Public With Harassment Claim Against Top Exec Roy Price”.

In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged years-long sexual harassment and assault, a producer of one of Amazon Studios’ highest-profile TV shows is ready to talk about her “shocking and surreal” experience with Amazon’s programming chief Roy Price.

Isa Hackett is the daughter of author Philip K. Dick, whose work is the basis for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, as well as the upcoming anthology series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. Hackett, 50, is an executive producer on both series. Price, 51, is head of Amazon Studios and has presided over its growth into a major streaming service with such series as Transparent and movies such as Manchester by the Sea. His family has deep connections in the entertainment world: His father, Frank, ran Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios. (The existence of the alleged incident detailed below and the subsequent Amazon investigation were previously reported by the website The Information.)

On the evening of July 10, 2015, after a long day of promoting Man in the High Castle at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hackett attended a dinner with the show’s cast and Amazon staff at the U.S. Grant Hotel. There she says she met Price for the first time. He asked her to attend an Amazon staff party later that night at the W Hotel (now the Renaissance) and she ended up in a taxi with Price and Michael Paull, then another top Amazon executive and now CEO of the digital media company BAMTech.   Once in the cab, Hackett says Price repeatedly and insistently propositioned her. “You will love my dick,” he said, according to Hackett, who relayed her account to multiple individuals in the hours after the alleged episode. (The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed Hackett told at least two people about the alleged incident in the immediate aftermath.) Hackett says she made clear to Price she was not interested and told him that she is a lesbian with a wife and children.

The New York Times reports Price was put on a leave of absence

In a statement, an Amazon spokesman said, “Roy Price is on a leave of absence effective immediately.” Albert Cheng, currently the chief operating officer of Amazon Studios, will assume Mr. Price’s duties on an interim basis, an Amazon spokesman said.

Ms. Hackett is a daughter of the late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. “The Man in the High Castle” series, which was renewed for a third season in May, is based on one of his 44 published novels. Although Amazon does not release viewership numbers, the company said in 2015 that “The Man in the High Castle” was its most-streamed show.

Ms. Hackett is also a producer of “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” an anthology series that premiered in Britain last month and will be streamed by Amazon Video next year.

Allegations that Mr. Price had made unwanted sexual remarks to Ms. Hackett surfaced in August in an article by Ms. Masters that was published on the tech news website The Information.

That article included few specifics about Ms. Hackett’s claims, with Ms. Hackett providing a statement that she did not “wish to discuss the details of this troubling incident with Roy except to say Amazon investigated immediately and with an outside investigator.”

(2) OFF THE BOOKS. Last year California state Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, responding to complaints by celebrities like Mark Hamill, got a law passed requiring autographed memorabilia come with a certificate of authenticity. (For a refresher, see the LA Times article “The high cost of an autograph”.)

That put a crimp in the state’s collectibles business (one collectibles dealer stopped shipping to California), so the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America sponsored a bill, AB 228, now signed into law and in effect, granting broad exceptions to the original law. The ABAA has informed members —

More comprehensive Guidelines will be forthcoming. In the meantime, the three main takeaways for members are:

  • Allbooks, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as any ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media, are now categorically excluded from the regulation of “Autographed collectibles” under California’s autograph law.
  • Those few of us who do deal in the kind of autographed collectibles in the state of California that still fall under the law may now provide an “Express Warranty” guaranteeing the item as authentic, rather than a Certificate of Authenticity.  That warranty may be incorporated into an invoice rather than being a separate document.  And the requirement to disclose in the warranty from whom the autographed collectible was purchased has been eliminated.
  • Civil penalties incurred by those subject to the law who fail to comply have been lowered.

(3) HANGING AROUND. David D. Levine tells readers of Unbound Worlds “A Lot Harder Than It Looks: David D. Levine Experiences Zero Gravity”.

As a child of the Space Age, born in the same year as Gagarin and Shepard’s historic flights, I have always fantasized about floating in zero gravity. In college, I studied orbital mechanics and rolled my eyes at stories and films that got zero-g wrong. And as a science fiction writer, I have often used zero gravity settings (notably in my debut novel Arabella of Mars) and took pride in getting the physics right. So when I got the opportunity to experience zero gravity myself, thanks to a very generous birthday gift from my father, I was thrilled, and also confident that I would know how to conduct myself in free fall.

Let me tell you this: the thrill was real, but the confidence… well, maneuvering in zero gravity is a lot harder than it looks….

(4) GEEKWIRE. The third episode of Frank Catalano’s GeekWire podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts has posted. Says Catalano, “I invited Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP Museum) Curator Brooks Peck and Collections Manager Melinda Simms to come on the podcast and talk about the MoPOP collection, how they source/conserve/display objects, and the role of fans in helping find needed pop culture and science fiction items.”

There are also two accompanying articles, the first on the collection and what happens at MoPOP behind the scenes.

You might sum up the motto of their dual mission as to preserve and protect … as well as present. There’s a lot of stuff — artifacts or objects, depending on your preferred term — involved.

“I am responsible for the daily care and feeding of the collection, and make sure everything is housed appropriately to archival standards,” Simms explained. She estimated MoPOP has close to 100,000 objects cataloged, and “if you expand that out to the pieces in the vault that we are still working on getting cataloged in the collection, probably close to 150.”

The second on the important role of fans in preserve pop culture artifacts.

It’s not like one art museum simply calling up another to borrow a Monet. “With pop culture artifacts, it’s different from art collectors. Because art has a tendency to be high-value commodity, and you know museums have art, and you sort of know the lenders around the world who have the art,” Simms explained. “But with with pop culture things it could be anybody.”

Fortunately, pop culture fans tend to know each other. And they tend to focus.

For example, for the current Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibition, “I was looking for a few Ferengi related items,” Peck explained. “And I’m asking around the main Star Trek people I know. No one’s got anything.” Ultimately, one fan collector in this loose network said he should contact “the Ferengi guy … So I talked to him and he’s absolutely going to loan what I need. So there’s this constant leapfrogging of networking and the things that people specialize in,” Peck said.

The podcast audio is embedded (and downloadable from) each article.

(5) CLAIMED BY FLAMES. An Associated Press story called “Wildfire Burns Home of Peanuts Creator Charles Schulz” says that Schulz’s Santa Rosa home was destroyed in the wildfires but that his widow, Jean Schulz, escaped the fires before the house burned.

The Schulzes built the California split-level home in the 1970s and the cartoonist lived there until his death in 2000.

…Charles Schulz usually worked at an outside studio and most of his original artwork and memorabilia are at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, which escaped the flames.

But the loss of the house itself is painful, [stepson] Monte Schulz said.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 13, 1957 — Movie audiences in America are treated to the science-fiction thriller, The Amazing Colossal Man.
  • October 13, 1995 — James Cameron’s sf thriller Strange Days premiered in theaters

(7) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian sees technology ruining another holiday tradition in today’s Close To Home.

(8) HAVE DICE, WILL TRAVEL. UrsulaV’s Paladin Rant — Or “Why Kevin’s D&D campaign has an Order of the Silver Weasel” — has been Storified.

(9) DID YOU MISS IT? Sheesh, wasn’t 2001 already long enough? Now some supposedly lost footage has been found.

17 minutes of lost footage from Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey was uncovered in a salt-mine vault in Kansas. Warner Bros. has now released a statement regarding the “found” footage.

Here is Warner Bros statement:

“The additional footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey has always existed in the Warner vaults. When [director Stanley] Kubrick trimmed the 17 minutes from 2001 after the NY premiere, he made it clear the shortened version was his final edit. The film is as he wanted it to be presented and preserved and Warner Home Video has no plans to expand or revise Mr. Kubrick’s vision.”

(10) NEWITZ REVIEWED. In an English-language review at Spekulatív Zóna, Bence Pintér concludes, “The Magpie Wants Too Much – Annalee Newitz: Autonomous.

I had high hopes for this one, because the premise was really interesting, set in a postnational world ruled by patent-protecting international organisations and multinational drug companies. The main character is Judith Chen, aka Jack, a middle-aged drug pirate and onetime patent-rebel who runs a reverse-engineering, drug-smuggling business while driving a badass submarine. Shit hits the fan when consumers of her reverse-engineered performance-enhancing drug (stolen from a big pharma company) starts to show the signs of dangerous addiction. Jack is determined to make up for her mistake and to help bring down the company which had patented the dangerous drug. In the meantime, a young military robot, Paladin, and his human partner, Eliasz are commissioned to hunt down Jack and his loose gang of pirates.

Sounds good? Yeah. Still… I think my hopes were too high. It’s true that Newitz’s vision of the somewhat dystopian state of the world in 2144 is kind of intriguing and on every page there is some fascinating gadget, invention, etc. I also liked Jack and her backstory about the failed patent-revolution thirty years ago. But I felt that this novel has too much on its plate and Newitz cannot really find the focus….

(11) DRILLING FOR INSPIRATION. In the Washington Post, Chris Richards compares Kanye West’s current spate of spells and visions to those of Philip K. Dick and wonders if West experienced something comparable to Dick’s experience of “2-3-74” — “Philip K. Dick was a sci-fi prophet. Did he predict the unraveling of Kanye West?”

Kanye West saw his beams during a visit to the dentist.

“I’ve heard that there are colors that are too bright for our eyes to see,” the rap auteur said during a concert in Washington last summer, explaining how a few puffs of nitrous oxide had recently enabled him to catch a direct glimpse into heaven. The prismatic rays he described sounded as astonishing as your imagination would allow — and then you had an opportunity to feel them on your ears during “Ultralight Beam,” a song that captured all of the beauty and bewilderment of West’s epiphany in the dental chair. “This is a God dream,” the lyrics went. “This is everything.”

Philip K. Dick saw his beams a few days after seeing the dentist. But once they started, they didn’t let up for weeks….

(12) GAME OF THRONES CAKE UPSMANSHIP. A lot of people run photos on Reddit bragging about their Game of Thrones themed cakes. Click through and judge for yourself whose is the mightiest.

(13) TOAST OF TRANSYLVANIA. Dracula said, “I never drink…wine,” but maybe you do? Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon in a bottle with a cape – is that cute, or what?

Full-bodied with Blackberry and Dark Cherry aromas, with just the right amount of Oak flavors leading to a lingering finish. Classic, small-lot fermentations, followed by aging with Oak, gives full expression to the rich varietal flavors in this wine.

(14) MORE THINGS. Stranger Things Season 2 final trailer. IanP asks, “Is it just me or does Eleven look very Frodo’ish?”

[Thanks to Gary Farber, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, IanP, and Bence Pinter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH!]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/17 Eight Pixels High And Scrolling For Touchdown

(1) FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY. Today’s the day. Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter, in “‘Star Wars’: Unsung Heroes Finally Share Their Stories”, looks at the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, focusing on all the special effects people who made Star Wars great and how no one was sure at the time that the film would be a hit.

Well, not “no one.” There were all the people who had bought 20th Century-Fox stock in the months before it opened and boosted its price before I saw a screening and had that idea myself. I remember talking with somebody who managed a portfolio for the Hughes Aircraft pension plan who said I’d already missed the bargain. Somebody expected it to be a hit.

Star Wars went to San Diego Comic-Con in 1976, and people weren’t all that excited.

To lure an audience to a panel about an unknown property, the Star Wars promotional team employed star power from Marvel Comics, bringing writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin to talk about their Star Wars comic book adaptation. Marketing head Charles Lippincott spent time at a table chatting with people and selling posters … which unfortunately for them, few people kept.

“I think they were $1.75 and that poster now is still available on the collector’s market — and it’s one of the two most expensive posters you can buy on the collector market because people didn’t keep them,” recalls Craig Miller, who worked as a publicity assistant. “It sells for two or three thousand dollars now.”

Yes, Miller does have one in his personal collection. (Saving pays off!)

(2) SHOULD HAVE QUIT WHILE HE WAS AHEAD. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why Star Wars should have stopped at just one film”. Try not to hurt yourself laughing.

…A New Hope would be a lot more intriguing today if every other episode had been left to our imaginations –to playground games, to pub discussions, to self-published fan fiction. Instead, the episodes which did come along answered its questions, solved its mysteries, filled in its blanks and narrowed its mythical scope to the prosaic tussles within one dysfunctional family. The prequels demystified the iconic villain of A New Hope by showing him as a grumpy brat, while the most recent sequel, The Force Awakens, devalued its victory by showing us how ultimately pointless it was: not only did evil prevail, but two of the heroes (Han Solo and Princess Leia) had a son who grew up to be a genocidal, patricidal maniac….

(3) PHOENIX COMICON. Police may have averted a serious incident at a Phoenix convention — “Armed man arrested at Phoenix Comicon after struggling with police”.

A man armed with multiple guns at Phoenix Comicon is now in police custody.

Police say the 30-year-old Valley man was taken into custody Thursday afternoon for allegedly threatening to cause harm to Phoenix officers.

According to officials, the man was taking pictures of officers and was found at Comicon with three handguns and one shotgun. He also had knives and ammunition.

Police say the man was inside the Phoenix Convention Center and struggled with officers before he was detained.

(4) THE DOCTOR AFFECTED BY LATEST U.K. INCIDENT. Radio Times says “Doctor Who episode edited for Saturday airing following Manchester bombing”.

This week’s episode of BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who will have a section of dialogue removed as a mark of respect to victims of Monday night’s terrorist attack in Manchester, RadioTimes.com understands.

The excerpt in question from upcoming story The Pyramid at the End of the World made passing references to terrorism as part of a more general discussion of threats to Earth, but the BBC has decided that as a matter of sensitivity it should be removed.

(5) MOTHERBOARD LOSES A PIONEERING MEMBER. In November, Debbie Notkin resigned from the Tiptree Award committee to free her energy for other causes. This month she posted a farewell message.

Last November, after the disastrous U.S. election results, I resigned from the Tiptree Award motherboard. I have been involved with the award from immediately following Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler’s creation of it more than a quarter of a century ago.

I remain deeply committed to the goals and work of the Tiptree Award. When I was trying to make this difficult decision, several people pointed out to me that the work of supporting transgressive artists is resistance, and I agree wholeheartedly. I just feel personally that it’s time for me to put my energy into other kinds of resistance and response.

(6) STAND BY TO FROTH. James Davis Nicoll fires his latest canon — “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works About Science and Scientists Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Speculative Fiction Works about Science and Scientists chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field [1]. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider.

(7) GRAND TURK, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. The Traveler at Galactic Journey is fifteen years too early to see Star Wars but don’t think he lacks for excitement –he’s been watching TV coverage of Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter’s drama-laden mission. “[May 24, 1962] Adrift in Two Oceans (The Flight of Aurora 7)”.

Fun, to be sure, but at the end of the third orbit, Carpenter was in a pickle. Almost out of fuel, the ship misaligned thanks to a balky thruster, and the window for firing his retrorockets sliver-thin, the astronaut fired his braking thrusters a few seconds late. For half an hour, first in the shuddering initial reentry, and then in the chest crushing crashing through the atmosphere, culminating in the gentle sway beneath parachutes before splashdown in the Atlantic, Carpenter had no idea where he would end up.

Neither did the recovery fleet. In fact, Carpenter landed some 250 miles away from where he was supposed to. This did not bother the philosophical spaceman, who spent the next hours relaxing on his inflatable raft, sitting in pleasant companionship with a little black fish nearby. When the boats of the U.S.S. Intrepid finally arrived, hours later, Carpenter was completely calm. In fact, like a good guest, he offered them some of his food.

(8) HALO EFFECT. Mentioning The Saint in Roger Moore’s obituary reminded Cat Eldridge of a passage in Kage Baker’s 2007 review of “Otto Penzler’s The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps”.

It’s easy to grumble about Leslie White’s “The City of Hell!,” a wildly improbable fascist-cop fantasy, but at least the prose is lean and passionate. On the other hand, here is Leslie Charteris, clearly being paid by the word in “The Invisible Millionaire.” After 35 pages of coy overdescription and endless adoring references to the Saint’s perfect features, your correspondent was ready to go out and bitch-slap Roger Moore. And was it really necessary to include an entire badly-written novel (“The Crimes of Richmond City”) by Frederick Nebel? He may have been one of the seminal pulp writers, but surely a short story from him would have satisfied honor….

(9) MORE WHEATON COOLNESS. You can expect to find Wil Wheaton on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 before too long.

I have a small part on the first episode of MST3K’s first revival episode. Erin Gray and I get to deliver all the exposition about Jonah’s backstory. It’s pretty great, and this was a freaking dream come true for me.

(10) TODAY’S DAYS

  • Geek Pride Day

The idea for dedicating a day to celebrating geekiness originated in Spain in 2006 when Spanish blogger German Martinez, who chose the day to coincide with the 1977 release of Star Wars. Geek Pride Day spread rapidly across the internet and, soon after, the world, drawing attention from mainstream media as well.One of the events organized to celebrate this day was in Madrid when 300 geeks played a game of a human Pacman together. A list of the basic rights and responsibilities of geeks was also written up. The rights include “The right to not like football or any other sport” and “The right to not be ‘in-style’”, and the responsibilities include “Attend every geeky movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.”

  • Towel Day

A tribute to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Towel Day sees fans of the author and the book carrying towels with them to work, to school and as part of their daily activities.

The most important thing that you need to remember in order to celebrate is DON’T PANIC; no matter what the day throws at you, draw comfort from the knowledge that you’re armed with your trusty towel.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1977 — Star Wars was released in theaters. (You may have caught a few hints about this earlier in the Scroll….)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1944 –Frank Oz, of Muppets fame.

(13) DON’T FORGET TO WRITE. Great series of tweets about entering the writing profession by Nick Mamatas (via John Scalzi). It starts here —

(14) TALLYING REPRESENTATION. “GLAAD on LGBTQ representation in film: ‘It is not getting better’”The Verge has the story.

GLAAD released its annual report on LGBTQ representation in film today, and the numbers are bleak. They’ve barely increased since 2015, and when broken out into more specific demographics, they often got worse.

Overall, representation of lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer characters was slightly higher in 2016 than 2015. GLAAD reports that 18.4 percent of the industry’s top 125 films included a LGBTQ character. However, gay men still make up a whopping 83 percent of these characters, and of the 70 LGBTQ characters that GLAAD identified (up from 47 the year before), 14 of them were back-up dancers in one musical number in The Lonely Island’s summer comedy Popstar.

Racial diversity in films with LGBTQ representation decreased in 2016, with characters played by people of color down to 20 percent from 25.5 percent in 2015 and 32.1 percent in 2014.

Here is the link to the report itself — “2017 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index”.

The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in films released by the seven major motion picture studios during the 2016 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, as well as films released by four subsidiaries of these major studios. The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBTQ representation in film.

(15) PUBLICITY. Meanwhile, the gender disparity in publishing industry PR is measured by Breaking the Glass Slipper’s article “Gender parity in publisher PR”.

Results at a glance

Statistically, Orbit came in as the worst for gender disparity. Every single newsletter I opened was skewed in favour of their male authors. Men were mentioned over three times more often and also featured over three times more often.

Then you have a sliding scale. Rebellion’s parity was generally poor, as was Hodder, Gollancz and Voyager’s –though I received far fewer newsletters from them. Angry Robot achieved near parity between April –October 16, but for unknown reasons, the remainder of the year wasn’t as equal.

Tor.com was the only publisher who regularly featured more women than men, but this was almost solely as authors of articles and short stories published online.

These graphs only record the frequency of simple mentions. Another avenue of interest might be to follow the PR level of books once they’re published compared to the build-up beforehand. Some titles drop off the radar entirely, while others go from strength to strength. If that were tracked, I wonder whether this trend would continue?

(16) SPACE JAM. Dan Tepfer is a pianist and composer whose new album, Eleven Cages, is due out next Friday. He also maintains a keen interest in science — especially astrophysics, the subject of his undergraduate degree. WBGO asked him to elaborate on some recent findings in a faraway solar system, and he came back with this absorbing lesson in the music of planetary orbits: “Dan Tepfer, Pianist and Science Enthusiast, Walks Us Through the Music of the Cosmos “.

Watching the video below made me happy. It brings together two of the things I love most, astrophysics and music. It’s very unusual to find these two subjects talked about seriously in the same sentence, and even rarer when they are able, as in this video, to complement and illuminate each other. Watch as the orbits of planets around a distant star are expressed in sound:

 

I’m a jazz musician, but I studied astrophysics for my bachelor’s and have always loved science, so it feels natural to me that these two worlds belong together. Thinking about natural processes and mathematics has informed my composing for a long time. And while many artists remain math-adverse, there’s a small but significant number of musicians who think along similar lines. (Composer and saxophonist Steve Coleman, whom I heard at the Village Vanguard last week, is an inspiration to many in this regard, and has used orbital ratios in his work.)

So, what’s going on in this video? How, in the first place, were these orbits figured out? It’s only in the past 25 years that we’ve been able to detect planets in orbit around stars other than our own. This is mainly done indirectly, by (for example) measuring faint dips in a star’s brightness as planets pass in front of it….

(17) WINGING IT IN THERE. Perhaps Devenski should also yell ‘Dracarys!’ when he throws his fastball. MLB.com’s Cut4 reports “The Astros have a perfect ‘Game of Thrones’ bobblehead planned for Chris ‘Dragon’ Devenski”.

(18) WHERE PAPER IS KING. Not that you’ve never been to a bookstore before, but if you want a peek at what Amazon is doing in the Big Apple, Recode takes you “Inside Amazon’s first New York City bookstore”.

Inside, it’s brightly lit with a subtle warmth. And the first table, right inside the door, shows the kind of data-informed curation that Amazon seems to be aiming for: “Highly Rated” books, rated 4.8 stars and above — on Amazon’s website, of course.

Amazon uses its data throughout the store, including up-to-date star reviews on title cards for each book, as well as for other curation.

Here’s my favorite example: An endcap called “Page Turners,” consisting of books that Kindle readers finish in three days or less. Clever.

(19) NAME IN THE NEWS. Chinese sf writer Hao Jingfang’s new celebrity as the winner of a 2016 Hugo has already gained her an automobile endorsement.

Narrator: In the face of the unfamiliar and the unknown, there are a group of people who are fearless to march. To go beyond all the achievements. To imagine. To open up a new world. You are the first ones to create history when others are hesitating. Every owner of Audi is igniting the fire for change.

Ma Long is the first male Full Grand Slam winner in table tennis.
Hao Jingfang is the first female writer to win the Hugo Awards for Best Novelette.
Cheng Congfu is the first Chinese racing driver to compete in 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Of course, she is not the first women to win the Best Novelette category — that was Joan D. Vinge in 1978. Nor is even unusual for women to win the category — they’ve now done so four of the past five years. But it’s great to see another sf writer in commercials.

And is there something about novelette writers that attracts ad agencies? Don’t forget that Harlan Ellison had won three Best Novelette Hugos by the time they hired him to plug the 1988 Geo Metro.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Early Grey Editing, Brandy Wood, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

Si Logan ang bahala sa'yo! Haha #1stLocation #Unit2 #langitlupa #kapamilya

A post shared by Pj 🇵🇭 (@peeej05) on

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

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

Amazon Keeps Freeze on Sales of Castalia’s “Corrosion”

Castalia House’s goon book The Corroding Empire keeps trying to come back from the dead, like a Universal Pictures monster. Amazon took the book down on its release day, March 20, because its title, author and cover were deemed misleading – each of those attributes having been made intentionally similar to John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire.

Castalia House publisher Vox Day promptly announced that the book would be back on Amazon with a new cover, title (Corrosion) and author name (Harry Seldon).

Instead, Vox Day got Amazon to restore The Corroding Empire page under the original pseudonym, but it’s not clear whether sales ever resumed and they are currently disabled (see screencap).

Day has been updating his “Back With A Vengeance” post at Vox Popoli after each go-round with Amazon.

Mr. Amazon SJW just blocked it again. Unsigned, of course. SJWs always double down.

We’re writing to let you know that readers have reported a problem in your book. The error significantly impacts the readability of your book. We have temporarily removed it from sale so that more readers don’t experience the same problem in your book

Error Category: Wrong_Content; Comments: The content of your book is a different edition than what the detail page indicates. Because this could be a serious issue for many customers, we have had to temporarily block your book from sale. Please correct the image so that we can make it available for sale again.

UPDATE: Another phone call and we’re back up again.

UPDATE: And blocked again, albeit this time UNDER REVIEW, not memory-holed.

UPDATE: Finally got to speak to a supervisor. She’s not only escalated the matter to legal, but has assured me that the book will be unblocked, stay unblocked, and that the matter will be fully investigated. It’s not just the three blocks, the culprit(s) also put the book on the Excluded list for Amazon Associates, which prevents others from being paid when someone buys the book.

Vox Day has also raised the spectre of “tortious interference”:

UPDATE: Since some people seem to want to go on the warpath, let me be perfectly clear here: Amazon is not to blame. I even suspect that it is entirely possible that Tor Books is not to blame either, based on a) when the book was pulled and b) the fact that the book has shown as Live for nearly 24 hours but still does not have a page on any Amazon site. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is a rogue low-level SJW employee, possibly two, in a specific department.

I have already spoken to the manager of one department and they have begun to investigate why Corrosion is Live but not available. They’ve done everything we asked and we have no problem with the way we have been treated.

While he has been arguing for scenarios involving misbehaving Amazon employees or interference by someone at Tor Books, it may be that customers using Amazon’s feedback system are having an impact – they may not have confined themselves to complaining about the one-star reviews left on Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire on its first day in release.

Former Amazon employee Greg Hullender also offered some insights in a comment on Camestros Felapton’s blog:

Having worked at Amazon and dealt with “bad merchants” I can tell you that Amazon keeps a list of “problem children.” After his previous two stunts (the Rape book and the Goodreads hack), I suspect Castalia House is on such a list. That would mean that it would require far fewer customer complaints to get a human involved that would normally be the case.

In this particular case, it almost looks as though VD had hoped to bamboozle a few Scalzi readers into buying his book by mistake. Given the way purchasing on Amazon works, I can’t see how that would happen in real life, but the appearance is bad. The company is extremely allergic to anything that looks like an attempt (however maladroit) to defraud its customers. (In other words, if it looks like you’re trying to rip people off, the fact that you’re using a method that could never work won’t cut any ice.) That could also explain the speed of Amazon’s reaction. (I’ll add that I personally think VD only wanted attention–I doubt he thought this would look like fraud.)….

However, a source disputes my description of Vox Day in yesterday’s Scroll as being “on thin ice” with Amazon. At this time the rest of Castalia House’s books are available for sale.

Update: Two hours after this post was published, Amazon had the book available for sale. I was able to order the sample sent to my Kindle. However, the page still displays the “item under review” box. // Further update: Now the review box is gone, too.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/17 Do Androids Dream Of Crottled Greeps?

(1) UNENDING DANGER. Jared takes a look back at Ellison’s never-published “The Last Dangerous Visions” at Pornokitsch.

The Last Dangerous Visions might be the most famous science fiction book to never exist. ‘TLDV’ was the long-mooted and nearly-almost-published sequel to Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) – two vastly important and influential publication in modern speculative fiction.

This ambitious anthology, seemingly intended to be the final word in contemporary SF, was delayed for numerous reasons, documented elsewhere by both Ellison and many others. The anticipation, the delays, and the numerous authors it affected made for, to put it mildly, a great deal of drama….

(2) THE BIRDMAN OF AL-LAWZ. John Ringo’s “The Raptor God Incident” has its rough spots but the last four lines are sweet. (This is an excerpt from the middle).

One day as I was preparing to come off night guard duty I noticed some big birds flying by. It was dawn (another pretty time) and there were three of them in a group just beginning to catch the thermals. They ended up going by right at eye level and no more than fifty meters away. I identified them as goshawks, large black and white raptors. They were involved in their annual migration from Africa up to Northern Europe.

I sat and watched as more and more of the groups came by. They were one of the first signs of beauty I’d seen in a long time. And it was clear the migration was just starting.

I thought about that for a while that day and I thought about how much I hated to be woken up at O Dark Thirty to go freeze my ass off in the shack.

So I made a deal with the other guys. I’d take ALL the day duty. Every day. Seven days a week. IF I didn’t have to take a night watch.

‘The Deal was made in Sinai, on a hot and cloudless day…’ (Hmmm… That even scans…)

(3) CARD TRICK. Cat Rambo advises pros about “Working Comic Conventions” at the SFWA Blog. First on the list —

Make sure you have a business card. This should have your contact information, your social media presence (you’ll see why in the at the convention tips) and at least one way to find your books. You will also use it for networking; make sure there is enough blank space on it for you to jot a note down on it before handing it to someone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cards but I would also suggest not cheaping out. The lowest rate cards are often flimsy and can look unprofessional….

(4) CAMPBELL AWARD ANTHOLOGY. Jonathan Edelstein, in a comment here, let everyone know that this year’s Campbell anthology, “heroically thrown together at the last minute” by Jake Kerr, is now available. It has stories from over six dozen writers, including Edelstein. Get the free download here.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is presented annually at WorldCon to an outstanding author whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the previous two years. This anthology includes over 75 authors and nearly 400,000 words of fiction. A resource of amazing new writers for both Hugo Award voters and those interested in seeing the brightest new lights of fantasy and science fiction, Event Horizon is exclusively available via this page until July 15, 2017.

(5) CONS THAT WISH THEY WERE FOR-PROFIT. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie posted about two more cons with financial problems.

Effectively, organizer Ben Fritzsching told the event’s guests that there was no money to pay them at the event. Fritzsching then, at several guests’ request, gave them written IOU’s with the promise that the money would be paid by the end of 2016. Agent Nery Nolan Lemus posted a copy of one of the IOUs to the group Rate that Comic Con on Facebook…

As it’s now March of 2017, and we’re writing about this, you can imagine how well those IOUs held up.

No reasons were given for the event’s cancellation beyond “complications with the facility,” though we can speculate it’s likely for the normal reasons any con cancels — no one is buying. Frankly, we’ve heard reports of sub par experiences from their 2016 event, so there’s been a distinct lack of surprise. The event organizers did go on to say in the comments that they were unsure of their plans for the con in 2018 as well.

(6) RESISTANCE RADIO. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the resistors separated from the transistors. “Amazon launched a fake radio station to promote ‘The Man in the High Castle.’ Angry Trump supporters thought it was real.” The Washington Post has the story.

An ad campaign for a dystopian television show has some Trump supporters seeing red.

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” loosely based on a Philip K. Dick novel, is ramping up for its third season. The thriller, set in 1962, imagines a world in which the Axis powers won World War II and America is controlled by fascist leaders. The East Coast belongs to Nazi Germany; the West Coast is in the clutches of Imperial Japan.

At SXSW in Austin last week, as part of a marketing campaign for “The Man in the High Castle,” Amazon launched “Resistance Radio,” a fake Internet-based radio station broadcast by the fictional American “Resistance” from the show.

“Hijacking the airwaves, a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive,” the website said. Click through, and an interactive image of an antique, dual-knob radio appears while mod tunes drift through your computer’s speakers. In between songs, DJs on three different stations speak about how to fight the “Reich” in America.

Soon #ResistanceRadio, the campaign’s sponsored hashtag, spread like wildfire on Twitter. Some Trump supporters seemingly mistook it for an anti-Trump radio station and expressed their displeasure. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

….It’s important to note that well before Amazon launched this campaign, #ResistanceRadio had been used, however sparingly, on social media while promoting certain anti-Trump podcasts.

 

(7) FAREWELL. Gardner Dozois, in a public Facebook post, told about Saturday’s memorial service for his wife, Susan Casper.

We had people who came in from New York City, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, and England, and celebrities in attendance included Samuel Delany, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, artists Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Ginjer Bucanan, John Douglas, Moshe Feder, Tom Purdom, and Greg Frost. After the speaking part of the function, everyone fell on a huge fish-and-coldcuts platter from Famous Deli, one of the last traditional Jewish Delis left in the city, and devoured nearly all of it.

This half-hour video slideshow of Casper played in the background. (YouTube has muted its soundtrack, which contains copyrighted music.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein was released, starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster and Bela Lugosi as Ygor.
  • March 13, 1969 The Love Bug, a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell (astronomer)
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(10) TODAY’S COINCIDENCE

  • March 13, 1930 — The discovery of Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet, was officially announced on this date, which was Percival Lowell’s birthday. Lowell was founder of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

(11) STUFF THEY DON’T KNOW YOU ALREADY KNOW. ScreenRant offers “Lord Of The Rings: 15 Things You Never Knew About Galadriel”. Titles like this are one of the recurring motifs of the internet, so don’t take offense when you find how many of these things you already know. I can say there were a couple I’d never thought about before.

  1. SHE’S MARRIED

It speaks to Galadriel’s significance that her husband hardly figures into the picture. Still, it’s important to acknowledge his existence, even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall story of Lord of the Rings. Galadriel actually rules over the land of Lothlórien alongside Celeborn. While all elves are relatively old, Galadriel is older than Celeborn. Galadriel was born before the first age began, and Celeborn was born in Doriath before it fell, which suggests that he’s at least 500 years younger than his wife.

While this age difference probably isn’t all that significant in the extended lives that elves live, it’s still interesting to consider, especially alongside the fact that Galadriel is much more well-known than her husband. He may not be as wise as his wife, but Celeborn is still considered one of the wisest elves in Middle Earth, and stayed in Middle Earth for a time into the Fourth Age before joining his wife in the Undying Lands.

(12) 2017 PRIX BOB MORANE. Locus Online has reported the winners of the 2017 Prix Bob Morane, awarded by a jury of French-speaking writers, journalists, critics, and collections directors.

Romans francophones (French Novels)

Manhattan Marilyn, Philippe Laguerre (Éditions Critic)

Romans traduits (Translated Novels)

Les enfermés [Lock In], John Scalzi, translated by Mikael Cabon (L’Atalante)

Nouvelles (Short Stories)

Il sera une fois, Southeast Jones (Éditions Séma)

Coup de coeur (Favorites)

L’exégèse de Philip K. Dick (J’ai Lu)

Rae Armantrout

(13) WELL VERSED. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination presents Entanglements: Rae Armantrout & the Poetry of Physics on April 13 at 6 p.m. in Atkinson Hall Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus. It is free to the public.

One of the favorite subjects of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout (Professor Emerita, UCSD) is physics–from the big ideas of cosmology to the infinitesimally small wonders of the quantum world. To celebrate the publication of Entanglements, a chapbook selection of her science-minded poems, Brian Keating (Astrophysics, UCSD) and the Clarke Center are hosting an evening with Rae Armantrout, who will read selections and discuss the creative process behind her work. Keating, along with Brandon Som (Creative Writing, UCSD) and Amelia Glaser (Literature, UCSD), will join her in a conversation about how these poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(14) SOLVING FOR X. Melissa Leon’s really thoughtful and well-written review of Logan appears in The Daily Beast.

Logan, Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final outing as the Wolverine, is really a profoundly hopeful film. It loves and deeply understands its characters and the fraught, familial relationships between them. Its action scenes—brutal, bloody, and thrillingly inventive in a way comic book beat-em-ups rarely are—are as character-driven and impactful as its story. (Like, really impactful: You feel each punch, stab and dismemberment. Bless that R-rating.) This is a Western that happens to star superheroes; a road movie grounded in quiet, tender moments. It’s an elegy, wholly unconcerned with franchise-building or connecting distant universes. And with the introduction of Laura, a young mutant with powers similar to Wolverine’s, it becomes a portrait of makeshift families, empathy, and finding normalcy, too. That’s what the best X-Men stories are usually about. Turns out no one knows this better than her.

(15) TANGLED TECH. At SWSW, Disney showed plans to add AI to animatronics.

It’s rare that the company delves too far into how the “magic” – as they call it – works. Their logic is a magic trick doesn’t get better if you know how it’s done.

On Saturday, Disney – quite uncharacteristically – gave us a bit of an insight into how they plan to use technology to bring their much-loved brand of storytelling to new forms, by using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Jon Snoddy, the company’s senior Vice President for research and development, explained how soon you’ll be able to interact with story-telling robots at Disney parks.

“I think AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning is going to be very important for what we do,” he told the BBC.

“Things like characters that can move around among our guests. They’re going to need to understand where they’re going, have goals, and they’re going to have to know how to navigate in a world with humans….

During a panel discussion, the company shared footage – which unfortunately we’re not able to republish here – of a robotic Pascal, the cute lizard from 2010 movie Tangled.

It’s a terrific recreation of the digital character, but the real challenge for Disney will be to avoid the so-called “uncanny valley” – the theory that if something is very lifelike, but not exactly right, it can be slightly creepy or disturbing.

“Obviously we’re not the business of scaring kids!” Mr Snoddy said….

(16) THE PEN FROM OUTER SPACE. The perfect placeholder while you’re waiting to win your Hugo — the Astrograph.

….As you first encounter it, the Astrograph is an elongated teardrop, with window-like depressions picked out in black lacquer at the narrow end. The wider end has three curved metal elements ending in sharp points, and there’s a miniature ladder going up one side of the barrel that ends in a tiny door.

The door is actually a hidden lever that, when pulled, deploys those curved elements, which are the landing gear – and suddenly the pen is a miniature spaceship.

The spaceship illusion is underscored by touches like a red “thruster” at the pen’s base. The landing gear has actual working shock-absorbing struts, and with the gear down, the bottom half of the pen acts as a pen-holder.  The pen itself is housed in the upper half of the Astrograph, which you release simply by unscrewing it (it’s available either as a fountain pen or rollerball pen, but both work the same way)….

The Astrograph, in keeping with its philosophy of taking a toy to its logical extreme, also comes with, naturally, a tiny astronaut figurine with a magnet in its chest that lets you pretend the little guy’s climbing up or down the ladder, the better to explore strange new worlds; it also comes with a landing pad base that doubles as the pen’s box. Did you really expect anything less? I didn’t think so.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jonathan Edelstein, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/16 I Am the Pixel in the Darkness

(1) READERCONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall’s “#Readercon: Low Point & Lessons” rounds out an ongoing conversation about a panel at last weekend’s con.

For those who weren’t at Readercon—or who didn’t attend the Beyond Strong Female Characters panel—Sabrina Vourvoulias’ post lays out the panel I was going to write about as my low point for the weekend. I expect a certain amount of fail at sci fi conventions, and as failures go this wasn’t one of the majors for me. (Ellen Kushner has already apologized to me on Twitter, and I will be talking to her shortly after this post goes live. I accept the apology and this post isn’t really about Ellen so much as the phenomenon she was a part of at this particular panel.)….

Ultimately, cons are supposed to be fun. They’re a chance to meet people who love the same kinds of things that you do, a chance to geek out with them about whatever it is that you love. They are also a major part of networking in the industry. You can share a table with an agent, an editor, and your potential audience. Cons are important for fans, for authors, for the publishing industry as a whole.

Dissuading new authors and fans from con spaces this way won’t keep them out of publishing. It might make it more difficult, it might make for fewer amazing stories. But mostly it will make for the end of con culture. Maybe that’s the point. If the panels aren’t welcoming, if some con spaces feel closed, then as sad as it might be to lose con culture, maybe that’s for the best because endlessly fighting for space at the table is energy that can be used to build a new table.

(2) POLLBUSTERS. FiveThirtyEight uses Ghostbusters as a springboard to examine the problems with online ratings systems.

But this “Ghostbusters” thing? It lays bare so, so much of what we’re investigating when it comes to the provenance and reliability of internet ratings.1 Namely, they’re inconsistent, easily manipulated and probably not worth half the stock we put in them.2 Here are a few stats I collected early Thursday for the new “Ghostbusters” movie:

The movie isn’t even out in theaters as I’m writing this, but over 12,000 people have made their judgment. Male reviewers outnumber female reviewers nearly 5 to 1 and rate “Ghostbusters” 4 points lower, on average.

(3) STUDYING THE HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS. This week on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SF the panel looks at Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”. Jamie comments —

I’ve actually read this one before, in a collection of Asimov stories. I had forgotten the details but knew what the big reveal was. Maybe because I read and liked the Foundation stories I don’t find the prose in this story so foreign. And foreign is the word for all these stories. They were clearly written by people who lived in a different time and place. People just don’t speak like that anymore and writers don’t write dialogue like that anymore.

The format is one that I’ve seen in other stories, a journalist chasing a story as a means to give the scientists someone to explain to. It’s a good trick, and kept the story moving.

(4) MANY AUTHORS NOTIFIED. Bence Pintér sent the link to the final article in his investigation of a Hungarian sf magazine – “Piracy by Galaktika: They Are Doing It Since 2004”.

Galaktika placed emphasis on reprinting stories by the grand masters of sci-fi, fantasy, horror genres dating back to even the 19th century. This can be witnessed from the very beginning when in the first edition in November 2004 authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley and Poul Anderson were included. We were able to reach the agencies of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke, who stated that Galaktika magazine had no right to publish their clients’ work (not only in this case, but in all concerned cases). The agency representing the Asimov estate has only recently taken control and therefore was unable to give a statement.

When we last contacted the agency representing the Anderson estate (and fifteen other affected authors), they claimed that negotiations were underway with the publisher – more on that at the end of the article. The agency representing the Clarke estate stated that after our first article on this issue all previous debt was settled by the publisher. ?Copyright protection is essential to the survival of these stories and our industry, and we are very reassured to know that there is such a strong SF community in Hungary which is holding those like Galaktika to account for their actions? – stated that representative of the company towards Mandiner. We also inquired towards the books of Arthur C. Clarke reprinted by Galaktika. It turned out that besides the reprinted short stories, there was also at least one novel that needed to be discussed between the parties; but we have no further information about this issue. (Sources tell us that this novel may be 2001: A Space Odyssey reprinted last year.)

Coming back to the grand masters: besides Clarke, Anderson, and Baxter, the agencies of Terry Pratchett, George R. R. Martin, Robert J. Sawyer, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Nancy Kress, Jack Williamson, Michael Flynn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hal Clement, Leigh Brackett, Cordwainer Smith, Philip José Farmer, Jack McDevitt, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Jack Vance and Richard Matheson also gave no permission for the reprinting of the authors’ works; similarly, Larry Niven was also not informed that his works were being reprinted. Vance’s agency later informed us that the two parties came to an agreement. A regularly occurring author was Michael Swanwick, winner of the Nebula Award and nominee for many others; he too was oblivious to his works being reprinted; neither were the successors of Philip K. Dick or Tanith Lee informed. These authors alone had a work reprinted nearly every year, all of which were illegal. This however is only the tip of the iceberg….

(5) AMAZON BITES. Mary Rosenblum’s guest post at the SFWA Blog, “Amazon Bites Author”, argues that a client’s receipt of a warning letter that they were about to suspend his Amazon account and stop selling his books shows writers can innocently run afoul of the online bookseller’s anti-fraud algorithims.

Meanwhile, I’ve been changing my client advice for career authors regarding Amazon.com. I no longer suggest going the Select/KU route. Clearly, Amazon is casting a net for scammers there and if you use book discounters and other promotions well, you may find yourself in Brad’s shoes. You can make your ebook free in other ways. Use the book discounters and free downloads to reach a lot of new readers and stay off the KU system. If your book is good and readers like the freebie, they’ll pay for the next book and become loyal fans.

Here are my new ‘rules’.  It’s a depressingly long list, isn’t it?

  • Never offer any kind of thank you gift, incentive, or what have you for a review.
  • Never post a free book offer on your Facebook page to solicit reviews.
  • Use only the email list you’ve acquired from your website (and this is why that list is SO important) to send an offer of an epub or mobi or pdf copy of the new book to those people and ask them to review the book when it’s out.
  • Never ask for a positive review, only ask for an honest review.
  • Never let family members review your book.
  • Never use a paid review service.
  • Use only honest book discounters such as Fussy Librarian and BookBub.
  • Never swap reviews with other authors.

(6) HARDY OBIT. Robin Hardy, director of the horror film The Wicker Man (1973), died July 1 at the age of 86.

When Mr. Hardy, a television director, decided he wanted to make a horror film, he found an enthusiastic collaborator in Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the play “Sleuth” and the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film “Frenzy.” Mr. Hardy and Shaffer, partners in a production company, were avid fans of the horror films made by Hammer Studios. Together they set about making a film that would take the Hammer approach in a new direction.

Shaffer, using the novel “Ritual” by David Pinner as a basis, came up with the story of a devout Christian policeman, Sergeant Neil Howie, who travels to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl. In Mr. Hardy’s hands, the island and its inhabitants — led by the priestlike Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee, took on a mystifying aura, with bizarre events unfolding….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 14, 1910 – William Hanna: The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Top Cat etc.

(8) ANIME. Petréa Mitchell runs down more than 20 stfnal anime premieres for Amazing Stories.

Gray-man HALLOW premiere – In Fairytale Britain, a villain called the Millennium Earl is creating demonic constructs and sending them out to take over the world or somesuch. Opposing him is a vaguely religious order armed with everything from magical powers to amped-up mundane weapons. At the center of it all is Allen Walker, a particularly talented exorcist, who is slowly being taken over by the personality of one of the Milliennium Earl’s former allies. There are people in the power structure moving against him, and something unfortunate is about to happen to his mentor.

While most of this episode is spent catching new viewers up, there’s still room for some supernatural monster-killing action. It does a decent job at both. All around, it’s a perfectly serviceable action-adventure.

The big caveat for a Western audience is that it takes the European setting and religious trappings and does very weird things with them. It operates at about the same level of fidelity in its depiction of Japanese culture as a typical Western cartoon.

(9) PUMPKIN IS THE NEW ORANGE. The Halloween Daily News urges one and all to sign a petition to make Ray Bradbury’s favorite day of the year a real holiday. (They don’t mention Ray, but we know it’s true.)

Have you ever wished that your favorite day of the year, Halloween was recognized as an actual federal Holiday like Christmas and Thanksgiving? Of course you are not alone, and one person is taking this request to the White House in the form of an online petition that needs at least 100,000 signatures by July 25 to be taken seriously. But we can do that, right?

(10) THE VOTE. Hugo ballot picks for Novella by Jonathan Edelstein.

I wasn’t able to put the best novella of 2015 on the top of my Hugo ballot, because that story, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik, didn’t make the finals.  That said, I can’t complain too much about the choices I had: the novella can be an awkward length, but most of this year’s entries carried it off and some were very good indeed.

(11) TEMPERATURE RISING. Kate Paulk’s comments in “Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Short Story and Best Novelette” for once venture beyond indifference. There were some stories she even warmed up to.

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015) – Another cute piece, but with a liberal side of “hmm” that kept me thinking after I’d finished. This is one of my personal contenders for this category.

(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIEND. Teri Windling shares ancient knowledge in “Hedgies”.

“Aristotle says that hedgehogs can foretell a change of wind,” writes mythologist J.C. Cooper, “and accordingly shift the outlook of their earth-holes.”

Aristotle!

(13) SIDE OF HAM. Entertainment Weekly’s view is that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a movie about acting”.

For the moment, stuff the subtext: The Kobayashi Maru is a scene about the Enterprise crew – highly-skilled space-naval pioneer coworkers – putting on a show. They’re performing. And “performance” is both running plot point and underlying theme in Wrath of Khan. Khan fools Kirk with a performance, and Kirk fools Khan with three performances. In the second scene, Spock performs the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of…” etc. In the penultimate scene, Kirk quotes Dickens’ closing: “It is a far, far better…” etc.

(14) ABOUT FACE. Handimania supplies a recipe for the head in a jar prank.

The thing is to blend two pictures together in order to prepare flat image of a human head. Afterwards, the photo has to be laminated and placed in a jar filled with fluid to create the illusion of a decapitated head. This nasty prank was prepared by Instructables’ user, mikeasaurus, who advises to personalize the gag for the best effect.

(15) E.T. ON LINE 1. Listserve knows “10 Bizarre Ways Scientists Believe Aliens Will Contact Us”

  1. Flashing A Billion Stars

Astrophysicist Ragbir Bhathal works with SETI to scan the skies for possible communications from extraterrestrial intelligence. Unlike most SETI facilities, which look for radio signals, Bhathal’s facility looks for laser pulses at his lab. The pulses sweep a nearby volume of space—within about 100 light-years—to find laser bursts that come in regular patterns. Scientists are now capable of detecting signals as faint as a single photon of light every few fractions of a second.

Lasers can, in principle, help transmit messages over extraordinary distances. While scientists have monitored a large number of stars looking for alien laser signals—like the facilities at Harvard and Princeton that scanned more than 10,000 Sun-like stars for several years—no evidence for any alien communication has been found.

(16) RESPECT. In “Should Pokémon Go?”, Kim Stahl offers a defense of Pokémon Go at the Holocaust Museum.

Following the articles about the D.C. Holocaust museum’s reaction to Pokémon Go, it struck me how very differently game-theory people and other people react to what’s going on with this game. The spots in the museum have been targets in another game (Ingress) for a few years, apparently without incident. Hundreds of thousands of people play that game, and many have played it inside the museum. But Pokémon is a very different sort of game. It is much more popular, and appeals to younger people, and unlike a game that is essentially a game-ified version of Geocaching, Pokémon is lighthearted and people are excited about it because it is new….

But the important difference I’m seeing is that the challenge the museum is facing made me think “great! People are visiting a place with so much to teach them because of the game! Now, how should they take the next step to encourage appropriate behavior from those visitors?” In other words, “how could the museum gamify getting the behavior they want from visitors instead of the behavior they don’t?” Quiet, respectful behavior and attention to the exhibits presumably.

When I was in Milan, one of the official pamphlets from the Duomo had information for Ingress players about a mission there. One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, a historical wonder intended for silent, respectful contemplation of God, used a game to get more people to visit and to get them to see the best parts of the church. That surprised and impressed me, of all of the places I would expect to clamp down on frivolous things or modern things, instead they embraced the possibilities.

(17) GO FOR PARENTS. Matthew Johnson wrote “A Parents’ Guide to Pokémon Go” for MediaSmarts.

Over the last week our world has been invaded: cute cartoon creatures can now be found lurking in parks, restaurants, museums, and even people’s houses. If you haven’t seen them, it’s because they’re only visible on a smartphone screen, and only if you’re playing the new game “Pokémon Go”.

While most parents are probably at least a bit familiar with the thirty-year-old Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Go is something new: the first widely popular alternate reality game (ARG). These games use GPS and similar location-finding technologies to overlay a game onto the real world. As a result, both public spaces and news stories have filled up with people looking to “catch ‘em all.”

Although most people playing Pokémon Go are probably adults, Pokémon’s popularity among kids means that many of them will want to play it too. Here’s a quick rundown on what to consider if your kids ask if they can play: ….

(18) POKESONG. Then Matthew Johnson took a break and insta-filked a bit of Pokémon trivia.

Darren Garrison on July 14, 2016 at 5:50 am said: My son sez Mew is the rarest Pokémon.

Okay, somebody, quick–filk “Mew is the rarest Pokemon” to the tune of “One is the Loneliest Number” for Paul_A.

As you wish:

Mew, is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do
Mew is just the saddest one, he’s so lonely that they had to clone Mewtwo
It’s just no good anymore since Mew went away
I spent my time just catching Grimers yesterday
Pokémon Go is the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Because Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]