Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/16 A Simple Pixeltory Scrollipic

(1) FREE CLIMATE CHANGE SF ANTHOLOGY. Twelve stories from the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest are collected in Everything Change, a new fiction anthology from Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF). Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the foreword, and there is also an interview with Pablo Bacigalupi.

In the midst of Earth’s hottest year on record, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever. But how do we come to grips with the consequences on the ground, for actual people in specific places? New York Times bestselling science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi believes the answer lies in fiction: “Fiction has this superpower of creating empathy in people for alien experiences. You can live inside of the skin of a person who is utterly unlike you.”

The anthology includes the grand prize winner of the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest, “Sunshine State,” a quasi-utopian disaster story set in the Florida Everglades. The story’s authors, Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson of Oakland, CA, will receive a $1000 prize, and four other prizewinners will receive book bundles signed by Bacigalupi. The contest received 743 submissions from 67 different countries and from more than half of the states in the U.S.

The title Everything Change is drawn from a quote by Margaret Atwood, the first Imagination and Climate Futures lecturer in 2014.

The book is free to download, read, and share in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats at the Imagination and Climate Futures website, and at the Apple iBooks store and the Kobo store.

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
  • Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
  • Matthew S. Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
  • Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
  • Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”
  • Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
  • Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
  • Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
  • Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
  • Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
  • Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
  • Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
  • Ed Finn, “Praying for Rain: An Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi”

(2) THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’. The New York Times reports on another history-making moment in the career of this musician: “Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature”.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901. In choosing a popular musician for the literary world’s highest honor, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.

(3) CALIFORNIA COLLECTIBLES LAW UPDATE. The American Booksellers Association says: “California Collectibles Bill Clarification Expected”.

At press time, Bookselling This Week learned that California Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang plans to submit a letter to the state legislature stipulating that a new law covering the sales of collectibles does not apply to either general bookstores or author signing events. Chang was the sponsor of the bill. The law requires sellers of signed books and artwork to provide the buyer with a certificate of authenticity (COA) for any item sold for $5 or more.

“While ABA’s reading of the bill matched that of Assemblywoman Chang’s intent in drafting the law — that the law was meant specifically for the collectibles industry to stave off fraud — we are grateful for how responsive Assemblywoman Chang and her staff were to the concerns of booksellers,” said David Grogan, senior public policy analyst for ABA. “It also clearly shows how much of an impact booksellers can have when they voice their concerns to their legislators. We are happy that a clarification is expected to be entered into the record.”

The clarification comes as a direct response to a blog post and subsequent letters from independent bookstores in California. Concerned that some might assume the law applied to general bookstores, Eureka Books in Eureka, Book Passage in Corte Madera, and others opposed the new law, fearing that it would have a negative financial impact on their businesses.

(4) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Here’s a clickbait-worthy headline: “Why Obama may have picked the wrong planet”.  And as a bonus, the article quotes SF writer and NASA scientists Geoffrey Landis.

On Tuesday, Obama published an op-ed at CNN laying out his vision (once again) for visiting Mars.

“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” he wrote.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years. But Obama may be overlooking an easier target, if the arguments of one NASA researcher (and numerous supporters) are to be believed. While Mars may seem to be an attractive destination, we should consider sending people to Venus instead, these people argue….

You see, Mars is a challenging destination. It’s far away, the gravity is a fraction of Earth’s — posing additional health hazards beyond the lack of atmospheric radiation shielding — and you have to be suited up just to breathe outside.

By contrast, Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is. At their closest points, Venus is only 25 million miles away, compared with Mars’s 34 million miles. The shorter distance means you’d need less time and fuel to get there, reducing the cost. And although Venus’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug, the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable.

“At about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system,” wrote Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist, in a 2003 paper. Landis has spent much of his career dreaming up ways to make a human trip to Mars actually feasible, so he knows what he’s talking about.

At high altitude, Venusian temperatures are hot but not unbearable, and the barometric pressure drops to the equivalent of one Earth atmosphere. You’d have droplets of sulfuric acid to worry about, but only if your skin is directly exposed.

It helps that NASA has already taken steps to research a manned mission to Venus.

(5) RON MILLER ON SPACESHIPS. Smithsonian.com plugs artist Ron Miller’s new opus from Smithsonian Books in “How Artists, Mad Scientists and Speculative Fiction Writers Made Spaceflight Possible”.

The realization of human spaceflight has long stood as a testament to the power of human temerity, a triumph of will and intellect alike. Pioneers such as Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride have been immortalized in the annals of history. Their impact on terrestrial society is as indelible as the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts on the windless surface of the Moon.

Perhaps yet more wondrous than the Cold War-era achievement of extraterrestrial travel, however, is the long and meandering trail that we as a species blazed to arrive at that result. Such is the argument of author-illustrator Ron Miller, an inveterate spaceship junkie and one-time planetarium art director at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Miller’s just-published book, Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and the Imagined from Smithsonian Books, is a paean to the exploratory yearning of humankind across the centuries. The profusely illustrated volume tracks technological watersheds with diligence, but its principal focus is those starry-eyed visionaries, the dreamers….

(6) TOO TANGLED FOR TINGLE? I was wondering what the chances were of Chuck Tingle setting up his own SadPuppies.com site when it’s Hugo season again. But Huge Domains already has that registered and is asking $1,895 for the rights.

Well then, what about SadPuppies5.com? Nope, that’s registered, too, by a proxy that contains a reference to the real Sad Puppies site, SadPuppies.org – have they been thinking ahead?

Of course, if Tingle wanted  to make a File 770 reference, he could always start up SadPuppiesSecond5th – and that would be fine by me.

(7) VULICH OBIT. Special effects make-up artist John Vulich died October 13. Dread Central recalls:

Vulich worked on some of the horror genre’s most classic films and TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, The Dark Half, Castle Freak, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dolls, TerrorVision, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, The Lost Boys, Two Evil Eyes, “The X-Files,” “Angel,” and “Werewolf: The Series” and was one of the founders of Optic Nerve Studios.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 13, 1957 — Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files.”

(9) FIFTH NEWS IS BEASTLY. We’re always on the lookout for news items featuring the number five. I may run only about 10% of them, but Tor.com broke through with “J.K. Rowling Confirms There Will Be Five Fantastic Beasts Films”.

At Warner Bros’ global fan event for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today, the studio made a big announcement: There will be five Fantastic Beasts films total, instead of the trilogy, as originally thought.

(10) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. In “thoughts on the processing of words” at Text Patterns, a blog on The New Atlantis website, Baylor University English professor Alan Jacobs gives a long review of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, including the revelation that the first author to write a book on a word processor was not Gerrold, Pournelle, or Crichton, but historical novelist Gay Courter.

In any case, the who-was-first questions are not as interesting or as valuable as Kirschenbaum’s meticulous record of how various writers — Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Updike, David Foster Wallace — made, or did not quite make, the transition from handwritten or typewritten drafts to a full reliance on the personal computer as the site for literary writing. Wallace, for instance, always wrote in longhand and transcribed his drafts to the computer at some relatively late stage in the process. Also, when he had significantly altered a passage, he deleted earlier versions from his hard drive so he would not be tempted to revert to them.

(11) LACKING THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING. IGN’s’ video interview with the actor reveals “Why George Takei Doesn’t Like the New Star Trek Movies and the Old Animated Series”.

Mr. Sulu explains why he doesn’t like the Star Trek cartoon and reveals the magic ingredient he believes the new films are missing. The Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection Blu-ray Boxset is out now.

(12) WELLS MEETS SOLOMON. Richard Chwedyk’s “Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic” at the SFWA Blog tells about a fascinating exercise:

Here’s an assignment I give my students:

They receive a copy of the first chapter of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

It is roughly 2,250 words.

I tell the students that Mr. Wells has just received a note from his editor. “Great stuff, Herbie, but you go on too long here. Cut this first chapter in half.”

How to make 2,250 words into 1,125 words?

Mr. Wells, alas, has passed on. Fortunately for us, so has the novel’s copyright.

…Ask students to do this to their own stories and their faces turn ashen. Their babies? By half? What madness is this?

So by practicing at first on Wells, they can see what the process entails before going on to apply the knife to their own deathless prose. The exercise not only requires careful editorial skills, but an equally careful reading of the text. What’s important in the telling? What’s icing on the cake?

(13) DEEP READING. Connie Willis, in an article for Unbound Worlds, discusses her new book Crosstalk“Connie Willis Wants You to Think Twice About Telepathy”.

What led me to write Crosstalk?  Oh, lots of things.  For one, like everybody else, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of telepathy and have often thought how nice it would be to be able to tell what other people were thinking, to know if they were lying and how they really felt about you.  For another, I live in Colorado, home of the infamous Bridey Murphy, who started the whole channeling-past-lives thing back in the fifties by claiming she’d had a previous life in nineteenth-century Ireland.  Which turned out not to be true and which left me with a healthy skepticism of all things paranormal, from psychics to Dr. Rhine’s ESP experiments.

(14) WHAT’S WRONG WITH THINKING OUT LOUD. She also did an interview with The Verge“Novelist Connie Willis explains why telepathy is a terrible superpower”.

You’ve said many of your stories are about working through arguments with yourself, and working through different aspects of the idea you obsess over. Are you working through an argument in Crosstalk?

Well, looking at the society we’re living in right now, we’re bombarded with information. We have all these new ways of communicating. We can talk face-to-face to somebody in Asia, you can have a best friend who lives across the world. But our relationships don’t seem to be improving radically as a result of all this extra communication.

We’re always looking to technology, thinking it can solve our human problems. Usually it does, but with big side effects we hadn’t counted on. It’s an argument I don’t know how to solve. I’m not suggesting we go be Luddites. But occasionally I’m on panels with all these really gung-ho tech people, and they’re like, “Oh this new development will solve all our problems.” And I think “Anything that solves all our problems will create a whole mess of new problems that would have never occurred to us.” We need to start thinking more in terms of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that would be more productive.

But mostly with Crosstalk, I just wanted to have fun with the idea of whether communication is a good idea, generally. Not tech communication, communication between people. Most people would say, “We all need more communication in our relationships.” But really, most relationships benefit from all the things we don’t say, all the things we keep to ourselves.

(15) MEMORIES. In a Rue Morgue interview, the actress looks back: “35 years of pleasant screams: an interview with Cassandra Peterson, aka ELVIRA”.

When it comes to the horror genre, there are many icons in the business but none more so than a woman who created a character that has permeated pop culture; her name is Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, wicked, and hilarious alter ego is Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark. For 35 years, the sexy, dark, and comedic valley girl/gothic goddess has appeared on television, film, pinball machines, comic book covers, record albums, and any other product you could imagine. She is one of the most beloved incarnations in history, and is still surging in popularity to this very day. Peterson herself is now in her mid-sixties but looks like she has discovered the fountain of youth, or made a deal with the devil, she is absolutely beautiful and timeless. Her comedic timing is unmatched, quick fire and quite daunting considering the jokes come straight from her mind like bullets, one of the funniest women alive, hands down. She is also one of the hardest working women in the business, an actress who became her own boss and made her own rules (and still does); truly an inspiration in regard to drive, conviction, and perseverance.

Rue Morgue spoke to Peterson about her 35th Anniversary and her new photo book, entitled ELVIRA MISTRESS OF THE DARK, which is a love letter to her fans, and a testament to her many years as a reigning queen in horror comedy….

(16) ACES AND BAIT. In addition to the news I missed while I was in the hospital, I also fell behind reading Adventures With Kuma. From August “Dodge City Bear”.

Bears wents to lots of places todays. Boys will writes abouts bigs holes in the grounds laters. Bears gots to plays a games in Dodges Citys withs a nices Doctors nameds Hollidays.

Bears saids, “Bears has fives fishes. Whats yous gots?”

 

Kuma Meets Doc Holliday

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Joseph Eschrich, Bartimaeus, Sean R. Kirk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing edtor of the day Cath.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/16 If You Like It, Put A Ringworld On It

(1) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOOK. George R.R. Martin looks back on “The Long Game… of Thrones”, which came out 20 years ago today.

…Reviews were generally good, sales were… well, okay. Solid. But nothing spectacular. No bestseller lists, certainly. I went on a book tour around that same time, signing copies in Houston, Austin, and Denton, Texas; in St. Louis, Missouri; in Chicago and Minneapolis; and up the west coast to San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Portland, and Seattle. Turnouts were modest in most places. The crowds didn’t reach one hundred anywhere, and at one stop (St. Louis, if you must know), not only was attendance zero but I actually drove four patrons out of the bookshop, allowing me to set my all time “bad signing” record at minus four (on the plus side, I had the time for long friendly talks with the readers who did show up).

But my oh my, things have changed a bit in these last twenty years….

(2) OBAMA ON BEING A NERD. “President Barack Obama on How To Win The Future” at Popular Science.

PS: Do you consider yourself a nerd and, if so, what’s your nerdiest pastime?

BO: Well, my administration did write a pretty detailed response to a petition, explaining why we wouldn’t build a real-life Death Star, so I’d like to think I have at least a little nerd credibility built up.

What’s remarkable is the way “nerd” is such a badge of honor now. Growing up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn’t like it is today. I get the sense that today’s young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways. I think America’s a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid—and that’s a good thing!

(3) SWAP HIS SCARF FOR THE GARTER. John Harvey has started a petition at Change.org calling for Tom Baker to receive a knighthood.

After reading a recent edition of Doctor Who Magazine, the stark realisation set in that after a life time in entertainment and tireless charity work, visits to hospitals and hospices, the living legend that is Tom Baker has not been officially recognised in any way shape or form.

Tom Baker’s commitment to the role of the 4th doctor and his many charitable acts since and brightened the lives of children and adult’s everywhere.

In an age where the like’s of James Corden can receive honours so early in their career, I think it’s a travesty. I’d like to try to change that and right this wrong.

(4) LOCUS POLL. The July issue of Locus published the survey rankings – Black Gate posted the top 10 in the magazine category.

  1. Asimov’s SF
  2. Tor.com
  3. Fantasy & Science Fiction
  4. Clarkesworld
  5. File 770
  6. Lightspeed
  7. Analog
  8. Black Gate
  9. Uncanny
  10. Strange Horizons

(4) MORE ON JOYCE KATZ. As big a loss as it is to fanzine fandom, there are gaming journalists who felt Joyce Katz’ death just as keenly. Chris Kohler of WIRED paid tribute: “Joyce Worley Katz, Pioneering Videogame Critic, Has Passed Away”.

Joyce Katz, who along with her husband Arnie Katz and friend Bill Kunkel founded the first magazine devoted to videogames, has passed away at the age of 77.

Katz, who wrote professionally under her maiden name Joyce Worley, was senior editor of the magazine Electronic Games from its founding in 1981 until just prior to its shuttering in 1985. She went on to take senior editorial roles at gaming publications throughout the 1990s, including Video Games & Computer Entertainment and the relaunched Electronic Games…..

Joyce had continued to write about games regularly until the closing of the second run of Electronic Games in the mid-90s. In the August 1994 issue of that publication, Katz made note of the industry’s worrying shift away from “games for everyone” to a hyper-violent boys’ club: “Tetris and Shanghai charmed women, Mortal Kombat did not.”

It was a prescient column in more ways than one. Katz looked forward to a future in which online gaming would make women “feel less threatened by on-lookers who might tease or criticize their performance in a game.” Sadly, it did not turn out to be that simple. But she also predicted that easier-to-use hardware coupled with better software design would keep girls gaming their whole lives, a future she did live to see.

“Somewhere between age 9 and 12, we lose the ladies,” Worley wrote. “We may never get back the teenaged girls, but hopefully we can arrange gaming so that we won’t lose them in the first place.”

(5) JUST. ONE. BOOK. Margaret Elysia Garcia and friends are still processing the avalanche of donations that came in response to their appeal for people to send books to a rural California school library.

I am bone tired and weary. I have biceps I haven’t had since my kids were toddlers. I am happy to say we have only 20 more boxes to open at the library–and hopefully none will come tomorrow. We are few people and we need to catch up. The generosity is overwhelming.  Thank you. Thank you cards have begun and imagine they will take the better part of the fall semester to complete. I hope a thank you here is also enough as some boxes came in damaged in parts and addresses were not always readable. Please be patient. I’ve had a few emails from people thinking perhaps that we have 200 people and a sophisticated technology set up to respond. Alas we have a couple dozen people who donate time when they can. And we have one very exhausted me who has some reinforcements coming this week thank goodness.

(6) SPACEDOCK. See how the original model Enterprise was restored.

This is a short film showing the process of the detail paint work on the restoration of original U.S.S. Enterprise miniature. The work was done between the 11th and the 23rd of April 2016 at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy facility. The model is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

 

(7) IT’S TOO LATE, BABY, IT’S TOO LATE. Yesterday, when it wasn’t, Timothy the Talking Cat posted, “Timothy says: Hugos! Vote! Vote now! Before it is TOO LATE!”

So I say to you all: Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government! You have nothing to fear but the lurking horror in your basement! We shall fight them on the bleachers! Countrymen lend me your ears! But above all in the immortal words of Theodore Cruz: Vote yourself conscious!

(8) THE HORROR. Jason P. Hunt did a roundup of all the horror genre news that came out of San Diego Comic-Con at SciFi4Me.

“Want to see something really scary?”

Remember that line from The Twilight Zone? Well, we have a scary big pile of news on the horror side of things from Comic-Con International in San Diego.

(9) TITLES TO BE UNLOCKED. Thanks to Petréa Mitchell we know the list of achievement trophies in No Man’s Sky:

No spoilers, other than the names of the trophies themselves. They’re all named after sf works. There’s a mixture of old and new, classic and obscure, Puppy-approved and degenerate SJW… even one (out of 23) written by a woman.

For example,

Babel-17

Attain ‘Confused’ status in Words Collected

The Star Beast

Attain ‘Archivist’ status in Uploaded Discoveries

(10) WHALE OF A TAIL. This will unquestionably float somebody’s boat — “Channing Tatum to Play Mermaid in ‘Splash’ Remake for Disney”.

Disney is moving forward on a remake of the 1984 film Splash with an interesting twist: Channing Tatum will star as the mermaid character that was played by Daryl Hannah while Jillian Bell will play the character originally played by Tom Hanks.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville. It took John Huston to get Ray Bradbury to read the book.

(12) SFWA GRANTS. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is taking applications for grants for worthy projects until October 1.

Last year the Givers Fund received enough donations to provide grants to projects such as the LaunchPad astronomy program, the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers, the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and the SFWA Star Project, among others, in the program’s first year.

The Grants Committee evaluated the multiple proposals on a number of criteria, the most important of which was how well they served the genre community and its writers. For example, the SFWA Star Project looks for a crowdfunded initiative each month to support by spreading the word as well as with a small donation. The innovative effort underscores SFWA’s leadership in new publishing models, including being the first writing organization to take crowdfunding as professional credentials.

This year we are continuing to provide grants to worthy projects. If you have a nonprofit project that you think would benefit the writing community, please submit it to cfo@sfwa.org.

Apply Here

Application forms must be submitted by October 1st. Decisions on recipients will be finalized in November of this year and applicants notified by year’s end.

(13) CHEER YOURSELF DOWN.

(14) TOR EBOOK. The Tor.com Free eBook Club Pick for August is The Just City by Jo Walton.

Sign up for the Book Club, or sign in if you’re already registered, to download the book (available only from August 1 through 7).

(15) WHAT IS PLANNING. Nigel Quinlan’s “Outline Planning Permission Part 2” went up on Writing.ie today.

…I challenged myself to PLAN. I wrestled with the big issues. What was planning? Was coffee planning fuel? What did it mean to plan? When was I getting another cup of coffee? Wasn’t planning just writing, only without the fun? (No, that’s making radical revisions because you wrote without a proper plan, Nigel.) I drank coffee. I read up on planning. Some was useful, some wasn’t. It became apparent that I was going to have to devise a method that worked for me.

This is where I’m at, by the way. I’m, er, making up my planning as I go along.

I got loads of notebooks and spread them around my desk in a very satisfactory manner.

Then I wasted time on the internet. Then I stopped because procrastination gets depressing after a while.

I wrote out the story so far.

I filled a big page with the names of all the characters so far and indicated roughly their relationships.

I made a tentative list of characters who have yet to appear and gave some indication of their roles and relationships.

I made a list of settings and gave rough ideas of how the story moves from place to place and what occurs there. I gave detail where I had them and left things vague where I didn’t, and decided not to worry about the vague bits – that’s rather the point of planning: find the vague bits and fill ‘em in.

I made a list of words I associated with the story as a whole. Random words, some reflecting theme, some mood, some character, some representing nothing yet.

I wrote out my ideas for the rest of the story, asking questions, posing alternatives, highlighting some of the stuff that needed work and trying to remain calm at the vast spaces that remained vague and undefined.

I sat and surveyed what I had done. And it was a start….

(16) DISCWORLD CON. The North American Discworld Convention 2017 announced yesterday –

Hotel Contract Signed!

We are delighted to announce that the North American Discworld® Convention 2017 will be held in New Orleans, LA, September 1–4 next year. Membership and hotel details will be announced in the next month, but for now, save the dates and start contemplating which costumes you’ll want to wear as you attend The Genuan Experience!!

(17) DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU? Speaking of the earth moving (as we did in a recent Scroll), the BBC just did a report on continental drift accompanied by speculative animated maps tracing their movement back 750 million years and forward 250.

Science calls it “Pangaea Proxima”. You might prefer to call it the Next Big Thing. A supercontinent is on its way that incorporates all of Earth’s major landmasses, meaning you could walk from Australia to Alaska, or Patagonia to Scandinavia. But it will be about 250 million years in the making.

For Christopher Scotese at the University of Texas at Arlington, the fact that our continents are not stationary is tantalising. How were they arranged in the past – and how will they be positioned in the future?

“Fifty million years from now, Australia will be in collision with southeast Asia to a much larger degree,” he says. Africa will also be pushing right up against southern Europe, while the Atlantic will be a far wider ocean than it is today.

(18) GLAZE NOTE. In case anyone wondered if it was possible, the BBC explains “How to break glass with sound”. Step one: not with one’s voice.

You’re probably familiar with the urban legend: the opera singer ascends the stage and clears his throat. His audience cheer and wave their champagne flutes in anticipation. He opens his mouth – and a roomful of glasses smash to pieces. We have no record that this has ever actually happened, but there were rumours that the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso could quiver a glass into a million pieces.

(19) SHARKNADO 4, THE COMPLETE SPOILER REVIEW. Be honest, you weren’t going to watch it anyway, so why not read Jordan DesJardin’s “Movie Review: ‘Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens’” at ScienceFiction.com?

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the words ‘Shark-ception” definitely comes to mind. ‘Sharknado: The 4th Awakens’ culminates is probably the most ridiculous ending of any of these films to date, and there is nothing to not love about it. If you’re a fan of the first three, you’ll love this one. And really if you’ve never seen a ‘Sharknado’ movie before (in which case, what is wrong with you, get on that!), it is really difficult not to have a good time while watching this movie. We highly recommend pairing this movie (and the previous three) with a large couch, several good friends, some snacks and drinks, and you are all set for one hell of a ride!

(20) HOLODECK. You’ve just been drafted into the crew of the Enterprise. Would you rather wear a redshirt or a gray coverall?

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gary Farber, Petréa Mitchell, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/16 I See All Good Pixels Scroll Their Heads Each Day So Satisfied I’m On My Way

(1) WHAT’S A FEW MILLION BETWEEN GEEKS? Wizard World will be scaling back conventions after posting a $4.25M loss in 2015.

The comic convention franchise Wizard World is scaling back the number of conventions after filing a $4.25 million loss in 2015, according to ICv2. The company, which takes its name from the defunct magazine Wizard, held 25 events in 2015 for a combined revenue of $22.9m, which was less than 2014’s convention revenue of $23.1m despite only hosting 17 shows that year. Looking closer, Wizard World’s 2015 conventions earned on average $916,000 per show, as opposed to $1.36m in the year prior.

Additionally, Wizard World has sold all but 10% ownership of the fledging ConTV to Cinedigm. That venture was a $1.3m loss for WizardWorld in 2015.

WizardWorld has 19 conventions planned in 2016, with one being the new ‘con cruise’ venture.

(2) WISTFUL WATNEY. From The Martian Extended Edition, now on Digital HD, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.

Mark Watney marvels at Earth and contemplates on the reasons for his rescue from Hermes.

 

(3) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Mark Gunnells wrote “A Love Letter to Joe R. Lansdale”.

Some of you may be saying, Who’s that?  And if you are, that makes me sad.  The man’s talents are so immense that he really should be a household name in my opinion.  His books never fail to impress and thrill me, and I’ll give a few reasons why I am such a fan.

One, simplicity.  The man’s language can be so lean and yet convey so much.  He doesn’t have to do a lot of literary acrobatics to get his point across, but can say so much with such economy of words.  It is something I aspire to.

Two, dialogue.  I’m a sticker for good dialogue, and Lansdale knows how to do it.  His characters talk in a way that is witty and fun but also believable and authentic.

Three, darkness of character.  But not just of the villains.  He isn’t afraid to infuse his protagonists with darkness too.  They aren’t all saintly and virtuous, but a mixture of good and bad, just like real people.

Four, diversity.  The man does westerns, mystery, horror, and a great deal of fiction that defies category.  I think that hurts him in some ways, since the industry (and many readers) like writers who are predictable, where they know what they’re getting going in.  That isn’t Lansdale, and I love him for it.  He is also equally adept at short stories, as well as novels and novellas.

(4) ROAD WARRIOR. “Letter From Terry Brooks: The Importance of Touring” at Suvudu.

…Chained to my computer and locked away for 8 to 10 months while writing, you tend to forget what it is you are writing for. You tend to forget how wonderful it feels to hear that your books mean so much to the readers. You forget that it gives you energy and inspiration for your work. But the book events remind you of all this, and they give you an unmistakable desire to go back and do more and to never, ever disappoint your readers by doing something that is less than your best work.

Love the families that come out. Sometimes four or five, all reading the books at once. Love the stories of how people came to read the books in the first place – frequently through another member of the family recommending them. Love the way the stories and characters have impacted people at times in their lives when things seemed a bit bleak. I am reminded of how we all escape into books to flee our own lives now and then, and when we do we inevitably return better able to get on with things. Love all the strange, wild tales of where people were and what they were doing when they read a particular book…..

(5) TWEETAGE OF THE LAMBS. Here’s a little-known fact about Amazon rankings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 2006 — The animated feature film Cars, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, roars into theaters across the United States.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DUCK

  • Born June 9, 1934 — Donald Duck made his first screen appearance in “The Wise Little Hen.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS AND GIRLS

A time traveler, a pirate and a princess…

  • Born June 9, 1961 — Michael J. Fox
  • Born June 9, 1963  — Johnny Depp
  • Born June 9, 1981 — Natalie Portman

(9) WHITE HOUSE LOOT CRATE IN HEADLINES. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports “Obama gave Trudeau a signed copy of Star Wars script”.

According to ethics disclosures, Justin Trudeau was given a copy of “The Force Awakens” script – the seventh Star Wars movie, released last year – signed by writer/director J.J. Abrams. U.S. President Barack Obama gave Mr. Trudeau (a big fan of the sci-fi franchise) the gift, along with a sculpture, a photograph and toys for the children, during the state visit to Washington in March.

Mr. Trudeau and his family gave the Obamas a sculpture and indigenous clothing.

The personal touch of this particular gift is no doubt a sign of how close the two world leaders are. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama will see each other again at the end of the month, when the President comes to town for the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa on June 29. Mr. Obama is expected to address parliamentarians while he’s in town.

(10) BROOKS FANZINES. The University of Georgia (as reported last month) is displaying Ned Brooks’ fanzines in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries through July. Now there is also a companion online exhibit anchored by George Beahm’s tribute, “To Infinity and Beyond! The Fanzine Collection of Ned Brooks”.

(11) WILLIAMS SCORES AFI AWARD. Tonight John Williams picks up the 44th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. The ceremony will air on TNT on June 15.

John Williams’ storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts over 150 credits across seven decades. Perhaps best known for his enduring collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, his scores are among the most iconic and recognizable in film history, from the edge-of-your-seat JAWS (1975) motif to the emotional swell of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and the haunting elegies of SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993). Always epic in scale, his music has helped define over half a century of the motion picture medium. Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including the unforgettable STAR WARS (1977) soundtrack, at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 49 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar® nominations of any living person.

(12) VAPORTECTURE. “Is a Comic-Con museum headed to Balboa Park?” asks the San Diego Union-Tribune. The answer is: not necessarily.

So far it’s undecided whether such an attraction would simply share space with the Hall of Champions or occupy nearly all of the 68,000-square-foot, memorabilia-filled venue next to the Starlight Bowl.

“I heard they might be interested in doing something, so I made contact and began a conversation, and it’s been going on for awhile,” said Hall of Champions board member Dan Shea. “We have a space that could be considered under-utilized for what we have. Comic-Con is an iconic community group, and we would love to see them stay here, so we thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a museum for them in our hometown. And that’s what we talk about when we get together now and then.”

But no deal has been reached, and it could be some time before a museum even materializes, Shea acknowledged.

“There’s no hurry to move it along,” he said.

Comic-Con International spokesman David Glanzer was equally vague about the prospects for a Balboa Park museum devoted to the popular arts icon, a San Diego presence since 1970. The four-day convention, which now draws more than 130,000 attendees, is contracted to stay in San Diego through 2018.

Asked about what the museum might showcase and how much space it might occupy, Glanzer responded, “We’re still in discussions. I’m sorry but we haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Shea said an announcement about the possibility of a museum was made, in part, to put to rest “silly things we were hearing about what people thought they knew about this.”

(13) SEVENEVES MOVIE MAYBE. “Skydance Reunites ‘Apollo 13’ Team For Neal Stephenson Sci-Fi Novel ‘Seveneves’”Deadline has the story.

EXCLUSIVE: Skydance has set the Apollo 13 team of writer Bill Broyles, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer for an adaptation of bestselling author Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Seveneves. Grazer and Howard’s Imagine Entertainment is producing the ambitious adaptation.

(14) KRAKEN, NOT STIRRED. Nerdist “Meet the GAME OF THRONES Brittle Star: Ophiohamus Georgemartini”.

The trend of naming new species after pop culture icons is on the rise, and we’re giving the latest addition to the list of nerdy namesakes our stamp of approval. A brittle star, found deep in the South Pacific, has been officially dubbed Ophiohamus georgemartini because of its likeness to the thorny crown found on the cover of book two in the Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings….

The George R.R. Martin-friendly specimen was found off the coast of New Caledonia, at a depth of 275 meters (902 ft), but you can find brittle stars in shallow waters as well, and even in rocky tide pools. “Brittle stars live everywhere,” explains the Echinoblog’s Dr. Christopher Mah. “Under rocks, in the mud, on corals, under corals … even on jellyfish. Many of them are tiny, tiny little critters that fit easily into cracks, crevices and nooks in rocks.”

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/16 Imagine All The Pixels, Living In A World That’s Scrolled

(1) BELIEVE YOUR EYES. “Apparently TARDIS-es are manufactured in NYC’s Brooklyn Navy Yard,” said an incredulous Andrew Porter after seeing this photo in NY Curbed.

Photo by Max Touhey for Curbed

Photo by Max Touhey for Curbed

Capsys, the building manufacturer responsible for modular projects like Carmel Place and the Nehemiah Spring Creek development in East New York, recently announced that it would vacate its factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and shutter operations entirely.

(2) JPL GALLERY. The Pasadena Star-News has photo coverage of last week’s NASA event at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

JPL is hosted a “State of NASA” Social in conjunction with NASA’s federal budget rollout on Tuesday. The tour includes a visit to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s clean room, where the heat shield for Mars 2020 is, as well as the testing of some hardware used on the Juno mission, which arrives at Jupiter on the Fourth of July. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

(3) WHO ROMANCE? “The Doctor will see you now: Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith put on a cosy display as they reunite at pre-BAFTA party” in Daily Mail.

They played on-screen partners in crime for one series

But after Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith both quit Doctor Who to pursue other projects, their friendship was put on the back burner as they were tied up in their various career commitments.

Therefore it was little wonder the former co-stars were so thrilled to be reunited as they attended a pre-BAFTA party in London on Friday evening.

Jenna, 29, and Matt, 33, put on a sweet display as they cosied up to each other while attending Harvey Weinstein’s dinner which was held in partnership with Burberry and Grey Goose at Little House in Mayfair.

The ex Clara Oswald actress gently rested her head on the former Doctor’s chest as they posed inside the venue which was filled with some of the film industry’s biggest talents.

The former BBC One stars couldn’t contain their happiness to be back in each other’s company once again as lapped up the pre-award-ceremony celebration.

(4) READING WHAT YOUR TEA LEAVES. John King Tarpinian found this message inside the cap on his bottle of ice tea —Atwood Cap

 

(5) SCHINDLER OBIT. SF Site News reports Southern California costumer Robin Schindler died January 24.

Schindler led two of the earliest anime tours to Japan. She was an active costumer, presenting her work at many Worldcon masquerades and worked on the early Costume Cons.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 14, 1920 — Dave Kyle
  • Born February 14, 1970 – Simon Pegg

(7) DEADPOOL’S B.O. Deadpool made some money in its opening weekend reports Deadline.

Fox’s Deadpool is bigger than anyone thought possible. Yes, it has scored the top opening for a February release with $135M over FSS and $150M-$153M over FSSM, beating Fifty Shades of Grey‘s first weekend figures last year.  But, Deadpool also flogged Matrix Reloaded‘s $91.8M opening record to become the highest R-rated debut of all-time, not to mention it’s the biggest opening Fox executives have ever seen, surpassing Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (FSS $108.4M).

(8) BRITISH BASEBALL. I just learned there is minor league baseball in Britain, and one of the teams is called the Bolton Robots of Doom. They play in the British Baseball Federation’s (BBF) AA North division.

Bolton Robots patch

(9) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MY DEAR WATSON. President Obama was quizzed on TV by an elementary school student. The next generation of conspiracy theorists is on the way.

Obama was questioned during Thursday night’s taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show by 6-year-old “presidential expert” Macey Hensley, and she asked the president about the legendary “Book of Secrets.”

“That’s a secret,” the president quipped.

Hensley theorized the “secrets” in the book could include an answer to whether “aliens are real.”

“We haven’t actually made direct contact with aliens yet,” Obama said. “When we do, I’ll let you know.”

The president did not clarify whether indirect contact had been made with aliens through some type of intermediary.

(10) SPIRITUAL WISDOM. Amanda Slaybaugh, in “They’re Already Balloting for the Freakin’ Hugo Awards!”, doesn’t want to read “SEVEN MONTHS OF BITCHING AND MEWLING” and offers her advice:

My advice is this: Don’t be this guy. Remember him, staring into the mystical power and majesty of the ark of the covenant…but then having the whole face melt-y thing happen? This is what happens when you engage in this Hugo nonsense. The Hugos are neither mystical, nor magical, but their bullshit will melt your face clean off.

melting Nazi

Do this instead: Be Indy with his fave alcoholic, adventurous gal pal and look away! Withstand the mighty bullshit storm of bizarre political arguments surrounding a rocket-shaped literary award.  You respect the market power of SF/F, but you choose the wise course and LOOK AWAY!

(11) THUNDERBIRDS. ScienceFiction.com has good news: “Amazon Orders ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ Starring Rosamund Pike For The U.S.”

‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ for the U.S. thanks to Amazon.  The streaming service has ordered four 13-episode seasons of the series, which combine CGI animation with live action models.  The first two seasons (26 episodes) have already aired on ITV in the UK, where the first series from the 1960s originated.  The third and fourth seasons are expected to air on ITV later this year and will be available to stream on Prime Video after the episodes become available in the U.S.

‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ is an update of ‘Thunderbirds’ a TV series that launched in the UK in 1965, from the minds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.  This show combined marionettes and vehicular models in a completely unique form of entertainment.  The series followed the adventures of the Tracy family, with most of the action revolving around the five brothers Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan, who each piloted their own high tech vehicle.

(12) ABOUT EDITORS. Brad R. Torgersen, in “Editors: the good, the bad, and the ugly” at Mad Genius Club, uses Nick Coles’ well-publicized grievances as the point of departure for a wide-spectrum look at his own experiences with editors.

In my experience, a good editor is not trying to evaluate your story on ideological grounds, nor is a good editor trying to get you to write the story their way. A good editor spots how you yourself are already trying to tell the story, and (s)he will simply make suggestions about how to do that job even more effectively than you’re already doing it. That’s the difference between, “You’re doing it wrong,” and, “You’re doing it right, but here are a few suggestions that should help you do it even better.” Most of the editors I’ve worked with (so far) have edited in this manner. And while some of them have barely touched my manuscripts, others have been so heavily involved in revision, they’re practically co-authors at the end of it. But again, their focus has always been: this story is hitting singles and doubles, let’s change a few things, and get this story hitting triples, or even a home run.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31 At the Scroll of Midnight

(1) THE PERFECT MATCH. Fathom Events is bringing Starship Troopers back to theaters – but only so the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can give the movie everything it deserves.

The stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000® are bringing The Best of RiffTrax Live back to select cinemas nationwide. On Thursday, January 14, join Mike, Kevin, and Bill for a re-broadcast of their hilarious take on Starship Troopers.

Originally riffed in August 2013, this fan favorite features the guys hurling their wisecracking humor at what has become the king of modern campy sci-fi epics.

(2) THREE BODY. President Barack Obama spent his holiday vacation in Hawaii reading these four books reports Newsweek.

His reading list includes: The Whites by Richard Price, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, The Wright Brothers by David Mccullough, and The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

(3) DEMENTO AND CRAZY-EX. Joe Blevins at Splitsider fills you in on everything from Dr. Demento to YouTube in “2015: The Year Comedy Music Broke”.

And then there are the vloggers and other YouTube stars, the ones who make their livelihoods from the site. It’s an under-reported phenomenon, but original comedic music has played a huge role in the success of many of them. Popular channels like Epic Rap Battles of History, Axis of Awesome, and Schmoyoho, all of which regularly rack up millions of views per video, are essentially delivery systems for new comedy music, even if few would think to lump them in with the acts getting airtime on The Dr. Demento Show. They’re all playing the same basic sport, though, just in different arenas. The comedy duo Smosh, long one of YouTube’s most-subscribed channels, mostly concern themselves with sketches, but they do enough songs to warrant inclusion here. Even vlogger Jenna Marbles occasionally does a musical number (usually about her doted-upon dogs) as part of her weekly video series. If there is a way to make money doing funny music in 2015, it is to partner with YouTube, nurture a subscriber base, and never really define yourself as a comedy or worse yet “novelty” music artist. Meanwhile, none of these people are getting much validation from traditional media, including pop radio. Whether that constitutes a problem is debatable.

(4) CHAOTIC NEUTRAL. Brandon Kempner has declared Chaos Horizon ineligible for the 2016 Hugos.

After careful thought, I’m declaring that Chaos Horizon (and myself) will not accept a Hugo nomination in 2016. Because Chaos Horizon reports so extensively on the numbers related to the Hugo process, I feel it would be a conflict of interest to be part of that process in any way.

Since I do reporting and analytical work here at Chaos Horizon, it’s important from me to maintain some journalistic distance from the awards. I couldn’t do that if I were nominated. This is consistent with my past practice; I haven’t voted in the Hugos since I began Chaos Horizon. Simply put, the scorekeeper can’t play the game.

(5) TANGENTIAL HISTORY. The Tangent Online 2015 Recommended Reading List” says it contains 417 works: 355 short stories, 46 novelettes, and 16 novellas.

Its long, error-filled endorsement of Sad Puppies 4 begins with this generous rewriting of history —

Sad Puppies was the name given to a small group of fans four years ago who had become disgruntled after seeing many of the same names on the final Hugo ballot, year after year. It was spearheaded that first year by SF author Larry Correia, who decided to put forth a list of authors and works he believed were being overlooked. He recused himself from being recommended or being nominated.

The Sad Puppies name was given these campaigns by their creator, Larry Correia, who started them to stir support for his own Hugo prospects. He was successful enough to be nominated three times; it was only the third he declined. Nor did he recuse himself from Sad Puppies 3, but supported the SP3 slate with his novel on it, only at the end suprising his fans by taking himself off the ballot.

(6) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. The respected Lois Tilton begins “2015 Reviews in Review” at Locus Online with a sigh:

Lovers of SFF can only deplore the late year’s outbreak of divisiveness and animosity, with the hostile parties displaying a willingness to destroy the genre in order to deny it to the other. Calls for unity go unheard while the partisans make plans to continue the hostilities in the upcoming year. The only bright spot is that ordinary readers appear to have largely ignored the entire thing.

(6) FLICK ANALYSIS. Ethan Mills shares his picks “2015 Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre” at Examined Worlds.

I’ve been trying to decide between Fury Road and The Force Awakens as my favorite movie of the year.  Both movies have ultra-competent female protagonists, although Fury Road could certainly have done better on the racial diversity front.  While Fury Road gives us pulse-quickening action and a fully realized post-apocalyptic world, Star Wars gives us all the fun of a real Star Wars movie.

Click to see who wins.

(7) READY-TO-WEAR TBR PILE. And if you have a week free, Fantasy Faction will tell you about the Top 50 fantasy novels of 2015.

It’s getting harder and harder to be a well-read and up-to-date reviewer in Fantasy these days. It’s also getting incredibly difficult to order the best of the year lists. I know that complaining that too many good books are being released probably isn’t an argument I will get much support for, but wow oh wow were there too many damned good books published in 2015, right? RIGHT!?

It’s not just the quality of the books, but the diversity of the Fantasy genre worth applauding too. Take Empire AscendantThe Grace of Kings, The Vagrant and Uprooted – these aren’t books being based on proven and familiar formulas

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis

https://twitter.com/EdMcKayinFay/status/682559367087013888

(9) MURDER BY DEATH. “The Medieval Revenant: Restless, Dead, and Out for Revenge” by Matt Staggs at Suvudu. Interesting paragraph – perhaps the literati around here can tell whether it’s accurate.

Unlike us, medieval men and women didn’t make much of a distinction between various kinds of the living dead. There were revenants who fed on blood, and vampires who fed on anything but blood. Sometimes the restless dead took physical form, and other times they were immaterial spirits, like ghosts. (The zombies stayed down in Haiti, and those poor souls didn’t eat anyone.) Because of these reasons, classifying a story as one about a revenant rather than a ghost, vampire, or other restless dead thing can be difficult. That said, we can draw upon these tales for some ideas of what revenants did and why they rose from the dead in the first place.

(10) MISSING YOU. Journey Planet #27 takes as its theme “Fan History – To Absent Friends.” Download it here.

2342389

We look at the impact of those who have come before us, and what they meant to the evolution of Fandom, and of fans. Wonderful stories of legends like Bruce Pelz, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Jerry Jacks, Mikey Jelenski, Fred Duarte, Gary Louie, Robert Sacks, Poul Andersen, Mick O’Connor, Dave Stewart, James White, Ted Johnstone, Joe Mayhew, LeeH, Jay Haldeman, George Flynn, and many many more, help us understand the legacies that led us to where fandom is today.

It was lovely to learn more about so many people that we had heard of but sadly never met, and to learn about people new to us that, unfortunately, we will never have an opportunity to meet. Our experience as fans is enriched by knowledge, and we hope that you will all have a similar experience reading the issue. Produced by guest editors Helen Montgomery & Warren Buff, plus editors Chris Garcia & James Bacon.

(11) BOOKLESS. Is making these announcements a new trend? Greg Van Eekhout is another author explaining why he won’t have a new book out in 2016.

First of all, I won’t have a new novel out. That’s mostly because I didn’t complete one in time to have a novel out in 2016. From the time a novel is sold, a publisher usually needs at least nine months and often more than a year to get it ready for release. And by “ready” I mean not just editing and printing, but also positioning it with a marketing campaign and finding an advantageous slot for it in the release schedule. So, for me to have a book out in 2016, I would have had to finish writing it sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, so an editor could edit it, so I could revise it, so an art director and book designer and cover artist could make it pretty, and so on. Unfortunately, taking care of two elderly parents was more than a full-time job that didn’t leave much physical or emotional energy for new writing.

(12) EXPANSE RETURNING. Lizard Brain shares Syfy’s press release announcing that The Expanse has been renewed for a second season.

Currently airing on Syfy Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT, THE EXPANSE has garnered strong multiplatform viewership since its December 14 debut, with 4.5 million viewers sampling the first episode on Syfy.com, On Demand and digital outlets prior to the series’ linear premiere, and an average of 1.6 million P2+ linear viewers (L3) in its first three episodes.

(13) MISTER LISTER. Black Gate’s John ONeill amusingly comments

Fortunately, the tireless John DeNardo works much harder than me. He doesn’t go to Christmas parties, or watch movies. Ever. Or sleep, apparently. No, he read every single one of those Best SF & Fantasy of the Year lists. The ones that matter anyway…

— before guiding us to John DeNardo’s compilation of “The Best of the Best of 2015’s Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books” at Kirkus Reviews. There, De Nardo explains:

o  I used 8 different sources to arrive at the aggregate, all of them specifically geared toward science-fiction and fantasy books: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and course Kirkus Reviews.

o  I only included books that garnered three or more mentions. That yielded a list of seven books, which seems like a good size. That said, I also include below a list of “Honorable Mentions” that appeared on two lists.

(14) SNOPES CLEARS HARLAN. Snopes says a famous Harlan Ellison story never happened/

Claim:   Writer Harlan Ellison was rebuffed after making a crude remark to a tall blonde woman at a party.

Status:   False.

In Snopes’ example, Isaac Asimov spins out an entire anecdote, but the gist is —

…Harlan approached one of these giraffelike women, fixed her with his glittering eye, and said, “What would you say to a little fuck?” And she looked down at him and said, “I would say, ‘Hello, little fuck.'”

Snopes says this is nothing more than a riff off one of the jokes in Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke first published by Grove Press in 1968.

I remember hearing the joke whispered between fans in the early 1970s. It must have been freshly purloined from Legman at the time.

(15) HALLOWEEN STAMPS. Naturally, horror news blog Dread Central is more interested in the 2016 Jack O’Lantern stamps that will be issued for Halloween. I skipped over those to avoid spoiling the symmetry of the space and Star Trek theme in yesterday’s post. But they are lovely!

halloweenstamps

(16) TREK ACTORS CASH IN. “Star Trek Actor Salaries Just Beamed Up With Big Raises” at Celebrity Net Worth says Paramount will pay big to hang onto the cast of its franchise films.

…In order for the latest Star Trek film series to “live long and prosper,” Paramount needed to keep Pine and Quinto on board as Spock and Kirk…

Pine only made $600 thousand for 2009’s Star Trek, which grossed over $385 million. For 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, Captain Kirk made $1.5 million of the $467 million gross. Before a new deal was struck, he was scheduled to make $3 million for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Thanks to a lucrative new deal, Pine will now make $6 million for the third Star Trek film, which is double what he was supposed to make, and will be 10 times what he made for the first film in the series!

The new deal features big raises and much better performance bonuses for the cast. Paramount only wanted to give the ship mates nominal raises, but ended up giving in for the better of the franchise. Thanks to last minute negotiations, the production house ended up adding somewhere between $10 and $15 million to the movie’s budget to pay the stars of the show. As part of the new deal, Pine and Quinto have been granted an option and will now be a part of the 4th film in the J.J. Abrams directed series.

(17) SKY TRASH. Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk. (Via Chaos Manor.)

(18) KEEP THE FAITH. James H. Burns writes:

For the end of the year, or really the start of the new, and in the spirit of the season, one of the greatest minutes ever in the history of filmed science fiction…  Courtesy of J. Michael Straczynski, and the good folks at, and on, Babylon 5….

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, Brian Z., and Sean Wallace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Colbert on Obama on Game of Thrones

By Tom Galloway: Stephen Colbert’s opening on Wednesday night’s Late Show was devoted to mocking President Obama’s self-admitted inability to keep track of the names of all but one character in Game of Thrones, including Obama referring to Tyrion Lannister as “the dwarf.”

Or as Colbert phrased it, “President Obama’s…inability to keep track of conflicts between the bloodthirsty leaders in the unstable region of Westeros.”

Video of the whole episode here with the Obama stuff starting about 1:30 into the show.

The interview where Obama stated this was done by Bill Simmons back on October 5 due to Obama being GQ‘s Man of the Year.

What’s your guiltiest-pleasure TV show? Don’t say Game of Thrones, because that’s a good show.

I do love Game of Thrones.

Which character do you identify with?

My favorite character is probably…the dwarf, what’s his name?

Oh, yeah. Peter Dinklage’s character.

The problem with Game of Thrones, though, is that I don’t remember the names of any of the characters.

I don’t, either.

I remember the characters, so when I watch it, I know exactly what’s going on. But if you read a review of the show afterwards and they’re mentioning such and such, the only one I remember is Jon Snow, because I can pronounce Jon Snow.

Pixel Scroll 10/19 Asterix and the Missing Scroll

(1) The stars came out for White House Astronomy Night.

(2) New interview with Liu Cixin conducted by Yang Yang for China Daily.

When, in a telephone interview, China Daily reminds him of that comment, he replies: “It’s not a joke. Aliens may arrive at any time. When it happens, everything, social and economic reform, educational problems, international conflicts or poverty, will become much less important, compared with the alien crisis.”

Big countries such as China and international organizations such as the United Nations need to be ready for such an eventuality, he says.

“It does not necessarily involve a lot of money and human resources. But we should prepare, in the fields of politics, military, society and so on. The government should organize some people to do related research and preparations for the long term.”

Unfortunately, he says, “no country seems to have done this kind of thing”.

In the postscript for the English version of The Three-Body Problem, translated by Ken Liu, Liu Cixin says: “I’ve always felt that extraterrestrial intelligence will be the greatest source of uncertainty for humanity’s future. Other great shifts, such as and ecological disasters, have a certain progression and built-in adjustment periods, but contact between mankind and aliens can occur at any time. Perhaps in 10,000 years the starry sky that mankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit. … The appearance of this Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.”

(3) Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Tying in the BBC Sherlock Special” at Black Gate has a lot of good information.

Back in July, what seems to be the most popular ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ post appeared here at Black Gate. I looked at what I think went wrong with season three of the BBC’s Sherlock. I included the just-released ninety-second, ‘first look’ video for the upcoming Special, to be aired around Christmas. And I pointed out it seemed to be full of the “Look how clever we are” bits that I lamented in my post.

Now, just about everyone, including myself, loves that the Special is set in Victorian times; unlike the episodes in the first three seasons. Cumberbatch and Freeman would be given their first (and quite likely, only) opportunities to play Holmes and Watson in the Doyle mold. I view it as a chance for the show to get back on track and reclaim the multitude of fans it lost during season three.

(4) Brad Torgersen, in a comment on Kevin Trainor’s blog, now says:

I had multiple conduits for suggestions, and the comments section was just one conduit.

But he doesn’t identify what those sources for the majority of slated Sad Puppy 3 fiction were.

(5) Francis W. Porreto does not approve – “Really Quickies: From The Garbage Heap” at Bastion of Liberty.

If you’d like a gander at “how the other side emotes,” take a look at this post at this hard-to-describe site, particularly the comments that follow commenter “alauda’s” citation of this bit of dark foreboding. These past two days a fair amount of traffic has come here from there.

Note the complete lack of rational analysis. Note the immediate and unconditional willingness to condemn me, as if the scenario I wrote about were something I actually want to happen.

(6) Alyssa Rosenberg, while commenting on “The downside of cultural fragmentation” in the Washington Post, touches on a familiar topic —

Debates over what kinds of books, movies, television shows, comics and video games get awards are often a proxy way of debating what our cultural values ought to be. The alternative slates that attempted to wrest control of Hugo nominations were based on the idea that awards voters had over-prioritized identity politics over the quality of writing and plotting; GamerGate erroneously asserts that there’s a movement afoot to ban or stop the production of video games with certain themes or images. While I don’t agree with the premises of either of those two cultural movements, I do think left cultural criticism has sometimes asserted political litmus tests for art in recent years, and that elements of the right, spurred by the sometime success of this approach, have fallen into the same patterns (for a good example, see the suggestions that the action movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” was anti-male).

(7) After Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories picked apart the Trek-related fanhistory in Kevin Trainor’s post on Wombat Rampant, Dystopic followed with his own critique of what Davidson had to say about Trainor on Declination.

As my readers probably know already, I consider myself somewhere on the Puppy spectrum of the Science Fiction community. There’s quite a bit of difference between the Sad Puppies, who one might call the reformists, and the Rabid Puppies who are mostly of the opinion that Worldcon and the Hugos should be burnt to the ground and set on fire by their own Left-wing, Social Justice proponents.

Either way, though, both camps agree that the existing community is hopelessly corrupt, cliquish, and prone to a particular animus against Conservatives and Libertarians. This prejudice is such that their works are repeatedly voted down from awards, publishers like Tor Books are run by individuals openly hostile to alternate political affiliations, and backroom deals are made to secure nominations for authors based on political backgrounds and special interests.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories confirms this for us in a ridiculous post, so loaded up with Strawmen that he might as well be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Let’s allow him to hang himself with his own rope, shall we?

(8) Workaholics actor Blake Anderson appears in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons:

“Well, you know, we kind of feel a little disrespected by Homer and we show up at his doorstep basically looking for revenge,” Anderson explains. “So it turns into a full onPanic Room situation, where he’s kind of stuck in the attic and looking for him. We’re out for blood for sure.”

In the vein of the Treehouse episodes, Anderson says this one is not necessarily “piss your pants” scary, but, he assures, “me and Nick Kroll definitely brought our creepy to the table for sure.”

 

(9) Is this a clue to the future of Game of Thrones?

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 19, 1903 — Tor Johnson is born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson in Sweden. Especially known for his appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space, although he had credits in all kinds of things, from the movie musical Carousel to Walter Cronkite’s You Are There nonfiction TV show.
  • October 19, 1945 — John Lithgow is born. Acted in Twilight Zone, Third Rock from the Sun, Buckaroo Banzai

(11) Today’s Birthday Book

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is 62 years old today. Phil Nichols explains:

Fahrenheit 451

FAHRENHEIT 451 was deposited for copyright at the Library of Congress on October 19, 1953. Both the first edition hardbound and mass market paperback carry this publication date, although the paperbacks actually reached the market a month earlier.

The McCarthy era’s climate of fear lingered beyond 1953, however; in spite of the book’s initial critical success, the first paperback printing took seven years to sell out.

(12) Diana Pavlac Glyer was very pleasantly surprised to find her forthcoming book Bandersnatch mentioned in a recent Publishers Weekly post, “Exploring C.S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity – 52 Years After His Death”.

Coming in November, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings (Kent State University Press) by Diana Pavlac Glyer and James A. Owen shows readers how encouragement and criticism made all the difference in books written by the Inklings. A companion coloring book by Owen is expected next spring.

(13) Learn how to make your pumpkin look like a galaxy nebula.

front-view-galaxy-pumpkin

(14) Io9 says “The Glorious Poster For Star Wars The Force Awakens Has A Giant Planet Killer On It”. Almost needless to say, you can also see the full, high resolution poster there.

(15) This collection of “13 Creepy Bits of Bookish Trivia” at BookRiot lives up to its headline. Here’s one of the tamer entries.

  1. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, is rumored to have been quite the odd character. However, after his brother died in a skating accident, Barrie would routinely dress up in his dead brother’s clothing in order to ease his mother’s grief. The tragedy of his brother’s death would come to inspire the character of Peter Pan.

(16) Tonight was the Terry Gilliam talk at the Alex Theatre. Crusading photojournalist John King Tarpinian snapped a picture of the marquee.

Terry Gilliam on Alex marquee COMP ph by JKT

(17) Chuck Wendig in “About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott” begins…

Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.

It feels isolating, and you say so.

And as a response you’re told, “Hey, take what you get.” They say, can’t you have empathy for someone who doesn’t look like you? Something something humanist, something something equalist. And of course you can have that empathy because you have to, because this is all you know, because the only faces and words and experiences on-screen are someone else’s so, really, what else are you going to do?

Then one day, things start to change. A little, not a lot, but shit, it’s a start — you start to see yourself up there on the screen. Sometimes as a main character. Sometimes behind the words on the page, sometimes behind the camera. A video game avatar here, a protagonist there. And it’s like, WOO HOO, hot hurtling hell, someone is actually thinking about you once in a while. And the moment that happens, wham. A backlash. People online start saying, ugh, this is social justice, ugh, this is diversity forced down our throats, yuck, this is just bullshit pandering quota garbage SJW — and you’re like, whoa, what? Sweet crap, everyone else has been represented on screen since the advent of film. They’ve been on the page since some jerk invented the printing press. But the moment you show up — the moment you get more than a postage stamp-sized bit of acreage in this world that has always been yours but never really been yours, people start throwing a shit-fit. They act like you’re unbalancing everything. Like you just moved into the neighborhood and took a dump in everybody’s marigolds just because you exist visibly.

(18) Amy Sterling Casil recommends The Looking Planet.

During the construction of the universe, a young member of the Cosmos Corps of Engineers decides to break some fundamental laws in the name of self expression.

 

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian and Amy Sterling Casil for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

A Brief Arrest Record of Time

By Mark Dennehy: Holy hell – “9th Grader Arrested, Searched for Building a Clock” (on Hackaday.)

A 14-year-old in Dallas, Texas has been arrested for bringing a clock to his school. [Ahmed Mohamed] could be any one of us. He’s a tinkerer, pulling apart scrap appliances and building projects from the parts. He was a member of the his middle school robotics team. The clock was built from a standard four digit seven segment display and a circuit board. [Ahmed] built the circuit inside a Vaultz hard pencil case like this one. He then did what every other experimenter, inventor, hacker, or maker before him has done: He showed off his creation.

Unfortunately for [Ahmed] one of his teachers immediately leapt to the conclusion that this electronic project was a “hoax bomb” of some sort. The police were called, [Ahmed] was pulled out of class and arrested. He was then brought to a detention center where he and his possessions were searched. [Ahmed] is now serving a three-day suspension from school. His clock is considered evidence to be used in a possible criminal case against him.

The teenage geek with the ham radio license in me who built this sort of thing for fun and amusement and who went on to become an engineer and build more fun stuff is particularly miffed at that.

And so are a whole bunch of NASA types (he was arrested wearing a NASA shirt for cryin’ out loud):

Along with an admittedly sarcastic mars rover:

And a science fiction author you might have heard of:

And a mythbuster:

Not to mention the President:

The hashtag’s gone viral:

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23IStandWithAhmed&src=tyah