Pixel Scroll 5/19/18 For Once A Goof In A Pixel I’ve Provided Wasn’t Introduced By Me

(1) #NEBULAS2018. Cat Rambo is ready for the banquet:

(2) #NEBULAS2018. Tell me this doesn’t send a shiver down a writer’s spine:

That comes from a thread with livetweeted highlights of a Nebula Conference panel.

(3) #NEBULAS2018. Pin at the Nebula banquet.

(4) UNWASHED MASSES. Don’t tell this to writers, but Jimmy Kimmel has been prowling the streets asking strangers, “Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???”

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost one in four Americans has not read a book in the past year. So to find out if that is true, we sent a team to the street to ask pedestrians to name a book, and here are the very sad results.

 

(5) STARSHIP TROOPERS AS SPAGHETTI WESTERN. Fabrice Mathieu has done an incredible job with his new mashup called Far Alamo (Vimeo Staff Pick) in which John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and other Sixties western stars meet the world of Paul Verhoeven when the Alamo is attacked by BUGS!

(6) LATE ARRIVAL. Jeb Kinnison wants to convince you “Why ‘Arrival’ is Bad Science Fiction”.

The value of science fiction: narratives predicting science and technology and effects on future society. Stories enabled by the new, that help readers grasp what is to come and where they might place themselves to affect the outcome of their own stories. These can be more or less inherently entertaining, but the fascination of young people (especially young men) for them is in dreaming of mastery: to understand and control Nature, to vanquish enemies and nurture their families through something other than brute force and violence (though a blend of both is often very popular!)

“Junk science” is those beliefs promoted to persuade or entertain that have either been shown to be false or are simply unsupported by empirical tests. The media world is flooded with it, with sober studies making one small data point on some topic oversimplified and promoted as a breakthrough, to get clicks or publicity for research funding. “Junk science fiction” is therefore a story that borrows the authority of science to make unsupported or frankly false claims as part of a narrative, which nonscientists will accept as plausible or possible. And Arrival is junk science fiction.

(7) NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Tor.com’s Brandon O’Brien says “It’s Time to Talk About Marvel’s Gamora Problem”. Were you running out of things to criticize about Avengers: Infinity War? This will restock your cupboard.

To be clear, this is not me saying that that the movie is bad, or unenjoyable in a general sense. The action was engaging for the most part, and there are some character progressions that I think elicited real dramatic effort from the film. I like how it sets up Tony Stark’s pained, traumatic franchise-long journey from selfish, egotistical brat to responsible, self-sacrificing, if conflicted leader, which I hope they go all in on in upcoming installments. Thor, being my absolute favourite character from the franchise in general, has one really committed throughline, from losing everything that ever mattered to him in two back-to-back genocides to literally taking a beam of white-hot suffering through his body just to regain trust in his own heroic potential. Individual moments, like when Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon have their first fight with Thanos’ Black Order goons in Scotland, are delightful to look at, visually. And some of the more unlikely on-screen team-ups, like Tony with Doctor Strange, or Thor with Rocket, actually make room for really interesting dialogue.

But ultimately, there’s one aspect of the film that I simply can’t get past. We need to talk about what happens to Gamora….

(8) CAPTAIN MARVEL. The promise of Carol Danvers – What Culture makes a case for “Why Thanos Should Fear Captain Marvel.”

She is one of Marvel’s all time most beloved and powerful characters, especially in more recent years.  Since then, she’s had a new look, gone in various new directions, and has been at the absolute forefront of everything the company has tried to do.  A transition into the MCU was inevitable.

…Even Kevin Feige has said Danvers is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie.  Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we have ever had.”

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 19, 1944 – Peter Mayhew

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Pearls Before Swine how bookstores can compete against Amazon. Turns out it may be hard on the customers, though.

(11) DON’T STEAL THAT SMELL! Apparently they just got around to this, 62 years after the product went on the market: “Hasbro officially trademarks Play-Doh smell”.

Toy maker Hasbro announced it has trademarked one of the most recognizable aspects of one of its most iconic products: the smell of Play-Doh.

The Pawtucket, R.I., company announced Friday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has officially recognized the distinctive Play-Doh smell as a registered trademark of the brand, which first hit stores in 1956.

(12) CURIOSITY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Why: What Makes Us Curious, with Mario Livio” on June 11.

June 11, 2018
6:00pm
Roth Auditorium
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine
UC San Diego

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling (literature, film, TV, or even a simple conversation) that delights rather than bores.

In a fascinating and entertaining lecture, astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio surveys and interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  As part of his research into the subject, Livio examined in detail the personalities of two individuals who arguably represent the most curious minds to have ever existed: Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also interviewed 9 exceptionally curious people living today, among them Fabiola Gianotti, the Director General of CERN (who is also an accomplished pianist), paleontologist Jack Horner, and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who also holds a PhD in astrophysics), and Livio presents fascinating conclusions from these conversations.

(13) GRANDMASTER’S TRADING CARD. Walter Day presented SFWA Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle with his souvenir trading card during tonight’s Nebula ceremony.

(14) A CHARMING CONVENTION.

(15) GAIMAN ADAPTATION. NPR’s Chris Klimek says it’s OK: “London Calling (Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft): ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties'”. Last year at Cannes this was being called a disaster; no word on whether it’s been reworked.

Men Are From From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a best-selling early-’90s relationships guidebook argued. How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a sweet, slight comic fantasy expanded from an early-aughts Neil Gaiman short story, knows the truth is far more complex: Men and Women Are from Earth, Members of an Advanced Extraterrestrial Species on a Reconnaissance Mission Here While Temporarily Wearing the Bodies of Men and Women are from…. well, we never find out where they’re from, exactly. But every planet has its misfits.

(16) STILL READY PLAYER ONE. Did I already link to Glen Weldon’s review of this movie? Just in case: “Arcade Firewall: ‘Ready Player One’ REALLY Loves The ’80s”.

There will be grunts.

Grunts of recognition, that is. If you watch Steven Spielberg’s solidly built sci-fi phantasmagoria Ready Player One in a crowded theater, there will be grunts aplenty, so prepare yourself for them.

You can’t, you won’t — but try.

Every time any beloved or at least recognizable nugget of 1980s popular culture turns up onscreen, one or (likely) more of your fellow audience members will let out a low, pre-verbal phoneme, a glottal unh, to signify that they do, in fact, recognize said nugget and wish to inform those around them of this key development. This grunt, by the way, is a subspecies of the one heard at live theater, whenever a given patron wishes to express their comprehension of, and/or amusement at, some passage of dialogue they find particularly trenchant (that one’s more an amused hm!).

(17) VEGGIES IN ORBIT. GeekWire headline: “Small seeds could lead to a giant leap in space farming”.

The next Orbital ATK delivery to the space station will carry several strains of seeds for Arabidopsis, a flowering plant that’s closely related to cabbage and mustard. These will be grown in the Final Frontier Plant Habitat which was delivered on an earlier mission. The same genetic variants will be grown on Earth and used as baselines to compare harvested specimens sent back from the space station. You may recall that an earlier experiment in the overall mission to test growing of plants (including crops) in space involved lettuce, which was actually consumed by astronauts onboard the station.

When Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket launches a robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship toward the International Space Station, as early as Monday, it’ll be sending seeds that could show the way for future space farmers.

The Antares liftoff is currently set for 4:39 a.m. ET (1:39 a.m. PT) on Monday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather. NASA’s live-streaming coverage of the countdown begins at 1 a.m. PT Monday.

More than 7,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments will be packed aboard the Cygnus. One of the smallest payloads consists of seeds for the Final Frontier Plant Habitat — part of a $2.3 million, NASA-funded initiative that involves researchers from Washington State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The automated habitat was delivered during previous cargo resupply missions and set up for planting. Once the Cygnus’ cargo arrives, astronauts can proceed with the habitat’s first official science experiment, which is aimed at determining which genetic variants of plants grow best under weightless conditions.

(18) STAND BY TO SCORCH YOUR CREDIT CARD. Ars Technica delivers a “Peek at LEGO’s upcoming sets: Star Wars crafts, Hogwarts, Ninjago city, and more”, sharing pics of LEGO’s upcoming summer and holiday 2018 sets, including:

  • Jedi Starfighter ($19)
  • Collector Series Y-Wing Starfighter ($199)
  • Snoke’s Throne Room ($69)
  •  Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter ($79)
  • Sandcrawler ($139)
  • Kessel Run version of the Millenium Falcon ($169)
  • Hogwarts Express ($79)
  • Hogwarts Great Hall ($99)
  • Quidditch Match ($39)
  • Ninjago City Docks ($229)
  • Ninjago Destiny’s Wing ($19)

Non-genre sets pictured include:

  • Arctic Supply Plane ($79)
  • Cargo Train ($229)
  • LEGO City Passenger Train ($159)
  • Creator Expert: Roller Coaster set ($379)
  • Mobile Stunt Show ($49)

(19) CATS SITTING WITHIN SF. Cory Doctorow discovered “Bandai is manufacturing armored cats”. Here’s an example. More photos at the link.

(20) DEADPOOL’S HISTORY. ScienceFiction.com explains how “‘Deadpool 2’ Mocks Marvel’s 10-Year Anniversary Video” in “Deadpool 2 – The First 10 Years.”

The clip chronicles the history of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise from 2008 to 2018, also giving it a 10-year history like Marvel Studios’ MCU – it even has the same format, aesthetic, as well as the use of dramatic background music. Clocking in at just over a minute, the clip features only Deadpool, unlike the MCU’s version which had commentaries from several key players in the film series, as he narrates what happened in the last decade that led to the creation of the upcoming sequel. The clip is filled with the character’s signature brand of humor as he honestly speaks about Reynolds’ starring in ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ which certainly didn’t help their cause, as well as Fox’s multiple rejections of the project

 

(21) DEADPOOL IS HISTORY. Mark Kermode’s review of Deadpool 2, “…not as bad as Kick Ass 2” ouch.

Main problem in his view is it has tried to be more than the first and lost what he liked about the first one.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/18 Pixel Longstocking

(1) CONTAGIOUS THINKER. The Outline’s Michael Huguenor recalls “That one time Felix Guattari tried to sell a script in Hollywood”.

By 1987, French philosopher Felix Guattari had already changed the world. He’d invented a new form of psychoanalysis, fought against the Algerian War, physically constructed part of the University of Zagreb, and pioneered the existence of pirate radio. At 57, his entire life was defined by tumult and surprising leaps of faith. Yet the most surprising of all came that year when he approached the French Centre National de la Cinematographie with a request for state funding for an unlikely project.

“I am a writer and psychoanalyst, as well as a director of a psychiatric clinic that employs methods of Institutional Psycho-therapy,” he began, in his Preamble. Then came the curve-ball: “Now I would like to direct what, at least in appearance, will be a science fiction film.”

Attached was a screenplay….

(2) WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. Timothy the Talking Cat supplies “Timothy’s Alternative MCU Running Order”. Reader, I LOL’d. You might not have known all these movies were part of the MCU.

The important element of Marvel films is not just that they are long and have pee breaks between films (sometimes lasting several years) but each film is an improvement on the last. Have we reached peak Marvel film yet? Oh no, not by a long chalk matey! That’s not how a shared universe works. You introduce pieces piece by pieces until you have all the pieces and WHAM perfect film probably with an interval like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

(3) THE MARVEL BRADY UNIVERSE. For The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the Avengers: Infinity War Cast Sings “The Marvel Bunch”

(4) TONY AWARDS. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child received 10 Tony Awards nominations.

{L-R) Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, and Sam Clemmett in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. Photo by: Manuel Harlan

(5) GOODREADS & HUGOS. Goodreads 2019 Hugo recommendation lists split into differing categories. Open to public votes and contributions.

(6) PRIX TIME. Europa SF reports the winners of a pair of French sff awards:

During the 2018 Intergalactiques Festival of Lyon, the Barjavel Prix was awarded to Céline Maltère for her new short-story “La Coupole”. The story will be available shortly (digital format) by Actusf Publishers.

The Planète SF Prix was awarded to Jo Walton for her novel “My Real Children”, 2014 (Nos vrais enfants) published in translation (Florence Dolisi) by Denoël Press.

(7) ROCKET QUEST. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett asks “Hugo, Where Art Thou?”

While writing about the Hugo situation in 1955 the other day I mentioned that Ron Smith won a Hugo in 1956 for his fanzine, Inside. This particular award is of special interest to me because as far as I’m aware the rocket Ron was awarded is the only one that has had a long-term residency in Australia. I’ve read that it was displayed in the window of Merv Binns’ Space Ago Books in Melbourne for many years after Ron Smith moved to Australia in, I think, the early sixties. I can’t vouch for that because I only managed to visit Space Age a couple of times while the store was still a going concern and was too eager to get inside to be concerned about what might be in the window display. Space Age Books is of course has long been a thing of the past now and presumably Ron Smith has passed away too so that makes me wonder what happened to his rocket? I’m assuming that when Space Age Books stopped being a bricks and mortar establishment the rocket went back to Ron (if not before that) but I can’t be certain. Hopefully somebody living in Melbourne reading this will know the answer to my query or perhaps be able to dig an answer out of Merv.

Anyway, having begun this line of thought I started to wonder if anybody has made any attempt to track down the location of the various Hugo statues that have been handed out in the past 65 or so years….

(8) GIDLEY OBIT. Pamela Gidley (1965-2018): US actress, died April 16, aged 52. Genre appearances include the title role in Cherry 2000 (1987), Highway to Hell (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Strange Luck (17 episodes, 1995-96), Aberration (1997), The Little Vampire (2000), Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014). She also directed and co-scripted a short drama in 2004, I Just Forgot.

(9) ANDERSON OBIT. The director of the Logan’s Run movie died last week:

Michael Anderson, a British director whose 1955 film ‘‘The Dam Busters’’ became one of the most popular wartime dramas ever made and launched him to a filmmaking career that included the all-star Oscar-winner ‘‘Around the World in 80 Days’’ and the sci-fi fantasy ‘‘Logan’s Run,’’ died April 25 at his home on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. He was 98.

He also directed the adaptation of 1984 released in 1956, starring Edmond O’Brien.

(10) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON. Don’t miss a one: Steven H Silver has posted “Birthday Reviews: April Index” at Black Gate.

(11) IMPOSSIBLE PODCAST. Into the Impossible, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s podcast, in episode 18 discusses the “Internet of All Kinds of Things”.

How is the internet changing our humanity, and what can we do about it? We explore these questions and more with Antonio Garcia Martinez (author of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley) and Douglas Rushkoff (author most recently of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and host of the fantastic podcast Team Human).

(12) FASHION NOTES. Yes, this shirt is loud enough: “Outer Space”.

(13) NO MATTER WHAT ELSE YOU MAY HAVE READ. The net is flip-flopping on flipping – now an Ars Technica headline says “Earth’s magnetic field may not be flipping”.

Going back millions of years into Earth’s history, our planet’s magnetic field has frequently gone its own way. The magnetic north pole has not only wandered through the north, but it has changed places with the south magnetic pole, taking up residence in the Antarctic. Going back millions of years, there’s a regular pattern of pole exchange, with flips sometimes occurring in relatively rapid succession.

In those terms, our current period of pole positioning is unusually long, with the last flip occurring nearly 800,000 years ago. But the magnetic field has grown noticeably weaker since we started measuring it more than a hundred years ago. The poles have wandered a bit, and there’s an area of even more dramatic weakening over the South Atlantic. Could these be signs that we’re due for another flip?

Probably not, according to new research published with the refreshingly clear title, “Earth’s magnetic field is probably not reversing.” In it, an international team of researchers reconstructs the history of some past flips and argues that what’s going on now doesn’t much look like previous events.

(14) ROUTE 66. Steve Vertlieb invites people to read “Two for the Road: Traveling ‘Route 66’”. (Another show I was too young to stay up and watch. But a few years after the show went off the air one of my English teachers who knew co-star Maharis got him to visit the class.)

The “Golden Age Of Television” lasted from the late nineteen forties until the early nineteen sixties where it thrived and flourished, presenting mostly “live” dramatic and musical presentations that captured the exhilaration and essence of fresh theatrical Broadway productions, staged and created expressly for the newly experimental format of the small home tv screen.  Television was a brand new medium, daring in its provocative concepts and artistic explorations, while revolutionary in its groundbreaking originality.  Everything was fresh and new, as this voracious, visionary monolith consumed original productions as rapidly as they could be produced.  Into this ravenous mix, and at the tail end of the medium’s legendary golden age, came a weekly television series produced by CBS (the famed Murrow “tiffany” network) concerning two friends (Martin Milner and George Maharis) from the often-cruel streets of New York, seeking meaning, value, and definition in their ongoing dramatic sojourn across the highways of America.  “Route 66” launched nationally on Friday night, October 7th, 1960, taking the country by storm.  Filming on location in virtually every state of the union until its final episode on March 20th, 1964, the powerful series introduced some of the finest anthology drama that television has ever witnessed, while showcasing stunning conceptual poetry by principal writer Stirling Silliphant, original music by composer Nelson Riddle, and ensemble guest performances by many of the finest actors and actresses in Hollywood, and from the New York stage.  The weekly series effectively changed the course and direction of my life when the program filmed two episodes in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1961.  This is the bittersweet story of the cultural evolution and significance of the iconic series, as well as its profound, transformative effect upon my own life, direction, and career.

This was the episode of the “Route 66” television series that forever changed the direction and “route” of both mine, and my brother’s lives. We were there on location with the cast and crew when they filmed this classic episode on the mean streets of Philadelphia and, with George Maharis and Martin Milner, together crossed that “Thin White Line.” The program aired as Season Two, Episode Eleven, over the CBS Television network on Friday evening, December 8th, 1961.

[Thanks to Beth in MA, John King Tarpinian, N, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Steve Vertlieb, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/18 Scroll Miner’s Data

(1) READ FOR LIFE. Inc. tells “Why Reading Books Should be Your Priority, According to Science”.

People who read books live longer

That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.

(2) SOMTOW. The Thailand Tatler covers Somtow Sucharitkul’s fundraising concern for a U.S. orchestral tour: “Siam Sinfonietta Takes To The States”.

As the local music scene continues to thrive and as Thai musicians of all ages and styles gain increasing recognition both at home and abroad, the talented youths of Siam Sinfonietta are getting ready to play at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple for the third time this April as part of the New York International Music Festival.

Siam Sinfonietta is a scholarship orchestra that aims to provide local prodigies with the great opportunities to perform professionally, regardless of background or income. In order to ensure that all 70 musicians and orchestral staff can have a smooth tour of the States in April, Opera Siam is holding a series of fundraising events, such as a recent Star Wars-themed concert on March 15. Find out how you can still support them here.

Listen to the opening of their Star Wars marathon concert – and see his lightsaber conductor’s baton!

(3) SOCIETY PAGE. Congratulations to Catherynne Valente!

(In case it’s a bit obscure, the ultrasound pic is a clue.)

(4) ANOTHER CLUELESS ATTENDANT. Author Fran Wilde was lectured on a plane that her cane could be a weapon.

(5) BLUE MAN GROUP. Expedition 55 sets new standards in space fashion. Or as David Klaus ad libs, “Are we not Astromen? We are DEVO! Also, if you tailor those uniform coveralls to fit, you have the uniforms of the Starfleet of the NX-01 Starship Enterprise.”

(6) BRIAN ALDISS, CURMUDGEON. Kim Huett had to take a short hiatus from Doctor Strangemind which he is determined to make up with a new 3,400 word article “about a story that Brian Aldiss assures me is only 3300 words long. Still, is 3400 words too many for what Brian also assures me is the WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!”

You’ll have to read the article and decide for yourselves: “Brian Aldiss & the Worst Story Ever!!!”

It is my impression that Brian Wilson Aldiss was generally considered to be a stern but fair elder statesman until he passed away in 2017. I, on the other hand, considered him to be far more curmudgeonly than that (he would never have made a passable member of the Beach Boys for example). It also my opinion that Brian Aldiss adopted his curmudgeonly persona relatively early in his career. Oh, but Doctor Strangemind I hear you all cry, Brian Aldiss was never a curmudgeon, at least not until he was old enough to carry the title with a suitable level of gravitas! Ah ha, my poor innocent audience! You have fallen into my cunningly constructed audience trap and now while you lay squirming in the metaphorical mud at the bottom of the pit of unwarranted assumption I’ll just sit here on the lip above and tell you all about how in Australian Science Fiction Review #15 (published by John Bangsund in April 1968) that young curmudgeon, Brian Aldiss, did go so far as to accuse two fellow British authors of writing as he put it the, ‘WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!’ To quote from Aldiss himself:

There was one story in particular in Authentic which, ever since I read it on its first appearance in 1954, had impressed me as reaching a really impressive level of badness. To my great delight, I found on reading it again that it has grown even worse over the intervening fourteen years. I therefore would like to nominate as the worst sf story ever published:

The Lava Seas Tunnel, by F.G. Rayer and E.R. James, (Authentic SF, edited by H.J. Campbell, Vol.1, no.43, March 1954.)

(7) BUJOLD AT RIVENDELL. The Rivendell Discussion Group of the Mythopoeic Society will host Lois McMaster Bujold at its April 7 meeting in Minneapolis.

(8) NEED SHARPER HEARING? Cnet says “Spock’s ‘Star Trek III’ ear tips can be yours”.

An iconic set of pointy ears worn by Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” are up for auction through Lelands.com and they look pretty funky when you see them up close. You’ll notice pits and wrinkles in the flesh-colored appliances. On film, they were artfully blended with make-up to match Nimoy’s own ears.

(9) CLARKE CENTER. A bonus podcast by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s associate director sharing his personal reminiscence on Stephen Hawking, who passed away on March 14, 2018. Viirre was the medical director for Hawking’s trip into weightlessness on a zero gravity flight in 2007.

Only last December, he accepted the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lifetime Achievement (his citation and acceptance speech can be seen here), during which he said, “It is no small task to be judged as having met with what would have been Arthur’s expectations for intellectual rigor powered by imagination, insatiable curiosity, and concern for our planet and its inhabitants.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge sent along xkcd’s suggestion for multiplying internet outrage.
  • Mike Kennedy sent Non Sequitur’s not exactly funny theory about a trend in closing bookstores.

(12) PRISONER COMICS. First shown on Canadian and UK TV screens in 1967, The Prisoner was co-created, written, directed and starred Patrick McGoohan (Scanners, Braveheart). Titan’s new comic series is released for the 50th Anniversary of the first US broadcast in 1968.

Titan Comics are excited to announce that they are partnering with print and poster house Vice Press to create a Diamond UK exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1. This first-ever Vice Press exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1 – designed by Star Wars movie concept artist, Chris Weston – is based on his original silk-screen poster created for Vice Press to mark the 50th Anniversary of The Prisoner hitting US TV screens.

Titan’s new The Prisoner comic series, licensed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, is set in the world of The Prisoner – based on the celebrated cult TV series – from writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, The Mummy) and artist Colin Lorimer (The Hunt, Harvest)…

“I’ve made no secret about how The Prisoner is my favourite television show of all time,” said Vice Press cover artist Chris Weston, “I have always wanted to create my own artistic tribute to The Prisoner. Fortuitously, my friends at Vice Press offered me the chance to fulfil my lifelong ambition to create a loving artistic homage, timed to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary.”

(13) OSCAR’S LOVECHILD C3PO. Joal Ryan, in “Let’s revisit the spacy ‘Star Wars’ Oscars from 40 years ago” at Yahoo! Entertainment, has several clips from the 1978 Oscars, in which Star Wars was the only film of this series to be nominated for Best Picture and when Bob Hope, in his last time as Oscars MC, made some groaning Star Wars jokes.

Bob Hope, as he had done 17 times before, hosted the ’78 Oscars. The icon was 74, and this would be his last show as emcee. But he was as quick as ever with the lecherous gag, and the rat-tat-tat monologue that had been punched up with current events. (“1977 will be known as the year of Star Wars, which has grossed over $200 million,” one Hope line began. “That’s more than even some baseball players make.”)

(14) PLATYPUS NEWS. If you thought milking a cow was dangerous…. “Platypus milk: How it could combat superbugs”

Platypus milk could help combat one of humanity’s looming problems, antibiotic resistance, scientists say.

The weird creatures have a duck’s beak, venomous feet and are one of only two mammals able to lay eggs.

Australian scientists discovered in 2010 that the semi-aquatic animal’s milk contains a potent protein able to fight superbugs.

They’ve now identified why, and say it could lead to the creation of a new type of antibiotic.

(15) ALEXA BASHING. Paris Martineau at The Outline says “Hey Alexa, shut up”. My question is: would Paris say that if it was a man’s voice?

Why do voice assistants need to talk so much? If you’ve ever used one of Amazon’s ridiculous, yet rather addictive (I have two) Echo products, you know what I’m talking about: Whether you’re setting a timer, or asking her to play a podcast, Alexa just won’t shut the fuck up. Even when you give it a relatively simple command (like, “Alexa, set an alarm for 6 a.m.,” or “Alexa, set timer for five minutes”) it always responds with either a partial or total repetition of your phrase (“Okay, alarm set for 6 a.m. tomorrow,” or “Timer set for five minutes”), which can be more than a little annoying when it’s two in the morning and you don’t exactly want a booming robot voice waking your roommates up a wall over.

(16) DRIVING WHILE BETAZOID. From Marina Sirtis’ appearance at Dublin Comic Con last year.

Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi) tells the hilarious story about driving the Enterprise as well as burning the bridge.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, rcade, Brian Z., and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/18 Stay Tuned For Pixels As They Break

(1) ELVES FOREVER. Olga Polomoshnova explores Elves’ immortality in “Who wants to live forever?” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

By their nature the Elves are bound to Arda, with their bodies being made of  “the stuff of Earth”. They live as long as the world endures….

What Men crave for and desire with all their hearts is, in fact, a burden. More accurately, this serial longevity becomes a burden with time. The Elves age very slowly, but during the course of their long lives they know death of wounds or grief, though not, like Men, of old age, and they fear death, too. Elvish ageing shows in their ever-growing weariness of the world. One of the best descriptions of this state was provided by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who experienced such longevity due to his possession of the One Ring. He compared his unnaturally long life with being “all thin, sort of stretched, […] like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 42). So probably that is exactly how the Elves could feel many thousand years into their lives.

(2) HAMILL’S WALK OF FAME STAR DEDICATED. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is now a star in the Hollywood firmament: “Mark Hamill Gets ‘Overwhelming’ Support From Harrison Ford & George Lucas at Walk of Fame Ceremony”.

On Thursday, some of the actor’s closest friends and colleagues came out to honor him as he was immortalized in Hollywood with the recognition befitting a cultural icon like himself.

Hamill got some sweet support from his former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas, recent Last Jedi co-star Kelly Marie Tran, as well as a pair of Storm Troopers and the iconic droid R2-D2. His wife of nearly 40 years, Marilou York, was also to celebrate the honor.

(3) CROWDFUNDING WILL REVIVE AMAZING. Steve Davidson has launched a Kickstarter to hasten “The Return of Amazing Stories Magazine!”

Amazing Stories is an institution. It is an icon of the field. Over the years it has represented both the best and the worst that this genre has to offer. It has inspired the careers of authors, artists, editors, academics, scientists and engineers. Its presence proved that there was a viable market for this kind of literature, a fact not lost on other publishers who quickly followed suit. By 1930 there were four magazines in the field, eventually many more. And the fans? They bought every single one of them.

Amazing Stories deserves to be an ongoing part of our community. It may be a bit worn around the edges, the spine may be cracked a little and it may shed bits of pulp here and there, but those are love scars. Amazing Stories is not just our progenitor, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of the genre.

We love it. We love what it’s done for us, what it represents, what it created. How can we not, when we love Science Fiction?

We know you share that love. Please show that love. It’s time for Amazing Stories to live again.

On the first day Steve’s appeal brought in $5,079 of its $30,000 goal.

Here’s how the money will be used. (Experimenter Publishing is Steve’s company.)

Experimenter plans to publish its first new issue for a Fall 2018 release and will be distributing the magazine at Worldcon 76 in San Jose CA. Professional, SFWA qualifying rates of 6 cents per word will be paid and Experimenter intends to become a fully SFWA qualifying market within its first year of operation. Several stories by well known authors have already been contracted, as has cover art by a highly respected artist.

Following five years of growth and development as an online multi-author blog serving the interests of science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, the publication of well-regarded articles produced by over 175 contributors, read by over 40,000 registered members, and following the publication of three special editions, a comic book and a growing selection of anthologies, classic novels and facsimile reprints, Experimenter believes the time is right to launch the quarterly magazine.

(4) ABOUT THE BARKLEY PROPOSAL. What were signers of Chris Barkley’s YA Award name proposal told? One of them, Shawna McCarthy, wrote in a comment on Facebook:

I was a signatory and do not feel misrepresented to other than not knowing the name of the award had already been decided. It’s possible the sponsor thought I was more up on the state of WC business committee work than I was.

(5) COMIC-CON’S QUASI-MUSEUM. Kinsee Morlan, in “Don’t Call Comic-Con’s Balboa Park Digs A museum–At Least Not Yet” for Voice of San Diego, says that Comic-Con International is upholding its nonprofit status by building a museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park (which will replace the San Diego Hall of Champions) and is hiring British museum designer Adam Smith to create it.

Smith said specifics are still hazy, but a few things are starting to become clear. For starters, he’s not ready to dub the new space a museum just yet. He’s toying with calling it a center or something else that better communicates its mission of showcasing contemporary exhibits that focus on what’s happening now or in the future — think virtual reality demos or participatory immersive television experiences (yeah, that’s a thing).

Smith also obliterated the traditional curator-led exhibition model. Instead of experts organizing most of the shows, he said, super fans will be likely be generating exhibitions and events. That’s a move taken from Comic-Con’s convention playbook, where fan-generated panels have always been a big part of the offerings.

David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of communications who’s been with the nonprofit for decades, fielded some of my questions, too.

Civic leaders are perpetually terrified that Comic-Con will pack up its bag and head to Los Angeles or another city if San Diego doesn’t expand its Convention Center soon. Glanzer said folks should not assume that won’t happen now that Comic-Con’s new center is opening in Balboa Park. He said they’re two separate projects and the convention could still relocate in the future if its space problems start impacting the quality of the convention.

(6) LOVED THE BOOK, HATED THE FILM. LitHub list of “20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed by Their Original Authors” has plenty of sff:

  • Earthsea (2004) – Based on: Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea cycle (1968-2001)

Le Guin hated the Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of her books, and she had quite a lot to say on the subject, but the biggest problem was that the miniseries completely whitewashed the original text. Early on, she was consulted (somewhat) but when she raised objections, they told her that shooting had already begun. “I had been cut out of the process,” she wrote at Slate.

Also:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) – Based on: P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – Based on: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart (1986)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) – Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Charlotte’s Web (1973) – Based on: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  • Solaris (1972, 2002) – Based on: Stanis?aw Lem’s Solaris (1961)
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Based on: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Based on: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • The Shining (1980) – Based on: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977)
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984) – Based on: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (1979)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

(7) LOPATA OBIT. Steve Lopata’s daughter announced that he passed away March 5, peacefully, at the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sammi Owens said:

…I deeply regret to inform you that his heart was failing and Worldcon 75 Helsinki was his last trip. He had heart surgery and despite valiant efforts he succumbed to his heart disease on March 5, 2018…. My mom Frances and I want the scifi community and all his friends to know how much he dearly loved you all. His all time favorite activities were working Ops for Worldcons and having an audience for his tales- umm, I mean true stories…. Peace be with you all and thank you for your friendship to our beloved man.

Patrick Maher was one of many fans who worked Ops with Steve with good words about him:

I didn’t know Steve very long, only since he walked into Shamrokon in 2014 and offered to help out. We didn’t know who he was but, as he said he had just come from Loncon III, we asked James Bacon who he was. James described him as Steve ‘Awesome Ops Guy’ Lopata. He sat in Ops all weekend and offered sage advice. When I took over Ops for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, he was the first person I went to for advice.

Lopata also did volunteer work with big cats, as he explained in an article for Mimosa in 2001.

One of the first questions I am asked when I tell people about working with lions and tigers is, “How did you get involved?” There are two answers. First the short, “I like kitties;” and the longer one, “I was at a convention and saw this guy walking a tiger on a leash. I asked if I could pet the tiger and about half an hour later, I was a volunteer at the breeding park.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls this too bad not to share: Arlo and Janis.
  • And here’s an International Women’s Day item from Bizarro.

(9) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Headstuff’s Aoife Martin celebrated the day by analyzing “Author Pseudonyms” used by women. A couple of instances came from sff —

Closer to modern times we have the case of Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote science fiction under the pen name of James Tiptree Jr. In an interview she said that she chose a male name because it “seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damn occupation.” It’s interesting that Sheldon should have felt the need to do this but she was a successful science fiction writer – so much so that she won several awards including a Hugo for her 1974 novella, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and several Nebula awards. Her secret wasn’t discovered until 1976 when she was 61. Throughout her career she was referred to as an unusually macho male and as an unusually feminist writer (for a male). Indeed, fellow writer Robert Silverberg once argued that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman while Harlan Ellison, when introducing Tiptree’s story for his anthology Again, Dangerous Visions wrote that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man.” Suitably, the James Tiptree Jr. Award is given annually in her honour to works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

(10) A NEW KIND OF BARBIE. The Huffington Post reports Mattel is honoring a few living legends this International Women’s Day: “Frida Kahlo And Other Historic Women Are Being Made Into Barbies”. Genre-related figures include Katherine Johnson and Patty Jenkins.

Kids around the world will soon be able to own a Barbie doll bearing the likeness of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart or Katherine Johnson.

All three women made herstory in different industries: Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Mexican artist Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism; and Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” broke boundaries for black women in mathematics and calculated dozens of trajectories for NASA, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The dolls, which are part of Mattel’s new series called “Inspiring Women,” will be
mass produced and sold in stores….

(11) ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES. A well-known name in superhero movies will be responsible for a Star Wars series to appear on Disney’s new streaming platform: “Jon Favreau hired for ‘Star Wars’ series: Why fans have mixed feelings”.

The director whose film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a galaxy far, far away. Jon Favreau, the filmmaker behind Iron Man, Elf, and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book and Lion King, will write and executive-produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s new streaming platform. Lucasfilm announced today that Favreau, who is also an actor with roles in the Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story,  will helm the new show. While Favreau has a strong fanbase (going all the way back to his 1996 debut film Swingers), many on social media are wondering why Lucasfilm has hired yet another white man to steer the diverse Star Wars universe — and announced it on International Women’s Day, no less.

(12) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo curated The Feminist Futures Bundle, which will be available for the next three weeks.

In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

I used to work in the tech industry, and there I saw how diversity could enhance a team and expand its skillset. Women understand that marketing to women is something other than coming up with a lady-version of a potato chip designed not to crunch or a pink pen sized for our dainty hands. Diversity means more perspectives, and this applies to science fiction as well. I am more pleased with this bundle than any I’ve curated so far.

In her feminist literary theory classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, science fiction author Joanna Russ talked about the forces working against the works of women (and minority) writers. A counter to that is making a point of reading and celebrating such work, and for me this bundle is part of that personal effort, introducing you to some of my favorites. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the Feminist Futures Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling
  • Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith
  • The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Starfarers Quartet Omnibus – Books 1-4 by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
  • Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth
  • The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley
  • Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • To Shape the Dark by Athena Andreadis

(13) FAIL HYDRA. Cory Doctorow updated BoingBoing readers about a publisher accused of questionable practices: “Random House responds to SFWA on its Hydra ebook imprint”

Allison R. Dobson, Digital Publishing Director of Random House, has written an open letter to the Science Fiction Writers of America responding to the warning it published about Hydra, a new imprint with a no-advance, author-pays-expenses contract that SFWA (and I) characterize as being totally unacceptable. Dobson’s letter doesn’t do much to change my view on that:

(14) BEARING WITNESS. Lavie Tidhar has tweeted a noir Pooh adventure. Jump on the thread here:

(15) ANDROIDS AT 50. Here’s a clipping from Nature: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ananyo Bhattacharya toasts Philip K. Dick’s prescient science-fiction classic as it turns 50.” [PDF file.]

When science-fiction writer Peter Watts first opened Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a word caught his eye. It was “friendlily”. How had Dick got that past an editor? As Watts told me: “I knew at that point that Dick had to be some kind of sick genius.”

(16) CURRENT EVENTS. This sounds like a job for Doctor Who: “A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks”.

For the past few weeks, something strange has been happening in Europe. Instead of time marching relentlessly forward, it has been slowing down imperceptibly, yet with cumulatively noticeable results, so that millions of clocks the Continent-over are now running behind.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity released a statement Tuesday saying that since mid-January, Europe’s standard electrical frequency of 50 hertz has fallen ever so slightly to 49.996 hertz.

For electric clocks that rely on the frequency of the power system — typically radio, oven and heating-panel clocks — the cumulative effect was “close to six minutes,” according to the agency.

(17) TAINT FUNNY MCGEE. The BBC says “Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh”.

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle – startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

(18) CUBE ROUTER. Meanwhile, at MIT, they’re wasting their time saving time: “Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds”.

Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborated with Jared Di Carlo to create the robot.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” said Mr Di Carlo in a blog post.

Mr Katz said in his blog the 0.38 seconds included “image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube”.

Their contraption used two PlayStation Eye cameras from the old PS3 console to identify the configuration of the cube.

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

(19) DARK MATTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination released a video of a recent guest presentation: “Sir Roger Penrose: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter, which Strangely and Slowly Decays”.

Sir Roger Penrose joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on January 19, 2018, to give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger explains a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme—where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors.

 

(20) HANDY HINTS. And in case you ever have this problem: “Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole”. The article is honestly kind of useless, but I love the clickbait title.

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/18 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.

Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.

If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.

For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.

(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”

Their names are Legion, for they are many.

According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.

I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.

So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….

(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.

The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.

From the FAQ —

What is the resolution mechanic in the game?

You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.

Example:
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.

Key features (no pun intended):

  • The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
  • It features a procedural adventure building system
  • A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
  • Five sets of generic maps
  • Mission cards
  • Location cards
  • Obstacle cards
  • Reward cards
  • Motivation cards
  • Character sheets

They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.

(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:

We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.

His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2.

The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net.

In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.

(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:

Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • February 4, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
  • February 4, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered.
  • February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.

(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….

(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.

The top candidates for my ballot are:

  1. Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….

(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.

The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.

(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”

On writing her first male hero

I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.

(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.

…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….

(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)

A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.

Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).

… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.

(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.

Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.

 

(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….

And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora Feuer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/18 Like A File Over Scrolling Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE. TASAT (There’s a Story About That) is a new community hub for applying science fiction to solve real world problems.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT will tap into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans to crowdsource science fictional stories (across media) that may provide applicable insight into the problems we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.

Applying Science Fiction to Solve Real World Problems

Envision: You work at an agency, corporation, or NGO, or you’re a citizen who has come across something… unusual. You’ve gathered a team to make recommendations. There seems to be a clear explanation. And yet, you wonder…

…might someone have thought about this very situation, in the past? Perhaps with an alternative idea your team missed? What if, already in some archive, There’s A Story About This?

As TASAT founder David Brin explains here, far-seeing tales can help us avoid mistakes, or at least give us a wider selection of scenarios to think about.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow. TASAT operates on two levels…

(2) MORE LIKE A BIG GULP. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur unveils “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The ‘There’s Something in My Eye’ Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”. I don’t quite understand all of it – perhaps you can explain it to me!

The 3rd Annual Sippy Awards keep right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s week it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for…
The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 

for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(3) BRIDGE PARTY. ConDor joins forces with SanDiegoLan.net to host the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator game at ConDor 25, to be held January 19-21 — “Artemis Bridge Simulation at ConDor”.

Artemis is a multiplayer, multi-computer networked game for Windows computers.

Artemis simulates a spaceship bridge by networking several computers together. One computer runs the simulation and the “main screen”, while the others serve as workstations for the normal jobs a bridge officer might do, like Helm, Communication, Engineering, and Weapon Control.

Artemis is a social game where several players are together in one room (“bridge”) , and while they all work together, one player plays the Captain, a person who sits in the middle, doesn’t have a workstation, and tells everyone what to do.

San Diego LAN is a group of people who love getting together and playing PC games over LAN. We always balance the teams and we have a very friendly bunch, (typically ages 18 to 45).

(4) SF IN SOCAL. The Pasadena Museum of History will host the free exhibition “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” from March 3 through September 2.

Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California… explores the history of science fiction in Southern California from 1930 to 1980, and how it interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society. Curated by Nick Smith, president of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the exhibition will feature historic artifacts, fine and graphic art, books and ephemera, and historic photographs.  This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The museum is at 470 W. Walnut St. , Pasadena, CA 91103.

(5) DEEP DISH. The next Great Deep Dish SFF reading in Chicago will be on March 1, 7 p.m.

The inaugural event in December at Volumes Bookcafe was reported by Mary Anne Mohanraj at the Speculative Literature Foundation.

…thanks again to all the readers and speakers (Mary Robinette Kowal, Stephen Segal, Michi Trota, Michael Moreci, Angeli Primlani, Dan Gonzalez, Sue Burke, Valya Dudycz Lupescu) and everyone else who worked to make it a success, esp. my co-host, Chris Bauer.

(6) DOCUMENTING JDA’S TROLLING. Jim C. Hines has written a lengthy summary of “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing”.

Del Arroz’s defenders claim he’s a nice guy, and accusations that he harasses or trolls people are absurd. Del Arroz told me on Facebook that he doesn’t “escalate feuds.” He claims he’s just the victim of blackballing, harassment, threats, and so on.

I’m not saying nobody has ever given Del Arroz shit online. He alleges that people once doxxed his children and sent a glitterbomb to his house. Both were done anonymously. I have no problem condemning both incidents, whoever was responsible. I’ve also heard that people mocked him for his last name, which…yeah, that just seems racist to me.

But if you look through Jon Del Arroz’s interactions with others… Well, here’s a sampling of what people are talking about when they say Del Arroz harasses, insults, and trolls others, and distorts things for publicity and what someone once described as martyrbatiuon.

My goal isn’t to trash Del Arroz, but to document a pattern of behavior.

Warning: there’s a lot of material here….

Hines does an excellent job of mapping many of JDA’s acts of harassment and misogyny over the past year.

(7) LEST WE FORGET. Hines also noticed —

(8) NUSSBAUM BRANCHES OUT. Abigail Nussbaum has launched a new series of articles at Lawyers, Guns & Money “A Political History of the Future: Introduction”.

My plan is to devote each installment to a particular work and discuss how its themes reflect current issues. Even more importantly, I want to talk about how science fiction imagines ways of ordering society that are different from the ones we know, that offer alternatives to the existing social order.

That’s by no means the norm. A lot of the time, when science fiction tries to engage with hot-button political issues, it does so in the terms of post-apocalypse or dystopia. Most climate change novels, for example, can more accurately be described as climate catastrophe novels. That’s not unjustified, obviously, but my interest is in stories that imagine functional societies, even if those societies are also flawed or predatory. And while talking about accuracy and realism in the context of science fiction worldbuilding is often just an excuse to be nitpicky and dismissive, I’m more interested in stories that show their work, that think through how a policy or an institution would come into being, and how it would affect society as a whole.

To give an example from the negative, while I enjoyed it very much as a piece of TV-making and a feminist statement, I’m not planning to write about Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (though that might change according to how the second season shakes out). When Margaret Atwood published the original novel in 1985, she constructed its gender-dystopia world in response to forces she saw around her, a combination of anti-feminist backlash, Phyllis Schlafly’s Christianist anti-women doctrine, and the Iranian revolution. That this was an incoherent patchwork didn’t matter because the focus of the novel was on Offred’s mental state, and its scope rarely extended past her confined viewpoint. The television series recreates that world more or less uncritically, and even with the gloss of topicality it layers over, the result doesn’t really hold water. That’s not a criticism of the show, which to my mind is one of the most essential pop culture artifacts of the current era. But it means that I don’t have much to say about it as a piece of political worldbuilding.

(9) PENROSE ON DARK MATTER. On January 19, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego and the Penrose Institute present a “Roger Penrose Lecture: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter”.

Sir Roger Penrose will give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger will explain a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme-where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors. The talk will blend Roger’s accessible style with an unapologetic detailed look at the physical principles. It should be of interest to practicing physicists and lay people who enjoy taking a more detailed look at physics.

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. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

On January 19, 2018, 3 p.m. in Liebow Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public (seating first-come, first-served).

(10) OUTWORLDS LIVE. Fanac.org is the place to find “Outworlds Live! The 50th issue of Outworlds”, performed at the 1987 Corflu. Not sure if I’ve covered this before, so I’ll link to it now —

Bill Bowers was one of the most respected fanzine editors of his time. He started publishing fanzines in the 1960s. His most notable fanzines were Double-Bill, edited with Bill Mallardi, and Outworlds. Outworlds was published for 70 issues. Bill chaired Corflu IV, Cincinnati (1987). A highlight of the convention was this performance of the 50th issue of Outworlds, Outworlds Live! It featured readings and performances by Bill Bowers, Art Widner, Richard Brandt, Gary Hubbard, Al Curry, Bernadette Bosky, Arthur Hlavaty, Ted White, and Stephen Leigh. Featured is art by Steve Stiles and Joan Hanke-Woods.

Here’s the beginning of a 13-video playlist:

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 1981 — David Cronenberg’s Scanners debuted.
  • January 14, 1976 The Bionic Woman aired its first episode.
  • January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy can see how this might be a very short game — In the Bleachers.
  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian both demand to know “How dare they go out of business!” after viewing Pearls Before Swine.
  • John King Tarpinian finds aliens have changed their plans for the Earth in Frank and Ernest.

(13) FLOWER POWER. The BBC tells “How flowering plants conquered the world” (albeit after butterflies appeared):

Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, make up about 90% of all living plant species, including most food crops.

In the distant past, they outpaced plants such as conifers and ferns, which predate them, but how they did this has has been a mystery.

New research suggests it is down to genome size – and small is better.

“It really comes down to a question of cell size and how you can build a small cell and still retain all the attributes that are necessary for life,” says Kevin Simonin from San Francisco State University in California, US.

(14) CROWDSOURCED ASTRONOMY. They hit the jackpot: “Citizen science bags five-planet haul”.

A discovery by citizen scientists has led to the confirmation of a system of five planets orbiting a far-off star.

Furthermore, the planets’ orbits are linked in a mathematical relationship called a resonance chain, with a pattern that is unique among the known planetary systems in our galaxy.

Studying the system could help unlock some mysteries surrounding the formation of planetary systems.

The results were announced at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.

The system was found by astronomy enthusiasts using Zooniverse, an online platform for crowdsourcing research.

(15) THE ILLUSION OF DEPTH. From Germany, “The animation genius you’ve (probably) never heard of” (videos at the link.)

The charming story of how Lotte Reiniger became one of the great pioneers of early animation.

(16) ERROR OF THE DAY. Christopher Hensley shared a discovery of Facebook.

So, while doing a legitimate work thing I found out about the greatest HTTP error code ever invented: 418 Error – I am a Teapot. It was issued in RFC 2324 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324) by the IETF as part of an April Fool’s day gag in 1998. But here we are, 20 years later. We are living in an age of the Internet of Things, with networked devices of all kinds in their home. Including, internet enabled electric kettles. And, if you attempt to make an HTTP connection to that electric kettle on the TCP port it uses to communicate with the world the the standards dictate the response code 418 Error – I am a Teapot.

(17) DR. DEMENTO The Doctor has a theme album reports the LA Times “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

(18) BAD ROBOT. Quartz reports how “This robotics hobbyist makes a living creating shitty robots”

Simone Giertz’s morning routine involves a lot of really bad robots. They fail miserably at waking her up, brushing her teeth and making her breakfast. The 25-year-old Swedish robot enthusiast has parlayed their failures into a very successful YouTube channel, and full-time job.

Quartz’ video compilation is at the link. Here’s the introductory video from her channel:

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/18 By Klono’s Scintillating Scrolls And Prismatic Pixels!

(1) SPACED OUT LIBRARY. The Toronto Star remembers how it all began — “Sci-fi author Judith Merril and the very real story of Toronto’s Spaced Out Library”.

As the Vietnam War raged on, science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril — disgusted with the violence hurled against anti-war demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago — packed her books and bags and immigrated to Canada.

Already well-respected in the science-fiction writing world, Merril was in her mid-40s when she landed in Toronto in 1969 with an extensive personal collection of books and unpublished manuscripts of science fiction. She settled into Rochdale College, the 18-storey hippie haven at Bloor and Huron Sts. with her grown daughter, Ann Pohl. Merril taught nondegree subjects in exchange for room and board at the free university, which was an experiment in student-run education and co-operative learning.

Merril became known as Rochdale’s resource person in publishing and writing. She founded the Rochdale library, which later was called the Spaced Out Library.

She lived in Rochdale for a year. One year later, in 1970, she would donate the Spaced Out Library and its 5,000 items to the Toronto Public Library….

(2) LIBRARY STATS. Here are links to the Boston Public Library’s report of most-borrowed books for 2017:
Adult: (genre at 3 and 9, Underground Railroad and Handmaid’s Tale)
Teen: (media-related genre at 1, 3, and 10)
Childrens: (media-related genre at 1 and 4; Dr. Seuss at 8 & 10)

(3) HOLY FATHER, BLESS MY MIDICHLORIANS. From American Thinker we get an impassioned Catholicism-rooted jeremiad by Ojel L. Burgos against the movie The Last Jedi as an attack by the New Atheism movement against all that’s holy — The Last Jedi and the New Atheism”

Some may say atheism does indeed give hope, but it’s a hope constrained within scientism and empiricism – better explained, a hope placed solely in what humanity can control.  As Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Saved by Hope argued, despite failure, a sense of purposiveness, and suffering, the power of hope in God sustains us.  Luke Skywalker’s initial hopelessness and the subsequent revival of the power of hope give us the strongest indication that atheism’s triumph is society’s downfall.

(4) GETTING PAST JEDI. After The Guardian’s Ben Child suggests that The Last Jedi was —

a smart, intelligently curated yet ever so slightly soulless example of machine-honed franchise film-making. It ticked every box for fans of the venerable space saga, without ever really pushing the envelope; a movie that eventually made the Kessel Run, but 40 years or so after Han Solo and Chewie had already achieved that legendary feat.

— he gives thought to what movies will push the SF envelope in the coming year. The suggestions, with justification and some trailers, are Alex Garland’s “heart of darkness” Annihilation in February, Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality Ready Player One in March, Josh Boone’s superhero The New Mutants in April, Rupert Wyatt’s post-alien invasion Captive State in August, Christian Rivers’ steampunk Mortal Engines in December, and Duncan Jones’ “Moon” successor Mute sometime in 2018. — “Future shock: unearthing the most cutting-edge sci-fi movies of 2018”.

(5) WHICH HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE. Smithsonian.com reminds us about “Thomas Edison’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Novel”.

When Thomas Edison died in 1931, he held more than 1,000 patents in the United States alone. He was credited with inventing, or significantly advancing, electric lighting, storage batteries, the motion picture camera, the phonograph and even cement making—among many other things.

Edison nearly added another item to his résumé that’s all but forgotten today: Progress, a science-fiction novel he began working on around 1890. Although the inventor abandoned the project before it could be finished, he wrote pages and pages of notes that a collaborator, George Parsons Lathrop, would eventually turn into a work of futuristic fiction, In the Deep of Time, published in 1896.

…According to the 1908 biography Thomas Alva Edison: Sixty Years of an Inventor’s Life by Francis Arthur Jones, Edison told Lathrop that he “would rather invent a dozen useful things, including a mechanical novelist who would turn out works of fiction when the machinery was set in motion, than go any further with the electrical novel.”

Lathrop proceeded all the same, and In the Deep of Time, now more novella than full-length novel, appeared as a serial in several U.S. newspapers in December 1896. The English Illustrated Magazine ran it in two installments the following spring. It was bylined “by George Parsons Lathrop in Collaboration with Thomas A. Edison.”

(6) UNLIKE PREVIOUS TREKS. Variety profiles DS9 — “‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ at 25: Through the Wormhole With the Cast and Creators”.

“DS9” allowed “Trek” writers the chance to delve into that conflict like never before. Over the course of its run, the show tackled complex subject matter including the ethics of war, faith, cultural identity and the often subtle distinction between a freedom fighter and a terrorist in dark and surprising ways that the previous two series had not.

(7) ANANSI BOYS. Over Christmas, Radio 4 broadcast a new, six-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s mythical fantasy “Anansi Boys” about the trickster God Anansi and his unsuspecting son Fat Charlie. The episodes are available here. (But for how long?)

(8) SOME CAMPBELL-ELIGIBLE WRITERS. Rocket Stack Rank’s 2018 Campbell Award-Eligible Writers page is up now. It is not intended to be all-encompassing (as it says at the post) —

Here are 166 short fiction writers reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank who are eligible for the 2018 Campbell Award. They were selected from the 746 stories reviewed by RSR in 2017 as well as the 821 stories reviewed in 2016. There are many more new writers than the ones in this list, but their stories weren’t reviewed by RSR so they’re not included here.

Greg Hullender writes:

As ever, it only includes writers whose stories appeared in the magazines and anthologies that we reviewed, and the eligibility dates were calculated using isfdb.org. We welcome and appreciate any error reports!

(9) CANDLE POWER. Steven H Silver announced his new project —

I’m posting a series of short story reviews on Black Gate.  Each day (well, most days, some days I can’t find anyone who fits the requirements), I’ll be posting a review of a short story by an author whose birthday it is.

He began New Year’s Day with “Birthday Reviews: E.M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’”.

(10) WEIR SEARCH. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination podcast Into The Impossible continues with Episode 13: Life on the Moon.

It’s the end of 2017, but we’ll spend this episode living, imaginatively, in the 2080s, on the first lunar city, called Artemis. Artemis is the invention of Andy Weir, the author of The Martian and another of the great science fiction writers to have come through UC San Diego. We welcomed him back to campus earlier this month, and we have the live conversation to share with you today.

(11) RAW SCIENCE. And the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is a partner of the 4th annual Raw Science Film Festival, to be held this year in Santa Barbara, CA, on January 6 and 7th, 2018.

The festival honors the best media centered on science and technology from around the world. The mission of the festival is to celebrate science media and ensure fact-based experts stay at the forefront of popular culture. This “Bridge between Science and Media” will honor luminaries and celebrities in science, technology, media, and entertainment and showcase best-in-class films.

The culmination of the three day event is a black-tie red carpet awards ceremony on Saturday, January 6 at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, CA. The 100th birthday of Sir Arthur C. Clarke will be celebrated with inspiring experts on interstellar travel, human longevity, scalable healthcare, the ethics of space travel, and lunar colonization! Recent Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne will roll down the red carpet via Beam robot to present the annual Kip Thorne Gravity Award. The three day event also includes a VIP reception, film screenings, exhibitions, lab tours, and sci-comm workshops. The festival brings science fiction to life and to work in an inspiring weekend of fun, entertainment, and public service.

(12) INDUSTRY BIAS. In a BBC interview, “Rosamund Pike says actors won’t ‘play second fiddle’ to actresses”.

Pike continued: “Many, many actors are coming out saying we want more female-driven stories, we want fantastic roles for women… so the next consequence is, if you want those to come, then the boys have to play second fiddle.

“That’s just the way it is. Until that happens, there will be fewer films with female leads made,” she added.

Films with leading female stars and supporting male actors are not as common as the other way round.

But there are some well-known examples, including 2013’s Oscar-winning film Gravity, with Sandra Bullock playing the lead alongside George Clooney, and sci-fi flick Arrival (2016), with Jeremy Renner in a supporting role alongside Amy Adams.

Note that the two exceptions cited are both genre.

(13) ACROSS THE STRAITS. NPR reports In “Alaskan infant’s DNA tells story of ‘first Americans'”.

Genetic analysis of the child, allied to other data, indicates she belonged to a previously unknown, ancient group.

Scientists say what they have learnt from her DNA strongly supports the idea that a single wave of migrants moved into the continent from Siberia just over 20,000 years ago.

NPR observes that the excavation was done with the cooperation of Native American groups — “Ancient Human Remains Document Migration From Asia To America”.

They conclude that the ancestors of these infants started out in East Asia about 35,000 years ago. As they traveled east, they became genetically isolated from other Asians. At some point during the last ice age they crossed a frozen land bridge from Siberia to Alaska called “Beringia.”

Potter says during this great migration, either before or after they crossed the land bridge, this group (which the researchers call the founding population for all Native Americans) split again, into two populations. Scientists had suspected this and surmised that one group stayed put in and around Beringia. They call them Ancient Beringians.

The two infants are the first hard evidence that they did indeed do that.

The ice age was still on, but these people hunkered down and made the best of what was there in this arid, frigid landscape, says Potter. “Bison, horses, mammoth. Big grazers were very common.”

The other group moved down into North and South America and are believed to be the direct ancestors of current Native Americans.

(14) APPLY FOR CLARION. Applications are now open for the 2018 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop! Eighteen students will be selected to spend six weeks at UC San Diego, writing, studying, and workshopping with leading writers from the field. The deadline to apply is March 1.

The 2018 writers in residence: will be Christopher Barzak, Holly Black, Mat Johnson, Kij Johnson, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant.

(15) THE PEN. How writing destroyed civilization as they knew it…. Arthur Chu’s thread begins here —

(16) NOTES FROM A HIGHER POWER. Nick Confalone, in “Are The Aliens Wearing Life Jackets?  And Other Questions From Kids’ Network Standards and Practices”  on Slate, has some inane comments from Standards and Practices types, including, “When we first see the aliens along the beach, we should see that they are clearly wearing life jackets.”

Equating a raccoon’s family’s misfortune to a real-life human scenario that begins with unemployment and escalates to homelessness, lack of funds for medicine, and a child having to drop out of school to help support the family seems inappropriate, despite their admission that they love living in a garbage can. We don’t want to give the misperception that we are making light of or trying to derive humor from a tragic, human situation.

(17) BEWARE FALLING GODS. Here’s The New Legends of Monkey: Extended Trailer.

Inspired by the 16th Century Chinese fable Journey to the West, ABC ME’s The Legend of Monkey is 10-part half-hour series that follows a teenage girl and a trio of fallen gods on a perilous journey to bring an end to a demonic reign of chaos and restore balance to their world. Coming to ABC ME January 28.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rick Moen, Darrah Chavey, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Rose Embolism, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/17 There Are Certain Scrolls Of New York, Major, That I Wouldn’t Advise You To Pixel

(1) NEXT SMOFCON. Santa Rosa will host Smofcon 36 in 2018. The con will be held November 30-December 2. Bruce Farr will chair, and Patty Wells will organize programming. Their hotel will be The Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa.

(2) ORIGIN STORY. The International Costumers Guild revisits “The Futuristicostume” worn by Forry Ackerman at the first Worldcon in 1939.

We started our research by going back to the beginning, back to the first convention costumers Forrest J Ackerman and Myrtle Douglas.

Everyone is familiar with their photos. Most know the how and the why of their costumes. But how were they made? What color were they? We now have some answers and some theories along with new, never seen photos.

We now know his “futuristicostume” still partially exists. Most of the cape probably has not survived, but the pants and shirt are in the hands of a private collector. The shirt appears to be pale gold. As you can tell even in the black and white photos on line, the pants are most likely WWI military surplus. The most interesting story is about the cape. We found 2 references describing it as green. New photos from Ackerman’s personal collection recently came to light, so we snapped them up for the Archives. We understand that the cape he is wearing in them is a recreation, but it would appear to verify our references. However, in the book “House of Ackerman: A Photographic Tour of the Legendary Ackermansion”, by Al Astrella, James Greene and John Landis, there’s a color photo of what’s left of the cape, where it appears to be an antique gold. We are 90% certain we know the reason why. The clue was found in analyzing Myrtle’s costume…

(3) DARK. Camestros Felapton is watching: “Review: Dark – Netflix”.

It is no spoiler to say this is a time-travel/time-slip mystery. From the beginning elements such as clocks are underlined, we get repeated quotes from Einstein, snippets of lectures on Black Holes, and an old guy warning that ‘it is happening again’. On top of that, we get an opening title sequence that (very effectively) uses reflections to create a disturbing view of the normal and a teacher lecturing his class on the use of symmetry and foreshadowing in the work of Goethe. I wonder if the producers entirely trusted their audience to follow where the show wanted to go.

The pay off comes at the end of episode three when the connections between 2019 and 1986 characters are made overt. What was an initially a confusing set of characters becomes clearer as the set of families involved and the relationships between them become clearer. Betrayals and loss and teenage romance form a web and events between the two eras become more entwined.

(4) CUBESATS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents its latest Into the Impossible podcast — Episode 12: Speculative CubeSats.

How can CubeSats—the small, standardized satellites paving the way for the democratization of space—change our sense of the possible? We dive into two projects: the Planetary Society’s Lightsail 2, with Director of Science and Technology Bruce Betts, and with MacArthur Genius grant-awardee Trevor Paglen, we discuss Orbital Reflector, the first satellite to be launched purely as an artistic gesture.

(5) SHUGGOTH. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett added a James Blish cat story — “Tales Too Good To Forget #1”.

…Luckily for us the young James Blish published quite a few fanzines and thus inadvertently provided for anybody fortunate enough to read these evidence that he was far more than a cold and forbidding intellect.

Well okay, to be perfectly honest a lot of his early fanzine writings are indeed as earnest and po-faced as William Atheling, Jr. might lead you believe the real Blish was. But while some of this material might come across as every bit as pompous as the pronunciations of a high art maven (if you don’t believe me then go look for an issue of Renascence, but don’t say I didn’t warn you) in between the bouts of earnestness is another Blish, a wittier, lighter Blish who knew how to not take himself too seriously. The best place to look for this James Blish is in the material which he published for the Vanguard Amateur Press Association. It was here, in Tumbrils #4, that he wrote one of my favourite cat stories. Read this and you will never think of James Blish as po-faced ever again…

(6) DELIVERED IN HALF AN HOUR OR IT’S FREE. The “Astronauts show how to make pizza in space”.

Astronauts at the International Space Station created a video of themselves making pizza in zero gravity.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli tweeted that he “casually” told ISS chief Kirk Shireman that he missed pizza and Shireman managed to get pizza ingredients into space.

 

(7) A BOOK YOU CAN’T BUY ON AMAZON. Lurkertype went shopping for a copy of Camestros Felapton’s There Will Be Walrus on Amazon, and found the Big River was able to sell everything but —

I just searched Amazon for TWBW and got no result (since it’s only on Smashwords), but was suggested a plush stuffed walrus, walrus artworks, a tacky walrus shirt, several doodads for “Rock Band: Beatles”, and a Barry White mask.

(8) I FEEL WOOZY. Andrew Porter cautions before clicking this link – “Memories and possibilities are even more hideous than realities”.

Warning: this may cause you to tear out your eyeballs. Extreme psychedelic stuff might cause seizures in people with epilepsy….

(9) JAMES GUNN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. At Locus Online, “Russell Letson reviews Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction by James Gunn”.

I hope I might be excused for injecting personal notes into a review of James Gunn’s autobiography, Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction. As I read it, I couldn’t help noticing how many times and in how many ways my life in SF was affected by Gunn’s work as writer, editor, and academic activist. One of my earliest book purchases, around 1957, was the Ace paperback (Double Size! 35 cents!) of Star Bridge, the space opera he co-wrote with Jack Williamson. (I still have a double-autographed copy of a later Ace printing, the original having long since succumbed to pulp rot.) Before that, I had listened to the 1956 X Minus One radio adaptation of his short story ‘‘The Cave of Night’’. (It’s still available online.) Years later, the third volume of The Road to Science Fiction was one of the reliable anthologies for my SF course, and a few years after that I wrote a dozen entries for The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that he edited. By that time, Gunn had been president of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association, started the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and worked for years as a promoter of the study and practice of science fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian sends along today’s horrible pun from Brevity.
  • And an interstellar mission doesn’t quite make it in Herman.

(11) CLARKE CENTENNIAL. Clarke Award Director Tom Hunter reminds all that “Saturday 16th December will mark Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary anniversary, and we’ve been prepping a few special moments to help celebrate the occasion across the month.”

They include:

SILVER SCREEN SCIENCE FICTION AT THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY, GREENWICH

2010: The Year We Make Contact
Saturday 16th December 2017 (Sir Arthur’s birthday)

The Royal Observatory Greenwich will be hosting a special planetarium screening of 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren + a cameo from Sir Arthur himself.

Before the film, we’ll hear from Director of the Clarke Awards, Tom Hunter, and ROG Astronomer Brendan Owens about the influence of Arthur C Clarke on both science fiction and science fact. This event includes a free beer per person on arrival courtesy of Meantime Brewing Company.

There will also be a Kickstarter-funded stunt anthology, 2001: An Odyssey in Words, where every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

On the fiction front, we started by putting out a call to our past winning and shortlisted authors, and have received almost thirty fantastic submissions back from writers including Chris Beckett, Gwyneth Jones, Jeff Noon, Rachel Pollack, Jane Rogers and Adrian Tchaikovsky, picking six names not at all at random because six is the same number as we have on our shortlist every year, and because all of these authors happen to be past winners.

…We’ll also be featuring some choice bits of non-fiction in the collection, including an essay on Clarke’s legacy by our own Chair of Judges, Dr Andrew M. Butler, and a remembrance of the judging experience itself from one of our more well known past judges, Neil Gaiman.

(12) BEAR FACTS. Well, phooey. “DNA Evidence Shows Yeti Was Local Himalayan Bears All Along” says Gizmodo.

The yeti, or abominable snowman, is a sort of wild, ape-like hominid that’s the subject of long-standing Himalayan mythology. Scientists have questioned prior research suggesting that purported yeti hair samples came from a strange polar bear hybrid or a new species, though. The analysis “did not rule out the possibility that the samples belonged to brown bear,” according to the paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Lindqvist and her team analyzed DNA from 24 different bear or purported yeti samples from the wild and museums, including feces, hair, skin, and bone. They were definitely all bears—and the yeti samples seemed to match up well with exiting Himalayan brown bears. “

(13) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. My Pappy always told me, never gamble, stick to thermodynamics: “Unesco adds Sir Isaac Newton’s papers to world register”.

More personal items in the collection include a notebook written during his time as an undergraduate, in which he lists how much he has spent on items such as wine, the shoestrings that cost him one shilling and 10 pence, and his four shillings and sixpence stockings.

He also appears to have lost 15 shillings at a card game, according to his own accounts.

(14) NOWHERE PEOPLE. “Where is the remotest spot in the United States?”. “A pair of scientists from Florida, and their eight-year-old daughter, are visiting the remotest spot in every US state.”

They settled on “the furthest distance from a road or town”. But then, they say, “it got trickier”.

What is a road? Anything paved, unpaved, public, or private, they decided. For example – beaches that allowed cars counted as roads.

They also decided the remote spot must be “high and developable”. It can’t be in the middle of a lake, and it can’t be a flood plain.

(15) JUDGMENT CALL. Bleeding Cool actually did what I decided not to do — made an entire post of Amal El-Mohtar’s tweets about her ordeal getting through TSA airport security the other day: “What Happened to Canadian Sci-Fi Writer Amal El-Mohtar’s Phone at US Customs?”

(16) ARE THEY SURE? The Los Angeles Times recently published this errata —

(17) LIGHTSABER EXERCISES. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Training Featurette” is a look at how hard the cast of The Last Jedi trained for the film.

(18) OUT IN FORCE. Daisy Ridley and the cast of The Last Jedi appeared on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!

That same night there was a “Star Wars’ Chewbacca Christmas Tree Unveiled on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live'”.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/19/17 And That’s What Pixelmas Is All About, Charlie Scroll

(1) BY WAY OF MELBOURNE. Playbill says King Kong will open on Broadway next year. (Just keep those biplanes grounded!) “King Kong Sets Broadway Opening Night; Tickets Now on Sale”. This musical premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and was originally supposed to come to Broadway when Spiderman folded in 2014. But it didn’t.

The anticipated stage musical adaptation of King Kong—written by Jack Thorne with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect—will officially open November 8, 2018, at the Broadway Theatre. Previews are set to begin October 5.

The production, which features a one-ton, six-meter-tall silverback gorilla puppet as its star, arrives on Broadway following a 2013 Melbourne world premiere.

An all-new creative team has been assembled to bring King Kong to Broadway, including Olivier Award-winning book writer Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Let the Right One In), Olivier Award-winning director-choreographer Drew McOnie (Strictly Ballroom, In the Heights), and Australian songwriter Perfect, who is also adapting Beetlejuice for Broadway. Perfect joins the show’s original composer and arranger de Vries (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet).

(2) TWO FINS UP. Craig Miller comments on a screening of The Shape of Water.

The film was pretty great. It’s set in the early 1960s but it has a sort of timeless quality about it. Set at some sort of secret, military-run laboratory, it’s about a lonely, mute cleaning woman (Hawkins) who works there and what happens when a new “asset” is brought in for investigation and experimentation. Her performance, and that of Doug Jones, are remarkable. More so in that neither character is capable of speaking but you understand them both perfectly.

(3) MINORITY REPORT. The National Review’s Armond White says “Justice League Is the Epic We Deserve” – and means it in a good sense.

Zack Snyder’s audacity in creating a comic-book movie renaissance (which began with the complex, ambitious Watchmen) has inspired philistine resentment from reviewers and fanboys who don’t want cinema. They’ve been desensitized to the form’s vitality and richness. (Like civics, art is no longer being taught in schools.) The schoolyard game of lambasting Snyder’s magnificent Man of Steel and the even more intricate Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice almost directly parallels the unsubtle breakdown of our political process. And this year’s post-election delusional praise for the utterly mediocre Wonder Woman is a symptom of our current political paralysis. By coordinating DC Comics’ superhero characters into the fight against Steppenwolf, Snyder attempts to extend his saga from Dawn of Justice. Studio interference (Warner Bros. envy of the lucrative Marvel franchise) and personal tragedy have prevented Snyder from completing his vision on a scale commensurate with the ever-astonishing Watchmen. But as Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join Batman (Ben Affleck) in the most-intense-yet fight for human life, what remains of Snyder’s handiwork — after the studio imposed The Avengers dullard Joss Whedon on the final product — is still a triumph.

(4) COCO. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna talks to the stars and producers of COCO and looks at how Pixar is coming out with a Mexican-themed film for the first time: “‘Coco’ forced Pixar to dive deep into a real-world culture — and add some diversity”.

PIXAR STUDIOS, for all its renown for creating highly detailed worlds, has rarely had to worry too much about cultural authenticity. Even after all their fabled research for movies such as “Brave” and “Ratatouille,” the filmmakers have been free to use their imaginations, without real fear of offending toymakers, automakers or entomologists.

The Bay Area studio knew, however, that centering “Coco,” which opens Nov. 22, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday would enter an entirely different realm, because it would include not only depictions of traditions, but also a significant increase in casting diversity.

(5) THE SCIENTISTS IN SF. Tor.com nominates “Our Favorite Fictionalized Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors in SFF”.

Benoit Mandelbrot (Mandelbrot the Magnificent)

Where the rest of us see fractals spinning off into infinity, Benoit Mandelbrot saw minute pockets into parallel universes. Liz Ziemska’s magical pseudo-biography reimagines the mathematician’s childhood during Hitler’s rise to power: in an era where people like Mandelbrot’s family were fleeing their homes to escape the growing evil, young Benoit discovers secret dimensions in which to hide, all unlocked by math. Talk of Kepler’s ellipses transports Benoit; archetypal math problems about approaching infinity provide him with glimpses into mirror worlds in which he can hunt monsters. But as the monsters in his world abandon all pretense of peace, Mandelbrot must harness his gifts to hide his family, or else he’ll have sealed their fates. It’s a lovely example of using fantasy as a way to gild the edges of inspiring true stories, linking math with magic for non-mathematicians. —Natalie

(6) GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP. In another piece, Michael Cavna gives his picks for “The 10 best graphic novels of 2017”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

By Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

This debut graphic novel from a 55-year-old Chicago artist is a revelation: a deeply textured tale of dark histories framed as a girl’s diary and told through riveting art that is an homage to midcentury horror comics and film. A dark-horse winner that came out of nowhere.

(7) NIGEL’S NEXT. Nigel Quinlan did a cover reveal of his new book, The Cloak of Feathers, an MG fantasy coming in the UK and Ireland from Hachette Children’s in January 2018.

It’s about an awful summer festival held every year in a small village in Ireland. Once every hundred years the Fair Folk visit, and it becomes a Great Festival, full of magic and wonder. Except everything has gone horribly wrong. The lake is polluted, there’s a ghost estate built on the shore, and their beloved Princess has vanished. Our heroes, the reluctant members of the Junior Knockmealldown Festival Committee (Cow-Fetching Sub-Group) must perform four Feats to win the Cloak of Feathers and rescue the Princess before the whole village is punished.

(8) SUPER SJW CREDENTIALS. Quirk Books makes its selection of the “10 Best Cats in Comics”.

Chewie – Captain Marvel

Supergirl and Power Girl are not the only big name superheroes to have pet cats. Captain Marvel has her own feline companion, Chewie. Initially, Carol believed that Chewie was just a normal cat that could keep her company on her adventures, but when she met Rocket Raccoon, he claimed that Chewie was, in fact, a Flerken. Captain Marvel refused to believe that her furry friend was secretly a tentacle-mouthed, egg-laying alien with pocket dimensions in her body…but when Chewie laid 117 eggs on board the ship, she was forced to admit it was true. Although the 117 Flerken kittens were left at a rescue, Chewie herself teleported back on board the ship, and Carol decided to keep her, Flerken or not.

(9) REBOUND. The Traveler pilloried the November 1962 issue of F&SF in a post at Galactic Journey. What a difference a month (and 55 years) makes! — “[November 19, 1962] Reverse Course (December 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

I’ve complained bitterly in this column on the meanderings of my favorite science fiction magazines.  Galaxy has gotten too tame.  Analog has gotten too staid.  F&SF has gotten too literary.  In fact, just last month, I was lamenting the streak of purple fluffiness that had corrupted that last mag.  Story after story of unreadable droll nothings, or at best, fantastic horrors without any hard sf.

The December 1962 issue did not promise to be any better.  It has the same line-up of authors, the same subject matter of stories.  There are even 11000…er.. 24 pages devoted to the concept of binary numbers.  Has F&SF lost its mind?!

So imagine my surprise to find that I actually enjoyed this month’s issue, entirely due to the well-written nature of its material.  These are not the kind of stories I prefer, but this experience just goes to show that high quality trumps subject matter.  See if you agree…

(10) ANDY WEIR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has an extra installment of its Into the Imagination podcast: “Bonus: Andy Weir (author of The Martian and Artemis)”.

We have a mid-month bonus episode with Andy Weir, author of the novel The Martian, so memorably adapted in the film starring Matt Damon, and the new book Artemis, which launches today! We talk about lunar colonization, his approach to world- and character-building, and what he would do if he was in charge of the future of space exploration. Andy will be speaking at the Clarke Center on December 7th.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

(11) BEST AND THE REST OF AUGUST. Rich Horton reviews short fiction at Locus Online, covering Lightspeed 8/17, 9/17, Tor.com 8/17, Apex 7/17, Interzone 7-8/17, and McSweeney’s #49.

There’s a good set of stories in the August Lightspeed. Ashok Banker‘s “Tongue” is an uncomfortable and rather over-the-top satire on the horrors of a traditional Indian mar­riage, set on an asteroid. The over-the-top elements are part and parcel of satire, though I also thought the portrayal of Indian culture seemed a wincing cliché, as did the corporate menace target; still, it shocks and scares.

(12) ANALOG (NOT THE MAGAZINE). An op-ed writer for the New York Times claims “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over”.

This surprising reversal of fortune for these apparently “obsolete” analog technologies is too often written off as nostalgia for a predigital time. But younger consumers who never owned a turntable and have few memories of life before the internet drive most of the current interest in analog, and often include those who work in Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Analog, although more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalents, provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen. People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning, and even the subtle taste of the ink on your fingertips. A book can be bought and sold, given and received, and displayed on a shelf for anyone to see. It can start conversations and cultivate romances.

The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital. Though a page of paper is limited by its physical size and the permanence of the ink that marks it, there is a powerful efficiency in that simplicity. The person holding the pen above that notebook page is free to write, doodle or scribble her idea however she wishes between those borders, without the restrictions or distractions imposed by software.

(13) VERDICT ON NEW TURTLEDOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club contends The Hot War is Turtledove at his best”.

Of particular interest in this alternate history is the tragic — and believable — story of Harry Truman. Turtledove’s research into historical figures is always impeccable, and many of Truman’s decisions in these novels are based on courses of action that he considered in real life. Turtledove paints a portrait of an alternate failed presidency that hinges on one bad decision after another.

The consequences of Truman’s mistakes keep compounding. The way in which this weighs on him in the novels is effectively conveyed, and this may be one of the best character arcs Turtledove has ever written. Turtledove seems to be arguing that even a well-intentioned president might invite calamity through brinksmanship.

This cast may be one of the most memorable groups that Turtledove has written since Worldwar: In The Balance back in the 1990s. However, it’s still clear that Turtledove has difficulty writing characters from outside his cultural background — none of the important Korean or Chinese characters are given point-of-view sections.

(14) BE OUR GUEST. Her Universe is ready to fill your need to own the “Star Wars BB-8 Tea Set”.

Being stranded on Jakku might be a downer, but it’s no excuse to avoid quality tea time. This BB-8 themed teapot and cup set from Star Wars is happy to roll up with a hot beverage. Set includes a 650 ml teapot & lid with two 220 ml cups and two 5 1/2″ saucers.

(15) MILLENNIUM PLUS FORTY. Entertainment Weekly was there: “Luke comes home: Mark Hamill’s heartbreaking return to the Millennium Falcon in The Last Jedi”.

Luke Skywalker quietly walks aboard the Millennium Falcon, alone. His old friends are gone. His old life is gone. He is ghostlike himself.

The old Luke Skywalker is gone, too.

That’s a scene from the latest trailer for The Last Jedi (see it here), but in real life, visiting the set of the old Corellian freighter was a similarly haunting experience for Mark Hamill.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had,” the 66-year-old actor tells EW. “I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon. I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, ‘Sure.’”

(16) BLABBING ABOUT CAMEOS. The Hollywood Reporter learned “Princes Harry and William Play Stormtroopers in New ‘Star Wars’ Film”.

The royals — along with Tom Hardy and singer Gary Barlow — were rumored to make an appearance in Stormtrooper outfits in the film releasing Dec. 15.

In August, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star John Boyega spilled the beans that not only did Prince William and Prince Harry film scenes when they visited Pinewood Studios in April 2016, but Tom Hardy also was milling around the set at the same time. By then, Take That singer Gary Barlow had already revealed that he had shot a scene in March.

(17) KEEPING A FINGER IN THE PIE. According to SyFy Wire, “Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies to write new Doctor Who adaptations”.

Steven Moffat may be leaving his gig as Doctor Who showrunner following this year’s upcoming Christmas special titled “Twice Upon a Time” to make way for Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), but it looks like he isn’t done with the Whoniverse-at-large just yet.

According to Radio Times, Moffat will team up with former showrunner Russell T Davies and novelist Jenny T. Colgan for a series of Doctor Who novels that will adapt several episodes from the Davies and Moffat eras of the BBC series.

Published by BBC Books and Penguin Randomhouse, the new “Target Collection” is based on the old Target novelizations that strived to adapt classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s, with the episodes’ original scriptwriters penning the adaptations whenever possible from the original scripts.

(18) SOME TIME LATER. I will never be the same now that I have seen this tweet.

Here’s the link to his post.

(19) MIGHTY MUMBLING. How It Should Have Ended does a comedy overdub of Batman v Superman and Dawn of Justice. It’s a toss-up whether these animated mouths remind me more of Clutch Cargo or Wallace and Gromit.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/28/17 You’re So Scroll, You Probably Think This Pixel’s About You

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE READ NOT SO OLD SFF. As part of a planned change-of-pace, James Davis Nicoll unleashed the Young People Read Old SFF panel on some very new sf indeed — “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer.

We’ve cycled around to another recent story for my volunteers. I got a lot of suggestions for Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, a Hugo and Locus winning short story about an artificial intelligence whose desire to assist humanity is sadly somewhat larger than its ability to do so. Well, almost everyone likes cats and this has lots of cats in it. The AI is one of the helpful variety and who doesn’t like an Emma Woodhouse interfering in lives? It seemed like a safe choice. But I’ve been wrong before….

“Cat Pictures Please” is available at Clarkesworld.

(2) DOWN THE BLOCK FROM ZENDA. Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Prisoner of Limnos”: a Penric & Desdemona novella in the World of the Five Gods. Book 6 is out. Bujold told Goodreads followers, “The novella topped out at 44,950 words, not including the title page.”

In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.

(3) PENRIC AND OTHER COVERS. Michaeline Duskova from Eight Ladies Writing, who says she loves Ron Miller’s cover for The Prisoner of Limnos, interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold about choosing ecovers, and it turns out she has quite a bit to say about the process: “Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold”.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

(4) ATTENTION ALASTAIR REYNOLDS FANS. Infinite Stars, a mixed reprint/original anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, contains a lot of well-known stories. In the mix is a brand new Alastair Reynold story.

The book contains an entirely new 16,000 word story of mine, entitled “Night Passage”, which happens to be set in the Revelation Space universe. The story revolves around the discovery of the first “Shroud”, a class of alien artefact which goes on to play a significant role in the future history. My story took about five years to write, so I am very pleased to finally see it both completed and in print.

Here’s the list of stories in the anthology, with the new ones in bold. [Updated courtesy of Greg Hullender.]

  • Renegat” (Ender) by Orson Scott Card
  • “The Waters Of Kanly” (Dune) by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
  • “The Good Shepherd” (Legion of the Damned) by William C. Dietz
  • “The Game Of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith 1956 Hugo Best Story, 1955 Galaxy SF, October
  • “The Borders of Infinity” (Vorkosigan) by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • “All In A Day’s Work” (Vatta’s War) by Elizabeth Moon
  • “Last Day Of Training” (Lightship Chronicles) by Dave Bara
  • “The Wages of Honor” (Skolian Empire) by Catherine Asaro
  • “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor TOR.COM, 2015; 2016 Nebula/Hugo/BFA Best Novella
  • “Reflex” (CoDominium) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • “How To Be A Barbarian in the Late 25th Century” (Theirs Not To Reason Why) by Jean Johnson
  • “Stark and the Star Kings” (Eric John Stark) by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton
  • “Imperium Imposter” (Imperium) by Jody Lynn Nye
  • “Region Five” (Red Series) by Linda Nagata
  • “Night Passage” (Revelation Space) by Alastair Reynolds
  • “Duel on Syrtis” by Poul Anderson
  • “Twilight World” (StarBridge) by A.C. Crispin
  • “Twenty Excellent Reasons” (The Astral Saga) by Bennett R. Coles
  • “The Ship Who Sang” by Anne McCaffrey
  • “Taste of Ashes” (Caine Riardon) by Charles E. Gannon
  • “The Iron Star” by Robert Silverberg
  • “Cadet Cruise” (Lt. Leary) by David Drake
  • “Shore Patrol” (Lost Fleet) by Jack Campbell
  • “Our Sacred Honor” (Honorverse) by David Weber

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and David Leo Rice on Wednesday, November 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.).

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix has written about the confederate flag for Playboy magazine, covered machine gun collector conventions, written award shows for Chinese television, and answered the phone for a parapsychological research organization. His novel, Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, has been translated into 14 languages and he’s also the author of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, now out in paperback. He recently wrote Mohawk, a horror movie about the War of 1812 which premiered at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. His latest book is Paperbacks from Hell, a non-fiction history of the horror paperback boom of the Seventies and Eighties.

David Leo Rice

David Leo Rice is a writer and animator from Northampton, MA, currently living in NYC. His stories and essays have appeared in Black ClockThe BelieverThe CollagistHobartThe RumpusVol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere, and his animations have played at festivals around the world. A Room in Dodge City, the start of a trilogy, is his first novel. It won the 2016 Electric Book Award and was published this year. He recently finished a standalone novel, Angel House.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Brian May, founding member of Queen, took thirty years to get his PhD.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

International Animation Day

The International Film Association was originally established in France, and was organized for the purpose of recognizing all forms of cinema and art. Among them was Animation, and thus they developed International Animation Day in 2002 to serve as the pinnacle event in the celebration of the rising art of animation.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 28, 1962 Fireball XL5 premiered on television.
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate, the motion picture, premiered in theaters on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 28, 1951 – Joe Lansdale
  • Born October 28, 1982 – Matt Smith

(10) COMICS SECTION

  • John King Tarpinian surprised me with a stfnal reference in Garfield.
  • And he found an Asimov reference in today’s Dilbert.
  • Elsewhere, a Halloween comics trope is about to be disrupted by Lio.

(11) DOING COSMOLOGY. Edge hears the word from UCSD astrophysicist Brian G. Keating in “Shut Up And Measure”.

What is this cosmic hubris that makes us feel so important about the Universe and our place within it? This is the question that I’m grappling with right now. I’m trying to experimentally shed some light on these extremely heated discussions that have taken over cosmology in the last few months with a debate about the deep past of cosmology and the implications for the future.

Specifically, what concerns me is whether we can drill down to the first moments, nanoseconds, microseconds, trillionths of a second after the Big Bang. And if we do, is it really going to tell us something about the origin of the Universe, or is it merely tacking decimal places onto the primordial collection of stamps? My question is one of bringing data. When people were waxing philosophic and having existential crises of faith about their equations, Feynman used to say, “Shut up and calculate.” And that meant that the implications of what you were doing metaphysically, philosophically, and otherwise didn’t matter; what mattered were the answers that you got at the end of the calculation.

A lot of what my colleagues and I do is shut up and measure….

(12) THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH. As a Dodgers fan I haven’t found as much to feel good about in the World Series as I’d hoped, but this may make up for some of it — “This 7-Year-Old Girl Is Pitching at the World Series With a 3D Printed Hand”.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros will meet for Game 4 of the World Series. As with any Major League Baseball game, the competition will kick off with a ceremonial pitch. But this one will be especially awe-worthy, featuring a 7-year-old girl with a 3D-printed hand.

Hailey Dawson will fling the first baseball using a prosthetic hand that allows her to grip objects despite missing and underdeveloped fingers on her right side.

(13) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Gizmodo keeps track of this sort of thing: “$1,000 Tea Infuser Heavily Discounted as Company Crashes and Burns”

You’re probably reading the tea leaves here, and guessing that Teforia is hinting that the spectacular, $118 million implosion of Juicero might be contributing to its troubles of educating the market about the value of an over-engineered machine that no one needs. For anyone keeping count, Teforia only wasted $17 million, thank you very much.

(14) LIVE PLAN 9 READING. If you wondered what happened to Laraine Newman, you can find out tomorrow night at the Largo in LA: “Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of Ed Wood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space”.

(And they’ve done this at least once before.)

(15) DOING WORK. Thor: Ragnarok actor/director Taika Waititi told a New Zealand site about his new projects: “Taika Waititi is busy, reportedly looking to make US What We Do in the Shadows show”.

He is a busy man. Fresh for releasing his Marvel superhero film, Thor: Ragnarok, reports are circulating saying Taika Waititi is about to reboot What We Do in the Shadows.

Waititi is developing plans for a television version of the Kiwi vampire comedy for American television, according to film site Fandago.

He and Jemaine Clement are also working on a What We Do in the Shadows spinoff for TVNZ. Called Paranormal Unit, the TVNZ show is described as “Motorway Patrol meets The X-Files” and follows the Wellington Police’s investigations into supernatural crime.

A TVNZ spokeswoman said the rumoured project in the US was different to what they had commissioned. She confirmed Paranormal Unit would be filmed in New Zealand.

Waititi told Fandango that he was in talks to create a US version of What We Do In The Shadows, which would be filmed in the US, for an American television audience.

He confirmed that the New Zealand spinoff would be released in 2018, as promised.

(16) CLARKE CENTER PUMPKIN PODCAST. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s Into the Impossible podcast engages the season in Episode 11, “Stranger Things (While Podcasting); or: On Fear and Imagination with Christopher Collins”

In honor of Halloween, we’re exploring the relationship between fear and imagination. First, a story about when the production of this very podcast was visited by a demon from the Upside Down (maybe?). Then, a conversation with Christopher Collins, author of Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination, on the auditory and visual imagination, the evolution of language, and how human culture has spent so much time telling itself scary stories.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Michaeline Duskova, Errol Cavit, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]