Pixel Scroll 10/21/17 Stars in My Pocket Like Scrolls of Pixels.

(1) HEART SURGERY. Vulture grilled Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith about changes made to a review in the face of a swarm of critics: Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Explains Why They Altered That American Heart Review.

Kirkus was well-aware from the start that American Heart was something of a lightning rod, which Smith says was not a concern. “As you know, we’re no stranger to controversy,” he says, referring to the recent outrage surrounding Kirkus’s starred review for The Black Witch. And the response to this controversy, according to Smith, stemmed from a long-standing policy of listening when readers have something to say: “We do investigate [criticisms] and consider all of those claims.”

Yet while investigating criticisms may be business as usual, Smith admits this is the first time during his tenure that a review has been pulled and altered in this way. And while the Muslim woman who wrote the original review was involved in the editing process — “the decision to retract the star was made in full collaboration with the reviewer,” he says — altering the review does not appear to have been her idea in the first place. According to Smith, Kirkus concluded internally that edits would be made before reaching out to the reviewer.

“We wanted her to consider if changing what we thought was sort of reductive word choice, and adding deeper context, is something she thought might be appropriate,” he says, though he emphasizes it was ultimately her call: “I did not dictate that to her. She made that decision on her own.” (The word choice in question likely refers to text in the original review that referred to Sadaf as “a disillusioned immigrant,” which some commenters took exception to.)

Kirkus’s critics are skeptical of that claim; among the more cynical takes on the controversy is that Kirkus used the reviewer’s identity as a shield, only to then suppress her voice when it didn’t toe the line. Smith bristles at that: “It’s like no one believes that this reviewer has a mind and can change her opinion. Is that so difficult to believe?”

The answer isn’t necessarily clear. Would Kirkus’s reviewer have changed her mind independently, even if the review hadn’t been pulled for evaluation? Or did she feel pressured to alter what had proven to be a deeply unpopular opinion when asked if she wanted to, even without explicit instructions to do so? What is clear, though, is that the choice to un-star American Heart reflects something noteworthy about Kirkus’s framework for critique — one in which a book’s value is determined not just by the quality of its storytelling, but also by its politics. The sentence added to the review indicates that writing the book from Sarah Mary’s point of view remains an admirable choice from a craft perspective (“an effective world-building device”), but wrong from a moral one (“it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter”). And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”

(2) INDIA 2049. “Call for Submissions: India 2049 – Utopias and Dystopias”. Mithila Review is doing this issue as a fundraiser, and is basically paying only an honorarium. Submissions for India 2049 are open until April 30, 2018.

“The developing countries such as those in the South Asia and Africa are not sufficiently depicted in typical SF stories.”— Cixin Liu, Mithila Review

Mithila Review is seeking submissions for India 2049: Utopias and Dystopias, an anthology of short stories and comics devoted to the exploration of Indian futures, utopias and dystopias, set in India, South Asia or beyond.

Editors: Salik Shah & Ajapa Sharma

Word Limit: 4000-12,000 words

Comics: Up to 24 pages

Deadline: April 30st, 2018

Eligibility: Stories should be set in India, South Asia, or told from Indian or South Asian perspective. We want excellent, characters-driven and thoughtful stories from emerging and established voices around the world. Your citizenship or nationality, or lack of it, isn’t a bar to submission. Please free to re/define India or South Asia to make it relevant to the future/s you’re creating. If you are new to Mithila Review, please go through our existing issues to get a taste and understanding of the kind of stories that define Mithila Review.

(3) THE SCI-FI PIPELINE. From IndieWire, “The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us”

The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us

We’ll be seeing a lot of major studios releasing auteur-driven science-fiction over the next couple years. Here are some of the titles you need to know about:

“Downsizing,” Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne is well regarded as a humanist and a sharp observer of middle-aged existential crises, which makes the thought of him directing a science-fiction movie all the more intriguing…. “

“Annihilation,” Alex Garland

…Studios were clearly paying attention to “Ex Machina’s” success, as Paramount quickly landed Garland to direct the big budget adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel “Annihilation.” …

Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg

You’d have to go back to “War of the Worlds” in 2006 to find the last pure Steven Spielberg science-fiction blockbuster….

“Gemini,” Ang Lee

Ang Lee’s unpredictable career has taken him from gay romances to historical dramas, war films, literary adaptations, and period pieces, but with “Gemini” he’s finally set to bring his boundless visual scope to the science-fiction genre….

“Ad Astra,” James Gray

James Gray has been upping the stakes of his narratives and working with larger budgets with each new film, so it was only a matter of time before the director would join forces with a studio to make something truly epic. “Ad Astra” sounds like that kind of mainstream breakthrough after the indie success of “The Lost City of Z.” Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who sets out on a mission through the solar system to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared 20 years earlier on a one-way mission to Neptune….

“Alita: Battle Angel,” Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez has only ever made big-budget action films for family audiences (see the “Spy Kids” franchise and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”), which is part of the reason the upcoming “Alita: Battle Angel” could mark a whole new chapter in the director’s career. The idea for a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s acclaimed manga series was first brought to James Cameron by Guillermo del Toro, but the director’s work on “Avatar” kept the project from being properly developed….

“The Predator,” Shane Black

Normally a studio reboot of “The Predator” franchise wouldn’t inspire much anticipation (and fans clearly weren’t too interested in the 2010 installment directed by Nimród Antal), but 20th Century Fox has made the exciting decision of putting none other than Shane Black in the director’s chair….

“Avatar” Sequels, James Cameron

The second “Avatar” movie will arrive over a decade after the original became the highest grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation). It’s been so long since “Avatar” conquered the box office that no one is really begging for a sequel anymore, and yet you’d have to be crazy not to be at least a little excited for another opportunity for James Cameron to play on the biggest canvas imaginable….

(4) HAWAIIAN SHIRT FRIGHT. High Seas Trading Company is willing to sell you the shirt off its back in time for Halloween: Classic Horror Monsters.

(5) ZINE TRANSCRIBERS SOUGHT. Slate Magazine, in “Retyping the Future’s Past”, tells about the University of Iowa Libraries project to crowdsource transcription of some of its holdings, like the Rusty Hevelin fanzine collection. I didn’t get involved myself because as it was put to me, the zines were not out of copyright so the transcriptions would not be made publicly available, only to scholars working through the library. My fellow fanzines fans would not immediately benefit from my work.

However, the face value the offer is certainly true – you get to read the ones you work on.

If you’d like to participate, you need to do little more than set up a free account with DIY History, select an issue from the hundreds available, and dive in. It’s hard to guess what you might find within, but the possibilities are promising. As some of us still do today, the science fiction fans of decades past imagined different worlds, sometimes better ones. Retyping their words is a welcome reminder that we have yet to write our own future.

(6) YESTERDAY’S DAY

International Sloth Day

We missed this.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher

(8) TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM. Camestros Felapton has got himself a copy of Vox Day’s new book SJWs Always Double Down and penned a review titled “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To…Again: Part 1”. Though not even Camestros takes that title literally – by the time he reaches Chapter 4 he’s writing:

Skim, skim, Google, skim, Twitter again (the social media platform so terrible that Vox came crawling back to it after his tantrum at Gab), some band I haven’t heard of. The chapter was supposed to be about ‘convergence’ but it was just another list of complaints.

(That being the case, it’s lucky for Camestros that this book seems to have only one Chapter 5.)

Did I mention that this chapter is called “The Convergence Sequence”. I guess I had assumed that previous chapter would be about that. Anyway this chapter is about how convergence happens (hint: women are all conspiring against Vox to get him). The previous chapter was “Convergence” so maybe chapter 4 was the first Chapter 5*

The convergence sequence, Vox claims, is this: 1. Infiltration. This is when women, oops sorry, “SJWs” join things and do work. Now you might think that would be both a good thing and inevitable that helpful, nice people predisposed to being helpful and nice would do things. This is bad though because then they’ll expect the think they joined to also be helpful and nice.

“SJWs are particularly drawn to HR in the corporate world and community management in the open source world, because these organizational roles tend to combine the two things that SJWs seek most, power over others and an absence of personal responsibility. They can also be found in volunteer roles; SJWs tend to have a lot of time on their hands and volunteering for the jobs that no one else wants to do is one of their favorite ways to make themselves appear indispensable to those who are in charge of the organization…. But if you want to identify the initial SJW in an organization, look for a longtime volunteer, usually female, who is quiet, selfless, well-regarded by everyone, and heavily relied upon by the leadership.”

See, I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier or even exaggerating. Note the key elements he sees as symptoms of being a “SJW” – not a tendency to quote Gramsci or use the term “intersectionality” or a hard to suppress desire to punch Nazis. Nope the key symptoms of Vox’s fear are:

  1. Being a woman (or ‘female’ as Vox says in what I presume is a Ferengi impression)
  2. Quiet
  3. Selfless
  4. Well-regarded by everyone
  5. Relied upon by leadership

I wonder if Vox ever reads the New Testament and if he does, does he shout “obvious SJW!” every so often.

(9) E.T.IQUETTE. John C. Wright tries to reconcile his preferences with contemporary practices in “A Courteous Note about Courtesy in Names”.

People with modern hence fake standards meeting someone loyal to older hence real standards are in the same position as that younger brother.

You have no idea what a cruel practical joke has been played on you by the modern inversion of the forms of courtesy, nor how much sincerity, fellowship, and elegance has been deliberately removed from the world.

But I am not a king nor a pope, so there is no reason why someone who knows me only through my public words and works should be required to address me by my Christian name.

It would be rather presumptuous of me to assume that I can impose the burdens of intimate friendship on you.

You have done me no wrong. Please do not fret over so minor a matter.

To which I should add a general word: I am prone to wrath, as it is one of my besetting sins, and would do well to avoid a sharp tongue. I find that, for myself, speaking formally to people who give a last name, and calling him by his last name, makes it easier to resist the temptation to be shrewish and rude.

A man or woman whose Internet handle is some presumptuous yet joking phrase or nickname is much harder to take seriously, and much harder for someone like me to treat seriously. I was able to keep my temper with Dr. Andreassen for years, or nearly so, despite his studied provocations, merely because I addressed him formally.

Someone with a dippy handle like “Gharlane of Backdoor” or “4ssclown Pharting” or “Visions-from-Trippy-High” inadvertently will create in me the impression the I am addressing a pimply and nasal sophomore in teeth braces with a dull sense of humor who is most likely on mood medication.

(10) DUBBING. Myke Cole supplies a caption for the iconic image from Blade Runner 2049:

(11) ALT SIGHT. Uprising Review’s unironic reference in their latest podcast to guest Jon Del Arroz as “the #1 Hispanic voice in science fiction” is more easily understood if you know that it recently devoted bandwidth to topics like “Help Fund A Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Charlottesville,” Dawn Witzke’s Dragon Con report, and a link roundup featuring JDA’s harassment of a Filer.

(12) I’M MELTING, MELTING. NPR explains why these are: “‘Impossible To Save’: Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear”.

Li calls out to scientists hiking nearly 1,000 feet above. In their bright parkas, they look like neon-colored ants. They call back, their voices bouncing off an ice and stone amphitheater that cradles the eastern glacier.

Scientists are the only people allowed here. The government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try to lessen the impact of pollution.

But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.

The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — which the Trump administration has promised to pull the U.S. out of, but to which China is still a party — is to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tianshan is one of those rare places where the impact of climate change policy can be measured and seen.

“If every country sticks to the emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement, these two glaciers will be around for another hundred years,” says Li. “If not, then temperatures will continue to rise, and the glacier we’re walking on? It’ll be gone in 50 years.”

(13) HIS FAMILIARS. The Washington Post’s Savannah Stephens has an interview with Philip Pullman about La Belle Sauvage, including why he wanted to write prequels to “His Dark Materials” and what is his personal daemon — “Philip Pullman on what drew him back to the world of His Dark Materials”.

Q: Who were you most excited to revisit besides Lyra?

A: Hannah Relf is someone who appears near the beginning and near the end of “His Dark Materials.” She’s a woman whom I like very much and someone I respect a great deal. I was glad to give her a part that’s important in “La Belle Sauvage.” She lends Malcolm books, and she’s interested in his life, his thoughts, his education. Her character pays tribute to an old lady who had a big house in the village that I used to live in when I was a boy. She took an interest in me, and she let me borrow books from her library. She had books on every wall — bookcases all through her house. She very generously allowed me to come and borrow a couple of books every week. She didn’t tell me, “Oh no, you can’t have that, dear. That’s not for you.” She said, “Take anything you like. Read anything you like. We’ll talk about it when you bring it back.” I thought that was so nice, so I gave that part to Hannah Relf.

(14) A GOOD PLACE TO CRASH. They don’t want anybody underneath when these come down: “The place spacecraft go to die”.

The equivalent point in the ocean – the place furthest away from land – lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands – somewhere in the no-man’s land, or rather no-man’s-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America.

This oceanic pole of inaccessibility is not only of interest to explorers, satellite operators are interested in it as well. That’s because most of the satellites placed in orbit around the Earth will eventually come down, but where?

Smaller satellites will burn up but pieces of the larger ones will survive to reach the Earth’s surface. To avoid crashing on a populated area they are brought down near the point of oceanic inaccessibility.

Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian.

The wreckage of the Mir space station lies there. It was launched in 1986 and was visited by many teams of cosmonauts and international visitors.

With a mass of 120 tonnes it was never going to burn up in the atmosphere, so it was ditched in the region in 2001 and was seen by some fishermen as a fragmenting mass of glowing debris racing across the sky.

(15) HAMMERING. According to the BBC: “Thor out of five: Marvel’s latest has critics raving”.

Thor is a case in point. Whether toplining his own films or chipping in as part of the Avengers ensemble, this relic from Norse mythology has always seemed out of step with the rest of the extended franchise.

By recognising and embracing his core ridiculousness, though, Thor: Ragnarok may have finally found a way to integrate the character and his world into the wider MCU landscape.

Despite taking its title from a Norse word for apocalypse, the latest Marvel film is a joyously irreverent hoot in which superhero heroics are almost an afterthought.

The scenes in which Chris Hemsworth’s Thor banters and bickers with the now-talking Hulk are a delight, as are any in which Jeff Goldblum appears as the ostensibly villainous but actually rather affable Grandmaster.

(16) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND. It’s a jungle out there.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/17 Don’t Know Much About Psycho-History, Don’t Know What A Slide Rule Is

(1) THESE ARE THEY. More core from James Davis Nicoll: “Twenty Core Alternate Histories Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Here are three – are they on your shelves?

  • Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

(2) THE WU CANDIDACY. Her Glamour interview is now online — “Brianna Wu Faced Down the Alt-Right and Now She’s Running for Congress”

Now the 40-year-old video game developer is launching herself into a different kind of firestorm: She’s running for Congress in Massachusetts’ Eighth District on a platform crafted, in part, from her experience facing off against white-supremacist groups, which, she notes, have been against not only women gamers but also public policies that benefit anyone not white, heterosexual, and male. Her goal is economic and political parity for women, LGBTQ Americans, people of color, and the working poor. “All these forces are tied together,” Wu told ­Glamour from her headquarters in Walpole, Massachusetts. “The system is not working for any of them.”

The idea that the system is broken has motivated thousands of women to launch political campaigns; eleven thousand have told She Should Run, a nonpartisan group that offers resources to women interested in seeking office, that they are actively planning to run for office. Founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro says this new crop of political talent is “sick of not having their voices and perspectives represented” and recognizes “the impact they can make at all levels of government.”

(3) TOP 40. Nicholas Whyte told Facebook readers:

According to scientific calculation, I am #37 in the list of the top 40 EU digital influencers as calculated by EurActiv, and revealed at a ceremony today.

It’s for what he writes about the EU and Brussels, rather than what the rest of us know him for — his work as the 2017 Hugo Administrator. Whyte’s only wish is that they’d gotten his photo right.

The full list of digital influencers is posted here. If you want to know how the list was compiled, the formula is here.

(4) ROMANTIC POTENTIAL. M.C.A. Hogarth’s Kickstarter for Thief of Songs, “Lush and lyrical high fantasy romances set in a world with four human sexes!”, hit 400% of its funding target in the first 24 hours.

I have loved romance novels all my life, and love has always threaded itself, like incense, into every fantasy and science fiction story I’ve written. But for the longest time I didn’t allow myself to consider writing a romance novel of my own. Until I did.

The result was Thief of Songs, a novel that ended up on the Tiptree Award’s Long list. Set in a secondary fantasy world with four human sexes (male, female, hermaphrodite, and neuter), it’s the story of an imperial composer and the music en inadvertently stole while touring the highlands conquered hundreds of years ago by ens birth country. Dancer’s kingdom is unfairly privileged: all the magic in the world runs into the bowl of its lowest point and collects there, and using that magic its armies annexed the entire continent. So you can imagine the issues that arise when one of those conquered sons comes to the capital… and finds himself in love, irrevocably and inexorably, with a foreigner, a hermaphrodite… and God help him, a musician of such genius he couldn’t help but adore en.

Those issues were not solvable in a single book. Last year I took them forward into a new book, Cantor for Pearls, where Amet–our highland man–continues to struggle with his ambivalence while navigating the wholly unfamiliar relationship to him possible between man and neuter. This is an unabashed asexual romance, with sea serpents. (This book also made the Tiptree Long List!)

With the funding in hand, Hogarth will soon go to press.

My goal is to have both these books ready this week! So that when the Kickstarter ends on November 1st, I’ll be shipping within a few days. I’ve also already set up the e-book download pages. One less thing to do when the project wraps up! I like turning things around quickly… you all are trusting me with your hard-earned money, and I like to honor that trust. 🙂

(5) BUTLER. Gabrielle Bellot delivers a triumphal retrospective profile in “Octavia Butler: The Brutalities of the Past Are All Around This” at Literary Hub.

As a preteen, Octavia Butler decided she’d had enough of second-rate science fiction. “Geez,” she said after watching Devil Girl from Mars, a 1954 B-movie. “I can write a better story than that.” Anybody could, really, she mused. “Somebody got paid for writing that awful story,” she concluded in high dudgeon. A year later, she was submitting stories to magazines.

They were “terrible pieces of fiction,” she admitted jocularly in a 1998 talk at MIT, but she had embarked on her journey to write something epochal, a story that could forever reshape a genre’s landscape. A dream architect, she wished to be, whose fabulous and frightening creations would remain after we woke up. One of those transformative stories appeared in her 1979 novel, Kindred, which strikingly reimagined the neo-slave narrative genre by making a 20th-century black woman (and, once, her white husband) slip back into 19th-century Maryland through unceremonious, frightening time-travel. (Though time travel is often associated with science fiction, thanks largely to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Butler instead describes Kindred as fantasy because its temporal traversing is never explained scientifically.) Kindred, a novel explicitly designed to make its readers uncomfortable, has a special, if controversial, resonance for America today: how we teach and talk about texts that contain depictions of bigotry and violence.

Butler was accustomed to the weight of others’ bigotries; she grew up with insecurities about her body, some of which stayed with her into adulthood. Her body was large—she was six feet tall by the time she was a teen—and her voice was deeper than that of the girls around her, its gentle rumbling tone and pitch varying from androgynous to masculine, and students teased her mercilessly. Some of them called her a boy, others a lesbian. Butler did not identify as gay, as she told Larry McCaffery and Jim McMenamin in 1998, but she ruminated about her sexuality and sense of gender, at times musing that she might indeed be what others called her and even going twice to a “Gay and Lesbian Services Center” to “talk about such things… at which point I realized, Nope, this ain’t it… I’m a hermit.” Already socially awkward and lonely, the schoolyard taunts and jeers pushed her into a cavernous isolation. An outsider, she retreated inward, carving out a deep inner space, a lamplit palace of the self.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The “Plan 9” in the title of Plan 9 from Outer Space refers to an alien scheme to create chaos by resurrecting the Earth’s dead as shambling ghouls.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1952Fahrenheit 451 was first published.  Trivial trivia:  The paperback is the true first, as it came out a week before the hardback.

(8) HISTORIC FIGURES. The Women of NASA LEGO set goes on sale November 1. The collectible was produced after winning fan approval through the LEGO Ideas website.

Four trailblazing figures from NASA’s history are set to launch as new LEGO minifigures on Nov. 1. NASA astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton are celebrated for their contributions to space exploration and astronomy in the new LEGO Ideas set, “Women of NASA.” Based on a fan-proposed and supported design, the set includes representations of the four female space pioneers, as well as three LEGO builds that recreate the spacecraft and settings where the women made their mark on space history. “Great for role playing space exploration missions,” LEGO said in a press release announcing the set on Wednesday (Oct. 18). “Explore the professions of some of the groundbreaking women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set,” The 231-piece building toy is recommended for ages 10 and older. It will retail for $24.99.

(9) THE ENVIRONMENT. No, this isn’t The Onion.

(10) PULPHOUSE IS COMING. The Pulphouse Kickstarter has fully funded, and then some, bringing in $35,215.

(11) COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS. BBC film critic Mark Kermode discusses why it’s box office disappointed, and he doesn’t care.

(12) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. A place to live underground on the moon? “Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists”. (Does this sound familiar, and are you also wondering if the orbiter’s first name is “Adam”?)

Data taken from Japan’s SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 31-mile-long and 328-foot-wide wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

The major finding was published this week in U.S. science magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

“We’ve known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes … but their existence has not been confirmed until now,” Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP on Thursday.

The underground tunnel, located under an area called the Marius Hills, would help protect astronauts from huge swings in temperature and damaging radiation that they would be exposed to on the moon’s surface, he added.

“We haven’t actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details,” Haruyama said.

(13) CITIES. Camestros Felapton brings us his “Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

City of Miracles is a shining example of a brilliant use of the trilogy format to tell fantastical stories. The third book in a series that follows City of Stairs and City of Blades, Bennett again shifts point-of-view character, this time to Sigurd – the almost impossibly bad-ass fighting machine side-kick of spy/politician Shara Komayd (whose career is traced through all three books but who was the specific focus of the first).

Each of the novels has leaped forward several years in the post-fantastical history of the Saypuri Republic and the formerly magical and imperialistic Continent. In doing so Bennett gets to show a world that is undergoing its own version of industrialization and 19th-century European-colonial hegemony without using a cookie-cutter. The political divides are rich enough to feel real and complex and the bad is given at least equal prominence with the bad.

(14) REPEATED HAUNTINGS. The second annual “Ghost Stories at Keele Hall” will be held Monday, November 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the atmospheric surroundings of the Senior Common Room, Keele University.

Join us for the second Ghost Stories at Keele Hall. This will feature unsettling readings from Robert Shearman (writer for Dr. Who, and author of Remember Why You Fear Me, the World Fantasy Award-winning Tiny Deaths, and the Shirley Jackson Award-, the British Fantasy Award-, and the Edge Hill Short Story Reader’s Prize-winning Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical), V.H. Leslie (author of World Fantasy Award-, and the British Fantasy Award-nominated Skein and Bone, and Bodies of Water), and D.P. Watt (author of Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, and The Phantasmagorical Imperative: and Other Fabrications). There will then be a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Free admission. For further details contact the Box Office.

(15) WHERE POKEMON DON’T GO. The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann reports that Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Kentucky, was arrested after he jumped over the White House fence in a Pikachu outfit because he wanted to post a video on YouTube and become famous.

But the man, identified as Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Ky., told arresting officers that the Secret Service closed in too quickly, interrupting his recording of a “pre-jump” ritual.

With police nearing, Combs told police he decided to try getting over the fence anyway, and he made it into a restricted area where he was caught and handcuffed….

The court document does not indicate a reason for the Pokémon costume. Combs reportedly told police that he had researched others who had attempted or successfully gotten onto White House grounds and knew the type of criminal sentences they received. He said he knew he would be arrested. A man in 2014 was caught on the White House lawn dressed in a Pikachu hat and carrying a Pokémon doll.

(16) ALT COMICS.  As might be expected, PJ Media planted a big smooch on Vox Day and his crowdfunded AltHero comics project in “Vox Day’s AltHero Comic Book Challenges SJW Marvel, DC Comics”, uncritically passing on every claim he’s ever made about himself.

“I was astonished, actually. I knew that people were angry about the way social justice warriors have destroyed traditional superheroes, but I didn’t realize just how eager they were for an alternative,” he said. “Of course, the way the SJWs on Twitter completely freaked out over Rebel and the existence of the project didn’t exactly hurt.”

Rebel has become the stand-out hero of the upcoming series and she seems to resonate the most with fans. She is beautifully drawn in the classic superhero style but seems to always be losing part of her costume.

… “The idea that there can be politics-free comics when everything from going to the ladies room to playing video games has been politicized is utterly absurd,” he quipped. “It would be like ignoring the existence of Nazis during World War II or of Soviets during the Cold War,” he argued. “The problem with Marvel and DC is not so much that they have injected politics into comics, but that they ruthlessly sacrifice the stories and even the traditional superheroes on the altar of their social justice agenda.”

Day is one of the godfathers of the much-maligned Alt-Right. But those who try to call him a white nationalist or supremacist fail miserably because he is only part white, claiming Native American and Mexican heritage and speaking out vocally against any form of racial supremacism.

(17) VALUES REVEALED. Earlier this month, LGBTQ Nation’s Jeff Taylor lit into the new comics line in “‘Alt-Right’ comic book meant to ‘trigger’ progressives is as awful as you’d expect”.

Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, said in a Periscope video that he “intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW (short for “social justice warrior) converged comics of DC and Marvel.”

“They believe that comics is their turf, and SJWs have been moving forward, advancing for decades,” he added. “They have been methodically eradicating traditional values, they have been methodically eradicating Western civilization.”

He has said that “they know they are the true villains and the enemy in the cultural war.”

At time of writing, Beale’s fundraiser has raised over $66,000 dollars.

What, exactly, are these sacred values being erased from comic books that must be saved? Advertising smoking, pushing the concept of undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals worthy of vigilante justice, and the promotion of the traitorous Confederate flag.

(18) TRAILER PARK. Marvel’s Punisher, official trailer #2:

[Thanks to IanP, James Bacon, John King Tarpinian, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/17 If I Have Scrolled Further Than Others, It Is Because I Stood On The Pixels Of Filers

(1) NOW YOU KNOW. Ron Howard says the movie will be called Solo: A Star Wars Story.

(2) ATOMIC AGE LORE. Tony Rothman kicks off his American Scientist article “The Forgotten Mystery of Inertia” with – of all things – a Worldcon anecdote.

In days of yore, at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, a Harvard graduate student polished his reputation as a brilliant mad scientist by roaming the convention halls, brandishing what at first glance appeared to be a rather peculiar steel bowling ball. Portholes perforated its surface, providing a glimpse of electronic hardware inside; tangled wires sprouted from the same holes, and a gear train surrounded the mysterious object’s equator.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“It’s the gyro platform for an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he replied. “If you put it on a Titan rocket, it will fly to Kiev.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s an inertial guidance system, stupid. It knows where Kiev is.”

“I know how inertial guidance systems work, but how do you know it knows where Kiev is?”

“Oh, that. It was stamped on the box.”

This sorcerer’s apprentice had discovered that for $900 you could buy a surplus intercontinental ballistic missile, 10 years before the electronics were declassified. His Titan was delivered on two railway cars, “Kiev Titan Missile” stamped on the crates. He junked the body, donated the engines to an art museum, and saved the electronics for his research. A tall tale? Sounds like one, but the gyro platform was there for all to see.

That is the question. At what, exactly, is the gyroscope pointed? According to the law of inertia, objects tend to continue doing what they’ve been doing: If at rest, they remain at rest; if moving, they continue moving at the same speed in the same direction. The gyroscope also bends to inertia’s will, but in confounding ways. Touch it, and the gyro opposes you by veering in unexpected directions. If it is spinning extremely rapidly, the gyroscope remains rigidly locked in the direction it has been set, its sights fixed on…Kiev—hence the term inertial guidance systems. If a rocket veers off the gyro’s fixed course, a sensor detects the error, and a servomechanism realigns the missile with the gyroscope axis.

Was that Russell Seitz? When I first got into fandom that was the story going around about him, of which the following is one version:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(3) ED KRAMER BACK IN THE NEWS. Ed Kramer, Dragon Con founder and convicted sex offender, has sued the producers of The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, claiming they owe him for his work in creating and developing the program. The Huffington Post has the story: “Sex Offender Claims Responsibility For Natalee Holloway TV Series”.

Just when it seemed the Natalee Holloway case couldn’t get more peculiar, HuffPost has uncovered another twist in the teenager’s 2005 disappearance: A registered sex offender is claiming responsibility for a recent television series about the mystery.

Edward Kramer is suing producers of “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” a TV series that began in August on the Oxygen Network, alleging he is “co-owner, developer and writer,” according to his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California. Kramer wants unspecified “just compensation” for his work, plus punitive damages.

Kramer’s personal website claims:

Edward E. Kramer is the creator and developer of the six-part series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway for Brian Graden Media (BGM) and NBC Universal’s newly re-branded Oxygen Crime Network. This landmark series, featuring Dave Holloway and Private Investigators T. J. Ward, Kathy Wainscott, Trace Sargent and Eric Bryant, Detective Frank Karic and Forensic Scientist Jason Kolowski, which finally puts to rest the 2005 murder of Natalee Holloway.

The defendants in the lawsuit, Brian Graden Media and Lipstick Inc., filed an answer to the suit, denying they owe anything to Kramer.

He wasn’t “named as a writer, screenwriter, or co-creator,” they said, and was working as an “employee or agent of T.J. Ward,” a private investigator who appeared on the series with Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway.

Read a copy of the original lawsuit filing and the defendants’ answer here.

(4) MARVEL EXEC’S COMICS COLLECTION LOOTED. Marvel’s Joe Quesada is looking for help to recover or reacquire comics and other art stolen from his collection. He gives the background in a long public post on Facebook, leading up to recent discoveries of his artwork for sale, and the arrest of the culprit.

In early June I was contacted by a longtime friend, he was looking at some comic art auctions and was curious as to why I was auctioning a piece that he knew was part of my personal collection and something I would never, ever sell. He sent me a link where I discovered 24 pieces in total from my private collection up for auction including pieces I did long before I was a working professional. While at the moment I’m not at liberty to give the details, investigating this further it turns out that the artwork that was up for auction was all originally purchased from a Mr. Francesco Bove.

Further investigation uncovered that, since the time he was thrown out of my house, at least 185 more pieces of my stolen art were sold at auction and all of it originally purchased directly from Mr. Bove. That’s 185 pieces, sold and gone! How much more was sold privately is unknown at the moment but I’m not feeling optimistic.

So why is this news breaking now? As the case was being investigated the Detective in charge discovered Mr. Bove had left the country and had gone to Italy. Upon his return he was arrested which brings us to right now. From what I know so far it’s believed that Mr. Bove has sold portions of my art to comic shops, dealers and collectors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, as well as parts of Long Island and New Jersey. It could be wider spread than that but I’m not at liberty to say.

And here’s the thing that keeps me up at night. These were pieces that I was never intending to sell, art that had deep personal meaning to every member of my family. There was an enormous collection of Archie art from various artists like Stan Goldberg, Harry Lucey, Sam Schwartz but the majority of it by Dan DeCarlo. There were also Laugh Comics pages by Bill Woggon, The Adventures Of Pipsqueak by Walt Lardner as well as Pat The Brat and Shrimpy by Joe Harold and a huge assortment of other artists from the 50s and 60s to today. I lost pages of my own professional art as well as art I purchased from dear and talented friends. But what stings the most is that Mr. Bove took artwork that I had discovered many years ago stored in my father’s home after he had passed away. Drawings and paintings I did in elementary school, high school and college. Practice sample pages I had done before ever seriously thinking I could be in comics. This was art I was leaving behind for my daughter just as my father had left it for me. It kills me to think that I’ll never get this stuff back now that it’s been scattered to the four winds perhaps bought and sold more times than I care to imagine… or possibly even destroyed. So yes, heartbreak after heartbreak. Not only was the thief someone who I trusted, allowed into my home and helped during rough times, but the items he stole in order to keep himself afloat once he realized he irreversibly burned his bridge with me were the ones most irreplaceable and of personal importance.

Now here’s the part where I could use your help.

While I’m hopeful that now in custody Mr. Bove may lead the Detectives to the people and locations where he sold the art, perhaps some of you reading this might be able to point the Sparta New Jersey Police Department in the right direction. If you’ve purchased any art from Mr. Francesco Bove and have it in your possession or know someone who does please contact

Det. Jeffrey McCarrick at (973) 726-4072

Or the Sparta New Jersey Police Department spartanj.org or on their FB page https://www.facebook.com/sparta.police/

You can also reach out to me here on FB as well. Please know that I understand completely that this was sold under false pretenses and I fault no one for not knowing that. All I want is to retrieve as much of the art as I possibly can especially the attached Dan DeCarlo cover for Archie #322 which means the world to me and my family. Unfortunately it has been sold at least twice over that I’m aware of but if you know where I can find it I will gladly purchase it back.

(5) BOOTS ON THE GROUND. The Planetary Society reports on the first meeting of the newly reconstituted National Space Council in “We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things”.

Returning to the Moon

The biggest news to come out of today’s meeting was [Vice President] Pence’s authoritative declaration that Americans will return to the lunar surface.

“We will return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.

This wasn’t unexpected, considering prior statements by Pence, other administration officials, and the backgrounds of space council executive secretary Scott Pace, and NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine.

Very few details were given on how a return to the lunar surface would work, or when it would occur. Pence did not say whether the Americans on the surface would be government or commercially-employed astronauts. And the agency’s exploration goals already include a return to lunar space via the Deep Space Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit, which would provide a test-bed for closed-loop life support, deep space maneuvering, and other technologies necessary for travel to Mars.

In a statement, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said the agency has “highlighted a number of initiatives underway in this important area (cislunar space), including a study of an orbital gateway or outpost that could support a sustained cadence of robotic and human missions.” That implies the Deep Space Gateway is still on the table, and could theoretically fit within the broad plans outlined by Pence.

The fate of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule have been a perennial point of discussion among space advocates, particularly during the transition to this new, business-friendly administration. Though it wasn’t stated explicitly, today’s discussions seemed to assume the continuation of SLS and Orion, at least for now. The programs have always had strong congressional support, and were intended to be destination-agnostic, both by design and congressional directive. NASA can thus shift its focus without a drastic restructuring of its major hardware programs.

(6) TAKE A SHOWER. Space.com tells you — “Orionid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It”.

One of the year’s best sky shows will peak between Oct. 20 and 22, when the Orionid meteor shower reaches its best viewing. The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers, because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on.

The particles come from Comet 1P/Halley, better known as Halley’s Comet. This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as the icy comet makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris.

(7) NOTABLE SIGNATURES. Michael Burstein posted copies of some historic letters his grandfather received from Einstein, Teller and Isaac Asimov.

Among other things, my grandfather Rabbi Abraham Burstein was secretary of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences. One of his tasks was reaching out to various luminaries to see if they would be interested in joining the academy. Sometimes he reached out to people whom he knew were Jewish but who might not be very public about it; joining the academy was a way to express solidarity without becoming too public. From what I understand, the academy had annual meetings with speakers.

I do not know what was in the letters my grandfather sent out to these three recipients, but we can see what they said back.

The earliest letter is from Albert Einstein, dated June 7, 1936. The next letter is from Edward Teller, dated December 21, 1962. The last letter is from Isaac Asimov, dated October 21, 1965.

(8) HONOR AN AUSTRALIAN SFF CONTRIBUTOR. The A. Bertram Chandler Award is calling for nominations.

So why is a person awarded this honour?  It’s because the recipient has demonstrated over many years untiring commitment and selfless work within Australian fandom or the Aussie SF scene in general.  Work such as convention running, local club activities, publishing, writing of merit in the genre whether that be blogs, fanzines, short stories or novels, artistic endeavours such painting, graphics or other such forms.  The criteria is not limited to any one activity; but mostly it is for activities that are visible and evident to the Aussie SF community.

So, do you know someone who has made a significant contribution to Australian science fiction and/ or Australian fandom, not just over the last year, but year in, year out? Feel that they should be honoured / recognised for this work? Then why not nominate them for the A Bertram Chandler Award. It is really easy to do: just write to the ASFF and outline why you think that the person is deserving of the award.  No forms to fill out, no entrance fee, nothing but a simple few paragraphs outlining the person’s achievements.

For more information about the A Bertram Chandler Award and the Australian Science Fiction Foundation visit our website ( www.asff.org.au )

To nominate a worthy person, send to awards@asff.org.au

(9) EBOOK TIDE RECEDING? A Wall Street Journal blogger relates what publishers had to say at the Frankfurt Book Fair in “Book Publishers Go Back to Basics”.

Book publishers are giving an advance review of the industry’s future, and it looks a lot like the past. After a decade of technological upheaval and lackluster growth, executives at the top four U.S. consumer book publishers say they are done relying on newfangled formats to boost growth.

It has been nearly 10 years since Amazon.com Inc. introduced its Kindle e-book reader amid the financial crisis, destabilizing publishers and challenging their well-honed business models.

Now, e-book sales are on the decline, making up a fraction of publishers’ revenue, and traditional book sales are rising. The consumer books industry is enjoying steady growth in the U.S., with total revenue increasing about 5% from 2013 to 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Executives gathered in Frankfurt for the industry’s biggest trade fair said they are returning to fundamentals: buying and printing books that readers want to buy—and they are streamlining their businesses to get them out faster than ever before.

It is about “knowing what [readers] want,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Bertelsmann SE and Pearson PSO -1.91% PLC’s joint venture Penguin Random House, “to drive demand at scale.”

The shift is a surprise reversal for an industry that experts just a decade ago predicted was facing radical change, if not a slow death, because of digitization and changing reading habits. Instead, e-book sales in the U.S. were down about 17% last year, according to the AAP industry group, while printed book revenue rose 4.5%.

…Mr. Murray blamed flagging e-book sales on “screen fatigue,” and said HarperCollins was upping investment in printed books, “the value anchor” for the entire business. Printed books are “more beautiful now,” he said. “You’ll see endpapers [and] a lot more design sensibility going into the print editions because we recognized that they can’t be throwaway.”

(10) IT’S THE PRICE. Amanda S. Green’s opinion about the above news is that trad publishers constantly talk around the real obstacle to e-book sales, which she identifies in “The delusions continue” at Mad Genius Club.

…Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy claims that nothing “went wrong” with e-books. It seems she believes people have gotten tired of reading on their screens. Again, a complete disconnect from reality. People don’t want to pay as much — or more — for an e-book as they will for a print copy. But the laugh out loud moment comes further down in the article when Reidy says she firmly believes “a new version of the book based on digital delivery will come eventually, though she does not know what it might look like.”

Blink.

Blink. Blink.

Hmm, wouldn’t that be an e-book? The bells and whistles might be a bit different, but it if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

And what about her argument that e-book sales have leveled off because we are tired of reading on our screens?

It constantly amazes me the way these folks continue to tie themselves into knots trying to explain how e-books are bad, or are a passing fad or a way for writers not good enough for traditional publishing to get their works into the hands of readers. All I know is that the real numbers, the numbers that look at more than the Big 5 titles, tell a different tale. As a reader, I know I find myself picking up more and more books from indie authors because they are writing stories I want to read and they are doing it at prices that allow me to read two or three or more books for the price of a single Big 5 title. When is the point going to come where an accountant who isn’t afraid of rocking the boat says they can actually sell more — and make more money — if they lower their prices to something reasonable?

(11) SPLATTERPUNK AWARD SEEKS NOMINATIONS. As announced recently on Episode 136 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, the SplatterPunk awards are now taking nominations for works of horror.  The categories are:

  • BEST NOVEL (for works of more than 50,000 words)
  • BEST NOVELLA (for works from 15,000 to 50,000 words)
  • BEST SHORT STORY (for works from 500 to 14,000 words)
  • BEST COLLECTION (for single-author works over 50,000 words)
  • BEST ANTHOLOGY (for multiple-author collections over 50,000 words)

Anyone registered to attend next year’s KillerCon is eligible to nominate.  Early registration is $89.99 until the end of 2017.  Registration is capped at 250 attendees.

Dann sent the link along with an observation, “The nomination form is a little unusual in that there is only one space provided for a nomination.  The attendee is supposed to indicate the appropriate category in one box and the work being nominated in a second box.  It isn’t clear how an attendee is supposed to nominate works in more than one category.”

Guests of honor at next year’s Killer Con include Brian Keene, Edward Lee, and Lucy Taylor.  Special Guests include author Matt Shaw and freelance editor Monica J. O’Rourke.

The 2018 Splatterpunk Awards jurors are David J. Schow, Gerard Houarner, Monica J. O’Rourke, Mike Lombardo, and Tod Clark.

The Founders of the SplatterPunk Awards, Wrath James White and Brian Keene, will select the Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 17, 1937: Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 17, 1914 – Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
  • Born October 17 – Michael J. Walsh, publisher, Old Earth Books, and former Worldcon chair (1983)

(14) THE NEIGHBORS’ HALLOWEEN DISPLAY. That would be a two-story tall Star Wars Imperial Walker —  “‘The Force’ is strong in Parma as residents unveil towering Star Wars’ robot”.

Everyone wants to see Nick Meyer’s latest Halloween decoration.

“That is an imperial armored transporter from (‘Star Wars: Episode V – The) Empire Strikes Back,’” said Meyer.

Star Wars’ fans would know the official name for the towering rover: an AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport).

Seven years ago, Meyer and his family started the tradition of building a Halloween display in the front yard.

“I love it, I encourage it,” said Nick’s wife Becky Meyer.

It gets bigger every year.

“I liked the clowns we did one year. Last year we did ‘Friday the 13th’ cabin, that was one of my favorites,” Becky said. “Last year was pretty awesome, and he topped it,” said next door neighbor, Amber Johnson.

One would think some neighbors might not want to stare at a two-story Star Wars robot for a few weeks, you’d be wrong.

“No, this is our fourth year living next door to them, and we love it,” Johnson said.

(15) IN MEMORY YET GRAY. Lawrence Schoen asks the inevitable question of Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice, in “Eating Authors: Vivian Shaw”.

LMS: Welcome, Vivian. What’s your most memorable meal?

VS: If you’d asked me this two years ago, I would have had no difficulty whatsoever in coming up with the best meal I’d ever eaten. That was in 2004, in Chicago, the same day I met Scott McNeil and George Romero: I was at a Transformers convention and decided to take myself to an actual steakhouse for an actual steak, and I can still so clearly remember the gorgeous rich mineral taste of that first-ever filet mignon, the way it almost dissolved in my mouth. The vivid greenness of the two asparagus spears on the plate, the peppery kick of the Shiraz that accompanied it — even thirteen years later it’s incredibly easy to recall.

(The most memorable, however, was the time on British Airways in the 1990s where for reasons known only to themselves somebody had decided to add bits of squid to the fruit salad. Memorable doesn’t equal pleasant.)

(16) LECKIE’S PROVENANCE Camestros Felapton reviews the new novel Provenance by Ann Leckie.

The people of Hwae (or at least the high-ranking ones) obsess over social status in a way that the Radch obsesses over rank (and tea). Central to this cult-like obsession is the veneration of ‘vestiges’ – artifacts that demonstrate the age of a family and possible connections to historical events. Vestiges can be anything from physical objects to letters and postcards or ticket stubs.

When we first meet Ingray she is off planet, embroiled in a scheme that is within her cognitive capacity to execute but for which she is not temperamentally prepared. As events unfold, a prison break, stolen spaceships, a murder of foreign dignitary and an invasion plot unfold around Ingray in a story that has elements of a mad-cap caper along side space-opera and Leckie’s trademark examination of the potential variety of human culture.

Above all Ingray is an honest person caught in a story in which most people she meets (both the good and the bad) are liars. This is such a clever trick by Leckie, as she manages to encapsulate Ingray very quickly as a character very early in the book, while giving her a backstory that gives her reasons to attempt a devious scheme (returning a notorious exiled criminal/disgraced vestige keeper to Hwae to embarrass her parent’s political rival). Ingray’s basic niceness wins her some useful allies and her naturally bravery pushes her further into the events.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Andrew Finch tells the inspiration for his short film Others Will Follow.

But Why?

Thanks for watching, Others Will Follow was inspired by this speech written for President Nixon to deliver in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the moon. Fortunately they never used it, so I figured I would. NASA has parked its space ships in museums in the decades since the contingency speech was written. Most humans alive today didn’t exist the last time humanity left low earth orbit. I wanted to make something that would outline the importance of human space flight by imagining a brute-force mission to Mars in the early 2000s that, despite disastrous circumstances still manages to pass the torch of inspiration. I spent 4.5 years making this short and attempted to do every aspect of its creation myself, from pyrotechnics to music composition. Many of the disciplines were completely new to me like designing and building the space ship and constructing the space suit, others like VFX and cinematography I had a background in.

The lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration.

Making of: Others Will Follow

VFX Breakdowns and funny funny stuff from the set of Others Will Follow

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Dann, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, Cat Eldridge, Andrew, and Rose Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brad J.]

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 10/3/17 You Are Standing In An Open Field West Of A White House, With A Boarded Front Door. There Is A Small Scroll Here.

(1) HEARTLESS. The day after the worst of recent mass-shootings in American history I don’t want to click on Nerds of a Feather and find “Non-review: Destiny 2 by Bungie (developer)”, a post that begins:

Nameless Midnight is my favorite weapon. It’s a scout rifle with explosive rounds and decreased recoil. It’s good in PVP, but it’s amazing in PVE. Every shot is a bloom of damage numbers. With sixteen rounds, I can empty a room with it. Dump a whole magazine into an elite enemy and I’ve probably killed it. Since it’s a scout rifle, it’s second only to a sniper for range too, so I don’t even have to be close. It’s not even an exotic weapon, so I can still carry my Hard Light as a backup. They’re an amazing pair.

I just despair for fandom.

(2) NEW WAVES. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been announced, given to those who contributed to the observation of gravitational waves. Half of the award goes to Rainer Weiss (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and Kip S. Thorne (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Gravitational waves finally captured

On 14 September 2015, the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

The signal was extremely weak when it reached Earth, but is already promising a revolution in astrophysics. Gravitational waves are an entirely new way of observing the most violent events in space and testing the limits of our knowledge.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a collaborative project with over one thousand researchers from more than twenty countries. Together, they have realised a vision that is almost fifty years old. The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of LIGO. Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S. Thorne, together with Barry C. Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed.

(3) BONESTELL DOCUMENTARY. In production, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future is a feature-length documentary on the life, works, and influence of sff artist Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986). The website is filled with interesting resources.

Long before satellites would journey to planets and deep-space telescopes would photograph distant galaxies, there was an artist whose dazzling visions of planets and stars would capture the imagination of all who beheld them. Before that, he was an architect working on projects like the Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. He would later become a matte painter in Hollywood working on films like “Citizen Kane” and “Destination Moon”. Who was this remarkable man? His name was Chesley Bonestell.

 

(4) FREE PICKERSGILL. David Langford keeps rolling in high gear: “With Ansible out of the way for another month, I’ve been overhauling the TAFF free ebooks page.” Here’s a new addition, Can’t Get Off the Island by Greg Pickersgill.

A selection of living legend Greg Pickersgill’s fanwriting edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, published to mark Greg’s Fan Guest of Honour role at Interaction, the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon. Autobiography, reviews, convention reports, musings on fandom, controversy … with sources ranging from 1970s fanzines to 2005 posts on private email lists. First published 2005; reissued as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site in October 2017. 76,000 words.

(5) PULPFEST. Seven recordings of program items at the most recent Pulpfest are available for listening:

Compliments of the Domino Lady

Long-time journalist and pop culture historian Michelle Nolan takes a look at a female pulp hero in “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch

Popular culture professor Garyn Roberts, who was received PulpFest’s Munsey Award in 2013, examines “100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch.”

Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner

Anthony Marks, winner of a 2009 Anthony Award, presents “Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner.”

Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine

Matt Moring, publisher at Altus Press, discuses “Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine.”

The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin

Will Murray, pulp historian and author of the new adventures of Doc Savage, Pat Savage, and Tarzan, discusses “The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin.

Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn

David Saunders, pulp art historian and son of pulp artist Norman Saunders, talks with PulpFest 2017 Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn about her career as a pulp artist.

Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

California State University Sacramento professor Tom Krabacher and long-time pulp collector Walker Martin discuss “Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young.”

(6) DI FATE’S MAGICON SPEECH. Fanac.org has put on YouTube a video recording of 1992 Worldcon GoH Vincent Di Fate taking up the theme another artist addressed at the first Worldcon, “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” (46 minute video):

MagiCon, the 50th worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. As the 50th Worldcon, MagiCon recreated key parts of the first Worldcon program held in 1939. Guest of Honor Vincent Di Fate was asked to speak on the topic “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” as a nod to a talk of the same name by the first Worldcon Guest of Honor, Frank R. Paul. Here, Vincent Di Fate provides an engaging view of Frank R. Paul, and his impact on SF illustration. He also reflects on his own influences, on authors such as Robert Heinlein, and on some of the greats of early SF film. His love for science fiction is clear, and contagious.

 

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will present James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at the next gathering of Fantastic Fiction at KGB on October 18.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go, an audiobook original from Audible and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. Forthcoming in November are the premier of his stage play Grouped, at the Paragon Science Fiction Play Festival in Chicago and in February a new story collection from Prime, The Promise of Space. He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Jennifer Marie Brissett

Jennifer Marie Brissett is the author of Elysium. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories can be found in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. And once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years, she owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books. She is currently on the faculty at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop where she teaches Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing.

The readings begin 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York.

(8) DISCOVERY REVIEW. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Star Trek Discovery Episode 3”, wonders if he has the right address.

Or is this Star Trek: Black Ops? The third episode is full of promise for what could be a really good series. Once again, the broad strokes and characters are good but the plot details still need attention.

It is six months after the events of the first two episodes. Michael Burnham is on a shuttle transport amid some kind of space storm on her way with other prisoners to some space mines etc. Viewer alert: engage disbelief suspension system. Beep, beep, beep. Space opera mode engaged: disbelief suspended.

It’s Star Trek, it wants more fake realism than other SF properties but this is still a rubber headed alien universe with tribbles and space monsters. I resolved to give it some more slack when the hull of the shuttle gets infected with electricity eating bugs.

(9) VEGGIES MR. RICO. In Squashalypse!”, BookViewCafe’s Deborah J. Ross finds a way to avert terrestrial takeover by an aggressive nonsentient species.

Okay, we’ve all heard the warnings. In summer squash season, do not leave the window of your parked car down or you will find a 20 lb zucchini on the passenger seat. And every year we (as do many others) suffer a memory lapse and plant — well, too many squash plants. (This applies only to summer squashes like zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck; winter squashes like butternut, buttercup, and acorn aren’t a problem because they can be stored and enjoyed over the course of months.) However, we have devised several strategies for dealing the the bounty that do not involve breaking and entering our neighbors’ vehicles.

(10) ATTENTION TO ORDERS. Hie thee to Camestros Felapton’s blog where you are instructed to laugh at “McEdifice Returns! Chapter n+1”!

It was week 4 of intensive training for the new recruits of the Intergalactic Space Army. Trainee unit Alpha 57 consisted of Dweeble, Mush, Henumhein, Chuckowitz, Mertlebay, Shumpwinder, Scoot, Pumpwhistle, Pendlebee, Zorb, Feratu, and McEdifice.

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN, a more mangy, misbegotten, NO GOOD, bunch of FLEA INFESTED, scum-bag eating EXCUSES for recruits in all MY DAYS at Bootcamp 67!” Drill Sergeant Ernie (Earnest to his friends of which he had none) was professionally loud, cantankerous and had master degrees in bullying, verbal abuse, and counterproductive unfairness.

McEdifice narrowed his eyes. Sure, he understood the basic principle of psychologically breaking the recruits down so as to rebuild their personalities as a hardened unit of warriors but McEdifice couldn’t ignore his instincts and his instincts told him that the camp had been infiltrated by SPACE VAMPIRES. He didn’t know who the infiltrator was but he knew that he didn’t like Drill Sergeant Ernie.

(11) FOR YOUR NYCC VIEWING PLEASURE. Marvel will be streaming programming from this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

Marvel Entertainment invites you to experience the best of New York Comic Con 2017 LIVE from the heart of Manhattan! Starting Thursday, October 5, tune in to Marvel Entertainment’s live stream coverage of NYCC, starting at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT and get ready to be a part of one of the biggest fan events of the year!

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, viewers will be able to watch booth events and panels from the Javits Center, play games with their favorite Marvel comic and television talent, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings.

Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/NYCC2017Marvel’s YouTube channel or Marvel’s Facebook page. For the first time ever, you can watch Marvel LIVE! from all three platforms!

(12) FANHISTORY FOR SALE. A copy of the 1946 Worldcon program book is up for auction on eBay with some interesting autographs.

SIGNED 1946 WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION

with ORIGINAL UNCUT STICKER SHEET (see last two photos)

SIGNED By: Ray Bradbury, E Everett Evans, Charles A. Lucase, Dale Hart, Myrtle R. Douglas, Gus Willmorth and Russ

The Big Heart Award was originally named in memory of Evans. Myrtle R. Douglas is Morojo, now commemorated for helping originate convention cosplay.

(13) BEER SCIENCE. Tech of a new alcohol trend: “The Taming Of The Brew: How Sour Beer Is Driving A Microbial Gold Rush”.

Trial and error abounds. “We’ve worked with 54 different species from 24 genera,” Bochman says, to find five yeasts capable of souring beers. Nevertheless, each new microbe — whether isolated from the microbiome of the Jamestown historical site, or some guy’s beard — expands sour beers’ flavor palette and allows craft brewers to work with entirely new compounds.

Note especially:

Bochman, for example, uses sour brewing as a “rubber bullet” to train students who’ll transfer their skills to isolating pathogens. “If they drop a sample on the floor, or ruin an experiment, it’s not $2,000 down the drain. You’re not screwing up some cancer cell line. You just spilled a beer.”

(14) UNCANNY DESTROY STRETCH GOAL FUNDS. Not only did the “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” Kickstarter fund Uncanny’s fourth year and the special SF issue, it also met the stretch goal for an additional Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue.

[Thanks to Dave Langford, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/1/17 And Lockjaw The Teleporting Bulldog (Played By A Bunch Of Pixels)

(1) STONY END. At Asking the Wrong Questions, Abigail Nussbaum delivers a masterful review of the third novel in the acclaimed trilogy, “The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin”.

It might seem a bit strange to say that The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of the Broken Earth trilogy, had a lot riding on it.  For the past two years, the SF field and its fandom have been falling over themselves to crown this trilogy as not just good, but important.  Both of the previous volumes in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo.  When The Fifth Season won the Hugo in 2016, it made Jemisin the first African-American (and the first American POC) to win the best novel category.  When The Obelisk Gate won the same award earlier this year, it was the first time that consecutive volumes in a series had won the Hugo back-to-back since, I believe, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead thirty years ago.  That’s probably not considered the best company nowadays, but it speaks to the kind of zeitgeist-capturing work that Jemisin is doing with this series.  In that context, the third volume might almost be looked at as a victory lap, just waiting to be showered with laurels.

To me, however, a great deal depended on the kind of ending Jemisin crafted for her story….

(2) STAN BY ME. This doctor makes house calls? Here in LA in October!

(3) THEY WERE JUST RESTING. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have launched a Kickstarter to bring back “Pulphouse Fiction Magazine” after a 21-year hiatus.

Dean returns as editor of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, bringing back the attitude and editing eye that got Pulphouse three Hugo nominations and thousands of subscribers. Kris will function as executive editor. Allyson Longueira is the publisher, Gwyneth Gibby is the associate publisher, and Josh Frase will be the managing editor and website guru….

Pulphouse Fiction Magazine returns as a quarterly publication, with the first issue coming out in January 2018.

But before January, as was a tradition with Pulphouse Publishing, there will be an Issue Zero. Basically, Issue Zero will be a complete issue of the magazine, but will function as a test run.

Issue Zero will be given to anyone who supports this Kickstarter subscription drive if we make our goal.

They’ve already surpassed their $5,000 goal, with 17 days left to run.

(4) BURNING LOVE. The anonymous Red Panda Fraction calls Dragon Con their home convention, and seeks to justify one of their tactics to level the Dragon Awards playing field in “Why Did We Create a Red Panda Slate? 1st Post from Rad Sonja”.

Now that Dragon Con is over and our schedules have returned to normal, it seems like it’s time to explain why the Red Panda Fraction decided to create a slate for the Dragon Awards this year. It was the most controversial thing we did, and we noted the consternation among blog commenters. We appreciate the criticism that authors may not want to be on any slate because it would make them “political footballs” or put targets on their backs. If we create a recommendation list for the next Dragon Award, we will ask authors if they want to be taken off before sending anything out to the public….

“Rad Sonja” doesn’t really delve into the ethics of slating beyond the poetic “fighting fire with fire”, but instead indulges in lengthy speculation about the networking that led to certain results in the first year of the award.

Moreover, from the beginning, the most active boosters of the award have been Puppies. Among the first places to publish a story about the Dragon Awards (April 8th, 2016) was the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA), a closed Facebook group which includes a number of major Puppy organizers. It didn’t take much digging for us to figure out that Dragon Con’s SF=literature track director, Sue Phillips, and long-time SF-lit track volunteer, the Puppy-booster blogger and podcaster, Stephanie Souders, (aka “The Right Geek”, who added Phillips to the FB group in 2014) were also members of the CLFA Facebook group. The CLFA actively promotes the work of their members on their blog. See, for example, this post from this year….

(5) FROM ARES TO ARTEMIS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host “An Evening with Andy Weir” on December 9 at UCSD. Time and ticket information at the link.

 

Join us for the launch of the much-anticipated new novel by Andy Weir, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Martian. Weir will discuss Artemis—a crime caper set on the moon, in a near-future world that Weir builds with his trademark rich, scientifically accurate detail.

Artemis is the first only city on the moon. If you aren’t a tourist or an eccentric billionaire, life in this fledgling new territory is tough. Providence and imperial dreams have been nickel-and-dimed from those who have called the moon their home. That’s why Jazz doesn’t rely on her day-job. She moonlights, instead, as a smuggler, and gets along okay with small-time contraband that is, until the chance to commit the perfect crime presents itself.

Weir will discuss Artemis with Dr. Erik Viirre, Associate Director of the Clarke Center and the Medical and Technical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.

Book signing to follow. Copies will be available for purchase.

(6) JUST GUYS DOIN’ STUFF. Ashe Armstrong answers the question “What is Orctober?” at Fantasy-Faction.

Orctober seeks, as you may have guessed by now, to celebrate the orc. With the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft blowing up like they have, thanks to World of Warcraft and Skyrim, orcs have started to be viewed differently. While there are still those who love the old vision of them, grimy and lanky and full of malice, many of us are embracing a changing view of them. Orcs can be just as varied as the other races. They’re no longer an Evil Race of Evil, or at least not just that. It even happened with the Forgotten Realms books, with Drizzt and the orc, Obould Many-Arrows. In Warcraft, you had Thrall and Durotan. The Elder Scrolls had Gortwog go-Nagorm, who sought to reclaim the lands of Orsinium and help his people find respect.

(7) IN LIVING 3-D. This is great! Walk through the Center for Bradbury Studies using My Matterport.

In the spring of 2007, IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts created the nation’s first center for the study of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

(8) PERSONAL FANDOM STORIES WANTED. Joe Praska at The Continuing Voyage is looking for autobiographical contributions to their series “My Fandom. My Story.”

My Fandom. My Story. is a series on The Continuing Voyage that aims to share the stories of individuals; their fandoms, passions, identity, struggles and successes.  Maybe you have a passion for a certain science fiction franchise that’s helped shape your ideals as an adult, maybe your knitting hobby led you to find a sense of community, maybe your love for a specific book helps you feel a deeper connection to your family or your culture, or maybe your interest in science has shaped your career.  Whatever it is, we’d like to hear your story.

My Fandom. My Story hopes to bring to light personal stories that explore countless themes that may arise such as community, family, creativity, art, inspiration, identity, mindfulness, politics, social justice, and culture while of course exploring the fandoms and passions of the individuals writing.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the original and best The Wolf Man, Larry Talbot had been away 18 years working on Mt. Wilson Observatory in California.

(10) TRIVIALEST TRIVIA

Silent film actor Gibson Gowland appears in The Wolf Man as a villager present at the death of Larry Talbot. He also had been present during the Phantom’s death scene in the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925), becoming the only actor to appear in death scenes performed by both Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered on this day.
  • October 1, 1992 — The Cartoon Network started.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born October 1, 1935 — Julie Andrews (whose best-known genre work is Mary Poppins.)

(13) COMPELLING SF. Publisher Joe Stech has released the 9th issue of Compelling Science Fiction. You can buy the issue from the Kindle store, or download the issue from Patreon in DRM-free mobi and epub format if you’re a subscriber. They also welcome readers to their new Facebook page — facebook.com/CompellingSF

(14) CHEERING FOR CHAOS. Camestros Felapton, in “Separatism, Spain, Catalonia, Russia, the Alt-Right & Chaos-Fascism”, tries to fathom the motives behind the latest political posturing.

I don’t know what Putin’s perspective is on Catalonia but I can guess by looking at more accessible proxy mouthpieces. Our least favourite science fiction publisher, Vox Day, is very much against the Spanish government’s actions and supportive of the Catalonian government. Likewise Julian Assange. The Alt-Right, in general, are treating events in Catalonia and the Spanish government’s heavy hand suppression of the voting as vague proof of something – it isn’t clear what they think it proves but their choosing of sides is clear: Madrid bad, Barcelona good. For once they aren’t on the side of militarised police beating the crap out of ordinary people. Why not? After all, in many ways, the current Spanish government is also nationalist and its application of force to quash dissent would, under other circumstances be cheered by the Alt-Right as strong government protecting national identity.

The answer is that there is always at least 50-50 chance which side of a cross-nationalist conflict they will pick but they will tend to pick the side that creates the biggest headache for trans-national cooperation. Putin wants Western Europe divided, both as payback and strategically and the alt-right follows suit. Everybody loses except chaos-fascism.

(15) BLATANT LIVING. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds is ready to lament “The Death of Subtlety?” (if the answer turns out to be yes.)

The problem with our civilization is the death of subtlety.  Or – scratch that.  One of many problems with a lot of the culture of the United States in 2017 is that there is less subtlety than there maybe should be.

I continue to have – albeit with somewhat diminished enthusiasm as of late – hope that subtle questioning is on the whole a better method than bludgeoning people with the truth….

(16) IN ITS DNA. The Hugo Award Book Club argues that science fiction is, in some ways, a “more political form of literature” than other genres: “The Political Power Of Science Fiction”.

…You cannot write about imaginary futures and different worlds without showing how their societies are different than our own; how they are better and how they are worse. In this sense, as others have observed, science fiction is a medium of utopias and dystopias. And the determination of what makes a society dystopic or utopic is inherently about political values.

If you believe that all humans are really created equal, your utopia likely won’t include a caste system. If you believe that humans have a right to privacy, a government surveillance state will be depicted as a dystopia. If you believe that the world needs racial purity and genetically superior heroes to save us from corruption, you might write a fantasy about a man of high Númenórean blood who is destined to reclaim the Throne of Gondor.

These are all political beliefs.

Practical politics is about changing the world. Science fiction is about exploring worlds that have been changed. The two are intertwined.

This is what the Futurians and their critics at the first Worldcon all understood: By imagining utopias and dystopias, science fiction helps create blueprints that guide us towards, or away from, potential futures….

(17) TV TRIBUTE. Inverse has been eavesdropping: “Elon Musk Named ‘Moon Base Alpha’ After Grooviest Sci-Fi Show Ever”.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced Friday that his space exploration plans now include not just Mars but also the moon. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, Musk revealed the company’s planned next-generation rocket will make it possible to build a moon base — and the name he picked is just his latest homage to beloved science fiction, in this case, the British cult classic Space: 1999….

Musk’s proposed name for the base is Moon Base Alpha, which is a reference to the 1970s British cult classic Space: 1999.

(18) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT #@%! EASY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination shares episode 10 of its podcast Into the Imagination, “Pictures, Pastries, and the Matter of the Universe”.

Physics is cool–and sometimes very hard to understand. …We talk to Duncan Haldane, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize, about quantum topology and why the Nobel committee brought a bagel, a pretzel, and a bun to the award ceremony to explain his ideas. And with the inimitable Sir Roger Penrose, we explore the visual imagination as it relates to science, the work of artist M.C. Escher, and what it has to do with Penrose’s cosmological theory of the universe.

(19) ESKRIDGE PREMIERE. On October 5, the film OtherLife, written by Clarion Workshop alum Kelley Eskridge, gets its North American premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. In the film, OtherLife is a new drug that creates virtual reality directly in the user’s mind–a technology with miraculous potential applications but also applied to dangerous uses, like imprisoning criminals in virtual cells.

Click this link for time and ticket information.

(20) YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A SOUND DOG. Warts and all, “The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience” – from NPR.

Pescovitz approached his former graduate school professor — none other than Ferris, the Golden Record’s original producer — about the project, and Ferris gave his blessing, with one important caveat.

“You can’t release a record without remastering it,” says Ferris. “And you can’t remaster without locating the master.”

That turned out to be a taller order than expected. The original records were mastered in a CBS studio, which was later acquired by Sony — and the master tapes had descended into Sony’s vaults.

Pescovitz enlisted the company’s help in searching for the master tapes; in the meantime, he and Daly got to work acquiring the rights for the music and photographs that comprised the original. They also reached out to surviving musicians whose work had been featured on the record to update incomplete track information.

Finally, Pescovitz and Daly got word that one of Sony’s archivists had found the master tapes.

Pescovitz remembers the moment he, Daly and Ferris traveled to Sony’s Battery Studios in New York City to hear the tapes for the first time.

“They hit play, and the sounds of the Solomon Islands pan pipes and Bach and Chuck Berry and the blues washed over us,” Pescovitz says. “It was a very moving and sublime experience.”

(21) RED NOSES, GREEN LIGHT. Was this campaign meant to coincide with the clown consciousness-raising of Stephen King’s It? Or is it too funny for that to matter? From Adweek — “Audi Sends in the Clowns for This Madcap Ad About How to Avoid Them on the Road”.

A lot of car advertising treats the obstacles that drivers face on the road as literally faceless threats—an avalanche of rocks tumbling across a mountainside road, or a piece of cargo falling blamelessly off a pickup truck in the city.

But let’s face it. The real problem on the roads is the other drivers. Or, if you like, the clowns who share the streets with us…

As simple as it is, the concept also lends itself to brilliant visuals, as the Audi drivers have to deal with all sorts of clowns driving all sorts of clown cars (and buses). It’s all set to a whispering version of Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns” by Faultline and Lisa Hannigan.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Joe Stech, Chip Hitchcock, Camestros Felapton,  Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

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 9/25/17 What Do A Pixel And A Scroll Have In Common? They Both Can’t Climb Trees

(1) STAR TREK DISCOVERING. Camestros Felapton takes you from photon soup to Klingon nuts: “Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Episodes 1 & 2”. Although not especially spoilery, good form still demands a SPOILER WARNING!

However, Russell T Davies made a smart move from which Discovery could have learnt. Set a new series in a time that follows a catastrophe that creates both a bridge to the previous series, and allows the viewers to re-encounter familiar protagonists in a new way. That doesn’t imply a new Star Trek would need to have a post-apocalyptic vibe, rather some sort of event that disrupted galactic civilisations sufficiently that the Federation is needing to rebuild (a gamma-ray burst, a contagion that spreads via transporter beams, a big-bad alien did more damage than usual).

Discovery hasn’t taken that option but the setting kind of looks like it did. The technology is both old and new, the spaceships look both updated and more grungy, some aliens are now more familiar and closer to humans (e.g. the Vulcans) while others have become even more alien and Star Fleet understands them less (the Klingons). The whole feel of the show implies a setting where change has occurred but which claims that it is about changes that will occur and I find that somewhat annoying.

(2) ALLEGRO CON TROPE. The Independent is more enthusiastic — “Star Trek: Discovery season 1 episode 1 & 2 review: Tropes and unprecedented surprises balance out for an intriguing new Trek iteration”. But who are you going to believe?

The team behind Star Trek: Discovery could be forgiven for feeling under pressure. They had to deliver a show that satisfies one of the most rabidly pedantic fan bases out there, while still catering to normies only not really au fait with Trek beyond a few action movies about good-looking people having fights in space.

But, despite a reportedly troubled gestation, they’ve somehow managed to deliver, audaciously using their first two episodes to set up several seemingly key characters before wiping the slate clean in the closing moments. In truth, the first two episodes that arrive on Netflix today – ‘The Vulcan Hello’ and ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’ – function more as a standalone TV movie, setting up the tone and feel of the show while leaving about as much wiggle room for the future as conceivably possible.

(3) ROCKET SCIENCE. Video highlights of last Saturday’s Atlas V launch of NROL-42 from Vandenberg. Via United Launch Alliance.

(4) FUSION. The Register says it’s happening — “Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham”.

Geek’s Guide to Britain I’m in a room that, in normal circumstances, is not fit for human habitation. It features a number of big red buttons surrounded by illuminated yellow rings – just in case. “Push button to switch off Jet. Press only in case of extreme emergency,” the signs read, informatively.

This is the Torus Hall, a 40,000m3 space the size of an aircraft hangar with two massive fly-towers that house 1,100-tonne doors to seal the room off from an adjacent assembly hall. The walls and ceiling are two metres thick. The atmospheric pressure inside the hall is kept lower than pressure outside so that in the event of a breach, air would be sucked in rather than vented.

The hall houses possibly the closest thing on Earth to the centre of a star: the Joint European Torus, the world’s biggest fusion reactor at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, UK. Jet is a tokamak, a circular structure shaped like a doughnut that employs powerful magnets to control that stuff of science fact and fiction: plasma.

…Jet is a European project involving 40 laboratories and 350 scientists. In 1997 it set a record, producing 16MW of fusion power from a total input power of 24MW.

Iter, however, is a scaled-up version of Jet currently under construction in the south of France planned to open in 2025 – a fusion reactor that aims to use 50MW to generate 500MW for 500 seconds. Iter, in turn, will pave the way for Demo, one or more proof of concept fusion power stations, with South Korea aiming to put a Demo live in 2037.

For now, however, Jet is the world’s biggest fusion device and proves that nuclear fusion can generate power – it’s just not big enough to create more power than it uses….

(5) HOW ONE AUTHOR GETS PAID. A post at Metafilter attempting to use Amazon stats to estimate writers’ sales provoked John Scalzi to explain why that is a futile effort: “Can You Tell My Earnings From My Amazon Sales? Spoiler: Nope, Not at All”.

…So what does this all mean? Well, it means that for a non-self-pubbed author, often none of their annual earnings from a book are directly related to how many of those books sell in a year (or any other specified time frame). In fact, depending on how the advance is paid out, three-quarters or more (even all!) of the author’s earnings from a book are disbursed before the book has sold a single unit.

Like so:

Book is contracted: 40% of the advance (“signing installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0.

Book is turned in and accepted: 20% of the advance (“delivery and acceptance installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0

Book is published in hardcover: 20% of the advance (“hardcover installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0 (there may be pre-orders, but the sales don’t usually start being counted until this time).

Book is published in paperback: Final 20% of the advance goes to author. Books sold to date: Hopefully some! But even if the number is zero, the final installment gets paid out (if so few books are sold that the publisher foregoes the paperback release, there’s still usually the contractual obligation to pay out)….

(6) CROWDFUNDING THREE ANTHOLOGIES. Joshua Palmatier’s “Guilds & Glaives, Insurgency, and Ur-Bar Anthologies!” Kickstarter has less than three days to run and is still looking to raise about $3,000 of its $20,000 goal.

THE RAZOR’S EDGE, GUILDS & GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE URBAR anthology kickstarter is nearing its goal! If we can reach $20K by Noon, September 28th, EST, then there will be an open call for submissions for the remaining slots in the anthologies. If you have a story idea that fits one of the anthology themes, write it up, revise it, polish it, and send it in for consideration. I’ve posted the guidelines below. Note that the kickstarter still has a few days left and there are still some pretty awesome reward levels left…

(7) AS YOU WISH. “‘The Princess Bride’ Turns 30: Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal Dish About Making the Cult Classic” is a Variety piece full of interviews about the beloved 1987 fantasy film.

“It was an impossible sell,” said Reiner. “The funny thing about it was that before I made ‘Stand by Me’ — I had made ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘The Sure Thing’ — I had a meeting with this executive at Paramount. She said, ‘We love your films. What do you want to do next? I said, ‘Well, you don’t want to do what I want to do.’ She said, ‘No, that’s not true. I want to do what you want to do. I said, ‘No, no. You want me to do what you want to do.’  She said, ‘No, no. I want to do what you want to do. What is it?’ I said ‘The Princess Bride.’ She said, ‘Well, anything but that.’”

(8) PALS FOR ETERNITY. SyFy Wire contributes to the nostalgia in “The Princess Bride at 30: Why Fezzik and Inigo have one of the best friendships in film”. Reason number one is —

Helping each other deal with a difficult boss, Vizzini

Vizzini is clearly not an easy man to work for, and he doesn’t treat Fezzik or Inigo very well as his employees. After they kidnap Buttercup, Fezzik expresses his opinion that it’s not right to kill an innocent girl, but Vizzini isn’t interested in his hired help doing anything beyond what they are hired to do. He immediately insults Fezzik, and when Inigo voices his agreement with Fezzik, insults him as well before turning on Fezzik again. Once Vizzini walks away though, Inigo goes to Fezzik and the two rhyme together happily, much to Vizzini’s annoyance.

The scene captures how the two friends have each other’s back in this perhaps less than ideal work environment. Inigo didn’t have to voice his agreement with Fezzik after seeing Vizzini’s reaction, but he did. Then he tries to turn the mood around by doing something Fezzik enjoys and excels at: rhyming. It reminds Fezzik that he’s more than the dumb brute Vizzini wants him to be, and that Inigo recognizes his gifts, even if Vizzini does not.

(9) DONATIONS NEEDED. The father of Pierre Pettinger died recently due to a house fire, and Pierre has set up a Gofundme campaign to help cover the funeral expenses — Pierre Pettinger [Sr.] Funeral Fund. Their target is $13,000.

While it appears that insurance will cover the costs of repairing and restoring the home, the expenses for Dad’s funeral were significant and have put some strain on all the members of our family. Pierre will be administering the funds and will see to it that they go directly to the funeral home. The goal we have set represents the total cost, but any help you would care to offer would be received with gratitude.

Pierre the younger and his wife Sandy are Fan GoH for Worldcon 76. They’ve done wonders in Masquerades for years, winning many awards, and Pierre is Archivist for the International Costumers Guild.

(10) REED OBIT. SF Site News reports author Kit Reed (1932-2017) died on September 24 from an inoperable brain tumor.

Reed  was a Best New Author Hugo nominee in 1959. Reed was up for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, had a novel, Where, on the John W. Campbell Memorial Award shortlist, and received the ALA Alex Award for Thinner Than Thou. Reed’s most recent novel, Mormama, was published earlier this year.

(11) JACOBS OBIT. Harvey Jacobs (1930-2017), a 1998 World Fantasy Award nominee for his novel American Goliath, died September 24 from an infection brought on by brain cancer treatment. An author sometimes compared with Vonnegut and Roth, he published his first story in 1951, contributed regularly to New Worlds and F&SF in the Sixties, and continued to produce a modest number of sff stories thereafter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 25, 1989 — Fox TV’s Alien Nation premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein (author, humorist)
  • Born September 25, 1951 – Actor Mark Hamill
  • Born September 25, 1952 – Actor Christopher Reeve

(14) POURNELLE MEMORIAL. Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy of Jerry Pournelle, delivered at the memorial service held September 16, has been posted at Chaos Manor.

He was generous as a husband. He adored his wife. He loved deeply, and passionately, and never anyone more than her. The parable of the widow’s alms teaches us the truest measure of generosity: when that of which you have the least, you give most freely. So by “generous,” here I do not mean with obvious things like, like gifts and jewelry and public events (though with those too). I mean that, although always awkward as a schoolboy in showing his feelings for her, he did his utmost with what he knew how to do: jokes, and puns, and praise, and respect, and walks, and stalwart support of her career, and four sons.

And especially—and this is most telling—by listening to her, and to her alone. Certainly not always. Probably not often enough. But I do not believe that any other human being on the planet had the capacity to tell him “no” and make it stick. Because of his generous love for her, he listened, and learned how to be a better father, and an outwardly more affectionate one. To say the words out loud. She taught him that the great light of a generous heart need not be hidden beneath a bushel. He listened, and let his generous light shine on her, and everyone around them.

It certainly shined on us, his children. He was generous as a father. OK, let’s start with the obvious. There was never a check he would not roll his eyes, groan, and write. School fees? Of course. Wrecked car? Harrumph. No problem. College expenses? Well, it’s your job to get the best deal you can. It’s my job to pick up the rest. Airplane tickets, tailored mess uniforms, personal sidearms? Here you go. Need a tool, a meal, a book, a computer, a printer, a place to sleep, a bottle of white-out? There’s one here somewhere in the house. Go find it. Help yourself.

But his real generosity was with imagination. He believed in space. He believed in adventure. He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well), brainstorming plot lines, standing up to bluster, figuring out what you need to know, then figuring out who could tell you. He’d pick up a phone in a heartbeat if he thought he could marshal support or make a contact. He’d invite you to dinners across thresholds you’d never otherwise cross—and then always pick up the tab.

And when you finished what you started, or achieved what you’d aimed, or found success in your field, his outpouring of respect was spontaneous and generous—and never seeking to curry your favor….

(15) KEITH KATO. Keith Kato posted his own extensive memories of Jerry Pournelle and account of the memorial service at The Heinlein Society website.

Of course he knew not only all the Mercury astronauts, but also knew the candidates who did not make the cut. Jerry once told a funny story about turning John Glenn upside down and shaking him over a smoky fire, while fake-arguing with the staff, and dropping manhole covers on the floor. Glenn kept a dot in a circle, and his heartbeat remained rock steady (except for one momentary blip when the manhole covers landed), after which Glenn glaringly said “You son of a [redacted for the delicacy of our readers’ um…eyes?]!”

(16) MASTERCHEF. On the making of videogames: Jason Sheehan reviews Walt Williams’s Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games: “Leveling Up In The Video Game Industry, Without Checkpoints: ‘Significant Zero'”.

I learned this recipe from Walt Williams, whose debut book, Significant Zero, is all about the making of videogames. And also about the making of Walt Williams who, for years, has been involved (both seriously, tangentially, and in every way in between) with the production of some of the best videogames ever created: Bioshock, Star Wars Battlefront, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line. Mostly Spec Ops, which is one of the darkest, most haunting, and most narratively daring games I’ve ever played. Spec Ops was Williams’s masterpiece and Significant Zero is the story of everything it took to make it and everything it cost him — beginning years before, ending years after. Sure, it’s a workplace memoir (more or less): A writer writing about writing, which can be the most annoying thing in the world. Except for one thing.

Walt Williams is basically a ghost.

(17) OVERWHELMING SUCCESS. The BBC writes the biography of a product in “How plastic became a victim of its own success”.

He became so famous that Time magazine put his face on the cover without needing to mention his name, just the words, “It will not burn. It will not melt.”

What Leo Baekeland invented that July was the first fully synthetic plastic.

He called it Bakelite.

(18) EXTENDED MAINTENANCE. How would you like this job? “Airlander 10: ‘How we fix the world’s longest aircraft'” (short video)

Two technicians have told how they had to learn how to rope climb to fix the world’s longest aircraft.

The Airlander 10 – a combination of plane and airship – has been at Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire, for the last four years.

Technicians Ivor Pope and Darren Gurney have overseen the aircraft since early 2016.

“Being up on the hull is a fantastic experience,” said Ivor Pope, the maintenance, modification and ground operations manager.

(19) BIKE RECYCLERS. Leave no trace? “Abandoned at Burning Man, bicycles now head for Houston and the Caribbean”.

After nine days of parties, music and larger-than-life art installations, the 2017 season of Burning Man came to a close on 4 September. In theory, all evidence of “Black Rock City” – which attracted 70,000 attendees to the dusty desert – was supposed to vanish. One of the festival’s core tenets is “leave no trace”.

However, clean-up crews found thousands of perfectly useable bicycles abandoned by attendees. Bikes are the most common form of transportation around Black Rock City, and the way they are tossed aside at the end has long been a problem.

Burning Man partners with local charities to take, refurbish and sometimes donate the bikes to needy families, but this year, the sheer number of bikes overwhelmed even these partners. An estimated 5,000 bicycles were left behind.

(20) I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. Past Daedalus: Whale tails and the human-powered watercraft speed record: “Water speed record that’s surprisingly hard to break”.

However, an Oxford University spinout called Animal Dynamics, co-founded by zoologist Adrian Thomas, is spending £200,000 ($260,000) to do just that. Their craft, the Malolo, is a hydrofoil-like Decavitator. Unlike its rival, the Malolo’s design is inspired by the way whales swim through water – instead of a propeller, it has the kind of large, arched tail that you sometimes spot above the water when a whale dives.

Now two years after starting work on the project, the team have begun testing their third prototype off the south coast of England. According to Thomas, they have already reached speeds of about 12 knots (13.8mph/22km/h).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Nancy Sauer, Cat Eldridge, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]