Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.

I LOVED IT!

Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 10/14/17 We Can Pixel It For You Scrollsale

(1) FIRES SHUTTER FAMOUS MONSTERS CON. The Famous Monsters Halloween Convention scheduled for October 25-27 in San Jose has been officially cancelled due to Northern California wildfires.  Senior Manager Philip Kim wrote on the convention website:

On Sunday evening, October 8th, 2017, a historically violent wind blew through the Bay Area. This extreme wind proliferated what is now one of California history’s most dangerous cluster of wildfires, still raging in Sonoma County and claiming more homes and lives by the day. We are told this may be days to weeks before total containment, as the heavy winds are predicted to return this weekend, adding to an already horrific situation. Though containment efforts are underway, it is catastrophic here with no sign of slowing down. This, by legal or any other definition, is an act of God.

Though the show is in San Jose, the majority of our staff live and work in Sonoma County. My family and I have been evacuated from our home since Tuesday and have no idea when we will be allowed back or if we will have a home to go back to. We are currently shut down to guarantee the safety of our staff. I made great efforts to see if we could turn the show into a fundraiser, but there were a few key obstacles that would not allow us to achieve this. This may have been my greatest sadness.

My team and I are grateful to everyone who trusted us and believed in our show. It has been one of the hardest decisions of my Famous Monsters career, but we are officially canceling Famous Monsters Halloween 2017.

(2) IN EMERGENCY, DIAL 9-3/4. A BBC story called “Hogwarts Express Rescues Family Stranded in Highlands” says a family stuck in a remote part of Scotland was saved when the Hogwarts Express, a steam train that makes daily runs in the western part of Scotland, made an emergency stop to pick them up.

Jon and Helen Cluett and their four young children were staying at a remote bothy in Lochaber when their canoe was swept away by a swollen river.

Facing a long walk back to their car across boggy land, they phoned the police for advice.

To their delight, they arranged for the steam train used in the Harry Potter films to pick them up.

The train, called The Jacobite, is used for excursions on the West Highland Railway Line, crossing the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct that also features in the movies.

(3) DOES 2049 STINK? James W.  Harris is not a fan — “Blade Runner 2049 – The Evil of Heartless Sequels”.

Without the voiceover, both films are just action flicks of heartless machines killing heartless machines. Why has Ridley Scott never understood the Romeo and Juliet beauty of having a love story between lovers from two opposing houses? In Blade Runner 2049 we are taken on a meaningless thrill ride where it’s impossible to tell human from replicant – and I really didn’t give a shit either. There are a few touching scenes in Blade Runner 2049, but they are so artificial as to cause existential angst. At times we feel for K, our replicant protagonist, but the scenes are so obviously manipulating us that it’s hard to genuinely care.

(4) YOUTUBE CLICKBAIT OF THE DAY. And for those of you who favor the flop thesis there’s –

(5) MORE HELSINKI WORLDCON RESOURCES. Jani Ylönen’s Worldcon 75 podcasts:

(6) OF WORLDCONS YET TO COME. JJ recommends the discussion on Reddit at NextWorldcon.

This subreddit is about the next Worldcon – and the ones after that one. You can talk about the ones that are confirmed and the ones that are still only bidding to become a Worldcon. To be completely hosnest, you can probably get away with talking about past Worldcons too, but the main focus here is the future.

This is also a good place to meet new people who are going to the next Worldcon and people who can offer good advice the host city for the next Worldcon or advice for people who has never been to Worldcon before.

(7) SFF ART HISTORY. Adam Roberts and Graham Sleight are working to fund publication of “Wonders and Visions: A Visual History of Science Fiction” through Unbound.

Our book tells the story of science fiction through its most iconic, beautiful, interesting and (sometimes) crass cover art: from the earliest days of publishing in the 19th-century, through the glory days of Pulp magazine covers and the Golden Age, into the endless visual experimentation of the New Wave and so to the post-Star Wars era, when a ‘visual logic’ comes to dominate not just science fiction but culture as a whole.

With over 350 full-colour images and more than 50,000 words of text this is more than simply an anthology of famous science fiction covers–it is an ambitious attempt to tell the whole history of the genre in a new way, and to make the case that science fiction art, from the sober future-visions of Chesley Bonestell, to the garish splendours of Hannes Bok, from the Magritte-like surrealism of Richard Powers, Frank Freas, Judith Clute, and Ed Emshwiller to the amazingly talented designers and artists of the 21st-century, exists as a vital and neglected mode of modern art as such.

… There will be three main types of entry. Firstly, there will be several hundred key covers: one or sometimes two images + plus 150-200 words of text, of the ten (or more) most iconic and recognisable covers from each decade of our history: from Wells and Verne to H Rider Haggard’s Barsoom and E E ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman, from Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Asimov’s Foundation to Leigh Brackett and Joanna Russ’s Female Man, from Cyberpunk masterpieces by William Gibson and Pat Cadigan to dystopias by Octavia Butler and Cormac McCarthy, to twenty-first century SF.

Second there will be more extended visual comparative studies, one or two page spreads that compare multiple covers for the same book, to see the way different artists and publishers have approached the task of visualising some of the most famous novels in the history of the genre: The Day of the Triffids; Dune; Left Hand of Darkness and more, as well as surveys of the work of famous illustrators, or publishing houses.

Third there will be milestone entries: examples of groundbreaking or unusual covers, usually the first example of (among other things) a fine late 19th-century illustrated binding for a SF title; a garishly coloured SF magazine cover; a Golden Age fix-up paperback, a psychedelic 1960s New Wave title, a movie-tie-in; a graphic novel adaptation of a classic: Shelley’s Frankenstein as first SF novel; Auf Zwei Planeten as first Martian invasion; Time Machine as first time travel; Orphans of the Sky as the first Generation Starship novel; Leo and Diane Dillon’s illustrations for Ellison’s Dangerous Visions; early computer-generated SF art; and Metal Hurlant revolutionising the potential of SF comics.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 14, 1926 — A. A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published.
  • October 14, 1947 — Charles Yeager, piloting a Bell X-1 jet, became the first person to break the sound barrier.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinain says today’s The Argyle Sweater demonstrates another failed attempt to find a use for overly large garden produce.
  • Nor does true romance run a smooth course at Bizarro.
  • And then there was this premonition in 1966….

(10) PUMPKIN VINE. Is the wine good? Otherwise $1,600 it’s a lot of money to spend for a cute label: 2013 Stacked Jack Cabernet Sauvignon Etched 6L

This bottle is even more unique, as it features etched custom artwork. We affectionately refer to the label as “Stacked Jack,” was created by award-winning children’s book illustrator John Manders. Third generation family member and General Manager Nat Komes discovered John’s art while reading to his kids at the St. Helena library. Inspiration comes from many places!

(11) MUSIC OF THE FEARS. Remember that day Art Garfunkel went shopping with George Lucas? Their lovechild is on sale at BrainyTee.

(12) LOCKDOWN. The New York Times story “Twitter Users Split on Boycott Over Platform’s Move Against Rose McGowan” cited Brianna Wu:

Plenty of those participating in the protest came from outside the celebrity ranks.

“I love this platform, but it’s time to do better. See you all in 24 hours,” wrote Brianna Wu, a congressional candidate in Massachusetts

(13) MR. SCI-FI. Star Trek writer Marc Scott Zicree, Mr. Sci-Fi, spends a few minutes considering which is better, Star Trek: Discovery or The Orville. What do you think?

(14) EXHALE. The BBC reports how “NASA carbon space observatory ‘watches Earth breathe”.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) tracked the behaviour of the gas in 2015/2016 – a period when the planet experienced a major El Niño event.

This climate phenomenon boosts the amount of CO2 in the air.

The US space agency’s OCO satellite was able to show how that increase was controlled by the response of tropical forests to heat and drought.

The forests’ ability to draw down carbon dioxide, some of it produced by human activity, was severely curtailed.

The science has significant implications because the kind of conditions associated with El Niños are expected to become much more common under global warming.

(15) BASED ON A SOMEWHAT TRUE STORY. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘Professor Marston And The Wonder Women’ Is Strangely Subdued” — and loose with facts:

Sweet and rather silly, the movie is entertaining. It’s rarely persuasive, however, and generally seems like a missed opportunity.

Among the film’s most characteristically Hollywood traits is its rampant fictionalization. A complete accounting of the script’s liberties would require a dissertation, but it’s telling that Robinson has the Marstons meet Olive while she’s enrolled at Harvard/Radcliffe, where Bill is a professor and Elizabeth is a Ph.D candidate. In fact, Bill did get three degrees, and Elizabeth a master’s, from the university. But Bill didn’t teach, and Olive never studied, at Harvard or its sister school.

(16) PULLMAN PREVIEW. NPR delivers “First Read: Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book Of Dust'”.

Malcolm Polstead, the 11-year-old at the center of the story, sees a great deal of the secret life of Oxford from the perspective of the rivers and the canal in his canoe La Belle Sauvage. Here he witnesses something he’d never expected to see, and discovers something that will change his life.

— Philip Pullman

Malcolm let the canoe drift to a halt and then silently slipped in among the stiff stems and watched as a great crested grebe scrambled up onto the towpath, waddled ungracefully across, and then dropped into the little backwater on the other side.

(17) VIRTUAL CALORIES. BBC wants to show you “The city where the internet warms people’s homes”.

“The cloud” is a real place. The pictures you post on Instagram, the happy birthday wishes you leave on Facebook pages, and the TV shows you stream on Netflix aren’t living in a nebulous ball of condensation in the sky. They live on a massive series of servers – all connected together in rows and towers in giant warehouses.

Few people have ventured into these data centres. But in the Swedish capital Stockholm, I went inside these information labyrinths, and discovered that they’re not just housing data. All the heat they give off is helping to warm homes in the city of over 900,000 people. How does it work? And could it create a new business model for the tech industry worldwide?

(18) THE X IN MAISIE. Did you know Arya Stark is a mutant? In Marvel’s The New Mutants, in theaters April 13.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/17 Anyway For All The Things You Know Tell Me Why Does Appertainment Flow

(1) VERSUS ORVILLE. Nick Izumi conducts his own “Trek Off: Comparing ‘The Orville’ to ‘Star Trek: Discovery’” at Nerd & Tie.

Production Design:

The Orville‘s sets and costumes are also reminiscent of 90s Trek. The inside of the ship is well lit, the Bridge design is almost one-to-one with any Federation ship from Star Trek. Event the titular ship basically has a saucer section and light-speed engines in the back. It really doesn’t look bad, all things considered, just really derivative. We all know it wants to be Star Trek, it just legally isn’t. The show does still look very nice, and it’s not just the ins and outs of the ship — the alien make-up is on point. With some occasional cheesy exceptions, you can’t knock The Orville‘s look.

Discovery uses mostly familiar Trek design language, but the budget is clearly much higher than the TV Trek shows that came before it. This has its ups and downs. Some may not take to the very Kelvin Timeline inspired look of the interiors of the Starfleet ships. The new uniforms also seem to be a continuity hiccup, but they honestly look so snazzy, I personally can’t knock them.

What I will knock is the designs of everything Klingon. While Klingon fashion could easily be different in different parts of the universe, the look of the Klingon’s heads and the design language of their ships simply does not match with the established Klingon aesthetic. Frankly, these deviations are not the kind that are easy to overlook. Still, if it serves the story, there’s then I see it as very deal-with-able.

(2) NOT A FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon dissects the new TV show: “Introducing … The Inept, Inert ‘Inhumans'”

…OK, that’s exactly what you just said abou-

The thing about mutants, see, is that their special abilities manifest, most often, in adolescence.

Uh-huh.

But with Inhumans, their special abilities only manifest when they’re exposed to a special substance called the Terrigen Mists!

“The Terrigen Mists.”

… Which happens, generally speaking, in their adolescence.

[Sigh.]

Generally but not exclusively! I hasten to point out!

Great. So this show is about a bunch of Not-Mutants. With special abilities.

… Who live on the moon, yes. In a city called Attilan, invisible to humans. They have a king named Black Bolt, played here by a pair o’cheekbones named, improbably enough, Anson Mount. Black Bolt’s voice is hugely destructive, so he never speaks. His queen is Medusa, played by Serinda Swan. She’s got long red hair with tresses that can punch and choke and, I don’t know, play the bass line to Primus’ “Jerry was a Race Car Driver,” probably.

There’s also Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, played by Game of Thrones‘ Iwan Rheon, adding another villain to his IMDB page, although this time a strangely joyless one. He didn’t get special powers when he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists as a kid, which happens sometimes. When it does, the little nonspecial Inhuman in question usually gets sent to the moon mines. But Maximus’ status as a member of Attilan’s royal family kept him free to plot and brood and generally skulk around like a low-key Loki….

(3) APEX MAGAZINE IN PRINT. Jason Sizemore says the “Exciting changes for Apex Magazine in 2018” include the availability of print-on-demand copies of each issue.

Beginning with the January, 2018 double issue (#104), the issue’s content will be published in a 5.5? x 8.5? paperback edition using a POD service and made available for sale from Amazon (and it’s affiliates). The price will be $6 to $8 for a single issue, depending on the size of the content month-to-month. It will only be available for purchase as single issues from Amazon (and possibly Apex–TBD).

When will the print edition become available? About 1 week after the digital release (first Tuesday of each month) of each eBook edition.

What about subscriptions? Subscriptions will only be available as a Patreon backer reward level. There will be a $10 a month backer level (for domestic US backers) that will insure you receive the print version every month. A level will be created for international backers to account for the difference in shipping costs.

Subscriber copies will ship about 2 weeks after the digital release.

Will it have all the short fiction that’s in the digital edition? Yes.

And the nonfiction? Yes.

What about the incredible cover art? Yes. In fact, this was our top priority.

Our January issue is filled with double the stories. Right now, we have original work by Nisi Shawl, Delilah S. Dawson, Nick Mamatas, and Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley.

(4) CBS TAX STATUS RESTORED. In July, the Carl Brandon Society announced that its IRS tax exemption was reinstated. Nisi Shawl wrote:

The Carl Brandon Society’s Steering Committee is very happy to announce that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has reinstated our organization as an official 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, tax- exempt group–and furthermore that this nonprofit status has been made retroactive to the date it was first revoked, back in 2013. Donations to us are now itemizable for those past years as well as for all years going forward.

Although we’ve been presenting our Octavia E. Butler Scholarships during this temporary revocation period, and also have been actively pursuing the selection of winners of the Kindred and Parallax literary awards, you may have noticed a lull in our fundraising activities. Now that we can safely guarantee the 501 (c) 3 classification applies to us and all your gifts to us, please feel free to help us out!

Of course this great news inspires us to put more energy into our many programs–the Scholarships, the awards, the panels and parties and online discussions and all the other work the Carl Brandon Society carries out to support the presence of POC in the fantastic genres. It also sharpens our commitment to preventing the unfortunate miscommunications that originally caused the temporary revocation of our nonprofit status. To that end we expect to put together annual reports on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and where we stand financially and in terms of our programmatic goals. Look for the first of these reports by February 2018.

(5) FAUX KITSCHIES. The award was on hiatus last year, but a leading author helpfully filled the gap – “Adam Roberts Phantom Kitschies 2016”.

Adam Roberts, in typical overachieving fashion, managed to read enough books to populate a full and complete shortlist.

Adam Roberts

No Kitschies were awarded last year. 2016 was a Kitschless year—for one year only it was Nitch on the Kitsch. Which was a shame, since 2016 saw a wealth of (to quote the Kitschies’ remit) ‘progressive, intelligent and entertaining works containing elements of the speculative or fantastic’. So, [*clears throat*] in my capacity a former judge, I thought I’d post some speculative short-lists for the year the prize didn’t happen….

(6) SHEEP DREAMS. NPR’s Chris Klimek loves it: “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Even Sharper Than The Original”.

“I hope you don’t mind me taking a liberty” are the first words spoken in Blade Runner 2049, an unlikely sequel to the oft-revised Ridley Scott sci-fi sleeper that has confounded and divided normals — and been an object of adoration for nerds — for 35 years.

I certainly don’t mind. This inspired, expansive follow-up, for which Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher returned, though Scott handed the directorial reins to Sicario and Arrival‘s Denis Villeneuve, is less a generational iteration from its precursor than an evolutionary leap. It chews on the many existential questions introduced in Blade Runner — if our machines can think and feel, are they still machines? How do we know our memories can be trusted? Do androids dream of electric sheep, or unicorns or whatever? — more fully and more satisfyingly than Blade Runner did. Yes, even The Final Cut, which came out some 25 years after the original.

(7) CAMERA NOT SO OBSCURA. France strikes back against unreal body images: “Is she Photoshopped? In France, they now have to tell you”.

It’s no secret that images of models are often retouched to make their bodies look thinner or curvier in certain places, to lengthen their legs to mannequin-esque proportions, or to smooth out their skin and widen their eyes.

From Sunday, in France, any commercial image that has been digitally altered to make a model look thinner will have a cigarette-packet style warning on it.

“Photographie retouchée”, it will say, which translates to “edited photograph”.

Anyone flouting the new rule could be fined €37,500 (£33,000) or 30% of the cost of creating the ad.

(8) UNDERAPPRECIATED. In “FFB: Kit Reed, 1932-2017 and some of her peers”, Todd Mason has more to say about the late author, an early nominee for the Best New Author Hugo.

Reed, as noted here last year, started her writing career as a professional journalist, and made a mark, winning industry awards before selling her first short story to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1958, “The Wait”…one rather pathetic colleague at the New Haven Register, she recounted not too long ago, would make a point of pulling her office typewriter off her desk and taking over to a corner where he would type out his own attempts at stories, and claimed, upon learning of her F&SF sale, to have sold a story to The New Yorker, which would be appearing Real Soon Now. Reed continued to place fiction with F&SF, and branched out to the Yale Literary Magazine, Robert Lowndes’s  Science Fiction, Joseph Payne Brennan’s Macabre, and by 1960 Redbook…while her colleague had slunk off somewhere to await his further stories’ appearance in equally imaginary issues of The Dial and Scribner’s, no doubt.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 30, 1953 — Mad science classic Donovan’s Brain debuts.
  • September 30, 1959 Men Into Space premiered on television.
  • September 30, 1960 – The day we met The Flintstones
  • September 30, 1988 Elvira, Mistress of the Dark premieres in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 30, 1946 – Director Dan O’Bannon

(11) TAKING CARE OF NUMBER ONE. Yesterday marked a half-century since the show first aired in Britain: “Number Six At 50: The 50th Anniversary Of ‘The Prisoner'”.

As the series went on, and those symbolic elements kept piling up, it became clear that McGoohan — who created the show — was offering an extended, increasingly surreal allegory about the battle of the individual against society.

In the final episode, all that allegorical, Kafkaesque stuff bubbles over. Characters representing Youth and The State deliver monologues about Freedom and Rebellion.

Number Six escapes the prison of the Village but not the prison of himself — get it?

… No, yeah, lots of people didn’t. They wanted clear answers — Where WAS the village? Which side ran it? Who WAS Number One? — but McGoohan gave them symbols and speeches.

(12) DRAWN THAT WAY. At CBR.com, Kieran Shlach says “It’s Time For DC to Acknowledge HG Peter, Wonder Woman’s Co-Creator”.

This year has been a phenomenal year for Wonder Woman. The iconic Amazon has risen to new heights of popularity thanks to the instant-classic story told by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott and Bilquis Evely as part of DC Rebirth, a blockbuster feature film which blew the doors off even the wildest of expectations, and a new biopic chronicling the life and times of Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston, his wife Elizabeth and their lover Olive.

However, among all those works there’s one name that you won’t see: Harry George Peter, the artist who helped bring Wonder Woman to life along with Marston in the page of 1941’s All-Star Comics #8.

More often than not, comic books are a collaborative format, and everyone deserves credit for their role in that collaboration. The history of comics as an industry is riddled with horror stories of creators being mistreated by publishers when it comes to work-for-hire projects, but recent years has seen those same publishers attempt to make amends. HG Peter created Wonder Woman as much as William Moulton Marston did, and he deserves to be credited for that right alongside his collaborator.

(13) NOT SO SIMPLE MATH. Galactic Journey turns its spotlight to “[September 30, 1962] The Woman Pioneers of Space Exploration”.

But while the Journey has covered the Space Race in lavish detail, it has devoted little space to the woman scientists and engineers involved behind the scenes.  In part, this is because space travel is a new field.  In part, it’s because science is still a heavily male-dominated arena.  While women have risen to prominence as scientists for centuries, from Émilie du Châtelet to Marie Curie to Grace Hopper, it is only very recently that they have made their way to the top ranks of space science.

Times have changed, and there is now a vanguard of women leading the charge that will perhaps someday lead to complete parity between the sexes in this, the newest frontier of science.  To a significant degree, this development was spurred by the digital computer, which you’ll see demonstrated in several of the entries in this, the first installment of The Second Sex in Space Exploration….

(14) MONSTERS FROM THE ODD. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat threatened France with a lawsuit in “Tim’s Legal Updates”.

Timothy: I’m going to sue FRANCE. France as the thing that is itself France. Not ‘the French’ not the French Government. Not any kind of the adjectival case of France but France strictly as a noun.

Camestros: Ah, you’ve been at the Krell machine again and given yourself a brain boost, haven’t you?

Timothy: I may have partaken a smidgen. How can you tell?

There followed an official (?!?) response from France channeled by the commenter known as KR:

RE: Cease and Desist – Harassment

Dear Sir:

This letter serves as notice to you and your id monster immediately to cease and desist all harassing activities towards my client the historico-geographic entity currently known as France, aka La Cinquième République, aka La Ve République.

Among your many unwanted gestures, I refer you to the time when you bombarded my client with thousands of documents and old VHS cassette tapes pretending to be Gérard Depardieu making an attempt to regain his citizenship. You sent the Ministre des Affaires sociales et de l’emploi 1848 copies of The Fountainhead with hopes of persuading them of the evils of unionized labour and long summer holidays. You gravely insulted la francophone mondiale by launching a YouTube channel in which you hire Jesse Watters to dress like a mime and throw “Freedom fries” at Antifa in the name of free speech….

And it goes on. As these things do.

(15) PUBLISHED DECISION. This is John Hodgman’s column from the September 17 New York Times Magazine, “Judge John Hodgman on Coerced Bedtime Stories”:

Morgann writes: I bring a case against my husband, Ben, who is an incredibly talented short-fiction writer. I struggle with falling asleep, especially after a stressful workday. I often ask Ben to tell me a short story to help me get sleepy. Ben absolutely refuses. He uses precious wind-down time arguing with me instead of just telling me a silly little story.

There is never a night when my wife asks me to write a short, judgy newspaper column — she knows that I get paid to do that. Also, it would not help her sleep, because I chisel all my first drafts into stone, loudly. (There are no second drafts.) Even if Ben does not write for money, it’s still the case that creativity is work and usually highly personal. Ben deserves as much wind-down time as you do.

(16) TEENIE WEENIE VIBRATION. With the help of colorful animations and graphics, a YouTuber explained “The Absurdity of Detecting Gravitational Waves” in a video released this past January.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/17 How Do You Get Down Off A Pixel? You Don’t, You Get Down Off A Scroll

(1) THUMBS UP. Good words: “Blade Runner 2049: The first reactions are in”.

“Good news!” tweeted Guardian scribe Jordan Hoffman. “Blade Runner 2049 is a terrific continuation and expansion of the orig[inal].”

Erik Davis from the movie site Fandango agreed, calling Denis Villeneuve’s film a “sci-fi masterpiece“.

“If you were worried, don’t be,” said Empire contributing editor Dan Jolin of the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s film.

(2) CONSPIRACY THEORY. The Wall Street Journal noticed a King Tut-like pattern among the companies shown in the original movie: “Science Affliction: Are Companies Cursed by Cameos in Blade Runner?” The story is behind a paywall, unfortunately.

The 1982 sci-fi classic is back with a splashy sequel but Atari, Pan Am, RCA and other companies featured in the futuristic original struggled in the real world

(3) SHAPE OF TREK TO COME. ScienceFiction.com points to the way: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Trailer Teases The Full Season”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Given this somewhat unorthodox approach to their pilot, it’s only natural that they would want to give viewers a taste of what’s to come, a sense of what the show is actually going to be on a weekly basis, now that it’s underway. This is especially so given that CBS hopes to use ‘Discovery’ to drive interest in their streaming service, CBS All Access. To that end, the network has released a “what’s next?” trailer for the show’s first season

 

(4) UNBEARABLE. BBC review of “Goodbye Christopher Robin”, which “looks sweet on the surface, but is quite depressing – ‘a wolf in teddy bear clothing,’ writes Nicholas Barber.”

Goodbye Christopher Robin is a strange proposition. It’s a film that won’t attract many viewers who aren’t already fans of AA Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh books, and yet its explicit purpose is to ensure that anyone who sees it will never enjoy those books in the same way again. Remember Saving Mr Banks? Remember how it suggested that PL Travers wrote Mary Poppins because she had an alcoholic father and a suicidal mother? Compared to Goodbye Christopher Robin, that was a feel-good treat for all the family.

(5) DEDICATED SPACE. The Marsh Collection covers both science fiction and Scientology: “SDSU Library Debuts New Science Fiction Room”.

The Edward E. Marsh Golden Age of Science Fiction Room will open on Thursday, Sept. 28, giving San Diego State University and the local community access to one of the most comprehensive collections of science fiction in the United States. The opening celebration begins at 2 p.m. on the first floor of the Love Library on the SDSU campus. Eventually, the Marsh Room will serve as the main point of contact between the community and SDSU’s Special Collections and University Archives, which is home to Marsh’s collection.

Marsh, who attended SDSU in the 1960s, spent 30 years assembling his $2.25 million collection of signed and inscribed first editions by science fiction greats, including Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Included are the fiction and non-fiction writing of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. Marsh gifted the entire collection to SDSU in 2013.

Donald Westbrook, who received a Ph.D. in religious studies from Claremont Graduate University in 2015, called the collection “a preeminent resource for scientology studies [which] continues to receive fuller academic attention as one of many American-born new religious movements.” His book about the Church of Scientology is due out next year from Oxford University Press.

Living history

The Marsh collection is a recent addition to SDSU’s Special Collections, a repository for more than 80,000 printed volumes, over 500 manuscript and archival collections, 800 linear feet of university records, plus numerous graphic and digital collections and ephemera.

[Gale Etschmaier, dean of the Library and Information Access] said relocating Special Collections to the library space in and around the Marsh Room will strengthen SDSU’s role as a source of “living history”—the documents, photos, letters, newspaper clippings and oral accounts that enable researchers to understand the past through their own critical senses rather than through another’s interpretation.

(6) MORE WOMEN ACCUSE KNOWLES. Indiewire reports that in the wake of allegations against the Ain’t It Cool News founder, more women have stepped forward with stories about their experiences: “Four More Women Accuse Harry Knowles of Sexual Assault and Harassment”.

Another film writer, who goes by the online handle “sick__66” and wishes to stay otherwise anonymous, alleges that as recently as this May, Knowles harassed her on Twitter. The Miami resident, 23, was first approached by Knowles online in April, after he followed her on the social media platform and reached out via Twitter direct messages. The two have never met in person.

Over the course of a month, the pair shared a friendly conversation over direct messages about film history, with Knowles frequently sharing stories of his career and connections. (IndieWire reviewed the full history of these messages.) In the messages, Knowles writes frequently about things he’s done over the course of his work, name-dropping such celebrities as Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro. (At one point, he sent “sick__66” a link to his wedding invite video, noting that it was directed by Jackson.)

After a month of communicating, Knowles asked “sick__66” to come to Austin, to which she did not respond, deeming the interaction “creepy.” …

(7) WORKAROUNDS NEEDED. Jason Sanford asks “What happens to storytelling when the audience knows everything?” Stories of a certain type become harder to set up, though others must surely be easier to tell – what would they be?

We’re already seeing major changes in society from people having access to information through mobile devices. Paper maps and guides, which existed for thousands of years, are nearly extinct in some countries as people use their phones and GPS to navigate. Printed encyclopedias and dictionaries have also mostly disappeared, replaced by Wikipedia and other online resources. And social movements like the Arab Spring owed much of their power to the instantaneous sending of information between people by social media.

Those are merely the start of the changes we’ll see when every human has instant access to any information they desire. And one intriguing question I’ve been pondering is what this continual access to information will do to storytelling.

Here’s the issue: the vast majority of stories deal with an information gap between that story’s characters. This gap between what is known and not known by different characters helps create a story’s drama.

For example, in Romeo and Juliet a main character commits suicide because he believes his lover is dead. But what happens to that story when the characters can instantly find out they’re both alive?

Or what about Liam Neeson’s film Taken, where a father hunts for the people who kidnapped his daughter? What happens to that story when the father can instantly know the address where his daughter is being kept? Or his daughter can access an online database to learn of her kidnapper’s true nature when she first meets him?

(8) WRITTEN IN STONE. In “Did Ron Howard tweet out a Han Solo clue through Ralph McQuarrie’s art?”, SyFy Wire explains how the clue was solved and speculates about what it means for the Han Solo film.

Less than two hours later, one fan with an eagle eye named Paul Bateman recognized this carving and distressed ruin to be the language seen on a piece by the late Star Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie, who inspired the aesthetic for what we all visualize as the world of Star Wars. Bateman, also a concept designer and art director, called McQuarrie one of his friends.

(9) BOARDING PARTY. News From ME’s Mark Evanier had a bad experience with an airline – not so unusual – but received a surprisingly frank answer when he complained, as he explains in “Fright Attendants” and “Fright Attendants: Part 2”.

What occurred is kind of difficult to explain but basically, one employee of the airline — a lady at the gate — told me something. A second employee — a flight attendant — told me something different during the boarding process. I said, “That’s not what I was told” and I repeated what the lady at the gate had told me and I even gave her name. The attendant accused me of…well, basically lying about her telling me that. “That’s contrary to our policies, sir,” she said. “No one would tell you that.” My traveling companion backed me up strongly and she was accused of being rude and suddenly this flight attendant was announcing that she had the power to have us both removed from the flight.

…The Customer Relations lady was totally with me and clearly frustrated. She said — and this is a quote — “When I fly now, I just do whatever they say, even when I know it’s wrong because you never know what’s going to set some of them off. If they somehow get it into their heads that you’re a threat to the flight, you’re in for a lot of trouble.”

This is a woman who works for this airline. She is in a position to receive and deal with complaints about flight attendants who misbehave. And she is afraid of the occasional flight attendant on that airline. She also told me that recently, they had two incidents where flight attendants ejected pilots’ wives.

Rhetorical Question: If you were a pilot and they thought maybe your wife was a threat to the safety of the flight, what does that say about you?

(10) ON WRY. Anatoly Belilovsky entertains with “Dear Editor” at the SFWA Blog. The story doesn’t lend itself to an excerpt, but his bio does —

Anatoly Belilovsky was born in a city that went through six or seven owners in the last century, all of whom used it to do a lot more than drive to church on Sundays; he is old enough to remember tanks rolling through it on their way to Czechoslovakia in 1968. After being traded to the US for a shipload of grain and a defector to be named later (courtesy of the Jackson-Vanik amendment), he learned English from Star Trek reruns and went on to become a pediatrician in an area of New York where English is only the fourth most commonly used language. He has neither cats nor dogs, but was admitted into SFWA in spite of this deficiency…

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 27, 1967  — My Mother, The Car begins to air in France. Unlike Jerry Lewis, the French did not find any deep, previously unappreciated cultural significance in this export.
  • September 27, 1979 — Buck Rogers in the 25th Century began its regular episodic run (after the telefilm) with a show titled “Planet of the Slave Girls.”
  • September 27, 1985The Twilight Zone returns to television with brand new episodes.

(12) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Our literary cartographer, Camestros Felapton, discusses how the territory and the story interact in “The Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

There is a new good article on fantasy maps at The Map Room Blog: http://www.maproomblog.com/2017/09/the-territory-is-not-the-map/ The point being that much of the discussion of fantasy maps is not the map as such but rather the implausible territories that they depict. Fair point. However, I wanted to loop back to the post I made on the simplified Middle Earth map. A successful fantasy geography requires the terrain to shape the story and The Lord of the Rings does this well. It matters to the story whether the characters are in forests or towns/villages or mountains.

Roads, paths trails

These imply places where the story covers a greater distance. Travel is either uneventful or involves encounters with others. Leaving the path implies not only danger but a shift from the main objective. They are also (random encounters aside) boring but may also imply more personal conversation between characters. Outside of fantasy, a road trip has its own conventions and expectation of bonding between travellers.

(13) DISH SERVED COLD. “Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Radio Telescope Suffers Hurricane Damage”, but not as much as first believed.

When Hurricane Maria raked Puerto Rico last week as a Category 4 storm, it cut off electricity and communications island-wide, including at the Arecibo Observatory, one of the world’s largest radio telescopes.

Initial reports, received via ham radio, indicated significant damage to some of the facility’s scientific instruments. But Nicholas White, a senior vice president at the Universities Space Research Association, which helps run the observatory, tells NPR that the latest information is that a secondary 40-foot dish, thought destroyed, is still intact: “There was some damage to it, but not a lot,” he says.

“So far, the only damage that’s confirmed is that one of the line feeds on the antenna for one of the radar systems was lost,” White says. That part was suspended high above the telescope’s main 1,000-foot dish, which lost some panels when it shook loose and fell down.

(14) UNUSUAL ANIMATION. NPR says “‘Loving Vincent’ Paints Van Gogh Into A Murder Mystery”. It would be hard to pay homage to Vincent Van Gogh with more fervor or devotion than filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman bring to Loving Vincent, in which they’ve not only created thousands of new oil paintings in his style, but also made him the subject of a murder-mystery.

It begins in 1891, a year after Van Gogh died, when a postman discovers an undelivered letter the artist wrote to his brother Theo, and sends his very reluctant, very drunk son to deliver it — a task that will prove difficult. The postman’s son discovers that Theo died soon after Vincent did, and then tries to find others who knew him, realizing as he goes that the death that was said to be a suicide, may not have been so cut and dried.

All of this is about what you’d expect of a film — in this case an animated film — that means to make a mystery of Van Gogh’s suicide. But if you’re picturing “animation” in the Disney-drawn or Pixar-computerized senses of the word, you’ll need to think again. In Loving Vincent, it’s as if the paint has leapt directly from Van Gogh’s canvases to the screen, and then started moving.

(15) TROLLING FOR DOLLARS. Intellectual judo, using science against itself! “Rapper B.o.B. raising funds to check if Earth is flat”. But you know that check is going to bounce.

Spoiler: The Earth is not flat.

But US rapper B.o.B. is crowd-funding the launch of satellites to see if he can get some evidence to the contrary.

The rapper, whose real name is Bobby Ray Simmons Jr, has been a vocal proponent of the Flat Earth theory – the claim the Earth is, in fact, a disc and not spherical.

Some proponents of the Flat Earth theory claim NASA employees guard the edge of the world to prevent people falling off.

(16) THINGS THAT GO BUMP. Developing driverless cars based on traffic in India: “Could India’s crowded roads help us create better cars?”

“In 60 seconds you have to consider 70 options,” says my rickshaw driver Raju, leaning over his shoulder as we weave through traffic. We’re navigating the infamous congested streets of Bangalore, and he’s explaining the rules of the road.

Having lived in India for two-and-a-half years, I get what he means. Not an inch of the road is wasted – if there’s a gap, a scooter will fill it. Vehicles travel bumper to bumper. Overtaking is attempted as frequently as possible. Indicators and wing mirrors are optional extras. Most drivers seem to rely on the incessant honking of nearby vehicles – almost a form of echolocation.

But there is method to the madness. Drivers deftly navigate around manoeuvres that would lead to accidents in the UK, and offenders rarely elicit more than a mutter. They’ve adapted to predictable unpredictability.

(17) A BATTERY OF TESTS. “Why switching to fully electric cars will take time” – the BBC has the story.

…Other companies, including Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Honda have made similar pledges.

These are undoubtedly ambitious plans – but it is important to recognise their limitations.

They are not saying they will get rid of diesel or petrol cars completely. They are simply promising to make electrified versions of them available.

It is also important to recognise what “electrified” actually means.

It can, of course, refer to fully electric battery powered vehicles. But it can also be used to describe hybrids – and hybrids come in many forms

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Don’t Say Velcro” is a pretty wild musical in which Velcro® protects its trademark!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Edd Vick, Keith Kato, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/11/17 Can He Bake A Pixel Pie, Charming Mikey?

(1) AFTER THE STORM. Yahoo! Lifestyle has collected tweets with photos of hurricane damage at DisneyWorld – and while there is some, it’s not too heavy.

(2) BABYSITTING ORION. Let NPR tell you what it’s like “Riding Out Irma On Florida’s Space Coast — And Keeping An Eye On The Spacecraft”.

Every time a major storm hits the Space Coast, the ride-out crew members pack their toothbrushes and nonperishable food and settle in to spend the duration of the storm inside the Launch Control Center. Helms is riding out his second hurricane at the center, along with firefighters, security officers, building experts and contractors responsible for the hardware itself.

The most sensitive equipment is secured in climate-controlled spaces. The challenge is to make sure that no matter what happens outside, nothing changes inside.

“Humidity and temperature — those are the big two that affect the spacecraft,” Helms says. For most people, if you rode out a hurricane and just lost air conditioning for a few days, it’d be a victory. For the Space Center, that’s the worst-case scenario, Helms says.

(3) TOP COMICS ARTISTS SINCE 1992. SfFy presents, in no order, “The 25 greatest comic book artists from the last 25 years”.

To celebrate the last 25 years in comics, we’re looking back at the greatest comic book artists from the last quarter-century. Before anyone cries outrage on why George Perez or Walt Simonson are not on this list, please remember that we’re just talking about the last 25 years, and the legendary works we are highlighting only go back to 1992. Our criteria is based on a balance of unique creativity, distinct and influential style, longevity, and impact, as opposed to quantity or how big the profile was of said project(s). Their interior artwork had to be their biggest contribution (even though their cover art may be depicted below) during this era, and it must inspire, evoke emotion and/or transport the reader to a far off vivid world and keep the reader dreaming when they close the book. Now, without further ado…

1. Mike Allred

Notable works: Madman, Red Rocket, The Atomics, Sandman, X-Force/X-Statix, Silver Surfer, Wednesday Comics, iZOMBIE, Fantastic Four, Batman ’66

(4) CROWDSOURCED SCHEDULE. James Davis Nicoll calls on you to help decide “What 12 Dianne Wynne Jones books should I review in 2018?”

This is a work in progress. Open to suggestions. In 2015 and 2016, I devoted Fridays to Norton and Lee, respectively. That led to a certain level of fatigue towards the end of the projects. In 2017, I focused on authors from Waterloo Region, which side-stepped the fatigue issue at the cost of causing problems with the gender ratio of authors reviewed1. In 2018, my idea is to

Focus on four primary authors, three women and one man: Dianna Wynne Jones, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Carrie Vaughn. A rotating roster avoids fatigue and with women outnumbering men three to one, I shouldn’t have the same problem maintaining my desired women to men ratio.

(5) EIGHTIES REBOOT. According to Deadline, “‘The Greatest American Hero’ Reboot With Female Lead Gets Big ABC Commitment”.

A re-imagining of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic The Greatest American Hero is flying back to development with a new creative team, a big new commitment and a big twist.

ABC has given a put pilot commitment to the half-hour single-camera project. In it, the unlikely (super)hero at the center — Ralph Hinkley (played by William Katt) in the original series — is Meera, an Indian-American woman. The Greatest American Hero comes from Fresh Off  the Boat writer-producer Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan’s Fierce Baby. 20th Century Fox TV, where Fierce Baby is based and Fruchbom recently signed an overall deal, will co-produce with ABC Studios.

(6) MANIC MONDAY. And another manic Chuck Wendig / John Scalzi thread.

(7) DISCOVERY CREW. In a Cnet video, cast members of the upcoming series discuss their characters and how they each fit into the Trek universe

(8) MONSTERS FROM THE ID. How much can you say about Forbidden Planet before you’ve said it all? A lot! In “Creating Our Own Final Frontier: Forbidden Planet”, Centauri Dreams’ guest blogger, Larry Klaes, discusses the film in great detail (19,383 words). Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment explaining, “Centauri Dreams is usually about science, not SF, so this is a little unusual for them, but Klaes does a pretty good job of tying the movie to our modern understanding of reality.”

While the makers of FP no doubt knew better than to outright criticize their government and country’s agenda against its Cold War adversaries, they did find in Dr. Morbius (just say his name out loud for the proper effect) a symbol for representing their fears of a field and its practitioners who were increasingly being seen as amoral if not directly malevolent as well as appointing themselves as the single-point arbiters of what was best for the rest of humanity. This is exactly what Morbius did with the incredibly powerful and deadly Krell technology he encountered and subsequently obsessed upon as he cut himself off from the rest of his species over the next twenty years, the very same technology that had wiped out an entire civilization in one swift blow many centuries before. The captain of the C-57D was not just following protocol when he attempted to radio home for further orders once he began to realize the full extent of what he was dealing with on Altair 4: Adams was hoping to get a wider consensus on the alien power he had come upon beyond the words and actions of a single self-appointed authority figure in the guise of the scientist Morbius.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 11, 1976 Ark II made its television premiere.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

If you know Wonder Woman, you’ll laugh at today’s Off the Mark.

(11) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. Code Blue. Code Blue…..

(12) THEATER IN THE GROUND. Unbound Productions presents Wicked Lit 2017 between September 29-November 11:

Wicked Lit has been staged at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena where audiences walk through the hallways of the mausoleum and among the headstones in the cemetery as our plays are staged all around.

Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave. Altadena.

(13) TRANSLATION: WHY HE THINKS YOU SHOULD BUY HIS BOOK. At Slate, Lawrence Krauss answers the rhetorical question: “Why Science-Fiction Writers Couldn’t Imagine the Internet”.

What I find most remarkable of all is that the imagination of nature far exceeds that of human imagination. If you had locked a group of theoretical physicists in a room 50 years ago and asked them to predict what we now know about the universe, they would have missed almost all the key discoveries we have made since, from the discovery of dark energy and dark matter to the ability to detect gravitational waves. That is because we need the guidance of experiment to move forward in science. How we hope nature will behave or how we think it should behave is irrelevant. Experiment determines what we must build our theories on, not a priori prejudice about elegance or beauty, or even what seems like common sense. Quantum mechanics defies common sense—so much so that Einstein never really accepted it. But as experiments today, from entanglement to quantum teleportation, demonstrate, quantum mechanics does describe the universe at fundamental scales.

That’s why science fiction—though it can inspire human imagination, as Stephen Hawking said in the preface of my book The Physics of Star Trek—is fundamentally limited. It is based on human imagination and past experience. That is a great thing. But it doesn’t mean the science-fiction future will resemble our own.

(14) JUST PUCKER UP AND BLOW. “Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert’s Plan for an NYC Transit System Powered By Air”The Daily Beast remembers.

In fact, he was beat over a century and a half ago by a former Civil War surgeon named Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert who came up with the idea for a public transportation system for New York City that would have established an elevated pneumatic tube system in place of the underground subway that New Yorkers love to hate today.

Gilbert may have seemed like an unlikely candidate to invent such an innovative solution for New York City’s transportation woes, but his idea was rooted in his original profession.

It all started before the Civil War when the doctor went on a tour of Europe following the death of his wife. There, a grieving Gilbert was gripped by the terrible conditions in the slums, and he became convinced that the overcrowded and dirty environment was to blame for the high rates of disease and death among the poor. If only they could escape the cramped conditions of the inner city and live out in the fresh air, he thought, all their health problems would be solved….

His technological ideas were impressive and cutting-edge for his day—and even for our day—but he also conceived of a look for the system that was downright beautiful. Elaborate, Gothic metal arches would top the streets of New York, extending out of sleek columns secured to the sidewalk at regular intervals. Plenty of scrolls, flourishes, and metal detailing decorated each arch, and they were all capped by two large tubes that would serve as the conduit for passengers to get around the city.

(15) KEEPING THE CAN’T IN REPLICANT. How the actor prepared — “Blade Runner 2049: Jared Leto made himself ‘partially blind’ for role”

Preparing for Blade Runner 2049, Leto went full method actor again, apparently partially blinding himself by wearing sight-limiting contact lenses.

“He entered the room, and he could not see at all,” director Denis Villeneuve told the SWJ magazine in a profile piece about Leto.

“He was walking with an assistant, very slowly. It was like seeing Jesus walking into a temple. Everybody became super silent, and there was a kind of sacred moment. Everyone was in awe. It was so beautiful and powerful — I was moved to tears. And that was just a camera test!”

(16) THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Thanks to people who have sent me links to Jon Del Arroz, or to posts reacting to Jon Del Arroz.

(17) THIS SPACE UNINTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Camestros Felapton, in “Just One Last Note on ex-Kerfuffles”, says the dog park of the internet has allowed its domain to expire.

As I already have one whateverhappenedtoo post up about those unhappy hounds of Hugo hostility, I’ll leave one more snippet: the domain name ownership of “sadpuppies4.org” has expired. The website that hosted the fourth iteration of distempered doggedness…

(18) TIPPING POINT? The BBC’s report “Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear” may be specific to the UK, but might also be a signpost to changes elsewhere.

Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time.

The cost of subsidies for new offshore wind farms has halved since the last 2015 auction for clean energy projects

Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.

This compares with the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant securing subsidies of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

(19) MISSION ENDS FRIDAY. Cassini: Saturn probe to set up death plunge: “Cassini: Saturn probe turns towards its death plunge”.

The international Cassini spacecraft at Saturn has executed the course correction that will send it to destruction at the end of the week.

The probe flew within 120,000km of the giant moon Titan on Monday – an encounter that bent its trajectory just enough to put it on a collision path with the ringed planet.

Nothing can now stop the death plunge in Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday.

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

Blade Runner 2049 “Begins” TV Spot

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Also– the Road to 2049 Official Site collects and presents all the promotional material as a retrospective documentary of the period since the events in the first Blade Runner film — very interesting!

Pixel Scroll 9/1/17 You Only Scroll Twice

(1) LEAVE SOMETHING TO THE IMAGINATION. Adweek takes us behind the scenes of the Blade Runner 2049 marketing strategy,

How do you get audiences interested in a new film without pumping out trailer after trailer? If you don’t, they might not know about the film. But if you do, you’ll likely give away more and more of the film’s detail, leaving little to the imagination, and ultimately make audiences less likely to actually go to the theater.

This gorgeous new short film, Nexus: 2036, is over six minutes long and serves as the perfect way to establish the atmosphere and tone of the next Blade Runner installment. While Warner Brothers is certainly using trailers to entice the audience, this short, which stars Jared Leto and introduces his character in Blade Runner 2049, takes a franchise that has been dormant for the past 30 years and fills in some of the gaps between the two films.

This spot, from Ridley Scott’s content marketing agency 3AM, was shot in Budapest during principal photography for Blade Runner 2049 and was directed by Luke Scott.

 

(2) THE HEIGHTS OF FOLLY. Although Luc Besson’s Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets is pretty much in everyone’s rear-view mirror by now, C. E. Murphy’s review is eminently readable:

The dialogue, specifically the dialogue between leads Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, was excruciating. They had roughly the chemistry of two wet paper towels (although that may be doing wet paper towels a disservice), and the attempt at a romantic storyline between them was very possibly the worst I’ve ever seen on film.

…Aside from the total lack of chemistry, DeHaan and Delevingne were desperately mis-cast in terms of size and physical attributes: they literally looked like children with their waifish forms, big eyes, delicate bone structures, and teensy tinsy heights. Everybody else (including the obviously very young and very, very pretty Kris Wu as a young sergeant that my companion and I said sadly to each other, “He’s obviously going to die,” as soon as he came on screen) looked like adults and towered over them. It was genuinely bizarre.

(3) LISTENING TO THE GOH. Murphy also wrote several fun posts about attending Worldcon 75. The final one in the series is “Worldcon 75: Day Five”. It begins —

*I’d* gotten up because I wanted to go to Walter Jon Williams’ guest of honor interview, which I did (although I went into the wrong room first and was pretty torn about leaving what proved to be an astronaut’s lecture, but did anyway). The first half of it was full of what I thought were really great general questions for a writer and I wanted to be answering them! The second half got more specific about his career, but as he said at the end of the hour, “Well, that got us up to 1985, so please come to the next convention for the other half…” 🙂

(4) SFWA ACCEPTING GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America have put out a “Call for Grants” that reminds people they provided $24,000 to deserving genre-related programs last year:

Recipients included: the LaunchPad Astronomy program; Alpha, the science fiction, fantasy, and horror workshop for young writers; the African Speculative Fiction Society; a Philadelphia reading series; and others.

SFWA encourages programs supporting and promoting fantasy and science fiction writing and writers to apply for a 2017 grant. We look for non-profit, diverse projects that span a range of ages and publishing approaches and that reach a large group of individuals.

The guidelines and application form are at the link. Decisions will be announced by mid-December.

(5) KILLING SPOCK. Steve “Frosty” Weintraub (that’s his byline) in Collider,com’s piece “William Shatner Shares Some Great Behind-the-Scenes Stories About Making ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’” has a chat with “Shat” about the making of The Wrath of Khan, soon to be shown in Regal theatres as a one-night showing from Fathom Events.

That scene is obviously one of the most iconic in Star Trek history, but speaking of another iconic scene is, when you scream “Khan,” it is one of these scenes that everyone knows that it’s probably the most iconic Star Trek scene that’s ever been done. At the time when you were making it, did you have any inkling that this was going to be such a memorable scene?

SHATNER: No. I was, nobody told me that there was some thought about bringing him back and that Leonard [Nimoy] leaned over, McCoy [DeForest Kelley], and whispered “remember.” I said, “What’s that all about? Why are we killing Spock? Why are we killing Spock?” And they said, “Well, Leonard doesn’t want to do it anymore. I was thinking god, if Leonard doesn’t want to do it anymore, what’s going to happen to Star Trek? If we were to make another film? Well, that’s the way that went. They never told me.

(6) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. Hell, when you put it that way….!

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born September 1, 1942 – C.J. Cherryh

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 1, 1875 – Edgar Rice Burroughs

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 1, 1954 Tobor the Great premiered.

(10) NEGLECTED WORKS. While John Scalzi is in DC for the National Book Fair he decided to look up some old friends.

He’s also researching the origins of SJW credentials:

(11) IMPRESSIVE. It looks like a movie, til you get to the last frame. Destiny 2 Official Live Action Trailer – New Legends Will Rise.

(12) THE LAUGHING CARTOGRAPHER. Camestros Felapton finds a way to keep riding the fantasy map bandwagon by tying that topic to his jokes about the award most favored by puppies and frogs (but not pandas): “Map of the Dragon Award Lands”.

The mysterious lands of Inkshares have appeared out of the mists, as have (since yesterday) the newly discovered Red Panda Land. The Islets of Confused Nominees are famed for being inhabited by authors saying “I’ve been nominated for a what now?”

(13) PICARD FORGOT. Andrew Moseman, in “Here’s a Fun Math Goof in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation'”, says that Some Nerd on Reddit found that in the episode “The Royale,” Captain Picard mentions how Fermat’s Last Theorem remains unsolved whereas the problem was solved by Andrew Wiles in 1994.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation writers probably figured Fermat’s Last Theorem would go on being a mystery for many centuries more. So they introduced it into the 1989 episode as an excuse for Picard to comment on how even the marvels of 24th century tech aren’t enough to solve a problem posed by a Frenchman with no computer. But in 1994—five years after “The Royale” first aired on TV, when TNG was about to end its run—Andrew Wiles released the first successful proof of the theorem.

There is a YouTube video called “Star Trek TNG Fermat’s Last Theorem.” accompanying the story.

(14) ISLAND GIRLS. In “Hollywood’s Woman Problem”, author Libba Bray says her Beauty Queens already explored the ground that putatively will be covered in the Lord of the Flies remake.

Wednesday night, Twitter came to my door with a take-out bag of “No Thanks” marked: Two Dudes decide to make an all-female version of Lord of the Flies.

And I sighed heavily and thought, “Oh. Really?”

Because I’m fairly certain I wrote a book like that in 2011. It’s a satire called Beauty Queens, and it follows a group of girls — teen beauty contestants in this case — who are stranded on an island and thus removed from the patriarchal rules that shape their daily lives. It imagines the sort of world they would begin to build. (Spoiler: It does not involve the chant, “Kill the Pig.” But it might involve Napalm hair remover.)

(15) FUTURE CHOW. How will you keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve eaten these? “Ants, Seaweed, Chocolate Beer And (Maybe) Less Meat: The Future Of Food”.

Pleasing our palates matters too, right alongside addressing serious environmental issues. That brings us back to ants, plant power, and fake meat: All those foods will have to taste good for people to embrace them in large numbers. As I told Tapper in the interview for Borough Market, at my house this has been a summer of experimenting with vegan ice cream — and I’m having a blast finding out that my own sense of ethics and of delicious taste co-exist.

Earlier this month, I turned the tables on Tapper, and interviewed him. He’s created some cool-sounding beers in recent years, including — with a nod back to Knight’s wild foods — what he calls “a sour beer brewed with raspberries foraged around the Yorkshire countryside.” As a chocolate fiend, it’s the beer he’s currently creating that I’d most like to sample: a “chocolate and coffee imperial porter brewed with hops grown in Borough Market’s entrance.”

(16) WATCHING THE MARKET. Who buys?  “The women in Scotland championing comic books”.

[Tanya Roberts:] “I think the differences in attracting a male/female readership is subtlety small. Because I go to conventions and sell my material to people I get feedback and notice who is buying my artwork.

“Females seem to appreciate character relationships and that emotional connection between them a bit more. I know I do, as a female reader, get inspired when there’s great characters in the story with interesting relationships to others.”

Roberts believes there to be a healthy female audience for comics.

She says: “Girls don’t only seem to cosplay as their favourite characters they also buy comics too.

(17) WINTER IS HERE. At Nerds of a Feather, The G has written a SPOILER-FILLED lookback at the just-completed Game of Thrones season: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Watching GAME OF THRONES Again”.

You see, it’s impossible to capture all the detail of a 700+ page book in a 10-episode season, and that was doubly true once the scale of the drama shifted from the closed-door intrigues of A Game of Thrones to the cross-continental wars of A Clash of Kings. So the writers and producers had to pick and choose what they would bring to screen, as well as take some shortcuts. All quite understandable, really. Unfortunately, they chose to emphasize what are to me the most problematic and least attractive elements of the books, namely, their excess of cruelty and sexual violence. And the show didn’t *just* emphasize these elements; it made them more central, upfront and over-the-top. Meanwhile, I was getting less of the things that made reading the books a magical experience for me–less than I wanted, at least….

Summing up my feelings about Season 7 is basically a fight between heart (which likes it) and head (which does not). Heart wins out, in the end, for the simple reason that head’s been increasingly lonely since the end of Season 1.

[Thanks to The G, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]