Pixel Scroll 12/4/17 She’ll Be Scrolling Six White Pixels When She Files

(1) HOME IS THE HUNTER. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared “SMOFCON 35: A Brief Report”:

…I had dinner with the talented and lovely Regina Kanyu Wang, a contributor to these pages, one of the actifans of China’s largest fan group AppleCore and the Executive Editor of Storycom, that has, among other things, worked with Clarkesworld magazine to bring translated Chinese SF to the west.

We talked about the cultural revolution, the reception of science fiction in China, censorship, the possibilities of a Chinese Worldcon, the fact that fans are fans the world over, different strains of “Asian” science fiction (the differences between Japanese SF and Chinese SF:  Japanese SF is far more influenced by western tropes than Chinese SD) and I felt like I took a crash course in the subject.  I’ve a lot more to learn, as do we all, but my prediction is that in not so many years, China is going to be dominating this market.

I also spent a fair amount of time helping out with the NASFiC bid for Utah in 2019.  They joined a wine and other liquors tasting party on Saturday evening (I don’t imbibe, but I sure as heck can carry cookies and danish to the room).  As a result of my generosity, I have been allowed to purchase a supporting membership (Grabthar’s Hammer level) and have been volunteered to run the bid table at the 2018 Boskone in February.  (An actifan’s reward is more work!)…

(2) NATIONAL NETWORK PICKS UP EL-MOHTAR STORY. Amal El-Mohtar’s horrible experience with TSA made the Montreal news this morning: Canada’s CBC has picked up the story — “Ottawa author detained by U.S. border guards says system ‘broken'”

El-Mohtar, born and raised in Ottawa, has been crossing the border into the U.S. three to four times a year for at least the last five years because that’s where many of her fans are.

With an Arabic-sounding name, she said she expects to be racially profiled, endure intense questioning and pat downs.

“Every time, I’d get the allegedly random extra screening. Every time. To the point where I’d always make jokes about, if only the lottery were this kind of random.”

This time, however, she was sent for secondary screening, which she said was particularly degrading.…

(3) YA HARASSMENT SURVEY. Anne Ursu, a Minneapolis YA author, is collecting data about “Sexual Harassment in Children’s Book Publishing”.

(4) BENEFIT FOR REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS. Children of a Different Sky, edited by Alma Alexander, is now available online (including at Amazon). Alexander told Carl Slaughter about the project in a File 770 interview.

It is a themed fantasy anthology, about migrants and refugees, and it is a charity anthology, with all the profits from the sales of the book above anything required for housekeeping and production are going straight to two selected charities working with refugees and migrants both in the USA and globally.

The contributors are Jane Yolen, Aliette de Bodard, Seanan McGuire, Irene Radford, Gregory L. Norris, Brenda Cooper, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Randee Dawn, Jacey Bedford, Nora Saroyan, Marie Brennan, and Patricia McEwen

(5) CAN REBELS AND THE FEDERATION STOP THE EMPIRE? Trek Wars is the Star Wars/Star Trek Crossover Fan-Trailer.

The Death Star is on a direct course for Earth, the crew of the starship Enterprise teams up with the Rebel Alliance to stop it!

 

(6) NEXT UP AT KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Christopher Brown on Wednesday, December 20, 7p.m. at the KGB Bar.

N.K. Jemisin

N(ora). K. Jemisin is the author of the Broken Earth Trilogy, the Inheritance Trilogy, and the Dreamblood Duology. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Award; shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. In 2016, she became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season; she won again in 2017 for The Obelisk Gate.

Her short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, WIRED, and Popular Science. She writes a New York Times book review column, Otherworldly, covering recent Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown is the author of Tropic of Kansas, a novel published in 2017 by Harper Voyager that was recently nominated for the Compton Crook Award. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology he co-edited, Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic.  His next two novels, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers set in the world of Tropic of Kansas, are slated for publication by Harper in summer 2019 and 2020. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. He lives in Austin, where he also practices technology law.

The KGB Bar is located at 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(7) OPERATIC VERSION OF OCTAVIA BUTLER WORK KICKSTARTER. Toshi Reagon has started a Kickstarter appeal to fund “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera”.

This opera, which I composed in collaboration with my mother, Dr Bernice Johnson Reagon lives in an unprecedented intersection of science fiction, opera, African-American art & spirituality, feminism, and climate activism.

It features a cast of 15 amazing singers of singular talent and diversity, and a 5 member orchestra which includes my band BigLovely, and a striking set design and visual installation, and a dream team of designers and creatives.

We are asking that you join us, and support us as we finish the creation of this ambitious project and bringing it to communities around the country and the world. It’s urgent, we have to do this now.

They have received $10,205 of the $30,000 goal as of this writing, with 23 days remaining in the drive.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 4, 1964Marisa Tomei. She got her screen debut in an uncredited role (as “Health Club Girl”) in The Toxic Avenger (1984) — arguably one of the most gruesome creatures known to man.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned from the December 2 Bliss that while there are things man was not meant to know, that doesn’t mean nobody knows them.

(10) MARTHA WELLS. The holiday season continues at The Book Smugglers with “Books of My Year – A Smugglivus post by Martha Wells”.

For Smugglivus, I thought I’d do a list of recommendations for some of the favorite books I’ve read this year, or am reading this year, or am about to read this year.

First on the list —

Substrate Phantoms by Jessica Reisman

An SF novel about love, loss, and contact with a truly alien intelligence too strange for humans to understand. If you love thoughtful far future SF with brilliant worldbuilding, this is for you.

(11) FROM TOLKIEN’S PANTRY. Lembas is “A bite of energy” – its origin and use is discussed at Middle-earth Reflections:

Different in strengthening properties and generally more pleasant than its brother cram, made by Men to keep them going in the wild, lembas was a special kind of waybread baked by the Elves alone. The name lembas is a Sindarin one: it is derived from an older version lenn-mbass meaning “journey-bread”. As the name implies, one could and needed to eat it on long journeys when there was no other food to support a traveller or if one’s life was in peril after receiving a hurt. With lembas being a very special — and essentially Elvish — kind of food, Galadriel and the Elves showed the Fellowship a great honour by giving it to them.

(12) THE WRITING DAY. RedWombat takes a break.

(13) A MANLY ANTHOLOGY. Superversive SF’s “Submission call for ‘To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity’” is open ‘til February 14, 2018.

We want…

  • Stories showing the masculine virtues in a positive light.
  • Stories that introduce or reintroduce young men to the manly virtues.
  • Stories that pay homage to men and masculinity.

I love that the post’s last line is –

Contact me at manlyantho@superversivepress.com if you’re not sure.

(14) LOOK OUT BELOW. MeTV is ready to tell you — “Here’s what’s on the ground in ‘The Jetsons'”.

It goes like this: While The Flintstones seemingly takes place in the Stone Age, and The Jetsons is set in 2062, the two worlds co-exist. The Flintstones is the post-apocalyptic life on the surface under The Jetsons. Barney and Wilma live on the ground underneath George and Jane.

It’s a fun theory to debate at parties, but there is one big problem. We see what is on the surface in The Jetsons.

One of the most common misconceptions about The Jetsons is that the cartoon never shows the ground beneath Orbit City. The Jetson family lives in the Skypad Apartments. George works at Spacely Space Sprockets. Both cylindrical buildings project into the sky like birdhouses on long poles. It is a world of flying cars.

This optimistic vision of the 21st century often left viewers wondering — what is on the ground? Well, the answer is… hobos, walking birds, concrete and parks….

(15) ALT-CAT. Every day is a tough one when you’re battling fake news.

(16) DEL ARROZ ON CEBULSKI. Jon Del Arroz, now writing for The Federalist (called by a Bloomberg Politics writer “a source of original interviews and real-time arguments between conservatives and libertarians”) says “The Manufactured Outrage At Marvel’s New Editor In Chief Is Just A Power Play”. He calls the Cebulski story a “phony controversy” —

When Cebulski was named, it had a lot of comic readers scouring the Internet to find out who he was, and if he looked like he’d be able to right Marvel Comics’ sinking ship.

Most comic professionals praised the move. Longtime Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis said, “Creators, you’re about to be treated and fed SO [sic] well. This is a great day for comics. All in it together!” Christos Gage, writer of Netflix’s “Daredevil” season one, said, “Excellent choice in [Cebulski] as new Marvel EIC. He loves comics and comic book creators.” Even Marvel’s most vocal of critics seemed pleased with the move.

It didn’t take long for the gossip entertainment news to attack Cebulski, however. This week, Cebulski is the victim of manufactured identity politics outrage, in an attempt by the media to get him fired before his work as editor in chief even begins. Bleeding Cool, IO9, and the Huffington Post, outlets notorious for hyper-partisan clickbait, attacked Cebulski over the fact that 13 years ago he used a pseudonym to write a few books for Marvel. If it sounds like something not even worth mentioning, you’d be right, but it has the leftist outrage machine calling for Marvel to remove him.

Then with his usual rhetorical prestidigitization, Del Arroz equates Cebulski’s writing under an Asian pseudonym with D.C. Fontana going by her initials, and makes other leaps of illogic, such as —

If the media is right that Cebulski had to use a minority moniker to get a job, it means white men aren’t considered for the work, or at the very least, minorities are preferred. Therefore, pro-white racism in entertainment doesn’t and didn’t exist as far back as 15 years ago.

(17) HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS? Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! Entertainment piece called “How all those ‘Star Wars’ cameos wound up in surprise box-office hit ‘Wonder'”, interviews Wonder director Stephen Chblosky about why his film packed with Star Wars Easter eggs,

Star Wars plays a small but significant role in Wonder; not only is it the singular obsession of the film’s main character, Auggie Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay — a noted Padawan in his own right), but Chbosky also wrangled surprise cameo appearances by two residents of George Lucas‘s far, far away galaxy: a certain Wookiee co-pilot and a sinister Sith-turned-emperor, who appear in fantasy sequences imagined by Auggie, who initially prefers the company of fictional characters because real people struggle to adjust to his facial deformities caused by a rare medical condition. “I will point out, very proudly, that on Dec. 15 there will be two Chewbacca movies in theaters — that has never happened!” Chbosky says, laughing. “I really hope that being part of Wonder might help the box office of The Last Jedi. They’re really struggling over there.”

(18) FINAL PRANK. Carrie Fisher pulled a fast one on Mark Hamill.

Hamill, 66, spoke about his fond memories of his dear friend on a recent visit to the set of “Popcorn With Peter Travers.” He also recalled the last prank she pulled on him before she died on Dec. 27, 2016.

“We were sort of in an unofficial contest to get to 1 million Twitter followers first,” he explained of their competition from summer 2016. “She was 63,000 ahead of me … I said, ‘Game on girl!'”

As of now, Hamill has more than 2 million followers and Fisher posthumously has 1.19 million. Hamill, who was trailing in the beginning, said he started pulling these ridiculous stunts like offering up exclusive “Star Wars” clips to gain followers and catch up to Fisher.

“I felt bad, I was really gaining,” he said, so he also came up with a plan where the two could cross the milestone together, as on-screen brother and sister. “I sent her an email and I said, ‘Hey Carrie want to explode the internet?’ … We had never seen our wax figures at Madame Tussauds.”

The plan was to go, take pictures with the wax Luke and Leia figurines, then post on the internet to fans’ delights. But Fisher never emailed him back.

“Three of four days later, there she is at Madame Tussauds posing with my figure, posing with her figure, I went, ‘What!?’ I was livid,” he said. “I went to the studio the next day [and went right to her trailer]. I said, ‘Carrie, what did you do!? It was like … you threw the party and you didn’t invite me!'”

According to Hamill, she just looked up at him and said, “Should have I not done that?”

(19) LUNAR GLIMPSE. The only supermoon of 2017 rose on Sunday, December 3. Here are three galleries with some of the best photos.

(20) INTERVIEW WITH THE CAPTAIN. The Hollywood Masters features Patrick Stewart on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/17 Or All the Scrolls With Pixels

(1) TURNOVER AT TOLKIEN ESTATE. Christopher Tolkien, 92, resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate Limited on August 31, 2017 according to records at Companies House in the UK.

Christopher Tolkien

Despite this having occurred over two months ago, the information seems to have become public only recently, and there is rampant speculation what the timing of resignation implies, given Amazon’s announcement this week of a new Lord of the Rings sourced TV production, and Christopher Tolkien’s negative statements about the Peter Jackson adaptations.

While I searched, unsuccessfully, to find who broke the story, via Michael Martinez’ blog I discovered Tolkien Brasil has a long and informative piece about the transition in the Estate’s leadership (in Portuguese – a Google Translate English rendering is at this link, offered with the usual caveats about accuracy.)

The Tolkien Society’s post on the topic clarified that Christopher Tolkien remains his late father’s literary executor.

(2) INDIGENOUS AND BLACK SF. Canada’s CBC Radio program The Current hosted a discussion of indigenous and black sf on November 14. A podcast of the segment is available.

Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future As soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.”

Download Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future [mp3 file: runs 00:28:13]

(3) BRETT RATNER OUT. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot said she would not sign for the sequel if he was still involved: “Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner won’t be involved with Wonder Woman 2”The Verge has the story.

Two weeks after a Los Angeles Times report detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against director and producer Brett Ratner, the filmmaker seems to have been officially cut from the DC cinematic universe. This morning on Good Morning America, Gal Gadot reiterated earlier reports that Ratner’s financing company RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which helped fund 2017’s Wonder Woman, would not be involved with the upcoming sequel.

The confirmation comes a few days after a Page Six report claimed that Gadot threatened to drop out of the sequel if Ratner or his company was involved in any way. On Good Morning America, she says she didn’t come close to leaving. “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie — it’s not just me — and they all echoed the same sentiments,” she said.

(4) VANDERMEER. Variety reports: “Netflix Nabs ‘Hummingbird Salamander’ From ‘Annihilation’ Author Jeff VanderMeer”.

Netflix is nearing a deal for rights to “Hummingbird Salamander” and plans to tap Sugar23 to produce the picture, Variety has learned.

The book is the latest from Jeff VanderMeer, the best-selling author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy and one of the foremost sci-fi writers working today.  The film will be produced by Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta at Sugar 23.

… VanderMeer will also executive produce the project.

However, VanderMeer himself sounded uncertain in his Facebook comments about the Variety article

Hmmm. I wonder if this is true. It’d be kind of a dream team to be with Netflix with the Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight producing. It’d be even more incredible if the rumor that it’s a mega deal and I’ll be an executive producer and creative consultant on the film were true…

As you can imagine, for someone who sometimes writes about mushroom people, it’s surreal that every novel I’ve written or am under contract to write since Annihilation may have been optioned for the movies. If these rumors are true.

(5) WIZARD WORLD ON LIFE SUPPORT.  Although the company has 17 conventions planned for 2018, their money is running out: “WIZARD WORLD Warns Of ‘Substantial Doubt’ Of It Continuing Into 2019”.

Wizard World. Inc.’s Q3 2017 quarterly report has been released, with a notice that due to recent operations loss there is “substantial doubt” that the company can continue operating as it is now past November 2018.

“The Company had a loss from operations of $4,454,857 and $1,182,246 for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 and the year ended December 31, 2016, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, we had cash and working capital deficit (excluding the derivative liability) of $1,176,034 and $1,514,182, respectively,” the company stated. “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.”

(6) GOODREADS CHOICE. Matt Mitrovich analyzes an award contender in “Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai” at Amazing Stories.

I was informed that All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain was nominated for the Goodreads Choice 2017 Best Science Fiction and Best Debut Author awards. Since I had a copy sitting in my to read pile since July, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally read it and see what all the fuss is about.

All Our Wrong Todays begins in an alternate timeline where a Lionel Goettreider invents his “Goettreider Engine” on July 11, 1965. This invention produces free energy and sparks the creation to the techo-utopia that 1950s sci-fi authors dreamed about. By 2016, all of those crazy predictions that never came true actually exist, like flying cars, jetpacks and space colonization. Anyone living in this post-scarcity world should be happy…but not Tom Barren.

(7) MONEY IS THE ROOT OF THIS EVIL. Dean E.S. Richard has seen the complaints and has issued “A (cranky) Casual Gamer’s Manifesto (Updated)” at Nerds of a Feather.

The new one has a campaign, and it looks pretty awesome, but we’re here for ground level troops dukeing it out on the best battlefields in the Star Wars galaxy.

At least, I thought that’s why were all here. Apparently, I was wrong. It’s all about getting the most powerful heroes and being able to wreck shop. If you pay attention to video games even a little bit (like, say, as little as i do), you’ve heard about this. It takes roughly 40 hours of gameplay (three years in Real Dean Time [RDT]) to unlock Luke or Vader. This I am fine with. Again, Battlefront is supposed to be about the troops, not the Jedi and Sith and whatnot.

The real problem comes in where the game has a micro transaction system wherein you can just buy credits outright, with your real monies, and thus unlock said heroes. All told, it costs about $800 to unlock all the heroes.

Eight. Hundred. Dollars.

In a sixty dollar game.

I have read comments such as: “that’s like making me work a second job that pays less than minimum wage!” which, no. It’s a game. No one is making you pay for heroes, players just want shortcuts. It’s the same mentality that ruined the Old Republic MMORPG – players were so concerned with getting to level whatever as soon as possible, they never, you know, played the game. For me, and others like me, tagging along with our dinky lightsabers and level 12 or what have you, it got boring in a hurry – which is too bad, because the game itself was a delight.

(8) PANEL TITLE. Jim C. Hines’ “Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel” excerpts the posts tracked here at File 770 and concludes with his own analysis:

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

(9) PLANET STORIES. The Guardian says a “Potentially habitable world found just 11 light years away”. So if our TV news signals travel there at the speed of light, they still think it’s the middle of the Bush administration and that Trump is the executive producer of the Miss USA pageant?

A potentially habitable world, termed Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.

Astronomers calculate that its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60° and 20°, making it temperate and possibly capable of supporting oceans, and life.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory’s world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS. They reported the discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

HARPS identifies planets by the way their gravity forces their parent stars to wobble. It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s bulk. So the planet would have a stronger pull of gravity at its surface.

(10) GALAXY QUEST. Writer/producer Paul Scheer doesn’t want his efforts to revive the fan favorite to be overlooked: “‘Galaxy Quest’: Paul Scheer Plans to Blend Original and New Casts For Amazon Series”.

Amazon first announced it was developing the 1999 film as an episodic series in 2015, but things escalated last August when Scheer came on board to work on the show. In a new interview with SlashFilm, he revealed that he’s not only turned in his first script for the series, but has some big ideas on how to honor the original film while also updating the premise for the modern age of television.

“It’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point,” he said. “But for me, it was really important to do service to a ‘Galaxy Quest’ story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ into what the fun of that world is […] and also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film.”

…As Scheer told SlashFilm, it’s still very early days for “Galaxy Quest: The Series” (officially, according to the final moments of the film, “The Journey Continues”). But this fall, Amazon has been on the hunt for “its own ‘Game of Thrones,’” a need which was theoretically addressed by acquiring the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe. What if the platform’s actual breakthrough genre hit ends up being a very different adaptation?

(11) THE MARTIAN BOTANICALS. Would you like that with ranch? “Dubai Airshow: Why the UAE plans to grow lettuce on Mars”.

One thing you can’t accuse the United Arab Emirates of lacking is vision.

First they unveiled plans to launch a Mars probe. Then it was an ambition to colonise the Red Planet.

Now the UAE has a new aim – to grow palm trees and lettuce there.

The space sector is a huge feature of the Dubai Airshow, with exhibitions, conferences, and speakers that include former Nasa Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

But even before a UAE Mars probe leaves the ground in 2020 from Japan – UAE is working in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the Gulf state has now announced its space agriculture intentions.

“There are similarities between Mars and the desert,” says Rashid Al Zaadi, senior strategic planner at the UAE Space Agency. “The landscape of the UAE, the soil, are similar.”

(12) A LONG WAY FROM HECTO. Awhile ago the Scroll linked to a story about printing a prosthesis, with plastic; these guys are printing with cells: “The firm that can 3D print human body parts”.

Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.

It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.

The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.

But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.

This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.

(13) SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Publishers Lunch says the floor plans for the next Book Expo betray that it is continuing to get smaller.

Book Expo has opened for registration for the 2018 show. The refreshed website lists Wednesday, May 30 as limited to the remainders pavilion, “premium B2B exhibitors,” and the rights center, with two days of regular floor exhibits on May 31 and June 1.

More dramatic for now is the revised floor map* for the shrinking trade show. Though still early, the map shows the smaller southern hall of Javits closed to exhibits, reserved for autographing, shipping and Book Con lines. Even that reduced “show floor” has what looks to be less floor exhibit space: Meeting rooms, lounges, and a stage move to occupying a big chunk of the back two-fifths of the hall.

(14) THAT’S CAT! Congratulations to Richard Paolinelli, winner of “The First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence”. Award spokesbeing Camestros Felapton explains:

The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.

So let’s make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution.

(15) THAT’S DOG! Suzy Byrne, in “Carrie Fisher’s beloved bulldog Gary is ‘doing great,’ says ‘Auntie Joely’ Fisher” on Yahoo! Lifestyle, says that Carrie Fisher’s goofy bulldog, Gary Fisher, has found a home with Corby McCown, the personal assistant to  Carrie Fisher’s sister Joely.

The dog has become even more popular since Carrie died. He recently surpassed 150,000 Instagram followers with help from posts including a touching tribute to Carrie on what would have been her 61st birthday last month. He followed up his San Diego Comic-Con appearance with another one at L.A. Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Last weekend, he was at Kansas City Comic Con. (A portion of the money the dog gets for appearances goes to charity.)

Yup, we’d say that Gary is doing great, too.

The dog has a Twitter account at Realgaryfisher.

(16) GROTESQUE JOKE. Not all of the Christmas season advertising has been heartwarming: “Greggs sorry after replacing baby Jesus with sausage roll in advent calendar promotion”.

Greggs has been forced to apologise for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the launch of its advent calendar.

The bakers released a promotional image for its festive calendar that showed a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the Three Wise Men.

But it was met with serious backlash online as offended fans accused the budget chain of religious insensitivity and vowed to boycott it.

Twitter users said that replacing Jesus, who was Jewish, with a pork product was “inappropriate”…

(17) ON JJ’S WISHLIST. JJ says, “Despite having a full collection of manual and power tools, I find myself itching to buy this.” ThinkGeek is offering the “Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set”.

You must be worthy in order to wield Thor’s hammer, but Marvel never mentioned any restrictions on Thor’s screwdriver or his pliers. Wield them all with our Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set! This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/17 As You From Scrolls Would Pixel’d Be, Let Your Fandom Bring Forth Glee

(1) SUPPORT WANTED. Jim Barker, Rotsler Award-winning fanartist (and 1979 Hugo nominee), is looking for financial support while he deals with health problems. He hasn’t set up a crowdfunding appeal, but you can reach out to him at the email address shown in the illustration below.

My apologies for the continued absence of the Monday Cartoon. As I said last time, I am Not Well. I have had a problem with my liver for a couple of years now and it’s finally got to the point that I need a liver transplant and I need to go into hospital for tests at the beginning of November, just to find out how suitable I am.

The Problem is that it’s been a very slow couple of months and I simply can’t afford to be out of action for the five days needed for the tests. So while I hate the idea of going round with a begging bowl,I’m asking if you could possibly help out financially. Please contact me if you feel you can. Thank you.

(2) DEEP THOUGHT. The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Nicas reports “How Google’s Quantum Computer Could Change the World”. [Behind a paywall.]

Hartmut Neven believes in parallel universes. On a recent morning outside Google’s Los Angeles office, the 53-year-old computer scientist was lecturing me on how quantum mechanics—the physics of atoms and particles—backs the theory of a so-called multiverse. Neven points to the tape recorder between us. What we’re seeing is only one of the device’s “classical configurations,” he says. “But somewhere, not perceived by us right now, there are other versions.”

David Klaus sent the link with a note:

This much computational ability will finally give us fusion power, F-T-L travel, and the stars. I knew about the idea of parallel universes in 1963 when I was 8, because of The Flash.  Heinlein wrote about them (first?), Niven wrote about them, Robert Anton Wilson wrote about them, but there should be statues of Gardner Fox and Jerome Bixby, because if Fox hadn’t created the DC Multiverse and Bixby hadn’t written “Mirror, Mirror” to soak the idea into the popular culture and triggered the minds of the best and the brightest to pursue this, it wouldn’t have happened. In this universe, anyway.

(3) FOR EXAMPLE. Learning from scratch: “Computer Learns To Play Go At Superhuman Levels ‘Without Human Knowledge'”, defeats program that beat world champion:

“In a short space of time, AlphaGo Zero has understood all of the Go knowledge that has been accumulated by humans over thousands of years of playing,” lead researcher David Silver of Google’s DeepMind lab said in remarks on YouTube. “Sometimes it’s actually chosen to go beyond that and discovered something that the humans hadn’t even discovered in this time period.”

(4) NEW AWARD FOR WHITEHEAD. The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown reports “‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead wins 2017 Hurston/Wright award for fiction”, an award given by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Literary Foundation for significant books by African-Americans.

His award was among those presented Friday by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which was founded in Washington in 1990 with a mission to ensure the survival of black writers and their literature.

Whitehead’s attention to the pain of slavery and “the current state of race in this country is unprecedented,” the judges said. The novel, which was a New York Times bestseller, “confirms Whitehead’s place in the African American canon” of great authors.

The Washington Plaza hotel in Northwest Washington was bustling Friday with literary stars, publishing icons, writers, poets, editors and essayists. More than 200 people attended the annual gala, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who won the Ella Baker Award that honors writers and arts activists who advance social justice. Lewis said he was honored to receive the award named after Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist who helped organize the Freedom Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

(5) BORDERLANDS SEEKS PERMANENT HOME. Shelf Awareness reports that the bookstore that needed a crowdfunded incentive to stay in business is now thinking long-term: “Borderlands Seeks $1.9 Million to Buy Building”.

Borderlands, the San Francisco, Calif., science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore that nearly closed two and a half years ago, has made an offer to buy a building and has launched a campaign to raise $1.9 million in loans from customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. After eight days, Borderlands has raised $500,000 and another $300,000 “is pending.”

In 2015, owner Alan Beatts had planned to close the store, but after customers rallied in support, Borderlands created a sponsorship program; the $100 annual membership includes a range of benefits. The store has a minimum of 300 sponsors.

There is no rush to move: Borderlands still has three years left on its current bookstore lease and eight years on its café lease.

In a blog post last week, Beatts wrote in part, “The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business. Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died. But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession….”

(6) MYSTERY SOLVED. “Not broccoli,” says that sleuth of sustenance, John King Tarpinian, who can tell you what these really taste like:

I bought a mystery box for a friend who likes Oreos.  We all tasted one and it was a generally agreed, they tasted like stale Fruit Loops.  And I have never eaten Fruit Loops.

We even offered one to the waiter.  He had already had one on his own and without our prodding came up with Fruit Loops as his answer.

(7) FROM ROWLING TO REALITY. “Secretly wish you could be invisible? Science is getting close”Quartz discusses five methods for turning invisible, ranked by the inventor of a real-life invisibility cloak.

  1. Cloaking

The idea of making something invisible by bending light is so captivating that, despite the obstacles, scientists continue their attempts to create the effect. And that includes me.

Our group at Duke University, in collaboration with theoretical physicist Sir John Pendry, suggested and later demonstrated one method using a special type of material called a “metamaterial.” Metamaterials are human-made materials with little circuit-like elements—conducting rings and wires, for example—that mimic the properties of atoms and molecules of conventional materials.

Rather than physically warping space, we can use the idea of warping space to find a recipe for a material that will have the same effect. In this way, we can design an invisibility cloak just by picturing the way we would like waves to circulate around the cloaked object. This is a technique called “transformation optics.”

Light—or, in the case of our experiment, microwaves—are redirected in a metamaterial cloak, appearing to bend or flow around the cloaked object. They are then restored on the other side as if they had passed through empty space. The metamaterial cloak is a real device that forces light to flow exactly as it might around a cloaked Romulan ship, which means this type of invisibility device is plausible.

(8) INTRODUCTION TO A NIGHTMARE. Parade’s Samuel R. Murrian, in “Netflix’s Stranger Things Serves Up Thrills and Chills in Season Two “, tells how co-creator Matt Duffer was told the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street by his babysitter when he was four.

“My babysitter in preschool told me the story of Freddy Krueger,” says Matt. “I was 4 years old! From then on, I just knew I had to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. When we were young, we knew we weren’t supposed to be watching horror movies. That made the appeal of them so strong.

“It’s like forbidden fruit. You just want to taste it. I remember wandering into the horror section of the video store and just staring at the covers of these movies, feeling desperate to know what it was.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 22, 2134 B.C. – The earliest recorded solar eclipse took China by surprise:

In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

  • October 22, 2006 Torchwood premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 22, 1938 – Christopher “Dr. Emmet Brown” Lloyd
  • Born October 22, 1952 – Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in Buckaroo Banzai, Jurassic Park and The Fly.

(11) COMICS SECTION

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. Meantime, let the New York Post tell you where the skeletons are buried in Gotham: “The most infamous times Marvel and DC ripped each other off”.

Wonder Man vs. Wonder Woman In a 1964 issue of “The Avengers,” Marvel introduced Wonder Man. DC was not amused, feeling that the new hero sounded too much like its own Wonder Woman. So Marvel honcho Stan Lee agreed to kill him off.

Twelve years later, DC debuted a new female superhero named Power Girl — despite Marvel having introduced Power Man in 1972. Lee felt that DC was perpetrating a double standard and, in a payback bid, decided to resurrect Wonder Man. The hero joined the Avengers in 1977 and is still a major part of the Marvel print universe to this day. Although he’s never appeared in an Avengers film, actor Nathan Fillion did film a cameo as Wonder Man for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” that got cut in the end.

(13) DEADLY PLAZA. This will be handy for me – I’ll head in the other direction: “The Most Haunted Places in Los Angeles”. (Well, I say that, but for five years I worked a block away from the first place on their list….)

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Supernatural spirits abound where the city of L.A. started: at El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its immediate surrounding area. Because this area was essentially the original town square before moving a few blocks west, it was also the town gallows and the site of public hangings and their hanging trees. Some of them occurred directly in front of City Hall, which seems bedeviled by a ghost or two. Security cameras often pick up an image of someone walking around locked offices at night, but when guards go to investigate, they find nothing. When they return to their night shift station, they frequently hear footsteps following them.

Los Angeles was once a dangerous, violent place to live, filled with gunfire and murder. The lawless and the pious were forced to coexist in the establishment of a new sprawling metropolis. At El Pueblo, early adobes were torn down, and the remains of more than 100 people were improperly excavated and relocated from the first cemetery at El Pueblo, next to La Placita church. The area where Union Station now stands, and directly adjacent to it, was not only the site of Old Chinatown but also the infamous and horrific Chinese Massacre of 1871, the largest mass lynching in American history. For a more lighthearted encounter, take your French Dip to one of the upstairs dining rooms at Philippe The Original, where the ladies of the former bordello are said to linger.

(14) HELP ME HONDA. The co-creator of Godzilla unjustly labored in obscurity. The SyFy Wire tries to remedy that in ”7 revelations about the co-creator of Godzilla”.

Despite his status as one of the most commercially successful Japanese film directors of his day, Ishiro Honda has been somewhat neglected when it comes to discussion within critical circles. His science-fiction classics — which include Godzilla (1954), Rodan (1956), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and The War of the Gargantuas (1966) — have reached and dazzled audiences all over the world; and yet his name has only on occasion appeared in serious film studies. But now, from noted kaiju eiga historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski comes the biography Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa.

(15) IRISH EYES. Marcin Klak of Fandom Rover chronicles his adventures at “Octocon 2017 – the Irish National SF convention”.

Golden Blasters – the Octocon’s short film festival

There were four “major” events happening during Octocon. The first and the last ones were very modest opening and closing ceremonies, which lasted for a short time. They were serving a rather informative purpose and didn’t include any performances. On Saturday night there was an Octocon’s Monster Ball. I was able to stay only at the beginning, but it started with some music and dancing. I am not sure how long it lasted. The last one of the major events I participated in was the Golden Blasters film festival.

(16) FUSE LIGHTER. WIRED touches base with Ellison biographer Nat Segaloff in “Harlan Ellison Is Sci-Fi’s Most Controversial Figure”.

Harlan Ellison is the enormously talented author of many classic stories, essays, and scripts that helped transform science fiction, but his long history of inappropriate behavior has also made him one of the field’s most controversial figures. Author Nat Segaloff tried to capture both sides of Ellison in his new biography A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

“Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t like Harlan,” Segaloff says in Episode 278 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “and I wanted to try to get to as many of those people as possible to make a rounded interview.”

(17) LIGO LEVERAGE. NPR tells how “A New Era For Astronomy Has Begun”.

With this kind of precision, astrophysicists will learn more about the size, mass, spin, and internal properties of neutron stars, one of the most exotic forms of matter in the universe. They will also find out whether the final product of the merger is a big neutron star or a black hole, and gain a better idea of how many of such pairs (binaries) exist out there. As a bonus, they will be able to test the properties of gravity at extreme events, and measure different properties of the universe, including how fast it is expanding.

But the truly remarkable discovery, confirming what astrophysicists had predicted years back, is that such violent impacts, which eject something close to 2 percent of the stars’ mass at high speeds, produce loads of chemical elements heavier than iron, including gold, platinum, and heavy radioactive atoms. The collision creates a dense disk of protons and neutrons that circle the remains of the stars; the particles quickly combine into heavy atoms as the cloud grows and cools.

In a million years, the cloud will spread across the whole galaxy, seeding stars and their solar systems with heavy elements. Quite possibly, the gold in your ring or inside your cell phone came from such collisions in the distant past.

(Follow-up to “Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars”.)

(18) LESS SPLAT PER SCAT. ‘Windshield index’ falls: “Alarm over decline in flying insects”.

It’s known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

And the causes are unknown.

(19) AWWWW. See Mauricio Abril‘s sweet painting of Carrie Fisher in character as Princess Leia on Facebook.

I started this piece back in January after learning of Carrie Fisher’s passing but never got around to finishing it until recently. In honor of her birthday today here’s my tribute to the unforgettable woman who’ll continue to inspire generation after generation of little Leias.

(20) ROWLING PAPERS ON DISPLAY. The Guardian says, “Swearing, scrapped characters, editors’ notes – JK Rowling’s exhibits are a treasure trove for fans of Hogwarts.” — “Wizard! The magic of Harry Potter at the British Library”.

While some authors would baulk at showing anyone, let alone hundreds of thousands of museum visitors, their “process”, Rowling is entirely unafraid of sharing even her ropiest Potter ideas in public. She does so at talks, on Twitter and on a website, Pottermore, where she publishes all her unexplored, unfinished plots for a starry-eyed audience. Dumbledore is gay! Harry’s grandfather made hair products! Lupin and Tonks got married in a pub in Scotland! Even for a fan, it is easy to feel suspicious of this seemingly endless post-Potter expansion. There is no hidden significance or justifying quality in Rowling’s titbits that explains their publication. No, we now know Harry’s transfiguration teacher Professor McGonagall had two brothers and a husband who died because Rowling and her publishers believe our appetite for Potter is insatiable – and on that, they’re probably right. What luck then, that Rowling has always written with pen on paper and has produced such a treasure trove, and how lucky too that revealing her failed or abandoned ideas is not an embarrassment to her, even when cushioned by such success.

…Harry Potter, a Journey Through the History of Magic, is at the British Library, London NW1, until 28 February, and the New York Historical Society from October 2018. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on BBC2, on 28 October.

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

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 8/10/17 Trailing Clouds Of Pixels Do We Come From Scrolls Which Are Our Home

(1) STILES MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Stiles had cancer surgery. His wife, Elaine, had good news for Facebook readers:

Thanks to everyone who expressed concern & well wishes. Steve came thru the op fine tho minus most of his right lung so they’d be sure to get all the cancer.

(2) AT THE CORE. James Davis Nicoll is determined to fill your shelves. Here’s a new list of must reads: “Twenty Core Young Adult Works of Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. The first three titles are –

  1. Aria by Kozue Amano
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
  3. Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant

(3) BUTLER ON TV? Vanity Fair says “Octavia Butler Is Finally Heading to TV, Thanks to Ava DuVernay”.

Ava DuVernay is ushering Octavia Butler’s work into a new era. The director is adapting Butler’s 1987 book Dawn for television, alongside director Victoria Mahoney (a Queen Sugar collaborator) and producer Charles D. King (Fences).

She confirmed the news on Twitter, writing that she is honored “to bring legend Octavia Butler’s stellar work to screen.”

Dawn is the first book in Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy. The futuristic sci-fi tale takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where nearly all humans are gone, and the remaining few have been whisked away by an alien race called the Oankali, who want to breed with them. The story follows Lilith Iyapo, a black woman who wakes up to a new world after being taken by the aliens.

(4) BEFORE INDEPENDENT’S DAY. Cat Rambo began a series of posts about SFWA with a perspective on the past — “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part One: History of the Organization”.

As part of a Twitter conversation, one of my favorite gamewriters, Ken St. Andre, suggested I write up something about SFWA and independent writers that goes into enough detail that people can understand why — or why not — they might want to join. This is part one of a multi-part series that will talk about some of the history behind the decision, and in this first part I want to talk about the organization prior to admitting independent writers. Part two will discuss how SFWA came to change membership criteria in order to make it possible for people to qualify for membership with indie sales in 2016, and some of the changes made as part of planning for that expansion. Part three will focus on how SFWA has changed in the intervening time, while part four will look at what I see as the changes that will continue as we move forward over the next decade. In all of this, I’m trying to provide something of an insider’s look that may or may not be useful, but certainly will be full of many words.

…. Initially SFWA was exactly what you would expect of a volunteer organization run by the most chaotic, capricious, and disorganized creatures possible: science fiction writers. Stories abound, including records getting lost because someone’s cat peed on them, Jerry Pournelle inviting Newt Gingrich to be the Nebulas toastmaster and a subsequent heated brouhaha that included some people walking out of the ceremony and Philip K. Dick agitating to get Stanislaw Lem expelled. My favorite remains Joe Haldeman’s account of the SFWA finances being somewhere in the realm of $2.67 when he became SFWA treasurer, so he bought the notebook to keep track of them out of his own pocket.

(5) UH-OH. Apparently you really can’t tell a book by its cover.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the movies, the identity of the Toxic Avenger before his unfortunate accident with toxic chemicals was janitor Melvin Ferd.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 10, 2003 – First Earth/space wedding. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, aboard the International Space Station, married Ekaterina Dmitriev, on Earth.
  • August 10, 2004 — Cartoon character Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(8) NOT TIRED OF WINNING. Adam-Troy Castro archly announces his newly-founded awards:

I am announcing the new Adam-Troy Castro Awards. These new Awards, trophies cast in the shape of Adam-Troy Castro, will be awarded only to Adam-Troy Castro. This is to correct the injustice of Adam-Troy Castro not getting certain other major genre awards. These will prove that all other writing awards suck and are the product of nefarious cabals. My own nefarious cabal of Adam-Troy Castro will make sure that only Adam-Troy Castro is eligible.

You think your alternate awards are sufficiently anti-diversity? Fie, I say on you! Fie! Mine are so non-diverse that they can only go to works by one person! They will not engage in favoritism. All works by Adam-Troy Castro will have the same chance as all other works by Adam-Troy Castro. This is fair! This is equitable! This is self-pleasuring of an order even higher than your awards!

(9) GIANT PLANET NEWS. He killed Pluto – can this make up for it? IEEE Spectrum asks, “Is There a Giant Planet Lurking Beyond Pluto?”

Michael E. Brown is often called “the guy who killed Pluto.” But he takes the moniker in stride. Sitting in his sunny Pasadena office at the California Institute of Technology, Brown jokes that Pluto, which was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, had it coming. The year before, Brown had discovered Eris, a frosty dwarf in the outer solar system more massive than Pluto and named, fittingly, for the Greek goddess of strife.

Brown now has good reason to hope that history will remember him not for the Eris-instigated demotion of Pluto but as codiscoverer of an as yet unseen, true ninth planet—a Neptune-size world so massive that it may have tipped the entire solar system a few degrees sideways.

I meet Brown in the late afternoon, shortly after his breakfast. The 52-year-old, sporting a week-old beard and Converse sneakers, is shifting his sleep schedule to spend the coming nights remotely babysitting a giant telescope as it scans the heavens from the snowy summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Calculations that Brown published last year with Konstantin Batygin, a former student of Brown’s who now occupies the faculty office next to his, suggest that Planet Nine is real. Somewhere out there, they are convinced, drifts a frozen world so distant from the sun—perhaps 5.5 light-days, or roughly 150 billion kilometers—that high noon on its surface is no brighter than a moonlit night on Earth.

(10) CARRIE FISHER. Tim Keneally in The Wrap says “Carrie Fisher Leaves Behind Estate Worth Nearly $7 Million” which reports that Carrie Fisher’s will is clearing probate and Billie Lourd is likely to be the primary recipient of the $7 million.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Traveling Through Brush and Ink is an animated journey on Vimeo through great classical Chinese paintings held by the National Palace Museum in Taiwan

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, Adam-Troy Castro, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/17 Lucky Scroll Means Fine Pixel (LSMFP)

(1) LIMERICK DERBY. Fantasy Literature’s Kelly Lasiter says it’s time for “FanLit’s 2017 SFF Limerick Contest”

Your task is to create a limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme…

Full guidelines at the post. Entries are made in comments there.

Here is the winning limerick (by Ben) from 2015:

The day came that I had been dreading,
It would surely end in beheading
and my family depressed
as they murdered their guests,
Never go to a Westeros wedding

(2) PIRATES WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. Otakon, the Washington D.C. Asian pop culture convention, discovered someone trying to victimize members by creating a fake hotel website. Otakon Hotel and Venue Manager John Nadzam has issued a warning. [H/T to Petréa Mitchell.]

To all of our members:

It has come to our attention that an outside party set up a pirate housing website: “otakon2017.org”.

This website was in no way associated with Otakon, Otakorp Inc., or Experient (our exclusive and official housing provider).  We have taken all efforts to shut down the site as soon as we found out, but we cannot determine if any reservations were taken, if reservations through this site will be honored, or what may have happened to any information they may have gathered.

If you did not receive a confirmation email that looks like the one at the end of this message, or if you have any doubts on your reservation’s validity, please contact Experient immediately…

There have been reports of this happening to several different conventions (genre and otherwise) now, and cons are starting to warn members about it. For example, DesignCon 2018 and ASBMR 2017 Annual Meeting have prominently posted “Beware of Unauthorized Hotel Solicitations” on their websites.

(3) MORE EMMY NEWS. The Hollywood Reporter enthuses: “Carrie Fisher Gets Posthumous Nomination for ‘Catastrophe'”.

The actress was nominated for her guest role in the Amazon comedy series’ third season as Mia, the troublesome mother of Rob (played by Rob Delaney), an American who moves to London when his one-week fling leads to an unplanned pregnancy. She had finished filming her scenes in the notable sixth episode shortly before her death in December. Fisher was 60 years old when she suffered a major heart attack during a transatlantic flight and died a few days later in the hospital.

…Fisher appeared in four episodes throughout Catastrophe‘s initial two seasons, and her third-season episode became a tribute to the late star. “It was such a shock to lose her and so unexpected and so awful, that all we had was her performance in episode six to think about,” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan told THR of Fisher’s “funny and heartfelt performance” back in April. “So, that’s what we concentrated on: making that episode a dedication to her, I guess, and beyond that, no, because it’s hard watching her onscreen so alive and yet no longer with us.”

(4) CANNED FROG. Steve Whitmire, in “It’s Time To Get Things Started…” at Steve Whitmire Muppet Pundit, says he was fired by Disney.

In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.

For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.

As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.

(5) ASTRONAUT IN CHARGE. “Former astronaut Julie Payette to be Canada’s next governor general” – the CBC has the story.

Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen’s new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed.

The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the announcement Thursday.

A computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA’s chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

Payette is active on a number of causes and has served as a board member for Drug Free Kids Canada as well as being listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail.

…Acting as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the governor general also serves as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces and represents Canada at events, ceremonies and official visits at home and abroad.

(6) POSTMODERN STOIC. Kameron Hurley tells “How Pro Writers Deal with Pro Criticism”.

You write until the words are the right ones.

So if you think that leveling up as a writer means that nobody ever critiques your work again, or every word you shit will be gold, here is your reminder: it doesn’t get easier as you go. The bar gets higher. You need to jump further, climb higher, level up. If you didn’t make a million out the gate your first time, welcome to the long slog toward the breakout book, where you constantly have to stay on top of your game or fall down and start over again.

I have heard from many writers that I was “lucky” to make it out of the implosion of my first publisher with a relatively high profile (if not high $$, though Legion sales are steady af) career afterward. The best writer career path is, frankly, to have a “hit” right out the gate and build on that success. While it’s VERY possible to get a break out later (I can think of several writers who had written anywhere from 4-11 books before their breakout book), it sure does seem easier, from the outside, to build on that success than to take the long way up like I am, slowly, slowly, selling more and more books with every contract.

But here’s the thing. I’m well aware that to write a breakout book, I have to level up my work. We like to pretend it’s ALL luck with a breakout book, and sometimes that’s true (the “Hollywood bought it!” phenomenon), but sometimes it really is about skill, about writing a story that connects with more people, a story folks can’t put down, a story that everyone goes, “You have to read this trilogy because it’s great and OMG the third book has THE BIGGEST PAYOFF AND MOST EPIC THIRD ACT.” That part isn’t luck, it’s writing a good story. And to write that good story takes consulting with other professionals and working to make the story the best it can be. You will always be the ultimate owner of anything that you write (Meyna is staying in the book!), but you have to learn when to be able to take constructive feedback for what it is and when to throw out stuff that doesn’t work with your own vision. That’s a tough skill, I admit. I struggle with it all the time. Being able to sort through feedback to find the right way through takes a lot of practice, and it’s this, too, that makes you a pro.

(7) COLLABORATION. Stewart Baker has tips for “How to Write with a Co-author” at the SFWA Blog.

There are as many different ways to share authorship of a story as there are combinations of people. Some prefer to split up the tasks of writing, with one author creating an outline that the other drafts from, or vice versa. Others might draft every other scene, or only write a particular character’s sections, and so on.

The benefits of co-authoring are potentially great: Each writer has a chance to learn new habits and strategies, and brainstorming can go much more quickly with two people involved. But, as with any kind of partnership, it’s important to establish early on how the relationship is going to work. Making assumptions about the writing process and your expectations for your co-author can lead to misunderstandings and stress, and has the potential to end friendships and scuttle careers.

(8) MARVEL GENERATIONS. Another spin on Marvel Legacy —

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! These heroic journeys all launch from the same point: the Vanishing Point! This epic 10-issue series brings together iconic and present-day heroes such as Laura Kinney and Logan, Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, and many more of your favorite characters. The stories of GENERATIONS begin at the Vanishing Point where time has no meaning, and these epic tales offer fans a direct bridge and prelude into the senses-shattering Marvel Legacy, as the challenges and revelations of GENERATIONS will alter the destinies of our heroes moving forward in a dramatic fashion!

 

(9) NEXT AT KGB. “Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series” hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Neuler and Genevieve Valentine on July 19 at the KGB Bar. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and this month Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.

Genevieve Valentine

Genevieve Valentine is an author and critic. Her most recent book is the near-future spy novel ICON; her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Best of the Year anthologies. Her comics work includes Catwoman for DC Comics and the Attack on Titan anthology from Kodansha. Her criticism and reviews have appeared in several venues including the AV Club, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. Please ask her about the new King Arthur movie.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Embrace Your Geekness Day

Wellcat Holidays organized the holiday stating that we all should be proud of the things that define us, and little defines us as much as those things we’re passionate about. “Dungeon games, comic books, vampire dress-up” we should have no shame about anything we’re into. In fact, you should shout it loud and proud.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 13, 1984 The Last Starfighter premiered

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 13, 1940 – Sir Patrick Stewart
  • Born July 13, 1942 – Harrison Ford

(13) STORMY WEATHER. Setting up a close view of the Great Red spot: “NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With Jupiter’s Great Red Spot”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be directly over the spot shortly after 10 p.m. ET Monday, July 10, about 5,600 miles above the gas giant’s cloud tops. That’s closer than any spacecraft has been before.

The spot is actually a giant storm that has been blowing on Jupiter for centuries. It’s huge, larger than Earth in diameter.

“It’s lasted a really long time,” says Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and principal scientist for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. “No scientists really understand exactly how that storm is created or why it could last so long.”

(14) NASA BUDGET. The Planetary Society told members the House of Representatives’ NASA budget includes $62.5 million in support of a new Mars orbiter, “effectively matching the recommendations made by The Planetary Society in our report, Mars In Retrograde: A Pathway for Restoring NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.”

The committee released July 12 the report accompanying the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which its CJS subcommittee approved on a voice vote June 29. At that time, the committee had released only a draft of the bill, with limited details about how the nearly $19.9 billion provided to NASA would be allocated.

In NASA’s science account, planetary science emerges as a big winner, with the report allocating $2.12 billion, a record level. That amount is $191 million above the White House request and $275 million above what Congress provided in 2017.

Some of that additional funding will go to missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water that could sustain life. It provides $495 million for both the Europa Clipper orbiter mission and a follow-on Europa Lander, to be launched by 2022 and 2024, respectively. The administration’s budget request sought $425 million, devoted solely to Europa Clipper.

The report also provides additional funding for Mars exploration, including $62 million for a proposed 2022 orbiter mission. NASA sought just $2.9 million for studies of future Mars missions, raising worries among scientists that NASA would not be able to get an orbiter, with telecommunications and reconnaissance capabilities, ready in time for the 2022 launch opportunity.

(15) FIRST COMICS ENCOUNTERS. A companion piece to NPR’s survey: “Cartoonists Tell Us: What Do Comics Mean To You?”

The first comic book I ever read was an obscure DC title that I begged my parents to buy for me from a rotating rack at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop. World’s Finest Comics #306, “The Senses-Shattering Saga of Swordfish and Barracuda!” Not the highest of high art, maybe — even the cover described S&B as “THE GREATEST SUPER-HERO TEAM SINCE — WHAT’S-THEIR-NAMES?” But still — that was the first inkling I had that comics could be portals to other worlds, purveyors of strange wonders, and certainly a hell of a lot more entertaining than the blue “sport cloth” backseat of our 1981 Corolla.

In honor of this year’s big reader poll of favorite comics and graphic novels, we’ve asked some very cool comics creators to tell us what comics meant to them, whether as children or adults.

(16) AND TOTO TOO. A “modern dystopian buffet”: “‘Tropic Of Kansas’ Rips Dystopia From The Headlines”

And as has been said a thousand times by critics far smarter than me, there is nothing that happens in science fiction that is not a reflection of our own grubby reality. We have been afraid of nuclear war, of environmental calamity, of technology, plague and politics and the enmity of our fellow man, and these dreads have always made their way into our entertainment. The worse the days, the more baroque the diversions. And these days are very bad indeed.

So this mess of a present has birthed a new breed of dystopian novels, of which Christopher Brown’s Tropic Of Kansas is the latest. Not simple dystopia, but complicated by present reality and recognizable politics. Not nameless or alien, but very much named and very close to home. And while these books have utopian leanings, they are not happy stories. No one walks away smiling. They are revolution porn.

(17) BOY NEXT DOOR. Whatever’s in that radioactive spider bite is great for romance. Page Six reports “‘Spider-Man’ co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya are dating”, and they’re just the latest.

This isn’t the first time a “Spider-Man” movie brought us new Hollywood romances. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield began dating while filming “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2011. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst also dated during his stint as the superhero in the early 2000s.

We may even get to see Holland and Zendaya’s relationship bloom on-screen as well, as the end of the movie may have foreshadowed a future romance.

(18) WONDER ACCOUNTING. The Hollywood Reporter says Wonder Woman has legs —  “Box Office: ‘Wonder Woman’ Holding Better Than Any Superhero Movie in 15 Years”.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is still going strong as it heads into its seventh week. The movie, grossing $371.3 million through Tuesday, is now assured of topping out at $390 million or more domestically, becoming the No. 8 comic book adaptation of all time, not accounting for inflation. And it will soon pass up Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($385.8 million) in North America to become the top summer earner.

(19) CHICKEN GEAR. Adweek is surprised to discover “KFC Is Now Selling Apparel, Home Goods and a Meteorite Shaped Like a Chicken Sandwich”.

Last week, we mysteriously received a Colonel Sanders pillowcase in the mail, designed to look like we were sleeping together. Now, KFC has explained what that whole thing was all about: As of yesterday, the brand launched KFC Ltd., an online merchandise shop packed with limited-edition goods and high-quality fried chicken apparel.

This includes that randy pillowcase, which you can score for just $14.

It’s easy to compare this idea to Pizza Hut’s Hut Swag idea from last year. But while Pizza Hut was punting stuff like leggings, scarves and hoodies with phrases like “Pizza is bae” (why?), KFC is swinging for a somewhat more discerning (or fetishist) market. Gear includes vintage apparel, “finger lickin’ good jewelry” and—wait for it!—a meteorite they’ve carved into the shape of a Zinger sandwich (which they recently decided to launch into space). The meteorite is going for $20,000.

(20) CHICKEN BLEEP. Io9 has been digging through the documents released from a lawsuit brought by The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont — “Frank Darabont’s Furious Emails to His Walking Dead Coworkers: ‘Fuck You All'”.

Darabont and AMC spent about six months figuring out what should remain confidential as they prepare their cases and exhibits for New York judge Eileen Bransten. After coming to an agreement, they’ve released thousands of pages of documents, which include depositions, expert testimony, and financial details for other AMC shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The documents show how convoluted Hollywood deals and negotiations are, for better and worse, but they also shine an unflattering light on Darabont’s behavior during his time on The Walking Dead.

One of the biggest conflicts behind the scenes of The Walking Dead was AMC’s decision to cut the budget by almost half a million dollars per episode between seasons one and two. Darabont’s solution, which was to film the whole season in one location, the infamous farmhouse, created problems and resulted in arguably the series’ worst season. Darabont became overwhelmed, struggling to create more with less (plus, AMC demanded to see all the scripts ahead of time), and it showed in his behavior toward the team. Here’s an email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others from June 2011, one month before he was fired:

Fuck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering fucking incompetence, blindness to the important beats, and the beyond-arrogant lack of regard for what is written being exhibited on set every day. I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words. Does anybody disagree with me? Then join the C-cam operator and go find another job that doesn’t involve deliberately fucking up my show scene by scene.

This email supports the earlier rumors that Darabont became difficult to work with, along with several other messages that contain just as many profanities toward dozens more behind-the-scenes crew members: camera operators (“Ray Charles could operate better”), an episode director (“It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge”), and even his writing staff, as shown in a particularly tense email to an AMC executive.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Beatles, Hippies, and Hells Angels is a video on Vimeo by Fons Scheidon which is an introduction to a Sky Atlantic documentary about Apple Corps.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/17 I’ve Scrolled As Many As Six Impossible Pixels Before Breakfast

(1) MORE CORE. Some might wonder if James Davis Nicoll has hit peak trollage with his latest list, “Twenty Core Problematic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Some might thank him for listing their favorite book.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Problematic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field 1 and in this case, the likelihood of encountering their avid fans. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider or the only twenty books whose fans may some day corner you so they can expound at length on the virtues of these books.

Here are the first three on his list of 20 —

  • The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  • Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey

(2) YOUNG PERSON WATCHES OLD SF. Echo Ishii’s next excursion into old sf TV series has a William Shatner connection – “SF Obscure: TekWar”.

Tek War is based on William Shatner’s TekWar books, ghostwritten by Ron Goulart. There are about nine books in the series. The show started as a series of two-hour TV movies and then a proper second season, from what I can figure out. Open to corrections.

(3) THE SOUND OF WHO. Some of the more, ahem, “experimental” Dr Who soundtracks. “12 ‘Doctor Who’ Jazz Funk Greats” at We Are Cult.

The Sea Devils (1972)

A relentless barrage of white noise that was the result of a life or death struggle between sonic terrorist Malcolm Clarke and the Radiophonic Workshop’s massive EMS Synthi 100, otherwise known as the ‘Delaware’. Anticipates, at various points, Throbbing Gristle, Metal Machine Music, Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell and – in its calmer moments – Eno & Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. A BDSM specialist’s shag tape.

(4) DON’T RUN, WALKAWAY. The Reason interview with Cory Doctorow, “Cory Doctorow on Cyber Warfare, Lawbreaking, and His New Novel ‘Walkaway'”, is also is available on YouTube.

Katherine Mangu-Ward: Do you think that the underlying conditions of free speech as it is associated with dubious technologies, are they getting better or worse?

Cory Doctorow: There is the—there is a pure free speech argument and there’s a scientific argument that just says you know it’s not science if it’s not published. You have to let people who disagree with you—and who dislike you—read your work and find the dumb mistakes you’ve made and call you an idiot for having made them otherwise you just end up hitting yourself and then you know your h-bomb blows up in your face, right?

And atomic knowledge was the first category of knowledge that scientists weren’t allowed to freely talk about—as opposed to like trade secrets—but, like, scientific knowledge. That knowing it was a crime. And so it’s the kind of original sin of science. But there’s a difference between an atomic secret and a framework for keeping that a secret and a secret about a vulnerability in a computer system. And they’re often lumped together….

 

(5) DID YOU KNOW? Complaints Choirs took their inspiration from a conversation in Helsinki.

It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.

In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression “Valituskuoro”. It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously.  Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real choir in which people sing about their complaints?”

As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after Springhill Institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality.

And here’s a detailed plan for starting a complaints choir in your town.

STEP 1 – Invite People to Complain
Invite people from your city to join the complaints choir. Distribute flyers, spread posters and write a press release. Everybody can join, no singing skills required! The more diverse the participants the better. From pensioner to teenager, everybody has something to complain about. The people that sign up for the choir send in their complain before the first meeting….

(6) RECOMMENDED. Professional filker Miracle of Sound has a released a Wonder Woman song.

I walk a wild new world
The strangest sights surround me
I grow into
This sense of wonder that I’ve found

There is pain
There is joy
There is so much they destroy
Every soul here is a two way battleground

 

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Octavia Butler Day

Here are links to the first five of a dozen posts BookRiot has published in honor of the day.

(8)  TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 22, 1960 The House of Usher starred Vincent Price, screenplay by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and directed by Roger Corman. The film was the first of eight Edgar Allen Poe based feature films that Corman directed.
  • June 22, 1979 Alien premiered.

(9) FROM SOMEBODY’S MOUTH TO GOD’S EAR. Yesterday it was (supposedly) speculation. Today’s it’s a done deal. The Hollywood Reporter says “Ron Howard to Direct Han Solo Movie”.

“I’m beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars Universe after being a fan since 5/25/77,” Howard tweeted Thursday afternoon. “I hope to honor the great work already done & help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film.”

Howard, who directed 1995’s Apollo 13 and won an Oscar for helming 2002’s A Beautiful Mind, comes to the Han Solo film with several connections to George Lucas and the worlds of Lucasfilm. He appeared in Lucas’ 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and helmed Lucas’ 1988 pet fantasy project Willow. Howard also revealed on a podcast in 2015 that Lucas had approached him to direct the 1999 Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace.

(10) GONE IN SIXTY DIGITS. Another unexpected side-effect of tech: “‘How I could have stolen my old car using my smartphone'”.

Charles Henderson loved his “awesome” convertible, particularly the fact that he could start, lock and unlock it remotely via his mobile phone.

It was one of the first connected cars that synchronise wirelessly with smartphones for entertainment and work purposes.

But after he sold the vehicle, he was astonished to discover that he could still control it using the associated smartphone app.

“I could have found out where the car was, unlocked it remotely, started it and driven off with it,” he tells the BBC.

Mr Henderson, from Austin, Texas, is global head of X-Force Red, IBM’s offensive security group, so he knows a thing or two about security. He tests companies’ defences, both physical and digital.

(11) NEXTGEN ST. BERNARD. (Video) “The soft 3D-printed robot that could come to the rescue”.

Engineers at the University of California are working on a soft legged robot that can navigate difficult terrain. Its complex design has been achieved through 3D printing.

One possible use for the robot would be to help in search and rescue operations – perhaps in a collapsed building. Its legs can alternate between walking, crawling and climbing.

(12) TIME MACHINE OUT OF ORDER? Tech failure: “California earthquake alarm sounded – 92 years late”.

A computer error caused the US Geological Survey (USGS) to issue the false alarm about the magnitude 6.8 quake.

The quake actually took place in 1925 when it laid waste to the city of Santa Barbara and caused 13 deaths.

In a statement, the USGS said its computers had “misinterpreted” data causing the alarm to be wrongly issued.

Substantial collapse

News organisations across the US received the emailed alert about the quake which, if it had been real, would have been one of the largest ever recorded in California.

Few organisations reacted directly to the news because it was dated 29 June 2025 – exactly 100 years after the actual event took place.

The LA Times, which uses AI-based software to automatically write up the USGS alerts, did issue a news story based on the alarm notice.

(13) PLANETEXIT. The UK gets ambitious: “Queen’s Speech: Plan aims to secure space sector”.

The stated purpose of the new Bill is to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial space – including launches from British soil.

(14) DEAR DIARY. Aaron Pound reviews Carrie Fisher’s Hugo-nominated The Princess Diarist at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Short review: Carrie Fisher found some old diaries she wrote when she was filming Star Wars and having an affair with Harrison Ford. She used them as the basis for a book.

Haiku
When filming Star Wars
Fisher had a fling with Ford
Now she remembers

(15) HAPPPY NOMINEES. Fangirl Happy Hour is a Hugo-nominated fancast where Ana of The Book Smugglers and Renay of Lady Business team up to discuss books, comics, TV and movies, fandom and pop culture.

One great feature is the episode transcripts. Their transcriber has caught up to the episode that discusses the nominees for the “2017 Hugo Awards” – of which they are two.

Renay: Yeah, I remember telling everybody, “Hey, Bridget’s doing great work, why don’t we nominate her, ” and apparently everybody was already planning to because here she is. I was super excited. And then next category is Best Semiprozine which has you in it! Yay!

Ana: Yay!

Renay: It’s Ana! I’m so excited, The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James. Look at you guys. Look at you on the ballot. so cute!

Ana: I’m very pleased about that. There is a lot of work that goes into the Book Smugglers as you know. I’m happy to be here. There are other amazing nominees in this category and I am like, “Oh fuck.” [laughter]

Renay: Would you have your feelings hurt if I voted for Strange Horizons first and then you second?

Ana: I would, but I would also understand.

Renay: Well I’m gonna put you first, and Strange Horizon second. I was just feeling it out.

Ana: I was very conflicted, because I love Strange Horizons and I think Niall Harrison has done such amazing work for the past few years. And he announced that he’s stepping down from being editor in chief of Strange Horizons and I’m like FUCK so this means that this is the last year that he’s eligible for the Hugos. And I’m like, I think he deserves one? But I also want one!

(16) ANTIQUE VERBIAGE. Brenda Clough takes us on a visit to “The Language Attic” at Book View Café.

Our language is a treasure house. Some of its glories are well-used and well-polished, taken out and set on the table every day. But up in the attic we’ve got some thrilling long-lost terms. This is a series devoted to dragging some of the quainter antiquities out, and dusting them off for you to see.

And today’s fun word is fistiana. Oh, you have a dirty mind. I can see what you’re thinking. No, no — it had nothing whatever to do with X-rated matters. We have pure minds around here, at least at this moment. Maybe later in this series we’ll get some really colorful words. This word’s close relative is boxiana, and both words refer to boxing — pummeling people with your fists.

(17) FOUND IN SPACE. Kyle Hill of Nerdist calls on everyone to “Join Us on the Bizarre Pop Culture Quest that is THE S.P.A.A.C.E. PROGRAM”

As Nerdist‘s resident sci-fientist (TM), there are never enough collisions between science and pop culture. I truly believe that exploring our nerdy passions with science helps appreciate both even more. I’ve tried my best to do this for the last few years with Because Science, but something was missing…oh, right, I wasn’t in sppppppaaaaacccccceeeee!

Starting today, you can watch the first episode of my new Alpha show The S.P.A.A.C.E. Program. It takes all the geeky analysis that I do on Because Science and combines it with a real set, actual production value, and a snarky artificial intelligence. It’s like if Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a weird, long-haired baby. Check out a promo below:

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Chip Hitchcock, Jay Byrd, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 6/17/17 Fiery The Pixels Fell. Deep Thunder Scrolled Around Their Shoulders

(1) DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE. Decided this weekend, the 2019 Eurocon will be hosted by TitanCon 2019 in Belfast, NI. The con is scheduled to complement the dates of the expected Dublin Worldcon.

Our proposed dates are Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 August 2019. That is the weekend after the proposed WorldCon (currently being bid for and running unopposed) to be held in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday 15 to Monday 19 August 2019.

We will also be running our traditional TitanCon Coach Tour on Sunday 25 August visiting beautiful locations around Northern Ireland that have been used as filming locations in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

(2) PHONE CALL FROM THE PAST. Today Galactic Journey had its inaugural video conference call from 1962. Sartorially splendid in his white dress shirt and narrow black tie, The Traveler, Gideon Marcus, shared the split screen with Janice Marcus (his editor), and Professor Elliott (whose blog promises to “Document the obscure”).

He started with a recap of significant genre news, including the new issue of F&SF with Truman Capote and Zenna Henderson on the cover, and developments in film, music, and gaming, like Avalon Hill’s recently released Waterloo.

The Traveler masterfully rolled clips like the technical director in those control booth scenes from My Favorite Year, showing us a performance by the band The Shadows (some of them smoking onscreen) and the trailer for Journey to the Seventh Planet (which surprisingly did not end John Agar’s movie career on the spot).

The trio also took questions from the audience — there were about 18 of us on the call — and gave us 1962’s perspective on dogs in space and something called the Radar Range.

If you’d like to take your own trip 55 years back in time, the session was recorded — here’s the link.

(3) FAUX DINO. The Nerdist admires Neil deGrasse Tyson despite his earnestness about certain topics. “GODZILLA Gets Debunked by Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

But, let’s face it, sometimes the good Dr. Tyson is kind of a killjoy. Especially when it comes to debunking the scientific possibility of your favorite science-fiction franchises. He loves to be that guy, the one to tell you how Superman couldn’t really exist, or how this or that sci-fi movie got it wrong, etc. He loves to be Captain Buzzkill sometimes.

The latest example of Neil deGrasse Tyson telling us how one of our favorite science fiction icons simply could never be real happened on his Star Talk radio podcast. According to Tyson, beloved kaiju Godzilla simply could not exist in the real world, because the laws of physics could not allow for it to happen. A giant creature the size of Godzilla would be way too heavy for his limbs, and would therefore collapse under his own weight. Tyson kills your dreams of Godzilla ever emerging from the oceans in this clip from his Star Talk Radio podcast, which you can watch down below….

(4) MIND IN A VACUUM. Or maybe we would find a little of Tyson’s earnestness useful here — “Is the Universe Conscious?”

For centuries, modern science has been shrinking the gap between humans and the rest of the universe, from Isaac Newton showing that one set of laws applies equally to falling apples and orbiting moons to Carl Sagan intoning that “we are made of star stuff” — that the atoms of our bodies were literally forged in the nuclear furnaces of other stars.

Even in that context, Gregory Matloff’s ideas are shocking. The veteran physicist at New York City College of Technology recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit. A “proto-consciousness field” could extend through all of space, he argues. Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware.

The notion of a conscious universe sounds more like the stuff of late night TV than academic journals. Called by its formal academic name, though, “panpsychism” turns out to have prominent supporters in a variety of fields

(5) WTF? That was my first thought upon reading in Variety that YouTube personality Lilly Singh has been cast in HBO’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.

Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel of the same name, the show depicts a future where media is an opiate, history is outlawed, and “firemen” burn books — Montag, a young fireman, forsakes his world, battles his mentor, and struggles to regain his humanity.

Singh will play Raven, a tabloid vlogger who works with the fire department to spread the ministry’s propaganda by broadcasting their book-burning raids to fans. She joins an A-list cast that includes Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, and “The Mummy” star Sofia Boutella.

I’ve watched a lot of her comedy videos — my daughter is a fan — and she’s talented and funny. This sounds like she’s being given a dramatic role, so we’ll have to see how well that works. I don’t automatically assume Ray Bradbury would be unhappy with the choice — after all, he seemed to like Rachel Bloom’s YouTube act well enough.

Ray watching “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” for the first time. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(6) MORE RAY TO SHARE. BBC’s Radio 3 program The Essay ends a five-part series with “Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”.

Five writers recall clothes and accessories that resonate vividly in works of art: The series started with a white dress and ends with a pristine white suit …

Author and journalist John Walsh describes the transformative powers of a ‘two-piece’, worn in turn by a motley bunch of blokes in Los Angeles and celebrated in Ray Bradbury’s story ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’.

(7) TOUPONCE OBIT. Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce (1948-2017) died of a heart attack on June 15, His colleague at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Jonathan Eller, has posted a thorough and heartfelt appreciation.

Our good colleague, steadfast friend, and long-time Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce passed away from a sudden heart attack on 15 June 2017. Bill joined the faculty of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 1985, and attained the academic rank of Professor of English and adjunct Professor of American Studies during his twenty-seven years with the school. In 2007 Bill co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and became the Center’s first director. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury and a scholarly annual, The New Ray Bradbury Review. He retired from the faculty in 2012, but continued to pursue his scholarly interests as Professor Emeritus right up until his passing.

…During the first decade of the new century Bill wrote introductions and volume essays for seven special limited press editions of Bradbury’s works; these included an edition of the pre-production text of Ray Bradbury’s screenplay for the 1956 Warner Brothers production of Moby Dick (2008). In 2007, we co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies within the Institute for American Thought, and Bill agreed to take on the direction of this new and exciting enterprise. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury multi-volume series, and a scholarly journal, The New Ray Bradbury Review.

(8) FURST OBIT. Stephen Furst, best known to fans as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 has passed away. The LA Times obituary sums up his career.

Furst’s breakout role was as Dorfman in the 1978 film “Animal House,” which also marked the film debut of “Saturday Night Live” star John Belushi.

…He was later a regular on “Babylon 5” and “St. Elsewhere.”

In addition to his acting career, Furst directed several low-budget films, and was a producer on the 2009 drama “My Sister’s Keeper,” starring Cameron Diaz.

(9) TODAY’S FANNISH ANNIVERSARY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing
  • Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg

(11) CARRIE FISHER REPORT. An Associated Press story by Anthony McCartney, “Coroner Releases Results of Carrie Fisher Death Inquiry”, says the coroner determined that Fisher died from a variety of causes, one of which was sleep apnea, “but investigators haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact cause.”

Carrie Fisher died from sleep apnea and a combination of other factors, but investigators were not able to pinpoint an exact cause, coroner’s officials said Friday.

Among the factors that contributed to Fisher’s death was buildup of fatty tissue in the walls of her arteries, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said in a news release late Friday. The release states that the “Star Wars” actress showed signs of having taken multiple drugs, but investigators could not determine whether they contributed to her death in December.

Her manner of death would be listed as undetermined, the agency said.

(12) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Kara Dennison returns with “CONVENTIONS: Where Does Your Money Go?”

The Alley

Artists and vendors, this is for you. This is a whole other concept of paying for cons.

I’ve worked both as a seller in Artist Alley and an AA head, so I’ve seen a lot of sides of this. Tables at events can go for anywhere from $40 to (apparently now) $300, all for a six-foot table with a hotel tablecloth and two chairs. And seriously what the heck.

Here’s what the heck.

For starters, renting those tables actually costs the cons money. Yeah. To take them out of storage and use them for three days, the con has to pay the hotel. That’s a part of the contract. Each hotel chain will have their own version of pricing for that, but that fits into your fee.

Beyond that, the price is reflective of the fee to rent the space the Alley is in, as well as the sort of business the con believes you can expect to do. Not a guarantee, but an estimate. If you shell out $100 for a table, that’s in essence the con saying “A good vendor doing their part can expect to take home at least $100 this weekend.”

To be fair, some cons out there really overestimate themselves. The best way to make sure a price is fair is to talk to regular vendors at the event (in your medium, if possible) and see if it evens out. I’m describing to you how a scrupulous Artist Alley works — if something seems off, do your homework.

That said, there are some cons that know they are too small to bring the goods and will actually cut their prices or waive the table rental fee. If a table is extremely low-priced at an event, it’s not because all tables should be that cheap — it’s because the staff is aware of their attendance size and trying to be fair to artists. Artist Alley fees should be judged against their con, not against each other.

(13) THE X-PERSON FRANCHISE. The word from Vanity Fair ” Sophie Turner Is Now Officially the Future of the X-Men Franchise”.

Fox today confirmed a number of suspicions that had been swirling around the next installment of the central X-Men franchise. For the foreseeable future, just like Cyclops, the mutants will be seeing red as Jessica Chastain joins Sophie Turner at the center of X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Doubling down on the investment the studio made in Turner as head of the new class of mutants in X-Men: Apocalypse, the sequel is now, Deadline reports, officially subtitled Dark Phoenix–a reference to a famous comic storyline involving her powerful character, Jean Grey, breaking bad. It’s the same storyline X-Men explored with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey in the weakest installment of the franchise: The Last Stand. To lean in on a storyline from the least-loved X-Men film and draft Turner, whose debut in the franchise certainly didn’t make Apocalypse any better, is a risky choice. But Fox is full of gambles that pay off these days (see: Deadpool, Logan) and will shore up this foray into bold, new (yet familiar) territory with a trio of returning stars.

(14) SECURITY. China launches a quantum comsat.

The term “spy satellite” has taken on a new meaning with the successful test of a novel Chinese spacecraft.

The mission can provide unbreakable secret communications channels, in principle, using the laws of quantum science.

Called Micius, the satellite is the first of its kind and was launched from the Gobi desert last August.

It is all part of a push towards a new kind of internet that would be far more secure than the one we use now.

The experimental Micius, with its delicate optical equipment, continues to circle the Earth, transmitting to two mountain-top Earth bases separated by 1,200km.

(15) GLOWBOT. Swimming robot to investigate Fukushima: “‘Little sunfish’ robot to swim in to Fukushima reactor”.

It’ll be a tough journey – previous robots sent in to the ruined nuclear reactor didn’t make it back.

(16) A PIXAR FRANCHISE KEEPS ROLLING. NPR likes Cars 3: “‘Cars 3’ Comes Roaring Back With A Swapped-Out (Story) Engine”

The multi-billion-dollar success of Pixar’s Cars series can be chalked up to a great many things, but don’t discount the little vroom-vroom frowns the cars make with their dashboard eyes when they want to go fast. When Lightning McQueen, the Owen Wilson-voiced stock car with the bright flames decal, guns for pole position, he squints so much that any human who might be driving him wouldn’t be able to see the road. But of course there are no humans in this world, unless you count the invisible giant kids who must be steering the racers with their hands and making the motor sounds themselves.

That enduring childhood (typically but by no means exclusively boyhood) fascination with moving vehicles has propped up this franchise for the backseat set, seeing it through three feature-length films, a spin-off Planes series, and countless toy tie-ins.

(17) IAMBIC TWO-AND-A-HALF-METER. The Science Fiction Poetry Association is having a half-price sale on their t-shirts.

(18) FEWER NAUGHTY BITS. Row over cleaned-up movies: “Sony sanitising films row – the story so far”.

If you’ve been on a long-haul flight recently, you might have noticed the films being shown were a bit different from their cinematic release.

They’re usually a bit shorter as they’ve been made family-friendly for any young eyes who can see your screen.

Earlier this month Sony decided to make these sanitised versions available to download at home, choosing 24 titles including Ghostbusters and Easy A.

But now they’ve had to backtrack after filmmakers complained about the move.

(19) SUBCONTINENTAL SUBCREATOR. “India’s Tolkien”: “Amish Tripathi: ‘India’s Tolkien’ of Hindu mythology”. I wonder, has he been introduced to “America’s Tolkien”?

Meet best-selling Indian author Amish Tripathi who has just released his much anticipated fifth book, Sita: Warrior of Mithila, that re-imagines the life of the Hindu goddess from the epic Ramayan.

With four million copies in print, the former banker, who has successfully turned centuries-old mythological tales into bestselling works of fiction, is one of the highest selling Indian authors writing in English.

Chip Hitchcock says “India has snobs just like the west: ‘Although critics say his books lack any literary merit, they admire him for his ability to “create completely new stories from old ones”.’“

(20) PIONEERING. Oregon breaks new legal ground in personal identification — “Male, female or X? Oregon adds third option to driver’s licenses”.

Oregon on Thursday became the first U.S. state to allow residents to identify as neither male nor female on state driver’s licenses, a decision that transgender advocates called a victory for civil rights.

Under a policy unanimously adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission, residents can choose to have an “X,” for non-specified, displayed on their driver’s license or identification cards rather than an “M” for male or “F” for female.

The policy change was cheered by supporters as a major step in expanding legal recognition and civil rights for people who do not identify as male or female. This includes individuals with both male and female anatomies, people without a gender identity and those who identify as a different gender than listed on their birth certificate.

(21) BRONZE AGE. Is this the style of armor Patroclus wore? “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era”.

The earliest sample of a full body armor in Greece was found at the Dendra archeological site, located in the Argolis area. Discovered in May 1960 by Swedish archaeologists, the discovered breastplate, and backplate made of bronze, date to the 15th century BC. These pieces are part of the Dendra full-body armor, composed of fifteen pieces, including leg protectors, arm-guards, helmet and the parts mentioned above. The pieces were held together with leather lacing, covering the entire body of the soldier.

The breastplate and backplate are linked on the left side by a hinge, and together with the large shoulder protectors, these pieces consisted the upper body armor. Two triangular-shaped plates are attached to the shoulder protectors, providing protection for the armpits. The armor also includes a neck protection plate. Three pairs of curved shields hang from the waist, giving protection to the groin and the thighs. This artifact is unique for its armguard, and as for the leg protectors, it is assumed that they were made of linen and are a standard piece of armor seen in illustrations from the Mycenaean age.

(22) EMISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Speaking of Homeric — what about Our Wombat!

[Thanks to Joe H., Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and rcade for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/1/17 SCROLLS NIX HIX PIXELS

(1) IT BURNS. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll has them reading Connie Willis’ “Fire Watch”.

As we’ve seen, past popularity means nothing to the young people of today, who insist on judging stories on their merits and not the warm feeling their grandparents may have had reading a now-venerable story. What did the Young People think of this classic story?

Mikayla definitely does not have a warm feeling.

I found the narrator’s reaction to communism ridiculous. As far as I can tell, the narrator is more upset by the idea of communism than by the Nazis actively bombing the city. The idea that someone so removed from these events would have such a personal hatred of communism, despite coming from the far future, makes this story feel very American and very dated.

(2) THE (BRAIN) IMITATION GAME. IEEE Spectrum has a special issue this month on the topic of current attempts to model the human brain: “Special Report: Can We Copy the Brain?” About half the articles are free to nonsubscribers.

Gregory N. Hullender says the key takeaways are:

  • Artificial Neural Network software does have useful applications, but it has little in common with real brain tissue.
  • Special hardware meant to model the brain has been developed but does not yet have any useful applications.
  • Current brain simulations only simulate a fraction of a brain, and they run thousands of times slower than real brains do.
  • Modelling 1 mm^3 of a rat’s brain is considered an ambitious undertaking.
  • There is considerable debate as to whether we understand how the brain works at all.

I liked this quote from “Neuromorphic Chips Are Destined for Deep Learning — or Obscurity”

“It has often been noted that progress in aviation was made only after inventors stopped trying to copy the flapping wings of birds and instead discovered — and then harnessed — basic forces, such as thrust and lift. The knock against neuromorphic computing is that it’s stuck at the level of mimicking flapping wings, an accusation the neuromorphics side obviously rejects. Depending on who is right, the field will either take flight and soar over the chasm, or drop into obscurity.”

The article “Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness” makes some exciting claims about “Integrated Information Theory” (IIT). It’s less exciting when you realize that the authors are the inventors of the IIT concept and not everyone agrees with them.

(3) THE LONG HAUL. “Bias, She Wrote: The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller list” — a statistical study of women writers based on analysis over time of the prestigious list. (Lots of graphs.)

Almost every category started out as heavily male-dominated, and many have stayed that way. These categories align with stereotypes about male interests: fantasy and science fiction, spy and political fiction, suspense fiction, and adventure fiction, have all been consistently male-dominated since their introduction to the list. A best-selling female fantasy/sci-fi author today is just as rare as a best-selling female literary author in the 1950s.

Then, there are the genres that have flipped. The horror/paranormal genre is now almost at gender parity, owing no small thanks to paranormal romance novels. Mystery is the most balanced genre over time, which shouldn’t be surprising given the genre’s history. The 1920s and 30s are known as the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction,” and were dominated by a quartet of female authors known as the Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham.

Best-selling romance novels were mostly written by men in the 1950s, but in the 1960s women took over. By the 1980s, female authors solidly dominated the genre, probably because female writers had a natural advantage writing for mostly female readers about mostly female experiences of love and sex.

(4) SENSELESS DECISION. Io9 says Netflix has whacked fan favorite Sense8:

After a mere two seasons of streaming on Netflix, the Wachowskis’ Sense8 has been cancelled, according to Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland.

(5) CARRIE FISHER ESTATE. The Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Personal Property Auction will be held by Profiles in History on September 23. The catalog is not yet available online. Hardcover copies of this celebrity artifact can be pre-ordered.

Highlights from the upcoming auction include:

  • Carrie Fisher’s life size “Princess Leia” with blaster statue in a vintage wooden phone booth. This is the figure that was featured by Fisher in her in her HBO special Wishful Drinking and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Pictured left.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Kathy Seldon” lavender silk chiffon dress from the “You Were Meant For Me” musical sequence in Singin’ in the Rain. Pictured right.
  • Carrie Fisher’s on-set chair with personalized chair back that is embroidered “Star Wars: The Saga Continues” used on Return of the Jedi. Pictured at bottom.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Annie” two piece stage costume from Annie Get Your Gun.
  • Carrie Fisher’s life size C-3PO with electronic lighting elements. Pictured below.
  • Carrie Fisher’s life sized bronze, limited edition Yoda statue by Lawrence A. Noble.
  • Carrie Fisher’s vintage original 1978 Kenner Star Wars Princess Leia action figure, still in it’s original packaging.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ personal, rare, vintage original half sheet movie poster for Singin’ in the Rain signed by Debbie and inscribed to her by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor

(6) IT’S COMPELLING. The seventh issue of Compelling Science Fiction is now live. Editor Joe Stech lists the highlights —

I’m proud to present another five compelling stories by some amazing authors! The issue begins with the lengthily-titled “What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” by R R Angell, a story about a bodybuilder who is offered a large sum of money to swap his body with a wealthy man (via head transplant). I was pleasantly surprised at the positive vibe the story manages to convey despite the trials of the protagonist (8400 words). The second story in our line-up, Michèle Laframboise’s “Thinking Inside the Box,” is an outlandish story about an alien race that requires constant environmental change in order to maintain psychological health (6400 words). Our third story, “Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson, focuses on a conversation with an android about what it means to be human. It’s a well-known theme in science fiction, but I thought this story was executed particularly well (6950 words). Next we have “Integration” by John Eckelkamp, a very short story about a nascent AI getting its first taste of elementary school (1800 words). Our final story is an underwater tale, “Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns. The story is about a living bio-engineered city (6020 words).

(7) WHAT AN EDITOR DOES. Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas answers Katrina J.E. Milton’s questions in The Midweek:

Milton: Have you always loved science fiction?

Thomas: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t grow up reading much science fiction. I read mostly classics and some romance until I branched out more during college. My husband avidly read sci-fi and fantasy for years, though. Now I curate a science fiction and fantasy collection as one of 42 special collections at NIU. I need to know what’s happening in the field, so it’s crucial to know what is getting attention, and when to purchase books and add to the collection. … One of my favorite books has always been “A Wrinkle in Time.” I didn’t really think of it as science fiction at the time, but I re-read the book more or less annually. Meg Murry has always been a character I’ve really connected with. Being intelligent and kind were marked as more important than makeup and being pretty in that book, which was a powerful message to an awkward 11-year-old version of me.

(8) HUGO READING. Peter J. Enyeart has ranked his “2017 Hugo picks: Novellas”. Here’s what he has to say about his two top choices.

2. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle The story of a young black Lovecraftian con man in 1920s New York. This is actually a retelling of “The Horror at Red Hook” and, in the spirit of “Shoggoths in Bloom,” is kind of a reinterpretation or even reclaiming of Lovecraft for those groups of humans (which seemed to include anyone not a male WASP) that Lovecraft despised. I found it absorbing and fun. It is interesting how many writers just can’t stop themselves from writing Cthulhu Mythos stories, despite the myriad reasons to dislike Lovecraft. (I was obsessed with him in high school, myself.) I suppose it’s because there’s a lot of breadth and depth there, and also the opportunity for a critical dialogue. Writing Lovecraft fan fiction seems respectable, even, and I certainly seem to enjoy reading it. Speaking of which…

1. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson When one of her students leaves with a man from the waking world, a professor in Ulthar sets out after her. Well, this has a lot going for it that immediately makes me favorably inclined: (1) I’ve always adored this corner of the Mythos and thought it criminally underappreciated; (2) I’m a sucker for quest stories involving travel to varied and strange locales; and (3) I adore Kij Johnson. You never know what you’re going to get when you start in to one of her stories, but you do know you’re in sure hands. And this is no exception. If the LaValle piece is a reclamation of the Mythos for non-whites, this reclaims it for women. I enjoyed every word (and it’s littered with so many lovely ones, like gems in a magic cave). It also has a great ending, which is frequently the difference between a good story and a great one. The best of “escapist” literature gives you something to take back with you to the “real” world, a fresh view as if you’re questing through it yourself [3]. This is the best of escapist literature. Give it awards!

(9) TOUTED FOR NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club observes that Gregory Benford has never been shortlisted for the award’s Best Novel category (despite his Timescape having been so well-regarded it won the 1981 Nebula). They think “The Berlin Project (2017) Gregory Benford” might earn him a place on next year’s ballot.

There are reasons to believe his latest novel may be his best shot yet at finally adding that Best Novel Hugo to his list of accolades.

This book is Benford’s first novel as sole author in more than a decade, and it’s a departure for him. But in many ways, the Berlin Project feels like the novel that Benford was born to write.

His knowledge of the people he’s writing about shines through, and they feel like fully rounded human beings, in a way that some of the protagonists in his previous novels have not. These are people that Benford knows, and he writes about them with evident affection. While the science is front and centre (not unusual in a Benford novel), the characters do not take a backseat. The first 350 pages are a taught, meticulously researched alternate history that delves into the nitty-gritty technical details of the race to build an atomic bomb. It’s a believable departure from the real history. One small decision made differently that makes sense, and everything flows from that departure point….

(10) WONDERFEFE. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviewed Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who talks about sexism in the film industry and how women should make sure their voices are heard: “Wonder Woman has been a warrior, a secretary and a sexpot. What version did the movie use?”

For Jenkins, fortunately, there was no wavering. She was determined to bring to the big screen the fierce-but-compassionate type of Wonder Woman she first saw on the ‘70s small screen.

“All these years, there’s been talk about Wonder Woman, and the thing I was very firm and steadfast about was: I only wanted to be involved in this if I can have a chance to bring back the Wonder Woman that I love,” Jenkins tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’m not interested in an alt-Wonder Woman; I’m not interested a new Wonder Woman. I’m interested in the Wonder Woman that I grew up with.

What Jenkins saw in TV’s bicentennial Wonder Woman was something close to the initial ideal of creator William Moulton Marston.

“It’s been interesting that she was created as such an idealized woman who is incredibly powerful who yet has everything about being a woman at her side,” Jenkins continues. “And it’s been funny: Lynda [Carter] was so that in the ‘70s with her Wonder Woman.”

(11) MORE MENTING, LESS DRINKING. Brenda W. Clough shares brief “SFWA Nebula Conference 2017” report at Book View Cafe.

I signed up to be a mentor, and was assigned not one but two mentees (the evolution of language here is especially notable; not only did I have mentees but we discussed our menting, as in “How did your menting go, did you ever catch up with your mentee?”). I got together with first one and then the other, and essentially tried to cram in tons of professional advice and answer all their questions. I also brought some pussyhats, because Grandmaster Jane Yolen demanded one, and we were photographed, hopefully for Locus.

(12) LOOSED A FATEFUL LIGHTNING. Abigail Nussbaum has eight books to cover in “Recent Reading Roundup 43”, among them a Civil War ghost story and this Hugo nominee —

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – It’s interesting that in the space of a single year, Tor published two debut novels about non-dystopian, non-corporatist future societies in which the boundaries of national and ethnic identity have been replaced by global affinity groups, to which people assign themselves according to their interests and philosophy. For all my reservations about its technothriller plot, I have to say that I prefer Malka Older’s Infomocracy to Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, largely because I find the world in that book more interesting, and more believable as a place where people like me might possibly live.

(13) THE HOUSE GROUSE. It’s bigger than your average bear — “Microsoft founder Paul Allen reveals world’s biggest-ever plane” .

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has shown off the “Stratolaunch”, a colossal aircraft he hopes can soon help to hoist satellites into low earth orbit.

Allen’s company of the same name has been working on the craft since 2011, with the help of Scaled Composites.

The result of their efforts is 238 feet long, 50 feet tall and has a wingspan of 385 feet [Allen likes Imperial measurements — Ed]. The wingspan is the largest ever built, topping even Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” aka the “Hughes H-4 Hercules.”

The Stratolaunch needs that colossal wing, and six engines typically used for the Boeing 747, because Allen wants it to carry up to 550,000 pounds of payload. His plan calls for the plane to “take off from a runway and fly to the approximate cruising altitude of a commercial airliner before releasing a satellite-bearing launch vehicle.”

(14) ADS THAT SUBTRACT. Marketing puts their foot in it: “Chloe Moretz ‘appalled and angry’ over body-shaming Snow White animated film advert”

Chloe Moretz said she hadn’t seen the marketing and has apologised to fans.

Plus-size model Tess Holliday tweeted a photo of the billboard poster and tagged the actress in her post, saying it was basically body-shaming.

(15) LASSO THE STARS. BBC gives Wonder Woman 4 stars out of 5.

In Wonder Woman’s reimagining of the princess myth, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, leaps through the air deflecting bullets with her bracelets. She enters a formal reception with a sword tucked into the back of her evening dress. But she differs from conventional princesses and superheroes in an even more pointed way — one that speaks to today’s fraught global politics. While Batman is motivated by vengeance for his parents’deaths and Superman is dedicated to saving those in peril, Wonder Woman wants nothing less than world peace. All this in a crisply executed action movie with an engaging narrative, and, in Diana (Gal Gadot), as swift and strong a heroine as anyone could have wished for.

(16) THE BALLAD OF TOLKIEN. J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, later adapted into a piece of The Silmarillion, now published in its original form: “JRR Tolkien book Beren and Lúthien published after 100 years”

Beren and Lúthien has been described as a “very personal story” that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme.

It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion.

The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.

(17) INSIDE BASEBALL. A post for SciFiNow.UK, “Raven Strategem author Yoon Ha Lee on how his spaceships became bags of holding”, jokes about the reason before revealing a disability has something to do with it.

Bags of Holding…in SPAAACE!

When I first realized I had to deal with starship layouts in the hexarchate, I had two choices. I could either sit down (probably with my long-suffering husband) and make a loving diagram of a ship and its layout, and refer to it assiduously every time I had someone go from point A to point B. Or I could say, “Screw it,” and not deal with the problem.

Dear reader, as you have no doubt figured out already, I went with the second option.

(18) EVEN DEEPER INSIDE BASEBALL. Hmmm…

(19) THE CURE. Cream by David Firth is a short animated film on YouTube about what happens when a miraculous product that solves all medical problems is introduced and the violent reaction against it.

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, James Davis Nicoll, Gregory N. Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Dann, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/17 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) SF IN CHINA. At Amazing Stories, Shaoyan Hu highlights the developing science fiction scene in China

Science fiction is a growing phenomenon in China: the various organizations are living evidence of that. It’s not just Star Wars or The Three-Body Problem now, but a substantial foundation quickly coming into shape. Although speculative fiction is still a small portion of the market, the large population in China suggests a considerable potential return for whoever ventures into this new area. As it happens, quite a few principal investors already have eyes on the genre, but this is perhaps a topic for another time. For now, suffice it to say that the unceasing efforts of all the people within the SF community have given the genre a positive outlook in China and a flourishing future is yet to come.

(2) FILLING THE MISS PIGGY BANK. The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund conservation of its Muppet collection reports the Seattle Times.

A museum is asking fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets to help pay for an exhibition featuring original puppets of beloved characters like Elmo, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

The Museum of the Moving Image launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday seeking $40,000 to help preserve the puppets for posterity.

“Jim Henson’s work has meant so much to so many people, myself included,” actor Neil Patrick Harris says in a video on the Kickstarter page. “His humor and inventiveness have inspired people to find their own creative voices.”

The Queens museum owns hundreds of Henson puppets and other objects including costumes and props, all donated by Henson’s family in 2013. Henson died in 1990.

Museum staff members are working to conserve the items along with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which was founded by Henson in 1979 and carries on his work, and fine-arts conservators.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $66,416, far in excess of its goal, with 26 days remaining.

(3) JEDI CRITIC. USA Today’s Jesse Yomtov took a look at The Last Jedi teaser trailer and decided it was time to speak up: “Why the Jedi were actually the worst and really should ‘end’”.

At the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII), Luke Skywalker brings up an important issue.

“I only know one truth,” he says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That sounds ominous and bad, but Luke is 100% correct. It’s not even up for debate that a group like the Jedi would be the bad guys in any other movie.

The Jedi were nearly brought to extinction at the end of Episode III, and while yeah it was the result of Palpatine’s super-evil scheme, it only got to that point because of their own incompetence and self-destructiveness.

Here are some of the most off-putting things about the Jedi Order:

(contains information/spoilers from The Clone Wars animated show, which ended three years ago so that’s kind of on you)…

(4) FINAL WORD ON CARRIE FISHER’S FUTURE IN STAR WARS. VIII yes, IX nay. That’s the word from Kathleen Kennedy.

Carrie Fisher will not appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said on Friday.

The announcement came during an interview with ABC News and was something of a bombshell, as Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, previously said his sister would be in the planned ninth installment of the blockbuster franchise. Kennedy said he was “confused.”

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine,” said Kennedy. “But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”

(5) FAMILY PORTRAIT. On the first day of the Star Wars Celebration happening in Florida, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford posed with Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ken Liu was finally able to reveal he is at work on a Star Wars book.

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, and it’s going to be awesome….

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

(7) ZUCCHINIS VS. BEETS. On March 31, Margaret Atwood discussed 10 of her favorite speculative fiction novels at the website Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review. But as you might expect, she has a few things to say about defining the term first:

There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” – hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have – and “speculative fiction,” located on this earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee. Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away – some call these “science fiction fantasy” — and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain – otherwise nobody turns the pages – and also instruct – because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind – let us call them “zucchinis” – will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind – let us call them “beets.”

The list below is a list of “beets.”  There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias – they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias – they point to improvements.”

From the middle of her list –

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A personal favourite. Written in the Future-English of a post-apocalyptic British teenager. The apocalypse has been atomic, as they once were. Young Riddley is on a quest, as his riddle-based first name and his ambulatory last one would suggest. A puppet show featuring Mister Clevver is his day job, insofar as he has one. Beware of Mister Clevver!

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY. The investigation begins at SFWA.

(9) TAKE-OUT. Episode 34 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast takes place in the middle of Brian Keene’s live-streamed fundraising telethon. At first, Keene couldn’t find time in his schedule —

But when it came time for Brian to record the 100th episode of The Horror Show as a live 24-hour-long telethon to raise funds for the Scares That Care charity, he had a brainstorm—that I invade his event with a meal of some sort, and record my own show as part of his livestream.

So that’s what I did—show up at a conference room of a Hunt Valley hotel with a ton of takeout from Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which has repeatedly been voted best BBQ by Baltimore Magazine—bringing enough to feed Brian, his co-hosts, and some of the live studio audience you’ll hear in this episode, too.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award. He’s also written comics, including the adventures of the Doom Patrol.

We discussed why the ending to The Rising isn’t as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, if he’s a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he’s been a Mulder all along, and more…

(10) GETTING AROUND HELSINKI. Going to Worldcon 75? Then this info is for you:

The Helsinki Regional Transit Authority (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne) has announced that as of June 19, 2017, tickets will no longer be sold on Helsinki commuter trains, and therefore must be purchased in advance from one of the available outlets: ticket machines (map of ticket machine locations), the HSL mobile phone application, or HSL Travel Cards.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 14, 1912 – The Titanic strikes the iceberg.

(12) A NIGHTMARE TO REMEMBER. As a child, Steve Vertlieb was haunted by the image of the Titanic:

One hundred five years ago tonight, at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own 71 years. As a little boy, during the early-to-mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights. I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams. May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.

(13) HOPE FOR THE WORLD. It’s Good Friday, but this is not about that. Rather, James Artimus Owen draws our attention to another epochal breakthrough:

I’m…feeling some very, very strong emotions that I don’t know how to process. I think I knew, somehow, but didn’t realize until just now – Burger King really does have Froot Loops shakes. They exist. And thus give me hope for the whole world. #apexofcivilization

We confirmed this with Fox News. (How often do you get to say that with a straight face?) Froot Loops shakes debut at participating Burger King stores nationwide on April 17, but will only be around for a limited time.

So what, exactly, is in a cereal milkshake?

According to a spokeswoman for Burger King, the drink features “velvety Vanilla-flavored Soft Serve, Froot Loops Cereal pieces and sweet sauce.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SLAYER

  • Born April 14, 1977 – Sarah Michelle Gellar

(15) PUPPIES FOR PRESIDENT. Lou Antonelli ran a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote for the sf writer they’d most like to see as President of the U.S.

In Antonelli’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking for any great departure from the current tenant of the White House – and he certainly didn’t end up with one.

TRUMPETS!

DRUM ROLL!

THROAT CLEARING…

President… Larry Correia!

The clear winner with 18 votes.

It was very close for second place. John Ringo had nine votes and Tom Kratman had eight.

A strong fourth place showing goes to an author who would not be considered right-of-center by any definition, David Brin – which shows there is come diversity of political opinion among my Friends.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle received five votes, and Ursula LeGuin – also certainly not a right-winger – received four.

(16) TAD WILLIAMS. Patrick St-Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviewed Tad Williams about his return to the universe of Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown.

Stephen R. Donaldson once said that he waited for so long to write The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because he wasn’t ready and needed to grow as an author before he felt comfortable tackling such a project. Would you say that, at least to a certain extent, this was one of the reasons why it took so long for you to finally decide to write the long-awaited sequel to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn?

Yes, but not necessarily in the same way as Donaldson’s talking about. I said for years that I wouldn’t write a sequel to anything or even re-visit a world unless I had a story first, a story that cried out to be written. And for years Osten Ard was in that category, although I had thought a bit about the Chronicle project. Then, when I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility — which I had undergone myself since I wrote it — they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for The Last King of Osten Ard (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

(17) YOUR SHADOW CLARKE JURY AT WORK. Racing to finish ahead of the shortlist announcement, scant weeks away —

This is the first novel I’ve read from my shortlist that feels like it belongs on the actual Clarke shortlist. Written by a genre outsider, but built definitively upon a classic sci-fi concept, and clearly aware of decades of science fiction fandom and inside jokes, it ticks a few those well-established Clarke-preferred boxes. It’s also quite enjoyable for those same reasons.

It follows the Toula/Tolliver family over four generations of delusions of grandeur beginning with Ottokar Toula: family patriarch, pickle cultivator, and mad scientist of the pre-Atomic Age. His “discovery” of the Lost Time Accidents is overshadowed by the work of “the patent clerk” in Switzerland, dooming the Toula name to forgotten history. That is, until his son, Waldemar, seizes upon Ottokar’s ideas and uses Nazi-era concentration camps to carry out his secret, malevolent time experiments…

We awaken in a contemporary alternate Finland, a country whose path diverged from its realworld twin’s shortly after World War One. We discover that Finland is now a eusistocracy – all for the best in the best of all possible worlds – separated technologically and politically from the ‘hedonistic democracies’ of the rest of Europe and forging its own path to racial purity, social stability and material content. In this new Finland, a systematic program of eugenics has been implemented in order to reinstitute traditional gender roles and relieve the increasing psychological and social tension that has been the inevitable result of female emancipation:

Nowadays, when people talk about science fiction being socially relevant, they often gesture towards Dave Hutchinson’s on-going Fractured Europe series and how the early books seemed to pre-empt not only the break-up of the European Union but also the brutal militarisation of European borders. Though dystopias will always have a role to play in helping us to prepare for unwanted futures, there is also something to be said for books that make a positive case for what it is that we are about to lose. Hutchinson’s books may be about the ugly, regressive, and nationalistic future we are going to get but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is about the beautiful, strange, and unapologetically multicultural future we need.

Science fiction is not and never has been about predicting the future. But it is about using satire, extrapolation, exaggeration, distortion and any other tools at its disposal to reflect and comment upon the present. Right now, Europe is in a parlous state. The enterprise of friendship and cooperation that began in the wake of the Second World War is under unprecedented threat from the emergence of just such nationalist movements that it was deliberately conceived to counter. There are currently populist movements whose avowed aims are directly counter to the European ideal active and prominent in the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. This is the world we live in. It is not the world we encounter in contemporary science fiction.

The Fractured Europe sequence may not be a perfect way of bringing this modern world into science fiction, but since it is the only way that anyone is currently attempting, it is de facto the best.

The last one is a roundup rather than a review:

…On which note, it seems only fair that I come clean regarding how I, personally, feel about my personal shortlist now that I’ve read it. Did the books I chose turn out to be as worthwhile, not to mention as Clarke-worthy, as I hoped they would be? The short answer, I suppose, would have to be partly, and no. Above a certain level, very few books are ever entirely a waste of reading time, and that certainly holds true here….

(18) BE YOUR OWN RORSCHACH. Who was that masked man? — “How what you wear can help you avoid surveillance”.

Imagine you’re living in a dystopian future. Surveillance cameras scan the streets to recognise and record the faces of passersby – but you’re wearing a HyperFace scarf. Amid a kinetic assortment of grid-like structures printed on the fabric, black squares suggest tiny eyes, noses and mouths. The cameras’ facial recognition algorithms are confused. Your identity is secure; your privacy, protected.

(19) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On April 19, Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Laura Anne Gilman & Seth Dickinson.

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the best-selling Devil’s West novels (Silver on the Road and The Cold Eye) which NPR described as “a true American myth being found,” the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, and the story collection Darkly Human. Her writing past encompasses a ten-book urban fantasy series, a quartet of cozy mysteries, three paranormal romances, and a middle-grade Arthurian adventure. A once and future New Yorker, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s short stories have been published in in ClarkesworldStrange HorizonsLightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. He also contributed writing to video games, including Destiny: The Taken King. His first novel the epic fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published in 2015 and he’s working on a sequel.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(20) CONCERN TROLL ON DUTY. Superversive SF’s “sciphi” (which I believe is editor Jason Rennie) is worried about the impact Monica Valentinelli’s decision to quit as Odyssey Con GoH will have on other women authors. Sure he is. — “Why doesn’t Monica Valentinelli want women as Guests of Honour?”

What I am wondering though is, has Monica considered the wider implications of this sort of diva behaviour? If you were organising a Con would you invite her as Guest of Honour? I wouldn’t given this is her idea of professional behaviour. More than that, this will likely cause any rational Con organiser, even if only unconsciously, to be less willing to invite any women as Guest of Honour. Who wants the headache of someone flaking at the last second because they have decided their feelings of “unsafeness” trump any consideration of professional behaviour or the enormous problems it will cause other people? Monica in her betrayal of the trust shown in her has made it harder for women everywhere. What if a guest you have invited and planned for decides to “Pull a Valentinelli” at the last second? I suppose it isn’t fair to generalise this to all female authors, as much as it would be more reasonable to generalise this to any sort of grievance peddling group instead.

The people I feel most sorry for are the Jagi Lamplighters, Sarah Hoyt’s and other female authors of the world who are actual professionals and would never engage in this sort of childish tantrum, but whose prospects are damaged by one ridiculous drama queen and idiots who are enabling her behaviour.

(21) SUPERVERSIVE SF’S RESPECT FOR WOMEN. Immediately preceding that post on the site is a reprint of one of their “more popular Superversive articles,” “The Bosom-Jiggle Factor”, which is indeed about what you were assuming. With illustrations. And the name of the author? Answer: L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

“The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:”…

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction….

(22) A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR. Because you don’t watch enough commercials already, click this link to watch Baby Groot and the GEICO gecko trying to sell you insurance.

(23) CIRQUE DU PIZZA. Hampus Eckerman is right – you shouldn’t miss this.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]