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

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

“Little Drummer Boy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

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

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

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/16/17 The Hoboken Pixel Emergency

(1) #MAPPINGFANTASY. Alex Acks and Paul Weimer taught their “Mapping Fantasy” online class today. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights – jump onto the thread here:

(2) PURINA ALIEN CHOW. Food & Wine investigates “How Hollywood’s Sci-Fi Food Stylists Create Futuristic Meals”.

For Janice Poon, one of TV’s most popular food stylists and a frequent collaborator with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), food styling for the future is as much about taking cues from the script or the world around you as it is about pushing your imaginary limits—within production capability, of course.

Poon refers to the script, pulling the tone and character motivations from a food scene, before brainstorming alongside her showrunner (and sometimes even a cinematographer) on how a spread will look. However, Poon says that “because it is sci-fi, you can do just about anything really.” To do just about anything, Poon uses conventional tools like wet wipes and syringes, but also “an ability to problem solve” and a four and a half inch white ceramic santoku knife that enables Poon to work in the darkness of a set

(3) STRAHAN CALLING. Even as Jonathan Strahan’s 2017 best of the year collection is being readied for publication, he’s looking ahead to 2018 — Call for stories: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 13.

I edit The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series for Solaris Books. The twelfth volume in the series will be published in April 2018, and the thirteenth volume will appear in March 2019.

I am currently reading for the 2018 volume, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to cyberpunk, fairy tales to the slipstream, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, please send it.

Eligibility

This is a reprint anthology. Stories must have been published for the first time between 1 January and 31 December 2018 to be considered.

Deadline

The submission deadline for this year’s book is:

1 November 2018

Anything sent after this deadline will reach me too late, as I  deliver the final book to the publisher in late December. If a magazine, anthology, or collection you are in or you edit is coming out before 31 December 2018 please send galleys or manuscripts so that I can consider the stories in time.

(4) GALACTIC STARS. Meanwhile, The Traveler recognizes the best sff of 1962 in See the Stars at Galactic Journey.

Best Novelette

The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

The second time an Instrumentality tale has gotten a Star… and this one is better.

(5) CENTENARY PROJECT. The Clarke Award’s’ Kickstarter to fund “2001: An Odyssey in Words” has started. In this original anthology honoring Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary year every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is famous for its annual redefinition of that elusive term ‘science fiction,’ and Sir Arthur was always adamant that while the award may be named for him, it shouldn’t be styled on his work.

We wanted to make sure that the scope of the anthology was as broad as the fluid definition of science fiction for which the Clarke Award is renowned, while still retaining a direct acknowledgement of Sir Arthur’s own work.

The solution? A collection where every story has all the scope and freedom to imagine that an author might possibly want, but where the word count had to be precisely 2001 words (and we had rules about authors playing clever games with super-long story titles, just to make sure).

(5) CLARKE CENTENARY IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Here are tweets from some of the groups celebrating the day.

  • And I applaud Gideon Marcus for staying in character –

(6) RIVALRY. From 2015, Adam Rowe at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog fondly remembers “The Decades-Long Flame War Between Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov”.

While introducing his Asimov at an event in London, Clarke had plenty of time to prepare his choicest insults.

“Well, Isaac, I’ve lost my bet. There are more than five people here,” he opened. “I’m not going to waste any time introducing Isaac Asimov. That would be as pointless as introducing the equator, which indeed, he’s coming to resemble more and more closely.”

(7) SUPERBOOTS ON THE GROUND. Andrew Liptak combed through all sci-fi media and came up with a list of “18 suits of power armor from science fiction you don’t want to meet on the battlefield” in The Verge. Here’s one of them:

Goliath Mk ? Powersuit, James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse

In The Expanse, Mars possesses the most advanced military force in the solar system, and its elite Marines are trained to operate in deep space, onboard spaceships, and planetary surfaces. They come decked out in a powerful suit of armor called the Goliath Powersuit. This armor completely protects its wearer, providing life support and armor, as well as a heads up display to help soldiers with targeting. They also come equipped with guns mounted directly into their arms, and carry a small rack of missiles on their backs.

These suits will resist small arms fire, and are small enough that they can be used inside the narrow corridors of a spaceship. But they’re not invincible, as Bobbie Draper’s Marines discovered on Ganymede during the television show’s second season.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) came up with the name Mickey Mouse.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 16, 1901 — Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published
  • December 16, 1981 Beach Babes from Beyond premiered.
  • December 16, 2016Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 16, 1775 — Jane Austen
  • Born December 16, 1917 — Arthur C. Clarke
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Randall Garrett
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Peter Dickinson
  • Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick
  • Born December 16, 1957 — Lenore Jean Jones
  • Born December 16, 1981 — Krysten Ritter (aka Jessica Jones)

(11) SWORD OF LIGHT. In honor of the release of The Last Jedi, Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent along this quote from Kaldar, World of Antares written by Edmond Hamilton and originally published in 1933:

With the tunic went a belt in which were a sword and a tube such as he had noticed. Merrick examined these weapons of the Corlans carefully. The sword seemed at first glance a simple long rapier of metal. But he found that when his grip tightened on the hilt it pressed a catch which released a terrific force stored in the hilt into the blade, making it shine with light. When anything was touched by this shining blade, he found, the force of the blade annihilated it instantly. He learned that the weapon was called a light-sword, due to the shining of the blade when charged, and saw that it was truly a deadly weapon, its touch alone meaning annihilation to any living thing.

(12) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. The price is unbelievable! “Check out an original ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber valued at $450,000”.

Starting Saturday, and just in time for the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” visitors to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Hollywood, California, will be able to see the iconic prop in person.

Ripley’s purchased the saber hilt for a whopping $450,000 at an auction last June held by Profiles in History. The auction house specializes in Hollywood memorabilia and acquired the prop from the collection of Gary Kurtz, a producer on “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s the first time the prop has been put on public display.

(13) LYRICAL MIRACLE. This thread started in 2013 but gets rediscovered every time a new Star Wars movie comes out – begins here:

(14) HURLEY. BEWARE SPOILERS in Kameron Hurley’s review “The Last Jedi: Promises, Pitfalls, and What Sticks With You”. (No spoilers in this excerpt.)

I came out of watching The Last Jedi, and was like, “Well, that was good, but I’m not blown away.” It had a lot of threads; it felt like three movies in one, and cramming all that story into one movie made it feel a little bloated. The story beats weren’t that clockwork structure that The Force Awakens and the original trilogy stuck to. There were a couple of massive emotional moments that needed to be paid off more than we got.

And yet.

And yet this morning I find that I can’t stop thinking about it. Stories are, at their heart, about characters. If I’m invested in the characters and their struggles, you can fall down on plot and no one cares….

(15) I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS A SPOILER. If it is, don’t read it.

(16) MODERATE PRAISE. The Hugo Award Book Club concluded “The Stone Sky is the echo of a great book”, but they’d still like to give it an award:

The first book in the series, The Fifth Season, was innovative and unique. It offered a refreshing take on science fiction and fantasy that unquestionably deserved the Hugo Award. But The Stone Sky does not stand on its own. It is good, but mostly because it is an echo of a truly great book.

It might be more appropriate to honour N.K. Jemisin with a Best Series Hugo this year, rather than another Best Novel, because that would recognize how The Stone Sky works as part of a larger whole.

(17) SUMMATION. John Crowley’s Ka is a book-length historical fantasy about a crow. The author has been profiled by an area paper: “Conway author’s handwritten ode to birdwatching”.

The book was written while “looking out at Baptist Hill and watching people mow their lawns, and watching crows fly around.” Crowley explained in a recent interview about what went into the makings of “Ka” and how his living in Conway for nearly the last 35 years influenced his work.

The narrator of the novel, “feels like he is living in a country different from where he grew up,” after moving back home, he explained.

Crowley himself grew up in Brattleboro, Vt., moved to Indiana for college, and then New York City for some professional years, where he wrote his critically acclaimed, “Little, Big.” He eventually returned to New England.

Crowley said the narrator of the novel “says to himself that he is surprised by seeing kinds of birds that he doesn’t remember seeing when he was a child … the Canada geese use to fly overhead and still do, but they’re not going south anymore.”

Things like climate change, but also other elements that just sometimes change with generations, have thrown off this narrator.

“Things like that have changed his feelings about the world and saddened him … If I’m going to leave the world, it’s not the world I began in,” Crowley said about the protagonist.

(18) UNIDENTIFIED FLYING TRAILER. Avengers: Infinity War Reality Stone Trailer (2018). Is this a fan trailer or official?

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

What a Coincidence

By John Hertz:  I’m a known Jane Austen fan, so you’ll expect me to point out it’s her birthday.  I gladly call her one of the greatest writers in the world — yes, along with Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki.

Thanks to an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota chapter at Florida State U. of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity (oldest and largest music fraternity in the world), you may know it’s Beethoven’s birthday too.

Right there is a coincidence.  Indeed they were contemporaries.  What a lesson for us in the range of human creativity.  They’re not wholly disparate – I’d not say that even of Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki – and being a fan I can’t take refuge in “I am human; nothing human is alien to me” – except to the extent we say (altering the sense of one word) “Science fiction is about people; some of the people are aliens” – but compassing them both calls for a reach. To people who know only that one was born on this day, I may mention the other.

I’ve said a classic is a work that survives its own time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.  I’ve led, I hope – inspired, perhaps – goaded, maybe – discussion on this topic; indeed with some of you.

Today happens to be another historic birthday.  It’s Sir Arthur Clarke’s 100th.

If we triangulate, as I try to, and as Buckminster Fuller taught, we might get an even better span.

So far my favorite Austen novel is Mansfield Park, upon which I can’t do better than recommend Nabokov in his Lectures on Literature. What’s my favorite Beethoven?  There I’m still like – well, somewhat like – Nero Wolfe over the cheese course in “Omit Flowers”.  Yehudi Menuhin playing the Violin Concerto with Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra?  Solomon playing Piano Sonata No. 29, the “Hammerklavier”? Oh dear.

I can tell you my favorite Clarke is The City and the Stars. That’s no surprise for some of you. I think it’s his masterpiece.  I wrote a note about it for Challenger 25.  There’s a link on the sidebar.  I certainly recommend it to you – the book, I mean, although I’d hardly mind if you read my note.

Some say there’d be no fanwriting without disagreement.  Ted White, I believe, said disagreement is the blood of fanzines (sorry if I misquote you, Ted).  I’ve disagreed with Charles N. Brown over his opinion that Against the Fall of Night is better (literary present tense) than The City and the Stars, into which Clarke made it.  I’ve disagreed with many who’ve held Childhood’s End better.  If you suppose I only put in this paragraph to get your attention, I disagree.

I think today, and the three shining points of this triangle, deserve applause.

An observing eye,
Boundless probing of the heart,
Cerebrating verve.

They aren’t all acrostic (I told you, Greg Benford), but this one is.

An Earlier Clarke Birthday Celebration

By Bill Higgins: As the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth, allow me to share a photocopy I recently rediscovered.

In 1977 my college SF club, the Michigan State University Science Fiction Society, noted that Clarke’s 60th birthday was approaching. Jim Ransom volunteered to write a letter of greeting and mail it to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

To our delight, Clarke sent a postcard in reply, dated on his birthday, December 16, 1977. He wrote:

==================

Thanks for nice greeting!

Herewith earth end of my next (&last) novel THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE.

All good wishes

Arthur C Clarke

==================

The postcard pictured Sigiriya Rock, a historic fortress where King Kasyapa built his palace in the 5th Century AD.

I kept a photocopy; I wonder if Jim Ransom kept the postcard, which turns 40 this year.

As for the plug for his upcoming book, Clarke did in 1979 publish The Fountains of Paradise and it does indeed feature a fictionalized version of King Kasyapa and Sigiriya Rock, as well as a space elevator.

Science fiction writers are notoriously inaccurate at prophecy, however; Clarke may have foreseen the Space Age and the Information Age, but he was wrong about The Fountains of Paradise being his final novel. He went on to publish eighteen more novels before passing away in 2008.

Celebrate the Clarke Centenary with a Book Cover Parade

Photo, L to R: Arthur C. Clarke, Evelyn Gold, Harlan Ellison and Robert Bloch in 1952. Clarke and Bloch were both born in 1917.

By Bill Higgins: Today is the 100th anniversary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s birth. I would’ve liked to attend a Clarke centennial event of some kind, but I live far away from any of them.

I did celebrate in a small way on Twitter: I rounded up links to interesting reviews for each of Sir Arthur’s solo novels, and tweeted them out in chronological order, along with cover art.

 

Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/17 Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself: I’m A Scroll Of Wealth And Taste

(1) THE FENCE. A recent Pixel Scroll reported construction is almost finished on the residence replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home. Designed by architect Thom Mayne, the new house where he and his wife Blythe will live had been promised to include a tribute to the late author in the form of a fence with Bradbury quotes. But you can’t really make out any text in LA Observed’s photo:

So John King Tarpinian swung by and shot his own set of pictures.

These are three of the four panels that Mr. Mayne has erected. The fourth panel was removed, not sure why. You can only see panels one and two easily. Panel three is behind shrubs, as will be panel four when it is reinstalled. For the life of me I cannot decipher anything.

There are some words visible if you stare long enough. The top line seems to be “I never ask anyone else’s opinion. They don’t count.” — a Bradbury quote the architect may have picked to send a little “F.U.” to anyone unhappy about what he’s done wiith the property.

(2) GUARDIANS OF THE FIDUCIARY. The cash registers were scorching hot this weekend: “‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’: A one-time underdog returns with $145 million opening”

Disney (DIS) and Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise put up stellar results in its return to theaters this weekend, nearly three years after unexpectedly blowing the doors off the box office.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” brought in $145 million, making it the fifth highest grossing domestic debut for a movie in Marvel’s universe of interconnected films. Forecasts had estimated its U.S. opening weekend haul would check in around $140 million to $160 million.

Openings in the Chinese and South Korean markets this weekend helped push the movie’s global gross at $427.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

(3) FILE SEVENTEEN YEARS. Congratulations to Julia Bartlett-Sloan, who graduated from the University of Georgia on May 5 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

The last time File 770 ran a story mentioning her, in 2000, she was one of the Bartlett-Sloan sisters in this picture. Time flies!

(4) LIVING HISTORY. Last night’s Saturday Night Live did a Star Trek: TOS skit that featured the show’s production designer Akira Yoshimura as Sulu.

Vanity Fair points out that 41 years ago in the show’s first season, a Star Trek skit had Yoshimura as Sulu.

S.N.L. buffs will be the first to tell you that Yoshimura—who has been with the show from the start—first appeared as Sulu opposite John Belushi’s Captain Kirk in a 1976 sketch titled “The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise” from Saturday Night Live’s very first season.

(5) FRENCH SFF COMPETITION. Entries are being taken for the Prix Joël-Champetier through August 31. Eligible works are unpublished stories in French by non-Canadian authors, no longer than 10,500 words. The winner will be selected through blind judging (see the guidelines about preserving anonymity.) Subscribers to Solaris can enter free, others must pay a C$20 fee. The winner will receive a 1,000 Euro prize.

(6) HYDRA HAILING FREQUENCY. At io9 James Witbrook says it’s getting worse, not better: “Captain America Is No Longer a Supervillain, He’s a Monster”.

Secret Empire #1—by Nick Spencer, Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Matthew Wilson, and Travis Lanham—doesn’t immediately pick up after the events of Secret Empire #0, which chronicled the reveal of Captain America’s deception of his friends, allies, and the world at large. Instead, it’s an unspecified number of months after, with Hydra in control of the United States, and Captain America at its head.

Heroes still attempt to resist—spearheaded by a group lead by Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the A.I. essence of Tony Stark operating out of a hidden base in the Nevada desert, with the young Champions running sorties against Hydra patrols in Vegas—but for the average America citizen, Hydra is now their leader. And while Marvel Comics has blustered over accusations of Hydra’s past links to the Nazis, and even attempted to deny the political undertones of Secret Empire, it’s hard to read Secret Empire #1 and not draw parallels between Hydra’s rule and the rise of the Nazi party in ‘30s Germany. Books have been burned in classrooms, history has been rewritten….

(7) REAPING WHAT YOU SOW. Sigrid Ellis’ post “Marvel Comics has given Captain America’s shield to real-life white nationalists” is quoted here in full:

This news story appeared yesterday:

Trump rally overshadowed by standoff outside Minnesota Capitol

Look at the photos. Look at the fourth photo.

There’s a man, there, carrying Captain America’s shield.

That man is one of the neo-Nazi white supremacists who attempted to get into the Minnesota State Capitol yesterday. He and his compatriots could not get in.

They were defied by regular Minnesotans, linking arms, standing their ground against hatred. The neo-Nazis were defied by the heroism of ordinary people who see evil and refuse to turn away. These regular Minnesotans understand something that Marvel Comics and Nick Spencer have completely failed to grasp.

Decent human beings do not harbor, encourage, or condone white supremacy. Decent human beings do not by their action or inaction permit evil to fester.

You brought this on yourself, Marvel. Instead of cute kids running around playing at being Avengers, a grown man carried YOUR shield, Marvel, into battle on the steps of my state capitol building yesterday.

And your shield, Marvel, stood for hatred.

May you long reap the joy and reward of your actions.

(8) NEXT AT KGB. E.C. Myers and Sam J. Miller will read at Fantastic Fiction at KGB on Wednesday, May 17.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He has published four novels, and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, including Space & Time Magazine, Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Children, and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy, and YALSA selected The Silence of Six as one of its “Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” in 2016. His next book will be DoubleThink, a collection of stories related to The Silence of Six from and he continues to write for ReMade, a science fiction series from Serial Box Publishing.

Sam J. Miller’s short stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed, along with multiple “year’s best” anthologies. His debut novel The Art of Starving, forthcoming from HarperTeen, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, The Breaks, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. He graduated from the Clarion UCSD Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop in 2012. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.”

Begins 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) in New York.

(9) HELP NEEDED. If someone reading this who is fluent in Korean would be willing to serve as a go-between for a brief exchange regarding some fan-related questions, please send me your contact name and e-mail address and I will put you in touch with the fan who needs the help.

Write to me at – mikeglyer@cs.com.

(10) LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are back says io9 – Edge of Tomorrow Sequel Gets Title and Return of Emily Blunt”.

In an interview with Collider, Liman confirmed that the new movie will be called Live Die Repeat and Repeat, a nod to the tagline and later title that was given to the film for digital and home release, Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. Blunt is on board to reprise her role as Rita Vrataski, along with Cruise as star Bill Cage. Liman previously said the movie will be a sequel that’s actually a prequel, playing on the film’s use of time to subvert people’s expectations of what a sequel should be like.

(11) DE-AGING. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna looks at the CGI wizardry that enabled Kurt Russell, in a crucial early scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to look the way he did in 1980.

From there, [director James] Gunn credits the technological growth. “It helped that Kurt has aged pretty well and that the makeup and hair team did their [work] properly,” the director says, “but it’s also that visual effects are just getting better and better.

“It’s not cheap and it’s not easy,” Gunn adds. “That [scene] pretty much took our entire post-production period to finish. I didn’t get the final shots till almost a few weeks before ‘lock.’ ”

(12) DAMMIT I’M A DOCTOR. Motley Fool tells about “3 Ways Real Health Care Is Catching Up to Sci-Fi Health Care”.

2. Curing cancer with machines Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 film Elysium featured a magical medical pod that could cure cancer in less than a minute. While that device is an obvious Hollywood fantasy, it has roots in real medical technology that is available today.

Over the past decade, cancer treatments have improved dramatically on the pharmaceutical level, with immunotherapy and targeted therapies, and on the mechanical level, with advanced oncology machines.

Accuray’s flagship product, the CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery System, is one of these machines. The CyberKnife uses tiny lasers to deliver highly concentrated doses of radiation into the body to kill cancerous cells. The process, unlike chemotherapy, spares healthy cells and requires no physical incisions — making it a pain-free, minimally invasive option for patients with inoperable or surgically complex tumors.

(13) DON’T MESS WITH MAMATAS. What’s appropriate here? Maybe a warning: “Never bring a letter opener to a gunfight.”

(14) RANKING STAR WARS. David French, in “The Actual Definitive ‘Star Wars’ Movie Ratings” at National Review Online, has lots of funny bits and isn’t that political. I especially liked his throwing in ratings for the zombie apocalypse, “the actual apocalypse” and The Phantom Menace

4. Revenge of the Sith: What? A prequel movie cracks the top four? Ahead of Return of the Jedi? Here’s the thing about Revenge — Anakin’s turn to the dark side just works. You can see why he did it, why it made sense, and why a Jedi would turn on his own order. I don’t know if this was Lucas’s intent, but he spent the prequels making the Republic (and the Jedi) look like an intergalactic U.N., wielding their lightsabers to lop off the heads of anyone who dared to exercise the slightest degree of self-determination. Revenge made me like the Sith. It made me root for the emperor.

(15) FLY ME TO THE LEGO. It might be almost as tall as the bheer can tower to the Moon. Business Insider says “Lego just launched a giant Apollo Saturn V moon rocket set that comes with 1,969 pieces”.

This summer will be one small step for Lego fans, and one giant leap for nerd-kind.

Lego Ideas is launching a NASA Apollo Saturn V rocket set on June 1, 2017, to help space fans everywhere pull off historic moon missions from the comfort of their own homes.

Like NASA’s storied space program, this kit will come with three separable Saturn V rocket stages, a lunar orbiter, lunar module, crew of three astronauts, and even an American flag for the microfigurines to plant on the moon.

These are the components, according to the original LEGO Ideas proposal:

The whole Lego rocket is about 1 meter/130 studs high (aprox. 1:110 scale), has 1179 bricks and lots of features:

  • removable 1st rocket-stage with the main rocket engine
  • removable 2nd rocket-stage with rocket engine
  • removable 3rd rocket-stage with the Apollo spacecraft
  • Apollo spacecraft with the “Eagle” Lunar Lander and the Lunar Orbiter
  • the rescue rocket on top of the whole spacecraft
  • two minifigure astronauts on the Moon for displaying

(16) FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO BIND THEM. But don’t count on buying a set like this — “LEGO Leia vs Jabba The Hutt Should Be a Real LEGO Set”.

One of the greatest scenes in sci-fi history has been captured perfectly in LEGO. That is the moment in Return of the Jedi when Princess Leia chokes Jabba the Hutt and kills him dead. It is Leia vs Jabba. This cool creation is the work of artist Iain “Ochre Jelly” Heath and it is stunning. It really captures the moment perfectly, with Leia pulling the chains and Jabba’s tongue coming out of his nasty slimy mouth. The quality here is good enough for an official LEGO kit. If only we could buy it.

 

(17) PAINTED NIGHTMARES. I’d practically forgotten that Rod Serling’s Night Gallery involved actual paintings. Dangerous Minds has assembled a photo gallery of the artworks.

Night Gallery, Rod Serling’s follow up to the highly successful Twilight Zone series, only lasted for three seasons before imploding under the pressure of internal conflicts. It seems that in a complete lapse of sanity, Jack Laird, the show’s producer, forgot a fundamental maxim of making great television: allow Rod Serling to do whatever he wants to do. Nevertheless, the show managed to squeak out a run on NBC from 1970-72.

The premise of Night Gallery centered around Serling as the curator of a Museum of the Macabre, and he would introduce the shows various segments with a piece of art that represented the basic story on canvas. These stories still mined the areas of fantasy, science fiction and horror which Serling knew so well—again utilizing his own original teleplays as well as adapting works by such writers as H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, and Robert A. Heinlein for the small screen—but at an hour’s running time, the show could present multiple segments, some of the more whimsical segments clocking in at under five minutes.

(18) FORRY, BLOCH AND “EGO”. Earlier this year Fanac.org posted the audio recording of Loncon II’s (1965) Guest of Honor and other Banquet speeches.

This audio recording is enhanced with over 40 appropriate images and features: Guest of Honor speech by Brian Aldiss, Arthur C. Clarke on working with Stanley Kubrick, Robert Bloch’s hilarious comments on fandom, TAFF winner Terry Carr, and Forry Ackerman’s presentation of the Big Heart award. Most astonishingly, Robert Silverberg presents the Hugo awards in 6 minutes while still torturing the nominees by delaying the announcements. Original audio recorded by Waldemar Kumming and digitized by Thomas Recktenwald.

 

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

Some Thoughts on Who Was Really #1

By Rich Lynch: It was 80 years ago that an extraordinary event took place.

It happened on January 3, 1937, in the English city of Leeds.  It was there that a group of science fiction fans gathered for what has been described as the first-ever science fiction convention.

Walter Gillings, Arthur Clarke, and Ted Carnell
at the 1937 Leeds convention.

What records remain of the event indicate there were fourteen people in attendance, several of whom would go on to become luminaries of the science fiction literary genre: Ted Carnell, Walter Gillings, Eric Frank Russell, and Arthur C. Clarke.  It was a single-day conference, hosted by the Leeds branch of the newly-formed world-wide Science Fiction League of fan organizations.  The day featured speeches and testimonials on various topics related to science fiction and after that, group discussions on “ways and means of improving British science fiction” according to a one-off fanzine published soon afterwards which reported on the proceedings.  What resulted was the formation of the Science Fiction Association, a proto-British fan organization centered around the “four Hells” fan clubs in Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Leicester.  It only lasted about two years, due to the onset of the Second World War, but it did set the stage for a permanent organization, the British Science Fiction Association, which eventually came into existence in the 1950s.

That 1937 convention was truly a seminal event, and it helped pave the way toward the promulgation of science fiction fandom throughout the United Kingdom.  But was it really the first science fiction convention?

Maybe not.

Donald Wollheim, Milton Rothman, Fred Pohl, John Michel, and Will Sykora at the
1936 Philadelphia convention.

On October, 22, 1936, about half a dozen fans from New York City traveled by train to Philadelphia, where they convened for several hours at the home of one of the fans there.  In all, there were a similar number of fans brought together as for the Leeds convention.  What made it a convention, in the minds of its attendees, was that a business meeting was held with the host, Milton Rothman, being elected Chairman.  Fred Pohl, who had been designated the Secretary, took the minutes and then subsequently lost them.  But Pohl later stated that no recordable business had been brought up because the event had only been informal in nature, with fans talking to fans about things like which books they had recently read, which authors they liked, and what they hoped these authors would write next.  The most significant outcome was that everyone had such a good time that a follow-up event was held in New York in February 1937 with about 40 fans attending.  This created the momentum for an even bigger event, a bit more than two years later which was held in New York on July 4, 1939 – the first World Science Fiction Convention.

Those first two fan gatherings have been a source of continuing controversy ever since then.  Which one was really #1?  The Leeds convention was the better planned of the two, with groundwork laid for the event several months earlier – the Philadelphia convention was, according to accounts from several fans attended it, mostly spur-of-the-moment with little advance preparation.  There has been speculation that the only reason that the Philadelphia event occurred at all was because of one-upsmanship.  The idea for that gathering was originally put forth by New York fan Don Wollheim, who back then had gained the reputation for being quarrelsome, antagonistic, and more than a bit provocative.  It’s very possible, even likely, that he knew of the upcoming Leeds event, which had been talked up not only throughout Britain but also in some U.S. prozines.  So, supposing the underlying reason for the Philadelphia meet-up was really only to sabotage any Leeds stake to being the first science fiction convention, should that disqualify Philadelphia’s claim for that distinction?

No, that’s insufficient.  There have been other conventions that have been organized on little more than a moment’s notice and in any event, overall intent is irrelevant – you can hold a convention for any purpose you want.  A much better reason for possibly honoring Leeds as #1 is that the Philadelphia event was an invitational gathering not open to the general public, with only the New York and Philadelphia fan clubs involved.  But this, too, does not hold very much water as there have subsequently been other, in effect, invitation-only conventions, including the very first DeepSouthCon.  And one other criticism of the Philadelphia event’s claim for being #1 is that there was “no recordable business”, very little reportage after the fact, and indeed, not even a program.  But this is the weakest argument of all, and one only has to point toward the annual Midwestcon conventions, which also have none of these, as a refutation.

And so the controversy has lingered for all this time.  The 1936 Philadelphia event was first chronologically, but was it a convention or just a meeting?  In the end there probably will never be a consensus – after eight decades this is still perhaps the most polarizing topic in all of science fiction fandom, at least from a historical perspective, and people will believe what they want to believe.  But there have at least been attempts at finding some middle ground.  Noted fan historian Mark Olson, in Fancyclopedia 3, has suggested that: “Perhaps it would be fairest to say that the first thing that could be called a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1936, while the first thing that must be called a convention was held in Leeds in 1937.”  And he’s right.

But as for me, I think we are asking the wrong question.  What we instead should be inquiring is: “Who first came up with the idea for staging a science fiction convention?”  That’s really the more important aspect, and the Leeds group was first.  There’s serendipity that they held their event at the Leeds Theosophical Society – the word ‘theosophy’ parses to ‘divine wisdom’, which is an apt description of the concept for the science fiction convention.  And of that, at least, we can be absolutely certain!

Pixel Scroll 1/23/17 Scroll ‘Em Danno

(1) SOMETHING IN THE AIR. Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer interviews Lois McMaster Bujold at Tor.com: “Fanzines, Cover Art, and the Best Vorkosigan Planet: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold”. Everyone will have a favorite section – here’s mine.

ECM: You published a Star Trek fanzine in the 1960s, while the series was still on the air. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, so I can’t resist asking you about it. What was it like to be a fan writer in the 1960s?

LMB: It was a lonelier enterprise back then than it is now. I go into it a little in this recent interview.

Other than that, I expect it was like being a newbie writer at any time, all those pictures and feelings churning around in one’s head and latching on to whatever models one could find to try to figure out how to get them down on a page. Besides the professional fiction I was reading, my models included Devra Langsam’s very early ST fanzine Spockanalia, and Columbus, Ohio fan John Ayotte’s general zine Kallikanzaros. It was John who guided Lillian and me through the mechanics of producing a zine, everything from how to type stencils (ah, the smell of Corflu in the morning! and afternoon, and late into the night), where to go to get electrostencils produced, how to run off and collate the pages—John lent us the use of his mimeograph machine in his parents’ basement. (And I just now had to look up the name of that technology on the internet—I had forgotten and all I could think of was “ditto”, a predecessor which had a different smell entirely.)

Fan writing, at the time, was assumed to be writing more about SF and fandom, what people would use blogs to do today, than writing fanfiction. So an all-fiction zine seemed a novelty to some of our fellow fans in Columbus.

John Ayotte! There’s someone I haven’t heard of since I was a young fan.

(2) A GR8 NAME. It’s only fitting that the official Star Wars site be the ones who tell us: “The Official Title for Star Wars: Episode VIII Revealed”.

THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

Last Jedi poster

(3) BUMPER CROP. The Razzie czars, explaining the extra nominees this year, said, “The crop of cinematic crap in 2016 was so extensive that this year’s 37th Annual Razzie Awards is expanding from 5 nominees to an unprecedented 6 contenders in each of its 9 Worst Achievement in Film categories.” Genre films stank up the shortlist, for example —

WORST PICTURE

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Gods of Egypt
  • Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTOR

  • Ben Affleck / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Gerard Butler / Gods of Egypt & London Has Fallen
  • Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Robert  de Niro / Dirty Grandpa
  • Dinesh D’Souza [as Himself] Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Ben Stiller / Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTRESS

  • Megan Fox / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Tyler Perry / BOO! A Medea Halloween
  • Julia Roberts / Mother’s Day
  • Becky Turner [as Hillary Clinton]  Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Naomi Watts / Divergent Series: Allegiant & Shut-In
  • Shailene Woodley / Divergent Series: Allegiant

The “winners” will be announced February 25, the day before the Academy Awards.

(4) CLARKE ESTATE SUES. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the works recast as a “study guide” for elementary school readers. Publishers Weekly has the story: “PRH, S&S Sue Moppet Books’ KinderGuides for Infringement”.

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster have joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and Arthur C. Clarke to file a lawsuit against Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement.

Filed January 19 in the Southern District of New York, the suit alleges that Moppet Books’ KinderGuides, a line of illustrated children’s adaptations that feature versions of The Old Man and the Sea, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Road, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, with “willful copyright infringement of four acclaimed copyrighted classic novels.” The suit notes that PW wrote about the launch of the KinderGuides in August 2016.

The suit charges that the KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

(5) ’69 IS DEVINE. Martin Morse Wooster uncovered a hidden gem. “That Nature profile of Sir Arthur C. Clarke linked to a 1969 New Yorker profile of Clarke by Jeremy Bernstein that  I haven’t seen before. (The New Yorker has been putting some of its older pieces online.) It’s called ‘Out of the Ego Chamber’ and is well worth breaking the paywall for. You learn how Clarke’s experiences in fandom in the 1930s and 1940s informed his fiction, how he wrote many books about the sea even though he never really learned to swim, and how a 16-year old doofus asked Clarke in 1968 to write a scenario for a short film for free in the hopes he would be paid back when the doofus ‘became famous.’”

However, it is only in the last few years—especially since he and Stanley Kubrick wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”—that he has become widely known to the general public. He became even more widely known, of course, during the recent flight to the moon, when he served as one of the commentators assisting Walter Cronkite in his coverage of the event for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Cronkite has been a Clarke fan for many years, and Clarke has done a number of television broadcasts with him, beginning as far back as 1953. In following the Apollo 11 flight, Clarke made some dozen appearances. During an early one, Cronkite asked him if he would mind explaining the ending of “2001,” and Clarke answered that he didn’t think there was enough time—then or later. He went to Cape Kennedy with the C.B.S. team, and at the moment of the launch, as he told a friend on his return, he, like everyone around him, burst into tears. “I hadn’t cried for twenty years,” he said. “Right afterward, I happened to run into Eric Sevareid, and he was crying, too.” After the launch, Clarke returned with the rest of the C.B.S. crew to New York and spent most of the next several days in and out of the C.B.S. studios, watching the flight and, from time to time, going on camera. The actual landing on the moon was, in many ways, the fulfillment of a life’s dreaming and prophesying. “For me, it was as if time had stopped,” he said later.

(6) 2001 ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Sci-Fi writer-director-producer Marc Zicree went to Stan Lee’s Comikaze Convention for his Space Command panel and ran into 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea, who shared a scene cut from the film — and re-enacted it!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 23, 1957 — Machines at the Wham-O toy company roll out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 23, 1923 – Walter Miller, Jr., author of A Canticle for Leibowitz.
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, animation writer, and early leader of the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

(9) BELATED BARBARIAN BIRTHDAY

  • Born January 22, 1906 – Robert E. Howard

(10) THEATER OF THE IMAGINATION. Turner Classic Radio hosts vast quantities of Golden Age shows, which evidently are free to listen to. Includes lots of superheroes (Superman, The Green Hornet) and suspense (Suspense, what else?).

(11) SEVENEVES? Mental Floss compiled a list of “86 Books Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency”, including the Harry Potter series, Seveneves, and The Three-Body Problem.

(12) SIGNERS OF THE TIMES. The Change.org petition to “Repeal California Assembly Bill 1570” (the new law about sale of autographed items) now has 1,612 signatures.

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.

(13) EXPLORE SPACE IN THE DISCOMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME. A BBC reporter speaks of the “lucky” people who have been to ISS, but discovers in just 48 hours that it’s not the least like fun and games: “My unhappy 48 hours as an astronaut”.

Yet, it is not always necessary to travel into space to experience what it is like living as astronauts do. It may come as a surprise to discover on Earth, dozens of people all over the world have spent months, and even over a year, living in specially built confined spaces that mimic life in space. These simulation pods are found in places like China, Hawaii and Russia,  giving researchers the ability to study the effects of long-term isolation and confinement on people in preparation for long-haul space travel.

While we can glean plenty of information from astronauts’ experiences in the ISS and its predecessors, the challenges faced by astronauts will change as space agencies set their sights on the Red Planet. A mission to Mars will mean spending approximately three years in space – six-to-eight months to travel there, several months on the surface, and six-to-eight months to return. The long-term nature of the trip is expected to pose several psychological challenges for those picked to make it

To find out what it might be like, for 48 hours, I tried to live just as astronauts do  – attempting to keep up with the schedule of crewmembers on the ISS. As it turns out, they have a very tightly packed workday. I woke up, drank coffee, ate not-so-great food directly from the bag, worked out, worked and repeated the pattern until the day was done. Oh, and I had to spit into a towel twice a day after brushing my teeth.

(14) NO. 1 SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. Blastr lists “The top 11 composers who have created musical masterpieces for geeky properties”.

  1. Murray Gold

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know the music of Murray Gold. Gold has been the composer for the popular series ever since it returned to television in 2005. Composing for such distinguished Doctors as Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, he’s created some of the best themes and music in the series’ more than 50-year history. His unforgettable work includes “The Doctor’s Theme,” “Doomsday,” “This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home,” and “I Am the Doctor.” His music has made us feel like we’re on other planets, in a different time period, and traveling through time and space in the TARDIS. Gold also created the themes for the spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Notable piece: “A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme)” from Doctor Who

Out of all of Gold’s work, his theme for the current Doctor stands out from the rest. It’s like nothing we’ve heard before in the series and captures Capaldi’s Doctor perfectly, more so I think than a theme has fit any of the previous Doctors. Listening to it, you get a sense of mystery, danger, wonder, adventure and determination. There’s gravity to it as well as playfulness. Gold laces it all together into a complex, catchy piece that makes it hard not to picture everything the Doctor has been through, all he has done and all he will continue to do.

(15) FICKLE FINGERS. Atlas Obscura claims: “One Danger of Flashing the Peace Sign Could Be Stolen Fingerprints”. Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Brunner was right: the future indeed does arrive too soon and in the wrong order.”

Have you ever posed for a photo with your index and middle fingers raised, indicating your desire for world peace? Probably, since the sign has become shorthand for the sentiment after Vietnam War activists popularized it in the 1960s.

But researchers in Japan warned this week that those flashing their exposed fingertips were at risk of fingerprint theft, which in turn could be used for any number of things, like unlocking your iPhone.

Isao Echizen, a researcher at the National Institute of Informatics, said that he and his team were able to lift the fingerprints from someone’s fingers from a photo taken about nine feet away, according to Phys.org.

(16) MAKE AMERICA SMART AGAIN. Owning this shirt will give you an IQ bonus.

Tyson-Nye-Let-Us-Together-Make-America-Smart-Again-600x600

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling, Keep Those Pixels Scrolling, File-wide….

(1) ON THE MARCH.

(2) GRAPHIC NOVEL WINS DIVERSE BOOKS AWARD. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles says that Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin have won the Walter Dean Myers Award (or “Walter”) for Outstanding Children’s Literature for March: Book Three.  The award is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, which promises to buy 2,000 copies of the graphic novel and donate them to libraries.

Responding to the news that he had won the Walter, Lewis said via email: “I am deeply moved for our book to receive this award. It is my hope that it will inspire more people to read and to use their pen to inspire another generation to speak up and speak out.”

(3) BREAKTHROUGHS. Barnes & Noble SF/F blog has listed “20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice”.

From the Time Machine to Kirk and Uhura‘s unprecedented kiss, speculative fiction has often concerned itself with breaking barriers and exploring issues of race, inequality, and injustice. The fantastical elements of genre, from alien beings to magical ones, allow writers to confront controversial issues in metaphor, granting them a subversive power that often goes unheralded. On this, the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider 20 novels that incorporate themes of social justice into stories that still deliver the goods—compelling plots, characters you’ll fall in love with, ideas that will expand your mind. Let’s imagine a day when the utopian ideals of Star Trek are more than just the stuff of science fiction.

(4) SEER. Nature profiles Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his 100th birthday (last month).

In 1945, Clarke inadvertently launched a career as a futurologist with his outline for a geostationary communications satellite. In a letter (‘V2 for ionosphere research?’) published in February’s issue of Wireless World and inspired by the German V2 rockets then landing on London, he made a revolutionary proposal:

An ‘artificial satellite’ at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.

Clarke realistically concluded: “I’m afraid this isn’t going to be of the slightest use to our postwar planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.” He followed up with a more detailed piece in Wireless World that October, envisioning “space-stations” that relied on thermionic valves serviced by an onboard crew supplied by atomic-powered rockets.

(5) SCIENCE THE SH!T OUT OF THIS. Is dome living worse than dorm living? Six simulated Hawaiian Martians will find out — “Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome”.

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods — with a rare treat of Spam — and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The simulated stay on Mars with a carefully selected crew of researchers embarked on a mission Thursday to gain insight into the psychological toll a similar real-life voyage would have on astronauts. It’s part of a NASA-funded human-behavior experiment that could help the space agency send humans to the red planet in the next 20 years.

The man-made dome that the four men and two women call home is outfitted with futuristic white walls and an elevated sleeping platform on the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii. The vinyl-covered shelter spans 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom house.

A video released by the group shows the six scientists in matching red polo shirts arriving and entering the dome to farewell handshakes from program associates

(6) THE WORST. AlienExpoDallas forwards its picks as the “Top 5 Villains of Sci-Fi”.  Did they get it right?

Just like the clothes make the man, the villain makes the hero! (Unless you’re Batman — then you make the villains… in any case, I digress.) Today we live in a world where the villain gets his due — specifically villains of the sci-fi variety. Villains in sci-fi have a special gravitas where no matter how evil the scheme or horrid their actions, you somehow find yourself rooting for them. So with that, here are our top 5 villains of sci-fi!

Number 5 is Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

(7) VISITED BY THE MUSE. Amanda Palmer posted this photo on Instagram yesterday.

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 — First American novel, The Power of Sympathy, published in Boston

(9) PEER REVIEWED. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, co-authored a paper on AI/machine learning, based on a short film she directed.

The Twilight actress recently made her directorial debut with the short film Come Swim, and in it used a machine learning technique known as “style transfer” (where the aesthetics of one image or video is applied to another) to create an impressionistic visual style. Along with special effects engineer Bhautik J Joshi and producer David Shapiro, Stewart has co-authored a paper on this work in the film, publishing it in the popular online repository for non-peer reviewed work, arXiv.

(10) FIFTH OF KONG. There’s a new series of TV spots for Kong: Skull Island. In keeping with Scroll tradition, I picked #5.

(11) F.U.D. People are getting pretty good at recognizing fake news. Like Brian Niemeier’s insinuation about this year’s Worldcon supporting membership rate.

Worldcon 75’s supporting membership rate was fixed when the four rival bids for 2017 set the cost of a site selection voting membership in the summer before the 2015 Worldcon. It’s not a recent decision.

And have a look at the supporting membership rates for the five most recent Worldcons.

  • LoneStarCon 3 (2013) supporting membership: $60
  • LonCon 3 (2014) supporting membership: $40
  • Sasquan (2015) supporting membership: $40
  • MidAmeriCon II (2016) supporting membership: $50
  • Worldcon 75 (2017) supporting membership: $40

A $40 rate is a typical rate, not a cut rate.

(12) DEE GOOTS. In Andi Gutierrez’ The Star Wars Show episode “Rogue One Secrets Explained”, she interviews Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, delving into Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs, production details, and much more.

(13) THE COOLEST PROJECT. Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator! Do you want one badly enough to make it yourself?

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that’s not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the Star Wars replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

 

(14) INSTANT CLASSIC. Camestros Felapton wove together several recent memes as replacement lyrics for an Otis Redding tune.

Oh the Gorn may be weary?
Them Gorns they do get weary
Wearing those same old metallic shorts, yeah yeah?
But when the Gorn gets weary
Try a little pixelness….

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Rob Thornton, Gregory Benford, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]