Pixel Scroll 8/9/17 Soft Pixel, Warm Pixel, Little Ball Of Scroll

(1) VERIFIED FILER IN HELSINKI. Daniel Dern sent a photo of himself at Worldcon 75 wearing his Filer button: “From the batch I had made at Sasquan. Also note ‘pocket program’.”

Daniel Dern

Can it be, a pocket program that fits in a pocket?!!

Good thing – they need all the room they can get.

(2) JAMMED. Cheryl Morgan on “Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?”

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

(3) MORE SPACE COMING. Nevertheless, Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme says:

We will have more function spaces on Thursday available, and even more on Friday and Saturday. These things take time, as some of these rooms need to be built in halls, since we already have all the available rooms in Kokoustamo at our disposal. I believe this will help out the congestions somewhat.

Also, we are closing all membership sales on our website. http://www.worldcon.fi/news/closure-membership-sales/

All in all, I believe still we had a very good opening day for Worldcon 75 and the next four will be even better! See you in Messukeskus!

(4) UNPRECEDENTED. Kevin Standlee says:

I believe that’s true. And simply because I happen to know this story I will add that before L.A.con III (1996), Bruce Pelz and I briefly discussed what our membership cutoff should be – a topic because the previous L.A. Worldcon (1984) set the all-time attendance record. We considered 16,000. But since our attending membership sales didn’t even crack 7,000, it never became an issue.

(5) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Doris V. Sutherland finds three points of interest in Pat Henry’s answer to Alison Littlewood, refusing to take her off the Dragon Awards ballot — “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”. The third is:

3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.

Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.

For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.

(6) WHAT REAL WRITERS DO AND DON’T DO-DOO. Chuck Wendig offers a “PSA To Writers: Don’t Be A Shit-Flinging Gibbon”.

Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:

Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.

Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.

Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.

You’re a writer.

Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.

If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.

If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.

(7) A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON. Here’s the place to “Watch five years of the Curiosity rover’s travels in a five-minute time-lapse”.

Five years of images from the front left hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were used to create this time-lapse movie. The inset map shows the rover’s location in Mars’ Gale Crater. Each image is labeled with the date it was taken, and its corresponding sol (Martian day), along with information about the rover’s location at the time.

 

(8) COLD EQUATION. Although sf is not really a predictive genre, that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the recognition when the things they’ve warned about in fiction happen in reality: the Antarctica Journal has the story — “Craig Russell, Canadian Novelist Predicts Arctic Event”.

In 2016, a Canadian novelist, Craig Russell — who is also a lawyer and a theater director in Manitoba — wrote an environmental cli-fi thriller titled “Fragment” about a major calving event along the ice shelf of Antarctica. The Yale Climate Connections website recently recommended the novel, published by Thistledown Press as a good summer read.

Ironically, scientists in Antarctica are in fact right now monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf with a huge crack in it and threatening to fall into the sea any day now. How is that for reality mirroring art?

How did Craig Russell respond when asked how he felt about his accurately future-predicting novel being in the news now?

“Some 40 years ago, as a student, I lived and worked at a Canadian Arctic weather station, 500 miles from the North Pole,” he added. “So I’ve remained interested in polar events, and was both fascinated and appalled by the Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses in 1995 and 2002.”

To see world events catch up so quickly with a fictional reality I spent years creating has been quite unnerving,” he added.

(9) STAR WARS INTERPRETATION. Syfy Wire will show you the lot: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser posters get the LEGO treatment “.

The long wait for the next Star Wars film can be painful to endure. We hang on any morsel we can get, any tie-in we can overreact to, and anything else that can get us geeking out. Then there is LEGO, who can help ease the painful wait by just getting us in a good mood. Take the new teaser posters for The Last Jedi, which were released in mid-July at the D23 Expo.

LEGO has now taken those same posters and LEGO-fied them, giving us six posters with LEGO mini-figure art that corresponds to those D23 posters. Again, repeating the crimson robe attire, echoing the red we saw on the first poster and also the ruby red mineral base of planet Crait. There’s no telling yet whether these posters are just part of Lego’s social media campaign or if these posters will be part of their gift with purchase program for VIP Lego Club members.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Book Lovers Day

From the scent of a rare first edition book found in an old time book collection, to a crisp, fresh book at the local supermarket, the very sight of a book can bring back memories. Reading as a child, enjoying the short stories, the long books and the ability to lose yourself in a story so powerful that at the end your asking yourself where to get the next book in the series. This is for the reader in all of us, the celebration of Book Lovers Day!

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

(12b) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY FILER

  • Born August 8, 2017 — Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound

(13) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock saw yesterday’s Bliss and thought: “Flame on!”.

(14) RELICS OF WAR. Something to watch out for when beachcombing in Helsinki: “German woman mistakes WW2 white phosphorus for amber”.

A German woman narrowly escaped injury after picking up an object she believed to be amber but which then spontaneously combusted.

She had plucked the small object from wet sand by the Elbe river near Hamburg and put it in a pocket of her jacket, which she laid on a bench.

Bystanders soon alerted the 41-year-old to the fact her jacket was ablaze.

The stone was actually white phosphorus, which had reacted with the air as it dried.

Police say the two are easily confused.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Yes, most amber comes from the south coast of the Baltic, and leftover munitions may be more common in Germany than in Finland.”

(15) RIGHTING THE RECORD. Max Gladstone decides it’s up to him to salvage the reputation of a famous academic: “Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist” – at Tor.com.

First, I want to acknowledge the common protests. Jonesian archaeology looks a lot different from the modern discipline. If Jones wanted to use surviving traces of physical culture to assemble a picture of, say, precolonial Peruvian society, he’s definitely going about it the wrong way. Jones is a professional fossil even for the mid-30s—a relic of an older generation of Carters and Schliemans. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. By Raiders, he already has tenure, probably gained based on his field work in India (Subterranean Thuggee Lava Temples: An Analysis and Critical Perspective, William & Mary Press, 1935), and the board which granted him tenure were conservatives of his father’s generation, people who actually knew Carter and Schliemann—not to mention Jones, Sr. (I’ll set aside for the moment a discussion of cronyism and nepotism, phenomena utterly foreign to contemporary tenure review boards…)

Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?

(16) PROGENY. I can’t even begin to imagine, but apparently somebody at DC Comics can — “Superman & Wonder Woman’s Future Son Revealed”. ScreenRant has the story.

If you’ve ever wondered what the children of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman would look like, the time for wondering is over. Thanks to DC Comics, every fan gets to see the parentage and superpowers of the sons and daughters of the Justice League. The good news is that they’re every bit the heroes that their parents were, making up the Justice League of the future… the bad news is that they’ve traveled back in time to seek their parents’ help. Because as heroic as their superhero parents taught them to be, the future may be too lost for them to ever save.

(17) GUFFAW OF THRONES. If you don’t mind MAJOR SPOILERS, then this Bored Panda post is for you — “10+ Of The Most Hilarious Reactions To This Week’s Game Of Thrones”. Funny stuff.

If you haven’t watched this week’s Game Of Thrones, come back to this after you do because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned. All the rest of you probably agree that The Spoils of War was one of the most emotional episodes of the show to date. Judging from all the reactions online, at least the internet certainly thinks so.

Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of the funniest reactions to Game Of Thrones Episode 4 of Season 7, and they brilliantly capture the essence of the plot….

(18) FASHION STATEMENT. Architectural Digest wryly calls this “Innovative Design” — “Game of Thrones Uses IKEA Rugs As Capes”.

As any of the HBO series’s devoted fans can tell you, Game of Thrones is not a cheap production. In fact, with the budget for its most recent season coming in at more than $10 million per episode, it’s among the most expensive television shows in history. (If you have dragons in a scene, they need to destroy things . . . and that’s not cheap). But it’s not only the dragons and set designs that are costly; it’s also the costumes. There are upward of 100 people who work to ensure that each character is wearing an outfit that’s as realistic as possible. What might surprise some fans, however, is that IKEA rugs are often used as clothing.

“These capes are actually IKEA rugs,” Michele Clapton, an Emmy Award–winning designer, told an audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year. “We take anything we can,” Clapton added with a chuckle as she described the process that goes into designing medieval garb. “We cut and we shaved [the rugs] and then we added strong leather straps. . . . I want the audience to almost smell the costume.” The result is an IKEA-inspired cape that not only appears worn-in but also has the aesthetic of real medieval clothing. It remains unclear as to which IKEA rugs were used to dress the GoT characters. The next time you visit IKEA, see if you can envision Jon Snow marching into battle with a Höjerup or Alhede wrapped around his shoulders.

(19) POORFEADING. Another graduate of the Pixel Scroll Editing Academy & Grill:

(20) DINO TIME. This dinosaur had more bumps on its head than a Star Trek: Voyager humanoid: “It’s Official: Stunning Fossil Is a New Dinosaur Species”.

About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.

Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.

Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.

(21) THUMBS DOWN. Carl Slaughter says If you have read the Dark Tower series, you will probably share this reviewer’s shrill disapproval of the screen adaptation.

(22) MARJORIE PRIME. This doesn’t sound too jolly.

2017 Science-Fiction Drama starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith

About the Marjorie Prime Movie

Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past. Marjorie Prime is an American science-fiction film written and directed by Michael Almereyda, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/5/17 Nine Pinterests In Amber

(1) I KNOW, YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Somebody may be slipping drugs into the coffee at the Arizona Opera Company. Coming in October is their production of Hercules vs Vampires.

Hold on tight for an out of this world event! Hercules vs Vampires combines operatic singing and 1960s pop culture, synchronizing live music with the 1961 cult classic film, Hercules in the Haunted World. Watch as the original film, starring bodybuilder Reg Park and horror legend Christopher Lee, is projected above a live orchestra and singers performing the music to a new, original score. You’ll thrill as the mighty hero Hercules journeys through the underworld, battling fiendish monsters to rescue his beloved! Action packed, outlandish, and fun for the whole family, Hercules vs Vampires offers a fresh take on this gorgeously campy Technicolor world.

(2) BATMAN REMEMBERED. Adam West Day will be celebrated in the actor’s hometown — Walla Walla, Washington — on September 19.

He said proceeds will go to Camp Rainbow, a free camp in Idaho for children who have survived or are undergoing treatment for cancer and blood-related disease or disorders. West, who had a home in Idaho, was a vocal supporter of the camp.

Grant plans to wear his own Batman costume to the screening and is urging others to join him.

“This is bigger than just one fan,” Grant said. “This is a community getting together and doing something that should have been done long ago to honor someone that they love, and that they’re very proud of.”

They will also host a bat-signal lighting ceremony, similar to the one done in Los Angeles.

(3) 2017 HUGO VOTE TOTAL. I don’t remember reporting this when it came out, so just in case:

(4) FINNISH WEIRD. This Is Finland continues its Worldcon coverage: “Proud to be weird at Worldcon”.

[Maria] Turtschaninoff, who won the Finlandia Junior prize, is one of the most popular authors in Finnish literature today. She has had her book rights sold to over twenty countries and a movie has even been optioned. The first two books in her Red Abbey Chronicles series, Maresi and Naondel, have been called “feminist fantasy” by impressed reviewers.

“I’m not very interested in labels. I’m not that interested in messages either,” she says. “But I am a feminist, and an environmentalist, and a humanist, and all my values are reflected in what I write. And the mere fact that I am a woman who gets to write and who writes about women is inarguably a feminist action.”

Worldcon attendee Turtschaninoff says she is proud of the diversity in Finnish Weird, and says for such a small country Finnish writers have done quite well.

“From what I have seen, we in Finland are somewhat freed of the commercial expectations authors in, for instance, the Anglo-Saxon world face,” she continues. “This gives us some room to experiment, to go beyond what is expected. I believe Finland is fertile ground for bold, different and new voices and stories.”

(5) MEME OF THE DAY. A couple of SJW credentials have their own ideas about packing for the Worldcon.

(6) AN EXCUSE IN EVERY PORT. Writing Excuses cruise “WXR 2017 in the Baltic Sea” docked today. Follow the #WXR17 hashtag to see tweets sent during the voyage:

(7) 9W. Lots happening at Nine Worlds this weekend. One small example:

(8) ALPHABET MALES. The Nameless Digest’s “A to Z: Influential Science Fiction Authors” has photos of 26 authors in alphabetical order – including a rare one of a clean-shaven Larry Niven.

Unfortunately, no women included at all.

(9) OWNING LITERATURE. One never thinks of these numinous scenes as being associated with a real place that a person could buy: “E.B. White’s former Maine farm, where Charlotte spun her web, goes up for sale”.

White, who wrote the children’s classics “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little,” bought the 44-acre property overlooking Blue Hill Bay with his wife, Katharine, in 1933. He lived there until his death in 1985.

The Gallants, who also own a home in South Carolina, purchased it shortly after White’s death, and have lived half of each year there ever since. They are now in their 80s and plan to live full time in their single-level home in South Carolina.

The couple has tried to be respectful of White’s memory – and the history of the house – by updating the kitchen and refinishing the floors but otherwise leaving its character alone.

“They have not gentrified it,” said Martha Dischinger of Downeast Properties in Blue Hill. “They’ve not gone in and done weird things. They have made all the right improvements.”

The barn that was the setting for “Charlotte’s Web,” the beloved children’s book about a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with Charlotte the spider, is still there, including the famous rope swing whose motion was mimicked in White’s writing.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 5, 1960 – William Castle’s 13 Ghosts brings “Illusion-O” to moviegoers.
  • August 5, 1988 The Blob remake oozes into theaters.
  • August 5, 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOONWALKER

  • Born August 5, 1930  — Neil Armstrong

(12) WHAT, HE WORRY? Kyle Smith at National Review Online has a piece called “Confederate and the Dunces Who Assume It’s Pro-Slavery” where he argues that people who assume that ‘Confederate’ is going to promote slavery will have nothing to worry about.

Race these days is a kind of mental high-voltage power surge that is short-circuiting people’s minds. Do these writers really lack the imagination to see what creative direction Confederate is going to take? Every character, scene, and line of dialogue is going to be scrutinized, double-checked, and triple-checked to make sure it sends the message that white supremacy is evil. The primary creative risk for Confederate is not, as many commenters fear, that it will amount to alt-right white-supremacy porn but that it’ll be so focused on being the opposite of that it will keep pounding the same chords over and over. It’ll be so single-mindedly determined to prove it is on the morally correct side that it might be didactic and repetitive. A creative project that is principally concerned with selling the audience a political message (even one as unexceptionable as opposition to racism) risks being more of a sermon than a story.

(13) PERSON OF INTEREST. Chip Hitchcock theorizes: “It looks likely that the authorities have again gotten the wrong angle on a computer crime: Bail of $30,000 set for UK cyber expert Marcus Hutchins. To those of us who remember the mess the Secret Service tried to make of Steve Jackson Games, this sounds way too familiar.”

Ms Lobo said Mr Hutchins denied he was the author of the malware and said he would plead not guilty to all of the charges, which date between July 2014 and July 2015.

“He has dedicated his life to researching malware, not trying to harm people,” she said. “Use the internet for good is what he has done.

“He was completely shocked, this isn’t’ something he anticipated. He came here for a work-related conference and he was fully anticipating to go back home and had no reason to be fearful of coming or going from the United States.”

Mr Hutchins came to prominence in May this year after finding a “kill switch” to stop the WannaCry ransomeware attack that hit the NHS, as well as other organisations in 150 countries.

Also known as “MalwareTech” online, Mr Hutchins was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Mr Hutchins, who works for Los Angeles-based computer security firm Kryptos Logi, had been in Las Vegas to attend the Black Hat and Def Con cyber-security conferences.

He was arrested at Las Vegas airport minutes before he was due to fly home.

(14) THE SHIRT OFF THEIR BACK. Pulp Coming Attractions runs a weekly roundup about publications and products of interest to pulp collectors and fans. That’s where I spotted these magazine logo t-shirts —

Famous Fantastic Mysteries T-Shirt This is the authentic logo used for this classic pulp magazine from the 1940s. Note: red fabric only. $22.95

(15) STAR WARS WEATHER. You may also appreciate Snorgtees’ “Alderaan 5-Day Forecast”

(16) AND MATCHING SHOES. Yahoo! Movies’ Marcus Errico recommends these “‘Star Wars’ Shoes: Put the Force on Your Feet For 40th Anniversary”

As the 40th anniversary celebration for A New Hope, rolls on, a new line of canvas footwear inspired by George Lucas‘s original 1977 space opera is ready to launch from shoemaker Sperry, which released a popular Jaws-themed collection last year. Arriving Aug. 10, the Star Wars x Sperry collection features five styles that run the gamut from the light side to the dark side with seminal designs, images, and iconography from the film

For example —

Cloud Slip-On Droids: Now you can walk a mile in C-3PO and R2-D2‘s shoes.

(17) MEMO FROM THE EMPEROR. Charlie Lee Jackson II’s Empire of Entertainment has released two new digital books this week, both space operas.

Planet Patrol is about a small ship on which a Space Princess (like a circuit-riding judge of the Old west) travels the Solar System.

Dreadnought of Space is set centuries later, on one of those gigantic ships travelling to another star system to dispense justice. They represent the first books of a new series, “Star Service”.

(18) PARK EFFECT. When you wish upon a star…. “MouseMingle helps Disney fans find their happily-ever-after”.

Tavres, who scored six dates on MouseMingle, quit his full-time job as a technical program manager to work on the site. He’s close to finishing a mobile app and site redesign…..

MouseMingle is not just about finding love. Subscribers can also find friends and park pals.

“It’s not just about Disneyland, and it’s not specific,” Tavres said. “Everybody is welcome. I want people just to connect.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I learned couples were getting married from this site that I started,” said Tavres, who noted that Disney contacted and applauded him but added that he stress the website was an unofficial fan site unaffiliated with the Walt Disney Co. “I’m so happy for all of them.”

Tavres learned of the Guy wedding when Atwood-Knudson sent him an email thanking him for his creation.

Their wedding bands were set in three diamonds in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head and the character’s silhouette was featured in tabletop topiaries and as a cake topper.

The bride walked down the aisle to “Married Life” from “Up.” The new husband and wife left the ceremony to an orchestral version of “You’re Welcome” from “Moana,” shared their first dance to “Ma Belle Evangeline” from “The Princess and the Frog” and selected “Baby Mine” from “Dumbo” for the father-daughter number.

(19) FRANKENSTEIN LOVED GUACAMOLE. Do you find news like this anywhere else? Of course you don’t.

(20) BEETLEJUICE ANNIVERSARY COMING. Documentary for the Recently Deceased is an independent documentary about Tim Burton’s movie Beetlejuice. It will be available in 2018 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the film. Here’s a trailer —

[Thanks to Bruce D. Arthurs, JJ, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Charles Lee Jackson II, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/2017 It’s 1500 Miles To Helsinki, We’ve Got A Full Tank Of Pixels, Half A Pack Of Scrolls, It’s Dark, And We’re Wearing Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses. Hit It!

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Down drunken noodles with George R. R. Martin in Episode 43 of Eating the Fantastic”.

Some of might know him from the superhero short stories such as “Manta Ray Meets the Executioner” he was publishing in the ’60s in one of the greatest fanzines of all time, Star Studded Comics (which is where, as a young teen, I first encountered him), or as the creator and editor of the long-running Wild Cards series of mosaic, multi-author novels, some may know him better from such award-winning short fiction as “Sandkings” and “The Pear-Shaped Man,” or novels like Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag, while still others might know him best from his TV work … like … you know … The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast—and don’t forget Max Headroom!

We discussed why he was annoyed Marvel Comics printed his letters but DC never did, the reason Gardner Dozois was responsible for his first science fiction short story sale, how the rock ‘n’ roll novel Armageddon Rag got him a job on the rebooted Twilight Zone, what he learned from the arc of Stephen R. Donaldson’s career, how losing the John W. Campbell Memorial Award got him his first editing gig, why he almost became a realtor, the time Harlan Ellison convinced him to apply to be the editor of Analog, and more. PLUS: Hear a snippet from an interview I did back in 1993 in which he makes an amusing admission about “a fantasy novel I’ve been working on off and on for awhile.”

(2) GOODBYE AND HELLO. Bence Pintér has sadly announced the closure of the Hungarian sf site Mandiner.sci-fi after two years of operation.

He is making up for it by writing a blog that will be partly in English, Spekulatív Zóna. Here’s the first post in English.

The rise of speculative fiction is a global phenomenon, but all of the important stuff are happening in English. Dealing with this topic, as a news editor, I followed the news in English and provided the news in Hungarian to the readers of mSF. But this was a one way road. In this blog I am mostly planning to write about the new releases in US and UK in English, while I also feel the need to talk to you about good Hungarian speculative books in English, because nobody else seems to be doing that. I want to channel what is happening in this tiny part of Central European fandom.

I have been reading in English for exactly a decade now. The first English book I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, because I could not wait until the Hungarian translation’s publication in a few months (I bought the translated version as well, of course.) Ever since my fianceé at the time, now my wife, bought me a Kindle from the US in 2012, I have been reading methodically in English, eyeing for the new releases as well as genre classics which were not published in Hungary. (There are a lot of them.) Now, that mSF is gone and I can choose to read what I want, I plan to read even more in English. And to write about them. New releases, and also authors, sub-genres and the topics I have always wanted to examine more profoundly.

(3) SUMMER TV. Glenn Garvin, in “Vampires and Spies Dominate Frothy Fun Television Choices” at Reason.com, reviews Midnight, Texas.

It’s the time of the television year, safely past the May upfronts where all of next season’s advertising is sold and just before the big promotional push for the fall shows begins, when all the TV bosses flee for a few weeks to Malibu or the Hamptons or wherever it is that wealthy, imperious swine go to exchange tips on the most satisfying ways to whip the household help. And while the cat’s away, the junior programmers will play, unleashing hordes of vampires, spies and what-have-you who would never see the airwaves if the grownups were around.

The result is usually shows that are kind of fun if not necessarily any good. Which is a pretty fair summary of the week’s premieres: NBC’s pleasingly trashy spook opera Midnight, Texas; and the CNN spy documentary Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies, which is either a carefully coded revelation about American espionage or mammothly incompetent documentary filmmaking, take your pick.

Midnight, Texas, is based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris, who authored the vampire novels that became HBO’s epic True Blood. But if you’re expecting a True Blood clone, you’re going to be wildly disappointed; the two series of books are completely different.

(4) MUSK. More Elon Musk blue-skying: “Elon Musk Says He Has ‘Verbal’ OK To Build N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop”.

A plan to build an ultrafast Hyperloop tube train has been given “verbal [government] approval” to connect large cities on the East Coast, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says. He adds that the system would whisk passengers from New York to Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes.

After his tweet about the plan set off intense interest, Musk added a clarification, stating, “Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly.”

Chip Hitchcock observes, “I remember this idea in Scientific American over 50 years ago, and in L. Neil Smith 40 years ago — but we still don’t have cheap tunneling as in Oath of Fealty (30 years ago).”

(5) CONFLICTING DIAGNOSES. Peter Davison puts his foot in his mouth over the new Doctor: “Two former Doctors clash over Jodie Whittaker casting”.

Peter Davison, who played the Doctor from 1981 to 1984, said he “liked the idea” of a male Doctor and that he felt “a bit sad” the character might no longer be “a role model for boys”.

His comments were promptly dubbed “rubbish” by his successor Colin Baker.

“You don’t have to be of a gender to be a role model,” said the actor, who portrayed the Doctor from 1984 to 1986.

“Can’t you be a role model as people?”

(6) COMIC-CON IN THE NEWS. BBC wrap-up of the first day of SDCC: “What happened on the first day of Comic-Con?”

  • The cast of Kingsman: The Golden Circle tweeted a picture of themselves on stage after they discussed the new film and showed footage of the action spy comedy.
  • Halle Berry stole the show though after she appeared to down half a pint of whiskey on stage.
  • But there was disappointment from fans that 20th Century Fox’s presentation didn’t include anything about the eagerly anticipated Deadpool 2 – especially as the first film was launched at Comic-Con in 2015….

(7) THEY ARE THERE. Galactic Journey covers a 1962 sci-fi movie release in real time: “[July 21, 1962] The Human Soul In A Robot’s Hand (Movie Review: The Creation of the Humanoids)”

The complex range of anger, fear, acceptance and love that characterize the relationship humans have with robotic life is hardly new ground for science fiction. You have stories that explore societies controlled by artificial intelligence like in Jack Williamson’s With Folded Hands, stories in which robotic life works in service to their human superiors in accordance with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and stories that span every possible combination.

The newest addition to the science fiction sub-genre dealing with the evolution of humanity and its integration with robots came out this month in the form of the movie The Creation of the Humanoids. Following its premier in Los Angeles on July 3rd, this intriguing film made its way into theaters across America, including the theater in my city. It suffers from several weaknesses, but more than makes up for them with solid dialogue, interesting characters and a plot that makes the audience think.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Junk Food Day

How to Celebrate Junk Food Day

Celebrate this wonderful day by eating any sweet or salty treats you want! Bake cupcakes, make cookies, heat up some popcorn, buy some of your favorite candies. Invite friends over and have them bring in their favorites and make a junk food buffet and spend the rest of the day watching movies. You can always go get some fast food for fun. Take a cheat day from your diet and have dessert for dinner.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 21, 2007 – The seventh and final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released.
  • July 21, 2011 — NASA’s space shuttle program completes its final, and 135th, mission, when the shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 21 – Geri Sullivan

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY ROBOT

  • Born July 21, 1951 — Perennial funnyman Robin Williams. In 1999’s Bicentennial Man he starred as a robot trying to grow more and more human as he pursued and acquired emotions.

(12) AIRPLANE FOOD. Fans have had all kinds of experiences eating airplane meals. But only culinary historian (and sf writer) Richard Foss can take you back to the dawn of dining in the skies: “What Airplane Food Looked Like Through the Decades”.

Travel + Leisure spoke to culinary historian and author of “Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies,” Richard Foss, to delve into the fascinating history of in-flight food and how much it’s changed over the decades.

The 1920s:

During the 1920s, there was a great deal of focus on the weight you could have onboard, with passengers often getting weighed before boarding, Foss said.

Engines were also feeble at this time, and since there was not as much freedom to divert energy from the engine to other sources, like heat, cold food was the norm.

Selections typically included cold fried chicken, fruit salads, and elegantly composed sandwiches, served in wicker baskets on the lightest chinawear servers could find, according to Foss.

(13) IRON FISTS AT COMIC-CON. During yesterday’s Next Big Thing Panel at Comic-Con International San Diego, Marvel Entertainment unveiled that it is joining forces with comiXology, Amazon’s premier digital comic shopping & reading service, for a line of exclusive digital comics. Available free to comiXology Unlimited subscribers and only available through comiXology and Kindle these comics will be part of the comiXology Originals line of exclusive digital content.

Marvel and comiXology’s team-up kicks off with Immortal Iron Fists, a 6-issue bi-weekly series written by Kaare Andrews with art by Afu Chan. Immortal Iron Fists is on sale today for $2.99 on comiXology and Kindle or free to comiXology Unlimited subscribers as part of their subscription. New users to comiXology’s popular subscription service can also access Immortal Iron Fists for free as part of their 30-day free trial. Additional exclusive series will be announced soon.

A unique entry-point that’s perfect for new fans and longtime readers alike, Immortal Iron Fists tells the tale of Pei, a young female monk from K’un-Lun and the youngest person to ever bear the mark of the Iron Fist. While Pei tackles the trials of high school, Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, faces his greatest challenge yet: training the inexperienced Pei. All the while, a growing threat appears that will take more than one pair of Iron Fists to defeat!

(14) COMFORT FOOD. C,J, Cherryh told her Facebook readers about a favorite food.

A confession: I am very fond of roast beef sandwiches with pickle and Miracle Whip. This from childhood. No, it is not a sophisticated taste. I also like bacon sandwiches with Miracle Whip. Mayo for other things. But these are my two favorite sandwiches.

(15) SHAZAM! Marcus Errico of Yahoo! Movies reports “Dwayne Johnson Won’t Be In DC’s SHAZAM! Movie”, which will be directed by David F. Sandberg and released in 2019.  (“Shazam!” is the guy formerly known as Captain Marvel.)

News broke at Comic-Con this week that the next hero up in DC’s movie universe is Shazam!, a story about an orphan who gains near-godlike powers. However, in his initial outing, Shazam won’t be facing his greatest foe.

Geoff Johns, the chief creative officer of DC and, with Jon Berg, architect of the DC Extended Universe, told Yahoo Movies on Thursday that Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam will be MIA from Shazam!

“We haven’t announced any casting yet,” Johns said. “But Dwayne isn’t going to be in this movie. He’s still doing Black Adam, but he won’t be in Shazam!

Johnson and DC will be developing Black Adam concurrent with Shazam!, with the idea that the two will eventually face off onscreen.

(16) BURNING MEMORY. Tor.com has the picture – “The Firemen Start the Fires in the First Look at HBO’s Fahrenheit 451”.

HBO Films has shared the first official photo from Fahrenheit 451, its forthcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel set in a future where reading is outlawed and books are burned. It’s, appropriately, an action shot of firefighter Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) letting the flames fly on some contraband reading, while his superior Beatty (Michael Shannon) looks on approvingly.

(17) MORE TO PUT ON YOUR THIGHS. Adweek says more food pr0n is on the way — “McDonald’s Apparel Is Here, So Make Room in Your Closet Next to Your KFC and Pizza Hut Swag”. “Wear the fries you’re jogging for.”

Joining brands like Pizza Hut and KFC, McDonald’s is unveiling its own line of apparel and goods: The McDelivery Collection, in celebration of Global Delivery Day on July 26.

The collection is available via the UberEATS app in select countries. And while it’s a limited-edition set, don’t expect to find anything as vainglorious as a burger-shaped meteorite (à la KFC). Items include a World Famous Fries jogging suit, a Big Mac onesie—wonderful for ironic winks back to youth, though unclear whether it has a handy butt flap—and slippers that read “World Famous.”

On July 26 only, fans can score a single McDelivery Collection item on-demand, delivered with their UberEATS orders. Participating cities around the world will be unveiled on July 25 on McDeliveryatMcDonalds.com. And if you’re lucky enough to live in China or Japan, you might even be able to get them in-store!

(18) THE DEFENDERS. Stan Lee & Punisher trailer Seson 1.

(19) THE LOST VERSES. The Big Bang Theory cast sang previously unknown verses of “Soft Kitty” during their appearance at Comic-Con today.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/17 Doctor Whoa!

(1) SHE’S THE DOCTOR. The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor Who hit all the mainstream news outlets.

However, the reaction of some Daily Mail readers left a lot to be desired. But as they say, when you have lemons make lemonade. That’s what comedian Aaron C. M. Gillies did:

And just before the Whittaker announcement, this meme was getting a lot of play on Twitter.

(2) OH NOES! Matthew Foster has also been taking soundings and shared what he found with his Facebook readers.

Fun with sexism. So I just had to go looking to see what the dim set had to say about Doctor Who, and it is amusing. Most that I peaked in on want to keep their sexism on the down low, so while they always object to the Doctor being female, it is never due to her being female. No, no. That’s not the problem… exactly… So there’s lot’s of:

  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because that’s pandering. Yeah.
  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because it isn’t for a good story reason… You know, the way choosing a male for have been for a good story reason.

Plus 9 more…

(3) RIVER SONG. Radio Times reports actress Alex Kingston was given the news while onstage at a con in North Carolina: “Alex Kingston’s reaction to a female Doctor Who was SO River Song”.

“Jodie Whittaker? Oh my goodness!” the actress told the crowd, after making joke kissing noises. “God, I’m always the damn cradlesnatcher!

“Oh, that’s lovely. She’s a really great actress. She’s fantastic. Oh my God that’s so exciting! Ohhhh! How fabulous.

“Well, we’ve all discovered that together,” she concluded. “That’s marvellous.”

(4) THE FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR. Some argue there’s already been a woman Doctor Who. (Besides Doctor Donna, that is.) It happened in 1997.

Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) is The Doctor in a comedy sketch from The Lily Savage Show back in 1997. Features Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) as her companion and a classic impression of Liz McDonald from Coronation Street.

 

(5) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. My latest strategy for finding news is to hang around Camestros Felapton’s blog. He had a bunch of good links in this post: “Is the Kindle store broken?”

And far from living in vain, the scammers are running away with the store, according to David Gaughran: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples….

How Clickfarms Work

As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

(6) STAR WARS LAND. You can learn preliminary details about Disney’s forthcoming attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from The Verge.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each….

Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, revealed the official name of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are currently under construction at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, and shared details on the immersive experiences guests will be able to enjoy when the lands open in 2019!

 

(7) MARTIN LANDAU OBIT. He won an Oscar playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, but Martin Landau, who passed away today at the age of 89, was first seen by fans in Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (both the Sixties original and again in the Eighties relaunch). Having turned down an offer to play Spock in the original Star Trek series, the pinnacle of Landau’s science fictional success came while playing Commander John Koenig in Space:1999.

He worked constantly over the decades, and appeared in many genre productions — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1966), Mission: Impossible (76 episodes as “Rollin Hand”, 1966-69), Get Smart (one episode, 1969), The Fall of the House of Usher, Meteor (both 1979), The Return (1980), The Being (1983), The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Spider-Man (voice, 1995-96), The X-Files (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Frankenweenie (voice, 2012).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere flickered briefly through theatres.
  • July 16, 1955 — The TV serial Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe blasted into the popular consciousness.
  • July 16, 1958 — Audiences gasp for the first time at The Fly.
  • July 16, 1959The Alligator People was released.
  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to become the first manned space mission to land on the moon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(10) AND THEY’RE OFF. With Game of Thrones Season 7 starting, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gets its kicks by imagining how each character will die. First up —

Daenerys Targaryen

After finally saying goodbye to noted hellhole Meereen, Dany will be cut down in a tragic boating accident, lest her plot line advance. The tragedy will be of Titanic proportions, with Dany and Missandei struggling to share space on a door before both drowning. Varys will float by moments later and note there was plenty of room on the flotsam for both women. 

(11) TOP TEN. And The Daily Beast it getting its clicks by publishing the list of “‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin’s Top 10 Fantasy Films”.

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The frightening thing about Holy Grail is that it may very well be the best version of the Matter of Britain ever put on film. King Arthur has not been well served by the movies, I fear. Yes, yes, there’s John Boorman’s Excalibur, a flawed film with with some great parts. Beyond that and Holy Grail, what do we have? Knights of the Round Table (some gorgeous spectacle, but a ham-handed script–the Timpo toy knights issued as tie-ins to the film were better than the movie), Prince Valiant (I liked the Singing Sword, and those pigskins full of boiling oil, but it’s hard to get past Robert Wagner’s wig), First Knight (gag), King Arthur (yes, let’s just let all the Saxons through Hadrian’s Wall and fight them on the other side, what a clever tactic)…. I do have a certain fondness for the film version of Camelot, but only because I never got to see the stage play. But back to Holy Grail. Back to Brave Sir Robin. The Black Knight. The Knights Who Say Ni. The Frenchman on the ramparts. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Castle Anthrax. Coconuts. (They still sell coconuts at Castle Doune in Scotland, where much of Holy Grail was filmed). What more do I need to say? Let’s go to Camelot! Yes, it is a silly place, but that’s what I love about it.

(12) WAIT UP. io9’s Germain Lussier’s post “This Mysterious New Droid Is Rolling Around the Star Wars Section at D23 Expo” has photos, though apparently they weren’t easy to get.

Disney loves a good surprise, and fans at the D23 Expo in Anaheim got plenty of those over the weekend. One of the more subtle ones featured a brand new droid, rolling around the display for the new theme park additions called Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

The droid definitely resembles other Star Wars droids you know, kind of a R5 droid’s body with 2-1B arms. But, according to Walt Disney Imagineers in the area, it does not yet have an official Star Wars distinction. In fact, the may not even be part of Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. It’s just kind of an experiment at how droids and humans who are just mulling around can interact. And let me tell you, it’s not necessarily a smooth relationship.

The Imagineers call this guy “Jake” and he would not stand still for a photo. You’d set up to snap one, and he’d just start going the other way. Here’s what it’s like.

(13) CONTAINS SOME NUDITY. In fact, that’s what it mostly contains. Chip Hitchcock is convinced fans could break the record at Worldcon 75 if they put it on the program — “Finland naked swimmers bid for biggest skinny dip record”.

Hundreds of naked swimmers have taken to the water in Finland in a bid to break the world record for the biggest naked swim.

Some 789 people at a music festival in eastern Finland went skinny dipping on Saturday, organisers said, beating the previous record set in Australia by just three, reports said.

Organisers were waiting for Guinness World Records to confirm the record.

It is the third Finnish attempt at the record, Yle news website said.

(14) KING’S SECRET IDENTITY. Mental Floss remembers: “Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman”.

King’s cover endured for a surprisingly long period. But the 1985 release of Thinner would usher in fresh suspicion about Bachman. Unlike the other four novels, Thinner was contemporary King, a hardcover written with the knowledge it was a “Bachman book” and perhaps more self-conscious about its attempt at misdirection. And unlike early-period Bachman, which often featured nihilistic but grounded scenarios—a walking marathon that ends in death, or a game show where prisoners can earn their freedom—Thinner took on more of a horror trope, with a robust lawyer cursed to lose weight by a vengeful gypsy until he’s practically nothing but skin and bone.

When Stephen Brown obtained an advance copy at Olsson’s, he had an innate belief he was reading a King novel. To confirm his suspicions, he visited the Library of Congress to examine the copyrights for each Bachman title. All but one were registered to Kirby McCauley, King’s agent. The remaining title, Rage, was registered to King himself. It was the smoking gun.

(15) IN THE ARCHIVES. The Verge tells you where to find Galaxy —“One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online”.

If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. Archive.org is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

The collection contains 355 separate issues, ranging from 1950 through 1976. Open Culture notes that it’s not quite the entire run of the magazine, but it’s got plenty of material to keep fans occupied for years. It includes stories from science fiction legends such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. There are also some underappreciated authors who deserve re-discovery, such as Kris Neville, Alan E. Nourse, or John Christopher. (Sadly, like most publications of this era, female SF authors were underrepresented.)

(16) LAST-MINUTE VOTING. Spacefaring Kitten got in under the wire with a second set of Hugo recommendations.

(17) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Stan Lee is rebranding his Los Angeles convention. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Stan Lee Reintroduces His L.A. Convention: New Name, Even Greater Ambitions”.

Stan Lee is putting Los Angeles on the map in a new way.

The legendary comic book creator is not only getting a citywide day named in his honor (Oct. 28), he is also rebranding his popular pop culture convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and giving it a new name: Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con.

Comic book fans area rejoiced when Lee launched his convention in 2011, and for Lee, the name change makes sense when major cities from New York to San Diego have flagship conventions bearing their cities’ names.

“I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what Comikaze really meant or what it was. And I didn’t think we should hide under a bushel,” Lee tells Heat Vision of the con, which runs Oct. 28-30. “Los Angeles is, to me, the center of the world’s entertainment. It has to have a Comic Con.”

(18) FUNNY AND DIE. Reason TV is getting in on the new season, too, with Game of Thrones: Libertarian Edition.

As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license? Watch!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Colin Kuskie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/17 Superscrollipixelisticexpififthadocious

(1) TEXAS STYLE. The Austin Chronicle pays tribute to the local sf community then and now — “Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror in Austin”.  (Very nice group picture there, too.)

“When I moved to Austin in 1998,” says Christopher Brown, who presents his dystopian debut novel, Tropic of Kansas, at BookPeople this Friday, “it was partly because I could tell that there was a rich fantastic-literature community here, a community of both readers and writers.”

Indeed there was, and had been for years. Brown’s arrival coincided with the 20th anniversary of ArmadilloCon, the homegrown annual sci-fi convention that was not just a celebration of the more fantastic genres of literature and one hell of a fannish good time, but somewhere aspiring writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror could meet and polish their craft via workshops led by their fellow writers from the local scene. In the days of ArmadilloCon’s founding, such writers included Bruce Sterling, Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Lisa Tuttle, Tom Reamy, and their beloved mentor, University of Texas anthropology professor Chad Oliver – all members of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, a Lone Star coterie that became one of the epicenters of speculative fiction. Of what eventually led, after East Coaster William Gibson had galvanized the field, after enough tons of dream-stained paper had transmediated filmward, to the gritty/glossy mise en scène of the Wachowskis’ Matrix. You know, citizen: cyberpunk. What so much of the future looked like, fictionally, in the Eighties and Nineties.

Brown also landed here while Austin’s fantastic-lit readers and writers still had their own bookstore, one run by ArmadilloCon’s founder. “I remember Willie Siros’ place on West Sixth,” says Brown, “in the building currently occupied by Sandra Bullock’s flower-arrangement-and-money-laundering operation. It was called Adventures in Crime and Space, a specialty science-fiction and mystery bookstore that the community had sustained for a long time.”

Alas, citizen, in the 17th year of the 21st century, Adventures in Crime and Space has gone the way of the space shuttle program, but the rich community it served continues.

(2) POINT OF NO RETURN. Ruth Graham tells why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine at Slate.

In some districts, up to 35 percent of patrons have had their borrowing privileges revoked because of unpaid fines. Only these days, it’s librarians themselves who often lament what the Detroit reporter called “a tragedy enacted in this little court of equity.” Now some libraries are deciding that the money isn’t worth the hassle—not only that, but that fining patrons works against everything that public libraries ought to stand for.

Library fines in most places remain quaintly low, sometimes just 10 cents per day. But one user’s nominal is another’s exorbitant. If a child checks out 10 picture books, the kind of haul librarians love to encourage, and then his mother’s work schedule prevents her from returning them for a week past the due date, that’s $7. For middle-class patrons, that may feel like a slap on the wrist, or even a feel-good donation. For low-income users, however, it can be a prohibitively expensive penalty. With unpredictable costs hovering over each checkout, too many families decide it’s safer not to use the library at all. As one California mother told the New York Times last spring, “I try to explain to [my daughter], ‘Don’t take books out. It’s so expensive.’ ”

(3) THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

(4) TRUNK MUSIC. Gamera Boy posted these scans of an old Starlog article: “Details from the proposed 1977 “Star Trek II” television series from Starlog #136 (1988)”.

Wil Wheaton reblogged the scans and commented:

Some of the unused Phase II scripts were rewritten and used on TNG. They were … not good, if my memory is correct.

(5) SPACE SCHOOL. Fast Company says “Forget Starfleet Academy—Future Astronauts Will Be Trained By These Companies”:

Private space travel could be just a year away.

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin recently released images of the spaceships it says could be ferrying paying guests to suborbital space in 2018. At the same time, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has hundreds of $250,000 deposits from people who want seats on his spacecraft, and SpaceX’s Elon Musk aims to take a pair of tourists around the moon.

As commercial spaceflights for tourists, scientists, and workers in the burgeoning space economy become more common, experts say those would-be astronauts will need training that goes well beyond earthbound airline safety briefings. Anyone venturing into space will need to know how to deal with space sickness, the effects of acceleration and weightlessness, and even the potential for hallucinations. And those going to do scientific or other work will have to be ready to use their limited time optimally—time outside the earth’s gravitational pull will cost something like $688 per second, according to Gregory Kennedy, education director at the NASTAR Center.

“The research organizations that are sponsoring their flights are going to want to make sure they’re getting their $688,” he says.

The NASTAR Center, located outside Philadelphia, is one of several commercial institutions offering spaceflight training for would-be private astronauts. Founded in 2007 by the Environmental Tectonics Corporation, which makes air and space training equipment, the center has trained more than 500 people for the rigors of spaceflight, Kennedy says. For aspiring space tourists, that includes learning how to tolerate the acceleration forces they’ll experience: “We take somebody with no prior experience and build them up to be able to withstand up to 6 Gs.”

(6) WONDER TRIBUTE. John King Tarpinian says, “I can already hear the audience applaud when she appears on screen.” ScreenRant reports: “Wonder Woman: Lynda Carter Confirms Sequel Cameo Discussions”.

Lynda Carter has confirmed she’s in talks to appear in the Wonder Woman sequel. Director Patty Jenkins has been pressing for a cameo from the actor, who suited up for the film’s starring role via her own TV series in the ’70s, since she started work on the first movie, but the timing didn’t work out. When asked by a fan on Twitter whether she’d keep trying to land Carter for the franchise’s second go-round, Jenkins replied emphatically that she would.

Both women have been vocal about their appreciation for each other’s stake in Wonder Woman: Jenkins, for Carter’s legacy, and Carter for Jenkins’ treatment of it. When Carter congratulated Jenkins et all for the movie’s staggering box office success, Jenkins responded: “Bravo you Lynda. Come on. Let’s admit what was major in starting all of this.”

Now, as focus turns to the sequel, it seems the stars may align for Wonder Woman‘s second outing. In an interview with People, Carter revealed she’d already been approached to appear in the all-but-confirmed movie

(7) SPINNING. Shirley Li, in Entertainment Weekly’s article “Marvel’s The Defenders: Sigourney Weaver says her character is an ‘adversary,’ not a ‘villain'”, tells readers that in describing her work the actress says, “I try to avoid using terms like ‘ice queen’ that are often thrown at women who aren’t completely sympathetic.”

An adversary who, as the head of an ancient organization, has faced worthy opponents before, though none quite like this super-team, says showrunner Marco Ramirez. “In her career, she’s come up against a lot of different people — armies, mercenaries, devoted religious fanatics and all kinds of different groups — who have tried to take her down, but she’s never met four people who are seemingly just interested in taking care of this one little part of New York,” Ramirez says. “I think she’s actually really charmed by it, and weirdly, because they’re unlike anybody she’s ever faced off against before, it’s intimidating to her.”

(8) ALIAS CORDWAINER SMITH & JONES? I didn’t know they knew each other.

(9) CALENDRICAL JOT. Aaron Pound covers another Hugo nominee at Dreaming About Other Worlds. A long review follows the executive summary – “Review – Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee”.

Short review: Tasked with putting down a heretical rebellion within the Hexarchate that has caused calendrical rot, Kel Cheris convinces her superiors to revive the insane dead General Jedao. If that sounds kind of incomprehensible to you, be warned that reading the book only makes it a little bit clearer.

(10) BY A WHISKER. Spacefaring Kitten’s tweets about this year’s nominees are collected in “Hugos 2017, part 1” at Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

(11) WE, ROBOT. Advanced technology in real life: “When your body becomes eligible for an upgrade”.

Prof Herr is a double amputee. In 2012, I saw him move a room in London to tears when he revealed his incredibly sophisticated bionic legs that allowed him to move with natural poise and grace.

In 2014, Prof Herr’s technology meant Adrianne Haslet-Davis returned to the dancefloor, less than a year since losing a limb in the Boston marathon bombings. Her first performance after the incident brought a TED talk audience instantly to its feet.

I visited Prof Herr’s lab last week to learn more about the work is team is doing, and where it may lead. Right now, much of the research is focused on doing things the human body can do instinctively, but are extremely complex to engineer.

(12) THEY CAME RUNNING. A siren based on science: “The brain-hacking sound that’s impossible to ignore”.

In a remote and rural part of Malawi in Africa, a siren has been alerting people – and it sounds like nothing you’d recognise from a street elsewhere in the world. Strangely unlike a conventional emergency services siren, instead it is a discordant mashup of musical fragments and intermittent white noise.

“It’s like hearing music on an old transistor radio that seems to be a little bit broken,” explains American artist Jake Harper, who designed it. You can hear it at the beginning and end of the clip below, coupled with a spoken announcement.

The signal was inspired by neuroscience research on sounds that affect the emotion-processing centres of the brain.

The aim? To alert Malawi locals to HIV tests and health checks from a mobile clinic funded by the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation’s (ETAF) and operated by the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance. As the medical van travels through an area, speakers on the roof broadcast these eerie tones.

(13) BEAM MY DATA UP, SCOTTY. “Sounds more like Stross’s version of an ansible,” opines Chip Hitchcock: “Teleportation: Photon particles today, humans tomorrow?”. (Or Clifford D. Simak’s system in Way Station?)

Chinese scientists say they have “teleported” a photon particle from the ground to a satellite orbiting 1,400km (870 miles) away.

For many, however, teleportation evokes something much more exotic. Is a world previously confined to science fiction now becoming reality?

Well, sort of. But we are not likely to be beaming ourselves to the office or a beach in the Bahamas anytime soon. Sorry.

How does it work?

Simply put, teleportation is transmitting the state of a thing rather than sending the thing itself.

Some physicists give the example of a fax machine – it sends information about the marks on a piece of paper rather than the paper itself. The receiving fax machine gets the information and applies it to raw material in the form of paper that is already there.

(14) FIRST NOVEL PRIZE. The longlist for 2017 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize includes several books of genre interest. (Just don’t ask me which ones.) This annual award was created in 2006 to honor the best first novel of the year. The titles below were chosen by a panel of five distinguished writers: Sonya Chung, Anne Landsman, Fiona Maazel, Rick Moody, and Kia Corthron.

  • All That’s Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe (Flatiron Books)
  • As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis (Catapult)
  •   Empire of Glass by Kaitlin Solimine (Ig Publishing)
  •   Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Random House)
  •   Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King (Touchstone)
  •   Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Random House)
  •   The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico (Spiegel & Grau)
  •   Marlena by Julie Buntin (Henry Holt & Co.)
  •   Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes (Europa Editions)
  •   Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian (Twelve)
  •   Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon (Cinco Puntos Press)
  •   My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead Books)
  •   Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (Tin House Books)
  •   The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books)
  •   Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown)
  •   Spoils by Brian Van Reet (Lee Boudreaux Books)
  •   Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan (Restless Books)
  •   Tiger Pelt by Annabelle Kim (Leaf~Land LLC)
  •   Time’s a Thief by B. G. Firmani (Doubleday)
  •   What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball (Atlantic Monthly Press)
  •   Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam (Random House)
  •   The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews (Little, Brown)

(15) WRINKLE IN TIME. Here’s the teaser trailer for Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, which opens in US theatres March 9, 2018.

(16) LAST JEDI FEATURETTE. The end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi Behind The Scenes may bring on a tear or two.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/17 Hokey Tickboxes And Ancient Pixels Are No Match For A Good Filer At Your Side, Kid

(1) STAR WARS CARTOONS. In a Yahoo! Movies piece called “New ‘Star Wars’ Cartoon Shorts Debut Online, Bringing Female Heroes in Full Force”, Marcus Errico says that Disney is releasing sixteen three-minute cartoons online featuring female Star Wars heroes,  The first, “Sands of Jakku” is online and has Daisy Ridley in it.

Lucasfilm Animation has produced an initial run of 16 shorts. New shorts will arrive daily at YouTube.com/Disney ahead of their broadcast premiere on the Disney Channel on July 9. Future episodes will center on Princess Leia, Padmé Amidala, Rogue One‘s Jyn Erso, The Clone Wars fan favorite Ahsoka Tano, and Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, with each installment narrated by Maz Kanata and featuring John Williams’s seminal soundtrack.

In addition to Ridley, film stars John Boyega (Finn), Felicity Jones (Jyn) and Lupita Nyong’o (Maz) will reprise their roles, as will key talent from the TV series Clone Wars and Rebels, including Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Tiya Sicar (Sabine), and Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla).

“The movies tell these epic heroes’ journeys, big pieces of mythology,” Carrie Beck, VP of Lucasfilm Story and Animation and a producer of Forces of Destiny, told Yahoo Movies earlier this year. “For this, we thought these stories could tell those moments of everyday heroism… the kind of stories that would be appropriate over two to three minutes.”

(2) UNHOLY ROAD TRIP. The LA Times questions “Neil Gaiman on the ‘American Gods’ season finale and what’s on tap for Season 2”.

The first season of Starz’s ambitious “American Gods” ended on the brink of a godly brawl. But Neil Gaiman, an executive producer of the series and author of the book from which it is adapted, teases that his divine road trip across the secret supernatural back roads of the United States is just beginning…

Did you have an emotional reaction to the end of the first season of “American Gods?”

I have all sorts of emotions.…I’m fascinated by how involved people are. How grumpy they are about the fact that, now they got their eight episodes, they have to wait for another season. I love watching the joy of having faces that plug into these characters who were names and descriptions in the book. I’m loving seeing how people argue online. There are people out there who think Laura [Moon, played by Emily Browning] is the best female character that they’ve ever seen on television.And there are people who would pay good money to make sure that she never appears on their screen ever again, but they love the whole series apart from her.

(3) GUESS WHO JOINED GAB. GAB is the new message platform popular with Vox Day, Jon Del Arroz, and others who find Twitter hasn’t always appreciated the way they exercise their freedom of speech.

And, unexpectedly, it now is someplace you can find Brianna Wu:

Why did I join Gab? Well, joining App.net early (another Twitter competitior) was amazing for my career. It was a networking goldmine. The other part is, I’m running for congress in a part of Massachusetts with many conservatives. Listening to the other side helps me be a better candidate.

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. Top fantastic illustrators Wayne Barlowe, Donato Giancola, Greg Manchess will demonstrate their skills and techniques in an open forum at the Society of Illustrators in New York on July 8 from Noon to 4 p.m.

Plus! Have your portfolios reviewed by renowned art directors Irene Gallo (Associate Publisher, Tor.com/ Creative Director, Tor Books) and Lauren Panepinto (Creative Director, Orbit Books/ Yen Press). 15 minutes reviews. Reservations required

Admission: $50 Non-members | $40 Members | $20 Students/ seniors (Undergrad with valid ID) Price includes the catalog from The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature.

(5) SPACE SALVATION. Sylvia Engdahl revives a philosophical debate in “Space colonization, faith, and Pascal’s Wager” at The Space Review.

In his essay “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” published in the journal Astropolitics, historian Roger Launius argues that enthusiasm for space can be viewed as a religion. He focuses mainly on comparisons with the outer trappings of religion, many of which are apt, but in one place he reaches the heart of the issue. “Like those espousing the immortality of the human soul among the world’s great religions… statements of humanity’s salvation through spaceflight are fundamentally statements of faith predicated on no knowledge whatsoever.”

I think Launius may be somewhat too pessimistic in his assertion that we have no knowledge whatsoever about our ability to develop technology that will enable humans live in the hostile environment of space, but that is beside the point. It’s true that we have no assurance that the colonization of space will ensure the long-term survival of humankind. “Absent the discovery of an Earthlike habitable exoplanet to which humanity might migrate,” Launius continues, “this salvation ideology seems problematic, a statement of faith rather than knowledge or reason.” And the accessibility of such an exoplanet is questionable, since by current knowledge it will not be possible to cross interstellar space rapidly enough to achieve much migration.

It is indeed faith that underlies the conviction that traveling beyond our home world will prevent the extinction of the human race. But Launius’ presentation of this fact seems to imply that it lessens the significance of such a conviction, as if beliefs supported by mere faith were not to be taken seriously. That is far from the case, as the history of human civilization clearly shows. Most major advances have been made by people who had faith in what they envisioned before they were able to produce evidence; that was what made them keep working toward it. Having faith in the future, whether a personal future or that of one’s successors, has always been what inspires human action.

On what grounds can faith without evidence be justified? This issue was addressed by the 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal in what is known as Pascal’s Wager, now considered the first formal use of decision theory. Pascal was considering whether is rational to believe in God, but the principle he formulated has been applied to many other questions. In his words, “Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” If on the other hand, you bet on it being false and it turns out to be true, you lose everything; thus to do so would be stupid if the stakes are high.

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

Karen Heuler

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

Genevieve Valentine

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

(7) AMBIENT TRIBUTE TO DUNE SERIES. April Larson, a Louisiana ambient/drone/noise musician, has released a tribute album to the original Dune trilogy and the other Dune-related novels on Bandcamp.

It is titled “You Stand in a Valley Between Dunes” and the album features tracks with names such as “The Fall of Ix (Core Instability Mix),” “Lady Jessica,” and “Guild Navigator (Junction).”

April Larson is the representative of a tribe of naga located along the coast of Louisiana. She translates music into sense- data… through a collection of three interlaced brains. She continues her research in oneironautic listening and regularly delivers lectures on relevant tone-clusters to beehives and ghosts.

(8) RYAN OBIT. YouTuber Stevie Ryan (1984-2017): American comedian, actress and writer; found dead by apparent suicide on 3 July, aged 33. She appeared as a version of herself in the experimental thriller John Doe: Diary of a Serial Killer (2015, but apparently never released).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future released, features 1981 DeLorean DMC-12.
  • July 3, 1985 — George Romero’s Day of the Dead is seen for the first time.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day was released.

(10) FACE IN A DUFF CROWD. Paul Weimer took this picture on his trip Down Under. I’ve interacted with Ian Mond online but I’ve never seen him before.

(11) SKIFFY AND FANTY POLL. Man, this is a hard one!

(12) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER NEWS. You’ve been warned. Tariq Kyle, in “’Doctor Who’ season 10 finale explained: Yes, that is who you think it is” on Hypable, says that the mysterious guy in the end of the Season 10 finale of Doctor Who is in fact William Hartnell (played by David Bradley) and that Hartnell and Peter Capaldi will survive until this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, at which time Capaldi will regenerate.

Doctor Who season 10 just ended with a cliffhanger that none of us saw coming, and if you’re wondering who the mysterious new character is and where they are in the Doctor’s timeline, then check out our explanation!

Obviously, if you haven’t seen the season 10 finale of Doctor Who yet, beware of huge spoilers. If you continue on and you don’t want to be spoiled, then ¯\_(?)_/¯.

(13) CHILL FACTOR. Reason TV has put out a video called “Mark Hamill v. Autographed Memorabilia:  The Revenge of the Dark Side,” which is mostly about Bill Petrocelli of the San Francisco-based chain Book Passage and how his company will be affected by the California autograph law. The impetus for the law was Mark Hamill’s complaining about fake Hamill autographs, which caught the ear of the legislator who had the law introduced.

(14) WHAT AUNT MAY HAS TO SAY. This is not your uncle’s Aunt May: “WATCH: Marisa Tomei on making Aunt May cooler than Peter in Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

What is different is Aunt May herself. Let’s face it, Tiger: May has never been cooler than she is now, as portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei. She’s much younger than she’s ever been portrayed in the comics or any of the previous Spider-Man feature films. The fact that the age difference between Peter and May is much less adds a new dynamic to their relationship … but, thankfully, not even a hint of sexual tension. (Hey, the actress brought it up, not me!)

SYFY WIRE talked with Tomei about how her Aunt May still worries about Peter, primarily about the fact that he doesn’t seem to have a social life. We also talked about whether May trusts Tony Stark as Peter’s mentor and what she wants to see in an Aunt May action figure.

 

(15) WHAT’S MY LINE? Meanwhile, back in the Sunday funnies: “Spider-Man and His Inker: Wrists Still Going Strong a Half-Century Later”. Joe Sinnott in his studio; several photos.

Joe Sinnott says spider webs drive him crazy, even though he has been drawing them for over 50 years for one of the world’s most famous superheroes.

“They’ve got to be so accurate, and they’ve got to be the same all the time,’’ he said. “It takes me about three days to do two pages.”

At 90, Mr. Sinnott still brings to life the action tales spun by Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man, continuing a collaboration begun in 1950 when Mr. Sinnott first went to work for Mr. Lee at what later became Marvel Comics. “Imagine having the same boss for 67 years,” Mr. Sinnott said. He added that they should be in the Guinness World Records book.

With pen and brush, he keeps Spider-Man flying over New York City, soaring from skyscraper to skyscraper, in a never-ending battle against supervillains. “It just takes time putting all those lines, and the tiny spider on Spider-Man’s chest, in such a small space,” Mr. Sinnott said.

(16) WEB REVIEW. The BBC says the new Spider-Man is “fun”.

The makers of Spider-Man: Homecoming have remembered something that the makers of almost every other recent superhero film have forgotten. They’ve remembered that if you’re going to tell a story about someone in a skin-tight costume who can throw cars around like frisbees, then it should probably be fun for all the family. That’s not to say that superhero movies can’t be used to lecture us on the international arms trade, or to examine why allies fall out and turn against each other. But sometimes they should return to their comic-book roots, and offer snazzy, buoyant entertainment for children as well as for their parents – and that’s what the latest Spider-Man film does.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “The story complains that the ‘gauche, geekily enthusiastic youngster with a pubescent squeak of a voice’ isn’t true to the comics; does anyone remember what Parker was like in the very early comics, when he was still in high school (as in the movie)?”

(17) SUNK COST. A first-class ticket to see the Titanic: “The ‘merman’ facing a Titanic mission”

Next year he will be taking dozens of paying passengers down about 12,500ft (nearly 2.4 miles or 3.8km) to the wreck of the Titanic, 370 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland.

OceanGate, the US firm behind the dives, says more people have been into space or climbed Mount Everest than have visited the Titanic’s final resting place.

The firm stresses that it is a survey expedition and not a tourist trip.

Over six weeks from next May, David will make repeated dives in a new carbon fibre submersible called Cyclops 2, designed to withstand depths of up to 4,000m.

On each trip to the bottom of the ocean, he will take three “mission specialists” – passengers who are underwriting the expedition – and a “content expert” with a good working knowledge of the wreck

The expedition doesn’t come cheap. Each one of the 54 people who have signed up for the deep dive is paying $105,129 for the privilege.

(18) LINEUP, SIGN UP, AND RE-ENLIST TODAY. The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix asks “There are already four-hour lines at Walt Disney World’s new ‘Avatar’-themed attraction. Does Pandora live up to the hype?” And he answers that the Avatar-based “Pandora” section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a “trippy, tropical” and “an authentically immersive land that soothes even as it dazzles,” but prepared to wait four hours to get on the two rides in the section.

The Disney iteration, though, takes place generations after the miners have been driven out (hopefully with ample job-retraining for these victims of the War on Unobtanium) and the peacefully gigantic blue Na’vi of Pandora are busy restoring it to space-age splendor. That ingenious conceit allowed planners to combine dystopian ruins (the colossal exo-armor battle suit from the movie’s climax sits rusting outside the gift shop) with lush streambeds and flowering vines.

(19) SUBTRACTION BY DIVISION. Lela E. Buis, in “Does the Hugo really represent fandom?”, totes up the racial and sexual minorities among this year’s Hugo-nominated fiction authors only to find a problem with this diversity. And what is that problem?

So, what are the chances that SFF fandom as a whole would elect this ballot? Remember that taste is never random, but with equal participation I’d expect the SFF readership demographics should roughly match the ballot for a popular award. Assuming that everyone participates, of course.

What does that mean? If the right people were voting for the Hugos the list of winners would look like the Dragon Awards? Is that what this is code for?

(20) APPROPRIATION V. EXCHANGE. K. Tempest Bradford wrote a commentary NPR that declares “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible”.

…Cultural appropriation can feel hard to get a handle on, because boiling it down to a two-sentence dictionary definition does no one any favors. Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

That’s why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there’s no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.

I teach classes and seminars alongside author and editor Nisi Shawl on Writing the Other, and the foundation of our work is that authors should create characters from many different races, cultures, class backgrounds, physical abilities, and genders, even if — especially if — these don’t match their own. We are not alone in this. You won’t find many people advising authors to only create characters similar to themselves. You will find many who say: Don’t write characters from minority or marginalized identities if you are not going to put in the hard work to do it well and avoid cultural appropriation and other harmful outcomes. These are different messages. But writers often see or hear the latter and imagine that it means the former….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories and the fried chicken. Other story thanks goes to Rob Thornton, Dann, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S FANNISH ANNIVERSARY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alley

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

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

Here’s what the heck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(14) SECURITY. China launches a quantum comsat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/13/17 Will Nobody Rid Me Of These Crottled Greeps?

(1) 2017 MANNING AWARD NOMINEES. Four of the five Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award nominees for 2017 are women:

  • Rafael de Latorre, artist of Animosity and Superzero (AfterShock)
  • Riana Dorsey, artist of Cloud Riders (Hashtag Comics)
  • Mindy Lee, artist of Bounty (Dark Horse)
  • Leila Leiz, artist of Alters (AfterShock)
  • Anne Szabla, writer/artist of Bird-Boy (Dark Horse)

(2) LEGENDARY BOOKSTORE TO CLOSE. Dark Carnival, SF bookstore in Berkeley, will soon go out of business, and may take the owner’s nearby comics store with it: “After 41 years, Berkeley sci-fi bookstore Dark Carnival is closing”.

After 41 years serving an enthusiastic customer base of sci-fi geeks and proud comic-book nerds in Berkeley, Dark Carnival, at 3086 Claremont Ave., is closing up shop. Its sister store, The Escapist, which is two doors down on Claremont, may also shutter if sales don’t pick up.

Owner Jack Rems describes himself as heartbroken. Speaking to Berkeleyside Monday, he said he had made the decision due to declining sales. He expressed gratitude to all his long-term customers and encouraged people to come by the store where he is holding a “progressive sale.” All stock is currently being offered at a 20% discount.

Rems doesn’t yet know when he will close the doors to the treasure-trove of a shop for the final time. “I need to pay bills, so as long as by selling off stock we are generating more than it costs [we will stay open],” he said.

(3) ARC AND PSA. The release of Ann Leckie’s Provenance draws closer. The author just got her advance reading copies.

It’s a real book! Sort of.

Just as a reminder–readers of this blog likely already know, but still–Provenance is set in the Ancillaryverse but does not concern the same characters and is not set in Radch Space. No, and not in the Republic of Two Systems either. It will be out September 26, 2017, and I’m given to understand there will be an audiobook, out on the same date. I have no further details about audio, though.

(4) STRANGE TAXONOMY. “The idea that the X Prize Foundation is funding sf is big news,” says Martin Morse Wooster about the news story below, “BUT if you look at the Science Fiction Advisory Council press release you will see that Neil Gaiman and Andy Weir are ‘novelists’ while Charles Stross and Mike Resnick are ‘science fiction writers.’”

From Slate, “Prototyping a Better Tomorrow”:

The fact that so many people are turning toward these dire visions of the future may seem like cause for worry, but it is also a sign of hope. Great dystopian works like The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, in the words of one defender of dystopian fiction, can serve as self-defeating prophecies helping us to recognize and prevent the dark worlds they depict. Put another way, The Handmaid’s Tale actually is an instruction manual, meant to teach us what we must fight to avoid. But hope can’t live on dystopia alone. It requires positive visions, too.

Thankfully, an ambitious new project launched this month aims to use the vision and expertise of the science fiction community–including Atwood herself–to move past dystopian visions. The newly announced Science Fiction Advisory Council, composed of a stellar selection of 64 bestselling sci-fi writers and visionary filmmakers, has tasked itself with imagining realistic, possible, positive futures that we might actually want to live in–and figuring out we can get from here to there. The council is sponsored by XPRIZE, the nonprofit foundation that uses competition to spur private development of things like a reusable suborbital spacecraft. The advisers on the council will “assist XPRIZE in the creation of digital ‘futures’ roadmaps across a variety of domains [and] identify the ideal catalysts, drivers and mechanisms–including potential XPRIZE competitions–to overcome grand challenges and achieve a preferred future state.”

(5) DIVERGING PATHS. For everyone who read these books and thought they should do this except it would take so much time, Tor.com brings you “The Secret Maps Buried Beneath the “Choose Your Own Adventure” Books”.

“Choose Your Own Adventure” was a groundbreaking book series that prepared many of our child minds for the internet…or for keeping track of all the endnotes in Infinite Jest if you’re into that sort of thing. But did you know that each twisty, unforgiving story in the CYOA series has a map? The good folks over at Atlas Obscura have dug into the books and the maps they’ve generated.

The series original ran from 1979 to 1998, but since 2004, Chooseco, the company founded by one of the CYOA author, R.A. Montgomery, has re-released classic volumes and included the maps that are created by all the possible choices in each book! The official maps keep things fairly clear-cut. Pages are shown by an arrow, circles represent the choices the book offers its readers, each possible ending is represented by a square, and the dotted lines show the links between choices.

(6) ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT EXPO. Follow this link to a roundup of game news from E3 2017.

There is a long list of announcements and news items in Tuesday’s individual post alone.

(7) ORGAN CONCERT. Daniel P. Dern was fascinated by the New York Times article about “The Liver: A ‘Blob’ That Runs the Body”.

The underrated, unloved liver performs more than 300 vital functions. No wonder the ancients believed it to be the home of the human soul.

Dern points to “fascinating stuff” like –

Scientists have also discovered that hepatocytes, the metabolically active cells that constitute 80 percent of the liver, possess traits not seen in any other normal cells of the body. For example, whereas most cells have two sets of chromosomes — two sets of genetic instructions on how a cell should behave — hepatocytes can enfold and deftly manipulate up to eight sets of chromosomes, and all without falling apart or turning cancerous.

“Not to mention the amusing term, ‘liverati’,” he continues. “Wonder if this organ was originally an alien symbiote, etc?”

(8) BEOWULF’S NEW NEIGHBOR. A Python’s diaries go to the British Museum.

Michael Palin has made a significant donation of written archives to the British Library, which documents his literary and creative career, covering the years 1965-1987.

Not much text, but some interesting video with commentary. Chip Hitchcock adds, “Note especially that the original contract paid one person in pounds and the rest in guineas; how very antique.”

(9) PUFF, PUFF, PUFF. What happened to Robert the smoking robot? A briefly-notorious private project from the 1930’s.

Today, the story of Robert the Robot is little known, even in the Northamptonshire town where he was once a celebrity.

Yet in the 1930s, his fame reached as far as Czechoslovakia and the United States, where he even featured in Time magazine.

And the reason he came to be?

“Someone bet me £5 I could not make a robot in three weeks,” inventor Charles Lawson, who had a radio shop, told a newspaper at the time.

“I won.”

… “The robot relied on a combination of motors, photoelectric cells, telephone relays and a record player to perform 26 pre-programmed routines, each one initiated by voice commands from a human co-star.

“Smoking was done using automated bellows which were also a feature of 19th Century automatons.

“Remember that this type of robot did not have access to a computer and so talking was done using a triggering mechanism for a record player playing old 78 RPM bakelite records.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 13, 1953 The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms hit theaters.

  • June 13, 1981Clash of the Titans was released.

(11) FORGOTTEN TV. Echo Ishii holds forth on a rare Seventies series with Edward Woodward in “SF Obscure: 1990”.

1990, made in 1977, posits a future Britain run by the Public Control Department (PCD)- an all powerful bureaucracy in which government regulations turn into social control. A few lone journalists walk a fine line between criticizing the government and being shut down.

It starts with an attempt at a military overthrow in the mid 1980’s in which the state took over. Emigration, not immigration, is Britain’s biggest problem as those with skilled jobs and higher education seek a life abroad.

(12) TRUE SCI-FI. John King Tarpinian says, “I’ve not heard of this artist but I love his work: “El Gato Gomez Painting Retro Mid Century Modern Atomic Ranch House Robot Sci -Fi” for sale on eBay.

(13) TALKING OVER. Rose Eveleth’s “What I Learned About Interruption From Talk Radio”, on her blog Last Word on Nothing, comes recommended by Martin Morse Wooster: “I think has a lot of good practical advice which panelists at conventions can use.”

On June 3rd, writer and philosopher Jim Holt was moderating a panel at the World Science Festival called “Pondering the Imponderables: The Biggest Questions of Cosmology.” …One of the panelists was a woman named Veronika Hubeny, a theoretical physicist. She was the only woman on the panel. Holt asked Hubeny a question about string theory. And then, without letting Hubby [sic] answer his question, Holt began to hold forth on string theory.

The exchange was caught on camera, so you can watch it here. Hubeny is clearly trying to answer Holt’s question, but he simply won’t stop talking to let her. At one point, a woman in the audience named Marilee Talkington, actually shouted “LET HER SPEAK” to stop Holt from interrupting (you can read her entire account of the panel here). After a pause that I’m sure felt like ages to Talkington, the audience burst into applause. Hubeny then finally got to speak.

I’m not here to adjudicate this exchange, and I’m sure if you want to read heated debates about it you can find those using your trusty search engine of choice. Or the YouTube comments, if you enjoy true pain.

But this, this thing where a man simply doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise, this doesn’t happen to me much. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of mansplainers (my favorite being a clone of Solnit’s book-explainer, the man who explained my own podcast to me). But I don’t generally have trouble getting a word in. And I think it’s because I learned how to handle men who talk over me by listening to all that talk radio.

So here are my tips for anybody who might find themselves in a situation like Hubeny, where someone simply isn’t letting you get a word in, as learned from many, many hours of talk radio.

Let’s start with some general rules. First, when you are dealing with a chronic over-talker, do not try to be subtle. This is not a situation in which you should “go high.” Politeness does not work here, nor does trying to “take the high road.” You will wait forever for them to notice that they are doing this. You will die or fall asleep or the universe will end in a white-hot explosion before they will stop and think “hm I have been talking a lot I wonder if I’m talking over this person.”

Second, there are no pauses in talk radio, no long moments of thinking, no silences while you try to formulate a thoughtful response. Think of this conversation like a rock climbing wall. Each breath and micro-pause is a foothold. Your interlocutor will grab every single one and climb to the top, and you will be left at the bottom staring up at his backside. And it is not a nice view, let me assure you. …

(14) THE CANDY MAN. Atlas Obscura argues that “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight”. And American adults — as a Narnia fan it seemed de rigeur to try some why I was on a tour of Turkey in 2004.

Turkish Delight, or lokum, is a popular dessert sweet throughout Europe, especially in Greece, the Balkans, and, of course, Turkey. But most Americans, if they have any association with the treat at all, know it only as the food for which Edmund Pevensie sells out his family in the classic children’s fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Until I first tried real Turkish Delight in my 20s, I had always imagined it as a cross between crisp toffee and halvah, flaky and melting in the mouth.

Here’s what it really is: a starch and sugar gel often containing fruit or nuts and flavored with rosewater, citrus, resin, or mint. The texture is gummy and sticky, some of the flavors are unfamiliar to American palates, and the whole thing is very, very sweet. (In addition to the sugar in the mixture, it’s often dusted with icing sugar to keep the pieces from sticking together.) While some Turkish Delight newbies may find they enjoy it, it’s not likely to be the first thing we imagine when we picture an irresistible candy treat.

What I had matches the author’s description. And it was okay, but far from addictive.

(15) HOPS HORROR. “Don’t drink and dive,” says Andrew Porter after seeing this ad for The Temple from Narragansett Beer.

The Story

There was nothing we could do. It was just after 2pm on June 28th when we heard the explosion from the engine room. We were across enemy lines and we could do nothing but sink quietly to the ocean floor. Helpless and incapacitated, our submarine drifted for days — weeks. That’s when we found it aboard the ship — a very odd and seemingly ancient ivory medallion. As the men started to pass it around the ship for inspection, their minds began to fill with darkness and visions of those lost to the deep floating by the portholes of the ill-fated vessel in which we were trapped.

League by league, we fell into black nothingness, and with every league another member of my crew was stripped of his sanity. “MERCY!” they would begin to cry. Over and over. One by one they would turn. There was nothing else we could do… what else could we do? It needed to stop!

Today is August 9th. I have been resting on the ocean floor for nearly 3 weeks now alone and in complete darkness… except for… My mind has been tainted by hallucination. I swear it. Outside of the porthole lies a temple with a lone light shining over it’s door. The voices of my men have been chanting, pushing me to explore the impossible structure. I fell to their temptations, put my diving suit on, and stepped out onto the pitch black ocean floor and headed for the inconceivable glow. Once I arrived on the steps a voice hissed, “What do you seek?”

(16) CARTOON OF THE DAY/. In Martin, Sholto Crow reveals what happens if you use a metal detector on the beach and you dig up something that has a green flashing warning light!

[Thanks to JJ, DB, Cat Eldridge, Daniel P. Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 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 5/19/17 And He Beheld White Scrolls And Beyond Them A Far Green Pixel Under A Swift Sunrise

(1) BUSINESS MEETING. Worldcon 75 has posted the Business Meeting Agenda [PDF file] on the WSFS Business Meeting page. It’s 18 pages — and it may not be done growing yet.

(2) DELANY. The New Republic devotes an article to “Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”.

The first volume, In Search of Silence, begins in 1957, when the author was just fifteen, a student at the academically exclusive (and very white) Bronx High School of Science. It ends in 1969, when he was already a successful novelist, about to leave for San Francisco to spend arduous years crafting the novel Dhalgren, his masterpiece. Traversing Delany’s youth, we see a precocious mind grappling with his own talent. Remarkably absent are extended reflections on the difficult circumstances of his outer life: At the time, Delany was navigating through the racism and homophobia of his era, and struggling with poverty, an early marriage, and his own disability. In light of this, the diaries’ portrayal of his serenely intellectual inner life is startling.

(3) COMING TO GRIPS. “On convention hugging” by Sigrid Ellis is a rational model for solving a social dilemma.

It’s SF/F convention season again, and once more we are all presented with the conundrum —

Do I hug this person hello and goodbye, or not?

Social hugging! It’s a thing! Yet, it is MOST DEFINITELY NOT A THING for a lot of people.

Here is how I, personally, navigate these situations. While this may not work perfectly for you, feel free to modify it for your own use….

(3) EMERGING INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia says:

We are in touch with the Indigenous Studies Association (ILSA) and it seems this [award] will become a reality. Therefore you can find an IndieGoGo to funnel money via: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/emerging-indigenous-voices#/. My name doesn’t appear on that page, it says Robin Parker, but I am in touch with Robin so don’t worry.

Through today, $70,485 has been pledged. Moreno-Garcia’s latest update has further information:

The Indigenous organization in question will reveal details about how the money will be handled once some logistics are determined, but they are a trustworthy group so don’t be afraid, the money will reach a good place.

There are many other place you could support: Indian and Cowboy, Red Rising Magazine. There’s the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, and last but not least Full Circle, which supports the development of Indigenous playwrights.

There are other ways to support Indigenous creators. Read, share and discuss their books. This should not be a one-time occurrence, guilt should not be the vector that guides your actions, virtue-signaling should not be your driver.

(4) APPERTAINMENT AT THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. They couldn’t slip a blatant typo like this past the pros:

(5) KAREN DAVIDSON OBIT. Karen Lynn Davidson, wife of Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. Steve said on Facebook, “Goodbye baby doll. I hope you got where you wanted to go.”

He also wanted everyone to know how much credit Karen deserved for the existence of Amazing Stories.

It is very important for me to be sure that everyone knows the following:

Behind the scenes, Karen made Amazing Stories happen.

Before we were married, Karen became well acquainted with my love for science fiction. She was not as interested (preferring Stephen King), but she happily indulged my passion…including all of my books.

When I discovered that the Amazing Stories trademarks had lapsed, Karen was the one who double checked me and confirmed that unbelievable fact.

When it came time to register new trademarks for the name, Karen was the one who agreed to spend some of our (very limited) cash reserves to fund the project.

When our investors dried up, Karen agreed to go back to work and allow me to try to bootstrap the magazine.

Whenever I was unsure what direction to take, Karen always provided valuable insight.

Whatever you may think of Amazing Stories, please know that without Karen, none of it would have happened.

This makes me wonder how many other non-fan supporters are owed a big debt by fandom and the genre for that support.

I’m taking the time now to thank Karen for this very special thing she did for me. If you know someone like her, it might be a good idea for you to do the same.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 19, 1928 — First Jumping Frog Jubilee in Calaveras County, California.
  • May 19, 2011 — HP Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness opens in Los Angeles.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(8) NATAL YEAR FLIX. Thrillist invites you to check out “The Biggest Movie From the Year You Were Born”. It’s no surprise that I was considered old enough to see the “biggest” picture long before the “Best Picture” winner.

If you were born in 1953…

The BIGGEST movie was The Robe , which grossed $17.5 million in the United States.

The Best Picture winner was From Here to Eternity, which also won Oscars for Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, Best Sound

But the best movie was Tokyo Story. A delicate, heart-crushing view into the lives of two grandparents reaching out to their narcissistic children for support and finding none — marked by director Ozu Yasujiro’s pristine attention to detail and framing.

(9) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Add this to the list of things I’ve never heard about before: “China claims breakthrough in mining ‘flammable ice'”.

The catchy phrase describes a frozen mixture of water and gas.

“It looks like ice crystals but if you zoom in to a molecular level, you see that the methane molecules are caged in by the water molecules,” Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore told the BBC.

Officially known as methane clathrates or hydrates, they are formed at very low temperatures and under high pressure. They can be found in sediments under the ocean floor as well as underneath permafrost on land.

Despite the low temperature, these hydrates are flammable. If you hold a lighter to them, the gas encapsulated in the ice will catch fire. Hence, they are also known as “fire ice” or “flammable ice”.

Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Filers may remember a sudden release of hydrated methane starting off a John Barnes(?) novel.”

(10) ICE HOUSE. Meanwhile, in the land of the midnight blog, Jon Del Arroz trolls the Worldcon.

(11) MEMORY VERSE. Carl Slaughter thought I should know this:

“I do not aim with my hand,
I aim with my eyes.

 

I do not shoot with my hand,
I shoot with my mind.

 

I do not kill with my gun,
I kill with my heart.” – The Gunslinger

 

The Dark Tower
Stephen King

(12) TRAGIC TROPE. Steven Harper Piziks tells “Why I Won’t See Alien: Covenant” — and he hopes everyone else will give it a miss, too. BEWARE SPOILERS.

I will not see this movie. I will not rent the DVD. I will not support this movie. And here’s why.

SPOILERS (you are warned)

According to various on-line sources, the sins of the same-sex relationship portrayal are the standard ones we’ve come to expect. First, although there were several initial shots to the contrary, there is little or no indication of a marriage–or any kind of relationship–between the two men throughout the film. They don’t touch. They don’t exchange endearments. There was apparently a brief moment of hugging between them in a preview, but that scene has been cut from the film, and that preview has been removed from the Internet. In other words, gay people are still invisible. No LGBT characters are actually in the spotlight. No LGBT protagonists. Just a couple of background guys who may or may not be in a relationship.

But the worst sin comes early in the second act. Hallett, one of the (so far probably) gay men, becomes infected with the alien infection, and a baby alien bursts out of his face. (Not his chest, like in the other movies, but out of his freakin’ face. He’s probably gay, so we have to up the nastiness.) While the ship’s captain leans in to murmur quiet apologies, Lope, the other probably gay guy, whispers, “I love you” and then is forced to walk away.

One more time, we have the gay tragedy….

(13) CRACKED CORNERSTONE. Critics gave the movie that launched the franchise a cool reception (for different reasons) — “‘Alien’: Why Critics in 1979 Hated It”. (I liked it a lot, myself.)

“Don’t race to [Alien] expecting the wit of Star Wars or the metaphysical pretentions of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” wrote Vincent Canby of The New York Times. A better comparison, he wrote, would be Howard Hawks‘ 1951 monster movie The Thing from Another World, all suspense and jump scares. Canby wasn’t the only critic to associate Alien with the kinds of horror flicks that played at 1950s drive-ins. Variety compared the film to It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and The Guardian’s Derek Malcolm to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). To these critics, Scott’s film was a throwback to a less sophisticated era of filmmaking. That’s why The Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert dismissed Alien as “basically just an intergalactic haunted-house thriller,” while Chicago Reader‘s Dave Kehr described the film’s conceit as “a rubber monster running amok in a spaceship.”

(14) PRIZE-WINNING ADS. Adweek reports “Graham, the Human Redesigned to Survive Car Crashes, Wins Best of Show at New York Festivals”. “Field Trip to Mars” and “Gravity Cat” also received awards.

Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has won Best of Show at New York Festivals for “Meet Graham,” the PSA campaign for Australia’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) that involved the model creation of a human designed to withstand car-crash forces.

Automobiles have evolved much faster than humans. Graham was created by artist Patricia Piccinini, with help from a trauma surgeon and an accident research engineer, after she was commissioned to study the effects of road trauma on the human body. As the only “human” developed to withstand trauma on our roads, Graham is meant to make people stop and think about their own vulnerability, Clemenger says.

Two other campaigns received two Grand Prize Awards each: Lockheed Martin’s “The Field Trip to Mars” by McCann New York, in Activation & Engagement and Outdoor/Out of Home Marketing; and Sony Interactive Entertainment/Gravity Daze 2’s “Gravity Cat” by Hakuhodo Tokyo, in Branded Entertainment and Film–Cinema/Online/TV.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge. Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. A little bit short today because I’m fighting a terrible cold. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]