SFWA Fantasy Storybundle Offered Til 11/2

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have put together a fantasy-themed storybundle, curated by Cat Rambo.

This second bundle of the year draws from SFWA’s fantasy authors, showing a full spectrum of possibilities including magic iPhones, steampunk heroes, mysterious apartments, self-resurrecting secret agents, ancient magic, and epic battles.

You can get four fantasy novels for only $5. You can pay at least $15 to get eight more books. The authors get a cut either way, and SFWA gets a percentage to fund their mission, too.

The initial titles in the The SFWA Fantasy Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Dashkova Memoirs: Books 1-4 by Thomas K. Carpenter
  • Sorcerous Moons – Book 1 – Lonen’s War by Jeffe Kennedy
  • Cracked: A Magic iPhone Story by Janine A. Southard
  • The High House by James Stoddard

If you pay more than the bonus price of $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus EIGHT more.

  • The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta
  • The Garden of Abracadabra by Lisa Mason
  • The Moon Etherium by L. Rowyn
  • Black Angel by Kyell Gold
  • Shadows in the Water by Kory M. Shrum
  • Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka
  • The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith
  • Off Leash by Daniel Potter

The bundle is only available until November 2.

Pixel Scroll 9/4/17 Little Miss Muffet Sat On A Pixel. Along  Came A Scroll.

(1) YOUR 1962 HUGO WINNERS. The Traveler at Galactic Journey spent Labor Day Weekend in Chicago engaged in fandom’s favorite pastime of complaining about the Hugo winners, like that gosh-darned Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land: “[Sep. 4, 1962] Differences of opinion (the 1962 Hugo Awards!)”

This line-up shouldn’t shock me, given the pre-convention buzz, and yet it does.  Stranger has gotten a lot of attention, particularly from the mainstream edges of our fandom (probably because it dares to mention sex).  It has also earned its fair share of scorn.  It’s a lousy, preachy book, but if we’re judging by the sales, then it’s won its trophy, fair and square.

He hates Brian Aldiss’ winning works too! (Quick, the fainting cloths!)

I did give a Star to the first story in the Hothouse series, but the quality of the tales went down over the course of the publication.  I understand they were novelized early this year, so Aldiss may get another bite at the apple.  He doesn’t deserve it, though (the reviewer for UK sf digest, New Worlds, agrees with me).

(2) HANDMAID REX. Mari Mancusi saw something strange:

The handmaids were at the DragonCon parade. I’m a little concerned by the look of one of them…

(3) MORE SURPRISES. Here’s Atlanta Loop’s photos of the rest of the parade. Wait a minute – Jane Yolen was there?!?

Literary Guest of Honor and author of “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” Jane Yolen, waves to the crowd as she rides in the annual Dragon Con Parade. Photo: Jonathan Phillips

(4) SORRY, SON. Did you remember Indiana Jones has a son? Me neither. And no need to start remembering — Entertainment Weekly says “Indiana Jones 5 won’t feature Shia LaBeouf’s character”.

Will an Indiana Jones protege soon snatch the iconic wide-brimmed fedora from atop Harrison Ford’s head? Perhaps, but it won’t be Mutt Williams — a.k.a. Indy’s son, Henry Jones III — the character Shia LaBeouf played in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

“Harrison plays Indiana Jones, that I can certainly say,” screenwriter David Koepp, who has penned a script for the fifth film in the storied Indiana Jones franchise, tells EW. “And the Shia LaBeouf character is not in the film.”

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Chow down on Tortellini Carbonara with James Patrick Kelly” in Episode 46 of Eating the Fantastic.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer who recently published a career short story retrospective as part of the Centipede Press Masters of Science Fiction series. And had I not been turned down by the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1974, I might have shared a dorm room with him! (But don’t worry. I was accepted in 1979.)

We discussed the reason he needed to attend the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop twice—and why the rules were then changed so no one could do it again, the suggestion Kate Wilhelm made that saved one of his short stories, why his reaction to comics as a kid was “Marvel, yes, DC, feh,” how the science fiction field survived the Cyberpunk/Humanist wars of the ‘80s, why he takes an expansive view of fanfic, how Cory Doctorow inspired him to enter the world of podcasting early, what allows him and frequent collaborator John Kessel to work together so well, his advice for how writing 10 endings to a story in progress will help writers find the right ending, and more.

(6) GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano returns with the second podcast in his GeekWire special series on science fiction, pop culture and the arts.

This time, I interview SFWA President Cat Rambo about the new game writer’s Nebula Award, consider the importance of awards in a crowd-sourced recommendation landscape, revisit the Puppies controversy in light of last month’s Hugo results (you’ll recall I wrote about the Puppies for GeekWire two years ago), and get some advice for wanna be writers.

The story (focused on the game writing Nebula) with a link to the full podcast is here: “Game writers to be honored with Nebula Award in first for professional science fiction and fantasy org”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo says the organization began admitting game writers as members last year, and announced a Best Game Writing award category for 2018 to cover works published this year.

“I would think that one of the things a Nebula imprimatur would mean for a game is that it is a game that really has some story to it,” Rambo said. “That it’s a game that can achieve that sort of immersive wonderful experience that only text can bring.”

Rambo, a Seattle writer who is in her second term as SFWA president, sat down with GeekWire for this episode of our new podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Rambo has written more than 200 short stories and been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Her stories are most recently collected in Neither Here Nor There (Hydra House) and Altered America: Steampunk Stories (Plunkett Press)….

Catalano says, “I have to admit, I’m enjoying mining my science fiction writing background. (And I do provide a full disclosure disclaimer early in the podcast interview that I am a former officer of SFWA, and still-active member.)”

(7) NO BUCK ROGERS, NO BUCKS. The iconic sf character is only making money for lawyers right now: “‘Buck Rogers’ Ownership at Center of Coming Trial”. Two rival estates want those bucks for their own.

The lawsuit is between descendants of author Philip Francis Nowlan, who created the fictional space explorer in the 1920s, and descendants of John Flint Dille, whose newspaper company once syndicated a Buck Rogers comic strip. On Friday, a Pennsylvania federal judge wrote the latest chapter in a long-running contest over rights with a decision that sets up a forthcoming trial over ownership….

“Although the question of whether the commercial success of Buck Rogers owes more to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan is surely of great interest to the parties, and to Buck Rogers fans, it is simply irrelevant to the trademark questions that the trier of fact must answer here,” writes the judge.

The first big trademark question is who had priority on “Buck Rogers.” Who came first to claim “Buck Rogers” as their own? Not Nowlan or Dille, but rather their respective trusts. The Dilles no longer have a valid federal registration, so they must establish prior use of the mark in a way sufficiently public to be identifiable in the minds of the public.

Beetlestone writes that “there is a genuine issue as to whether Plaintiff can establish priority of use in the BUCK ROGERS mark. It must be noted that it is not necessary for Plaintiff to trace its claim to the BUCK ROGERS mark back to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan. Instead, Plaintiff need only point to evidence from which a trier of fact could conclude that it developed trademark rights in the mark prior to January 15, 2009.”

That’s the date the Nowlans filed an intent-to-use trademark application.

The judge notes that the Dilles held registrations on “Buck Rogers” in the 1980s and had licensed those rights for games, comics and books.

(8) CANDID GIZZARD. The BBC reports “Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body”.

Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body.

The device has been designed to help doctors track medical tools, known as endoscopes, during internal examinations.

Until now, medics have had to rely on expensive scans, such as X-rays, to trace their progress.

The new camera works by detecting light sources inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope’s long flexible tube.

(9) BREW HAULER. A true fan: “German waiter smashes beer carrying record – again”. Video at the link.

Oliver Struempfel spent months of training to carry as many full one-litre mugs as possible for a distance of 40m.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 4, 1966 – Gene Roddenberry showed Star Trek’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Tricon, the Worldcon in Cleveland, OH.
  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered in the U.S.

(11) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian will remember why he recommended this one in a moment: Speedbump.

(12) SECOND VICTIM IDENTIFIED. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published the name of the second woman injured by chairs thrown from the Atlanta Marriott early Sunday morning during Dragon Con:

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador, who was dressed as Jessica Rabbit from the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was rushed to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Hospital, friend Jennifer Matteson told The AJC.

Both women have been released from their hospitals.

Mattheson said she and Amador drove from Louisiana for their first Dragon Con.

All in all, Matteson said their experience was still positive from the “phenomenal” hotel hospitality to the community.

“The love and support from the Dragon Con family is heart warming to say the least,” Matteson said. “We can’t wait to return for an even better experience, and reconnect with our new Atlanta family!”

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador

(13) DRAGON AWARDS. At Women Write About Comics, Doris V. Sutherland says “2017 Dragon Awards Are No Longer Puppy Awards”. My mileage may vary.

Despite its recent vintage, the Dragon Awards already have a rocky history. Last year, the awards largely reflected the tastes of a very specific voting bloc: namely, supporters of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns that formed to counter perceived left-wing bias at Worldcon’s Hugo Awards.

This led to such ludicrous situations as Brian Niemeier, a Puppy-aligned author, campaigning for his little-known space opera Souldancer to be voted into the Best Horror category for tactical reasons — and winning. L. Jagi Lamplighter, who edited Souldancer and became a finalist this year for her YA novel Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamlandacknowledged the Puppies’ influence on the Dragon Awards results in 2016: “Puppy fans were eager to vote in a new award and may have been more vigilant than general fans who didn’t necessarily know about the Dragon Awards ahead of time.” Other authors from the Puppysphere, meanwhile, insisted that the Dragons were evidence of their mass popularity with the wider fandom.

However, it seems the farce of the 2016 Dragon Awards can now be consigned to the dustbin of fandom history. The 2017 Dragons have received a much higher turnout of voters and, all in all, they have done a considerably better job of living up to their stated aim of offering “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience.”

This year, the one victory from the Puppy circles was earned by Larry Correia and John Ringo’s Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge, which won Best Fantasy Novel. Correia was the founder of the Sad Puppies campaign and is almost certainly the most popular author to be aligned with the movement, so his success here should not come as too much of a surprise.

(14) NIEMEIER ON DRAGON AWARDS. It’s kind of like watching a dog take a victory lap with one leg lifted.

(15) LOOK OUT. Kevin Standlee got splashed – uh, with vitriol, that is: “They Doth Protest Too Much Methinks”.

I (probably unwisely) tried to ask some of the people crowing over how the recent Dragon Awards are the Best Awards Evar and that The Hugo Awards are dead, dead, dead because of course the only Real Awards are the Dragons, etc., asking why they thought an award that allowed someone with a bit of internet savvy the ability to vote potentially hundreds of times was a good thing, and the amount of vitriol sent my way was, well, not surprising, really. I’m sort of wondering if these people simply assume that everything is corrupt and everyone is on the take. They assumed, after all, that the Hugo Award results were rigged by a Secret Cabal. They don’t care of their pet system is rigged or flawed, as long as they Get What They Want. It’s sort of like the people who were quoted as saying they didn’t care if the last American Presidential election was corrupted, because Their Guy Won, and that’s all that matters.

(16) BACK FROM HELSINKI. Susanna Shore adds to the legion of Worldcon 75 reports in “My #worldcon75 experience”:

The first panel was called Bad Romance. I’d chosen it because I write romance and I don’t want to write it badly, but also because Max Gladstone was on it. He doesn’t strike me as a romance writer, but I like his Craft Sequence fantasy series and wanted to hear him. He turned out to be worth the queuing.

The panel had a hiccupy start as the chair didn’t show up, but a member of the audience volunteered to moderate. She turned out to be Julia Rios, who had won a Hugo Award the previous night for Uncanny Magazine and had partied till four in the morning, but she still managed to be a great moderator. Not only did she keep the conversation flowing, she also managed to live tweet the panel. As a whole, the panel was good and funny, though I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t known before.

(17) MARVEL’S INHUMANS. Sneak peek.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark-kitteh, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/27/17 During Total Eclipse, Electric Sheep Don MirrorShades Before Looking Up

(1) WINTER IS COMING TO HOGWARTS. Buzzfeed wants to help: “Let’s Find Out Which ‘Game Of Thrones’-‘Harry Potter’ Hybrid House You Should Be In “. Click away!

(2)  DONATIONS SOUGHT. David Gerrold has started a GoFundMe to solve ” A Bubble In The Cash Flow”. He has raised $5,751 of his 7,500 goal at this writing.

Well, I wasn’t planning to do this, I really hate having to do this, but … circumstances have changed.

The mortgage, phone bill, and electric bill are all due and I have some serious car repairs looming, PLUS we’re still trying to repair two rooms in the house, as well as paying off some of last year’s delayed expenses. It’s a perfect storm of financial challenges.

What makes this necessary, two royalty checks are delayed, payment for a BIG story isn’t due until October, and negotiations on something else are dragging on longer than expected (and nothing is final until the check clears the bank anyway.) So I need to raise some serious cash right now. (Online sales have helped, just not enough.)

MOST IMPORTANT, books five and six in THE WAR AGAINST THE CHTORR are done, but they still need some editing, and I need to buy some serious writing time to work on them.

(3) LISTEN UP. Cat Rambo’s Flash Fiction Reading is available to the public:

A reading of “Mystery in Metal,” first published in Signs of Life: Contemporary Jewelry Art and Literature at the Facere Jewelry Art Gallery, 2013.

 

(4) CALLING ALL WAYWARD WRITERS. Planning on taking a writing workshop with Cat Rambo at a convention or via her online school? Here’s what to expect.

(5) PACEY NOT PREACHY. At Bastian’s Book Reviews, Robert Holbach recommends The Salarian Desert Game by J. A. McLachlan”.

The Salarian Desert Game is just as wonderful to read as the first novel. Pacey, tongue  in cheek, fun, and filled with adventure and peril. It is more hard-hitting than the first book, and it tackles some more challenging moral dilemmas. Don’t get me wrong: this is not a preachy novel. It’s a fun adventure novel which is designed to make readers think (from time to time). Kia is a great protagonist because she has a sense of humour, a sarcastic / rebellious streak, and because she isn’t a goody-two-shoes hero. She does the right thing more often than not, but not without grumbling. When there is no right and wrong, she is just as beset by difficulties with making decisions as the reader would be. Easy to identify with and plucky – a great character to spend literary time with.

(6) RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Recent Reading Roundup #44”, regrets giving an author a second chance.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – I’m having trouble explaining to myself why I picked up The Buried Giant.  After all, the only other Ishiguro novel I’ve read, Never Let Me Go, left me feeling disappointed, frustrated, and genuinely puzzled at the love and admiration that so many other readers (including genre readers) had for it.  The only justification I have for giving Ishiguro another look is that it had been ten years since Never Let Me Go put me off, and in that time the ongoing praise for it made me doubt my own recollections.  Was it possible that I was being too harsh?  Did I miss the point of the novel’s tragedy, seeing nastiness in what was intended as a soulful meditation on the human condition?  Add to that the conversation that developed around The Buried Giant‘s genre, and the fact that its premise and setting sounded intriguing, and it seemed like a good opportunity to give Ishiguro a second try.  Turns out, I was right the first time.  Ishiguro is a nasty piece of work; The Buried Giant, like its predecessor, is a mean-spirited, taunting bit of misery-porn that seems to hold its readers in actual disdain, and pretends to profundity without having anything to say.  And what makes it all worse is that I have no one to blame but myself.

(7) LONG PLAYING. The records on the Voyager spacecraft — and how they almost got punted: “How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made”, from The New Yorker.

We inhabit a small planet orbiting a medium-sized star about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the Milky Way galaxy—around where Track 2 on an LP record might begin. In cosmic terms, we are tiny: were the galaxy the size of a typical LP, the sun and all its planets would fit inside an atom’s width. Yet there is something in us so expansive that, four decades ago, we made a time capsule full of music and photographs from Earth and flung it out into the universe. Indeed, we made two of them.

The time capsules, really a pair of phonograph records, were launched aboard the twin Voyager space probes in August and September of 1977. The craft spent thirteen years reconnoitering the sun’s outer planets, beaming back valuable data and images of incomparable beauty. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, sailing through the doldrums where the stream of charged particles from our sun stalls against those of interstellar space. Today, the probes are so distant that their radio signals, travelling at the speed of light, take more than fifteen hours to reach Earth. They arrive with a strength of under a millionth of a billionth of a watt, so weak that the three dish antennas of the Deep Space Network’s interplanetary tracking system (in California, Spain, and Australia) had to be enlarged to stay in touch with them.

(8) THE IRON BOARD. In a kind of thought experiment, experts on British history and royalty weigh in on “Game of Thrones: Who is the true heir?” First to be considered, Cersei Lannister.

Richard Fitzwilliams says: In Britain, an heir is determined by descent and parliamentary statute. Succession is also determined by the sequence of royal family members.

Cersei declared herself queen without any legitimacy. Her claim rests on two things: being Robert Baratheon’s widow and the mother of two dead kings.

She resembles the villainous Margaret of Anjou, queen by marriage to the feeble King Henry VI. Margaret was also ruthless and highly influential.

Sarah Peverley says: Inheritance in the Seven Kingdoms is based on real medieval laws, often prone to contradictory interpretations.

Generally speaking, the law of primogeniture seems to govern the Iron Throne, which females can claim in the event of no male heir. Or they can act until a young king comes of age, as Cersei attempted to do. But her current claim rests solely on the power she wields.

Gordon McKelvie says: There have been plenty of unpopular queens with too much influence and power. Cersei seems to share their qualities.

I can’t think of any historical example where a king (with no children) dies and passes the crown to his mother. No one in medieval England made such a dramatic grab for power like Cersei did.

(9) HOOPER OBIT. Horror film director Tobe Hooper (1943-2017) died August 27 at the age of 74. He was most famous for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

His tale of a family of cannibals with oversized kitchen utensils, laced with dark humour, became cult viewing.

Hooper also directed Poltergeist, and the Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(11) WHEN GRRM COULDN’T GET HIRED AS A TV WRITER. Guess which show didn’t want to hire a science fiction writer, even one with previous TV experience?

Speaking at a workshop at UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in May, the prolific writer got onto the subject of how there has long been a stigma against science fiction. To illustrate this, he told the following story about being rejected by Star Trek: The Next Generation:

I had an interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation for a possible job as a staff writer. I remember coming in to the office of this producer – who thankfully did not last long on the show and you can see why when I tell the story. He said “I don’t know who you are can you tell me your credentials.” And I said “I am just coming off Twilight Zone where I worked for a while, but before that I wrote novels and short stories. I am primarily a science fiction writer.” And he said “Oh really, well Star Trek is not a science-fiction show, it is a people show.” I was fooled by the photon torpedoes and starships. I was misled. Needless to say I did not get that job.

(12) WORLDCON 75 VIDEOS. The con now has 45 videos on YouTube although a little birdie chirped that no video of the Hugo Ceremony is among them.

(13) HEAVY SCHEDULE. Nalo Hopkinson’s conreport on Patreon can be viewed by the public: “Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) & the Edinburgh Book Festival”.

Worldcon 75 in Helsinki was amazing, just bloody amazing. It was one of the best attended Worldcons ever. The general aura of the con was jubilant. Helsinki is very easy on the eyes, but I didn’t take many pics. When you’re a Guest of Honour at a Worldcon, you don’t get much breathing room. It wasn’t only the many panels and events I was on, but I gave a couple of interviews practically every day of the con….

(14) FREE DAY. Captain Pigheart — Nick Tyler, who works for Angry Robot Books – begins his report: “A Whistle-Stop Tour of Worldcon75, Helsinki Day One”.

We selected BICYCLE as our vehicle of choice, swayed by the 10 Euro a week rental. The con venue was relatively easy to find, though Google Maps yelling incomprehensible Finnish placenames in my ear was quite stressful. It was closed. Since it was the day before the con, that made sense. We had found the most important place. Second most important: beer.   

(15) PANEL FAN. Canadian professor and aspiring SFF author David Lamb covered a lot of programs in his convention write-up.

14:00 Writing about Plants, Landscapes, and Nature with Anthony Eichenlaub, J.S. Meresmaa, Eric Scott Fischl. The initial part talked about settings in general. One speaker didn’t like the “setting is a character” meme; it’s something else because it has no character arc. Descriptions can be practical, but can be also set the tone. What are the daily and seasonal challenges in a setting? What senses other than visual are evoked?

Setting can help establish a character’s personality; one speaker mentioned using descriptions of lawns, and another mentioned how someone curses at brambles. Non-nature settings deal with similar issues: Lyndon Johnson would establish dominance by sitting in a higher chair with visitors sitting on a low couch.

If a region is unfamiliar, you need to do a lot of research. There’s an incredibly detailed survey of different soil types around the United States. One author was tripped up in that the bioluminescent species in one place was fireflies and in another was glowworms. Describing the diversity of a forest is very hard, as is some type of landscape you haven’t experienced. Another resource: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants; it has no pictures but you can google the plant names. The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart describes plants used to make alcohol.

(16) FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA. Stephanie Saulter sketches out a few memories in “What I Did On My Summer Holiday (or, How to travel to Helsinki and end up on the radio in Bristol)”.

No post-mortem as such, but I was asked if there was a particularly memorable con moment. There were actually two, starting with the panel I wasn’t scheduled to be on and the reading I hadn’t known I was going to do. The panel was Caribbean SF, and featured Worldcon Guest of Honour, fellow Jamaican Nalo Hopkinson; Barbadian writer, Worldcon Toastmistress and my good mate Karen Lord; and Brandon O’Brien from Trinidad & Tobago. As they made their way to the front of the room I was summoned from my front-row seat to join them on the platform….

(17) UNCANNY COMPLETES KICKSTARTER. The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter fully funded, and met its stretch goals for a print edition, and for a Disabled People Destroy Fantasy issue.

The final update included DPDSF Personal Essays Editor Nicolette Barischoff’s personal essay.

What do you want to see more of in representations of disability?  

What do YOU want to see more of in representations of disability?

I actually had to think awhile about how to answer it. Of course there are the self-evident answers: I want characters who are well-rounded, who are real, who are interesting. Characters who live honestly within their limitations without ever being consumed by them. But let’s assume the writer who asks this question is already planning on doing these things as part of writing a halfway decent story. What, specifically, do I as a disabled reader want to read more of?

The answer I came up with was that I wanted characters whose disabled bodies felt lived-in. I wanted to see characters whose disabilities were nothing new to them, who had inhabited their bodies for their entire lives (or at least a good long time) and who knew how to navigate their possibly deeply inconvenient worlds without thinking very much about it.

The trouble for me is that disabled characters as written by able-bodied writers tend to spend a lot of time thinking about disability, and feeling things about it. Bran Stark, one of the more prominent disabled protagonists right now, spends an awful lot of his inner life lamenting his broken body, even five books later. Around book four, I would have loved to experience a little less lamenting and a little more of Bran adapting to the new limitations of his body. What’s Bran’s day-to-day like? Apart from a convenient supernaturally gentle giant, what clever medieval assistive technologies have the household clergy dreamed up to help their lord get around Winterfell? (The handsome man at my elbow would like to point out that George R.R. Martin did rather thoughtfully line the walls of Bran’s bedroom with weight-bearing bars.) What does he think about in the moments when he’s pissing, or bathing or eating or scratching an itch? There’s gotta be whole hours where even Bran Stark doesn’t think about his broken back at all.

(18) MICRO SOLAR. BBC reports “‘Cyborg’ bacteria deliver green fuel source from sunlight”.

Scientists have created bacteria covered in tiny semiconductors that generate a potential fuel source from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water.

The so-called “cyborg” bugs produce acetic acid, a chemical that can then be turned into fuel and plastic.

In lab experiments, the bacteria proved much more efficient at harvesting sunlight than plants.

The work was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington.

Researchers have been attempting to artificially replicate photosynthesis for many years.

(19) BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE. Brian Merchant interviews William Gibson about his new novel for Motherboard.

On that note, in Archangel, present-day post-apocalyptic America has been brought about at least in part by a US president-cum-wannabe-dictator, who consolidated power in the wake of a nuclear tragedy. Any present-day through-lines you’d like to comment on there?

If you look at American science fiction from the Cold War, that’s not a novel scenario. It’s more like a meme. Using it in Archangel felt like resurrecting an American retro-future, which is what it is. But I never expected to be living, right now, in that American retro-future!

(20) ODIOUS,. Meanwhile, back in 2015… Adam-Troy Castro’s verse “Ode To That Signed Book by Him Who Chose To Block Me” is just as relevant to Facebook users today.

O that novel on my shelf
by him who chose to block me,
Who signed it o’er to my self,
in belief that it would rock me,
who called me friend and colleague then,…
in the hopes I’d write some praise,
with fine excerptable blurb,
that might his royalties raise.
But alas! Alack! That book
of Heinleinian flavor,
with ray gun blasts, I ne’er took
an afternoon to savor.
My author pal got online
with Hugo-baiting rancor
o’er books both poor and sublime,
with allies like a canker….

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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 8/1/17 The Magic Fileaway Tree

(1) BESIDES CONFEDERATE. Deadline tells about another post-Civil War alternate history in development: “‘Black America’: Amazon Alt-History Drama From Will Packer & Aaron McGruder Envisions Post-Reparations America”.

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

(2) SPARE CHANGE. Everybody’s getting on the bandwagon: Smithsonian curators present historic coins representative of the noble houses of Westeros: “It’s not heads or tails in the ‘Game of Thrones'”.

House Targaryen: Fire and Blood

Daenerys Targaryen has spent the Game of Thrones saga making a name for herself—several, actually: the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and more. She harnesses the power of fire and blood, renowned for her skills as dragonlord and evidenced in the sigil of her house, which depicts a red three-headed dragon on a black field. The silver-haired Targaryens are not alone in their veneration of dragons as ancestral symbols of power and prestige. This gold liang coin depicts a mighty and ferocious dragon flying through clouds toward the viewer, flames protruding from its mouth. The coin was minted under the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing dynasty, where the dragon would have been understood as a symbol for wisdom, power, nobility, and ambition. Such symbolism is literally used by Targaryens and their dragons to claim rule of the Seven Kingdoms.

(3) BOW WOW. The Washington Post’s Karen Bruillard, in “Dire wolves were real. Now someone is trying to resurrect them”, reports on Medford, Oregon dog breeder Lois Schwarz, whose Dire Wolf Project has been going on for thirty years but has gotten national attention with Game of Thrones.  Schwarz has been working on wolf-dog hybrids for decades (the term she likes is “American Alsatians”).

“‘Game of Thones’ has given demand a bump, but not in the way Schwarz likes,” Says Bruillard.  “The fiction-motivated customers are looking for dogs that resemble the characters Ghost or Nymeria,” while Schwartz wants to breed dogs that are smart and friendly.

Bruillard also interviewed palentologist Caitlin Brown, who did her dissertation on Canis dirus.  One quibble Brown has with Game of Thrones:  “The wolves of HBO usually lunge at their enemies’ heads, whereas wolves typically drag down their prey from their haunches.”

(4) NEW MCCCAFFREY. A little birdie told me WordFire released “The Jupiter Game (The Game of Stars Book 1)” by Todd McCaffrey (Kindle edition) on July 30. Not about dragons – but aliens.

Jupiter!

The Russians and the Europeans got there first in their fusion ship Harmonie. At least, that’s what they thought.

Aliens!

“They’ve matched orbit with us!”

What do they want? What will they do?

Ooops…

“Ooops?” Jenkins echoed. “Aliens go ‘Ooops’?”

The Jupiter Game: A close encounter with aliens who watch Howdy Doody.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION Andrew Porter reports that it looks like the digitization of Rusty Hevelin’s fanzines has slowed dramatically.

The person in charge has left, leaving someone else in charge. Post on the blog 2 months ago, showing a flyer from the 1981 Worldcon about the Hugo Losers Party, shows how little the people in charge know about SF. “The year of the con?” Really?

“Hi Folks, I want to let you know that Laura Hampton, the librarian doing the actual digitization of Hevelin fanzines and who has masterfully displayed some of the Hevelin treasures here over the last two years, has moved on to a great job in Florida. We all wish her the very best and I am so grateful for all she’s accomplished. We’ll miss her.

“So, it’s just us chickens. And to begin my return to doing Hevelin Tumblr, I introduce this piece of fan art, done on a piece of hotel stationery from the Denver Hilton. Can anybody identify the artist? The year of the con? I’m going to post more mysteries like this so stay tuned.”

It says something that the person does not recognize references to the 1981 Worldcon – where Rusty Hevelin was the Fan Guest of Honor!

(6) BLACKOUT. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham has discovered “The path of the solar eclipse is already altering real-world behavior”.

The upcoming solar eclipse is poised to become the “most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,” in the words of one astronomer. Millions of people will watch it, potentially overwhelming the cities and towns along the eclipse’s path of totality.

According to Google, interest in the eclipse has exploded nationwide in the past few months, mirroring national media attention. The county-level search data above, provided by Google, paints a striking picture: Interest in the eclipse is concentrated in the path of totality that cuts through the middle of the country, receding sharply the farther you go from that path.

 

(7) SKLAR OBIT. Marty Sklar worked for Disney for 54 years and led the designing and creating most of the Disney rides during this period. He died July 27.

Los Angeles Times writers Daniel Miller and Richard Vernier marked his passing in “Marty Sklar, Pioneering Imagineer Who Channeled Walt Disney, Dies at 83”.

Long after his mentor’s death, Sklar recognized the treasure-trove of wisdom he had started compiling at Walt Disney’s elbow in the late 1950s. He distilled it all into “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” a widely circulated creed that remains a touchstone in the theme park industry.

The commandments were a cornerstone of Sklar’s own half-century career at Walt Disney Co., where he led the creative development of the Burbank company’s parks, attractions and resorts around the world, including its ventures in the cruise business, housing development and the redesign of Times Square in New York.

Sklar died Thursday in his Hollywood Hills home. No cause of death was given. He was 83.

His retirement in 2006 marked the end of an era: He was one of the last remaining executives to have worked alongside Walt Disney in shaping the company into a global powerhouse. Sklar, who last served as principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, the storied theme park design and development outfit, was so closely associated with the company’s namesake that he became known as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 1 opened.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says to check out today’s Moderately Confused.

(10) AUDIENCE BUILDING. Cat Rambo wrote a column about writers and self-promotion for Clarkesworld.

Whether opting for indie, traditional, or hybrid, publicity work on behalf of one’s output is less and less optional on the writer’s side of things for everyone except the top tier writers whose fan bases are so established that the publishers know their books are almost guaranteed to sell. Time and time again I have had writers come to me worried that they must create a social media presence because they’ve been told that they must by their agent or publisher. And it’s true that when acquiring books, some publishers look at a writer’s social media, believing that large followings will lead to greater sales.

You can see this pressure to publicize manifest in one form on Twitter, where writers work at projecting their brand as well as writing. It’s a weird balancing act, where they’re working at writing books people will want to read, but also working at attracting readers who might give them a try based on a quip or observation they’ve posted. Sometimes it feels sincere; other times less so. It is undeniable that a strong social media presence will affect sales, but its effect is generally overestimated, in my opinion. Creating consistently good work that brings readers back to look for more will always be the best strategy—although admittedly not one available immediately out of the authorial starting gate.

(11) A WORD FROM HER SPONSOR. Cat Rambo’s Patreon supporters got plenty of goodies from her in July. Here, let her draw you a picture –

(12) CLASS. And one of the items in her latest newsletter is her teaching schedule for August. See something you need? Sign up.

Plenty of Plunkett scholarships available. Please make use of them or pass the info to someone you know would benefit from the class but can’t afford it.

(13) YAKKITY-YAK. A corollary to the well-known joke about it being okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer — “Chatbots develop own language: Facebook shuts down AI system…”.

Initially the AI agents used English to converse with each other but they later created a new language…

(14) AN UNCANNY EDITOR. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry tells Tor.com readers “I Built My Own Godd*mn Castle”.

I am seventeen when I meet Miles Vorkosigan. I’m not ready to meet him then. He startles me, I see myself in him and I don’t want to, because the common narrative told me being disabled was a weakness, not a strength. When I re-read him several years later, I find myself reveling in his glee, his reckless abandon. His energy.

I wish I’d been ready for him sooner. He is what tells me I deserve romance, that I deserve my own narrative. He is also still a boy. I have no women in fiction to guide me.

I am in my mid-twenties the first time the word “disabled” escapes my lips as a word to define myself. I’ve had a white cane for six years, yet I still don’t see myself as disabled, because no one else does.

When I discover it applies to me, it feels freeing.

I have mere days left in my twenties when I start writing a book about a disabled woman, a woman who shares my blindness, though not my conditions. It is rewarding, working through a story that feels right, the weight of the story, the sensory details all mine.

I’ve made a promise to myself, one that I haven’t shared yet. A promise to tell stories about disabled people as often as I can, as many varied stories as I can, because for me, I didn’t get enough of them when they were needed.

I am thirty-one when I take a job as an editor, creating a special issue for a Hugo award-winning magazine where I will, with other disabled people, destroy ableism like the kind that took me years to undo, and will take me more years to untangle and burn away.

That magazine is Uncanny. That issue is Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. That job is Guest Editor-in-Chief of Non-Fiction. Those disabled people are my co-workers, my co-editors, and the writers I will work with.

(15) BEST COMMERCIALS. Adweek says “5 Years Later, the Guardian’s ‘Three Little Pigs’ Still Blows the House Down”. Click on the link to see the video.

It’s been a good year for ads from newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times to the Atlantic. But you have to go back five years for a truly transcendent piece of advertising from a journalistic publication—the Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs” spot by BBH London.

Adweek chose “Three Little Pigs” as the single best ad of 2012. And now, Hill Holliday creative director Kevin Daley has included it among his favorite work of all time in Adweek’s latest “Best Ads Ever” video (see above).

(16) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGERS. Hampus Eckerman says, “I demand that these people get to make the soundtrack of a fantasy movie. All of them.” — Khusugtun Takes Listeners To Mongolia | Asia’s Got Talent 2015 Ep 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Jonathan Edelstein, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/17 Pixels Scrolled Separately

(1) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. James Davis Nicoll decided, “Just because an organization never got around to the logical step of commissioning an anthology does not mean I won’t review it anyway.”

So in “All I Have To Do Is Dream” he assembles his own edition of Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winners.

Starmaker (excerpt) by Olaf Stapledon, 2001 winner

Accompanied by like-minded companions, a star-farer explores a diverse array of inhabited worlds. He observes some common themes.

Comments

Like the novel from which it is drawn, this excerpt is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with drawing a vast yet detailed picture of the universe.

(2) KNOW YOUR GRANDMASTERS. SFWA President Cat Rambo reports “We (SFWA, not royal we) have added a bunch of playlists devoted to the various SFWA Grandmasters to the SFWA Youtube channel here. They are courtesy of SFWA volunteers K.T. Bryski, who put them together, and Juliette Wade, who got them put up.”

These are curated playlists consisting in large part of videos discussing the authors’ works. Over three dozen have been created so far. Here’s one of the videos included in the Alfred Bester playlist:

(3) THE GETAWAY. James Somers of The Atlantic will have you feeling sorry for Google by the time you finish “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria”. “And I didn’t know that was possible,” as Ben Bradlee said about H.R. Haldeman. The biggest intellectual property grab in history, or a boon to humanity? You decide!

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

…On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster….

… In August 2010, Google put out a blog post announcing that there were 129,864,880 books in the world. The company said they were going to scan them all.

Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way. This particular moonshot fell about a hundred-million books short of the moon. What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”….

(4) MISTAKES WERE MADE. John Scalzi, in “Diversity, Appropriation, Canada (and Me)”, gives a convincing analysis of what Hal Niedzviecki set out to do, despite starting a Canadian kerfuffle:

As I’ve been reading this, I think I have a reasonably good idea of what was going on in the mind of Niedzviecki. I suspect it was something along the line of, “Hey, in this special edition of this magazine featuring voices my magazine’s reading audience of mostly white writers doesn’t see enough of, I want to encourage the writing of a diversity of characters even among my readership of mostly white writers, and I want to say it in a clever, punchy way that will really drive the message home.”

Which seems laudable enough! And indeed, in and of itself, encouraging white, middle-class writers out of their comfort zones in terms of writing characters different from them and their lived experience is a perfectly fine goal. I encourage it. Other people I know encourage it. There’s more to life than middle-class white people, and writing can and should reflect that.

But it wasn’t “in and of itself,” and here’s where Niedviecki screwed up, as far as I can see…

Then he talks about his own experiences —

Now, related but slightly set apart (which is why I’ve separated this part off with asterisks), let me address this issue of diversity of characters in writing, using myself as an example, and moving on from there….

(5) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. Two more entries in the Doctor Who replacement sweepstakes:

Radio Times is reporting that Luke Treadaway (Fortitude) and Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist) are now in consideration for the role. Treadaway has been a mainstay of British TV, so fits the Who modus operandi. Dhawan, meanwhile, would become the first actor of color to secure the role, an exciting prospect for many. He’s also quite eager for the gig. When asked about playing the character, he had this to say:

“Oh my God, I’d absolutely love to. I SO would love to.”

(6) STAPLEDON WARS. There’s no agreement in the science fiction community on the best science fiction novel, but Mike Resnick claims there’s no debate on the most influential science fiction novel.

A few days ago, someone on Facebook asked the question: what was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? There wasn’t much agreement (nor should there have been). I think the first hundred respondents named perhaps eighty-five titles.

When it came my turn, I answered that I didn’t know who did the best novel, but there was no question that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker was the most important, since ninety percent of all science fiction since it appeared stole knowingly—or far more often, unknowingly—from it.

So of course I got over one hundred e-mails in the next few days asking who Olaf Stapleton was, and why would I make such a claim about a book no one seems to have heard about.

It occurs to me that some of our readers may share that curiosity, so let me tell you about this remarkable thinker.

The wild part is that not only don’t most fans know his name, but most pros who have used his notions as a springboard for their own stories and novels haven’t even read him. His ideas have been so thoroughly poached and borrowed and extrapolated from and built upon that writers are now borrowing five and six times removed from the source.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 13, 1955 The aquatic monster is back – in Revenge of the Creature.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian discovered Dick Tracy has been busy stopping crime at a Comic Con.

(9) AS YOU KNOW BOB. A Robert A. Heinlein letter archive is being offered on eBay for $17,500:

Here is a vintage archive of letters from May 1941 to January 1942, during Heinlein’s early days as a pulp writer before beginning his World War II engineering work for the Navy.  It was during this period that he was Guest of Honor at the Denver Worldcon & hosted informal gatherings of science fiction authors at his home on Lookout Mountain Avenue in the Hollywood Hills under the name of The Manana Literary Society.  Basic listing is: five TLS, one ALS, one TLS from Leslyn, two ALS from Leslyn, many with some crossouts & corrections, plus a later catching-up TLS from 1956.  Shown are a few samples.  Further details available for serious enquiries.

(10) A CONCRETE HOBBIT HOLE. Here’s a material I don’t usually associate with Hobbits, used by a couple to build “A Gorgeous Real World Hobbit House In Scotland”.

Reddit user KahlumG shared photos of this amazing hobbit-style home located outside of Tomach village in Scotland – this incredible residence is the result of tireless effort by a husband and wife team who salvage, craft, sew, and carve to create their own magical mind-bending wonderland from the objects they can find in the wilderness around them. While the verdant exterior of the home is certainly breathtaking on its own, the rustic interior is filled to the rafters with even more one-of-a-kind delights to explore and enjoy. Would you ever adopt a magical retreat like this one to be your full-time residence?

The exterior of the main building is constructed almost entirely of concrete, allowing a variety of gorgeous vines and mosses to take root all over. Concrete’s ability to weather quickly will lend the home even more character and charisma as the years go by.

Wouldn’t Bilbo find this a little too much like a cell on Alcatraz?

(11) DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING? Cnet traces “How 138 years of sci-fi video phones led to the Echo Show”.

The latest Alexa device from Bezos and friends will finally give us video calling the way decades of movies predicted it would look. What took so long? Here’s a timeline.

… By the time actual moving pictures became easier to record and play back for an audience (real-time transmission was still a long way off, of course), early sci-fi films quickly got to work solidifying the video phone of the future as a recurring trope.

The 1927 classic “Metropolis” features a videophone, as does Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and 1935’s “Transatlantic Tunnel.”

(12) GORDO COOPER AND THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. James Oberg tells about the Discovery series “Cooper’s Treasure in “The magic MacGuffin of Mercury 9” at The Space Review.

As any film buff can tell you, a “MacGuffin” is a plot device that is the focus of the drama and action of the story. It’s often a physical object, such as a codebook, or treasure map, that the protagonists are seeking.

For the Discovery Channel and its latest series, “Cooper’s Treasure,” there is indeed a treasure map, already in possession of a veteran “treasure hunter.” What makes this map unique, according to the program promos, is that it came from outer space.

Supposedly, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper made the map based on observations he made during his MA-9 orbital flight in May 1963. Near the end of his life, he shared the map and the research he’s been doing with a friend, Darrell Miklos, who vowed to complete Cooper’s search for shipwrecks full of gold.

Specifically, reports Miklos, Cooper told him he found the potential treasure spots using a secret military sensor that had been installed on the spacecraft originally to hunt for Soviet nuclear missile bases hidden in the area of Cuba—where a major international crisis involving such missiles had occurred only a few months before the flight….

(13) STATE OF THE ART 1989. Leslie Turek, editor of classic fanzine Mad 3 Party, thanked Tim Szczesuil and Mark Olson for completing their project to put the entire run of the fanzine online at Fanac.org.

Writes Mark Olson:

You really want to take a look at these! The first ten issues were Boston in ’89 bid zines edited by Laurie and then by Pat Vandenberg, and they’re worth reading, but it’s the issues 11-38 edited by Leslie Turek which provide an amazing view into the nuts and bolts of building a Worldcon, especially starting with #14.

If you have never been involved at a senior level in a Worldcon and think you might want to be one day, read these! (And it’s good reading even if you don’t l/u/s/t/ f/o/r/ p/o/w/e/r/ hope to run one. Leslie’s work won a Hugo! And you can easily see why.)

(And I’ll add that reading through them reminded me of many things — mostly good — that I’d forgotten. And reminded me what an energetic, competent group who really works together can accomplish.)

(14) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU REVIEW. At Galactic Journey, John Boston relives the things that make fans scream — “[May 15, 1962] RUMBLING (the June 1962 Amazing)”.

Oh groan.  The lead story in the June 1962 Amazing is Thunder in Space by Lester del Rey.  He’s been at this for 25 years and well knows that in space, no one can hear—oh, never mind.  I know, it’s a metaphor—but’s it’s dumb in context and cliched regardless of context.  Quickly turning the page, I’m slightly mollified, seeing that the story is about Cold War politics.  My favorite!

(15) PUSHES ALL MY BUTTONS. “‘Unearthed’: Read the first chapter of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s upcoming novel” at Yahoo! News.

Love Indiana Jones but wish it were set in space? Well, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Unearthed has you covered.

Their latest Y.A. novel sees scholar Jules Addison team up with scavenger Amelia Radcliffe, when Earth intercepts a message from the Undying, a long-extinct alien race whose technology might be the key to undoing all the environmental damage the planet has sustained over the years….

Free excerpt at the link. But if you get hooked, you still have to wait til the book comes out next year.

(16) SUMMER OF FANLOVE. The over the air nostalgia channel MeTV is adding ALF, Outer Limits and the classic Battlestar Galactica to its summer schedule.

Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night and Red Eye Sci-Fi have added two science fiction classics to The Summer of Me. The last vestige of humanity fights for survival on Battlestar Galactica, Saturdays at 7PM | 6C. Stay up late for fantastic tales from The Outer Limits, Saturdays at 1AM | 12C.

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]