Hey Amazon, How About Doing These Lord of the Rings TV Shows?


By Daniel Dern: According to a November 13 press release, Amazon.com will be doing one or more TV shows to based on Lord of the Rings and possibly other of J.R.R. Tolkien’s published and unpublished works — and thanks to an anonymous email from PalantirLeaks, I’ve got the inside scoop on their plans…which I’m (shhhh!) sharing with you.

As you’ll see, the Big A has an ambitious potential line-up — enough for its own cable channel — going beyond the obvious series and mini-series to the gamut of TV possibilities.

(Note/disclaimer, I’m not the only person having fun with this announcement — I’d noticed some likely headlines before I wrote most of my piece, but carefully avoided reading any of those stories… although I’m not finding them now, just this — “Hobbit star Orlando Bloom promises elven spin-off movie”.

I also deliberately avoided what’s probably the most obvious LoTR spin-off suggestion as too obvious not to have been made decades ago, and as a quick web search shows, there’s no shortage of hits for “Mordor She Wrote”…)

TALL AND SMALL (Cop show) Think “She’s an Entwive, he’s a Halfing,” as our protoganists find, fight, and solve crimes and mysteries/dunnits by an assortment of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, et cetera (creating opportunities for lots of fun guest stars, including, permissions permitting, Marvel’s Groot). Originally titled “Little, Big” until somebody pointed out that’s already the title of one of John Crowley’s science fiction books science fiction books.

MAKE ‘SHROOMS FOR DADDY. (Cooking) Hobbit-hosted, featuring festive fungi feasts. Sponsored by Farmer Maggot, who tries to interrupt with shaggy-warg stories about rascally hobbits trying to steal his mushers at night, plus PSAs flagging the visual differences between safe versus poisonous (or otherwise dubious) ‘shrooms.

HAPPY, HUNGRY HOBBITS! (For kids; possibly animated.) Follow Frodo, Samwise, Merry, Pippin and others when they were rascally young hobbitlings, and their hilarious hijinks as they search for elevenses, experiment with Gandalf’s fireworks, and more. Watch Frodo get in, and escape from, trouble by “borrowing” his Uncle Bilbo’s magic disappearing ring.

CLOAKS AND STAFFS U. (Angsty series) Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, Radagast when they were at wizarding school, learning their craft — and practicing through pranking each other.

MATHOM ROAD SHOW. Treasure or junk? Antiquing and garage/yard selling Middle Earth’s stuff.

RIDDLE US THIS (Game show) Smeagol Gollum hosts the ever-popular riddle game show, where the loser may be eaten, or at least web-wrapped by Shelob.

THE AMAZING WRAITHES. Which team will make it from the Last Lonely House to Mount Doom before the one of the Nine get them? All bets are off, in this exciting — and thrill-filled — competition.

DANCING WITH THE ELVES. (Competition) Judging includes who looks the most embarrassing by comparison.

GIMLI SHELTER. Dwarves show how to protect your home (hole, village, castle, etc.) against orcs, wargs, and flaming dragons.

THE B-FELLOWS. (Either reality show or fiction, TBD) Sure, we know about the Fellowship of the Nine… now follow the travails of the team(s) that didn’t make the cut, who bravely (but not always eptly) set themselves up as Decoy Fellowships.

HOW I MET YOUR MITHRIL (Middle Earth Geographic documentary) A look at the geography, minerals, fauna and non-sentient flora of Middle Earth, from pipeweed and athelas through why some of the mountain ranges improbably have corners (see
https://www.tor.com/2017/08/01/tolkiens-map-and-the-messed-up-mountains-of-middle-earth/). Narrated and led by Ranger ‘arry Aragon, with stunning aerial views courtesy of Eagles with head and body cams.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-SAM (live-action). Heh, turns out Shelob wasn’t just a humongous spider, she was also radioactive… as Samwise found out when he returned to the Shire and found himself sticking to walls, shooting webbing from his fingers, being strong as an Oliphant, and wanting to eat insects. Hilarity and hijinks ensue.
So set those DVRs, that’s what we’re Tolkein about!

Pixel Scroll 11/16/17 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls!

(1) SERFS ERRANT. Gizmodo covers “Amazon’s Last Mile”, about the people who actually bring you the stuff.

Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.

While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution.

(2) PERITEXTUAL. Peter Watts, in “After Party”, tells about his experience at the “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” symposium about his fiction.

I knew it was bound to fail— but when people are flying in from Michigan and Chicago and fucking Australia to attend, what kind of a dick would I be if I said Nah, I can’t be bothered to take a twenty-minute subway ride…? So I gritted my teeth, and made the journey. Scheduled a haircut just an hour before, so at least I’d look a little less like Rick Sanchez.

And the lady cutting my hair told me about her parents, left homeless when Hurricane Maria crawled overtop Dominica and just sat there, sandblasting that island down to the bedrock, for four days. Told me that at least now she knew her family wasn’t dead (she’d had a month to wonder about that) but that cell and internet were still out so she still hadn’t had a chance to talk to them directly.

Coming out of that haircut, the number of people who might or might not show up in Room 100 of the Jackman Building suddenly seemed a lot less important than it had been. I showed up at “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” reality-checked, and significantly less self-absorbed. And you know what?

It was a pretty great time.

(3) MORE BOOK RECS. And in the wake of Andrew Weir releasing his list of six SF books, Elon Musk has listed eight books that he says made him who he is.  They include Lord of the Flies and the Foundation series: “Billionaire Elon Musk says he was ‘raised by books’ and credits his success to these 8”.

Up until Musk was 8, he lived with both of his parents Maye and Errol Musk in South Africa, Strauss reported. But he did not see them much and mostly lived under the watch of a housekeeper, who Musk said was mainly there to make sure he didn’t break anything.

“She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” Musk told the magazine. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

(4) WHAT GOES UP. CNN profiles the symbolic first step as “Asgardia, the world’s first ‘space nation’, takes flight”.

On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.

The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).

It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

… The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.

For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.

“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”

Getting it off the ground

Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.

Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.

… Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits — the first one located 100 to 200 miles (161 to 321 kilometers) from space, which is also where the ISS is located.

The first human flight to this location is projected to take place in eight years’ time.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL, TOO. Craig Engler from Z Nation (currently in its 4th season on Syfy) has launched a crowdfunding appeal on the new Drip platform for The Last Days of Earth, a new kind of serialized SF novel that “blurs the line between fiction and reality.” It’s a story about the end of the world where readers receive mysterious objects and clues in the mail timed to coincide with the release of new story installments.

The Last Days of Earth is one of the hand-picked projects chosen by Kickstarter to launch its new Drip platform, which debuted yesterday. While Kickstarter is designed for one-time funding, Drip was created as a venue for ongoing funding such as recurring subscriptions. Kickstarter members can use their existing logins to seamlessly access Drip.

The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized the themes and concepts I wanted to explore would work better as a novel,” Engler said. “But not just any novel. To tell the story right, it needed to be a serialized online book that unfolded in ‘seasons’ like a TV show and included real-world objects that would show up in readers’ mailboxes.

“The mystery objects stem from a concept in narrative theory called paratext. The idea of paratext is that things outside the text of a book — the cover art, reviews, blurbs, etc. — influence how readers experience the book. I wanted to take that idea further and create a story where physical objects were integral to the experience.”

The Last Days of Earth starts when everyone on the planet learns the world will end in six months. It follows the lives of six characters, each uniquely impacted by the news, who will find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. The main protagonist is Anna, a pregnant women who learns her due date is the day the world will end and is determined to find a way to save her unborn child.

(6) REALITY SHOW. Michael Damian Thomas had this response to the Dragon Awards category realignments:

(7) SECOND NATURE. Has this ever been seen in the wild?

(8) WHITEOUT. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rates the start of a new Richard Baker series: “The Troublesome Universe Of ‘Valiant Dust'”.

I’m giving Baker some credit here. The man has written a bunch of books. He’s a solid voice in the military sci-fi genre and served as a United States naval officer himself, giving an earned weight to his voice when it comes to describing the minutiae of naval matters. Valiant Dust is the foundation of a new series (called Breaker of Empires) which, presumably, will follow the characters introduced here through the universe he has built.

But that universe? It’s troublesome. Set centuries in the future (following the discovery of faster-than-light technology, a diaspora from earth as it falls to a barely mentioned global Caliphate, and the always convenient misplacing of several entire planets full of mono-ethnic peoples who then slip into a kind of futuristic techno-feudalism before being miraculously re-discovered hundreds of years later), Valiant Dust drops in at a point where the major “cosmopolitan” powers — the Euro-centric Aquilans, the Germanic Dremark Empire, and the Canadians, for some reason — have become a sort of First World commonwealth. In a peaceful state of détente, they are either nobly aiding the backwards human colonies recover from their isolation, or ruthlessly divvying up this galactic Third World as nouvelle colonial masters.

(9) CHATTING WITH CHATTERLY. A modern Eliza: “Tinder bot quotes Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

(10) UP IN THE AIR. Weather geekery: “The Hurricane Season, As Shown By Salt, Smoke And Dust” (text and video)

Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland.

A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.

The video pulls from satellite imagery and computer models to track how aerosols are affected by hurricanes.

(11) THROWING THE FIRST STONE. Action teaching: “Castle Gardens Primary School ‘hit by meteorite'”.

A tarmac company provided and transported the “meteorite” and altered the school playground.

The PSNI also went to the school to respond to the “emergency”.

Mr Gray said that staging the strike would have a number of benefits for the pupils.

“It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” he said.

“We deliberately timed it to be the first Monday after the first AQE transfer paper so that pupils could take their minds off the test for a few hours.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “This is a step up from the why-witnesses-are-unreliable demo (a staple of journalism schools) that I got in junior high.”

(12) SLICE OF LIFE. The BBC reports: “First gene-editing in human body attempt”.

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

(13) RAMPAGE. There’s a new trailer out for a giant animal movie with Dwayne Johnson that’s coming out in April.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/13/17 And So Pixels Made Of Sand Scroll Into The Sea, Eventually

(1) TOWARDS ST. J.R.R. Supporters of sainthood for Tolkien have launched an appeal to crowdfund a 2018 conference in Oxford:

We’re raising £50,000 to fund a Conference for the formal opening of the Cause for Canonisation of J. R. R. Tolkien (1st-2nd September 2018) in Oxford.

This year has seen a special grace in the movement to Canonise J. R. R. Tolkien, with the first Mass being celebrated at the Oxford Oratory on the 2nd September 2017, calling for prayer for the cause for canonisation to be formally opened.

– The first Mass marked the 44th anniversary of Tolkien’s death. The cause is under the guidance of Fr Daniele Pietro Ercoli, a Salesian priest from the Diocese of Treviso (but as a Salesian belonging to the religious province of Triveneto).

The Conference would support a solemn Mass on the 2nd September 2018, and would last from Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd. The purpose of the Conference would be to provide a cultural dialogue to advocate for the sanctity of Tolkien’s personal life, as well as how this was mediated through his artistic works. I have already secured as a keynote speaker Robert Colquhoun, the Vatican backed International Director of 40 Days for Life to speak on the theme of “The Conversion of England – Hobbits and grassroots activism: Fellowship will overcome the evil of abortion.” Linking Tolkien to the new evangelisation and the conversion of England in this way, I hope to situate Tolkien’s own faith as a creative response to the joys and sorrows of this generation and use the conference as means to seeing how Tolkien’s own faith can provide solutions.

(2) WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME. Turns out Google is in fact everywhere. On the tiny Faroe Islands, lacking many paved roads, they didn’t do “Street View” but instead “Sheep View”.

Last year, the Faroe Islands petitioned Google to be featured on Google Street View by creating our own version of the mapping system, using cameras mounted on the backs of sheep and calling it Sheep View. Now, just over a year later, we have succeeded in our aim – with Google announcing today that Google Street View now features the Faroe Islands.

The Sheep View campaign was launched in July 2017 by Faroes’ resident, Durita Dahl Andreassen, who wanted to share the beauty of her native islands with the rest of the world and, in turn, to petition Google to have the nation included on Google Street View. Together with a few friendly sheep equipped with solar-powered 360-degree cameras and the support of Visit Faroe Islands, Durita set out to collect images of the Faroe Islands that could be uploaded to Google Maps.

When the tech giant heard about the Sheep View project, they thought it was “shear brilliance” and, in August 2016, they supplied the Faroese with a Street View Trekker and 360-degree cameras via the Street View camera loan program so that residents and tourists alike could assist the sheep in capturing even more images of the beautiful archipelago, using selfie sticks, bikes, backpacks, cars, kayaks, horses, ships and even wheelbarrows.

Dave Doering sent the link with a note: “Despite being this tiny speck between Scotland and Norway, the place has two nice little bookstores. Just the place to pick up Lord of the Rings in Danish and relish the read amongst the sheep!”

(3) ORC VIEW.  Paul Weimer announced in comments, “In December, Alex ‘Tolkien Map killer’ Acks and I will be teaching one of Cat Rambo’s classes on fantasy maps” — “Mapping Fantasy with Alex Acks and Paul Weimer”. Here’s the description:

Fantasy maps can add extra dimensions to a work, showing the world the writer has created. But how do you create a map that both reflects that world and the basic laws of physics? Join Alex Acks and Paul Weimer as they talk about fantasy maps in order to give you the tools you need to create and map your world. Topics include basic geologic principles, common mistakes, forms maps can take, how maps reflect world view, and how maps change over time.

Saturday, December 16, 2017 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time

(4) THE CASH REGISTER RINGS. Variety’s Joe Otteson, in “‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Moving Forward at Amazon With Multi-Season Production Commitment”, says that Amazon Studios has made a deal with the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Trust to have The Lord of the Rings as a multi-season series, based on events before The Fellowship of the Ring and with a possible spinoff as part of the deal.

Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding “The Fellowship of the Ring.” The deal also includes a potential additional spin-off series. The series will be produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“’The Lord of the Rings’ is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted series for Amazon Studios. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

The Amazon deal does not cover “The Silmarillion,” the third major work taking place in Tolkein’s Middle Earth and adjacent worlds, published after the author’s death.

(5) IN NAME ONLY. Meanwhile, Kurt Busiek has been brainstorming titles for the new production.

(6) TEA AND LIMITED SYMPATHY. Larry Correia was inspired by the kerfuffle over Patrick Rothfuss’ complaint reported here the other day (item #3) to write a few thousand words in “A Capitalist Novelist’s Guide to Fan Expectations and How Not To Be A Douche” for the readers of Monster Hunter Nation.

This isn’t an all or nothing, one side is right, the other is wrong thing. Like relative douchiness, it’s on a spectrum. So this is what this discussion looks like to me.

FAN: I am disappointed that author X has not finished his next book yet.

CORREIA: Yeah, buddy. I feel your pain.

FAN: I feel betrayed and will not buy any more of his X’s books!

CORREIA: I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s your choice.

FAN: He owes me!

CORREIA: Whoa. Hang on now.

FAN: X has broken our unwritten moral contract that I have imposed on him!

CORREIA: Fuck that. Where’d I put my shotgun?

But if you thought this was a post about sympathizing with a beleaguered writer, no, this is a post about Larry:

I don’t know Rothfuss, but six years a book, personally I would be embarrassed.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1992 Bram Stoker‘s Dracula premiered. This is the one starring Gary Oldman with the strange bouffant hairdo.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ found these Transylvanian travel reviews in by Tom Gauld.
  • Chip Hitchcock discovered a new bit of Star Trek headcanon in Red and Rover.

(9) LAD GENIUS. Other people’s wounds are beneath Dave Freer’s notice. His way of proving it is by devoting a Mad Genius column to them.

Mind you, just going over the top – as tens of thousands of men did, well, they probably all needed kilts. This – the trenches of Somme – shaped JRR Tolkien. This, in its way, made the LORD OF THE RINGS what it is. It’s a far, far cry from the caliber of self-elected ‘elite’ of modern sf and Fantasy, having tantrums because someone was so terribly, terribly, horribly awfully insensitive and used the term evil ice-cream name ‘tutti-frutti’ in the title of con talk. You have to laugh. We’ve passed through micro-aggressions, down through nano-aggressions, into pico-aggressions. And they’re demanding ‘respect’. I had a few orificers who demanded respect, back when I was in the army. They didn’t get it: it’s not something you can ‘demand’. It’s given, when it is earned.

(10) NOBODY OBJECTED. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli explains why he thinks it’s okay for him to call his book a Nebula nominee:

Anyone as desperate for affirmation as that, how long will it be ‘til we’re reading about Paolinelli’s Nobel Peace Prize nomination?

(11) MORE HOLLYWOOD HARASSMENT. Buzzfeed reports: “DC Comics Fires Longtime Editor Following Sexual Harassment Claims”. The decision came two days after Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment launched a review into revelations that Eddie Berganza was promoted despite allegations he forcibly kissed and tried to grope colleagues.

Berganza, a 25-year veteran at DC Comics, was a group editor who oversaw production of major titles, including Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman. Before he was fired, he was overseeing Dark Knights: Metal, a special series that is reportedly one of DC’s biggest-selling titles at the moment.

Two women who worked at DC told BuzzFeed News that Berganza either forcibly kissed them, or attempted to do so, in the early to mid 2000s. Several people complained to the company’s human resources department in 2010, when Berganza was up for a promotion to executive editor. Berganza still received the promotion, but was demoted to group editor in 2012 after another woman said he kissed her without her consent at a comics convention

(12) TAKING ORDERS. Contrary to what you may have heard — “The Answer To Life, The Universe — And Everything? It’s 63”.

When it comes to figuring out the nature of physical reality, part of that process starts at the absolute edge of the observable universe — the cosmic horizon, a distant layer from which light has only just, in this very instant, managed to reach us after more than 13 billion years of racing through space.

This intangible boundary between the knowable and the unknowable is, at present, roughly a thousand, trillion, trillion meters across — should you possess the means to measure it.

At the other end, in the deepest innards of every single speck of cosmos, is a scale of a hundred billion, trillion, trillionths of a meter. It represents the last meaningful physical scale within our present understanding of physics, a place where space-time itself gets choppy, uncertain, and decidedly problematic.

These two extremes span a jaw-dropping 63 orders of magnitude.

(13) AFROFUTURISM. At The Root, “A Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction Made for Black People, by Black People”.

Since the beginning of time, when we have not been included, we have created our own. HBCUs, black-owned businesses, black houses of worship, black social organizations and The Root itself are fruits of our resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. The books Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture and The Encyclopedia of Black Comics are fantastic evidence of this rich hub of black art. To further elaborate, here is an inclusive (and intersectional) guide to black art and artists in the genre to support, ranging from emerging to longtime favorites.

(14) BLACK PANTHER. ComicsBeat says “These Black Panther character posters will make you wish it was February” – see the full set at the link.

(15) BREATHING NORMALLY. Camestros Felapton begins “Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 9” with a lefthanded compliment:

I kind of suspected that the crew would pull their act together for the mid-season finale and they certainly did. Genuinely exciting and not once did I let out an exasperated sigh. This was actually good.

Oh so many spoilers below as I go through what went right this time…

(16) FOOD COURT IN SESSION. Is this the long-delayed revenge for introducing the rest of the world to haggis? “Taco Bell to open first Scottish restaurant next month”.

Fast food giant Taco Bell has announced it will open its first restaurant in Scotland next month.

The Tex-Mex chain will open its doors in Glasgow on December 7, with a new outlet on Sauchiehall Street in city centre.

The first 100 people through its doors on the opening day will receive a free limited edition Taco Bell t-shirt.

There will also be four prizes of a year’s supply of Taco Bell handed out to fans of the chain, with more information to be announced across the company’s UK social media channels in the coming weeks.

(17) THE ACCIDENTAL SANTA. Beware, your heart will be warmed by this Marks & Spencer Christmas ad with Paddington.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/4/17 Do You Come From The Land Scroll’d Under, Where Pixels Glow And Files Sunder?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Luke has a different-colored lightsaber! ScreenRant obsesses: “Star Wars 8: Is Luke’s Green Lightsaber Evidence of His Fall to the Dark Side?”

The fact that several posters and some merchandise have featured Luke holding his old blue-bladed lightsaber – the one Rey brings him at the end of The Force Awakens – instead, adds to the mystery. It’s possible he simply lost the lightsaber during the 35 years since The Force Awakens, but that’s a weird thing to hand wave away. The more likely explanation is that we haven’t seen it because it’s a spoiler.

(2) JUST FOLLOW THE BOUNCING HERO. Io9 directs Quantum Leap fans to this indispensible tool

Journalist Josh Jones created an interactive map for Special Request magazine that traces every leap Sam Beckett took during Quantum Leap’s series run, with every episode title and description available for those who want to match the leap with the location.

Using Google Maps, Jones marks a total 93 leaps across five seasons, with the second season having the most leaps out of all of them (22, one more than every following season). Most of them took place in the United States, though there were a few in Europe, along with one in Egypt and another in Japan. But it looks like Sam never managed to leap to Central America, South America, or Australia. What, were there no koalas who needed help?

The link is: Google Map of all the Quantum Leaps.

(3) FUTURE WEALTH. David Brin dispenses idiosyncratic wisdom in a Marketshadows interview.

Ilene: Lately, it seems like there are a lot of winners who are also cheaters… are we going backwards?

David: Amid 6,000 years of feudal despotisms, a few brief moments of illumination happened when citizens rose up to rule themselves. Periclean Athenian democracy was spectacularly agile and creative, but only lasted about one human lifespan, before it was crushed by neighboring oligarchies. The Florentine Republic was shorter lived. But we’ve managed about 250 years of an amazing experiment.

So don’t be myopic. Other generations of Americans faced crises and attempts by would-be feudal lords to smash our diamond back into the old pattern. Generally, these phases of the American Civil War (we’re in phase eight) have ended surprisingly well, as we extend freedom and rights and dignity to ever more kinds of people. But at the time, each crisis seemed impossible to overcome.

We need confidence. Alas, that is why many voices in power and media try to spread gloom.

(4) NO PRIZE. Andrew Porter was watching Jeopardy! when contestants hilariously failed to recognize clues to a classic sf novel.

This 1870 novel has a ship whose name is from the Greek for “Sailor” and a captain whose name is Latin for “No One.”

Wrong answers: “What is Watership Down” and “What is the Ballad of Cap’n Crunch?”

Real answer: “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

He also passed a second “scintillating wrong Jeopardy! answer” –

On TV in the 1960s we learned that its mission was “to seek out new life and new civilizations.”

Contestant: “What is Apollo?”

(5) ANIMAL CROSSING. Is Vox Day doing what he otter? That and other animal-based questions can be answered using Camestros Felapton’s chart in “Today in Pointless Statistics”

Yesterday, I was speculating about how the far-right may have a fear of rabbits. I’ve no means of ascertaining that but I did wonder if rabbits got mentioned more than you would expect.

Disproportionate Lagomorphic Referencing in Ideologically Extreme Propaganda

By C.Felapton, M.Robot 2017

Abstract

It has been postulated that the alt-right talks about rabbits a lot. Our research unit examined this hypothesis empirically using highly advanced data-mining techniques.

Using a sample of common animal words, the frequency of use of those words was established and then compared with word frequency in an established corpus of English words. It was established that at least one member of the alt-right talks about rabbits disproportionately….

Camestros was so tickled by the experiment that he repeated the search on two other “control” blogs, discovering that “cat” was the animal most often mentioned on both — however, the word appears on File 770 (in posts and comments) ten times more often than on Monster Hunter Nation. Meow, baby!

(6) HOLD ONTO YOUR WALLETS. The Verge issues a warning — “Amazon wants to turn Lord of the Rings into the next Game of Thrones”. Maybe call it, The Eye in the High Castle?

Amazon Studios has been looking for a way to duplicate HBO’s success with Game of Thrones, and the company may have found a solution: adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a TV series. Variety reports that the company is currently in talks with Warner Bros. Television and the late author’s estate, and while discussions are said to be in “very early stages,” it is clearly a high priority, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself involved in the negotiations.

Amazon isn’t the only looking into the rights, according to Deadline, which reports that the Tolkien Estate is looking to sell the television rights to the iconic fantasy series to the tune of $200-250 million, and has approached Netflix and HBO as well. There appears to be some strings attached: the rights might not encompass all of the characters in the story. HBO has reportedly passed on the project.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 4, 1922 — Pharoah Tutankhamen’s tomb is discovered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 4, 1917 – Paul I. Evans

(9) STORIES WORTH NOTICING. At Locus Online, Rich Horton reviews short fiction from Asimov’s, F&SF, Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, People of Color Take Over Special Issue, and Tor.com.

In Tor.com‘s July set of stories I thought “The Mar­tian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata the best. It’s set in a future in which a series of disasters caused by human nature, environmental collapse, and technological missteps have led to a realization that humanity is doomed. One old architect, in a gesture of, perhaps, memorialization of the species, has taken over the remaining machines of an abortive Mars colony to create a huge obelisk that might end up the last surviving great human structure after we are gone. But her project is threatened when a vehicle from one of the other Martian colonies (all of which failed) approaches. Is the vehicle’s AI haywire? Has it been hijacked by someone else on Earth? The real answer is more inspiring – and if perhaps just a bit pat, the conclusion is profoundly moving.

(10) RADICAL NEW FORMAT. James Corden brings you “Thor: Ragnarok 4D w/ the ‘Thor’ cast”.

…Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeff Goldblum, reprising their movie roles for a live, surprised audience who thought they were actually seeing the new Marvel movie. “Will they be mad that I’m interrupting the film?” Corden says. “Possibly. You know, wherever there is change, people will call it disruption. So I guess, you know, what I’m saying is, ‘Who gives a [bleep]?’”

 

(11) MORE THOR. Every media adaptation of Thor (before James Corden got hold of him) is referenced in this video: (Hat tip to io9.)

(12) HATCHING OUT. Cheryl Morgan, in “Aotearoa Futurism”, tells where you can learn about some of the subtle Maori-oriented references planted by the director in Thor: Ragnarok.

I’m not going to give you spoilers here, but if you have already seen the film I recommend this article by Maori SF fan, Dan Taipua. The director of the film, Taika Waititi, is also Maori, and he has left a whole bunch of Easter eggs in there for his people, and for their indigenous Australian friends.

Dan got in touch with me on Twitter and pointed me at two Radio New Zealand podcasts in which he and colleagues apply the ideas of Afrofuturism in a specifically Maori/Polynesian context. You can find them here and here.

I’m delighted to see this sort of thing happening in the South Pacific, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Aotearoa Futurism if/when Worldcon comes to New Zealand in 2020.

(13) HOLLYWOOD REVIVAL. I started following the fate of this legendary Hollywood joint because Ray Bradbury used to lunch there with people like with the likes of Sam Peckinpah and John Huston. Therefore I’m sure he’d have been happy to know — “Formosa Cafe Will Come Back Shinier Than Ever”.

A $150,000 grant has been awarded to 1933 Group, a hospitality company with a number of bars around Los Angeles, to rehabilitate West Hollywood’s iconic Formosa Cafe.

The restaurant, which closed at the end of 2016, was opened in 1925 by a retired boxer who apparently loved trains: The lunch counter was built in a retired Pacific Electric Red Car trolley. It was built next to some of L.A.’s earliest movie studio lots, and immediately attracted a movie star clientele. And some mobsters, too. The Formosa lost some of its luster in its later years but was still beloved by nostalgics (and played itself in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential).

(14) GRAPHIC EPIC. Washington City Paper’s Matt Cohen profiles African-American author Adam Griffiths, whose 600-page graphic novel Washington White looks at “institutionalized racism” by telling the story of the decline and fall of a great Washington newspaper: “Adam Griffiths Wrote a 600-Page Graphic Novel About His Grandmother’s Civil Rights Lawsuit”.

Listening to Adam Griffiths talk about his new graphic novel, Washington White, is a dizzying experience. It’s a science fiction spy thriller that takes place in D.C.—and also a parallel universe within an engineered disease that only the government knows about. In this mysterious world, the president of the United States authorizes the testing of mind-control drugs, a transgender drummer fights to rejoin her punk band, and a greedy developer tries to gentrify the parallel universe-within-a-disease with a sea of condos. At the center of it all is the novel’s titular newspaper, Washington White—a tabloid whose black owner tries to tell the public about all the crazy shit going on in the District because his dad is the one behind it….

(15) IN HOC SIGNO HECTO. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler encounters a “[November 3, 1962] A Plague of Purple (December 1962 Galaxy)”.

… It has become de riguer at my former favorite magazine, that of Fantasy and Science Fiction, to print “funny” literary stories.  Tediously amusing, dully droll, laden with parenthetical (uselessly so) clauses — and hyphenated articulations, sometimes “quoted” for extra sardonicism.  And did I mention the extra verbiage?  These magazines pay three cents per word, you know….

Dr. Morris Goldpepper Returns, by Avram Davidson

Having poured myself a stiff drink in reward for having made it through the opening novella, my moment of self-congratulation was shattered as I espied the byline of the next piece.  Davidson is the poster child for excellence gone to the prolix weeds.  Sure enough, this piece, ostensibly about earthworms and aliens, is possibly his worst offender yet.  One star.

(16) THE BUBBLY. “Ferdinand the Bull Gets His Own Soda, Sort of”: Food & Wine has the story.

An adaptation of Munro Leaf’s children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, this newest film from a 20th Century Fox studio follows a bull with a big heart (voiced by John Cena) who gets captured and must fight to find his way home. To help gear up for the film’s approaching release, zero calorie beverage company Zevia is offering young moviegoers the chance to sip one of four flavors in their exclusive tie-in line of non-caffeinated sodas. That includes ginger root beer, grape, cream soda and black cherry—all of which feature a natural sweetener.

… Only 1,250,000 cans will be released and are available, beginning yesterday, in 20,000 U.S. grocery stores. You can get a six-pack of these special edition Zevia sodas for $5.99 at retailers like Target, Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Market from now until the film’s mid-December release. As a sweet bonus, you’ll get a Fandango coupon for $5 off a Ferdinand movie ticket when you buy the soda.

(17) ZERO OUT OF TEN DENTISTS RECOMMEND. After drinking all that soda, remember to brush your teeth. What’s that you say, Count, it wasn’t soda you were drinking?

(18) SHIRT OFF HIS BACK. Looking for Christmas gift suggestions?

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

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 Peeej 🇵🇭 (@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.]