Vernor Vinge at UCSD for “London in 2080” Series on June 29

SF writer Vernor Vinge and architect Niall McLaughlin will speak about Science Fiction Meets Architecture: Designing for an Aging Population as part of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination’s “London in 2080” debate series on June 29. The event begins in UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium at 10:30 a.m.

As life expectancy increases and modern medicine changes the health and vitality of those in their 80s and 90s, there will be major changes in the design of space as the London population ages. Cognitive impairment will also be more widespread.

  • Vernor Vinge has won five Hugo Awards, including one for each of his last three novels, Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and

Rainbow’s End (2006). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his science fiction, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella “True Names,” which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction and cyberspace. Dr. Vinge is Emeritus professor of mathematics and computer science and also noted, among other things, for introducing the term “the singularity.”

  • Niall McLaughlin is an architect, and educator. Niall won Young British Architect of the Year in 1998. He was named as one of the BBC’s Rising Stars in 2001 and his work represented Britain in a US exhibition Gritty Brits at the Carnegie Mellon Museum. Niall was made a Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (2015) and he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale Architettura 2016. Peabody Housing (Whitechapel 2015), and Somerville Student Residence (Oxford 2010). He is currently working on museum designs for the Natural History Museum in London and Auckland Castle in Durham. Niall is Professor of Architectural Practice at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He was a visiting professor at the University of California Los Angeles from 2012-2013, and was appointed Lord Norman Foster Visiting Professor of Architecture at Yale for 2014-2015. Niall lives in London with his wife Mary, son Diarmaid and daughter Iseult.

The Debate Series is free and open to members of the public.

Sci-Fi Meets Architecture is a new forum for cross-disciplinary visions and debate at UCL and UCSD. Curated by: Prof David Kirsh (UCSD, San Diego), Prof Alan Penn (The Bartlett, UK), and Ava Fatah (Architectural Computation Programme, The Bartlett School of Architecture). Sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, The Bartlett School of Architecture, and The Leverhulme Trust.

Pixel Scroll 6/2/17 A Scroll May Not Injure or Insult a Filer Or, Through Inaction, Allow A Filer To Yawn

(1) DIAGNOSIS. David E. Pascoe’s post for Mad Genius Club, ‘“You Don’t Look So Good”, wonders if declining BEA attendance is symptomatic of the failing condition of traditional publishing. Wonders, or (perhaps) hopes, one or the other.

Look, nearly two decades ago, BEA had right at 30k attendees, all told, including industry professionals. By 2015, that had slipped to just a bit over 17k. I don’t care who you are, you can’t claim that your industry is healthy when the pre-eminent business gathering — the one where publishers make announcements about upcoming books, and where vendors make purchasing decisions for the year ahead, and where your special events include people of international profile (this year would be an Evening With Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m crushed that my schedule wouldn’t allow) — has slipped in attendance by that much over not-quite a decade.

If these numbers are legitimate — and I’m taking them right off the pdf of the official BEA fliers they circulate — then tradpub is looking more than a little green around the gills. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the attendance at the major convention is a fair barometer for the general health of an industry. Sit down, tradpub. You aren’t looking so good.

(2) CLASSIC COVERS. Mark Terry’s Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC reproduces original book covers and offers them for sale. Click the link to search the “SciFi/Fantasy/Supernatural” category.

Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC had its beginnings in 1995 when I started making a few facsimiles solely for my own use. I had already been collecting books for some time, and found it discouraging that I would never be able to acquire many of the books I wanted in jacket. While building my own library, I had met many fellow collectors and was amazed at the remarkable jacket art I saw on their books. Because I had access to their collections, the idea of making my own jackets was conceived. Putting my computer and printing skills to use, I slowly began building a small assortment of jackets. Eventually, the results of my labor became popular enough to begin offering these facsimiles to others.

… As of September 2016, I have scanned over 50,000 different titles. If variants and duplicates are included, there are well over 70,000 jackets.

….Offering facsimiles dust jackets is how I support the Dust Jacket Archives project and is a way that everyone can have access to these great jackets. People order jackets for a variety of reasons. They’ve been used as props in plays or movies and for bibliographic resources. Occasionally, family members of the authors or artists have purchased them as well as publishers who wish to produce or reissue a book. I have had magazines order them to use in the stories they are running. However, these jackets are most commonly purchased by collectors who wish to protect their books with a quality facsimile, allowing them to enjoy the artwork they might otherwise have never see.

As far as I can tell, he never addresses the copyright issue, if there is one.

(3) TRULY ALIEN. Jeff VanderMeer tells interviewer Bence Pintèr why ‘“A giant flying elephant shrew would’ve been ridiculous” at Mandiner.Sci-fi.

One review highlighted the fact that your aliens are not familiar ones: they are as different from humans as possible. In your opinion which tells more about people? An alien which resembles them, or a monster which is totally different?

I think that was the New York Times Book Review. Yes, I was quite flattered and vindicated by that review because this is exactly my approach. To not make aliens or animals reflections of human beings, or not only that. If we’re supposed to be imaginative in our approach as fiction writers then we need to also imagine things that have nothing to do with human beings.

(4) FROM THE TREASURE VAULTS OF TIME. Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 89 (June 26-28) will put under the hammer some truly impressive pieces of entertainment history from Casablanca, The Twilight Zone, and Star Wars.

The Writers Guild of America rates Casablanca as the number one greatest screenplay of all time. We offer the most complete and historically significant working script and studio production material for Casablanca in existence. Offered alongside are the iconic original front entrance doors and hardware to Rick’s Café Américain, along with Moroccan decorative wooden screen, floor lamp and chairs that decorated the fabled set.

Of monumental importance, we offer the collection of original hand-typed and annotated stories and scripts from 17 episodes of The Twilight Zone — from the collection of legendary and highly influential genre writer Richard Matheson, including such memorable episodes as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Nick of Time, and The Invaders.

And in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re offering some of the most important pieces ever offered, including an unprecedented complete film used ‘“R2-D2” unit — one of the most beloved characters in pop culture. To complement R2, we offer Mark Hamill’s hero ‘“Luke Skywalker” lightsaber from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back from the collection of producer Gary Kurtz. Included are original conceptual artworks by Tom Jung used to create the posters for the original Star Wars trilogy.

(6) LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES. Thoraiya Dyer tells why she writes sff:

I find the heady power of writing speculative fiction incredibly addictive.

A non-fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.’

A fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington felt the futility of man’s worldly struggles as he surveyed the battlefield at Waterloo.’

But a speculative fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington ordered his magician to bring the dead soldiers back to life,’ (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell).

Or, ‘Time travel to Victorian England is OK, but you can’t go to the Battle of Waterloo because it’s a crisis point,’ (Connie Willis, To Say Nothing Of The Dog).

You can even say, with perfect aplomb, ‘Dragons were used with deadly force in the Napoleonic wars,’ (Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon).

How much more fun is that?

(7) STRETCH OUT, ME HEARTIES. The 2017 Fantastic Fiction at KGB Fundraiser hit its initial target. Now the hosts ask —

Can You Help Us Reach Our Stretch Goals? Thanks to the amazing support from the community, we’ve reached $4500, our minimal funding goal. However, we set this intentionally low, because Kickstarter does not pay the fundraising party unless the minimum goal is met. Our true goal is $9,000, which will let us run for six more years. Can you help us reach it?

For those who aren’t familiar with the event —

Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel. It is held on the third Wednesday of every month at the famous KGB Bar in Manhattan. The reading series features luminaries and up-and-comers in speculative fiction. Admission is always free. The series brings together the greater New York community of writers, editors publishers, agents and fans into one location each month. We also publish a monthly podcast audio of the readings so people who cannot attend the physical event can still enjoy the readings. Additionally, we sell the authors’ books at the events (currently through Word Bookstore). Fantastic Fiction is a great place to hear and meet talented new and veteran authors, as well as make valuable connections and meet new friends.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 2010 — Actor Patrick Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Lio for its sci-fi movie reference.

(10) WORKING FOR PEANUTS. Atlas Obscura explains NASA’s Silver Snoopy awards:

Yes, NASA really does give out a prestigious award called the Silver Snoopy. But it isn’t given to astronauts.

Instead, astronauts give them to members of their various research and support staffs, in recognition of their contributions to the safety of the space program. Why Snoopy? Because in the 1960s, there was no one hotter.

In that decade, the popularity of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters were at an all-time high. The first animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, hit the airwaves at the end of 1965. Earlier that same year, the characters were featured on the cover of Time. In the Peanuts gang, and specifically in breakout star Snoopy, NASA saw a way to bring a beloved, smiling face to the space program at a time when it desperately needed one.

(11) GRRM & KSR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has a new installment of its podcast, Into the Impossble, ‘“Episode 8: Fantastica, with George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson”.

Science fiction and fantasy have gone from the sidelines to the mainstream. We bring you a live conversation between two of the field’s living legends, George R.R. Martin (‘“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy), discussing their careers, the history of fantastic literature, and how it shapes our imagination. They came to the Clarke Center in support of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop (clarion.ucsd.edu), the premiere training and proving ground for emerging writers, which the Clarke Center organizes each summer with the Clarion Foundation.

(12) ROWELL’S RUNAWAYS. Rainbow Rowell is one of my daughter’s favorite writers — I’ll have to see if she’s interested in this new Marvel comic, scheduled to be in shops this September.

They were just a normal group of teenagers, linked only by their wealthy parents’ annual business meeting…until a chance discovery revealed the shocking truth: their parents were secretly Super Villains! This discovery led these kids to run away and put them at odds with the people who raised them! Their parents are gone and the team is scattered across the Marvel Universe. This September, get ready to run again with Marvel’s favorite teen Super Heroes, Nico, Chase, Karolina, and Molly for an all-new comic book series, RUNAWAYS by award-winning author, Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) and Kris Anka (All-New X-Men, Star-Lord).

‘“The Runaways are down on their luck at the beginning of this story,€ said series writer Rainbow Rowell. ‘“I mean, a fair number of them are missing or dead… And the ones who are still standing feel lost. After their parents died in the original series, all they had was each other. What do they have now? Who are they on their own? This story brings the gang back together, but — in true RUNAWAYS fashion — probably not the way you’d expect.”

This new series kicks off when one original member does something drastic. ‘“Chase makes a huge mistake — and then immediately drags Nico into his mess,” continued Rowell. ‘“This whole arc explores what it actually means to be a Runaway. Are they a team? Are they a family? Do they have any reason to get back together?”

(13) THE TRALFAMADORIAN CREATOR. The Spring 2017 issue of UCI contains Gregory Benford’s close encounter — “Escorting Vonnegut”.

For decades, starting in the 1970s, I was UCI’s default escort for visitors and speakers a bit out of the ordinary. This usually meant science fiction writers with a large audience, though not always. I was an sf writer too, but with real-world credentials as a professor of physics, which some thought qualified me to mediate between the real and the imaginary.

The most striking writer I hosted, in the early 1990s, was Kurt Vonnegut.

The university leaders asked me to walk him around campus, have dinner with him and host his public talk in our largest center, where he drew well over 1,000 people. With his curly hair askew, deep red pouches under his eyes and rumpled clothes, he looked like a part-time philosophy professor, typically chain-smoking, coughs and wheezes dotting his speech.

To my surprise, he knew who I was. ‘“Sure, I’ve read – “ and he rattled off six of my titles, starting with Timescape and through my Galactic Center series, then incomplete. He was affable, interested in the campus, and wanted to talk about sf. ‘“I live in Manhattan and go to the literary parties, but I don’t read their books. I read just enough reviews to know what to say, then look enigmatic.” …

(14) HOW ALARMING. There’s now an official Welcome To Twin Peaks sign

The City of Snoqualmie has installed a permanent Welcome to Twin Peaks town sign at approximately 41471 SE Reinig Rd in Snoqualmie, WA, which is the backroad where David Lynch planted a similar fictional sign back in February 1989 to shoot Dale Cooper’s entrance into the town. Little did the original sign painter know his work would become an iconic piece of television history, and the inspiration for a permanent tribute 28 years later.

Unless they were in town around the same time as the Twin Peaks Festival, when Richard and Barbara Koefod usually and temporarily put up their own recreation of the sign, Twin Peaks fans visiting Snoqualmie had to imagine it, bring a print-out or their own portable version.

(15) HOLD THE APPERTAINMENT! Umm, I’m not seeing it. Or else that explains the notorious level of copyediting you see here at File 770 every day —

He’s arguing that the dollar sign counts as a word. But now we’re into the question of ‘“what do you say in your own head” when you see the symbol? I apprehend the dollar sign but I don’t mentally enunciate ‘“dollars” when I see it.

[Thanks to Bill, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Gregory Benford, Matthew Kressel, Bence Pintér, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (slightly amended by OGH).]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/17 I Saw A Pixel Filing Through the Streets of Soho With A Chinese Menu In Its Scroll.

(1) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. James Davis Nicoll gives the Young People Read Old SFF panel Vonda McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”.

The second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake. I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young People.

Mind you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before….

(2) GENRE BENDER. Jeff Somers praises Gregory Benford’s new book at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project Gives Science and History a Thrilling Twist”.

The lines between book genres can get a blurry as authors push against boundaries, trying to do something new with a story. Sometimes the result is a novel that incorporates the best parts of several genres, creating a category all its own. Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project is one of those books—equal parts alternate history, spy thriller, history lesson, and physics textbook, it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining sci-fi novels of the year.

(3) EXPANSE. Aaron Pound’s review of Caliban’s War is online at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: Caliban’s War continues the story started in Leviathan Wakes, with James Holden returning along with the rest of the crew of the Rocicante to deal with yet another interplanetary crisis. They are joined by new characters who replace the missing Detective Miller as view point characters – the tough Martian marine Bobbie, the naive Ganymedean botanist Prax, and the calculating and shrewd U.N. official Avasarala, all of whom must navigate the crisis caused by the raw tensions between the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Against the backdrop of this raging internecine human conflict, the mysterious alien protomolecule carries out its enigmatic programming on the surface of Venus, sitting in the back of everyone’s mind like a puzzle they cannot understand and an itch they cannot scratch.

(4) ZENO’S PARADOX. You can’t get to the Moon, because first you have to…. “So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery”, a guest post at According To Hoyt.

Do you want to put people on your rocket?  There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt:  space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call.  Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew.  That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence.   However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches.  You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing.  You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.

(5) NEWS TO ME. Did you know that Terrapin Beer’s Blood Orange IPA is “the official beer of the zombie apocalypse?”

It is an official tie-in beer with The Walking Dead and has a cool blood red label with a turtle on it!

(6) NEWS TO SOMEONE ELSE. Daniel Dern sent me a non-spoiler review of Suicide Squad when I was in the hospital last August. I didn’t notice it again until today. Sorry Daniel!

(“Non-spoiler” as in, assumes you have seen some or all of the three trailers, particularly trailer #2, done to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”…)

I enjoyed it enough. Hey, it’s a comics-based movie.

I’ve skimmed some reviews listing the flaws in S/S. Probably mostly correct, but arguably BFD.

The good: it didn’t thematically overreach or overbrood, unlike (cough) BvS (which I liked enough, but accept that it had big problems). A lot of good lines (you’ll see many/most in the trailers), good action, etc. A little (but not too much) Batman.

The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:

– DEADPOOL has set/upped the ante and standard for humor/violent comic-based live-action movies. Particularly the BluRay version of Deadpool, which is what I saw. And before that, lots of Guardians of the Galaxy bits.

– S/S’ Trailer # 2. I would have been happy/er with a shorter, even 12-minute, video not bothering with plot, just lovely musical jump cuts and snappy lines.

– Is it just me, or did S/S seem to do the “who’s who” twice, and not really bring in the antagonist (“big bad(s)”) for an astonishingly long time?

– This is an A-level plan? I mean, Captain Boomerang? Having seen Ghostbusters a week earlier, I would have considered sending that team in instead, in this case.

On the other hand, at least it wasn’t Manhattan that got trashed this time.

I can see how if you aren’t a superhero comic fan you’d find this less satisfying. Granted, I’m still happy-enough when it simply looks reasonable, doesn’t insult continuity gratuitously, and doesn’t try to go all philoso-metaphysical on us.

Recommended enough, particularly if you can get a bargain ticket price…

(7) TV LIFE AND DEATH. Cat Eldridge says Adweek’s “A Guide to 2017’s Broadcast TV Renewals and Cancellations” “on who stays and who gets the ax is fascinating as regards genre shows.”

The renewal is pretty much everyone save Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Frequency, and possibly iZombie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Arrowverse of course was kept intact.

If you’ve not watched the second season of Legends, do so as its far entertaining than the first season was.

(8) O’HARA OBIT. Quinn O’Hara (1941-2017), a Scottish-born actress who starred in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, died May 5. The Hollywood Reporter elaborated:

In The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), from American International Pictures, O’Hara played Sinistra, the nearsighted daughter of greedy lawyer Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone); both were out to terrorize teens at a pool party held at a creepy mansion. She also sang “Don’t Try to Fight It” and danced around a suit of armor in the horror comedy.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1886 — Coca-Cola went on sale.

(10) THE SAME OLD FINAL FRONTIER. Tom Scott explains “Why Sci-Fi Alien Planets Look The Same: Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone.”

There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.

 

(11) MEMORIAL NIGHT. See Poe performed in a Philadelphia graveyard, May 18-20.

As the sun sets over the cemetery’s historic tombs, The Mechanical Theater will bring some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting tales to life in this original production, directed by Loretta Vasile and featuring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

Two young men hide out in the shadows of Laurel Hill Cemetery while hosting a secret on-line auction. The clock is ticking as they try to sell a priceless, stolen object known only as The Anathema. When the antique expert finally arrives to verify the object’s authenticity, he shares with them some of The Anathema’s dark history as well as rumors of its power. But as the night goes on, one of the thieves starts to suspect these stories are far more than legend. This anthology piece will include Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-frog,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and The Pendulum.”  Written and directed by Loretta Vasile.  Starring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

(12) BIG ANSWERS. Coming June 5 on the UCSD campus: “Sir Roger Penrose: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics”.

Sir Roger Penrose

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents an evening with Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated English mathematician and physicist as well as author of numerous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. The talk is titled “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics.” A book signing will follow.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations, developed with his father Lionel, inspired the works of MC Escher, and the Penrose Steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transit Terminal. Their five fold symmetry, which was initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

(13) DEARTH WARMED OVER. Trailers are supposed to sell people on a movie. But here’s a pre-dissatisfied customer.

On the other hand, a cast list on IMDB includes three Hispanics and a black actor born in England

(14) DIALING FOR NO DOLLARS. Vote on how Jim C. Hines should spend his time. Well, within certain limits, anyway.

(15) SPLASH. Most SF writers didn’t think about the waste heat of monster computers:” Google Moves In And Wants To Pump 1.5 Million Gallons Of Water Per Day”.

“We’ve invested a lot in making sure the groundwater quality that we treat and send to the customers is of high quality. We also want to protect the quantity side of that,” Duffie said.

In addition to building several reverse osmosis plants to treat the water, Duffie said the community has spent about $50 million since the mid-1990s to install pipelines and purchase surface water from the Charleston Water System to supplement the water being pumped from underground.

Google currently has the right to pump up to half a million gallons a day at no charge. Now the company is asking to triple that, to 1.5 million. That’s close to half of the groundwater that Mount Pleasant Waterworks pumps daily from the same underground aquifer to help supply drinking water to more than 80,000 residents of the area.

(16) WHITE NOISE. On the other hand, sff authors are wellaware of the high noise levels from widespread communication: “Facebook – the secret election weapon”.

A quarter of the world’s population now use Facebook, including 32 million people in the UK. Many use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends and are unaware that it has become an important political player.

For example, the videos that appear in people’s news feeds can be promoted by political parties and campaigners.

The far-right group, Britain First, has told Panorama how it paid Facebook to repeatedly promote its videos. It now has more than 1.6 million Facebook followers.

(17) AUDIO KILLED THE MUSIC HALL STAR. Edison probably never realized he was killing off the mid-level performer: “Superstar economics: How the gramophone changed everything”

In Elizabeth Billington’s day, many half-decent singers made a living performing in music halls.

After all, Billington herself could sing in only one hall at a time.

But when you can listen to the best performers in the world at home, why pay to hear a merely competent act in person?

Thomas Edison’s phonograph led the way towards a winner-take-all dynamic in the performing industry.

The top performers went from earning like Mrs Billington to earning like Elton John.

But the only-slightly-less good went from making a comfortable living to struggling to pay their bills: small gaps in quality became vast gaps in income.

(18) BANAL HORROR. In other news: the BBC slags Alien: Covenant but still gives it 3 stars: “Film Review: Is Alien: Covenant as good as the original?”

Given that he is now 79, and so he doesn’t have many directing years left, you have to ask whether it’s really the most stimulating use of [Ridley] Scott’s time and talents to churn out yet another inferior copy of a horror masterpiece that debuted nearly four decades ago. He certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in recapturing the scruffy naturalism, the restraint, or the slow-burning tension which turned the first film into an unforgettable classic.

Much of Alien: Covenant is simply a humdrum retread of Alien. Once again, there is a spaceship with a cryogenically frozen crew – a colony ship this time. Once again the crew members are woken from their hypersleep, once again they pick up a mysterious radio transmission, once again they land on an Earth-like world, and once again they discover some severely rotten eggs.

(19) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Pascal Lee, Director of the Mars Institute, talks to Money magazine about the expense of going to Mars: “Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Travel to Mars”

At this point, what would it cost to send someone to Mars?

Pascal Lee: The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime.

Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years.

(20) TOP TEN FELLOW WRITERS HELPED BY HEINLEIN, AND WHY: Compiled by Paul Di Filippo. None of these facts have been checked by File 770’s crack research staff.

10) A. E. van Vogt, needed money to open a poutine franchise.

9) Barry Malzberg, stuck at Saratoga racetrack with no funds to get home.

8) Gordon Dickson, wanted to invest in a distillery.

7) Keith Laumer, wanted to erect barbed wire fence around home.

6) Damon Knight, wanted to enroll in Famous Artists School.

5) Anne McCaffrey, ran out of Mane ‘n’ Tail horse shampoo during Irish shortage.

4) Joanna Russ, needed advice on best style of men’s skivvies.

3) Isaac Asimov, shared the secret file of John W. Campbell’s hot-button issues.

2) Arthur C. Clarke, tutored him in American big band music.

1) L. Ron Hubbard, helped perform ritual to open Seventh Seal of Revelation.

(21) SJW CREDENTIAL ENTRYIST INVASION. The Portland Press Herald is aghast: “Cats at the Westminster dog show?”

Dogs from petite papillons to muscular Rottweilers showed off their four-footed agility Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, tackling obstacles from hurdles to tunnels. And next door, so did some decidedly rare breeds for the Westminster world:

Cats.

For the first time, felines sidled up to the nation’s premier dog show, as part of an informational companion event showcasing various breeds of both species. It included a cat agility demonstration contest, while more than 300 of the nation’s top agility dogs vied in a more formal competition.

It didn’t exactly mean there were cats in the 140-year-old dog show, but it came close enough to prompt some “what?!” and waggish alarm about a breakdown in the animal social order

(22) POOH ON THE RANGE. Atlas Obscura explains the popularity of “Five Hundred Acre Wood” outside London.

Every year, more than a million people travel to Ashdown Forest to find the North Pole. Ashdown Forest is 40 miles south of , but they’re not crazy. In the forest they’ll find the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and somewhere in the Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place where Christopher Robin discovered the North Pole.

Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, the magical place in which a fictionalized version of A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had adventures with Winnie the Pooh and friends.

In 1925, Milne bought a Cotchford Farm on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and he brought his family there on weekends and for extended stays in the spring and summer. The next year, he published the first collection of stories about a bear that would become one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son, his son’s toys, and the family’s explorations of the woods by their home.

The book’s illustrator, E. H. Shepard, was brought to Ashdown Forest to capture its essence and geography, and a plaque at Gill’s Lap (which became Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories) commemorates his collaboration with Milne and its importance to the forest. A pamphlet of “Pooh Walks” is available to visitors who want to visit places like Gill’s Lap, or Wrens Warren Valley (Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place), the lone pine (where the Heffalump Trap was set), a disused quarry (Roo’s Sandy Pit), or, yes, the North Pole.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/17 Heigh-Ho, The Derry-O, A Pixel We Will Scroll

(1) CLARA COMING BACK? In a spoiler-filled post, “This ‘Doctor Who’ Companion Could Be About to Return for the Christmas Special “, Lewis Jeffries speculates about the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

On Twitter, it has been stated that Eddie’s Diner has been booked by BBC Doctor Who for two days of filming. Hardcore fans know that Eddie’s Diner is in fact Clara and Ashildr’s (Maisie Williams) TARDIS in disguise. So this can only mean one thing, the return of Clara Oswald and Ashildr.

(2) HELP WANTED. James Ciment, PhD, Acquisitions Editor for Popular Culture at ABC-CLIO, has an opening:

ABC-Clio, a reference and academic publisher based in Santa Barbara, California, is looking for an editor (or co-editors) for a reference book on aliens in popular American culture—popular literature, film, television, graphic fiction, and other genres and media. Book length and specific content will be determined by the editor in consultation with the publisher. The deadline for submission of the manuscript is flexible, within a range of 18 to 30 months. The book is intended for the college, public and academic high school library markets. Requirements for the editor are flexible as well but editor must have significant publishing history in the field of literary/film criticism, popular culture studies and/or related fields. Academic affiliation is recommended but not required. Reference editing experience helpful. Editor duties include developing a TOC, soliciting contributing writers, and editor manuscript for content. Publisher will provide administrative support and will be responsible for copy-editing and indexing.

Interested persons should send their CV to acquisitions editor James Ciment at: james.ciment@ca.rr.com

(3) LET THE APPERTAINMENT BEGIN. Steve Davidson knows that as often as I need to invite people to appertain themselves their favorite beverage (after spotting one of my typos), I probably need to order in bulk. And if I’m doing that, the bottles should have a house label – which he has supplied.

(4) DERRINGER AWARDS. The 2017 Derringer Awards winners, for short mystery fiction, have been announced. Unfortunately, Bruce D. Arthurs’ Derringer-nominated short story, “Beks and the Second Note,” did not get the nod. Here are the stories and authors that did:

2017 Derringer Award Results

BEST FLASH STORY (1 – 1,000 words)

  • Herschel Cozine for “The Phone Call” (Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer 2016)

Best Short Story (1,001 – 4,000 words)

  • Linda Barnes for “The Way They Do It in Boston” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016)

Best Long Story (4,001- 8,000 words)

  • Victoria Weisfeld for “Breadcrumbs” (Betty Fedora: Kickass Women In Crime Fiction, Issue 3, September 2016)

Best Novelette (8,000 to 20,000 words)

  • Terrie Farley Moran for “Inquiry and Assistance” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, January/February 2016)

Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer

  • Robert Randisi

(5) POD DRAMA. Tor Labs is a newly launched dramatic podcast imprint. Here’s an excerpt from Patty Garcia’s press release.

Tor Books, a leading global publisher of science fiction and fantasy, announced today that it is launching TOR LABS, a new imprint emphasizing experimental approaches to genre publishing, beginning with original dramatic podcasts.

Helmed by Senior Editor Marco Palmieri and Editor Jennifer Gunnels, Tor Labs will debut this summer with Steal the Stars, a science fiction audio drama which will be produced in partnership with Gideon Media and written by Mac Rogers, the award-winning writer of the global hit podcast thrillers, The Message and LifeAfter.

(6) TRAVEL FUNDING SOUGHT. Three Brazilian fans; Andressa Dreka, Mayara Teixeira Dos Santos, and Luis Alessio are crowdfunding to come to the UK for Lazlar Lyricon 3, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy funcon being run in Stoke on Trent in June.

The trio help run Obrigado Pelos Peixes (“Thanks for All the Fish”) an organization in Brazil that ran its own convention, Don’t PaniCon, last year, and plan another for 2017.

James Bacon notes:

A few special items were auctioned at the recent UK Eastercon to help raise money for the project. These included an official Hitchhiker’s quote towel from the 1980s and a pair of beer glasses with Hitchhiker inspired designs from the 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival. This raised GBP212 for the fund.

The crowdfunding is being carried out on a Catarse site, via https://www.catarse.me/OPPnoLazlarLyricon3.

As File 770 reported over the winter, Lazlar Lyricon 3 will take place June 9-11. Committee members include Stefan Lancaster, Emma J. King, David Haddock and Alan Sullivan.

The first two Lazlar Lyricons were part of a series of conventions in the 1980s, 90s and early 00s colloquially called ‘Fun Cons’, which also included the Incons, Dangercons, and several one-off conventions such as Year of the Wombat and Aliens Stole my Handbag.

(7) READING ALOUD. Cat Rambo says, “A lot of us have listened to SFWA’s Executive Director Kate Baker narrating podcasts over the years, but here’s someone narrating one of Kate’s pieces” — “Old Teacups and Kitchen Witches by Kate Baker” on Cast of Wonders.

This time the narrator is –

Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her short stories and poems appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, Swift for the Sun, will be available Spring 2017. Follow her online and on Twitter.

(8) EPISODE ONE. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Meghan Ball and Kelly Anderson recap “American Gods Episode One: ‘The Bone Orchard'”.

Our reactions

Kelly: Welp. This show knows how to make an entrance! Pilots are all about being memorable, and I think I can say from the get-go this one certainly succeeded on that level. They went for a combo of stark, Tarantino-esque visuals, husky-voiced, gritty storytelling, and a grimy ‘70s vibe, and it all blends together to create the perfect mood for this story. It’s surrealist noir, if such a genre exists—everything is slightly off-kilter, and even the scenery makes you look twice (that alligator bar! I gotta get me one of those!). It’s as if somebody went back in time and gave Magritte computer graphics and possibly some acid, and I love it.

Meghan: That was an astonishing trippy-as-hell hour of television. I never thought I’d see the day someone actually followed through with bringing this book to life, and certainly not in a way so savagely, monstrously beautiful. I especially loved the use of music. Whoever chose it deserves a raise. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” playing while Shadow stares mournfully at Laura’s grave? Absolute perfection. They also used “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups in the bar scene, which is also mentioned in the novel. That was especially cool. Everything about the premiere felt lush and organic, and utterly real as it was surreal. I’m a fan of Tarantino movies, and even I was gasping in shock during the opening Viking scenes, which completely set the tone.

(9) THE LONG HAUL. At Vox, there’s an overview by someone who’s seen the first four episodes.

If you’re like me and haven’t read Gaiman’s iconic source material, the TV series doesn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to catch you up. There will inevitably come a point when — as blood rains from the sky and some god or another intones an ominous missive about death — you’ll squint and realize you have no idea what’s happening.

But that’s okay by American Gods. Having seen four episodes, I think it’s safe to say that the mysteries being explored by the show’s first season are intricate, and that Fuller and Green are in no rush to give away their secrets. This will be frustrating for people watching from week to week, but American Gods is making the bet that you’ll be intrigued enough by what it teases to stick with it — and on that front, it’s probably right.

(10) INDEPENDENTS’ DAY. The Seattle Review of Books covers #independentbookstoreday celebration: “Our Independent Bookstore Day, in photos”.

(11) GLOWING GOO YOU CAN CHEW. Where to find it? Cat Rambo has a clue.

My most recent newsletter is up and includes class news and a link to a recipe for edible glow in the dark gel: “News and More Stuff from Chez Rambo”

(12) SAX AND VIOLENCE. Echo Ishii watches old TV: “SF Obscure: Night Man “.

What do you get when you cross light jazz, Taylor Dayne, and questionable costume choices? And then you throw in special guest appearances by Jerry Springer and Donald Trump? Why you get Night Man, a show that surprisingly stayed on air for two seasons.

Night Man(1997-1999) is the story of Johnny Domino, a professional saxophonist, who is struck by lightning and earns a telepathic ability to see evil. It’s loosely based on an original comic. He also teams up with some scientists on the run who provide him with a special suit that allows him to deflect bullets and fly. It actually took a few episodes to figure out exactly what the suit does vs. Johnny Domino’s own ability- and I have the sneaking suspicion it was not entirely developed well by the writers.

(13) BAD MIKE.

So the rest of you better hurry and get that reading done or I’ll take a bite out of you, too.

(Or – and this was the point — you could wait to fling poo at the Hugo shortlist ‘til you’ve read it, something that never occurred to C. and Matt.)

(14) PURITY OF ESSENCE. Can penguins be forced to bark? Jay Maynard wants to “Make Penguincon Great Again” —  by kicking out everything he doesn’t like.

Still, I’d promised this year’s con chair that she’d get a fair chance to address my concerns, so I came back one more time. Guess what? More hard-left GoHs — the odious Coraline Ada Ehmke, she of the Contributor Covenant that prohibits project members from being politically incorrect any time, anywhere, in any venue, on pain of expulsion (who had to cancel due to an emergency); Sumana Harihareswara, who I found out the hard way was a hard-core feminist as well; and Cory Doctorow, well-known left-wing author — more politically correct panels, 15 of them on such topics as “Queering Your Fiction” and “Let’s Get the Taste of 2016 Out of Our Mouths” and “Exploring Themes in Zen Cho’s Work” (with “Intersectionality, diaspora and immigration, the culture of British education, and queer relationships also appear in Cho’s stories over and over” in the description). When I was asked to submit lists of panel topics, I was instructed not to be controversial, but it seems the Left has no such admonition.

This was further borne out by the very first thing that happened at Opening Ceremonies: right after the con chair took the mic, she introduced one member of the convention committee, who proceeded to name 8 or 9 American Indian tribes that had lived in Southeast Michigan in the past and said that “we are their guests here”. That bit of virtue signaling came straight out of the political correctness playbook.

The con’s expanded harassment policy is also of the same stripe; it basically allows anyone to complain that they are being harassed on the flimsiest of excuses, and the con can then eject the subject of the complaint summarily with no recourse and no refund. This is the kind of policy that has routinely been used against those who are merely politically incorrect at other cons, most notably the Worldcon in Kansas City.

There were exactly two panels on topics that the Left would not approve of, both relating to firearms. In fairness, I will also point out that the con did, for the first time, officially sponsor and pay for the Geeks with Guns event. Still, the overall feel is that of overpowering political correctness.

All of this adds up to one inescapable conclusion, for me: those who oppose the politically correct orthodoxy are not Penguicon’s kind of people. Oh, sure, they’ll happily take our money, but we’re not “one of them”.

I go to cons to escape the culture wars, not to get hit over the head with how much of a nasty, eeeeevil person I am for being a white male. We are all, first and foremost, SF fans and computer geeks. People should leave their politics at the door and celebrate SF and open source computing for their own sakes. For the first decade, at least, Penguicon did. It doesn’t any more.

Jer Lance disagrees with the diagnosis: “On the Need to Make Great Things Great Again”

Among my plans for the day, today, was to put together a quick writeup congratulating the staff of Penguincon for throwing an undeniably successful convention—the 15th in a series! Instead, I’d like to take a moment to respond to a long-time attendee’s paen to modern divisive politics; a blog post with the snappy title “Make Penguincon Great Again.” In his post, Jay “Tron Guy” Maynard makes the assertion that Penguincon has fallen to the “leftists” and resulting event is no longer one that is comfortable for people like him.

…Instead, I would like to focus on Jay’s proposed solution. Tron Guy—an attendee since the very first event—would “return the con explicitly to being nonpolitical.” Maynard yearns for the days when we focused on apolitical topics like Geeks with Guns – Societal & Political (year 1), Hidden Totalitarian Assumptions in ‘I, Robot’ (year 3), Don’t Be Evil: The Google Books Settlement (year 9), Technology as Legislation (year 5), and of course the keynote address from the very first Penguincon by Eric S. Raymond (on whose blog this Make Penguincon Great Again concept was born) which discussed “open source, the hacker culture, and the second amendment.” As Archie Bunker sang, those were the days!

In case my point was too subtle, Penguicon has never been any more apolitical than science fiction itself, despite claims to the contrary.

….I came to my first Penguincon in 2006 during its 4th year. I came for the tech conference side of the house and actively disdained the “comicon, nerd shit.” Over the ensuing 11 years, I have attributed a tremendous amount of my personal growth to my having been repeatedly and relentlessly exposed to things outside of my comfort zone through the convention. My hardline libertarian stance has softened to that of a moderate conservative through immersion in concepts that were foreign to me until such time as it was easier to understand them than repel them.

In that understanding, I’ve earned empathy….

(15) IT’S A THEORY. K.B. Wagers argues the change is happening: “The Rise of the Unlikable Woman”

There have always been unlikable characters in fiction, though the idea of the anti-hero?—?brooding, self-centered, wholly unredeemable?—?has long been considered a man’s territory. From crotchety but lovable Han Solo to the downright dangerous Riddick, no one complains that these characters aren’t people you’d trust to watch your house, let alone have a cup of tea with.

Women in fiction, by contrast, can only be unlikable if they are redeemable in some fashion or another?—?or if they’re ultimately punished. Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is struggling for redemption (and turned into a nursemaid for the Big Guy as a result). Were she still unrepentant about the death she’s dealt?—?as Loki is?—?she would find less compassion from the audience. Emma Bovary, in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, receives her punishment (in the form of her death) at the end of the novel as a result of her sexual desires.

But now, women characters are rising up from the ashes of these expectations….

(16) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. On Planetary Post, March for Science participants joined host Robert Picardo in support of space science and exploration in Washington, D.C.

(17) CLARKE CENTER. Episode 7 of Into the Impossible, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s podcast, takes you to ”New Spaces”.

We’re looking at new spaces in space, speaking with Drs. Yvonne Cagle (astronaut and physician) and Adam Burgasser (astrophysicist). We talk about why we send humans into space, the discovery of potentially habitable worlds at TRAPPIST-1 and how we imagine them, the role of interstellar art, the evolution of human physiology in zero-g, why the scariest thing about being an astronaut might be finding yourself on stage at the Oscars with Dr. Katherine Johnson, subject of the film Hidden Figures, and how important it is that we remain vigilant in our embrace of diversity across disciplines.

(18) BAT EXCLUSIVITY. ScreenRant claims there are “15 Things Batman Can Do (That No One Else Can)”.

Given his intensive combat training and genius-level sleuthing skills, the Dark Knight Detective is one of the most formidable heroes in the DCU (or the world of comics in general), giving him a skill-set that dwarfs many of his superpowered peers.

  1. He Has Contingency Plans to Take Down Enemies…and His Friends

As we stated earlier, Batman prepares for everything. And we mean everything. In addition to strategizing on how to take down all of his arch-enemies and other deadly threats, he does what some might see as a betrayal–he creates contingency plans against every one of his fellow Justice League team members (in Grant Morrison’s 2000 Justice League: Tower of Babel storyline).

Using his genius intellect, he develops brutally efficient ways to neutralize his teammates’ powers: he binds Green Lantern with his own power ring, makes Aquaman terrified of water, uses fire against Martian Manhunter, liquid nitrogen to subdue Plastic Man, virtual reality against Wonder Woman, and he even creates a weapon to give The Flash seizures.

His strategizing backfires, however, when Ra’s al Ghul steals his plans and takes down his allies. Needless to say, his fellow Justice League members were none too pleased with this, and they  subsequently had his membership revoked. It’s not easy for Batman to have friends.

(19) BATMAN & BILL. Hulu is releasing Batman & Bill on May 6, which is a documentary about Bill Finger’s contributions to the Batman mythos. FirstShowing.net explains the “Official Trailer for Hulu Doc ‘Batman & Bill’ About a Batman Creator”

“The most mysterious man in Gotham City wasn’t in a mask and cape.” Hulu has released an official trailer for a documentary titled Batman & Bill, which will premiere exclusively on Hulu starting early May. The documentary “unmasks” one of the greatest secrets in the comic industry – that Batman wasn’t created by Bob Kane alone, it was primarily Bill Finger who created the iconic superhero. This seems like a fascinating doc with plenty to offer for comic book fans, including inside stories and excellent art from the early days of Batman. It’s cool to see a doc like this that actually looks worth watching on Hulu.

 

(20) BATMAN & BOB. Offered on eBay and now marked down from $1,500 to $1,050, a signed first edition of Bob Kane’s autobiography Batman & Me with original signed ink Batman drawing by Kane.

Batman & Me. Forestville: Eclipse Books, 1989. First Edition. Copy number 144 of 1000 numbered copies signed by Bob Kane with an original ink drawing of Batman by Kane. The autobiography of the artist who created the immortal comic book character Batman in 1939. Extensively illustrated. Fine in slipcase.

(21) THE FIRST HALF OF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a 1968 Worldcon comics panel with Marv Wolfman and Harry Harrison. I guess a few things  have happened since then:

Baycon, the 26th WorldCon, was held in Oakland, California in 1968. This very entertaining panel features a discussion about contemporary comics by the then relative newcomer, Marvin Wolfman, and a plethora of engaging stories by Harry Harrision. Harry talks about Bill Gaines (EC Comics) and working with Wally Wood. The stories are funny, the context and history of the field are priceless. Moderated by Paul Moslander, this excellent recording is courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, James Bacon, and Bruce D. Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/2017 Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Pixel To The Stars

(1) SCENERY WILL BE CHEWED. Nerd & Tie says we can look forward to multiple Masters in Season 10 of Doctor Who: “John Simm Will Reprise His Role as The Master in ‘Doctor Who’ Series 10”.

In a turn of events I’m sure most of us didn’t expect, John Simm will be stepping back into the role of The Master this upcoming series of Doctor Who. Simm last played the character in 2010, during David Tennant’s final story as The Doctor.

Michelle Gomez took over the part a couple of series ago, and will also appear this series….

(2) CLARKE CENTER CLARION BENEFIT. On May 2, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will present an evening on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy with George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) in conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy). Shelley Streeby, faculty director of the Clarion Workshop, will moderate.

All proceeds will support the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, “the oldest and most highly regarded training ground for new science fiction and fantasy authors.”

Note – Martin will not be doing a signing.

(3) UNITED. In “A Personal Note”, Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories wishes his wife, Karen, a happy birthday, and talks about her medical struggles over the past year.

I can not express the degree of my admiration for this woman who has suffered more than most but who continues to fight, each and every day.  She (and I) get frustrated with the pace, we have our down days (the weather around here certainly doesn’t help)…but we still manage to have our laughs;  we still discuss world affairs, are involved with family matters….

(4) MISSED THIS ONE. This was an insurance company’s April Fool –

(5) AND THIS ONE. Fly SJW-Credential Airlines! Cheapflights posted this on April 1.

Book a flight and have a furry friend waiting for you when you board.

As part of our goal to make flight search super simple and provide travelers with the most options, Cheapflights is launching our new Catflights filters. With the rising popularity of cat cafes, cat bars and cat-friendly flights around the world, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a little kitten companionship while traveling.

And the benefits are pretty purrsuasive….

 

(6) WORSE THAN ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS. Where better to watch Them! than a place practically on top of where the giant ants entered the Los Angeles River? It will happen, at one of several special showings at Union Station.

Next up in the series, on May 12, is the 1954 Them! The campy flick about enormous man-eating ants is considered the first big hit in the “nuclear monster” sub-genre of Cold War-era science fiction. Several scenes were filmed at Union Station and others were shot along the banks of the L.A. River.

Sci-Fi at Union Station wraps up on June 9 with the most contemporary film in the slate, Her, from 2013. The film was selected for the series in part because of the vision it includes of what riding the Metro in L.A. might be like in the near future. Subway to the beach? Well, we’re pretty much there. Operating systems that we fall in love with might still be a little further off, though not if Elon Musk has anything to say about it.

Sci-Fi at Union Station takes place at 8:30pm on April 5, May 12 and June 9. Entry is free with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. Films are shown indoors in the main ticketing hall.

(7) SF AT ANOTHER ICONIC THEATER. ‘Superman: The Movie’ is being shown at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, April 16th at 7:30pm as part of a double bill with 1951 ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

(8) ZIEGLER OBIT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Jack Ziegler, the great New Yorker cartoonist who passed away on March 29 at the age of 74 – “How Jack Ziegler became ‘the godfather’ of the New Yorker’s modern wave of cartoonists”.

It was February 1974, and young Jack Ziegler had just sold his first drawing to the New Yorker. Yet in the months that followed, even as his cartoons continued to sell, he was having trouble actually getting published. The roadblock, it turned out, was a lone layout man who, having been at the magazine a half-century, saw himself as the bulwark against the institution’s would-be ruin.

“He didn’t like my work, apparently,” Ziegler once said of this one-man bottleneck — a makeup editor named Carmine Peppe who aimed to exercise control over which cartoons to hold. But what Peppe didn’t realize was that Ziegler represented a new wave of New Yorker cartoonists, and that this tide would not be denied.

“It turned out that Carmine thought that if they printed my stuff, it would be the end of the magazine and that it would just destroy The New Yorker as we know it. Which it did, apparently,” Ziegler said with a laugh in Richard Gehr’s 2014 book of profiles, “I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 8, 1961 — Stan Laurel received his honorary Oscar.

John King Tarpinian adds, “My all-time favorite short story of Ray Bradbury’s is ‘The Laurel & Hardy Love Affair’ which can be found in the anthology The Toynbee Convector.”

  • April 8, 1990  — Twin Peaks premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 8, 1980 – Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Sci Fi Channel’s television program Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009).

(11) GAME AMPLIFIES A POSITIVE TREND. Pokemon Go may be reducing Japanese suicides, at least in one location.

Most people who choose to take their own lives do so in a private place, often their own home, she says. Since the game came out there have been many media reports of crowds of gamers at Tojinbo, suggesting it may no longer hold the same appeal for those seeking isolation.

With media attention a major factor in drawing people to suicide hotspots, it is not impossible that different coverage of the area is also helping change its reputation.

Tell’s director also says the Tojinbo story comes at the same time as a very welcome decline in suicide across Japan, from about 33,000 a year at its peak a decade ago to about 21,000 now.

(12) ADDITIONS TO MOUNT TBR. Hot off the virtual press – Strange Horizons April 2017 issue.

(13) PATHFINDER. Lela E. Buis reviews Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee “Alien Stripper Bones From Behind By The T-Rex”. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much to say about porn.

(14) AUTHOR WRITES BOOK ON SMARTPHONE. A man from the Borders area of Scotland has written a 100,000-word novel over three years on his 90-minute daily train commute. Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows by Ninian Carter is a “genre-blurring” young adult SF novel.

(15) REALLY. Wasn’t that long ago people complained if anything looked like normalizing the current state of affairs.

(16) CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. Working to clean up space trash: the BBC reports on “The race to destroy space garbage”.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “I can remember only one story, by the lesser-known British writer Hugh Walters, that mentioned cleaning up space — and he talked about a tug that would bring down entire satellites in one piece. Nobody thought we’d pollute space, even when writers were starting to talk about pollution on Earth.”

(17) KEEPING WRITERS OFF THE STREETS. Atlas Obscura has heard “The Mall of America Is Looking for a Writer-in-Residence”.

The job: Spend five days “deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere” and write “on-the-fly impressions” of the place. The position is open to all sorts of writers (journalists, poets, musical comedy writers, etc.) of various levels of experience. The initial application involves writing a short pitch about “how you would approach this assignment.”

The compensation: The Mall will put the writer up in the on-site hotel, give them $400 for food and drink, and a “generous honorarium…

Apply here.

(18) LOST ITS CARBONATION. At The Verge, Kwame Opam says “Legion’s first season fizzled into a conventional superhero story”.

Right until the end, it’s a tight, quirky, well-acted, visually arresting series that’s unlike just about anything on television, including its superhero show kin.

So why am I left wanting?

By the end of its run, Legion reminded me a great deal of the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Even though Legion never becomes the water-cooler show Detective became, Hawley’s series is similarly ambitious, sprawling, atmospheric, and frustrating. It rewarded weekly viewing by changing the stakes, raising new questions, and dangling the possibility of a mind-bending mystery. But in its final act, that hoped-for mystery gets cast aside in favor of a smaller, more straightforward conclusion. In the end, Legion is auteur television at its strongest and weakest. It’s a well-told, even innovative story, but in spite of the gorgeous window dressing, it’s still deeply conventional.

[Thanks to rcade, Chip Hitchcock, 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 John King Tarpinian.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/17 The Ones That Mike Rates As A 5 Get Used Twice

(1) APRIL FOOL. First in our cavalcade of April Fools stunts is George R.R. Martin’s announcement “WILD CARDS Comes to Broadway!!”

Perhaps most critically, Lin-Manuel and I are still looking for our Jetboy… or should be it be Jetgirl? No, we haven’t made that change yet, but it is under serious consideration… along with the notion of replacing the JB-1 with a jetpack… but why don’t we let you folks decide? Let us know: which Jet-person would you prefer to see on stage?

(2) APRIL NON-FOOL. Did Mary Robinette Kowal plan to confess she is Chuck Tingle today? She says she ran out of time to execute her planned joke, despite having cleared it with Tingle —

I even wrote to him to ask if it were okay for me to pretend to be him. (Because otherwise, I would be taking credit for someone else’s work, which is something only devilmen would do.) He said, “hello TRUE BUCKAROO name of mary, you make books real you make books kiss the sky! this is a good way for all who like to read and i am happy that you write with love. this funny prank (HAHAHAHAHA) is a WAY of love and that is okay”

So there you go. Groundwork laid. Time non-existent. I guess you could say that my plans were pounded in the butt by my own scheduling conflicts.

(3) APRIL PRIMARY FOOL. The Daily Buzz ran a story today about George Takei’s plan to establish residency and run against a pro-Trump congressman.

(4) WHATEVER THE OPPOSITE OF COMIC RELIEF IS. Lou Antonelli is yukking it up today, too, in “Strange Bedfellows”.

I am proud to announce that, as a result of a long period of reconciliation as well as a practical need on the part of a distinguished author, I am collaborating with David Gerrold on a Star Trek tie-in original novel, “The Tribbles of Texas”…

(5) A VOX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES. Meantime, the editor of Cirsova marked the day by declaring “I Disavow Everyone”.

Alt-Furry, the Pulp Revolution, Vox Day, the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, our readers and subscribers, all them. I disavow everyone.

2018 will feature both a special Elves issue and an Engineers Troubleshooting Spaceship Circuitry issue, so get writing!

Details forthcoming in a File770 exclusive.

(6) ROBOSCREED. Harking back to Camestros Felapton’s cover generator (linked by Whatever as its April Fools celebration), and someone’s suggestion there needs to be a complementary text generator, Steve Wright said in comments he suddenly remembered one already exists

Actually, now I think on, there’s always this thing of Langford’s which actually will write something approximating SF (or whatever else you plug into it)…

Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop, albeit with many, many security popups.

A sample of its output is included in his comment. He closed by saying —

Camestros? Have Timothy’s people call Langford’s people. I’m thinking at least six Dragon Awards for this one….

(7) THE PROCRAPSING EMPIRE. Meanwhile, E. Reagan Wright, another Scalzi detractor, has been trying to jump onto the gravy train with his 6,400-word lump The Prolapsing Empire: An On-Schedule Story. It’s on Amazon, but oops, I forgot to include a link.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 1, 1883 – Lon Chaney, Sr., “Man of a Thousand Faces”
  • Born April 1, 1978 — Fred & George Weasley, characters in the Harry Potter series.

(9) SHOULD BE AN APRIL FOOL BUT ISN’T. A publisher with far more inflated ideas about the value of its editions is Routledge, which is offering J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee for $1,485, which works out to be about a buck a page.

J.R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His popularity began with the publication in 1937 of The Hobbit, and was cemented by the appearance of The Lord of the Rings in the early 1950s. However, engagement with his work was until relatively recently sidelined by literary and other scholars. Consequently, many foundational analyses of his fiction, and his work as a medievalist, are dispersed in hard-to-find monographs and obscure journals (often produced by dedicated amateurs). In contrast, over the last decade or so, academic interest in Tolkien has risen dramatically. Indeed, interpretative and critical commentary is now being generated on a bewildering scale, in part aided by the continuing posthumous publication of his work (most recently, his Beowulf translation which appeared in 2014). The dizzying quantity—and variable quality—of this later criticism makes it difficult to discriminate the useful from the tendentious, superficial, and otiose.

(10) FOOD FOR THOUGHT. John King Tarpinian asks, “Can you even imagine how long the CarFax report is on the Batmobile?”

(11) COSMOLOGY AND THEOLOGY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in Episode 5 of its Into the Impossible podcast looks at “The Limits of Understanding.”

On this episode, we’re touching up against the outer limits of cosmology, and through that bringing up questions of limits on the imagination, the role of theology, and the end (and ends) of the universe. First, we’ll hear Paul Steinhardt on developing the inflationary model of the universe—and then casting that model aside in favor of the radically different cyclic model that replaces the Big Bang with a neverending series of Big Bounces. Then David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, shares his perspective on understanding religion, enabling discussion, and how nice it would be if we were all reborn in computronium as the universe collapses in on itself.

(12) A NEW COMPANION. Now the Good Doctor has a companion, Who, you ask? Aaron Pound tells all about it in his review of An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald E. Palumbo at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Full review: An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries is, for the most part, a reference work. The bulk of its length is taken up with what amounts to an encyclopedia covering essentially every notable character, location, object, and event found in Isaac Asimov’s extended metaseries (and pretty much every non-notable character, location,, object, and event as well). Every entry gives a brief description of the subject, offering at least a sentence or two outlining who or what the entry is, and an explanation of how the subject fits into the larger body of Asimov’s work. These entries are informative, but like Asimov’s actual writing, have a tendency to be a little dry.

(13) BRING IN THE PANEL. Stephen King treated Guardian readers to a an interview of six fictional Trump voters to help understand how he became President: “Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’”.

…Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

I decided to convene six Trump voters to discover how and why all this happened. Because I selected them from the scores of make-believe people always bouncing around in my head (sometimes their chatter is enough to drive me bugshit), I felt perfectly OK feeding them powerful truth serum before officially convening the round table. And because they are fictional – my creatures – they all agreed to this. They gulped the serum down in Snapple iced tea, and half an hour later we began.

(14) BATGIRL ORIGINS. Graeme McMillan, in a Hollywood Reporter article called “Where Should Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ Find Inspiration?”, looks at all the version of Batgirl that DC has used, beginning with the original appearance of Barbara Gordon in Detective Comics 359 (which the comics did after the TV show announced plans to add Batgirl) to her role as a hacker in the 1980s to today’s version as “Batgirl From Burnside,” as a graduate student living in Gotham City;s hipster suburb.

Barbara Gordon took on the role in 1967’s Detective Comics No. 359, in a story called “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” The cover for the issue made a big deal of her debut; she ran toward the reader in the center of the page while excited cover lines read “Meet the new Batgirl! Is she heroine or villainess? What is her startling secret identity?” The reason for this push wasn’t just an attempt to introduce a comic book character — plans were already afoot to introduce this second Batgirl into the popular Adam West TV show in its third season. She was played by Yvonne Craig.

The new Batgirl was a hit, graduating into her own stories in the back of Detective Comics as well as appearances across the DC line, including Superman, Justice League of America and World’s Finest Comics. She’d form temporary teams with both Robin — “the Dynamite Duo!” — and Supergirl and enjoy a loyal fan following throughout her crime-fighting career until it was cut short in the mid-80s by the combination of the Joker and writer Alan Moore.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, rcade, Johan P., Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

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

(10) TODAY’S COINCIDENCE

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

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

  1. SHE’S MARRIED

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

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

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

Romans francophones (French Novels)

Manhattan Marilyn, Philippe Laguerre (Éditions Critic)

Romans traduits (Translated Novels)

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

Nouvelles (Short Stories)

Il sera une fois, Southeast Jones (Éditions Séma)

Coup de coeur (Favorites)

L’exégèse de Philip K. Dick (J’ai Lu)

Rae Armantrout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/3/17 The Pixel That Rowed The Scroll Ashore

(1) ASIMOV ON THE AIR. BBC Radio 4, as part of their 15 Minute Drama series, will be adapting five of the stories from Asimov’s I, Robot. Original broadcasts will run from February 6-10. As usual, episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

A couple of clips promoting the series are already online –

Scriptwriter Richard Kurti tells us why Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories were so remarkable in their ability to predict the future.

Actor Nick Briggs introduces his characters and tells us what he finds appealing about Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories. He also explains why he doesn’t think we should fear a future dominated by robots.

Episode One will be ROBBIE.

The rise of robotics in the 21st century, told through the poignant and mysterious story of enigmatic lawyer, Stevie Byerley. Starring Hermione Norris.

Episode One : ROBBIE As a child, Stevie Byerley is raised by Robbie, a robotic childminder, because her parents are too busy working. The powerful bond she forms with the robot is unbreakable. Their relationship will change the course of Stevie’s life.

Originally written over 60 years ago, Isaac Asimov’s stories are becoming truer with every day that passes. The world that he imagined is now upon us.

(2) BURNT ENDS AND ZOMBIES. In Episode 28 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic he feasts on BBQ with Craig Engler, Co-Creator/Writer/Co-Executive Producer of the hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

Join us as we discuss what life’s like when you’re a professional game player for Nintendo, how running the Syfy Channel’s digital side led to him getting a shot at writing TV movies such as Zombie Apocalypse, why he wrote Weight Hacking, his geek guide to losing weight and getting fit, plus much more, including behind-the-scenes secrets on the past, present, and future of his hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

 

Craig Engler

(3) SHE STABS IT WITH HER STEELY KNIFE. Violette Malan ranks “My Top Five Sword-Fight Movies” at Black Gate.

You don’t have to read many of my posts to know that The Princess Bride is pretty well my favourite movie. And though I love the sword fighting scene between Wesley and Iñigo, and the later one between Iñigo and Count Rugen, they are not actually my favourite sword fighting scenes. In both cases, it’s really the dialogue that makes the scenes memorable. So what movies would I rank above The Princess Bride in sword fighting wonderfulness?

Here they are, in the order in which I thought of them.

The Three Musketeers (1973, directed by Richard Lester)

One of the great things about this movie, along with its sequels The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers, is that they all feature the same cast. There are good fight scenes in all the films (Oliver Reed is more impressive in the sequels), but it’s the first one I know the best. I particularly like the fantastic opening sequence, where D’Artagnan’s father teaches him the “secret thrust.” Anything between D’Artagnan (Michael York) and Rochefort (Christopher Lee) is well worth watching. There’s also some terrific ensemble fighting, notably the scene between the four leads and the Cardinals’ Guard in the convent courtyard. It should be noted that Christopher Lee was a fencer IRL as well…

(4) KA-CHING! Mary Rosenblum analyzes “What REALLY Sold in 2016?” at the SFWA Blog.

In 2016, 43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online.  Now, THAT is a reason to break out the champagne!  Why?  Because most readers pay little to no attention to the publisher.  As long as the small press or self published book looks professional and has a professional looking cover,  it’s competitive with books from the ‘bookstore’ publishers.  If your ebook or print book includes those 5 critical elements for success and looks like the other professionally published books out there, readers don’t care who published it.  They’ll look at price.

Aha!  That might just be the reason that self publishing authors sell almost as many ebooks as the traditional publishers. They can usually price their books lower.

But what about print books?

2016 Self Published Print Book Sales

In 2016, 21,800,000 self published print books were sold, mostly published through Create Space.  The average price was $10.34.  Amazon imprints sold another 959,000 copies.

That’s a lot of print book money!

(5) NEW EDITION FROM PENGUIN. Here’s the version of George Orwell’s book for the alternate timeline you’re living in.

(6) COMPLIMENTING SMUGGLERS. Nigel Quinlan writes, “I would like to selfishly draw your attention to the new issue of The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac. It contains a fun Mid-Grade fantasy short story by me, ‘The Gobbleens,’ which is featured on the utterly gorgeous cover.”

I’m happy to give it a mention, in part for the beautiful cover, and in part because I owe them thanks for sending a copy of the first one, which had a great story by Tansy Roberts.

Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC is essential for any SFF fan.

IN THIS VOLUME (JANUARY 2017): BECKY CHAMBERS, SHERRI L. SMITH, A.E. ASH, KATHERINE MACLEAN, NIGEL QUINLAN, ZETTA ELLIOTT, ALLIAH/VIC, KATE C. HALL, NICOLE BRINKLEY, ANA GRILO AND THEA JAMES

(7) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Maura McHugh reviews the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred on Irish national radio, now up as a podcast on this page — “Arena with Sean Rocks, Monday, January 30”

Maura McHugh reviews the sci-fi graphic novel “Kindred” by Octavia E Butler which has been adapted by writer Damien Duffy and artist John Jennings (published by Abrams ComicArts)

(8) BURNING MAN. I09 did a story on the edition of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that was bound is asbestos. John King Tarpinian adds this “Fun Fact” —

Ray had one of his copies with burn marks on it because he would hold a lighter to it to show people it would not burn.

(9) TO THE STARS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has released the fourth episode of is podcast Into the Impossible, about “How to Make a Spaceship”.

How do you jumpstart the private spaceflight industry? Passion, commitment, bold risk-taking, some inspiration from Charles Lindbergh, and a little luck. On today’s show, we hear from Peter Diamandis, whose XPRIZE Foundation launched the competition that gave us the first private manned spaceflight–and paved the way for Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and his own Planetary Resources, among others–along with the prize-winning pilot, Brian Binnie, and the writer Julian Guthrie, who chronicled their stories along with those of the other teams from around the world inspired by this unprecedented challenge. Also on this episode: convincing Arthur C. Clarke to buy your college friends dinner and a nearly disastrous incident with a mother-in-law and a cup of coffee.

Be sure to check out Julian Guthrie’s book, How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight, for the rest of the story!

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE

“The next time you’re abducted, just steal something off the ship.”  — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

(11) TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS YOU NEVER HEARD OF

  • February 3, 1993:  Dystopian satire Acción Mutante opens in its native Spain.

(12) BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born February 3, 1970  — Warwick Davis

(13) HAZARDOUS DUTY. No OSHA in the Empire? “Why ‘Star Wars’ Hates Handrails: Finally We Know Why People Keep Plummeting to Their Death”.

Ever noticed that most of the locations in the Star Wars universe wouldn’t pass a basic safety inspection? A number of characters plummet to their doom throughout the series, and the risk of accidentally falling on The Death Star or in Cloud City, or even tripping into that floor hatch on the Millennium Falcon, seems incredibly high. A new episode of the official web series The Star Wars Show explains that this was by design: George Lucas was against building guardrails on Star Wars sets.

 

(14) THE OUTFIELDER WHO WOULD BE KING. San Francisco Giants baseball player Hunter Pence posted a great photo of him wearing a Hakuna Matata t-shirt trying to free Excalibur from the Sword in the Stone at Disneyland. He couldn’t do it! The throne rests easy tonight.

(15) COMIC HISTORY LESSON. Atlas Obscura remembers “Marie Duval, the pioneering 19th-Century Cartoonist That History Forgot”.

In the late 1800s, London was swept up in the new craze of visual, satirical journalism. When Judy magazine, a twopenny serio-comic, debuted a red-nosed, lanky schemer named Ally Sloper who represented the poor working class of 19th-century England, it was one of the first recurring characters in comic history.

But credit for that character has long gone to the wrong person. Two people were responsible for Ally Sloper—and one of the creators has only recently been rediscovered by academics and comic fans.

Wearing a shabby stovepipe hat and carrying a rickety umbrella, the iconic and popular cartoon is often credited to Charles H. Ross, a playwright, cartoonist, and eventual editor of Judy. However, Ally Sloper was actually illustrated and developed by two artists: Ross and his wife, actress-turned-cartoonist Marie Duval—who was responsible for the bulk of the Ally Sloper comics.

(16) SPEAK UP. This LEGO Batman Movie promo clip introduces the voice actors behind the characters.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nigel Quinlan, Bruce D. Arthurs, Cat Eldridge, and Martn Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/1/16 Is This A Tickbox Which I Scroll Before Me, The Pixel Toward My Hand?

(1) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD SPACEMEN. NBC News reports “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Medically Evacuated From South Pole”.

Aldrin, 86, is in stable condition after “his condition deteriorated” while visiting Antarctica, according to White Desert, which organizes luxury tourism trips to the icy continent. The group said Aldrin was evacuated on the first available flight out of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast under the care of a doctor with the U.S. Antarctic Program.

He then was flown to Christchurch, New Zealand, and arrived at about 4:25 a.m. local time Friday (10:25 a.m. Thursday ET), according to the National Science Foundation, which provided the flight for Aldrin.

 

(2) FIRST FANS OF STAR WARS. Skywalking to Neverland’s latest podcast features Craig Miller:

Craig Miller, former head of fan relations at Lucasfilm and ancillary producer, is back to give more insider info on The Star Wars Holiday Special. He tells us about how the small production kept growing to promote the stars of CBS and other fun-facts. We also talk about the 1976 MidAmeriCon WorldCon where Star Wars had its first panel and exhibit featuring the first actual props and costumes from STAR WARS. Cut to: 40 years later and the staff that organized that presentation is back to replicate that same panel.

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(3) MENACE APPRECIATION. James Davis Nicoll selected Heinlein’s “The Menace From Earth” to be the latest test for the panel at Young People Read Old SF.

Of all the authors name-checked in the post that inspired this project, the one I figured would be least appealing to younger readers would be Robert A. Heinlein. He’s one of the grand old men of the field: winner of multiple Hugos, architect of the Future History, over-user of the word “spung.” He may have been a giant in his day, long long ago, but time has not been kind to his books….

These old stories generally don’t get a warm reception, but some of the panelists actually liked this one:

So, how did this story stack up? Good. It shows that women are capable of balancing their career ambitions with their romantic relationships, and that there is often a conflict between the two… especially for women. So that’s pretty cool.

(4) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM. The 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Symposium runs December 2-3 at the University of Oregon in Eugene. This year’s theme is “A Celebration of Ursula K. Le Guin”. View the full schedule of events and speakers.

We are very pleased to learn that Ursula Le Guin, honoree of this year’s Tiptree Symposium, is planning to attend the events on Friday, December 2. However, due to recent health issues causing limited mobility and stamina, she will not be able to sign books. Thank you for your understanding.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929- ) is a remarkable poet, essayist, critic, translator, and storyteller. In all these forms, she never ceases to challenge our expectations about “words, women, places,” as the subtitle to her essay collection Dancing at the Edge of the World puts it. Her many awards testify to her literary skill and deep humanity, and her work has inspired a generation of writers by showing how the unreal can comment on (and incorporate) the real, and how the future can serve as a powerful metaphor for the present. Her writing combines perspectives from anthropology, feminism, science, history, utopian thought, and Taoist philosophy, all wrapped up in convincing and compelling narratives of exploration and self-discovery.

(5) IT’S A WRAP. Birth. Movies. Death. harshes the squee about a forthcoming reboot: The Mummy Gets A Poster, A Brief Teaser And A Stolen Tagline”.

As you can see, The Mummy stars Tom Cruise as a guy who has to stop The Enchantress from Suicide Squad. Good luck to him, she’s p tough.

The biggest curiosity is robbing The Bride of Frankenstein of its “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters” line. I suppose it’s not outright theft since it evokes the larger universe at play here, but it still seems weird. Is it a clue that we might see a little Frankenstein in this? Or his monster? That should be very exciting for those who haven’t seen Penny Dreadful!

 

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #6. The sixth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions offers some of the author’s own stuff – the complete audio book set of the Goblin trilogy.

The audio books are full-cast recordings from Graphic Audio, and the trilogy retails for $60. Each book comes as six CDs, with a runtime of approximately six hours apiece. They’re new and shrink-wrapped, but I’ll be happy to open them up and autograph them to you before mailing them, if you’d like.

About book one:

Jig the goblin was the runtiest member of an admittedly puny race. Jig was scrawny, so nearsighted as to be almost blind, and had such a poor self-image that when he chose a god to worship it was one of the forgotten ones – after all, what other sort of god would have him as worshiper? He also had a cowardly fire-spider for a pet, a creature that was likely to set your hair on fire if it got into a panic. Made to stand tunnel watch by the goblin bullies who’d been assigned the job, it was just Jig’s luck to be taken captive by a group of adventurers – with the usual complement of a dwarf warrior, a prince out to prove himself, his mad wizard brother, and an elfin thief. Forced to guide this ill-fated party on their search for the Rod of Creation – though Jig had no more idea how to find it than they did – he soon had them stumbling into every peril anyone had ever faced in the fantasy realms. And they hadn’t even found the Necromancer or the Dragon yet!

Listen to an excerpt online.

(7) BANDERSNATCH. Goodreads hosts a page of Bandersnatch quotes, I just discovered.

“As Tolkien points out, the name is “a pleasantly ingenious pun,” referring to those who “dabble in ink.” It also suggests people “with vague or half-formed intimations and ideas.” ? Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings

(8) FANTASY DESTROYED. Lightspeed’s  “People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy” issue is available.  

fantasy_issue_60_december_2016-683x1024

Funded as a stretch goal of LIGHTSPEED’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Kickstarter campaign, we’re happy to present a special one-off issue of our otherwise discontinued sister-magazine, FANTASY (which was merged into LIGHTSPEED in 2012), called People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy!: an all-fantasy extravaganza entirely written—and edited!—by POC creators. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy! special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that’s been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. Here we bring together a team of POC writers and editors from around the globe to present fantasy that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. This is fantasy for our present time, but also—most of all—for our future. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy! is 100% written and edited by people of color, and is lead by guest editor Daniel José Older, with editorial contributions from Amal El-Mohtar, Tobias S. Buckell, Arley Sorg, and others. It features four original, never-before-published short stories, from N.K. Jemisin, P. Djèlí Clark, Darcie Little Badger, and Thoraiya Dyer. Plus, there’s four classic reprints by Shweta Narayan, Leanne Simpson, Celeste Rita Baker, and Sofia Samatar. On top of all that, we also have an array of nonfiction articles and interviews, from Justina Ireland, Ibi Zoboi, Erin Roberts, Karen Lord, John Chu, Chinelo Onwualu, and Brandon O’Brien, as well as original illustrations by Reimena Yee, Emily Osborne, and Ana Bracic.

(9) LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION. What John Scalzi has to say to those who complain when he writes about politics is pretty much what every fanzine editor thinks, whether the gripe is about politics or another favorite topic, but not all of us are as bold about saying so out loud as Mr. Scalzi.

  1. The Short Points About Me Writing On Politics

If you tell me you’re tired of me talking about politics, or tell me to shut up about them, I’ll tell you to kiss my ass. I’ll write about what I want, when I want, where I want, which in this case happens to be about politics, now, here.

(10) HI-TECH PRACTICAL JOKE. I’m speechless. But they’re not.

(11) CALLING FLINT FANS. Eric Flint asked readers of his blog to nominate his novel for a Dragon Award. I looked up Flint at the Science Fiction Awards Database and was shocked to discover that in a long and distinguished career he’s never won any of the multitude of awards tracked on that site. Maybe this will be his year.

I would like to ask for a personal favor. The Dragon awards are now open for nominations and I would appreciate it if as many of you as are so inclined would nominate THE SPAN OF EMPIRE, by Eric Flint and David Carrico, in the category of “Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel.” I will stress that you should only do so if you actually liked the novel, but most of the people I know who’ve read the novel liked it a lot.

Flint received two nominations in the first year of the Dragon Awards, both in the Best Alternate History category which was won by Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons.

(While fact-checking, I discovered the Dragon Awards website still has Novik’s name misspelled as “Novak”.)

(12) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s new podcast, Into the Impossible, has released is second episode — “Becoming a Galactic Wonder”.

On this month’s episode of Into the Impossible – a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination – we’re looking at wonder and imagination. We’ll get there through the plays of Herbert Siguenza (playwright, actor, and director; founding member of Culture Clash) that take us from Pablo Picasso in 1957 to a post-apocalyptic California, and the art (and green thumb) of Jon Lomberg (astronomical artist), who worked with Carl Sagan on the original Cosmos and has created a garden that can help us imagine our place in the universe. Both ask, as Herbert does in the persona of Picasso himself, “How can we make the world worthy of its children?”

(13) MIGHTY BURGER. The creator of the Big Mac has died and Hogu fans everywhere mourn…. Michael “Jim” Delligatti was 98.

The menu was pretty simple back in those early days — hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes. But Delligatti saw that his customers wanted something bigger, so in 1967 at his restaurant in Uniontown, Pa., he put together two hamburger patties, topped it with cheese, lettuce, onions and pickles, and he developed a special sauce for the burger. He called it the Big Mac.

The early Big Macs were marketed with a paper collar around them. Pop culture scholar Dave Feldman said that sent customers the message that a Big Mac was  “A sandwich so mighty it needs a harness to restrain it!”

(14) BACK TO THE BREW-TURE. Of greater concern to our cousin fans across the Pond: when and how did Brits first brew?

Meanwhile, large pots and evidence of heat-cracked stones have been found at Skara Brae, a 5,000-year-old settlement in the Orkney islands just north-east of Scotland.

Local archaeologist Merryn Dineley believes that bits of the pottery were once used for heating malt – the germinated and heated cereal grains that ferment to produce alcohol. Dineley has experimented with Neolithic-style equipment and argues that malting of grains could have occurred in this period.

(15) CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Entertainment Weekly invites you to “Watch these exclusive Star Trek: The Original Series clips from The Roddenberry Vault”.

If there’s a Star Trek obsessive in your family, their Christmas present will be released on Dec. 13. That’s when Star Trek: The Original Series – The Roddenberry Vault, a massive new Blu-ray treasure trove of footage left on the cutting room floor, goes on sale. The Roddenberry Vault draws directly from film cans stored for decades by the Gene Roddenberry estate, and includes deleted scenes, alternate takes, and other behind-the-scenes look at the making of the series that launched the Trek franchise 50 years ago.

EW is excited to share two exclusive clips from The Roddenberry Vault, one of them focused on the making of the maddeningly cute Tribbles, the other a short and mesmerizing clip of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner filming the “Transporter” effect.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Stoic Cynic for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]