Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/6/17 It Scrolls! It Pixels! It Makes Julienne Files!

(1) GALAKTIKA UP TO ITS OLD TRICKS. Bence Pintér of Mandiner.sci-fi checked with the authors of translated short stories in the latest issue of Galaktika, the Hungarian prozine caught publishing overseas authors without payment. Pinter discovered —

They [Galaktika] went on with publishing short stories without the authors’ permission, in this case the victims were Indra Das and Colin P. Davies. Davies knew nothing about this translation; but they asked Das for permission, but never got back to him with contract or the royalty. He did not know his story was published. Here is my article in Hungarian.

(2) CINEMA DENIERS. New Statesman’s Amelia Tait, in “The Movie That Doesn’t Exist and the Redditors Who Think It Does”, reports there is an intense discussion on Reddit about people who say that they saw a movie called Shazaam in the mid-1990s with Sinbad as a genie, even though there is no evidence that this movie was ever made and Sinbad himself tweeted that “only people who were kids in the mid-90s” claim to have seen it.  Tait says these redditors are probably mis-remembering Kazaam, a movie with Shaquille O’Neal as a genie from the mid-1990s.

“I remember thinking Shaq’s Kazaam was a rip-off or a revamp of a failed first run, like how the 1991 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer bombed but the late Nineties TV reboot was a sensation,” says Meredith, who is one of many who claim to remember both Shazaam and Kazaam. Don remembers ordering two copies of the former and only one of the latter for the store, while Carl says: “I am one of several people who specifically never saw Kazaam because it looked ridiculous to rip off Shazaam just a few years after it had been released.” When Carl first realised there was no evidence of the Sinbad movie existing, he texted his sister to ask if she remembered the film.

“Her response [was] ‘Of course.’ I told her, ‘Try and look it up, it doesn’t exist’. She tried and texted back with only: ‘What was it called?’ – there was never a question of if it existed, only not remembering the title.”

(3) ALL HE’S CRACKED UP TO BE. Another work of art from “Hugo Nominated Author” Chuck Tingle.

(4) THE NEXT STEP. “Where do you get your ideas,” is an oft-mocked interview question, but how one writer develops his ideas is captured in Joshua Rothman’s profile “Ted Chiang’s soulful Science Fiction” in The New Yorker.

Chiang’s stories conjure a celestial feeling of atemporality. “Hell Is the Absence of God” is set in a version of the present in which Old Testament religion is tangible, rather than imaginary: Hell is visible through cracks in the ground, angels appear amid lightning storms, and the souls of the good are plainly visible as they ascend to Heaven. Neil, the protagonist, had a wife who was killed during an angelic visitation—a curtain of flame surrounding the angel Nathanael shattered a café window, showering her with glass. (Other, luckier bystanders were cured of cancer or inspired by God’s love.) Attending a support group for people who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances, he finds that, although they are all angry at God, some still yearn to love him so that they can join their dead spouses and children in Heaven. To write this retelling of the Book of Job, in which one might predict an angel’s movements using a kind of meteorology, Chiang immersed himself in the literature of angels and the problem of innocent suffering; he read C. S. Lewis and the evangelical author Joni Eareckson Tada. Since the story was published, in 2001, readers have argued about the meaning of Chiang’s vision of a world without faith, in which the certain and proven existence of God is troubling, rather than reassuring.

(5) BIG RAY GUN. The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a ?30M contract to produce a prototype laser weapon.

The aim is to see whether “directed energy” technology could benefit the armed forces, and is to culminate in a demonstration of the system in 2019.

The contract was picked up by a consortium of European defence firms.

The prototype will be assessed on how it picks up and tracks targets at different distances and in varied weather conditions over land and water.

(6) CHOW DOWN. Episode 26 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast brings Edelman together with James Morrow at an Uzbek restaurant.

James Morrow

James Morrow

We discussed his first novel (written when he was only seven years old!), why he feels more connected to the fiction of Arthur C. Clarke than that of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, his many paths not taken, including that of filmmaker, the ethical conundrum which occurred after Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. autographed a book “for Jim Morrow, who writes just like me,” how Charles Darwin “confiscated our passports,” and much more.

Edelman has launched an Eating the Fantastic Patreon.

In order to make Eating the Fantastic even better, I’d like to pick up the pace, post episodes more often than biweekly, make day trips to capture writers whom I never get a chance to see on the con circuit, and maybe even upgrade to more advanced recording equipment.

(7) AUTOGRAPH THE PETITION. Brad Johnson of Covina, CA has started a Change.org petition calling for California lawmakers to repeal the troublesome new standards for dealers in autographed items.

Nearly everyone in California is impacted by AB 1570, California’s new autograph bill, because it affects everyone with a signed item in their possession, whether it’s a painting passed down through generations, an autographed baseball, or a treasured book obtained at an author’s book signing. Under the new law, when a California consumer sells an autographed item worth $5 or more, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity. This requirement applies to anyone reselling the item as authentic, be it a bookseller, auction house, comic book dealer, antiques dealer, autograph dealer, art dealer, an estate sales company, or even a charity.

AB 1570 is fatally flawed and must be repealed with immediate effect. It is rife with unintended consequences that harm both consumers and small businesses. It has been condemned by newspaper editorial boards and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This bill never should have passed. The Legislature must fix or repeal it immediately when it resumes business.” – Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

(8) THERE IS A SILVER BULLET FOR THIS PROBLEM. Kate Beckinsale, star of Underworld: Blood Wars, joins Stephen Colbert to deliver an important werewolf-related public service announcement.

(9) A STRANGE DEVICE. Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture hosts “The Art of Rube Goldberg” beginning February 11.

stamp_usps_rube_goldberg

From self-opening umbrellas to automated back scratchers, if you can dream it, Rube Goldberg invented it.

For more than 70 years, cartoonist Rube Goldberg drew unique worlds filled with inventive technology and political commentary. Equal parts clever satirist and zany designer, the Pulitzer Prizing-winning artist is best known for his invention drawings—complex chain-reaction machines designed to perform simple tasks.

From iconic board games like Mouse Trap to thrilling music videos such as OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass,” Goldberg has influenced some of the most indelible moments in pop culture. His name is so synonymous with his creations that it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an adjective that describes the act of complicating a simple task. The tireless creator is thought to have drawn 50,000 cartoons over his long career.

Today, Goldberg’s ideas live on through the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. This annual international competition challenges teams of students to compete in building the most elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine.

The Art of Rube Goldberg is the first comprehensive retrospective of Goldberg’s 72-year career since 1970. With more than 90 objects on display ranging from original drawings and animations to 3D puzzles, these incredible artifacts are paired with MoPOP’s signature interactive style to bring Goldberg’s imagination to life.

(10) EIGHTIES VERTLIEB. Matt Suzaka at Chuck Norris Ate My Baby rediscovered an old video of Steve Vertlieb being interviewed on Philadelphia TV:

While wandering the crowded halls of YouTube recently, I came across this enjoyable Halloween special that aired sometime in the early 1980s (maybe ‘81 or ‘82). The show in question, People Are Talking, was hosted by Richard Bey, and this particular episode features a genuinely interesting interview with film journalist and historian Steve Vertlieb.

One thing that I enjoy about this special, specifically the interview with Vertlieb, is the fact that horror films aren’t being chastised, something of which was very common for this type of show during the time period. Instead, this interview and the special as a whole is more of a celebration of what makes horror enjoyable for people of all ages. There is some discussion about how horror evolves to reflect modern society as well as how horror films can be a positive escape for some people.

 

(11) SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES. Anthony Herrera Designs has many patterns for science fictional paper snowflakes. The link takes you to the 2016 Star Wars set, and on the same page are links to Guardians of the Galaxy, Frozen, and Harry Potter designs.

New characters! New vehicles! 50% more beards! It’s time for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. These characters look just awesome and they make great snowflakes too. Here is the Star Wars snowflake collection for 2016. Featuring Rogue One characters and a few additional ones I just needed to throw in there. Download, cut and decorate with these snowflakes and most of all REBEL! This is an rebellion isn’t it? Unless your office coworkers will be annoyed. In that case be cool. Don’t be that guy.  As always I recommend using scissors, a sharp x-acto knife and patience. Have fun!

death_trooper-displayed

(11) THE SHAPE OF SHADES TO COME. Several File 770 readers have said they will be chasing the eclipse next summer. Here’s the latest information on where it can be viewed — “NASA Moon Data Provides More Accurate 2017 Eclipse Path”.

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, millions in the U.S. will have their eyes to the sky as they witness a total solar eclipse. The moon’s shadow will race across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. The path of this shadow, also known as the path of totality, is where observers will see the moon completely cover the sun. And thanks to elevation data of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, coupled with detailed NASA topography data of Earth, we have the most accurate maps of the path of totality for any eclipse to date.

 

(12) MOON PICTURE. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica says Hidden Figures is the perfect space race movie. Does the review live up to the wordplay of the headline? You decide!

Hidden Figures is the perfect title for this film, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s exhaustively researched book of the same name. It deals with an aspect of spaceflight that is generally ignored, namely all the calculations that allow us to shoot objects into orbit and bring them back again. But it’s also about the people who are typically offscreen in sweeping tales of the white men who ran the space race. What Hidden Figures reveals, for the first time in Hollywood history, is that John Glenn would never have made it to space without the brilliant mathematical insights of a black woman named Katherine Johnson (played with what can only be called regal geekiness by Taraji Henson from Empire and Person of Interest).

Johnson was part of a group of “colored computers” at Langley Research Center in Atlanta, black women mathematicians who were segregated into their own number-crunching group. They worked on NASA’s Project Mercury and Apollo 11, and Johnson was just one of several women in the group whose careers made history.

Though Johnson is the main character, we also follow the stories of her friends as Langley pushes its engineers to catch up to the Soviets in the space race. Mary Jackson (a terrific Janelle Monae) wants to become an engineer, and eventually gets a special court order so she can attend classes at an all-white school. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) becomes the first African-American woman to lead a department at the space agency, by teaching herself FORTRAN and learning to program Langley’s new IBM mainframe. One of my favorite scenes is when Vaughan debugs the computer for a bunch of white guys who have no idea what’s going on. As they splutter in confusion, she pats the giant, humming mainframe and says, “Good girl.”

(13) OCTAVIA BUTLER’S KINDRED NOW GRAPHIC NOVEL. Via Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach we learn:

If you’re in New York City on January 13th and 14th, illustrator and Visual Studies professor John Jennings will be debuting the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred at the 2017 Black Comic Fest at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture! Jennings collaborated with writer Damian Duffy on the project, and you can read a preview here.

(14) SHINING GEEKS. Also at Tor.com is Schnelbach’s post “Adam Savage Tours a Weta Workshop Sculptor’s Mini Labyrinth Maze!”

Is there anything more joyful than watching someone explain their passion to an appreciative audience? In the video below, Johnny Fraser-Allen walks Adam Savage through his gorgeously detailed model of the Labyrinth from, er, Labyrinth. Fraser-Allen began work at Weta Workshop straight out of high school, after being inspired to go into film by repeated viewing of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Now he’s been commissioned by River Horse Games to create figures and illustrations for their Labyrinth tabletop game, and he gleefully shares his work with fellow maze-enthusiast Adam Savage, whose model of The Shining‘s iconic hedge maze is currently touring the country with the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition.

See her post for the Youtube video about the Labyrinth maze.

Meantime, here’s another video about Savage’s own Overlook Hotel Maze. The video is cued to when it’s all complete for about an 8-minute run, but people who want all the details on how it was designed and built can watch from the very beginning (24:21 total).

(15) PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. Alex Acks tweets

(16) AWESOMENESS. Patrick Wynne, renowned mythopoeic artist, was thrilled with a gift he received from Carl F. Hostetter, one of his colleagues in the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. It’s amazing what happens when your friends really know you.

I think I might just have gotten my favorite Procasmas present EVER—a huge fleece throw with the infamous friendship portrait of Amy Farrah Fowler and Penny from “The Big Bang Theory”! Thank you, Carl F. Hostetter, it’s wonderful!

wynne-friendship-potrait

(17) INTERPLANETARY LOVE. The Space Between Us trailer #3 is out.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Soon Lee, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Vertlieb, Andrew Porter. and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.

Go.

One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —

Erin

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/16 R.U.R. Or R.U.Ain’t (My Baby)

(1) PETALS TO THE METAL. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll is a little worried:

My hit rate for this series so far has been… somewhat lower than I hoped. It’s not that I am going out of my way to find older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people; it is just that I turn out to have a remarkable talent for finding older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people.

So this time he pulled out one of the greatest short stories in the genre,  Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon”. Turns out his young audience wasn’t all that fired-up about it, either. Which reminds me of a favorite joke:

A dog food company once held a convention for its sales force. The president got up and said, “We have the greatest product in the world!” Everybody applauded. “We have the best sales people in the industry!” The cheered wildly. “So,” asked the president, “why aren’t we selling any dog food?” A little man in the back got up and shouted, “It’s the damn dogs, sir! They don’t like it!”

(2) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. The odds say that these things are supposed to crash in the ocean. Except when they don’t. “The Space Debris Problem: Dual Impact In Myanmar Shows What’s To Come”.

A mining facility in northern Myanmar became the crash site of a huge piece of space debris last Thursday. As the impact occurred, a smaller piece of debris with Chinese markings on it simultaneously destroyed the roof of a house in a nearby village. Fortunately, no one was injured in either incident.

The larger object is barrel-shaped and measures about 4.5 meters (15 ft) long, with a diameter barely over a meter. “The metal objects are assumed to be part of a satellite or the engine parts of a plane or missile,” a local news report said. The Chinese government is neither confirming nor denying whether both pieces of space junk came from the same object.

(3) FIGHT INTERNMENT. George Takei’s op-ed in the Washington Post reacts against talk about rounding up Muslims and reminds people of what happened when we interned the Japanese — “They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims”.

There is dangerous talk these days by those who have the ear of some at the highest levels of government. Earlier this week, Carl Higbie, an outspoken Trump surrogate and co-chair of Great America PAC, gave an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. They were discussing the notion of a national Muslim registry, a controversial part of the Trump administration’s national security plans, when Higbie dropped a bombshell: “We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will,” he said. Was he really citing the Japanese American internment, Kelly wanted to know, as grounds for treating Muslims the same way today? Higbie responded that he wasn’t saying we should return to putting people in camps. But then he added, “There is precedent for it.”

Stop and consider these words. The internment was a dark chapter of American history, in which 120,000 people, including me and my family, lost our homes, our livelihoods, and our freedoms because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Higbie speaks of the internment in the abstract, as a “precedent” or a policy, ignoring the true human tragedy that occurred….

(4) THE FRANCHISE THAT LIVED. The BBC renders a verdict — “Film review: Is Fantastic Beasts a Rowling triumph?” Chip Hitchcock says, “tl;dr version: way too many characters for one movie. Rowling says it’s the first of five; sounds a bit like the opening episode ST:TNG, which spent most of its time setting up the main players.”

As exhilarating as all the new sights and sounds are, though, it’s soon apparent that Rowling et al are enjoying their relocation a little too much. A major flaw of the later Harry Potter films was that they crammed in so many characters and incidents from the ever-longer novels that they were baffling to anyone who didn’t know the books by heart. What’s slightly disappointing about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is that, even though it isn’t adapted from a novel, it has a similar problem. Rowling’s superabundant imagination won’t let the story build up momentum: she keeps shoving minor characters and irrelevant details in its path.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 18, 1928— Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time, with Walt Disney doing the voice of his soon-to-be-famous creation, in “Steamboat Willie,” the first fully synchronized sound cartoon produced.
  • November 18, 1963 — Push-button telephones made their debut. John King Tarpinian was one of the early button-pushers:

I remember being at the County Fair and there was a display with kiosks.  You used a rotary phone to dial your number then using a push-button phone you dialed a random phone number.  The elapsed time was displayed and you saw how much faster the push-button phone was compared to the rotary.

  • November 18, 1990 — Stephen King’s It premieres on TV.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Actor Charles Bronson appeared in the 1953 horror classic House of Wax as Vincent Price’s assistant, Igor. Bronson is credited under his real name, Charles Buchinsky.

(7) ABOLISHING A EUPHEMISM. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “The Term ‘Graphic Novel’ Has Had A Good Run. We Don’t Need It Anymore”.

…And all the other, sillier, less meaningful stuff. Science fiction, or whatever.

Oy. OK. Lots to unpack here, and, to be fair, at lot of it’s our fault. Comics readers and creators, that is.

By the time the great cartoonist Will Eisner slapped the term “graphic novel” on his 1978 book, A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories, the term had been percolating around comics fandom for years. Eisner, however, was a tireless advocate, and wanted people to appreciated that comics are a medium, not a genre. A medium dominated, then as now, by superheroes, but nevertheless a storytelling medium that could be used to tell an infinite number of stories in vastly different ways.

Which is why—

Um, OK. It looks like you’re ramping up. I’m gonna … I’m just gonna grab a seat then.

Fine, go ahead.

The reason Eisner latched onto the term “graphic novel” and ran with it is because … well, it was 1978. He needed to. Comics were considered, if they were considered at all, junk culture. Kid stuff that was beneath serious notice, if not beneath contempt….

Chip Hitchcock comments: “They use Gaiman’s less-colorful metaphor; when he spoke in NYC a decade or so back, he said someone who insisted he did ‘graphic novels’ made him feel like a streetwalker being told she was a lady of the night.”

(8) CHESTNUTS ROASTING. Annalee Newitz lists “All the science fiction and fantasy novels you need to make it through the winter” at Ars Technica.

Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

2016 was a good year for alternate histories, and Shawl’s thought experiment about 19th century colonialism in Everfair is no exception. In this alternate reality, Fabian socialists in Britain manage to team up with African-American missionaries to buy part of the Belgian Congo from King Leopold II, establishing the free African nation of Everfair. Based on an actual historical plan that never came to fruition, the novel imagines how Everfair would develop, changing the history of other colonized African nations as its population swells with American former slaves and liberated peoples of the Congo. Though there is a strong Utopian core to the novel, Shawl does not shy away from depicting thorny, internecine battles between different groups who have opposing definitions of freedom. Plus, we get to see how Everfair develops breathtaking new technologies. Shawl has done incredible research on the history of the Congo, and it shows. This is steampunk done right, with all the tarnish, sweat, and blood visible on the gears of the world’s great industrial technologies.

(9) AH, THAT EXPLAINS IT. I wondered why Vox Day kept using this as a figure for Trump. James McConnaughy makes the connection in “#NotMyGodEmperor: Why Are There So Many Actual Fascists in the Warhammer 40K Fandom?” at The Mary Sue.

That’s ridiculous, I told myself. There’s absolutely no way they could be genuinely identifying with the Imperium of Man or its fascist power structure. After all, the Imperium of Man is a parody of fascism, and not a particularly subtle one at that, since the game constantly talks about how much life sucks and how the authoritarianism causes more problems than it solves. They’d have to be blind to not see that Warhammer 40k is… kid…ding.

Oh. Oh no.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about satire, because I like hard shifts like that. The problem with satire (or, more directly, the problem with writing satire) is that it has a goal, beyond simply being funny. Satire is pointed, it has a purpose, it is, to use a phrase I often dislike, saying something. More specifically, satire is saying something by taking something it wishes to criticize and blowing it up to absurd proportions.

And therein lies the problem: Satire is always walking the razor’s edge. By using the words and concepts of the thing you are satirizing, you are often giving voice to those words and concepts, and someone out there is going to agree with those words, not the actual point of your satire. That’s the basis of Poe’s Law: Without a blatant display of comedy, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

(10) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Financial Times has a regular feature about the one thing people take with them when they travel.  Chris Hadfield explained in the November 12 issue why he always carries his guitar with him.

He explains that on his first trip to the Mir space station in 1995 he had a special guitar made by Wright Guitars where owner Rossco Wright “adapted one for me, cutting the neck in half and putting a locking piano hinge on it so it would fold and fit in the shuttle.  I had to get approval from Nasa:  from the highest level, the director of the space shuttle programme.”

“Just before the flight while I was in quarantine, I got  a call from the payloads people saying that although Nasa had approved it, the Russians weren’t gonna let me take the guitar on to Mir because it hadn’t passed all the electromagnetic and flammability tests.  So some people from Nasa came to my house, found my spare SoloEtte, did all the testing and passed the results to Russia.  We launched–still without permission from the Russians–and I assembled the guitar on Mir, but we weren’t allowed to plug it in.  Then,. as we were doing a press conference with Russian prime minister Victor Cheromydin, he said, ‘I understand you have a new guitar–play me a song.’  That sounded like permission, so we played a concert on Mir, and nothing caught fire or blew up.”

Hadfield says that the Larivee Parlour guitar Hadfield used to cover “Space Odyssey” in 2013 “was put there” in the International Space Station “for psychological support (along with books, movies, a harmonica and a couple of footballs” and has been in space since 2001.

(11) SPIGOT, RHYMES WITH… In October, Alexandra Erin created a satirical news feed on Medium called The Daily Spigot. She tells her Patreon supporters that she intended it to be daily, but that illness and the election interrupted her momentum; however, she has started writing new posts again. The latest is: “Trump Asking Every Business In Phone Book About Mexico Plans”

This reporter was allowed into Donald Trump’s private office to witness the real estate developer turned job saver in action.

“Hello, Triple A All-American Locksmiths?” he asked during a typical such call. “This is the President of the United States. That’s right,” he said, while an aide frantically mouthed the words “no, no, no” and another scrawled, “You have to stop saying that” on a piece of paper, which was then pushed across the desk to Trump, who frowned at it, signed it, then pushed it away.

“I’m just calling to see if you had any plans on moving your plant or any jobs to Mexico in, say, the next two months to four years? No? Great! Tremendous. Thanks a bunch. Make America great again!”

He then hung up the phone and said, “That’s another one for the Twitter.”

(12) GROWING UP GROOT. CinemaBlend poses some knotty questions in “How Groot Will Be Different In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, According To Vin Diesel”.

While plugging his new movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to Collider, Vin Diesel detoured into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 territory, and noted how in the sequel, Groot will have a significantly more naive mindset compared to how he was as an adult. While it was generally assumed that Baby Groot would behave like a juvenile, Diesel statement confirms that the alien basically be a child, albeit one with extraordinary abilities. However, that mentality doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t remember what he was like before he was destroyed and regrown. At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Baby Groot will retain his memories, although director James Gunn later told a fan that as far as Baby Groot being the original Groot or a “son,” that situation is “complicated.”.

(13) NOT YOUR AVERAGE OBLATE SPHEROID. Astronomers claim to have discovered the roundest object ever measured in nature. Write this on your hand.

Kepler 11145123 is a distant, slowly rotating star that’s more than twice the size of the Sun.

Researchers were able to show that the difference between its radius as measured to the equator and the radius measured to the poles was just 3km.

“This makes Kepler 11145123 the roundest natural object ever measured,” said lead author Prof Laurent Gizon.

He added that it was “even more round than the Sun”.

(14) INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY IN THE SKY. Elon Musk’s latest: satellite internet: “SpaceX aims to launch internet from space”.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, announced last year that the service would be “larger than anything that has been talked about to date” adding that it would take about $10bn (£8bn) to get it off the ground.

The latest documents did not include costs.

It suggested that the first 800 satellites would be used to expand internet access in the US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands.

Each satellite, about the size of an average car, not including solar panels, would weigh 850 pounds (386kg), the firm said.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/30 The Doom That Came to File770

(1) TOLKIEN AT THE PLATE. Pitchers’ faces turn almost gargoyle-like at the moment they deliver the baseball. Major league baseball blog Cut4  decided it would be amusing to match those expressions with melodramatic quotes from Lord of the Rings.

The pitch face. Completely uninhibited, wholly pure. Every pitcher has one. It takes a lot of effort to throw a pitch 90-plus mph, after all, and pitchers can’t exactly worry about what arrangement their features make while trying to hit their spots. And so, the pitch face is one of baseball’s most totally human elements.

Below, some of the best we saw this year. And to explain their greatness, we captioned them with quotes from the only movies as epic as these faces: The Lord of the Rings trilogy….

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”

pitcher

(2) SWEDISH SF ART. A fine gallery accompanies a brief interview with the artist in The Huffington Post’s, “Sci-Fi Painter Simon Stålenhag Turns The Everyday Into Dystopia”.

One artist working actively to infuse visions of the future into scenes from the present is Simon Stålenhag, whose narrative paintings have recently been collected into a book, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The paintings in Tales from the Loop show children and adolescents traipsing across gray plains, energetic in spite of their glum surroundings. Power lines and radio towers dot the skyline, alongside foreign machines, hefty and ominous.

That Stålenhag’s imagined robots stand beside clusters of desktop computers, scoreboards and hatchbacks makes their existence that much more believable. “Look what we’ve created,” he seems to suggest. “Imagine what else we can create.”

staylenhag art

(3) FERMI PARADOX REDUX. A long time ago there was a famous commercial for a hamburger chain that mainly consisted of an elderly woman interrupting a rival’s ad copy, shouting “Where’s the beef?” The Fermi Paradox has a similar effect on speculations about intelligent life in the universe – and Jim Henley’s new post puts a dent in a favorite corollary — “Fermi Conundrum Redux: The Singularity as Great Big Zero?”

Half the objections come from transhumanist types saying that “We’ll just send our robots” or “mind-uploading” or “frozen genetic material raised by AI nannies” or self-replicating Von Neumann machines etc. – the whole LessWrong kitbag of secular eschatons.

But it occurs to me that all that does is bring those notions into the orbit of the Fermi Conundrum, née Fermi Paradox*. The Conundrum, as we all know, runs, “Where is everybody?” That is, we should see evidence of intelligent life Out There or right here or, if you’re especially cynical, should have been wiped out by another civilization before we even evolved this far, just to be on the safe side. The answer, “Maybe there just aren’t any other intelligent civilizations,” almost has to count as the most probable answer to the conundrum at this point.

(4) NEWITZ BIDS GOODBYE. Today was Annalee Newitz’ last day at io9 and Gizmodo. Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders co-founded io9 in 2008. In “I’m Heading Out to the Black. Farewell, io9 and Gizmodo!” at io9, Newitz announced:

And this is where my path diverges from io9 and Gizmodo. This past year managing both sites taught me that I’m not actually interested in being a manager. I want to write. That’s why I got into the writing business, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I’ve accepted a position as tech culture editor at Ars Technica, where I’m excited to be devoting all my time to writing about the cultural impact of technology and science.

Did I mention that change is scary? Actually, it’s terrifying. And amazing. And a fundamental, banal part of being trapped in linear time. Anyone who loves the future, or who looks forward to a tomorrow that’s different from today, has to accept the uncertainties of change. Your Utopian vision might lead you straight to the shithole. But sometimes, your one-year speculative experiment grows into a giant robot that saves humanity from giant monsters. You won’t know until you actually veer off the road you were on, and steal a little plutonium to fuel your dreams.

Newitz says Katie Drummond will carry on Gizmodo.

(5) NaNoWriMo PROGRESS. Misty Massey asks “Did You Win NaNo?”  at Magical Words,

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a gloriously insane thirty-days of writing like your head is on fire and your booty is catching. I’ve participated for a whole lot of years now, although I never win, because this kind of writing is just not what I do. Despite having been told time and again that I should just write it all down and fix it later, I can’t. It needs to be as perfect and wonderful as I can manage the first time, so my writing style is Eeyore-slow.  But I still sign on for NaNo every year, just in case.  I managed about 9,000 words. Which, for me, is a stunning achievement.

(6) FAVES. Stephanie Burgis lists her “Favorite MG Novels of 2015”. And lo and behold, Ursula Vernon, you are Number Six…

  1. Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon, is a wickedly funny fantasy novel with a fabulous heroine, and it turned me into a huge Ursula Vernon fan. You can read my full review here.

(7) JESSICA REVIEW. Jim Henley’s post “Jessica Jones (And Her Amazing Friends): A Netflix Original Series” sounds like he’s going to keep watching, if you ask me.

(8) BANGING ON. Larry Correia notifies his readers “JP Enterprises is now offering MHI [Monster Hunter International] and MCB logo AR-15 lower receivers” – a logo etching on a gun part.

I just had a fun thought. While certain other bestselling novelists are writing sanctimonious ignorant tweets bleating for more gun control, Larry Correia offers you custom rifles. 🙂

JP-MHI-1024x867

(9) THE RACK IS BACK. Lou Antonelli made sf and fantasy the dominant genres sold at the Dollar General store in Mount Pleasant, TX, as he explains in “Help the spin rack make a comeback!”

In talking about publishing original fiction [in a 2008 article by Antonelli], [Tom] Doherty mentioned that those paperback spin racks we used to see in stores and pharmacies were often a point of entry for people to the s-f and fantasy genres.

They used to be ubiquitous – those tall, vertical wire racks that you could spin around to see all four sides loaded up with mass market paperbacks. Doherty noted how the consolidation of book distribution had all but eliminated them. He said he hoped the fiction published by Tor.com would serve the same function as a point of entry for new readers in the digital age.

…Now, fast forward two and half years, to the summer of 2011. I was scheduled as a panelist at ArmadilloCon in Austin, and one of the panels was on “Secret History”. The Thursday before the convention I stopped at a local Dollar General in Mount Pleasant to pick up some groceries on the way home from work, and while standing in line, I caught sight of a spin rack.

Yes, Dollar General still believes in the spin rack. I walked over and saw that among the books was a copy of Steven Brust’s “The Paths of the Dead”. While I don’t read high fantasy, I bought the book because Brust was on the panel with me.

The following Sunday afternoon, as the panel on Secret History broke up, I stopped and pulled the book out. I told Steve “you know you are a best-selling author when you’re on the spin rack in the Dollar General in Mount Pleasant, Texas! That means your books are sold EVERYWHERE!”

(10) OUT WITH THE OLD. Jeff Duntemann’s photo of “Samples from the Box of No Return” is like a fannish time capsule.

I’m packing my office closet, and realized that The Box of No Return was overflowing. So in order to exercise my tesselation superpower on it, I had to upend it on my office floor and repack it from scratch.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

You may have a Box of No Return. It’s downstairs from the Midwestern Junk Drawer, hidden behind the Jar of Loose Change. It’s for stuff you know damned well you’ll never use again, but simply can’t bring yourself to throw away. A lot of it may be mementos. Some of it is just cool. Most of it could be dumped if you were a braver (and less sentimental) man than I….

There follows a descriptive paragraph of the treasures discovered. And things less that treasured.

I tossed a couple of things, like my SFWA membership badge. SFWA wanted to get rid of me for years for not publishing often enough; I saved them the trouble. Rot in irrelevancy, you dorks; I’m an indie now, and making significant money. Some promo buttons were for products I couldn’t even recall, and they went in the cause of making room. But most of it will go back in the (small) box, and it will all fit, with room to spare for artifacts not yet imagined, much less acquired.

(11) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 30, 1835 – Mark Twain

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Director Ridley Scott

(12) ONE STARS. Scalzi, Leckie, Rothfuss and others reading various one star reviews out loud.

(13) ABRAMS INTERVIEW. “J.J. Abrams Is Excited for Mothers and Daughters To See Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens director stopped by Good Morning America on Monday to talk about the upcoming release, and how he’s hoping it won’t just be a “boy’s thing.”

Star Wars was always a boy’s thing,” Abrams said. “I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.”

In the interview, Abrams also confirmed that he at first refused the offer to direct the new Star Wars film, saying that it was a franchise he so revered that he “thought it would be better just to go the theater and see it like everyone else.” After talking to producer producer Kathy Kennedy, however, Abrams said the opportunity was “too delicious and too exciting to pass up.”

Video of the GMA interview is at the link.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg.]

Update 12/01/2015: Corrected the link to Jim Henley’s review of Jessica Jones.

Pixel Scroll 10/20 Hugo, we have a problem

(1) David Brin urges everyone to make a fashion statement for Back To the Future Day:

Okay so October 21 is “Back to the Future” Day,” when movie houses all over will be holding special showings of BTTF-II, to commemorate our crossing that particular frontier — when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived at the ‘future’ of 2015 from the year 1985. Here is a rundown of ways the film was eerily on target… and another… if you set aside hover boards and flying cars and hydrated pizzas. And Mr. Fusion, alas. Hey, everyone wear a DOUBLE TIE that day!  I haven’t heard anyone else pushing that meme, so pass it on starting here!

Mockfry(2) Jim C. Hines’ Icon report includes a photo of a group posed around the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk” monument in Riverside, Iowa. Hines is there with Ann Leckie, David Gerrold, Joe and Gay Haldeman, and some others I should probably recognize.

(3) Amanda S. Green considers possible outcomes of Amazon’s new move against fake reviews in “To Pay or Not to Pay”.

I can’t speak for Amazon but I have a feeling what we will see happening is that a number of reviews will simply drop off the site. These reviews will either be directly tied to the sites Amazon has suspicions about or will have key phrases that are oft repeated across other reviews. It is easy enough to code a data crawler to find such similarities. It is basically the same sort of tool that schools use to determine if a paper contains any plagiarized parts.

Amazon might go one step further. Right now, if you look at Amazon customer reviews, you will see some from verified purchasers and then those that aren’t. A verified purchaser is someone who actually purchased the item from Amazon. The only problem with this is it doesn’t reflect those who borrowed a book or short story under the Kindle Unlimited program. This may be the point where Amazon needs to add that as one of the descriptors. I know a number of authors, and readers alike, who have been asking Amazon to do just that. At least that way, people who look at reviews before buying something would have an idea if the reviewer actually put down money on the book in question.

There is always the possibility that Amazon will require you to have purchased an item from them before you are allowed to review it. I’ll admit to being torn about this option. That would keep reviewers like Shiny Book Review from posting reviews on all sales sites. It would kick out reviewers who receive free copies of books unless Amazon has them register as reviewers. This is a path I’m not sure I want to see them go down.

Right now, Amazon gives more weight to reviews written by verified purchasers. As they should.

(4) The Tiptree Award is looking for recommendations. Got one? Click and fill out their form.

Most of the books and stories that Tiptree Award jurors read to pick a winner are nominated by authors and readers. We need your suggestions. If you’ve read a work of science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our notions of gender, please tell us about it by filling out the recommendation form below. If you have more than one, just fill out the form again with a new recommendation and submit it until you’ve told us about them all.

Recommendations close on the 1st of December, 2015.

(5) Fans and everyone seeking eyeballs for their blog are busy mining the newly-released Star Wars trailer for provocative material like – Who dies in the movie?

The first full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave fans plenty to speculate wildly about, but one moment in particular is causing widespread panic across the galaxy — or at least, the Internet. Towards the end of the trailer (watch it here!), there is a one-second shot of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) sobbing over what looks like a dead body. So who dies?

(6) Geeks Are Sexy has photographic proof that Canada’s Newest Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a member of the Rebel Alliance. Eh?

trudeau

(7) Catherynne M. Valente delivers The Big Idea today at Whatever. You were warned!

Radiance doesn’t have a big idea at its heart.

It has about six. It’s a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales.

Over-egging the pudding, you say? Too many cooks going at the soup? Gilding that lily like it’s going to the prom? I say: grab your eggs and hold onto your lilies because I am cannonballing into that soup FULL SPEED AHEAD.

(8) Brandon Kempner assesses the chances of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora getting a Hugo nomination.

The Hugo is a murkier award in 2016, given the turbulence surrounding it. 2312 took third place in 2013, and was also third in the nominations. Given the campaigns that are sure to take place in 2016, 3rd place is probably vulnerable to being pushed out. Add in that 2016 is a strong Hugo year (former Best Novel winners Robinson, Stephenson, Leckie, Walton, Bacigalupi, Scalzi, and Liu are all fighting for 5 spots, and that’s not even factoring in Puppy campaigns or buzzy authors like Novik). As a result, I think Robinson will miss the ballot, but a strong year-end push could definitely grab Robinson a spot.

As for metrics, as of mid-October 2015, Aurora has 2,535 Goodreads ratings with a 3.79 score and 264 Amazon ratings with a score of 3.7. Those aren’t great but they aren’t terrible. It’s a rare thing to see the Goodreads score higher than Amazon, but I couldn’t tell you what that means. I think around 1500 Goodreads / 100 Amazon is the cut off to be competitive, so KSR is well above that. Score doesn’t seem to matter for either the Hugos or Nebulas; VanderMeer won a Nebula last year with a 3.62 Goodreads score.

(9) Tobias Buckell is losing readers right and left. Mostly right. “Today’s passive aggressive fan mail: reader will not read more of my books because I don’t speak English English as my first language”

(10) Peter David “Just when boycotts couldn’t get any more stupid: Star War VII”

When the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1977, it was criticized for the overall whiteness of it. The one major black actor, James Earl Jones, wasn’t even given voice credit (his choice). This was answered with the introduction of Lando in the very next film, but still, mostly white.

So now the new film prominently features a black hero and there are actually idiots who are declaring it should be boycotted because of that? I mean, I knew there are people for whom Obama can do no right because of his skin color, but this is quite simply insane.

(11) But Gary Farber says it’s a fake boycott trolled by 4chan.Here’s one of those claiming credit.

(12) Meanwhile, in the interests of being fair and balanced, we bring you the A.V. Club’s post “Conservative pundit bravely comes out in support of the Galactic Empire”.

Star Wars’ Galactic Empire tends to get a bad rap. Oh sure, Emperor Palpatine started the whole thing by manufacturing a phony war to scare people into supporting a leader who would slowly take away their freedom in exchange for “safety,” the entire organization is suspiciously stocked with almost exclusively white human men, and there was that one time it destroyed an entire planet full of innocent people just to prove that it could, but is any of that stuff objectively evil? Conservative pundit Bill Kristol doesn’t think so, according to a tweet he posted this morning in response to a joke about how the Star Wars prequels encouraged conservatives to root for the Empire….

(13) Today In History:

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House makes its theatrical debut.

(14) Today’s Birthday Boy:

  • Born October 20, 1892 – Bela Lugosi. As they say at IMDB:

It’s ironic that Martin Landau won an Oscar for impersonating Bela Lugosi (in Ed Wood (1994)) when Lugosi himself never came within a mile of one, but that’s just the latest of many sad ironies surrounding Lugosi’s career.

(15) Today’s Birthday Book:

The Return of the King, being the third part of the novel, was released on 20 October 1955, completing the publication of the tome that had begun on 29 July 1954 with the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Return of the King had originally been planned for release much earlier in the year, but Tolkien delayed it due to working on the book’s appendices, to the annoyance of readers (yet another epic fantasy trend begun by the Tolkmeister).

(16) Belfast-born writer C.S. Lewis is to be honored in his native city with a series of new sculptures depicting characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe reports the BBC.

Belfast City Council has commissioned six new pieces of public art, including Aslan the Lion and the White Witch.

They will be erected in a new civic square, currently under construction, at the Holywood Arches in east Belfast.

…As well as the lion and the witch, the six pieces of art also include sculptures of Mr Tumnus, Jewel the unicorn, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the Stone Table

(17) Belfast is also where the third C.S. Lewis Festival takes place from Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 November 2015, marking the 52nd anniversary of the death of the author, theologian, academic and creator of the incredible Chronicles of Narnia series.

Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.   There will be something for everyone with many magical and free events offered; it’s definitely worth checking out.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. The C.S. Lewis Festival will recognise and celebrate both his life and his legacy to the world.   Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.

(18) Free lifetime memberships for trying it! One of the best book cataloging sites. LibraryThing launches in iPhone app.

We’re thrilled to announce the official LibraryThing iPhone App!

What it does. This is our first version, so we’ve limited it to doing the most basic functions you’ll need for cataloging on the go:

  • Browse and search your library.
  • Add books by scanning barcodes. Scanning to add is VERY FAST!
  • Add books by searching.
  • Browse and upload covers, using the iPhone camera.
  • Do minor editing, such as changing collections and ratings. Major editing sends you to LibraryThing.

(19) Wait, you mean it isn’t fake? “This Software Lets Someone Else Control Your Face”

Researchers created expression transferring software that projects mouth, eye, and other facial movements onto another face in real time.

(20) “Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago – much earlier than scientists thought” reports Phys.org.

“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” added Harrison, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly.”

The new research suggests that life existed prior to the massive bombardment of the inner solar system that formed the moon’s large craters 3.9 billion years ago.

“If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly,” said Patrick Boehnke, a co-author of the research and a graduate student in Harrison’s laboratory.

Scientists had long believed the Earth was dry and desolate during that time period. Harrison’s research—including a 2008 study in Nature he co-authored with Craig Manning, a professor of geology and geochemistry at UCLA, and former UCLA graduate student Michelle Hopkins—is proving otherwise.

“The early Earth certainly wasn’t a hellish, dry, boiling planet; we see absolutely no evidence for that,” Harrison said. “The planet was probably much more like it is today than previously thought.”

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Bell—a postdoctoral scholar in Harrison’s laboratory—studied more than 10,000 zircons originally formed from molten rocks, or magmas, from Western Australia. Zircons are heavy, durable minerals related to the synthetic cubic zirconium used for imitation diamonds. They capture and preserve their immediate environment, meaning they can serve as time capsules.

(21) A New York Comic Con panel on the economics of Star Trek  gathered Trek writer Chris Black; Manu Saadia, author of the book “Trekonomics”; Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the culture site io9; moderator Felix Salmon, of Fusion; Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist; and Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Gene Roddenberry tried to paint our future,” said DeLong, noting that we’ve gone far down that road. “We’re now, in fact, approaching post-scarcity in food and products.”

But, as Newitz pointed out, because “Trek” is a future where money no longer exists, people work because they want to but are therefore supported by other economies. To prove her point, she cited as an example “Measure of a Man,” an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that centered on the character of Lt. Cmdr. Data, an android.

Even though Data is a crew member of the starship “Enterprise,” unlike his fellow crewmates, he’s a robot. But does that make him a person or Starfleet property?

“We’re constantly being reminded that slavery and low wages support the comfortable, ‘Enterprise’ living,” Newitz said….

Salmon, the panel’s moderator, pointed out that in 2016, “Star Trek” will turn 50 and Thomas More’s book, “Utopia,” will turn 500. He then asked the panel if there is anything utopian about “Trek.”

“We are problem-solving, puzzle-solving, status-seeking creatures,” DeLong said.

Krugman responded by saying: “People have an amazing ability to be unhappy. The problem with utopia is not the lack of scarcity — it’s people.”

[Thanks to Will R., Steven H Silver, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

 

The Twilight Bone 6/10

aka Hound of the Basket Cases

In today’s roundup: Suw Charman-Anderson, John C. Wright, Tom Knighton, Vox Day, Lela E. Buis, R. K. Modena, Jason Cordova, Samuel Edwards, Solarbird, Peter Grant, Dr. Mauser, T.C. McCarthy, Chris Meadows, John ONeill, Annalee Newirtz, Rachel Swirsky, Ferret Steinmetz, Brian Niemeier, Jim Butcher, George R.R. Martin,  Matt Wallace, John Scalzi, Nick Mamatas, Paul Anthony Shortt, Rick Wright, David Gerrold, Quilly Mammoth, Spacefaring Kitten, Lis Carey, Andrew Hickey, Rebekah Golden, Adam-Troy Castro. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Ryan H and Troutwaxer.)

Suw Charman-Anderson on Strange Attractor

“How Tor failed Social Media 101” – June 10

  1. Take enough time, but not too much or too little

When the shit hits the social media fan, it is important to respond in a timely manner, but it’s even more important to avoid a kneejerk reaction. If an issue needs further inquiry before a full response is issued, then it’s acceptable to publicly acknowledge the complaint and say that it’s being looked into.

It may even be that no response is required – not every complaint is deserving of employer intervention. If an employee has a disagreement with a member of the public on her own Facebook page, it is possible that her apology on said Facebook page is sufficient, and that her employer need not step in at all. One can debate whether that was the case here or not, but it is an option that should have been considered, along with all others.

Doherty’s response reads very much like a kneejerk reaction. it is, to all intents and purposes, a public disciplining of Gallo, which is entirely inappropriate no matter what Gallo did. If you address a complaint, you do not use it as an opportunity to shame your staff. Doherty should have taken more time to think about exactly what was going on and how his post would be read by the broader Tor community.

 

  1. Remember there are three sides to every argument

Any public response to a public complaint is made more complex by the fact that there are three parties involved: You, them, and the audience. In his rush to appease Gallo’s critics, Doherty appears to have forgotten that he might also anger people who agree or sympathise with Gallo, or who do not believe that the complaint against her has merit, or who, after reading his post, believe that the complaint has merit but that his response was inappropriate, etc.

In chastising Gallo online, Doherty has alienated a lot of people, and that in and of itself is a massive failure for Tor that Doherty himself should be disciplined for. You simply do not rush in with a response that inflames the situation, especially when it’s obvious from the beginning that tempers are running high and offence is being easily taken. Indeed, the taking of offence is a key weapon in grievance politics, and Doherty should have both realised there was a major risk that his response as written might make the situation worse rather than better.

 

John C. Wright

“Honor is Satisfied” – June 10

A reader asked what I meant when I said, that as a matter of formality, Irene Gallo’s pro forma and possibly insincere apology for her pro-forma and possibly insincerely insult satisfied my sense of honor.

It is difficult for me to explain something that is second nature to me, which is alien to the modern world at every point. In the military, the soldier is obligated to salute the uniform wore by officers of higher rank, not the man wearing it, and the man wearing it is obligated to behave as the uniform requires. The salute satisfies the formality.

An apology satisfies the demand for apology; if the person proffer it did so with deceptive intent, God Almighty, who sees and knows the hearts of the sinners, will punish the falsehood with penalties nightmarish, vehement, absolute, and infinite, that my heart quails to contemplate them. I cannot burn a disembodied soul in hell forever, and neither can I read minds and hearts. Hence, I am not in a position judge the sincerity of an apology, nor do I have the least desire to do so….

I, for one, will regret the event, since a woman of such superlative skill will be hard to replace, but I am confident that Mr Doherty will not insist on keeping her at her tasks in the face of her own shame and regret.

How could she, in good conscience, design a book cover for authors she has so bitterly, absurdly and erratically libeled, and proffer it to book buyers for whom she equally has shone such scorn and mind-destroying hate? It would be cruel of Mr Doherty to insist on Irene Gallo continuing to labor under such adverse and unhappy conditions.

 

Tom Knighton

“Note to my fellow Sad Puppies: Chill just a bit” – June 10

You see, her job isn’t necessarily secure.  She issued an apology of sorts, probably because she was told to.  A post was made at Tor.com distancing her employer from her comments.  That may look like all there will be, but that’s not necessarily the case.  All of that could just be the initial stages of crisis management that may or may not result in her termination.

And if not, I’m still going to ask folks to pull an Elsa and “Let it go”.  I’m not saying to accept the apology.  I’m not saying to forgive Gallo.  That’s up to each and every individual to decide for themselves.  Instead, I’m saying to just let it go and move on.  Gallo’s opinions have been noted, and those who work with her in the future may wish to ask if there is someone else they could work with instead.  Or not.

Folks, we need to be reasonable here.  Yes, we were grievously insulted.  Even if you blow off the “neo-nazi” comment, what followed was little better.  However, she wasn’t the first to use those terms.  Unfortunately, I suspect she won’t be the last either.

Unlike many others, she apparently got a stern lesson about such things.  We got a post that admits that yes, the Puppies did include women and people of color (I hate that term. Sounds too much like “colored people” for me to be comfortable writing it) as well as Tor authors.  I suspect that Irene Gallo will be much more careful going forward.

 

Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“Peter Grant issues a second warning” – June 10

The Evil Legion of Evil has not yet called for a boycott by the many Tor customers attacked by Ms Gallo. It has, after all, only been two days since the management at Tor Books learned about her attack on them. But the one thing they must understand is that an apology is not enough. We expect a resignation. Sooner or later, Ms Gallo will resign. It’s only a question of how much damage Tor Books, and perhaps more importantly, Macmillan, are willing to take first.

 

Lela E. Buis

“A word about power structures” – June 10

One of the problems with social justice attacks in general, and the recent Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy challenge specifically, is that the rants are often mis-aimed. This means they cause hard feelings, and of course, set off nasty flame wars.

Social justice endeavors can have different motivations. For one, the writer is inflamed by something s/he sees and is motivated to climb on a soapbox for a cathartic, fist-shaking rant. For another, the writer is affronted by some injustice and sits down to plan out a calculated crusade against the problem. In either of these cases, the SJW may have a closely held belief or value that trips off the attack. S/he is hoping it will make people mad and therefore lead to some discussion

 

R. K. Modena on Shadowdancer Studios

“Nazi is not a term you throw around lightly” – June 10

This is why I prefaced this post with a history of who I am, and a rather summarized description of my experiences. I have faced real racism, real discrimination. I have stood OPENLY in support of the Jews, of Israel, for which I have been stalked by someone on the side of the Antis FOR NEARLY SEVEN YEARS AND RECEIVED THREATS AGAINST MY CHILDREN FOR.

Peter Grant has fought against it.

Brad Torgersen goes to fight ISIS / DAESH – against REAL terrorists, REAL religiously motivated hatred, REAL rape culture, REAL KILLINGS OF GAYS.

You who sling mud at us, who question our honor our integrity, our hardships and experiences are doing so FOR THE PETTY REASON OF AN AWARD FOR FICTION.

With Irene Gallo’s original response to the protests of her words, and her subsequent non-apology, it is clear she is unrepentant in her contempt, in her hatred.

 

Janet on Dear Author

“Wednesday News: Tor v. Irene Gallo, Warner Bros. v Friends fans,…” – June 10

So Irene Gallo, creative director and associate publisher for Tor, made a strongly worded comment about the Sad and Rabid Puppies on her personal Facebook page. Afterward, she clarified that the comment was personal and not said in her capacity as a Tor employee. The Sad/Rabid Puppies got mad and then loud about it. Which resulted in Tor publisher Tom Doherty publicly condemning Gallo and basically apologizing to the Sad and Rabid Puppies. I figure the fact that I agree with Chuck Wendig on this is an indication of how gross this situation really is.

 

Jason Cordova

“Eric Flint and the Sad Puppy” – June 10

I’m glad that Eric [Flint] took Tor editor Irene Gallo to task for calling Sad Puppies neonazis. That’s probably the one and only insult that really, really pisses me off. I can stand being called everything else, but once you go past petty and into full-blown turnip with your insults, then I get angry.

Seriously. Ask around. I’ve kind of teetered between confusion and amusement at all this. Confusion because I’m still trying to figure out how I’m a misogynistic racist whose homophobic tendencies override rhyme and reason. Amusement because the amount of bullshit one would have to peddle to make any of that true could fuel a mission to Mars.

But at this point I don’t think it matters. This is the Internet. People don’t take a step back and think “Holy hell, what the **** am I saying?” very often. More often than not a person will double down and keep flinging poo. I’m guilty of it as much as the next I suppose.

 

Samuel Edwards at On Fairy Stories

“Irene Gallo and Boycotting TOR” – June 10

What saddens me the most is reading John C. Wright’s post about Irene Gallo. John C. Wright, a self-professed Sad Puppy, has worked with Irene Gallo at TOR. John is published by TOR and some of his covers were the result of Irene Gallo’s work. That she would be so quick to ascribe falsehoods to the Sad Puppies (and by extension, John) is befuddling. She referred to works which she had a hand in producing (albeit a cover) as ‘bad to reprehensible’. To me, it sounds like she’s been drinking too much of the SJW koolaid. Not only is John published by TOR, but so are other Puppy nominations such as Kevin J. Anderson. This kind of disrespect towards your employer wouldn’t stand in most other companies.

 

Solarbird on crime and the forces of evil

co-signed, strong letter to follow – June 10

I have raged about this so many times. When I was a software developer, I literally sidetracked my career so that I could spend quite literally another full-time job’s worth of time fighting against groups trying to make me illegal. And by illegal, I mean fucking illegal, as in direct threat to my life and freedom, by design. That was the intent and goal, so it’s not like I had any sort of goddamn options.

When I talk about spending “blood and treasure” on this, the blood comes from the street assaults, the treasure comes, in part, from this. All that lost time and money, fighting off people who not only enjoyed but actively made a living from trying to make my existence illegal.

And just as much, the people trying to make me and people like me at best into sub-citizens and at worst into dead people? They enjoyed their work, and made money at it.

Just like the Puppies enjoy their bullshit. They’re having a great time.

 

Peter Grant on Bayou Renaissance Man

“The Tor imbroglio and the progressive narrative” – June 10

Notice how the commenters cited above [at Tor.com] aren’t addressing the specifics of what Ms. Gallo said – they’re saying that she’s right regardless of those specifics, because of other, often extraneous factors.  “My mind’s made up.  Don’t confuse me with the facts!”  They also freely insult others, regardless of the fact that they would never accept or tolerate the same insults being directed against them.  To call anyone a ‘sub-human piece of filth’, as quoted above, is barbaric . . . yet some of them revel in that sort of thing.  That says far more about them than it does about the person they’re accusing.

Another favorite tactic of such individuals is to ignore the overall thrust of the problem by nit-picking the details to death.  If someone makes an allegation of a pattern of misconduct, they respond by taking every single element of the allegation, separating it from the others and nickel-and-diming it to death, demanding verification, supporting evidence, etc.  They can (and do) spin out the process in such depth and for so long that others lose patience and walk away . . . whereupon they claim victory because the original allegation “has not been proved” (to their satisfaction, anyway).

 

Dr. Mauser on Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas

“The Elements of an Apology” – June 10

Apparently, in this day and age, people have forgotten how to properly apologize for their misdeeds. We now live in an era where Ego and Hubris have reached the point that offense is not an objective thing, but in the eye of the offended, who CLEARLY must be delusional, since we can all do no wrong. Well, others can do wrong, and when they do, they MUST be compelled to make an apology. But since they are subject to this same attitude, they only mouth the words that will get other people off their backs.

This leads to a lot of shitty non-apologies that never accomplish what a public apology is meant to do, which is serve as a form of social correction for doing wrong.

There are four things that an apology should contain….

 

 

Chris Meadows on TeleRead

“Sad Puppies roundup, and the Irene Gallo controversy” – June 10

Personally, I’m rather surprised Tor.com left the comments open on Doherty’s statement at all. Usually whenever Tor.com posts something even remotely likely to be controversial (such as statements from Macmillan chief John Sargent in the agency pricing/anti-trust days), it keeps comments firmly closed. It makes me wonder if it might have been done as a passive act of protest against a mandate coming down from Tor’s parent company Macmillan, or perhaps even their corporate owner Holtzbrinck, that Doherty had to issue such a statement. (It wouldn’t be the first time Tor was subject to corporate interference.) But I could be reading too much into it.

Some Puppy supporters, such as Cedar Sanderson and Amanda Green, feel Gallo’s apology didn’t go far enough. On the other side, Chuck Wendig, Gawker, and The Mary Sue have excoriated Tor and Doherty for capitulating. Kameron Hurley, author of the book Gallo’s post originally concerned, has a few comments as well, and The Daily Dot has a good roundup of some of the social media reactions to the affair.

Regardless, it has certainly given rise to a great deal of sound and fury, signifying…well, not a whole lot. Puppies supporters and opponents have both had ample opportunity to show more of their true colors, each providing more ammunition that the other side can use to say, “See? See what they are?” It hasn’t brought us any closer to universal Hugo harmony. But then, we’re probably never going to have that again, at least not for a good long while.

 

John ONeill on Black Gate

“Internet Explodes Around Irene Gallo” – June 10

If you’ve been following science fiction publishing for the past 48 hours, you may have found yourself asking, “Who the heck is Irene Gallo?”

The talented Ms Gallo is the Creative Director of Tor Books, and the associate publisher of the marvelous Tor.com, where she’s done some exemplary work. On May 11, in response to a question on her personal Facebook page, she wrote a quick and rather clueless assessment of the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies movement:…

 

David Gerrold on Facebook – June 10

Apparently, there is no mistake so insignifcant that it does not deserve a call to action by the outrage committee. Torches, pitchforks, tar and feathers. Even the smallest of sins must be punished by an internet pile-on, public shaming, and boycotts of everyone in the same neighborhood.

Is there anybody who has not yet earned their Drama Queen merit badge? I guess not. We keep stirring this can of worms to make sure the sauce gets evenly distributed.

The only winner in this (so far) is a certain lunatic attention-whore who needs to demonstrate how important he is by the size of the uproar he can create. And the rest of us have bought into it.

There was a Star Trek episode, “The Day Of The Dove” — in which the crew of the Enterprise and several Klingon warriors were at each other’s throats until they realized that there was an energy creature aboard, feeding on their hatred. Eventually both sides laughed at it — “We don’t need your help hating each other.”

We can continue to rip apart our community and eventually both sides will claim some kind of exhausted victory over whatever shambles remain. The grudges and feuds will last at least a generation because being right has become more important than being friends or colleagues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Butcher in a comment on Eric Flint’s “In Defense of the Sad Puppies” – June 9

[If the link doesn’t work — http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2015/06/08/in-defense-of-the-sad-puppies/comment-page-2/#comment-2591662 ]

I don’t know if Ms. Gallo’s apology was sincere or insincere.

I don’t know that, because I can’t read her freaking mind.

And neither, presumably, can anyone else.

I work with words professionally. I know exactly how powerful they can be. I am also well aware of their limits–and when it comes to expression complex thoughts in emotionally tense situations over the goddamned internet, the magic of written language has little power.

How can it? It’s missing too much. You can’t read tone of voice, or the expression on a person’s face when they’re making keys click. Pretty much all you get is “clickity click click.”

I’m also an English major. So I’m very aware of how skilled human beings can be at reading all kinds of absolute horse manure into other people’s writing, and then declaring it “subtext” or “internally consistent logic.”

But it isn’t. It’s you, guessing. And your guess is probably prejudiced to one degree or another, most often by projecting things into it that were never meant to be there. Or, put another way:

http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/what-the-author-meant.jpg

Maybe Ms. Gallo wrote the apology with a smirk and a cigarette hanging off of one lip while reciting nasty twitter quotes at every individual member of Science Fiction Fandom. Or maybe she was crying and upset and genuinely trying to make amends. Or maybe she was just numb and exhausted. I don’t know.

Neither do you. That’s kind of my point.

But maybe it’s simplest if the curtains were fucking blue, we take her words at face value, and extend a bit of human courtesy and trust to a fellow science fiction nerd. Because she is one, whether that pleases you or not.

Deep breaths here, guys. Her comment was out of line and made a lot of people upset. She apologized to those people.

The curtains were fucking blue.

Can we just get on with life, please?

 

George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog

“Wars, Woes, Work” – June 10

I want to single out the postings of Eric Flint. The latest, at http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2015/06/09/a-response-to-brad-torgersen/ , is a devastating point-by-point deconstruction and refutation of the latest round of Puppystuff from Brad Torgersen. Flint says what I would have said, if I had the time or the energy, but he says it better than I ever could. ((I will be nominating him for a Hugo too. For Best Fan Writer)). His earlier posts on Puppygate are all worth reading too. He is a voice of reason in a sea of venom.

I will add one point. The emptiness of the Puppy arguments is indicated clearly by how much time they seem to spend in coming up with new insulting terms for those who oppose them. The facts are against them, logic is against them, history is against them, so they go for sneers and mocking names. First it was SJWs. Then CHORFs. The latest is “Puppy-kickers.” Next week, no doubt, they will have something else. Reading all the blogs and comments that Glyer links to from FILE 770 has convinced me that anyone who starts throwing these terms around can pretty much be discounted; you will find no sense in what they say, only sneers and talking points….

Yes, I know that THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER named me “the third most powerful writer in Hollywood” last December. You would be surprised at how little that means. I cannot control what anyone else says or does, or make them stop saying or doing it, be it on the fannish or professional fronts. What I can control is what happens in my books, so I am going to return to that chapter I’ve been writing on THE WINDS OF WINTER now, thank you very much.

 

Matt Wallace

“When We Drive out the Innovators We Are Left Only with the Sad and Rabid” – June 9

I don’t know how you feel about what she wrote about the Puppies and I don’t really give a shit. What is not open for debate is the fact Irene has helped and is helping innovate a major appendage of a major publisher and is one among several pairs of hands shaping a better, more interesting, more diverse future for authors and readers of SFF. That is not only needed, it is necessary. It is absolutely vital. She should be elevated for that, not sacrificed to a small clan of mediocre throwbacks because they can be the most vocal on the fucking internet.

Tor’s position on this, among myriad other ways that position is f’ed up, is one of trading innovation and a wider audience for the utterly narrow; a narrow viewpoint expressed by a narrow demographic of the narrow-minded.

The Puppies keep saying they want change, but what they want is things to go back to the way they were.

That’s what really pisses them off so much.

They want things to stay the same.

They don’t want change.

That excludes folks like Irene Gallo, who are literally changing everything for the better.

And in what creatively-driven industry or form has not changing ever been a good thing?

From a strictly business standpoint, she is worth more than a few hundred anonymous user names in a website comments thread will ever be. Alienating your company’s innovators is simply bad business. From a creative standpoint, her involvement is vital to the future of SFF and SFF publishing.

From a human standpoint, Irene simply deserved better.

Much better.

But my opinions are selfish. I want to be part of the future, not the past. I want to be part of a publisher that innovates and spreads my stories to new corners of the internet AND the world of the real. I want to be part of something new, something exciting, something great.

Irene Gallo is taking me and the rest of the Tor.com authors there, the same way she’s helped so many Tor authors in the past.

I need her.

Treat her the fuck better.

That is all.

 

John Scalzi on Whatever

“A Refresher Course On What I’m Obliged to Write About” – June 10

  1. The Internet doesn’t need me to weigh in on everything. It certainly didn’t in this case — there were more than enough people willing to engage both Irene’s initial comment, and Tor’s letter about it and the aftermath. In the former case, here’s something by Eric Flint; in the latter cases, something by Kameron Hurley and Chuck Wendig. These three are the figurative tip of an iceberg comprised of blog entries, comments, tweets and Facebook posts.

The Internet did not wait for me on this; it doesn’t wait for me on anything. Why are you waiting for me? I mean, thanks, I guess? It’s nice you want to know what I think? But I do hope you recognize the difference between you having an interest in my public thoughts on something — which is great! Thanks! — and thinking I’m obliged to share my thoughts on something in a public manner — which is not great, and which I don’t agree with.

 

Nick Mamatas

“Why Can’t Publishers Make Writers Behave?” – June 10

[This is the closing section of a detailed and informative article.]

Push too far, too hard, too often, and a publisher may just find its headcount is much larger than it believed. And even if not, the publisher still gets to experience the annoyance and hassle of an investigation. If a publisher wants to play the game of “You’ll never eat lunch in this town again!” in public or even in writing, that could lead to the freelancer, do-this-or-you-are-fired email in hand, giving the unemployment-filing trick a whirl.

This is one reason why all those tweets and emails and blog-comment huffing about a publisher doing something or at least saying something about that nasty, awful person whose books they publish are almost never going to get any kind of public hey-there-this-is-evidence response from a publisher.

There are other reasons too—awful people, up to and including criminals and the more blood-soaked breed of politician, write books all the time. There’s a massive tradition of carceral literature in existence. If you’ve attended college, you almost certainly read the writing of some criminals, or even material that was written inside prisons. Don’t think that awful blog posts or sneakity-doo trickery on the Internet will faze many publishers. Think of James Frey, who lied to millions of people, who had to settle a lawsuit because his memoir was wall-to-wall lies, and who was yelled at by Oprah (patron saint of nice people) on her show. Where did he end up? At the head of his own YA fiction sweatshop, and getting movies made from “his” stuff.

Publishing just ain’t about “nice” when it comes to its writers, and that is true in both how it treats writers, and what it can expect from writers.

 

Paul Anthony Shortt

“Tor Books, Inclusiveness Does Not Mean Permitting Prejudice” – June 10

There is an erroneous thought drifting in the wind. This thought tells us that, in order to be truly inclusive, we must not only accept that there are people whose opinions are abhorrent to us, not only allow them to have such thoughts, but also grant them a stage for their thoughts, even if we’re the ones who own the stage. More so, we’re told that it’s our responsibility, as fair, inclusive people, to even sit and listen while these attitudes are shoved in our faces. We’re told me must defend these people from any critic. Not from people trying to stop them, mind, but from people disagreeing with them. When you champion those who would close doors and hoard their power, you are not being inclusive.

When you defend those who rail and abuse minorities from having their opinions challenged, on the grounds of “free speech”, you are not being inclusive. When you shame a woman before the entire world, using your position as a bastion of your industry to reach your audience, just because she had the courage to come out and hold prejudice up for what it is, you are not being inclusive.

Shame on Tom Doherty. He has shown his company as promoting an environment where those who speak up against that which is wrong will be punished.

 

Rick Wright on Mangy Dog

“Morning coffee 2015-06-10 – Jude and Christianized America” – June 10

I went on record (not for the first time) as saying we should not call for Gallo to be fired. Someone disagreed and explained why. I stand by my original position. Just because some teacher or journalist or publisher says something insulting or offensive does not mean we should always want that person to lose her/his job. Disciplined? Sure. Consequences? Probably. But not fired. Not except in the most extreme cases. This is a simple matter of Treat Others As We Would Like Them To Treat Us. If we are sick and tired of conservative or traditional Christians (or whatever) losing their jobs because they express an opinion at odds with the current Zeitgeist then we should not return the disfavor yes?

 

 

David Gerrold on Facebook – June 10

I have begun filling out my Hugo ballot. There were two categories where I voted for individuals who were on the sad puppy slate — because regardless of the slate-mongering, I felt their work was award-worthy. They deserved to be on the ballot.

This is consistent with what I have been saying all along. Read the stories, vote your conscience.

 

Andrew Hickey on Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

“Hugo Blogging ‘Best’ Fan Writer” – June 10

And so once again I dip into the sewer. The “Best” Fan Writer category in the Hugos is apparently meant to encourage SF fans to write about SF. This year, it seems to be largely made up of people who claim to be professional writers, but who can’t string a sentence together.

 

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“On Time” – June 10

Agenda-setting-wise, they have been very successful, though. Most of the fans who are critical of Sad Puppies (lets call them Happy Kittens for short) have been diverted to waste their precious time and energy on refuting what badly thought out garbage some Rabid or Sad Puppy managed to spit out. Most likely the garbage in question was highly illogical and the Happy Kitten in question had little trouble with demonstrating that.

But the fact is, Happy Kitten energies were wasted on fighting a culture war on a battleground selected by the opposing side when they could instead have been reading, writing, buying, enjoying and celebrating some first rate SFF. The Puppies are opposed to SFF that is diverse or deals with gender or political issues or is technically ambitious. I think there’s a lot that Happy Kittens can do for that sort of SFF, apart from engaging in a debate where nobody is really going to change their views.

 

Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best Fan Writer: Reviewing A S Green” – June 10

All of [Amanda S.] Green’s post are very well written. Except for the excessive use of acronyms which obviously speak to an in group her writing is very clear.

Only one of the posts she submitted seems to have anything to do with sci-fi/fantasy fandom and that is the one on Star Trek canon. The other two posts have to do with feminism and society in general and maybe conference attendance. Again, I’m looking for someone who is positively enthusiastic about something sci-fi/fantasy related, deep in the details and sharing the love. That is what I am looking for to give someone the label of best fan writer.

 

Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Best Professional Artist Hugo Nominees” – June 10

Carter Reid: No. Sorry, no.  I feel no hesitation in saying that Reid’s art is just not very good.

Nick Greenwood: I’m sorry, no, these just do not work for me. No one should take this as a criticism of their taste; in this area, I have none.

Alan Pollack: Very nice work, but they don’t move me much beyond “very nice.”

Julie Dillon: Very lovely work, that I’d like to see more of.

Kirk DouPonce: This is also lovely work, that I’m pretty sure would make me reach for the book. That’s one of the main purposes of commercial art, right? But not the only purpose of professional science fiction and fantasy art. I’ll have to give serious thought to the choice between DouPonce and Dillon.

 

Font Folly

“Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novellete” – June 10

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down,” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt. This story was a delight! I was sucked into its very surreal premise immediately. Inexplicably, gravity reverses… at least for solid objects—people, cars, grocery bags, you name it—suddenly start falling into the sky. That this happens shortly after the protagonist is dumped by his girlfriend makes you wonder, for a while, whether or not this is all happening in the protagonist’s head, but I was soon so caught up in is quixotic adventure to somehow keep her pet goldfish alive, transport it to her (by clinging to objects fixed to the ground, and so forth), and effect her rescue.

The misadventures that follow, in which (among other things) the narrator rescues a child clinging to a swing set who longs for her mother who fell into the sky, all slowly build to a climax that is sad, poignant, yet completely fitting. It’s that magical sort of ending that you occasionally encounter where it isn’t what you expected, yet once you reach it, it seems inevitable and the only possible way it could end.

I really, really liked this story! And having read it, I was filled with a renewed hope for the rest of the novellas!

 

Adam-Troy Castro

“Your Approved Safe Story” – June 9

Welcome to your approved safe story.

In this safe story, the characters are guaranteed likeable.

They are guaranteed to make all the most admirable decisions.

Nothing bad happens to them.

Nothing bad is done by them.

There is no evil in the world around them.

They are presented with minor obstacles that challenge them in no way.

Everybody respects everybody else.

Everybody deserves respect from everybody else.

Everybody is enlightened.

You will not have to disapprove of anything they do or say.

Your opinions will not be challenged by anything they do or so…..