Pixel Scroll 2/12/17 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Heart Of Scrolls?

(1) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Chip Hitchcock writes, “Boston has declared a snow emergency, so I followed the email link for information. The front page, https://www.boston.gov/winter-boston, says –“

(2) AGAINST ALL ODDS. Seanan McGuire tweets her animal rescue stories. Worst houseguest, lemur or emu, YOU DECIDE!

(3) 2017 BAFTA WINNERS. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced the winners of the EE British Academy Film Awards for 2017 on February 12. Although there originally were items of genre interest in 14 categories, only a few took home the hardware —

ANIMATED FILM

  • KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Travis Knight

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock

SOUND

  • ARRIVAL Sylvain Bellemare, Claude La Haye, Bernard Gariépy Strobl

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

  • THE JUNGLE BOOK Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon, Andrew R. Jones, Adam Valdez

(4) NOW BATTING FOR SUNIL PATEL. The Everyone: World Without Walls Kickstarter launched with a cover mockup featuring Sunil Patel’s name first among the story contributors. Today the publisher announced Patel is out, and most of the graphics have been changed to remove his name.

  • Before

  • After

No further explanation was given – the decision likely involves the reasons that other publications cut ties with Patel last October.

(5)  FLAMMABLE TOPIC. The cover of  the YA fantasy novel Before She Ignites, which features a black girl in a pretty ballgown, struck Justina Ireland as worthy of complaint, not because of the art, but the context.

Last night, someone sent me a link to Jodi Meadows’ new book, Before She Ignites.  I didn’t really understand the context until I saw the cover.

The cover, which is gorgeous, features a Black Girl in a pretty dress.  Awesome.

But the fact that the cover appears to be the first of it’s kind and it belongs to a white author serves to reinforce the absolute whiteness of publishing.  Because even when it wants to increase representation, publishers look to white authors to fill that need.

And that is the exact opposite of what should be happening…

(6) PUSHBACK. Mia Sereno (Likhain), a 2016 Tiptree Fellow, has published a letter to the editors of Apex Magazine complaining about their choice of Benjanun Sriduangkaew to host the “Intersectional SFF Roundtable”, posted on February 10.

I am deeply disappointed to find Benjanun Sriduangkaew, who previously also wrote under the pseudonym Requires Hate (RH), as a contributor to your roundtable on intersectionality in SFF.

It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.

It is a well-known fact that RH caused harm to people in the SFF community, disproportionately targeting women of color; there was even a published report on it, which garnered its writer a Hugo. Whether you agree with the circumstances surrounding the publication of the report or not, it cannot be denied that women in the SFF community, among them women of color, spoke about the harm RH caused them.

This leads me to some questions: does intersectionality in SFF not include women, especially women of color? Is intersectionality only important enough that we must write about it, but not so important that we actively value it by considering how much further harm giving RH a platform to talk about intersectionality would cause? By this I mean that RH speaking about intersectionality, when she herself has harmed marginalized people — when she has caused harm by using people’s marginalizations against them — is a grievous injury.

I wonder whether you did not consider these things, or whether you did, but simply valued having RH’s contributions to your intersectional roundtable more than preventing harm. Neither bodes well for your commitment to marginalized people in the community.

I state again: it is not your decision to publish RH that appalls me; you have published her before, and I have simply not read the work. It is your decision to publish her in this specific, slap-in-the-face, salt-in-the-wounds context. Many of those harmed by RH — and the names attached to public reports or posts are not the entirety of them — are meant to be included by the idea of intersectionality; instead, you do worse than exclude.

(7) DAY OF THE DAY

  • February 12 – If you’re not living somewhere that celebrates Lincoln’s birthday, then naturally you’ll have to make the best selection you can —

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities. still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. – Charles Darwin

There was a pivotal moment in history when we began to look at ourselves, and at life, in a new way. It changed not just how we perceived ourselves, but how we were related to all the other life and species on Earth. We came to realize, along the way, that we were kin, however distant, of every lifeform on Earth, and that moment was both aggrandizing and humbling, all at once. That moment was when Charles Darwin brought the idea of Law of Natural Selection into the limelight of the scientific world, and we began to see with clear eyes how everything, absolutely everything, was connected.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 12, 1931 — Today marks the 86th anniversary of the release of Dracula starring the iconic Bela Lugosi.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COMMANDER

  • February 15, 1915 – After he finished playing Pa Cartwright, today’s birthday boy Lorne Greene became Battlestar Galactica’s Commander Adama.

(10) CALHOUN NULLIFIED. Yale dumps slavery supporter’s name on “college”, replaces with computer hero.

Calhoun College will be renamed to honour Grace Murray Hopper, who helped transform the way people use technology.

Hopper earned Yale degrees in the 1930s and became a US Navy rear admiral.

Saturday’s announcement, which follows years of debate, reverses a decision made last year.

The Ivy League university said the move ends the controversy over the former politician and defender of slavery John C Calhoun, whose legacy led to campus protests in 2015.

Four people were arrested in a peaceful protest as recently as Friday after they blocked a road near the residential college.

Yale University president, Peter Salovey, announced in April that the school would keep Calhoun’s name. However he later appointed an advisory panel to determine whether the decision was correct.

Chip Hitchcock amplifies, “For those not familiar with this peculiarity: ‘colleges’ were nominally modeled after Oxbridge but are residential/social only; all undergraduates are enrolled in Yale College.”

(11) DON’T BUY THAT STAR BALONEY. Columnist John Kelly gets to play Snopes when someone asks him if “the Washington Post film critic was fired for giving Star Wars a bad review“; the critic, Gary Arnold, notes that his review of Star Wars was, in fact, highly favorable.

Arnold was quite prescient when it came to how “Star Wars” would be remembered, predicting that the film was “virtually certain of overwhelming popular and critical success. It has a real shot at approaching the phenomenal popularity of ‘Jaws.’?”

Although Arnold never heard the rumor that his “Star Wars” review cost him his job, he has heard another urban myth: that a top Post editor ordered his dismissal after his negative review of Robert Duvall’s “Tender Mercies.”

That’s not true, either. Well, it is true that Arnold didn’t like 1983’s “Tender Mercies.” Duvall played a glum country-western singer by the name of Mac Sledge — “more like Mac Sludge,” Gary wrote.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/17 Try A Little Pixelness

(1) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. GoodEReader reports “Audio Realms is out of business”.

Audio Realms has gone out of business and they have taken their main website and Facebook Page offline. They have provided no indication on what prompted their company to suspend operations. Some of their audiobook content remains available on Audible and Overdrive.

Some customers are irate who purchased Audio Realms content on Audiobooks.com. It seems that when the company want out of business all of the purchased content has disappeared from customers libraries and they have no way to access them.

The Horror Show podcast from November has info on how affected creators can stop further sales of their work (apparently AR was not paying creators what they were owed), around the 36:58 mark.

(2) GORN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Fifty years ago this week Captain Kirk dueled the Gorn.

The lumbering green guy appeared in the original series’ 18th episode, “Arena.” The episode was based on a short story written by Frederic Brown and published in Astounding magazine back in 1944.

In the memorable Star Trek version, Captain Kirk is transported to a rocky planet (aka California’s alien-appearing Vasquez Rocks) to duke it out to the death with the Gorn captain. We won’t give away the ending in case you’re saving all the original episodes for a rainy day or something, but let’s just say that there is not one thing about the Gorn that is not awesome…

(3) SFRA CALLS. The Science Fiction Research Association has put out a call for panel and presentation proposals for its SFRA Annual Conference, June 28 to July 1, 2017 at University of California, Riverside.

The conference theme will be Unknown Pasts / Unseen Futures and our keynote speaker is Nnedi Okorafor. This theme grows out of the 2016 conference, whose conversations reminded us that there is so much about the history of science fiction that has yet to be sufficiently addressed in scholarship, including marginalized or otherwise neglected bodies of work. The future of scholarship in the field can be opened up to new possibilities through this return to under examined elements in our genre’s past, opening it up to futures that are as-yet unanticipated in existing fictional and scholarly visions. This conference theme also reflects UCR’s commitment to science fiction scholarship that is focused on imagining and creating sustainable and inclusive futures. Thus our focus is equally on new voices in the field and the new kinds of futures that emerge from this broader sense of the field’s membership.

(4) BLINTZ BLITZ. Scott Edelman’s 27th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast features Ellen Datlow and Ukranian cuisine.

This first to be recorded this visit took place at the Ukranian restaurant Veselka, which turns out more than 3,000 pierogi each day, and has been around since 1954. My guest that afternoon was editor Ellen Datlow, who for more than 35 years has brought readers amazing stories in magazines such as Omni, on sites such as SCI FI Fiction, and in anthologies such as Fearful Symmetries, The Doll Collection, and more than 90 others.

We discussed why reading slush is relaxing, which editors she wanted to emulate when she began editing, how she winnows down her favorite stories for her Year’s Best anthologies, the complexities of navigating friendships when making editorial decisions, how Ed Bryant challenged her to become a better editor, and much more.

EllenDatlowVeselka-768x768

(5) FERRER OBIT. Actor Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017) died January 19. Geek Chocolate explains why you would know that famous sci-fi face:

In another shocking loss, we say goodbye to the actor who went from the helm of the USS Excelsior to the labs of OCP where RoboCop was built, from aiding Agent Dale Cooper in the town of Twin Peaks to Vice President of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

His first major role having been in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, he also had roles in William Friedkin’s The Guardian, Jim Abrahams’ Hot Shots! Part Deux, and as a voice actor in Disney’s Mulan and Justice League: The New Frontier as Martian Manhunter, but it was on television that he created the roles for which he is most famous.

Other television roles included Magnum, P.I., T J Hooker, Miami Vice, Tales from the Crypt, David Lynch’s On the Air, Will & Grace, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Robot Chicken, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Lie to Me, Psych, Desperate Housewives and most recently a long-running role as Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles, and it has been confirmed that he will be seen again later this year as Albert Rosenfield when Twin Peaks returns this summer.

The son of singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV in David Lynch’s Dune, his cousin George is also in the acting business.

(6) SMITH OBIT. Renowned convention bookseller Larry Smith (1946-2017) died January 20 from a dissected aortic aneurysm.

SF Site News recapped his fannish resume:

Columbus book dealer Larry Smith (b.1946) died on January 20. Smith co-chaired the Columbus in 1976 Worldcon bid as well as chairing Marcons III-XII. He served as a vice-chair for Chicon IV in 1982. He also co-charied OVFF in 1998 and World Fantasy Con in 2010. In the early 1990s, he purchased Dick Spelman’s book business and, along with his wife, Sally Kobee, has sold books and most conventions in the Midwest and East Coast. He has managed the dealer’s room at numerous Worldcons and other conventions.

Smith and his friend Robert Hillis suffered repeated frustrations trying to get a WSFS convention for Columbus, OH – a city which was not very many fans’ idea of a tourist mecca. Later they did get to apply their talents to winning a 1982 Worldcon bid (led by Larry Propp and Ross Pavlac) for Chicago, a city fans would vote for.

In the past couple of decades Smith became an iconic convention bookseller, together with his wife Sally Kobee. If the business didn’t make them rich, just the same it did get them noticed by Forbes Magazine.

Larry Smith and Sally Kobee at Readercon 25.

Larry Smith and Sally Kobee at Readercon 25.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 20, 1936:  Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi face off in The Invisible Ray.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 20  — Nancy Kress

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 20, 1896  — George Burns, who once played God, is best known to fans as the actor who stood next to young Ray Bradbury in this photo.
George Burns and Ray Bradbury.

George Burns and Ray Bradbury.

  • Born January 20, 1926 – Harry Glyer
  • Born January 20, 1930 – Buzz Aldrin
  • Born January 20 – Jared Dashoff

(10) OH POOH. Five days left for you to bid on a drawing of Pooh and Piglet by the canonical illustrator. The minimum bid is $45,000.

Beautifully rendered watercolor and ink drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet by E.H. Shepard, the illustrator chosen by A.A. Milne to bring his literary characters to life. Here, Shepard draws Pooh and Piglet upon a letter to his agent, allowing the characters to express his feelings of gratitude and joy.

Pooh drawing

(11) RED PLANET, BLUE PLANET. NPR reviews Carrie Vaughn’s novel — “’Martians Abroad’ Is An Optimistic Glance Into Humanity’s Future”.

It’s perfect timing, then, for the publication of Martians Abroad. The novel is the latest from New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn, best known for her Kitty Norville urban fantasy series. But rather than involving werewolves in modern-day America, Martians Abroad sets its sights on the human-colonized solar system of tomorrow.

That said, most of Martians Abroad — as the title states — doesn’t take place on Mars at all. The majority of the action takes place on Earth. Polly Newton is a typical teenager — that is, a typical teenager living on Mars’ Colony One, where her mother is the director of operations. She sends Polly and her twin brother Charles to Earth to attend Galileo Academy, a prestigious school full of the scions of the most powerful families in the solar system. Polly and Charles are the first Martians to enroll at Galileo, partly because Mars is less wealthy and seen as a bit of a hick planet. (Not that Polly wants to go to Earth in the first place — she’s forced to abandon an upcoming internship as a starship pilot, something she desires more than anything.)

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with the gratuitous plea, “I hope they’re wrong about it being an homage to Podkayne of Mars, one of Heinlein’s more repellent books.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Christa Cook Sinclair, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP, who never gets woolly.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/17 And Someday, If I Can, I’m Gonna Be A Pixel Scroller Just Like My Old Man

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group is voting on the winners of The 2016 Best of r/Fantasy Stabby Awards through January 11. You’re invited.

For 2016, we need you to vote!

The eligible candidates below were set by the 2016 r/Fantasy Nomination Thread and populated by r/Fantasy members. The list was locked in place this past Wednesday at 10PM Pacific.

To vote, please click the upvote arrow next to your choice or choices for ‘best of’ in each category. Yes, you can upvote more than one.

(2) STICKS THE LANDING. The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger reviews Emerald City in “Toto, You’re Not a Basket-Size Terrier Anymore”

Dorothy, the Wizard and the rest of the Oz gang get the “Grimm” treatment as well as the grim treatment in “Emerald City,” a series beginning Friday on NBC, one that’s addictive if you allow it to be. That may, however, require some effort on your part.

emerald-city-nbc

You may not be conscious of just how deeply imprinted the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” is on your psyche until you watch a bit of this show, which initially seems so very wrong in every possible way. Where is the singing? Where are the psychedelic colors? So here’s what you do: At the first commercial break, pause and marvel all over again at what a spectacular achievement in artistry and cross-generational endurance the 1939 Judy Garland film is, and then let it go.

“Emerald City” has its Dorothy, engagingly played by Adria Arjona, but it draws on the full canon of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books (a series that continued after his death in 1919). It is partial to the dark and unsettling aspects of those tales, which it teases out and enhances with flourishes of its own. When this Dorothy lands in Oz, she’s armed, and that dog alongside her is no basket-size terrier.

The result is decidedly not a fairy tale for young children. This version of Oz has bloodshed, charred bodies, a very disturbing multiple suicide and much more. Friday’s premiere consists of two episodes, which is good, because two hours is about how long it takes you to acclimate to the tone and intent. In the third episode, a doozy, the show’s grip on you really tightens.

(3) NOT SINBAD AND NOT SHAZAAM. Kenneth R. Johnson emailed his theory about the misremembered genie movie debated in comments on yesterday’s Scroll:

I think I may have the answer to what the mysterious genie movie is that various people are mis-remembering as “Shazaam.”  I distinctly remember watching a movie on TV back in the 1990s in which the genie was played by a tall black guy with dreadlocks;  he also had some kind of British accent.  After extensive googling I’ve identified it as “Bernard and the Genie,” a TV movie from 1991.  The genie was played by British actor/comedian Lenny Henry.  He may have been doing a Jamaican accent to make the genie appear pseudo-Rastafarian.  The movie also has Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson in it.  It’s very strange.

(4) BUG JACQUES BARRON. French citizens are now automatic organ donors under the law.

All French citizens are now automatic organ donors, unless they officially opt out of the program.

A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 makes everyone an organ and tissue donor. People can opt out of the program, but they must enroll in something called the National Rejection Register in order to do so.

A low number of organ donations prompted the new rule, according to news reports.

France’s biomedicine agency said in a statement on its website that “in the name of national solidarity, the principle of presumed consent was chosen,” The World Post reported.

(5) REMEMBER THE ALICORN. Rick Riordan putting his foot down —

(6) FATE OF THE FRANCHISE. What would you do? HuffPo says “’Star Wars’ Team Grappling With How Leia Will Live On After Carrie Fisher’s Death”.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death, the team responsible for future “Star Wars” projects is reportedly reconsidering the place of her character, Leia Organa, in the franchise’s ever-expanding universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. …

Fisher, who first played the iconic princess in 1977, brought Leia back to the big screen as a general in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. The actress has apparently already filmed her scenes for the second installment in the latest trilogy, but was rumored to have an even larger role in the following film….

The team is reportedly concerned with two key scenes featuring Fisher that would bring her character and the film’s plot full circle: a much belated reunion between Leia and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a faceoff with her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who killed his father and her lover, Han Solo, in “The Force Awakens.”

Shooting for “Star Wars: Episode IX” isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2018, so until then, those at the helm are pursuing a variety of options on how to proceed. Resurrecting Fisher with CGI effects is apparently one alternative in play, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Technological advances have allowed for actors like the late Peter Cushing to return to the screen in the latest “Star Wars” offering, “Rogue One,” so Fisher could continue to have a similar presence, however limited, in future films.

The braintrust is also reportedly discussing writing the character out all together and reshooting certain scenes to lay the groundwork for her eventual exit from the franchise.

(7) BRINGING ATWOOD TO TV. The Daily Mail brings the showbiz news: “Not quite Stars Hollow! Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel set to star in dystopian Handmaid’s Tale as subversive lesbian”. She’s best known for her role as Rory Gilmore in the idyllic Gilmore Girls.

But it seems Alexis Bledel’s next role will be significantly darker, as it was announced she’ll be joining Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, according to TV Line.

The 35-year-old actress will play the role of Ofglen in the 10 episode series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1977:  Michael Winner’s The Sentinel premieres in New York City.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 7, 1903 — Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) is born in Birmingham, England.
  • Born January 7, 1928 – William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist).

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On January 18 the hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Holly Black and Fran Wilde. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY — just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Holly Black is a writer of bestselling contemporary dark fantasy. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor.

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series, came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017. Her novella, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” was published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016. Fran’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

(11) BE YOUR OWN TIME LORD. Cat Rambo tells Risingshadow readers the importance to writers of “Daily rituals”.

The thing I have learned more than anything else is that a writer must defend their time. That everyone assumes that you’re ready to take a break, come down to the coffee shop and kill a couple of hours. A friend complained to my husband that he felt as though I was timing our encounters, and I was. At the hour mark, I needed to get back to work, because otherwise I’d sit there nattering for far too long. Because you must defend that time not just from others, but from yourself and your own human tendencies toward procrastination and farting around on the Internet, while still being mindful that you do deserve a break every once in a while. You become your own manager, and that is a more difficult task than it might seem.

(12) SURVIVAL TACTICS. John Scalzi’s “10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump” is easier to understand than Christopher Priest’s.

Scalzi’s plan, published in the Los Angeles Times, was introduced to Whatever readers in these terms:

First, and in case you missed me talking about it on Twitter yesterday, I have a piece up at the LA Times site (a version of it is also in the Sunday newspaper) about getting creative work done in the Trump years — some advice about how to keep focus when it’s likely to be a challenging time for the creative class. Note that this advice generally probably also works for people working in professions generally considered “non-creative” as well, but I’m working with what I know here. Also, of course, if you’re neutral or positive on the idea of the incoming Trump administration, then this particular piece is probably unnecessary for you. Carry on, then.

One of Scalzi’s ten points is —

  1. Reconnect (judiciously). When you go back to the news of the world, and to social media, it’s perfectly all right to ask yourself: Is this making me happy? Is it giving me useful information? Is it inspiring me to engage in the world or does it make me want to run from it?

If it’s not helping you, let it go. Unfollow that Facebook friend passing along fake news, and block those fake news sites outright. Mute that person on Twitter who is apparently always angry. Evaluate the news sources you read and keep the ones that offer news accurately and truthfully (spin is spin, even if it’s spin you like). Design your media intake to be useful, truthful and less stressful.

As for Christopher Priest, he posted on New Year’s Eve that he’ll be moving 500 miles from Devon, England (he didn’t identify where). He spends nearly the entire post pouring out his fear and loathing of Donald Trump, yet never managing to establish any connection between the move and Trump’s election. Did he just want to insure an audience for his farewell address?

(13) LIVING IN STAR TREK TIMES. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama, in “The Big Takeaway From This Year’s CES”, concludes:

There has been no killer gadget at this year’s International CES technology show. Instead, something more subtle has emerged as the keystone of the tech world.

I’m talking about the smart, central voice assistant. Yes, even that may sound a bit old hat for those who’ve been paying attention….

Virtual assistants can now understand what you say and even interpret the many ways you may say it. Shawn DuBravac, an economist for the Consumer Technology Association, said that machines now have the same word error rate — that is, the batting average of understanding what we’ve actually said — as humans. That’s up from a 23 percent error rate in 2013, meaning that the tech is getting better, and quickly.

That fact has made the dreams of a STAR TREK-like computer come even closer to reality.  The hope is that these assistants will move even beyond our sci-fi dreams and learn our habits and needs well enough to anticipate them.

David K.M. Klaus comments, “I think it’s clear that nobody connected with the program at the time thought it likely that voice-controlled devices would come into mass use in just a half-century — yet the program itself has accelerated technology design in its own direction. I started writing letters to local newspapers pointing out the inspiration when they published articles about new technology thirty years ago.  (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, et al. predated that, of course, but Star Trek in particular has been responsible for how it looks.)  Glad to see that mundane reporters have finally caught up with me.”

(14) WATCH YOUR INTAKE. Cat Rambo shares a second bit of writerly advice at GeekMom in “Artificial inspiration”.

This phenomenon underscores the fact that authors need to pay attention to what they’re putting into their mental buckets, particularly whenever they’re working on a project. The old computer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out,” comes into play. Or turn it around and aim it in another direction: put marvelous things in, get marvelous things out.

In some ways, I think of it like learning a language. We all speak storytelling, we’ve heard it spoken around and to us in fairytales, myths, fables, and a kerjilliion other texts, down to the format of many ads. And just as, when you’re around a number of people all speaking with the same accent, that accent begins to creep into your own speech. So if you’re only hearing one kind of storytelling, all that you speak in that language of storytelling will have that accent–or flavor, or texture, or however you choose to conceptualize it.

Want to create something wonderful? Then you must read wonderful things and not just read them but study them. Take the sentences apart as carefully as a pathologist dissecting an organ and figure out how they work–and then apply that knowledge so you know you’ve got the tool down and have added it to your writerly toolkit.

(15) I’LL BE BACK. At the BBC, Frank Swain tells “Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man”.

The vision of 2017 depicted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 30-year-old dystopian action movie captures how our world is changing today.

In a world beset by a collapsing economy, the US media conspires with the government to keep the population in check with a combination of heavy-handed policing and a steady stream of vapid reality TV shows. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful men in the world is the host of a reality TV show.

Sound familiar? That was 2017 conjured by campy action thriller The Running Man when it was released 30 years ago.

Sci-fi commonly reveals hidden truths about society. So, it makes you wonder: what else could this dystopian vision say about the world we live in today? If we look at where we are in 2017, what can The Running Man tell us about our changing politics, media and technology?

Chip Hitchcock urges, “Note the photo of Erland van Lidth de Jeude partway through; when he was in the MIT Musical Theatre Guild we used to say that he might be the first Olympic victor to sing his own national anthem. The movies typecast him as a hulk, losing the singing voice that he used in roles ranging from Roderick Murgatroyd to Richard Henry Lee.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/16 I Never Scroll Anything Twice

(1) NEAR FUTURE MARINES. The Marine Corps Security Environment Forecast: Futures 2030-2045 (MCSEF) provided “a high level snapshot of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory/Futures Directorate’s continual examination of the deep future.”

Chuck Gannon and several other writers traveled to Quantico last February and coached uniformed service members who produced Science Fiction Futures, the narrative accompaniment to the MCSEF. Writers included Commander Phillip Pournelle USN. The near-future military fiction they wrote can be downloaded as a free PDF at the link.

marine-corps-security-environment-forecast

(2) ON THE OTHER HAND. Nancy Jane Moore tells Book View Café readers why she’s not wild about Rogue One.

I was primed to be reflective about the movie because it was preceded by twenty minutes of trailers for truly dreadful movies that I don’t plan to see. About halfway through them, I said to myself, “No wonder the world is falling apart.” The prevailing narrative seems to be fighting and war as a response to everything.

Many of these movies strike me as right-wing narratives (though I suspect most of the people involved in making them don’t vote that way): Humans fighting either evil aliens or evil supernatural creatures. Others focus on the outsider who fights for us all, but gets no thanks – not a story about people coming together to solve their problems.

Stories like Rogue One might be seen as having a liberal bias – rebels fighting a fascist, dictatorial regime. But in every case the story assumes that the solution is to blow things up.

It’s not the violence and killing that I’m objecting to – I agree with pacifists about many things, but I’m not one – but rather the idea that those things are the only solution. A lifetime in the martial arts has taught me that while there are times when a physical fight (or a war) may be the best choice, those times are few and far between.

(3) UHLENKOTT OBIT. Rochelle Uhlenkott (1960-2016) died shortly before Christmas, reports Keith Kato, of complications from a flu infection. She was a UCI Extension instructor in Optical Engineering, and in SFF did a little bit of writing and editing. Her short story “The Gift” (as Rochelle Marie) was published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XI: An Anthology of Heroic Fantasy (1994),

(4) ICONIC HAIR. Chip Hitchcock says, “It’s unclear where Princess Leia’s cinnabon hairstyle came from, but George Lucas’ account is certainly wrong”.

According to Brandon Alinger, the author of Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, the buns do not even appear in any of the concept artwork done for Leia in the preparation of the film.

In later interviews, Star Wars creator George Lucas said he looked to Mexico’s female revolutionaries, or “soldaderas”, who joined the uprising at the start of the 20th Century.

“I went with a kind of south-western Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico,” Lucas told Time in 2002.

It makes sense to look to such a band of women when creating a character far removed from a traditional princess awaiting rescue.

(5) DOUBLE TROUBLE. The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor, in “Even on this, America is divided: Was Cinnabon’s Carrie Fisher tweet offensive?”, discusses how Cinnabon leaped very deeply into the culture wars when they tweeted a photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia with a Cinnabon replacing one of the buns in her hair and the line “RIP Carrie Fisher,  you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”

(6) DON’T LET THE YEAR MUG YOU ON THE WAY OUT. Everyone, be careful out there!

(7) PROGNOSTICATION. Our secret agent informs us this wall mural will be on next week’s Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest at Blast from the Past in Burbank.

pop-culture-wall-mural

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 29, 1939 — Charles Laughton is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, first seen on this day in 1939.

(9) LET THE CUTE BE WITH YOU. This German Star Wars-themed Christmas ad for Kaufland is really sweet – and you don’t need to know any German to enjoy it.

(10) TOVE JANSSON NEWS. In the Financial Times, art critic Jackie Wullschlager reviews “Adventures in Moominland”, which is showing at the Southbank Centre in London through April 23.  British fans prepping for Worldcon can see this exhibit by Finland’s greatest fantasy writer and her creation, the Moomins, including discussions of why Tove Jansson thought herself more of an artist than a writer, how her lesbianism informed her work, and why she owned and read Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

You reach the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland by opening the cover of a giant book that turns out to be a door. Flit through a few gauze curtains painted with Jansson’s illustr­ations and you find yourself standing in a storybook installation: a snow-clad Finnish forest with gleaming lights and a lost troll. “The sky was almost black but the snow shone a bright blue in the moonlight” when Moomintroll, the first troll not to hibernate, stepped out alone into a cold new world. Moominland in Midwinter (1957) is a small existentialist masterpiece — the story of a frightened, angry, isolated young troll who eventually comes in from the cold to understand “one has to discover everything for oneself, and get over it all alone”.

(11) FINAL TROPE. At The Book Smugglers, Carlie St. George says this is the final installment of Trope Anatomy 101 “Choose Your Own Family”.

When we discuss common tropes in pop culture, we’re often analyzing them as inherently negative things, stereotypes or clichés that are in desperate need of subversion. And often, we’re right to do so; in this past year, we’ve already looked at some seriously problematic tropes in this column, from the waving away of chronic conditions and disabilities to the variety of fat-shaming tropes that arise time and again in film, television, and literature.

However, not every trope is harmful and some are actually quite delightful when embraced. Honestly, one of the reasons I love fanfiction as much as I do is that it downright revels in its tropes. They’re frequently used as signposts, specifically, welcome signs: “Are you looking for Huddle For Warmth Romances? How about Body Swapping Fics with a focus on Team Building? Come in, come in, you’re in the right place!”

…If those terms mean nothing to you, found family stories are about characters that come together and make their own family unit, despite not being related by blood. (Generally. Sometimes, a few characters in found families will be biologically related; think River and Simon Tam in Firefly, siblings in a disparate crew of misfits and criminals (who all just happen to share meals and celebrate birthdays with one another, deep in the black of space.) Very often these characters have been orphaned, disowned, or have otherwise extremely strained or stressful relationships with their biological families; the second family functions to support, celebrate, and mourn with one another in a way that their blood relatives will not or cannot.

(12) ROYAL COSPLAY. The Queen’s wardrobe selection for her Christmas broadcast led to a wave of science fictional levity —

[Thanks to Gregory Benford, Keith Kato, John King Tarpinian, Martn Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 12/28/16 Scrolling By Words On A Snowy Evening

(1) THEY LOOK ALIKE, THEY CAW ALIKE. …You could lose your mind! In “A Tale of Two Covers: Alan Baxter’s Crow Shine and Sarah Remy’s The Bone Cave”, Black Gate’s John O’Neill comments on the remarkably similar cover art on two disparate novels published within a month of each other.

(2) SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS NOT A CIGAR. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff deconstructs another cover trend at Book View Café: “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 4: Rocket Power”.

This is the fourth verse of the song “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of the Book.” If you’re collecting the lyric and singing along, it’s sung to the tune of (TTTO) “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain When She Comes.”

There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.
There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.
It’s a phallic and a stout one, but my novel was without one.
There’s a rocket on the cover of my book.

In this case, the lyric really doesn’t do justice to the …er… attributes of the rocket in question, which is from the cover of BVC author Deborah Ross’ print novel Jaydium (under her Deborah Wheeler nom de plume).

As it happens, I’ve read Jaydium and, while there is a rocket involved briefly in the story (my recollection is that it is part of a flashback), the scene shown on the cover does not actually appear as such in the novel.

(3) SOCIAL MEDIA MOURNING. Ann Leckie shares some wisdom in her post “On Mourning”.

It gets weird, with public figures. These are people that might be very, very important to us, might have formed our childhoods, given us inspiration, been constant companions in one way or another, and yet we’ve never met them, and they never had any idea that we existed. It’s not the same as a close loved one dying. But it’s not nothing. And what do you do, when someone not exactly family dies, but you had some sort of relationship with them? Well, if you were in the same town you’d put on nice clothes and comb your hair and go to the funeral parlor and tell the family how sorry you were, how important the deceased was to you, maybe tell them about some time they really helped you out. And then you move aside for the next person, maybe talk with some folks, and go home. Maybe you send flowers, that will sit there in the funeral home and in the church as a conspicuously visible token of your tie to the deceased, or their family, or a particular member of that family.

We aren’t any of us going to Carrie Fisher’s wake. Her family doesn’t want to slog through thousands of cards or letters, and there’s no mortuary large enough to hold the flowers we might all send. But we can blog or tweet. And yes, it’s performative. Like all funeral customs and public mourning it’s performative. It’s meant to send a message. “I am a member of this community, and this person was important to us. This community recognizes their loss. This community wants the deceased’s family to know how important this person was to us, and how sorry we are to hear they’ve left us.” And maybe her family doesn’t see most of it, but they likely know it’s there. I suspect that, like “I’m sorry” at the funeral home, it helps.

(4) LIFE IMITATES ART. John King Tarpinian saw this cartoon and admitted, “I do this all the time. I have the CD set, the DVD set, and the Blu-ray set of Twilight Zone, yet I watch the marathon on the Syfy channel.”

(5) GROSS NEWS. Natalie Rohamed, in a piece called “Scarlett Johansson is the highest-grossing actor of 2016” on Forbes.com, says that Scarlett Johansson with $1.2 billion in film grosses this year edged out Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., each of which had $1.15 billion. All of the top ten actors starred in superhero movies.

Scarlett Johansson has had a good year at the box office. Between a top role as the Black Widow in blockbuster hit Captain America: Civil War, which grossed over $1.15 billion worldwide, plus an ensemble part in the much less commercial Hail, Caesar!, Johansson is 2016’s top-grossing actor, bringing in $1.2 billion at global ticketing booths.

Martin Morse Wooster, who sent the link, comments: “I once read a profile of Robert Downey Jr. in Esquire where I learned that if you really want to irritate the guy, asking him, ‘You’ve created two billion-dollar franchises in Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man.  How does it feel?’ will do it.”

(6) THE ROBOTIC HORROR. BBC mix of blue-skying, looking-with-alarm, and data on “The rise of the robots?”

“Your bones will turn to sand. And upon that sand a new God will walk.” Dolores in the latest sci-fi TV blockbuster, Westworld.

It may not quite be that bad. But a wall won’t keep them out, a new work permit scheme won’t stop their freedom of movement.

The rise of the robots could be next year’s big story. Ever since the Luddites smashed their first loom, mechanisation has been putting people out of work. But the process is speeding up, accelerating all the time and the next wave could be crashing down, near you, soon.

(7) UPDATE: DEBBIE REYNOLDS OBIT. The mother of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, passed away today.

Her death was reported shortly after the Scroll was posted with news that she had been hospitalized —

Debbie Reynolds, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 1960s, was taken to a Los Angeles hospital on Wednesday, one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Reynolds, 84, complained of breathing problems, an unidentified source told The Times.

This might fall within the sphere of science fiction news not only because of the Fisher connection, but because Reynolds’ signature film Singin’ in the Rain was regarded as science fiction by at least one authority. Patton Oswalt told the story to io9 —

And I love the part about what happens to human beings. Ray Bradbury pointed out that Star Wars is not science fiction, it’s an adventure story set in space. Singing in the Rain is a science fiction film, because you have the world as it is, then sound is introduced. What happens to people now that this new thing is there? That’s all science fiction is.

(8) TWO WASHINGTON POST TRIBUTES. Michael Cavna, in “As iconic Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher was a life force to be reckoned with”, looks at how Carrie Fisher “long had a love/hate role with the Princess Leia role,” and how her “joy and swagger” at the part was combined with a fear that if she screwed up she would be replaced by Jodie Foster or the many other women George Lucas rejected in favor of her.

When first casting his “Star Wars” films, creator-director Lucas seriously considered such other budding teenage talents as Jodie Foster and Terri Nunn. Yet Carrie Fisher, still barely an adult at the time, had a silly, fun-loving presence that melded well with future co-stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford during auditions. She also had a precocious sense of self — a quick mind and a feisty steeliness of spine. In short, Fisher reminded Lucas of his own younger sister.

Alexandra Petri, in “Carrie Fisher: So long, Princess, and thanks”, says that “Until Carrie Fisher, ‘princesses’ was a dirty word” and how “a lot of what I learned about how to be a person in the world came from Princess Leia.”

(9) SURVIVED BY. CinemaBlend reports “Carrie Fisher’s Dog Gary Has Already Found A New Home”.

Carrie Fisher’s adorable French Bulldog Gary could often be seen at his owner’s side during interviews and other events. So it’s no surprise that fans of the Star Wars star were concerned about Gary’s wellbeing in the aftermath of Fisher’s death. Rest assured, Gary has already secured a new home.

TMZ reports that the 4-year-old Gary will be in the care of Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 28, 1865 — French film pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumiere showed the first commercial motion pictures at a Paris cafe.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 28, 1932 – Nichelle Nichols

nichelle-nichols

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 28, 1922 – Stan Lee

(13) THE SECOND IS NO. Thomas Vinciguerra confides to readers of the Columbia Journalism Review, “Want me to write for free? I’ve got two one-syllable words for you”.

An ostensibly professional journalist this spring told me he was on the prowl for freelance editors for his new investigative website. Intrigued, I eventually broached the question of payment.

He responded by rattling on about the great people who worked for him, how they came from all walks of life, that inevitably his site would grow, and that at some point he might possibly—no promises, I had to understand—be able to toss me a few coins.

After silently fuming for a few days, I politely told him that this was simply not viable. In retrospect, I should have responded with two one-syllable words.

The long-chronicled decline of print has gored many a writer and editor. It’s hardly a secret that magazines and newspapers are now leaning mercilessly on their dwindling staffs, unable to pay outsiders as much as they once did or take them on at all. Fair enough; as Hyman Roth stammered in The Godfather, Part II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

But there is something fundamentally obscene about expecting anyone to work gratis. And that applies even to us ink-stained wretches.

The fiction writer Harlan Ellison—a master of what our mutual friend (and science-fiction writer) David Gerrold calls “the literature of amazement”—once tore into the idea of giving away your words for nothing. “I get so angry about this because you’re undercut by all the amateurs,” he explodes. “It’s the amateurs who make it tough for the professionals.”

(14) DEITIES IN SF. Leah Schnelbach’s fine post for Tor.com – “19 SFF Stories That Take a Positive View of Religion” — rounds up an uncommon set of stories.

Of all the genres, science fiction and fantasy are the ones where humans can tackle their deepest societal problems and thought experiments. Because of this, it’s a natural place for people to explore ideas about religion, faith, and the meaning of life…

Religion can also be an emotional and contentious topic for people. For people who choose to leave a religious tradition, science and science fiction can become the home they didn’t find in a church or temple, and can also provide a way to critique the life they left. For others, the flexibility of the genre allows them to express their faith, or their questions about their faith, in deeper ways than any other medium would allow.

I thought it would be interesting to look at some examples of books and short stories that have tackled religious questions in respectful and positive ways. While these stories sometimes go to uncomfortable places, they each take faith seriously, and would be worthy additions to the TBR stacks of believers and non-believers alike…..

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light is set in the far future, where colonists from “vanished Urath,” or Earth, have set up shop on a planet full of understandably hostile indigenous people. In order to survive, they use their ships tech to mutate themselves and eventually to MacGyver a type of reincarnation by repeatedly transferring their souls into new bodies. They use this tech against the planet’s native population, setting themselves up as a pantheon of “Hindu” gods, and instituting an ironclad caste system. Obviously, they have to keep the tech out of the wrong hands in order to stay at the top of society… which is where Sam comes in. Originally named Mahasamatman, he prefers to go by just Sam, but before that he was Siddhartha. The Buddha. And now he’s decided to ally with the pantheon of the native people, reincarnate repeatedly, and generally go full trickster god to make sure everyone has access to technology, and end the tyranny of the caste system once and for all.

(15) BOX SCORE. John Scalzi draws back the curtain on “2016 Top 10 Whatever Posts + Social Media Stats”.

Time for my annual nerdery about the most visited posts here, and the state of my social media presence. Ready? Sure you are, that’s why you’re here! This and cat pictures.

First, here are the top ten posts on Whatever f0r 2016, ranked by visits. Posts with asterisks were originally posted in years other than 2016….

Atop the charts is “The Cinemax Theory of Racism”.

(16) CLOUDS OF WITNESS. History’s post  “Human Computers: The Women of NASA” includes a group photo from 1953.

Graduating in 1953 with a degree in chemical engineering from University of California, Los Angeles, Janez Lawson had the grades, degree and intelligence to get any job she wanted. The problem? Her race and gender. She responded to a JPL job ad for “Computers Wanted” that specified “no degree necessary,” which she recognized as code for “women can apply.” While it would not be an engineering position, it would put her in a lab. Macie Roberts and Helen Ling were already working at JPL, actively recruiting young women to compute data and Lawson fit the bill. Lawson was the first African American to work in a technical position in the JPL lab. Taking advantage of the IBM computers at their disposal, and her supervisor’s encouragement to continue her education, Lawson was one of two people sent to a special IBM training school to learn how to operate and program the computers.

(17) REWARDING DIVERSITY. Slate says the British Academy of Film and Television Arts is adding a diversity requirement to its award rules. Note that this only applies to the BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film, and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer — “Starting in 2019, if Your Film Isn’t Diverse, It Won’t Be Eligible for a BAFTA Award”.

In an incredibly bold move, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced last week that, beginning in 2019, works that do not demonstrate inclusivity in their production practices will no longer be eligible for the Outstanding British Film or Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer awards at the annual BAFTAs, often considered the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.* Eligible projects must showcase this in two of the following ways, as the BBC reported: On-screen characters and themes, senior roles and crew, industry training and career progression, and audience access and appeal to underrepresented audiences. BAFTA will also remove the requirement that newly admitted voters be recommended by two existing members.

(18) EYES YES, CHICKEN FEET, NO. Another BBC story —  “Why I want my home to watch me”.

As I step into the hallway in Simon Daykin’s New Forest home, his smartwatch goes into overdrive.

He is receiving messages from the house itself, warning him there is somebody inside it doesn’t recognise.

“As you come in, you’ve already been spotted by some of our tech,” he says.

“There are cameras in the burglar alarm sensors, and a facial recognition system in the house.

“If it’s someone it ‘knows’, it will tell me. If it’s someone it doesn’t know, it will tell me.”

He selects one of the CCTV images he has received and adds my name to it. That seems to satisfy the house – for now.

(19) TZ ON METV. Get a list of “8 books any fan of ‘The Twilight Zone’ should read” from MeTV.

3. Richard Matheson – ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson’

In his introduction, Stephen King describes Matheson’s influence on the horror genre in the 1950s as “a bolt of pure ozone lightning.” The master also confesses that without Matheson, he “wouldn’t be around.” This modern collection largely draws from the 1950s, with some 1960s shorts thrown in as well, keeping it contemporary with Twilight Zone. Matheson was the mind behind other classic episodes like “Third from the Sun,” “Nick of Time,” “The Invaders,” “Night Call” and more.

John King Tarpinian says, “They left out Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier, which is the book that Ray Bradbury gave to Rod Serling as TZ was being formulated.”

(20) BEHIND THE IMAGINARY SCENES. ScienceFiction.com recommends — “Unleashing The Power: Check Out Video From ‘Science Of The MCU’ Event!’”

Recently, the Science and Entertainment Exchange, along with Marvel Studios and The Great Company put on a truly amazing event called the ‘The Science of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’ which highlighted how some of the more fantastic elements of the MCU could actually work. At the events, real scientists discussed how some of the pseudoscience and superpowers of the MCU could potentially work, and how close we are to accomplishing some of the scientific discoveries fictional characters in the MCU have made…

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/16 Yippee Ki-yay, Pixel-Scroller!

(1) ON THE SIDE OF THE HUNTERS. SF author Myke Cole will be taking a celebrity turn in the new CBS series Hunted  — “Meet The Command Center Investigators From Hunted”.

myke-cole-hunted

Myke Cole, Former Military Cyber Expert

Command Center Title: Cyber Analyst A self-proclaimed “hardcore nerd,” Myke Cole uses his passion in gaming and comic book culture to give him an edge as a highly skilled Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst for several military and law enforcement agencies.

(2) AWKWARD JUDGES NEEDED. Chuck Wendig asks readers to vote on their favorite of 43 photos posted in his The Awkward Author Photo Contest.

You will find a couple famous-faced authors in there, including Jeff VanderMeer, James Sutter, and Yvonne Navarro. Those cheeky little penmonkeys.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to go through these photos, find your ONE TRUE FAVORITE, and then go into the comments below and put down the corresponding number. Write only the number, if you please. I need the number to be plainly visible and easy to tally.

Voting ends 12/27, noon EST.

(3) YOU’VE SEEN THE SHOW, NOW READ THE BOOK. Vanity Fair explained in this 2014 article why TV and movie novelizations still exist.

Novelizations may have made more sense before the advent of home video. Back then, films were released in the theater and often not heard from again. The best way to relive those original memories was to read them in book format (or to use your imagination). So, in an age of DVR and digital outlets, why do people continue to buy these books? It’s the same reason they read 5,000-word TV recaps every week. It’s a way for fans to feel more connected to a story or property they love. When you have a novelization, you get to remember at least a piece of that enthusiasm you experienced the first time around.

“People just see it as one other element of the entertainment experience,” says Katy Wild, the editorial director of Titan Publishing Group Ltd., which publishes movie novelizations, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the soon-to-be-released Interstellar. “I think people who read movie novelizations are the people who go see those movies.”

Novelization authors are typically paid a flat fee in the low five-figure range to complete the work (if they’re lucky, they may get 1 to 2 percent royalties). The money, however, is only one reason writers sign up in the first place.

(4) THERE’S AN ARMY APP FOR THAT. In “How the smartphone became so smart”, the BBC’s chief observation is that all twelve of the key points started as government-sponsored or -supported research.

As for hard drives, lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays and semiconductors themselves – there are similar stories to be told.

In each case, there was scientific brilliance and plenty of private sector entrepreneurship. But there were also wads of cash thrown at the problem by government agencies – usually US government agencies, and for that matter, usually some arm of the US military.

Silicon Valley itself owes a great debt to Fairchild Semiconductor – the company that developed the first commercially practical integrated circuits. And Fairchild Semiconductor, in its early days, depended on military procurement.

Of course, the US military didn’t make the iPhone. Cern did not create Facebook or Google. These technologies, that so many people rely on today, were honed and commercialised by the private sector. But it was government funding and government risk-taking that made all these things possible.

That’s a thought to hold on to as we ponder the technological challenges ahead in fields such energy and biotechnology.

(5) FAKE NEWS YOU CAN SEE COMING A MILE AWAY. The Onion has the story — “This Is The Golden Age Of Television,’ Claim Executives Who Have Not Yet Made Show About Robotic Wizards”.

Praising the expansive slate of high-quality fantasies, comedies, and period dramas currently in production while negligently overlooking a gaping hole in the entertainment landscape, cable and network executives reportedly continued to claim this week that we are living in a golden age of television despite having never made a show about robotic wizards. “The shows we’re seeing right now are incredibly smart and cinematic in scope—television has reached its pinnacle,” said profoundly ignorant HBO executive Julien Rhodes, who has yet to greenlight a show featuring an army of advanced cyborg warlocks who were created in a lab and armed with a full database of knowledge about the dark arts in order to fight evil spirits besieging our world. “You can turn on the TV any night of the week and find multiple complex, beautifully told stories on just about every subject [except robot wizards falling in love with one another, and occasionally their human creators, while fending off malevolent forces of untold power using hexes programmed into their hard drives]. We’re lucky to have access to such a breadth of exceptional programming.” Rhodes went on to assert that there was more diversity than ever on television despite the complete lack of pansexual android sorcerers named Aerio Zero.

(6) BROADER BAND. Chip Hitchcock forwards a news item about “A topic dear to many fans’ hearts: A British farmer builds a local broadband network — and it runs much faster than the UK standard. Especially grating to me, as Verizon has been busily running FiOS in the suburbs but has just signed an agreement to go into Boston proper where the potential users are much closer together.”

Her DIY solution to a neighbour’s internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley.

That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom.

It all began when the trees which separated Chris’s neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast – their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University – grew too tall.

Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to take matters into her own hands.

She purchased a kilometre of fibre-optic cable and commandeered her farm tractor to dig a trench.

After lighting the cable, the two farms were connected, with hers feeding the one behind the trees.

“We dug it ourselves and we lit [the cable] ourselves and we proved that ordinary people could do it,” she says.

“It wasn’t rocket science. It was three days of hard work.”

Her motto, which she repeats often in conversation, is JFDI. Three of those letters stand for Just Do It. The fourth you can work out for yourself.

(7) PETER DAVID BACK. After being immobilized by a medical problem, Peter David is on the move again.

This time around, even a week later, I am still a bit uncertain as to what happened. First my left ankle was wracked with pain, and then my right, and then I could no longer stand up. It was as if I was going dead from the waist down, but this time the work of some virus rather than my brain turning against me. Seven days and a buttload of antibiotics later, I am now able to stand up and walk with the aid of a walker that I’ve nicknamed Imperial because really what else are you going to call a walker?

(8) GOLDEN GOOSE HUSBANDRY. The Washington Post’s Brian Fung says “The thing that ruined superhero movies could easily hurt Star Wars, too”. Rogue One has convinced Disney that the Star Wars franchise can go beyond the main sequence of films amid fears that audiences will suffer “superhero fatigue” as the number of superhero movies continue to grow.

Now, Disney faces an even greater challenge: developing Star Wars at a pace that won’t exhaust audiences, or the source material, too quickly as executives seek to grow the sci-fi franchise into the size of a small moon. Under Disney’s stewardship, Star Wars is already being compared to the Marvel universe, a sprawling media empire also owned by Disney that has contributed to what some experts call “superhero fatigue.” Although superhero movies still make loads of money, a persistent critique of the genre is their formulaic homogeneity and a relentless firehose of content. And it’s a trap that Star Wars would do well to avoid.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 26, 1973 The Exorcist makes its debut in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BIRD

  • December 26, 1933 — Caroll Spinney, Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • December 24, 1910 – Fritz Leiber
  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(12) ELF AND 8 TINY REINDEER TO BEAM UP. Santa left Mary Anne Mohanraj a Star Trek The Original Series Sticky Notes Booklet.

star-trek-tos-sticky-notes

(13) ON THE TOY TRAIL. John King Tarpinian shares a marketing discovery —

A buddy of mine is from Port Arthur, TX (next door to Beaumont where Charles Beaumont took his name and where Janis Joplin grew up).  Anyway he collects all the Star Wars junk buying two of everything, one for him and one for his nephew.  When hunting down stuff around L.A. he often has to go to multiple places.  When he goes home-for-the-holidays he can find all that crap first try.  He believes that dealers will buy up dozens of an item at once for resale at places such as Frank & Sons, at four-fold markups.

(14) FORMERLY NOTABLE. If you ever wondered whether there is a Wikipedia article about Crystal Huff  – today she pointed out that there used to be one but there isn’t anymore. The deletionists did not approve an “NN person whose sole claim to fame is that she chairs science fiction conventions.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Crystal_Huff

(15) ON THE ROAD. Ken Liu announced his confirmed appearances for the first three months of 2017:

  • “Translation as Performance—Dual Creativities in Chinese and English” — roundtable/reading with Canaan Morse, Eleanor Goodman, and Eric Abrahamsen, part of “Asia: Past, Present, Future,” by the New England Association for Asian Studies, January 29, 10:40-12:50, Boston College.
  • Guggenheim Museum, speaker at the special exhibit, “Tales of Our Time.” Afternoon of Friday, 2/17, 2017, NYC.
  • Perth Writers Festival 2017, 2/23-26, Perth, Australia.
  • Writefest 2017, 3/10-12, Houston, TX.
  • AnomalyCon 2017, 3/17-19, Denver, CO.

(16) UNTURNED PAGES. The Book Smugglers’ Ana Grilo has another genius idea for a post — “Books I Shoved Into My Friends Faces But They Didn’t Read Anyway Smugglivus List”.

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

When my friends ask me what they should read next, they immediately complete their sentences with “EXCEPT BINTI, I KNOW”. It was the first book (I can call anything with an ISBN a book and it counts towards my GR challenge, ok?) I read in 2016 and probably the best. Nnedi Okorafor’s descriptions of scenes, people and movements are so vivid that all I could think about while I was reading it was that I really wished I had the ability to draw because she was creating a whole animation in my mind with her words. I’ve felt SO MANY THINGS with this novella that when I try to form a cohesive argument about why people should read it I become a little pile of guttural sounds and my last appeal usually is “but it’s only 96 pages!”. I’m really, really happy that Binti: Home is on its way, but reading Binti was a whole experience in itself, and I really think you should read it as well.

(17) MORE CHRISTMAS LOOT. Matt Kordelski showing off the C3P0 leg lamp:

Seems like the “major award” from toy story. Except its C3P0 and R2-D2 from Star Wars!

major-award-as-sw

(18) TOO SOON? That’s the Serenity, done in gingerbread.

serenity-in-gingerbread

(19) AN EARLY START ON NEXT CHRISTMAS. A piece by Robert Evans called “The Secret, True History of ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’” appeared on Cracked last year, but it’s still worth linking to as Evans traces the roots of this Jingle Bells parody deep into the 19th century.

(20) BEST COMICS OF 2016. We previously posted the link to another NPR best of list – here’s the link to NPR’s selection of the best comics and graphic novels of 2016.

(21) DOCTOR APPROACHING. The Doctor Who Season 10 trailer was released ahead of last night’s Christmas special.

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/16 The Wee Pawn Shops Of Ishtar

(1) ATTENTION ON DECK. Star Trek: Discovery has cast its lead reports Entertainment Weekly.

Sonequa Martin-Green, well known to genre fans for her role on AMC’s mega-hit The Walking Dead, has been cast as the lead of Star Trek: Discovery, sources tell EW.

The casting ends meticulous search to find the ideal actress to anchor the eagerly anticipated new CBS All Access drama. Martin-Green will play a lieutenant commander on the Discovery. (CBS Television Studios had no comment.)

Martin-Green is will continue to serve as a series regular on AMC’s zombie drama, where she has played the tough pragmatic survivor Sasha Williams since season 3

(2) CREATOR OF KRAZY KAT. The Washington Post has a review by Glen David Gold of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand, a 600-page biography of the creator of “Krazy Kat.” Tisserand explains why Herriman was so subversive, literary, and weird that his fans included T.S. Eliot and Umberto Eco.

Genius is simplicity. A dog, who is a policeman, loves a cat who loves a mouse. The mouse throws bricks at the cat, and the policeman jails him. Some aspect of this, more or less every day, for more or less 30 years, was the comic strip “Krazy Kat.” In isolation it seems as though it dropped out of the sky, and when its creator died in 1944, to the sky it returned. It has since been recognized as one of the greatest American comic strips, a mix of surrealism, Socratic dialogue, low-rent vaudeville, jazz improvisation, Native American motifs and, as it turns out, a subtle — so subtle no one seems to have noticed at the time — commentary on the peculiar notion of race.

(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. A Reuters infographic charts the cumulative weekly box office take of all previous Star Wars movies, for those who want to see if the new release is as successful.

With the release of Rogue One, the first Star Wars anthology film, Disney is hoping to expand the Star Wars universe with stories that run outside of and in tandem with the main saga

(4) NEED FOR SPEED. Jay Leno’s Garage had Neil DeGrasse Tyson go to JPL to drive the Mars Rover, reports John King Tarpinian. There’s also a YouTube clip of Tyson along for a different ride “Jay Leno Blows Out The Window In His Jet Car.”

Blast off! Jay Leno takes Neil DeGrasse Tyson for a ride in his jet car. Built in Jay’s garage, the EcoJet has 650 hp and a Honeywell LTS-101 turbine engine. Watch the season finale of Jay Leno’s Garage Wednesday, December 14 at 10p ET/PT on CNBC!

 

(5) NAUGHTY OR NICE. The BBC tells how a gaming company dealt with a “troll”: “Fable video game team hunted down troll”.

The images had been posted to Lionhead’s own forums, which gave the staff access to the internet protocol (IP) address of the person who had uploaded them.

IP addresses can easily be traced back to a physical location through a variety of online tools, assuming the user has not taken steps to conceal the details.

In this case, the 16-year-old culprit had not taken the precautionary measure.

“We knew where the guy was living and managed to get a hold of the guy’s high school record through a mate, including the poem that he had recited at his end of year [class],” Mr Van Tilburgh said.

“We wrote a public message as Lionhead Studios to the group Kibitz and we started the message with the opening lines of the poem he had recited in high school, and we included the landmark he could see from his house where he lived.

“And I said, ‘You have got to stop this now otherwise I pass all this information on to your mum.’

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I’d have called this induhvidual a hacker or thief, but the interesting feature to me is the civil-liberties issue the article completely ignores. I wonder whether the gaming co. tried talking to the police or just assumed that would be useless (or at least not as effective as vigilantism).”

(6) FOX OBIT. Bernard Fox, who specialized in playing eccentric Englishmen on American television, has died at the age of 89 says The Hollywood Reporter. A popular actor who got a lot of work, he found some of his bit parts resulted in repeated callbacks.

Fox appeared as Dr. Bombay on 19 episodes of Bewitched, which ran from 1966-72, and then reprised the role on the 1977 sequel Tabitha, in 1999 on the soap opera Passions and on a 1989 episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

In a 1998 interview, Fox said he drew inspiration for Dr. Bombay from a man he served with in the Royal Navy during World War II.

“He was the officer in charge of the camp that we were in, and it was an all-male camp, and one evening, I was on duty and we got six Women’s Royal Naval Service arrived to be put up,” he recalled.

“So I went to this officer and said, ‘What shall I do?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, give ’em a hot bran mash, some clean straw and bed ’em down for the night.’ And I thought, ‘What a great way to play [Dr. Bombay.]’ And that’s the way I played him, and [the Bewitched writers] just kept writing him back in.

“If I’d just gone for an ordinary doctor, you wouldn’t have heard any more about it. But because I made him such a colorful character, that’s why they wanted him back; he was easy to write for. They came up with the idea of him coming from different parts of the world all the time and in different costumes; that was their idea. The puns, I came up with, and in those days, they let you do that.”

Fox’s genre credits include the movies Munster, Go Home!, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Yellowbeard, and The Mummy, and appearances in episodes of TV series The Flintstones (voice), I Dream of Jeannie, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild, Wild West, Night Gallery, Fantasy Island, and Knight Rider.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1972  — The end of an era: Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan re-entered the lunar lander — the last man to walk on the moon.
  • December 14, 2005King Kong remake debuts.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 14, 1916 — Horror novelist Shirley Jackson.
  • Born December 14, 1946 – Actress Dee Wallace

(9) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? This gallery of 10 actors who have played Darth Vader wouldn’t make a good clickbait quiz because you wouldn’t remember half of them.

(10) POP-UP MUSIC. James Davis Nicoll asked his Facebook friends, “Has anyone done an angry song from Hermione’s point of view? Perhaps called ‘No, I won’t do your god-damned homework.’” His question inspired JTigwell to instantly create one. Tune in at Soundcloud – “(Hermione) I won’t do your fucking homework”

Nicoll has the complete lyrics at More Words, Deeper Hole. Here’s the last verse —

I know you’re always saying,
I’m the girl who has no fun,
But listen up here boy who lived,
I’m the girl who gets shit done

(11) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #16. The sixteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of a Blaze Ward novel AND a Tuckerization.

Today’s auction comes from author Blaze Ward, for an autographed trade paperback copy of AUBERON and a Tuckerization (meaning you’ll show up as a minor character) in one of Ward’s forthcoming books. You can be either a hero or a villain — your choice!

About the Book:

Jessica Keller faces court martial for disobeying a direct order. Her actions also prevented a massacre during the latest starship battle between the Republic of Aquitaine Navy (RAN) and the Freiburg Empire.

What does this maverick commander have to do to impress the RAN high command? To get the Freiburg Empire to declare her a threat? And at what cost to herself?

Auberon–the first novel in The Chronicles of Jessica Keller–combines adventuring to distant stars with seat-of-the-pants excitement. A fascinating expansion to the Alexandria Station universe.

(13) NEW YORK SF FILM FESTIVAL. The first New York Science Fiction Film Festival takes place January 20-22. It’s only a conflict for those of you with Inauguration Ball tickets – which is to say, none of you at all.

The festival will serve as a meeting place where creativity and expression takes center stage with a highly acclaimed lineup of science fiction, horror, supernatural and fantasy films and virtual reality entertainment. Valuing the importance of filmmakers from all walks of life, the festival presents to audiences modern masterpieces where storytelling transcends expectations and possibilities are endless.

Highlights include the USA premiere of Marcos Machado’s UFO’s in Zacapa (Ovnis en Zacapa) (2016), the NYC premiere of Marco Checa Garcia’s 2BR02B: To Be or Naught to Be (2016) and the East Coast premiere of Ian Truitner’s Teleios (2016). Among its many gems, the festival is also proud to screen Hiroshi Katagiri’s Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) starring Doug Jones (Hellboy) and Lance Henriksen (Alien), Lukas Hassel’s Into the Dark (2014) starring Lee Tergesen (The Strain) and a prominent virtual reality block featuring Ben Leonberg’s Dead Head (2016) and Ryan Hartsell’s I’ll Make You Bleed (2016) set to the music of the band These Machines are Winning.

The festival will run on January 20, 2017 at Instituto Cervantes (211 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017), January 21, 2017 at Producers Club (358 W 44th Street, New York, NY 10036) and The Roxy Hotel Cinema (2 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013) and January 22, 2017 at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue [at 2nd Street], New York, NY 10003).

(14) BUT THERE ARE NO OLD BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Paul Weimer has worked up a great Twitter thread based on the discussion of “The Cold Equations” here at File 770.

(15) POPULARIZING SF IN CHINA. The Hugo-winning author is the genre’s spearhead in China – “’People hope my book will be China’s Star Wars’: Liu Cixin on China’s exploding sci-fi scene” in The Guardian.

When he was a schoolboy, Liu Cixin’s favourite book was Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. This might seem like a fairly standard introduction to science fiction, but Liu read it under exceptional circumstances; this was at the height of the Cultural Revolution, in his native China, and all western literature was strictly forbidden….

But more than 40 years ago, growing up in a coal-mining city in the Shanxi province, a young Liu found the book that would alter the course of his life, hidden in an old box that once belonged to his father.

“No science-fiction novels were published, and people did not have any notion of scientific imagery,” Liu recalls. “At the time, almost all the translated novels from the west were strictly banned, so I had to read it in secret. This very book turned me into a sci-fi fan.”

It wasn’t until the late 1970s, when China experienced economic reform and the strictures on western literature were relaxed, that science fiction was translated widely into Chinese. With this came a sudden surge of Chinese authors writing in the genre – and Liu wanted to be one of them. But instead of studying literature, he got a job as a power-plant engineer in Yangquan. But what looks like a career diversion was entirely strategic: the stability of his career meant he could write, he says.

“For about 30 years, I stayed in the same department and worked the same job, which was rare among people of my age. I chose this path because it allowed me to work on my fiction,” he says. “In my youth, when I tried to plan for the future, I had wished to be an engineer so I could get work with technology while writing sci-fi after hours. I figured that if I got lucky, I could then turn into a full-time writer. Now looking back, my life path has matched my design almost precisely. I believe not a lot of people have this kind of privilege.”

(16) NASA VISUALS. NASA now is sharing its best images on Pinterest and GIPHY.

On Pinterest, NASA is posting new and historic images and videos, known as pins, to collections called pinboards. This social media platform allows users to browse and discover images from across NASA’s many missions in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more, and pin them to their own pinboards. Pinboards are often used for creative ideas for home decor and theme-party planning, inspiration for artwork and other far-out endeavors. To follow NASA on Pinterest, visit:

https://www.pinterest.com/nasa

NASA also is now on GIPHY, a database and search engine of animated images in GIF format. Users can download and share the agency’s creations on their own social media accounts, and can be used to create or share animated GIFs to communicate a reaction, offer a visual explanation, or even create digital works of art. These GIFs are accessible directly from the Twitter app. Just tap or click the GIF button in the Twitter tool bar, search for NASAGIF, and all NASA GIFs will appear for sharing and tweeting.

To see NASA’s animated GIFs on GIPHY, visit:

http://giphy.com/nasa

iss-wave

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/16 While Pixels Watched Their Scrolls By Night

(1) DAMN THE SPOILERS, FULL SPEED AHEAD. Scott Timberg writes for Salon on “The art of ‘Archer’: ‘The arc of the character of Archer is really interesting’”. I’m told there are spoilers – but I rarely watch Archer so I read the profile anyway….

Oh, yeah, Archer’s favorite movie is what again?

He loves “Gator” and also “Smokey and the Bandit.” And there are references to “Deliverance” and “Hooper,” all of them.

I took this show originally as a kind of guilty pleasure for other retro straight guys who like single-malt scotch and ’50s Playboy and “Man Men.” But I’ve found gay men and left-leaning feminist women who love “Archer,” too.

It makes me wonder: Is this a show that heroizes Sterling Archer as the coolest cat ever or is it somehow a critique of toxic masculinity? Is he a sleek, Bond-like hero or a cross between a frat boy, a hedge fund asshole and a lacrosse bro?

I think it’s all of that. But I also think it’s up to each individual viewer; I would never tell anybody what to think about it. What I personally love about it is that it shows all sides of Archer, this character. On one hand, he definitely fits the image of the lacrosse bro. And then he has a moment where he says, “Pam, I think you’re my best friend.” There’s a real heart to this person.

He’s not a flat character at all. He definitely has blind spots, you know? And he definitely pretends to have blind spots. There’s a description of him as “willfully obtuse,” which I think is quite apt.

(2) PARALLAX VIEWS OF THE NEWS. “Cassini sends back intriguing pictures of Saturn from new ring-grazing orbit” says the Los Angeles Times.

Cassini’s cameras captured the latest images of the giant hexagon on Dec. 2 and 3, a few days after the spacecraft first began its new orbit on Nov. 30. Each side of that six-sided figure is about as wide as Earth. At the center, a giant storm swirls on the north pole. It’s a surprising structure, surrounded by Saturn’s smoother rings, and scientists have long wondered how it maintains its shape. (Saturn’s larger cousin, Jupiter, has no such shape at its northern pole.)

“Forget the Great Red Spot – Saturn has a hexagonal storm” reports the BBC. (Both articles have the same newly-released photos.)

The destructive ending being planned for Cassini is a result of the spacecraft having nearly exhausted its fuel.

But Nasa is also concerned about the small, yet important possibility that the probe will crash into one of Saturn’s moons at some point in the future.

Given that some of these bodies, such as Enceladus, are potential targets in the search for extra-terrestrial life, it has the potential to contaminate these bodies with terrestrial microbes borne on Cassini.

Starting from April, Cassini will begin its grand finale, in which it will make the first of 22 dives through the 2,400km gap between the planet and its innermost ring.

The spacecraft will make its final plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn on 15 September.

(3) FUND APPEAL. Katherine Kerr needs to rebuild her career so she can afford her husband’s care. More details on her Patreon site.

Yes, my author photo there looks a little grim. Here’s why. Six years ago, my much-loved husband developed early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia.  As you can probably guess, this turned our lives upside-down.  My writing career first faltered, then ground to a halt while I desperately tried to take care of him myself.  Didn’t work — we now have a full-time live-in caregiver while I try to get my writing back on track.  Our primary caregiver, VJ, is wonderful but he isn’t cheap, just worth every penny….

What I want to do is get my writing career back on track. I have a contract for a new book in the Deverry universe.  I also want to write more short fiction. In the meantime, however, those bills make it hard to concentrate.  I spend about $300 a week on food, basics, and utilities, plus even more on medical expenses. My current income falls short.  Any help I can get is very very welcome. And thank you all very much.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #11. The eleventh of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a flash fiction story from Stephanie Burgis, written specifically for the auction winner.

Today’s auction is for a brand new flash-fiction story written for you. That’s right, author Stephanie Burgis will write a story for the winner of the auction about any of the characters from her published novels – the winner gets to choose! You’ll let her know which character should be the protagonist, and Burgis will write it within a month of getting the commission. You can find all of her published works on her website.

Burgis reserves the right to share it with other readers later, but it will belong to the winner alone for the first month after she sends it to you.

(5) SWEDISH SF ARTIST LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER. There’s a new Kickstarter campaign for an RPG based on Simon Stålenhag’s art, Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80s that never was”.

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

Acclaimed scifi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, have spread like wildfire on the Internet. Stålenhag’s portrayal of a childhood against a backdrop of old Volvo cars and coveralls, combined with strange and mystical machines, creates a unique atmosphere that is both instantly recognizable and utterly alien.

Now, for the first time, YOU will get the chance to step into the amazing world of the Loop. With your help, we will be able to create a beautiful printed RPG book about the Tales from the Loop.

This game is our third international RPG, after the critically acclaimed Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis – The Third Horizon. The lead writer is the seasoned Swedish game writer Nils Hintze, backed up by the entire Free League team who handle project management, editing, and graphic design.

(6) REPURPOSED HISTORY. The election of Donald Trump has made some people revise the history of the Puppy Wars of 2015 – can no one accurately remember what happened only last year? – to furnish a heroic example for the current resistance narrative. See — “Patrick S. Tomlinson Wants YOU To Fight The Power”.

Eventually, the intractable nature of the invaders became clear and a new strategy of opposition and containment emerged. To countermand the exploitation of the nomination rules slate voting represented, the equally devious, yet totally legitimate under the same rules, voting for “No Award” became the marching orders for the faithful.

And it worked. With a clear plan in place, our superior numbers and organizational skills kicked in and slapped the puppies’ poisoned pills out of five categories, doubling the number of times No Award had been given in the Hugo’s entire seventy-three-year history up to that point. I was sitting in the audience for the ceremony. It was electric.

And despite their whining in the aftermath about “burning down our own awards” the attack had been largely turned back. The very next year, puppy influence over the nominations had already begun to ebb, with fewer categories subject to full slating takeovers and fewer No Awards handed out as a result. More women and POC won major awards. And by next year, changes to the rules will see the threat recede even further in the future.

That is how in two short years we beat back the puppies, and that is the model we have to use now that the same sickness has metastasized onto our society, indeed all of Western Civilization. It’s easy to forget now, but the facts are the forces of fascism and intolerance are exactly like the hordes of GamerGate and the Puppies. They are loud, angry, aggressive, shameless, and without scruples.

But they are also a clear minority. As of this writing, more than two point three million more Americans had voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. More Americans voted for Democratic Senators. More Americans voted for Democratic Representatives in the House. It is only through exploitation of the rules in violation of the spirit of American democratic ideals that the forces of intolerance and bigotry maintain their majorities. This has been true for more than a decade. This makes them vulnerable to our superior numbers should we have the foresight and resolve to set aside our petty bickering and unify in an organized fashion and agree to a coherent plan of counterattack.

(7) POLISH FANZINE. For Eurocon this year the publishers of the Polish fanzine Smokopolitan produced an English-language edition, which includes two articles about fandom. You can download a .mobi or .pdf version here.

We proudly present our special English issue, created for Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona. Inside you will find short stories by, among others, Pawe? Majka, Andrzej Pilipiuk and Micha? Cholewa, as well as essays about many branches of speculative fiction in Poland

(8) GLENN IN HOSPITAL. Former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn reportedly has been hospitalized for the past week.

Hank Wilson with Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs said Wednesday that the 95-year-old Glenn is at the James Cancer Hospital, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has cancer.

Wilson said he didn’t have other information about Glenn’s condition, illness or prognosis.

Glenn apologized for his poor eyesight this year at the renaming of Columbus’ airport after him. He said then he’d lost some of his eyesight because of macular degeneration and a small stroke. Glenn had a heart valve replacement in 2014.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1925 – Future five-time Olympic gold medalist and movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in 150-yard free-style swimming.
  • December 7, 1945 House of Dracula shown for the first time. The film features four different actors in the role of Frankenstein’s Monster: Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff (via footage from The Bride of Frankenstein), Lon Chaney Jr. and his stunt double, Eddie Parker (via footage from The Ghost of Frankenstein).

house-of-dracula

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) ANOTHER BEST OF THE YEAR LIST. The list of 44 books in “NPR’s Best SFF of 2016” has “Something to outrage (or at least annoy) almost everyone, I expect….,” promises Chip Hitchcock.

(12) AMAZING STORIES, THE MAGAZINE. Today Amazing Stories highlights “’The Great Milo’ by David Gerrold”, one of the stories by established pros included in its issue along with winning stories from its Gernsback Writing Contest. The tag from Gerrold’s story is —

Never piss off a man who buys ink by the barrel.

(13) COMING TO A TBR PILE NEAR YOU. Nancy Palmer and Bertie MacAvoy agree – they loved Craig Russell’s Fragment.

Nancy Palmer reviewed it at her website.

…I ended up reading the whole thing, compulsively. It’s a slender volume. The story, however, is a big one.

Sometimes what’s scary about a thriller is its plausibility. One of the things speculative fiction writers do best is tell the truth sideways.  And there’s a lot of truth here. Craig Russell’s near future ecological and political world are a little too easy to imagine as reality. It was a compelling, but uncomfortable read: I found myself reading faster as the story progressed, hoping there might be some way to avert disaster. Maybe something in the way of hope, that might be carried past the pages of the book and into the outer world. The hubris and political manipulation in Fragment: yes, there are real-world analogs. Seeing the potential outcome as spelled out in this novel? Dread inducing. But I couldn’t look away.

And Bertie MacAvoy praises it, too:

I just loved Craig Russell’s first novel, Black Bottle Man, and told him so, although I didn’t know the man at all.  It was an old-fashioned sort of novel, very much in control, and I found it fantastically well written.  May others have agreed, if you look at the number of awards it received for a debut novelist.  I awaited his second novel eagerly.

Not only  is it just as good, or better, but it is wildly unconventional, even for these most unconventional S.F. days, and it caught me so firmly I wasn’t even aware of the tricks he was playing on the reader until the book was 65% read. I love being tricked, when it is done well.  (Done poorly, however, of course, I just feel let down.)

It strides the border between intricate Science Fiction and an almost Kafka-esque style.  And doesn’t break the rules of either.  That is the ultimate trick.

So I advise all and sundry to read ‘fragment’.  You will be the better for it.  And, it’s quite a thrill-ride.

(14) CLIPPING SERVICE. “How The Internet Unleashed a Burst of Cartooning Creativity” is a piece on Medium.com that was originally published in The Economist in 2012 (so it’s not behind the Economist paywall).  Randall Munroe is prominently featured, but Kate Beaton and Zach Weiner are also interviewed. Also of interest is the section on Arab cartoonists who would be censored if they were restricted to newspapers but are freer to express themselves on the Net.

Triumph of the nerds

The decline of newspapers and the rise of the internet have broken that system. Newspapers no longer have the money to pay big bucks to cartoonists, and the web means anybody can get published. Cartoonists who want to make their name no longer send sketches to syndicates or approach newspapers: they simply set up websites and spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Randall Munroe, the creator of “XKCD”, left a job at NASA to write his stick men strip, full of science and technology jokes (see above and below). Kate Beaton, a Canadian artist who draws “Hark, A Vagrant”, sketched her cartoons between shifts while working in a museum. Matthew Inman created his comic “The Oatmeal” by accident while trying to promote a dating website he built to escape his job as a computer coder.

The typical format for a web comic was established a decade or more ago, says Zach Weiner, the writer of “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, or “SMBC” (below). It has not changed much since. Most cartoonists update on a regular basis?—?daily, or every other day?—?and run in sequence. “I think that’s purely because that’s what the old newspapers used to do,” says Mr Weiner. But whereas many newspaper comics tried to appeal to as many people as possible, often with lame, fairly universal jokes, online cartoonists are free to be experimental, in both content and form.

(15) SFFSFF. The annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF) at Seattle’s MoPOP has announced its program selections for the January 28, 2017 event. From Seattle Seahawks battling giant monsters through the city’s streets to a mind-altering cell phone app with unintended consequences, this year’s lineup of 23 films is presented in two packages with a 30-minute intermission between sessions and concludes with an awards ceremony. Ticket information and further details at the linked site.

(16) SCOUTING REPORT. This Inverse article – “11 Science Fiction Books That Will Define 2017” includes the official title and cover for book #3 in Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.

Science fiction books have always looked toward the future through both creative speculation and adventurous escapism. After the 2016 Presidential Election, science fiction authors are poised to be more influential than ever before.

Luckily for readers, sci-fi authors are known to churn out their books like rabbits, creating a never-ending stream of great works. In 2017, we’ll see the continuation of several acclaimed book series, but will also have plenty of impressive standalone science fiction, too. Below is a list of eleven books that are slated for release in 2017 that will define science fiction in the upcoming year. Keep in mind these dates can be finicky, and that they can change at warp speed. But, otherwise, happy reading to your future self!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, John King Tarpinian, Dawn “No Middle Name” Incognito, J(“No Middle Initial”)J, Hampus Eckerman, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Pixel Scroll 11/27/16 That Is Not Scrolled Which Can Enpixeled Lie

(1) CROUCHING TIGER CAPTAIN. Actress Michelle Yeoh has been cast as a Starfleet captain, but there are conservative and radical interpretations of what that means.

Deadline reports it this way:

EXCLUSIVE: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘s Michelle Yeoh is heading into the final frontier with Star Trek: Discovery. Sources confirm to Deadline that the upcoming CBS All Access iteration of the fabled franchise will see Yeoh playing a Starfleet Captain.

However, before you start mapping out the deck of the Discovery, sources close to the production tell us exclusively that Yeoh actually will be the leader of another ship. We hear that Yeoh has been cast as Han Bo and her ship is the Shenzhou. The Yeoh-run spacecraft is set to play a big role in Discovery‘s first season.

Asked for comment, Star Trek: Discovery producer CBS TV Studios declined to confirm Yeoh’s casting,

BBC America is more suggestive:

Forget Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer: A new Star Trek TV series is in the works at CBS, with a captain in the form of Michelle Yeoh.

Deadline reports that the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star will play Starfleet Captain Han Bo in Star Trek: Discovery, which is due on our screens in May….

So what do we know about her character? Well, apart from her name and rank, not very much. Details about the new series are being kept under wraps, though we do know it’s set ten years before the original one featuring Captain Kirk, and will bridge the gap between 2005 series Enterprise and the Kirk years by following the crew of the USS Discovery as they discover new worlds and civilizations.

(2) ENGLISH AS A FIRST LANGUAGE. I took the BBC quiz “English phrases: Test your knowledge”, linked by Chip Hitchcock in comments, and laid an egg. And don’t ask me where that phrase originated, because it’s clear I wouldn’t know!

There are many peculiar English phrases whose origins and meaning can appear obscure. For instance, where does “dead as a doornail” come from? When might one say: “I’ll go to the foot of our stairs?”

A recent BBC News article unearthing the stories behind some phrases drew a huge response from readers, who sent in examples of their own.

But how much do you know about the English language and its sayings?

(3) CHABON’S LATEST. Michael Chabon’s Moonglow is another work readers can simply enjoy, while critics are preoccupied defining its form.

Review in the New York Times.

Michael Chabon’s new book is described on the title page as “a novel,” in an author’s note as a “memoir” and in the acknowledgments as a “pack of lies.” This is neither as confusing nor as devious as it might sound, since “Moonglow” is less a self-conscious postmodern high-wire act than an easygoing hybrid of forms. Chabon has what sounds like a mostly true story to tell — about characters whose only names are “my grandmother” and “my grandfather,” and also about mental illness, snake hunting, the Holocaust and rocket science — and he may not have wanted to be bound too tightly by the constraints of literal accuracy in telling it.

The LA Times has more coverage of Chabon which, if you haven’t already exhausted your 10 free articles for the month as I have, you can check out.

Michael Chabon’s new novel “Moonglow” was inspired by a story his grandfather told on his deathbed. The novel is about families — their lies, loves and the stories they tell about themselves. Kate Tuttle talks to Chabon about fatherhood and fiction; …

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born November 27, 1907 – L. Sprague de Camp
  • Born November 27, 1926  — Rusty Hevelin

(5) SCI-FI AIR SHOW. A gallery of photos shows these old warbirds parked on the museum runway — makes you think you could reach out and touch them.

The SCI-FI AIR SHOW’s purpose is to preserve and promote the rich and varied history of Sci-Fi/Fantasy vehicles. Through display and education we seek to celebrate the classic design and beauty of these ships and the rich imaginations that created them. When the cameras stopped rolling, many of these proud old ships were lost and forgotten. Please join us in working to keep these rare and beautiful birds soaring!

 

The Chariot was an important piece of equipment carried aboard the Jupiter2.

The Chariot was an important piece of equipment carried aboard the Jupiter2.

(6) RIM OF THE ANCIENT MARINER. A Star Wars actor is busy keeping another franchise afloat. ScreenRant posted “Pacific Rim 2 Set Photos: John Boyega Heads to The Drift”

Having spent a good chunk of the past few years in development limbo, Pacific Rim: Maelstrom – the sequel to writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 film – has finally begun filming. Contrary to the initial plans, however, del Toro is not directing the sequel and is instead handing the reigns over to former Daredevil showrunner, Steven S. DeKnight; who after spending multiple years establishing himself in the television world, is set to make his feature directorial debut with the blockbuster project. Much to DeKnight’s credit as well, he’s managed to wrangle quite an impressive cast together for the anticipated sequel.

John Boyega is set to lead the cast, as well as executive produce the film, and will be playing the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, following his breakout role in last year’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Now, we’ve finally gotten our first look at Boyega in the character from the film too.

(7) DEATH WARMED OVER. When Will R. was still among us, he sent a commentary along with the link to this Aliens news item: “Looks Like Neill Blomkamp Really Is Planning To Bring ALIENS’ Newt Back To Life”

“When you say ‘worst deaths,’ do you mean ‘most horrible’ deaths? (I’ve always thought bringing Ripley back, cloned together with the aliens, was about the most horrible thing ever done to a character. John Hurt, though…that’s an all-time classic death.)

“Or do you mean worst deaths narratively speaking? That one would be fun. The first one would be…interesting, but I’d hate to call it fun.”

Alien day

A post shared by Nb (@neillblomkamp) on

(8) FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE. I’m sure there’s someone on your list who’d be cheered to receive a copy of The Krampus and the Old Dark Christmas.

Once the mythic bogeyman of European Catholic childhoods and long presented as the opposite of Santa Claus, Krampus is a growing presence in American culture. With the appearance of the demonic Christmas character Krampus in contemporary Hollywood movies, television shows, advertisements, and greeting cards, medieval folklore Krampus-related events and parades in North America and Europe, Krampus is a growing phenomenon.

Though the Krampus figure is now familiar, not much can be found about its history and meaning, thus calling for a book like Al Ridenour’s The Krampus: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. With Krampus’s wild, graphic history, Feral House has hired the awarded designer Sean Tejaratchi to take on Ridenour’s book about this ever-so-curious figure.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/16 R.U.R. Or R.U.Ain’t (My Baby)

(1) PETALS TO THE METAL. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll is a little worried:

My hit rate for this series so far has been… somewhat lower than I hoped. It’s not that I am going out of my way to find older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people; it is just that I turn out to have a remarkable talent for finding older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people.

So this time he pulled out one of the greatest short stories in the genre,  Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon”. Turns out his young audience wasn’t all that fired-up about it, either. Which reminds me of a favorite joke:

A dog food company once held a convention for its sales force. The president got up and said, “We have the greatest product in the world!” Everybody applauded. “We have the best sales people in the industry!” The cheered wildly. “So,” asked the president, “why aren’t we selling any dog food?” A little man in the back got up and shouted, “It’s the damn dogs, sir! They don’t like it!”

(2) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. The odds say that these things are supposed to crash in the ocean. Except when they don’t. “The Space Debris Problem: Dual Impact In Myanmar Shows What’s To Come”.

A mining facility in northern Myanmar became the crash site of a huge piece of space debris last Thursday. As the impact occurred, a smaller piece of debris with Chinese markings on it simultaneously destroyed the roof of a house in a nearby village. Fortunately, no one was injured in either incident.

The larger object is barrel-shaped and measures about 4.5 meters (15 ft) long, with a diameter barely over a meter. “The metal objects are assumed to be part of a satellite or the engine parts of a plane or missile,” a local news report said. The Chinese government is neither confirming nor denying whether both pieces of space junk came from the same object.

(3) FIGHT INTERNMENT. George Takei’s op-ed in the Washington Post reacts against talk about rounding up Muslims and reminds people of what happened when we interned the Japanese — “They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims”.

There is dangerous talk these days by those who have the ear of some at the highest levels of government. Earlier this week, Carl Higbie, an outspoken Trump surrogate and co-chair of Great America PAC, gave an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. They were discussing the notion of a national Muslim registry, a controversial part of the Trump administration’s national security plans, when Higbie dropped a bombshell: “We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will,” he said. Was he really citing the Japanese American internment, Kelly wanted to know, as grounds for treating Muslims the same way today? Higbie responded that he wasn’t saying we should return to putting people in camps. But then he added, “There is precedent for it.”

Stop and consider these words. The internment was a dark chapter of American history, in which 120,000 people, including me and my family, lost our homes, our livelihoods, and our freedoms because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Higbie speaks of the internment in the abstract, as a “precedent” or a policy, ignoring the true human tragedy that occurred….

(4) THE FRANCHISE THAT LIVED. The BBC renders a verdict — “Film review: Is Fantastic Beasts a Rowling triumph?” Chip Hitchcock says, “tl;dr version: way too many characters for one movie. Rowling says it’s the first of five; sounds a bit like the opening episode ST:TNG, which spent most of its time setting up the main players.”

As exhilarating as all the new sights and sounds are, though, it’s soon apparent that Rowling et al are enjoying their relocation a little too much. A major flaw of the later Harry Potter films was that they crammed in so many characters and incidents from the ever-longer novels that they were baffling to anyone who didn’t know the books by heart. What’s slightly disappointing about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is that, even though it isn’t adapted from a novel, it has a similar problem. Rowling’s superabundant imagination won’t let the story build up momentum: she keeps shoving minor characters and irrelevant details in its path.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 18, 1928— Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time, with Walt Disney doing the voice of his soon-to-be-famous creation, in “Steamboat Willie,” the first fully synchronized sound cartoon produced.
  • November 18, 1963 — Push-button telephones made their debut. John King Tarpinian was one of the early button-pushers:

I remember being at the County Fair and there was a display with kiosks.  You used a rotary phone to dial your number then using a push-button phone you dialed a random phone number.  The elapsed time was displayed and you saw how much faster the push-button phone was compared to the rotary.

  • November 18, 1990 — Stephen King’s It premieres on TV.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Actor Charles Bronson appeared in the 1953 horror classic House of Wax as Vincent Price’s assistant, Igor. Bronson is credited under his real name, Charles Buchinsky.

(7) ABOLISHING A EUPHEMISM. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “The Term ‘Graphic Novel’ Has Had A Good Run. We Don’t Need It Anymore”.

…And all the other, sillier, less meaningful stuff. Science fiction, or whatever.

Oy. OK. Lots to unpack here, and, to be fair, at lot of it’s our fault. Comics readers and creators, that is.

By the time the great cartoonist Will Eisner slapped the term “graphic novel” on his 1978 book, A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories, the term had been percolating around comics fandom for years. Eisner, however, was a tireless advocate, and wanted people to appreciated that comics are a medium, not a genre. A medium dominated, then as now, by superheroes, but nevertheless a storytelling medium that could be used to tell an infinite number of stories in vastly different ways.

Which is why—

Um, OK. It looks like you’re ramping up. I’m gonna … I’m just gonna grab a seat then.

Fine, go ahead.

The reason Eisner latched onto the term “graphic novel” and ran with it is because … well, it was 1978. He needed to. Comics were considered, if they were considered at all, junk culture. Kid stuff that was beneath serious notice, if not beneath contempt….

Chip Hitchcock comments: “They use Gaiman’s less-colorful metaphor; when he spoke in NYC a decade or so back, he said someone who insisted he did ‘graphic novels’ made him feel like a streetwalker being told she was a lady of the night.”

(8) CHESTNUTS ROASTING. Annalee Newitz lists “All the science fiction and fantasy novels you need to make it through the winter” at Ars Technica.

Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

2016 was a good year for alternate histories, and Shawl’s thought experiment about 19th century colonialism in Everfair is no exception. In this alternate reality, Fabian socialists in Britain manage to team up with African-American missionaries to buy part of the Belgian Congo from King Leopold II, establishing the free African nation of Everfair. Based on an actual historical plan that never came to fruition, the novel imagines how Everfair would develop, changing the history of other colonized African nations as its population swells with American former slaves and liberated peoples of the Congo. Though there is a strong Utopian core to the novel, Shawl does not shy away from depicting thorny, internecine battles between different groups who have opposing definitions of freedom. Plus, we get to see how Everfair develops breathtaking new technologies. Shawl has done incredible research on the history of the Congo, and it shows. This is steampunk done right, with all the tarnish, sweat, and blood visible on the gears of the world’s great industrial technologies.

(9) AH, THAT EXPLAINS IT. I wondered why Vox Day kept using this as a figure for Trump. James McConnaughy makes the connection in “#NotMyGodEmperor: Why Are There So Many Actual Fascists in the Warhammer 40K Fandom?” at The Mary Sue.

That’s ridiculous, I told myself. There’s absolutely no way they could be genuinely identifying with the Imperium of Man or its fascist power structure. After all, the Imperium of Man is a parody of fascism, and not a particularly subtle one at that, since the game constantly talks about how much life sucks and how the authoritarianism causes more problems than it solves. They’d have to be blind to not see that Warhammer 40k is… kid…ding.

Oh. Oh no.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about satire, because I like hard shifts like that. The problem with satire (or, more directly, the problem with writing satire) is that it has a goal, beyond simply being funny. Satire is pointed, it has a purpose, it is, to use a phrase I often dislike, saying something. More specifically, satire is saying something by taking something it wishes to criticize and blowing it up to absurd proportions.

And therein lies the problem: Satire is always walking the razor’s edge. By using the words and concepts of the thing you are satirizing, you are often giving voice to those words and concepts, and someone out there is going to agree with those words, not the actual point of your satire. That’s the basis of Poe’s Law: Without a blatant display of comedy, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

(10) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Financial Times has a regular feature about the one thing people take with them when they travel.  Chris Hadfield explained in the November 12 issue why he always carries his guitar with him.

He explains that on his first trip to the Mir space station in 1995 he had a special guitar made by Wright Guitars where owner Rossco Wright “adapted one for me, cutting the neck in half and putting a locking piano hinge on it so it would fold and fit in the shuttle.  I had to get approval from Nasa:  from the highest level, the director of the space shuttle programme.”

“Just before the flight while I was in quarantine, I got  a call from the payloads people saying that although Nasa had approved it, the Russians weren’t gonna let me take the guitar on to Mir because it hadn’t passed all the electromagnetic and flammability tests.  So some people from Nasa came to my house, found my spare SoloEtte, did all the testing and passed the results to Russia.  We launched–still without permission from the Russians–and I assembled the guitar on Mir, but we weren’t allowed to plug it in.  Then,. as we were doing a press conference with Russian prime minister Victor Cheromydin, he said, ‘I understand you have a new guitar–play me a song.’  That sounded like permission, so we played a concert on Mir, and nothing caught fire or blew up.”

Hadfield says that the Larivee Parlour guitar Hadfield used to cover “Space Odyssey” in 2013 “was put there” in the International Space Station “for psychological support (along with books, movies, a harmonica and a couple of footballs” and has been in space since 2001.

(11) SPIGOT, RHYMES WITH… In October, Alexandra Erin created a satirical news feed on Medium called The Daily Spigot. She tells her Patreon supporters that she intended it to be daily, but that illness and the election interrupted her momentum; however, she has started writing new posts again. The latest is: “Trump Asking Every Business In Phone Book About Mexico Plans”

This reporter was allowed into Donald Trump’s private office to witness the real estate developer turned job saver in action.

“Hello, Triple A All-American Locksmiths?” he asked during a typical such call. “This is the President of the United States. That’s right,” he said, while an aide frantically mouthed the words “no, no, no” and another scrawled, “You have to stop saying that” on a piece of paper, which was then pushed across the desk to Trump, who frowned at it, signed it, then pushed it away.

“I’m just calling to see if you had any plans on moving your plant or any jobs to Mexico in, say, the next two months to four years? No? Great! Tremendous. Thanks a bunch. Make America great again!”

He then hung up the phone and said, “That’s another one for the Twitter.”

(12) GROWING UP GROOT. CinemaBlend poses some knotty questions in “How Groot Will Be Different In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, According To Vin Diesel”.

While plugging his new movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to Collider, Vin Diesel detoured into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 territory, and noted how in the sequel, Groot will have a significantly more naive mindset compared to how he was as an adult. While it was generally assumed that Baby Groot would behave like a juvenile, Diesel statement confirms that the alien basically be a child, albeit one with extraordinary abilities. However, that mentality doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t remember what he was like before he was destroyed and regrown. At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Baby Groot will retain his memories, although director James Gunn later told a fan that as far as Baby Groot being the original Groot or a “son,” that situation is “complicated.”.

(13) NOT YOUR AVERAGE OBLATE SPHEROID. Astronomers claim to have discovered the roundest object ever measured in nature. Write this on your hand.

Kepler 11145123 is a distant, slowly rotating star that’s more than twice the size of the Sun.

Researchers were able to show that the difference between its radius as measured to the equator and the radius measured to the poles was just 3km.

“This makes Kepler 11145123 the roundest natural object ever measured,” said lead author Prof Laurent Gizon.

He added that it was “even more round than the Sun”.

(14) INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY IN THE SKY. Elon Musk’s latest: satellite internet: “SpaceX aims to launch internet from space”.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, announced last year that the service would be “larger than anything that has been talked about to date” adding that it would take about $10bn (£8bn) to get it off the ground.

The latest documents did not include costs.

It suggested that the first 800 satellites would be used to expand internet access in the US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands.

Each satellite, about the size of an average car, not including solar panels, would weigh 850 pounds (386kg), the firm said.

[Thanks to JJ, Todd, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]