Pixel Scroll 4/12/17 Blah, Blah, Blah, Pixels, Blah, Blah, Scroll

(1) FOR THE RECORD. Odyssey Con co-chair Alex Merrill published an official response to the departure of GoH Monica Valentinelli yesterday – filling the void left by Richard S. Russell’s retracted statement with something more socially acceptable.

We, the Convention Committee of Odyssey Con, deeply regret losing Monica as a Guest of Honor, especially in the way the last twenty-four hours have unfolded. Odyssey Con strives to be a warm and welcoming place for all people to express themselves and engage in fandoms. We took a long and hard look at the issue of having Jim Frenkel continue to be a member of our convention committee when he was banned from WisCon in 2012. Our position at that time was to look at our policy on harassment and ensure that any situation that may take place at our convention would be dealt with professionally. We now have an ombudsman, anonymous reporting procedures, and a very detailed policy. There have been no complaints filed against Mr. Frenkel from attendees of Odyssey Con. However, in light of Monica’s email, the following changes have been made: Mr. Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.

I personally wish to apologize for the mishandling of our response to Monica’s concerns. It has never been our intent to minimize any guest’s complaints. Odyssey Con is an all volunteer organization staffed by people who have many strengths, but not all of us are great communicators.

I have already reached out to Monica to personally apologize for the email response she received from one of our ConCom members and for the subsequent posting of email chains publicly. This exchange was not an example of Odyssey Con as a whole, which is run by fans, for fans. I hope to have a continued dialogue with you all.

However, the first comment left on the post identified a number of questions that remained unanswered by the statement.

And after K. Tempest Bradford looked over the new response, she shared her reaction in the comments of her blog.

…No matter how much the Internet is mad at your organization, that does not excuse any implication that the person reporting feeling unsafe because a harasser is involved in running the con is at fault here. That’s immature. That’s not professional. That’s yet another indication that guests would not have been treated professionally by OddCon as an organization.

Also an indication that attendees will not be treated in a professional manner.

And being a volunteer run con is not an excuse for that. Yeah, you’re all volunteers, but you’re running an event. People attending said event as fans or guests have the right to expect a certain level of safety and respectful treatment from those running the event. That was not what happened. Now they’re sorry. Yet I still do not see that behavior addressed in a meaningful way in this Sorry….

(2) MARVEL FIRES SYAF. Marvel pencil artist Ardian Syaf, who inserted anti-Semitic and anti-Christian political references into his work on X-Men Gold has now been officially terminated.

Over the weekend, Marvel released a statement that it had been unaware of the references, and they would remove the artwork from all upcoming versions of the issue.

The company’s follow-up statement, quoted in Paste Magazine, says:

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. X-Men: Gold #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly.

Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men: Gold in the coming weeks.

Syaf wrote on his Facebook page:

Hello, Worlds…

My career is over now.

It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.

Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.

In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.

My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.

Ardian Syaf

However, Coconuts warns that statement should not be confused with Syaf actually regretting his actions.

…In an interview about the controversy with local newspaper Jawa Pos published today, Ardian explained why he thought that Marvel could not accept his explanation for including the references.

’But Marvel is owned by Disney. When Jews are offended, there is no mercy,” he was quoted as saying.

After making the anti-Semitic remark, Ardian reiterated to the interviewer that he was not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian because, if he was, he wouldn’t have worked for a foreign publisher.

(3) WHITE AWARD DELAYED. The British Science Fiction Association has postponed the date for revealing the winner of the James White Award:

With apologies to those who have entered this year’s competition, we are sorry to announce that the announcement of this year’s James White Award winner has been delayed.

The longlist will announced shortly after Easter and the shortlist shortly after that. We are working to complete the judging as quickly as possible.

We intend to announce the winner by Friday, 19 May at the latest.

(4) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has unveiled The SFWA Science Fiction Storybundle.

The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle is a very special collection full of great sci-fi books that benefit a great cause! If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. This bundle is filled with talented SFWA members and their wonderful works, such as Tech Heaven by Locus-award-winning Linda Nagata and Factoring Humanity by Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winning Robert J. Sawyer, plus 10 more tremendous reads. You can easily choose to donate part of your purchase to the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America to support these fantastic authors. Don’t forget to click here to read much more about the bundle, and make sure to click on each cover for reviews, a preview and a personal note from our curator!

It has another 22 days to run.

(5) DISTRACTIONS. With so much happening in 1962, Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf finds it hard to concentrate on her reading — “[April 12, 1962] Don’t Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic).

Maybe it’s because it’s almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it’s because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it’s because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it’s because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it’s because of George Schelling’s B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye….

(6) TIPTREE. There will be a Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41 on Saturday, May 27.

Can’t get enough Tiptree fun on Facebook? Are you curious about Tiptree auctions? Fan of Sumana Harihareswara? Want to support science fiction that explores and expands gender? Want to roar with laughter? There are dozens of possible reasons to go to the Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41.

(7) APEX REPRINTS EDITOR. Apex Magazine is bringing aboard Maurice Broaddus as reprints editor. The magazine publishes one reprint in each issue, and he will be responsible for finding those reprints beginning with issue 98, July 2017.

Maurice Broaddus and Apex Publications have a long history together going back 10 years. He has been published in several of our anthologies, including most recently in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Vallentinelli and Jaym Gates. He has also had several books published through Apex, including Orgy of Souls (co-written by Wrath James White), I Can Transform You, and the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations which he co-edited with Jerry Gordon. Most recently, Maurice Broaddus guest edited an issue of Apex Magazine—issue 95 (http://www.apex-magazine.com/issue-95-april-2017/) , which included original fiction by Walter Mosley, Chesya Burke, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Kendra Fortmeyer, poetry by Linda D. Addison and LH Moore, and nonfiction by Tanya C. DePass.

(8) NEW COLUMNIST. Galaxy’s Edge magazine has a new columnist, Robert J. Sawyer. He’ll replace Barry N. Malzberg starting with issue 27.

Robert J. Sawyer, author of the bestselling novel Quantum Night, has agreed to write a regular column for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Robert is currently one of the foremost science fiction authors in the field and one of Canada’s top writers. He was admitted into The Order of Canada (one of the country’s highest civilian honors) in 2016. His novels have won more awards than any other person in the history of the genre (as per the Locus index for science fiction awards) from countries around the world.

(9) SINISALO. At Europa SF, Cristin Tamas conducts a lengthy interview with 2017 Worldcon GoH Johanna Sinisalo.

Cristian Tamas : Johanna Sinisalo seems to have emerged, along with Leena Krohn and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, as a central figure in the ‘‘Finnish Weird’’, which like many such movements may be a coincidence, a plot, or even, as Sinisalo herself said in her introduction to last year’s Finnish Weird anthology, simply a ‘‘brand.’’ In any case, it seems to carry with it a celebratory feeling of having just rediscovered the possibilities of nonrealistic fiction, even as some of its major works come with pretty grim premises.” – Gary K.Wolfe ; Please comment !

Johanna Sinisalo : Finnish Weird is basically a term invented for commercial uses, based on the fact that most of the Finnish Weird writers do not want to be pigeonholed as fantasy or sf or horror writers. Words like “nonrealistic” or “speculative fiction” are relatively strange to the wider audiences, so we came up with this kind of definition that could perhaps be compared to the commercial term “Nordic Noir”. Analogically, the Scandinavian crime writers have not “rediscovered the possibilities of crime fiction”, but the term Nordic Noir tells the reader that those books are a part of a certain literary tradition (and in many cases it is also considered as a sign of high quality).

Cristian Tamas : Isn’it weird that the oldest (beginning of the 13th century) known document in any Finnic language, the Birch Bark Letter no.292 is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish (or Finnic language) and it was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky in the Nerevsky excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod, Russia ? Is this an avant-la-lettre sample of Finnish Weird ?

Johanna Sinisalo: It is an interesting document. As far as I know the only words in that letter that the scholars totally agree upon are “God” and “arrow”, and the most popular theory is that the the text is a spell or prayer protecting from lightnings, saying “Jumaliennuoli on nimezhi”, roughly ”You are / will be called as the Arrow of Gods”. Perhaps it forecasts that we Finnish Weird writers are lightnings of the literary gods?

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Bookmobile Day

Bookmobile Day is an opportunity to celebrate one of the many services offered through public libraries. Originating in the nineteenth century, the earliest bookmobiles were horse-drawn wagons filled with boxes of books. In the 1920s, Sarah Byrd Askew, a New Jersey librarian, thought reading and literacy so important that she delivered books to rural readers in her own Ford Model T. And today, Kenya still uses camels to deliver materials to fans of reading in rural areas.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 12, 1981 — Space shuttle Columbia first launched.

(12) COMIC SECTION. A horrible pun and a funny gag – John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Brevity.

(13) HATERS. John Scalzi, the midst of his annual Reader Request Week, takes up the subject of “Haters and How I Deal With Them”. This section of his post is from a list of “things I know about haters, and how they relate to me.”

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

(14) MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH. Quite coincidentally, Vox Day put up a post titled “This is what ‘Zero Fucks’ looks like” that’s all about….would you like to guess?

(15) LIBRARIANS LIKE IT. Library Journal gives its take on the 2017 Hugo ballot in “Quality and Diversity”

After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their fangs, was thrilled by the lists. “The fact that so many women are represented (and trans women! and women of color!), just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited to see a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—make the list.

Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally excited by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big squeeing girlfan of Seanan McGuire, and I think Every Heart a Doorway has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. Then I see N.K. Jesmin, Charlie Jane Anders, and [Lois McMaster] Bujold? Amazing stories that never cross our desks? The editors, movies and everything else that makes this genre amazing? I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”

(16) A VISIT TO DYSTOPIA. Nerds of a Feather continues its series on Dystopian Visions. Here are excerpts from two of the major critical essays. And the link will also lead you to innumerable posts about individual books and films with dystopian themes.

What marked Utopia out from these fantasies of plenty was that it could be reached, and reached in two ways. Reached physically: there was a long, arduous but supposedly practicable journey that could get you from here to there. It was a journey beyond the abilities and wishes of most people, but the idea was established that perfection did not exist only in dreams or upon death, but here in the everyday world we all inhabited. And it could be reached structurally: this perfection was not the province of god or of fairies or some supernatural inversion of the natural world, this perfection was achieved by rational men. If a safe, secure, happy existence could be achieved by sensible human organisation in Utopia, then sensible, rational men could achieve the same here.

No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…

Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.

…The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.

Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”… Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing.

(17) DO YOU? I had to answer “No.”

(18) EXOTIC GAME. Review of Simon Stålenhags RPG Tales from The Loop at Geek & Sundry — “Tales from the Loop Invites You to Roleplay in the ‘80s That Never Was”.

Tales from the Loop takes place in a retro-futuristic version of the 80’s where Cold War Era science brought us hover-vehicles, robots, and other advancements that pepper this light sci-fi landscape. It’s an idyllic time. Kids are free to roam after dark. The same children who have grown up around robots and Magnetrine Vehicles geek out over Dungeons & Dragons and Atari systems. There are problems, but the future is hopeful.

If this whole setting sounds like a sci-fi version of Stranger Things you wouldn’t be far off. If that’s what it takes to get you to crack into this portal into a future past then by all means: it’s a sci-fi version of Stranger Things. But in reality it captures more of the feeling of E.T. or The Goonies. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas were able to get help from Joyce and Sheriff Hopper. In Tales from the Loop the focus is squarely on the trials, challenges, and successes of the kids. One of the 6 Principles of the game right in the book is that “Adults Are Out of Reach and Out of Touch”, and if your character ever turns 16 years old, they age out of the campaign

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Marc Criley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W, who will be awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the basic Scroll title DNA.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

(1) MARKET FOR DIVERSITY? ICv2’s interview with Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel spawned a controversial discussion about retailer or customer resistance to female characters (As you can see from the following excerpt, Gabriel has subsequently tried to walk back some of his comments.)

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

(2) RISE OF YA COMICS. Discussion about the Gabriel interview led Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson to do a wide-ranging commentary on the contemporary comics market, “So About That Whole Thing”. This excerpt is the last half:

STUFF THAT IS ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE:

  1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
  2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
  3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
  4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
  5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s *particularity.* This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.

AND FINALLY

On a practical level, this is not really a story about “diversity” at all. It’s a story about the rise of YA comics. If you look at it that way, the things that sell and don’t sell (AND THE MARKETS THEY SELL IN VS THE MARKETS THEY DON’T SELL IN) start to make a different kind of sense.

(3) BOMB HATCHES. Variety’s weekend box office report says “’Boss Baby’ Tops ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Bombs”.

The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a box office juggernaut that’s dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. “Beauty and the Beast” added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend’s other new release, Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.

(4) GOFUNDME SIGNAL BOOST. “The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

The GoFundMe link is — “LachlanB’s Recovery Fund”

We are the friends of Lachlan, a 17 year old Australian student and aspiring speculative fiction writer who has been struck by cancer. Lachlan is a compassionate, creative, bright young man who embraces life to the fullest.  A few weeks ago, he was enjoying his first week of university, planning a 3rd anniversary surprise for his girlfriend Sarah, organising his Dungeons and Dragons mates for their bi-monthly weekend session, and starting edits on the first draft of his YA fantasy novel. Cancer has interrupted his short and long-term plans. His first two weeks of university were spent undergoing a series of medical tests and consultations. Fifteen minutes into his 3rd anniversary date, he became unwell and had to go to Emergency.  He has now been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (an aggressive, painful bone cancer), and been forced to defer his university studies in order to receive the treatment he urgently needs.

The fundraiser has incentives, such as books from Grimdark magazine or John Joseph Adams’ Seeds of Change anthology, as well as print editions of Alliterate magazine.

(5) A CONVIVIAL EPISODE. Scott Edelman interviews Sunny Moraine at Washington DC’s Convivial restaurant in Episode 33 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sunny Moraine

We discussed the best writing advice she’s heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with her mind, her favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of her all-time favorite stories period), why she writes Walking Dead fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how she decided her trilogies were meant to be trilogies, and more. (She refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus—I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!

Edelman recently launched a Patreon in the hope that he’ll someday be able to afford to do episodes more frequently. He says, “Biweekly will never be enough to capture all the amazing creators out there!”

(6) PLEASE SAY THAT AGAIN. Astronomers have discovered three more Fast Radio Bursts:

FRBs have baffled scientists ever since the first one was discovered in archived data in 2007. The longstanding mystery of their origin, which is further compounded by the fact that only about two dozen such events have ever been detected, has spawned a plethora of scientific (and some that sound not so scientific) theories, including the occasional speculation that aliens are responsible for them.

For some reason, FRBs never seem to repeat, and, as a result, most theories about the origin of these mysterious pulses involve invoking cataclysmic incidents that destroy their source, for instance, a star exploding in a supernova, or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.

This changed in 2012 when the first and only known repeating burst, named FRB 121102, was discovered by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And, in January, over four years and several recurring bursts of this FRB later, astronomers were able to directly trace the mysterious burst to its point of origin, a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years from Earth.

So far, this is the only FRB whose source has been pinpointed — although even that hasn’t brought scientists any closer to understanding what birthed it.

(7) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. In a BBC video, Disney animators explain why characters have only three fingers.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “The answer’s obvious but there are some interesting bits about drawing animation scattered through the clip.”

(8) SINGLE-CELL. If E.T. phones anyone, Neil deGrasse Tyson doubts the call will be for him: “The Future of Science: What Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks About Aliens, Elon Musk and Traveling”

Neil deGrasse Tyson has no plans to meet advanced life on Earth or other planets anytime soon. The famous astrophysicist told fans this weekend he won’t be traveling to Mars via private space exploration and he doubts humans will make contact with complex organisms—that is, alien life— within his lifetime.

Tyson’s remarks came up during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday where he promised to divulge his views on “life, the universe and everything.” Asked by one commentator whether “we will ever make contact with complex organisms within the next 50yrs?”, Tyson was not encouraging.

“I think they (we) might all be too far away from one another in space and possibly time. By complex, I’m presuming you mean life other than single-celled organisms. Life with legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It’s all about our capacity to travel interstellar distances. And that’s surely not happening in the next 50 years. Not the rate things are going today,” he wrote back.

(9) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Making the rounds of film festivals, Fight for Space recalls, “In the 1960s and 70s, the Space Race inspired a generation to pursue careers in science and technology, and then it all ended. Fight for Space looks at why.”

“FIGHT FOR SPACE” is a documentary film that asks, why haven’t we gone back to the Moon, or sent humans to Mars? Weren’t we supposed to be there in the 80s? What lead to the decline of NASA’s budget and why is it stuck in low earth orbit?

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.

 

(10) APRIL 1 LEFTOVERS. Never realized that you’d need firmer biceps when your jetpack finally arrives. “Real-life ‘Iron Man’ flying suit built by British inventor” says a British Marine has invented and flown a turbine powered suit.

A British inventor has built his very own jet-propelled ‘Iron Man’ suit, which he says can carry him at several hundred miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air.

The suit, designed by entrepreneur Richard Browning, allows the pilot to vertically take off and fly using the human body to control flight. Browning has recently founded Gravity, a technology start-up, which has filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could re-imagine manned flight.

 

(11) LAST TO KNOW. Dave Freer tells a painful story about the announced mass market paperback edition that never happened.

I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.

If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.

Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.

Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else.  The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly….

(12) WRIGHT ON RELIGION IN SFF. Angelo Stagnaro interviews John C. Wright for the National Catholic Register. The views will be familiar to readers of his blog.

  1. What do you think is the place of such elements in science fiction?

Hmm. Good question. Science fiction is by and large based on a naturalistic view of the universe. When penning adventures about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by space marines, religion does not come up, except as local background and local color, in which case, the role of religion is to provide the radioactive altar to the Snake God of Mars to which our shapely by half-clad space princess is chained, that our stalwart hero can fight the monster.

Now, any story of any form can be used as a parable or as an example of a religious truth: indeed, my latest six-book trilogy is actually about faith, although it is portrayed in figures as being about a man’s love for his bride.

Fantasy stories, on the other hand, once any element of magic or the supernatural is introduced either declare for the Church or declare for witchcraft, depending on whether or not occultism is glamorized.

Note that I speak of occultism, not magic itself. Merlin the magician is a figure from King Arthur tales, of which no more obviously Christian stories can be found, outside of Dante and Milton, but no portrayal in olden days of Merlin glamorized the occult. Again, the way characters like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Coriakin in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or Harry Potter, even those they are called wizards, are clearly portrayed either as commanding a divine power, or, in Potter’s case, controlling what is basically an alternate technology or psychic force. There is no bargaining with unclean spirits, no rituals, not even a pack of tarot cards. These are like the witches in Halloween decorations, who fly brooms and wave magic wands, and nothing like the real practices of real wiccans, neopagans or other fools who call themselves witches.

Fools, because, as I did when I challenged God, they meddle with forces of which they have no understanding. I meddled with bright forces, and was spared. They meddle with dark, and they think they can escape the price….

Fantasy stories generally are hostile to Christianity, some intentionally and some negligently. The negligent hostility springs from the commonplace American desire for syncretism, that is, for all religions to be equal. Even some fairly Christian-themed fantasy stories yield weakmindedly to this temptation, as in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, where the forces of light are portrayed as ones where Christ is merely one teacher among many, each equally as bright and good, but makes no special nor exclusive claim. Or tales where the crucifix will drive back a vampire, but so will any other sign or symbol of any religion, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, because all religions are equal, dontchaknow.

(13) ANCIENT VIDEOGAME HISTORY. It may be a long way for some but, for Nigel, Tipperary was once a short commute.

(14) WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE TICK. Carl Slaughter explains:

Like superheroes in the “The Spirit” movie and the “Ax Cop” animated series, The Tick is a superhero that requires a special appreciation.  Amazon is bringing “The Tick” to the small screen again in 2017.  Unlike Netflix, which greenlights an entire series, Amazon commissions a pilot, posts it for a month, and gives the thumbs up/down based on fan reaction and news coverage.  The pilot for the Amazon reboot was released in 2016.  Here is a documentary on the history of The Tick.

 

(15) BLASTS FROM THE PAST. Secret Screening also asks if you remember Eerie Indiana?  Remember Goosebumps?

(16) NOT A CAREER MOVE. Is it true? Why Dick Grayson Doesn’t Want to Become Batman, and Why Bruce Wayne Agrees.

[Thanks to Nigel, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Nick Tchan, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/17 A Pixel That Scrolls For A Day, Replaced Next Morrow

(1) THE WEED OF CRIME. The Washington Post has an article by Rachel Weiner about Amil Chaudry being sentenced to nine years for identity theft, visa fraud, and money laundering.  Prosecutors said that Chaudry was part of a ring that charged $25 million on phony credit cards, and when banks challenged the charges used phony passports to back the claims.

“The scheme was uncovered in part because an FBI agent recognized actress Laura Vandevoort in one of these passports,” Weiner reports.  “The image was taken from a scene from the television show ‘V’ involving visas, authorities said.”

Vandevoort also played Supergirl in “Smallville” and Indigo in “Supergirl.”

(2) AN EVEN LISTIER LIST. Von Dimpleheimer has updated his ebook compilation of people’s lists of 2017 award recommendations. The latest version adds the File 770, Shadow Clarke, and SFWA recommendations and the finalists of the Asimov’s Readers’, Crawford, and Phillip K. Dick awards. JJ has approved his handling of the File 770 entry. The ebook is available as a free download.

(3) LEARN ABOUT AFRICAN SFF.  Geoff Ryman’s “100 African Writers of SFF” series continues at Strange Horizons.

Jennifer Nansubaga Makumbi

(An earlier version of this chapter was published at Tor.com in November 2016.) In Part Two of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet: a crime writer whose grandfather was a king—one who made a Western artist a priestess in the Ogun religion. A white South African anti-apartheid activist whose sister was tried under the security laws—and introduced him to the work of Joanna Russ. A Rastafarian from Zimbabwe whose experience of life under Mugabe has made him a free-market neoliberal. A South African rap/ jazz-rock star, illustrator, and author who models his look on the Wicked Witch of the West.

In Part Three of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet the editors of Cape Town: the people who make things happen. They include Constance Myerberg/Jenna Dann, co-founder of Jungle Jim; Kerstin Hall, founder of Luminous Worlds; Nerine Dorman, writer and editor of the anthology Terra Incognita; Ntone Edjabe, founder and editor of Chimurenga; and Rachel Zadok, a force behind Short Story Day Africa.

(4) BAD GUYS WHO WEREN’T VERY GOOD. Factory seconds from the comic book industry — The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains explores ill-thought comic book bad guys”.

Sometimes even comic greats can have terrible ideas — and in a fascinating new book, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History, author Jon Morris explores the history of ill-thought and sometimes laughable antagonists you’ve probably never heard of. Below, check out a few highlights, complete with captions Morris has written for EW exclusively, to get a sneak peek before The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains hits shelves on March 28.

For example:

MIRROR MAN Created by: Mike Sekowsky and an uncredited writer Enemy of: Captain Flash Debuted in: Captain Flash #1 (Sterling Comics, November 1954)

© 1954 by Sterling Comics

The courageous Captain Flash fought a surprising number of menaces in his abbreviated career, but none quite as deadly, implacable and likely to jump out of a medicine cabinet as Mirror Man. A silicon-starved, glassy nogoodnik from a malevolent dimension, Mirror Man comes to Earth to destroy its finest scientific minds. Why? It’s never explained, but at least it gives Captain Flash something to do while running out the clock on his short-lived series. Boasting the ability to disappear into any reflective surface, and to appear from any other, Mirror Man is one of the first alien menaces to make his initial salvo against Earth from the convenience of a men’s restroom.

(5) A FINE POINTILLIST. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Bob Mankoff, who is ending his tenure as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor in April.  Mankoff discusses how he created the Cartoon Bank to provide another income source for cartoonists and how he imagines his late mother being asked about his job and told, ‘They paid you for that?”

Since he became editor, “the biggest change was that cartoons, even of the very benign variety that appear in the New Yorker, now have great power to offend — at least among the easily offended, a class whose numbers grow even as I write,” Mankoff says. “Now, even Canadians take offense at being stereotyped as polite.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 4, 1952 — Ernest Hemingway completes his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote his publisher the same day, saying he had finished the book and that it was the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and became one of his bestselling works.
  • March 4, 2017  — People read the above and demand to know why Mike is posting this item about a non-genre work.

(7) GONE BATS. Given enough time, critics will talk themselves into redeeming the irredeemable — “Why this ridiculous 1966 Batman movie is the most important Batman movie ever” by Greg Cwik in The Week.

You may look back affectionately on Batman’s innocently zany antics of the 1950s and early ’60s. But Batman was almost ruined by those robots and radioactive big bugs and kitschy toys and gimmicks and the definitely not-gay Bat-Family of Bat-Hound, Bat-Girl, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and Mogo the Bat-Ape. Sales sunk. In fact, “they were planning to kill Batman off altogether” in 1964, said co-creator Bob Kane.

But then editor Julius Schwartz took over, and tried to save the comic by eradicating the Bat-Family. He was aided by artist Carmine Infantino, who redesigned Batman to be “more realistic.” Sales went up. But ironically, it was another gimmick-laden endeavor that truly rescued the Dynamic Duo: the Adam West-starring camp comedy Batman, which premiered in 1966, the year Kane retired.

Batman fans, particularly Frank Miller acolytes, like to say West’s show and movie “ruined” Batman. Actually, the parodic depiction made Batman a cultural icon after a decade of mail-in toys and cynical strategies. It presented a starkly different kind of Batman, at once refuting Wertham’s provocations while slyly embracing them through its ostensible innocence.

A genuine fad, the show and movie came and went in 26 months. But its influence altered the legacy of the Caped Crusader. The movie, which came out July 30, 1966, was the first official Batman movie since the serials of the 1940s. A generation of television viewers and moviegoers, unfamiliar with Kane and Bill Finger’s brooding detective (Batman killed people — by noose, by gun, by defenestration) now knew Batman only as a campy crusader with painted-on eyebrows and a syncopated delivery that sounds, to modern ears, like a lascivious cross between William Shatner and Jeff Goldblum. The juxtaposition between Walter Cronkite’s 1968 Vietnam expose on the dinnertime news and Burt Ward yawping, “Holy Diversionary Tactics!” must have been dizzying.

(8) BEAU OF THE BALL. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will appear in Game of Thrones.

According to Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, Syndergaard filmed his cameo in Spain in November when he had some free time after the Mets were eliminated from the postseason in the NL Wild Card Game.

“They just know that I’m a fan and they invited me to do that,” Syndergaard told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “I couldn’t say no.”

(9) NERDS IN HELL. Nerds of a Feather is launching an ambitious series on dystopianism in SF/F that will continue for the next two months.

This series, conceived of as a sequel to Cyberpunk Revisited, seeks to explore questions of what dystopianism is and what purpose(s) it serves. What are the tropes and conventions of modern dystopian fiction? How have dystopian visions evolved over time, both in terms of approach and theme? And what do dystopian visions about the points in time and space in which they are written?

Equally, we will ask questions about why we like to read about dystopias. Is it possible that we even find them comforting, and if so, why?

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we will consider dystopianisms’s complex relationship to its forebear, utopianism. We will explore works where dystopianism serves to negatively define utopia, as well as those where dystopia and utopia are presented side-by-side. Just how essential or intrinsic is the concept of utopia to that of dystopia?

We will explore these and other questions through a series of essays and dossier-style reviews, including of works not commonly associated with dystopianism, but which present dystopian themes. Our dossiers will have the following subheadings:

Filetype: whether the work under review is a book, film, game, etc.

File Under: whether the work presents a statist, stateless, fantasy or hybrid-form dystopia.

Executive Summary: summary of the plot.

Dystopian Visions: discussion of dystopian themes/content present in the work.

Utopian Undercurrents: whether and to what degree the work’s dystopianism underlies a utopian understanding of politics, society, etc.

Level of Hell: a quantitative rating of how terrible the presented dystopia is, from first to ninth—with an explanation of the rating.

Legacy: the importance of the work in question within its field.

In Retrospect: an editorial commentary on how good/not good the work is, from the vantage point of 2017.

Interspersed with these dossier reviews, we and a selection of guest writers will explore how to contextualize dystopia and dystopianism within literature and other media, as well as the moments in time and space when it has surged forward into popular consciousness.

(10) ACTING WITHOUT THE ACTOR. What if Leonard Nimoy’s Spock could be digitally resurrected for appearances in future productions of the Star Trek franchise? Here’s what Adam Nimoy has to say about it at CinemaBlend.

Adam Nimoy, who directed the 2016 documentary For The Love Of Spock that focused on his father, made this admission to Trek Movie.com, insisting that he wouldn’t have a problem with seeing his dad up on screen again as Spock. He also admitted that he was blown away by what Rogue One had achieved with Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher. Adam Nimoy remarked,

Yeah I think it’s an interesting idea. I loved what they did in Rogue One. I thought it was pretty clever, and I was blown away by it, frankly. All of the stuff that Peter Cushing was doing was mind-boggling to me. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I think it should certainly be explored, but I’m not the final arbiter as to whether it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a great idea, personally.

There’s every chance that an opportunity to resurrect Leonard Nimoy, who died back in 2015, as Spock could present itself in the near future. As the question was being posed to Adam Nimoy, the interviewer explained that Star Trek: Discovery will take place a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, during which time Spock served under Captain Pike on the Enterprise.

(11) THINKIN’ UP SH*T. This reminds me of Bruce Willis’ line in Armageddon about what he assumed NASA spent its time doing. ASU’s workshop where “AI Scientists Gather to Plot Doomsday Scenarios (and Solutions)” is covered by Bloomberg Technology.

Artificial intelligence boosters predict a brave new world of flying cars and cancer cures. Detractors worry about a future where humans are enslaved to an evil race of robot overlords. Veteran AI scientist Eric Horvitz and Doomsday Clock guru Lawrence Krauss, seeking a middle ground, gathered a group of experts in the Arizona desert to discuss the worst that could possibly happen — and how to stop it.

Their workshop took place last weekend at Arizona State University with funding from Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn. Officially dubbed “Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes,” it was a kind of AI doomsday games that organized some 40 scientists, cyber-security experts and policy wonks into groups of attackers — the red team — and defenders — blue team — playing out AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.

Horvitz is optimistic — a good thing because machine intelligence is his life’s work — but some other, more dystopian-minded backers of the project seemed to find his outlook too positive when plans for this event started about two years ago, said Krauss, a theoretical physicist who directs ASU’s Origins Project, the program running the workshop. Yet Horvitz said that for these technologies to move forward successfully and to earn broad public confidence, all concerns must be fully aired and addressed.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Von Dimpleheimer, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/17 The Pixelated Things Apply As Time Scrolls By

(1) MONEY MANAGEMENT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch counsels authors in “Business Musings: Writer Finances Versus The Paycheck World”.

Here’s a piece of advice you don’t hear very often:

Pay off your house.

Seriously, my writer friends. If you get a lump sum of money, pay off your house.

Or your car.

Definitely pay off your credit cards, and take them out of your wallet. Use them only when you travel to a conference or plan to make a big purchase.

If the indie writers who made a lot of money in 2012-2014 had followed that advice, they’d still be writing and publishing. Sure, their incomes would still be down, along with their sales, but their careers would continue.

How do I know they didn’t do that? Because they’re gone. Mark Coker commented on it in his year-end blog. Writers in the comment section on this blog have mentioned that they’re leaving the business. The Kindle Boards discuss all the writers no one hears from any more.

And if you go to writer website after writer website, many of them for successful indies, you’ll see sites that haven’t been updated for a year or two, or you won’t find any site at all.

What happened?

(2) COLLECTIBLES. The March WIRED has a photo essay called “Scene Stealers:  Inside The Deeply Nerdy–And Insanely Expensive–World of Hollywood Prop Collectors.” (Online here.)  This tells us that you don’t just want a phaser from the original Star Trek –you want a “hero phaser,” created by designer Wah Chang for close-ups, because only two were made.  But if you want the Aries 1 Translunar Shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ve been outbid by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who spent $344,000 on it for a museum the academy plans to open in 2018.

The 2006 Worldcon makes an appearance, because the hero blaster used by Rick Deckard in Blade Runner showed up there after most collectors thought this prop had been lost because no one had seen it for over two decades.

(3) READING THE TEA LEAVES. If you want to know “How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse”, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Emily Feng will tell you – it’s the internet.

Chen Qiufan, a sci-fi writer who has won the Milky Way Award and Xingyun Award, China’s equivalent of the Hugo, remembers life before the web changed everything. “All we could do was write in paperback books and magazines. We sent out our stories on paper by mail,” Chen told Foreign Policy. Sending them out and waiting for a response and feedback took a long time — sometimes forever.” But the early 2000s saw an explosion of dedicated online sci-fi forums that allowed writers and fans to mingle virtually, swapping stories, publishing serialized works, and exchanging intense feedback. Social media sites like Baidu Tieba, the arts and literature-focused site Douban, and college messaging boards hosted the most active online communities.

Suddenly, anyone could be a writer; and writers could get instant, massive feedback on draft work. This development was particularly important for the heretofore much-ignored genre of sci-fi; a large portion of today’s most well known and decorated Chinese science fiction writers did not start inside the formal publishing and literary world.

… “In print publishing it was always difficult” for science fiction, said Michel Hock, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the author of a book on Chinese internet literature. “The state still owns most of the publishing houses, and state ideology is very ambivalent about literature that caters to mass taste.”

Hock noted that “the Communist Party represents the masses, but does not like the masses’ taste very much.”

(4) REGENERATIONS. At CBR.com, Charles Pau Hoffman asks, “Is Marvel Finally Embracing Legacy Characters with Generations?”

For decades, legacy heroes have been associated strongly with DC Comics rather than Marvel, and for understandable reasons. Apart from DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, most of its big name superheroes were reimagined into younger, more modern incarnations during the Silver Age. While DC’s creators eventually settled on the idea of the multiverse as the in-universe explanation for two radically-different Flashes or Green Lanterns, these stories helped to build an expectation among readers that as characters aged, they might be replaced.

The DC Universe is full of legacy heroes; there are now enough Green Lanterns to necessitate a whole Corps, nearly as many Flashes, and more Robins (and former Robins) than grains of sand on the beach. While the focus ebbs and flows between the iconic versions and their legacies, the idea of legacy heroes is so engrained in DC Comics that not even the New 52 could kill it.

While legacy heroes have traditionally been more associated with DC, in the past few years Marvel has leaned hard into the concept. Practically every major Marvel hero now has a legacy of one sort or another: Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster proved she was worthy of wielding Mjolnir, Miles Morales is swinging around New York with Peter Parker’s blessing, Kamala Khan has taken Ms. Marvel’s battle for justice to Jersey City, and even Nick Fury, Jr., is upping his spy game as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And that’s not even getting to Kate Bishop, Sam Alexander, Amadeus Cho, Laura Kinney, Riri Williams, Viv, the Original 5 X-Men, and an unending list of Young Avengers, New X-Men and Spider-Women…

Last week, Marvel released an incredible new piece of art by Alex Ross, accompanied by four simple words: “GENERATIONS – coming Summer 2017.” It is not clear yet whether “Generations” will be a new prestige miniseries, event, or line-wide rebranding a la Marvel NOW, but the name and image highly suggest whatever “Generations” is, it will focus on the idea of legacy heroes in the Marvel Universe.

(5) COMICS ART. Elle Collins curates a gallery of Silver Age sci-fi comic book covers at Comics Alliance.

While the Golden Age established comics as a medium, the Silver Age was when comic book art really came into its own. And it’s worth noting that comics’ Silver Age corresponded with a wider cultural fascination with science fiction. The actual Space Race was in full swing, and everybody was thinking about rocket ships, alien monsters, and the wonders of science.

In comics, it was science fiction that gave comics artists the freedom to go big. Giant monsters, futuristic technology, and huge-scale threats to the entire Earth became commonplace. And of course everyone had their own ideas about what aliens might look like, from the typical little green men with antennae to yellow giants with segmented eyes and butterfly wings for ears.

In assembling this Silver Age sci-fi gallery, I looked for covers that had more science fiction elements to them than just giant monsters, because while there’s overlap, I think giant monsters deserve their own gallery. I also avoided superheroes, because while so many of their stories are science fiction by nature, we understand superheroes as a different genre. Plus this whole gallery could easily be filled up with Fantastic Four and Green Lantern covers, but that would be a different thing. Sci-fi heroes like Adam Strange and Captain Comet were allowed, on the other hand.

(6) NANCY WILLARD OBIT. Black Gate reports the passing of author Nancy Willard, June 26, 1936 – February 19, 2017.

Nancy Willard was the author of more than 70 books, including more than 40 books for children, such as the Anatole trilogy, Firebrat (1988), East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989), and Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (1991), illustrated by the Dillons. She won the Newbery Award in 1982 for her book of poetry, William Blake’s Inn, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. It was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery.

Willard’s Things Invisible to See won the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book (1986).

The family obituary is here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY HOBBIT

  • Born February 25, 1971 – Sean Astin

(8) PATRON OF THE ARTS. Ray Bradbury was on the Chamber Symphony Society of California’s board of directors, as this 1973 clipping reminds us.

(9) HELLO, CENTRAL? In “The Coming Amnesia”, Geoff Manaugh explores a prediction made by Alistair Reynolds that if the universe keeps expanding, galaxies wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other and any interstellar civilizations would be unable to contact any other ones.

As the universe expands over hundreds of billions of years, Reynolds explained, there will be a point, in the very far future, at which all galaxies will be so far apart that they will no longer be visible from one another.

Upon reaching that moment, it will no longer be possible to understand the universe’s history—or perhaps even that it had one—as all evidence of a broader cosmos outside of one’s own galaxy will have forever disappeared. Cosmology itself will be impossible.

In such a radically expanded future universe, Reynolds continued, some of the most basic insights offered by today’s astronomy will be unavailable. After all, he points out, “you can’t measure the redshift of galaxies if you can’t see galaxies. And if you can’t see galaxies, how do you even know that the universe is expanding? How would you ever determine that the universe had had an origin?”

There would be no reason to theorize that other galaxies had ever existed in the first place. The universe, in effect, will have disappeared over its own horizon, into a state of irreversible amnesia.

…It is worth asking here, however briefly and with multiple grains of salt, if something similar has perhaps already occurred in the universe we think we know today—if something has not already disappeared beyond the horizon of cosmic amnesia—making even our most well-structured, observation-based theories obsolete. For example, could even the widely accepted conclusion that there was a Big Bang be just an ironic side-effect of having lost some other form of cosmic evidence that long ago slipped eternally away from view?

Remember that these future astronomers will not know anything is missing. They will merrily forge ahead with their own complicated, internally convincing new theories and tests. It is not out of the question, then, to ask if we might be in a similarly ignorant situation.

(10) THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Dave Langford reports that in addition to their 2017 TAFF ballot platforms, all three candidates have since posted campaign material online. Click on each name for more: Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, John Purcell.

(11) INTELLIGENT TALK. Kim Stanley Robinson and a non-genre author will be interviewed by Adam Roberts at Waterstones in London on April 3.

Waterstones Piccadilly is delighted to announce a very special event featuring three exceptional authors.  Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford will be discussing their work with critic and author Adam Roberts.

Kim Stanley Robinson is widely regarded as one of the foremost living writers of science-fiction. Author of the bestselling Mars trilogy as well as numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, he has won many awards over the years, including multiple Hugo and Nebula prizes.

Francis Spufford teaches writing at Goldsmiths University and has written 5 highly-acclaimed works of non-fiction. His first fiction title, Golden Hill, was a Waterstones Book of the Month and won the 2016 Costa Prize for First Novel.

Adam Roberts has written an extensive collection of works in both the fiction and critical genres. Author of some wonderfully original science-fiction and parody titles, Adam teaches English literature and writing at Royal Holloway University.

(13) NOT BEEN BERRY BERRY GOOD. The 2017 Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. The Razzies, highlighting the “cinematic sludge” of the past year, were announced today.

WORST PICTURE

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTOR

Dinesh D’Souza in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTRESS

The “Actress” Who Plays Hillary Clinton in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kristen Wiig / Zoolander No. 2

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jesse Eisenberg / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREEN COMBO

Ben Affleck & His BFF (Baddest Foe Forever) Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST DIRECTOR

Dinesh D’Souza & Bruce Schooley / Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF or SEQUEL

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREENPLAY

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

RAZZIE® REDEEMER AWARD

2014 Worst Supporting Actor nominee Mel Gibson, for his Oscar-nominated direction of Hacksaw Ridge

 

(14) HOW HARD IS YOUR SF? Futurism groks the fullness: “How Scientifically Accurate Is Your Favorite Sci-Fi Film?”

“Minority Report”

If you can look past the draconian dystopia of the world presented in the movie, you’ll find a lot of interesting scientific details “Minority Report” strived to get correct. Steven Spielberg consulted with computer engineers to come up with the now-iconic vision of the next gen computer systems. While our current touchscreen devices aren’t exactly what was depicted in the film, we are getting closer to gesture-based interfaces.

(15) INKSTAINED WRETCH. Jon Skovron, author of Hope and Red and Bane and Shadow, gives us an insight into how he writes, from first draft to the final book.

(16) THUG NOTES OF GENRE INTEREST. Selected by John King Tarpinian.

  • 1984

  • BRAVE NEW WORLD

  • FAHRENHEIT 451

  • A HANDMAID’S TALE

(17) SUMMER CAMP. Tor.com says “Shared Worlds is Now Open for Registration!” Shared Worlds is supported by co-director Jeff VanderMeer and Editor-in-Residence Ann VanderMeer.

Shared Worlds, a world-building summer camp for kids, is now open for registration. The program is open to rising 8th-12th graders, and will take place from July 16th-29th at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Registration will be open until April 1st so be sure to register soon!

The students work in small groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world, spending a week building their worlds from the ground up: geography, population, religion and philosophy, legal systems—everything you’d need for a functional world. The second week is spent writing stories that can only occur in the worlds they’ve created. The program culminates in individual sessions between the students and the guest authors so the students get personalized feedback on their work. Finally, the students’ stories are published in the annual program anthology.

[Thanks to JJ, Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 2/3/17 The Pixel That Rowed The Scroll Ashore

(1) ASIMOV ON THE AIR. BBC Radio 4, as part of their 15 Minute Drama series, will be adapting five of the stories from Asimov’s I, Robot. Original broadcasts will run from February 6-10. As usual, episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

A couple of clips promoting the series are already online –

Scriptwriter Richard Kurti tells us why Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories were so remarkable in their ability to predict the future.

Actor Nick Briggs introduces his characters and tells us what he finds appealing about Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories. He also explains why he doesn’t think we should fear a future dominated by robots.

Episode One will be ROBBIE.

The rise of robotics in the 21st century, told through the poignant and mysterious story of enigmatic lawyer, Stevie Byerley. Starring Hermione Norris.

Episode One : ROBBIE As a child, Stevie Byerley is raised by Robbie, a robotic childminder, because her parents are too busy working. The powerful bond she forms with the robot is unbreakable. Their relationship will change the course of Stevie’s life.

Originally written over 60 years ago, Isaac Asimov’s stories are becoming truer with every day that passes. The world that he imagined is now upon us.

(2) BURNT ENDS AND ZOMBIES. In Episode 28 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic he feasts on BBQ with Craig Engler, Co-Creator/Writer/Co-Executive Producer of the hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

Join us as we discuss what life’s like when you’re a professional game player for Nintendo, how running the Syfy Channel’s digital side led to him getting a shot at writing TV movies such as Zombie Apocalypse, why he wrote Weight Hacking, his geek guide to losing weight and getting fit, plus much more, including behind-the-scenes secrets on the past, present, and future of his hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

 

Craig Engler

(3) SHE STABS IT WITH HER STEELY KNIFE. Violette Malan ranks “My Top Five Sword-Fight Movies” at Black Gate.

You don’t have to read many of my posts to know that The Princess Bride is pretty well my favourite movie. And though I love the sword fighting scene between Wesley and Iñigo, and the later one between Iñigo and Count Rugen, they are not actually my favourite sword fighting scenes. In both cases, it’s really the dialogue that makes the scenes memorable. So what movies would I rank above The Princess Bride in sword fighting wonderfulness?

Here they are, in the order in which I thought of them.

The Three Musketeers (1973, directed by Richard Lester)

One of the great things about this movie, along with its sequels The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers, is that they all feature the same cast. There are good fight scenes in all the films (Oliver Reed is more impressive in the sequels), but it’s the first one I know the best. I particularly like the fantastic opening sequence, where D’Artagnan’s father teaches him the “secret thrust.” Anything between D’Artagnan (Michael York) and Rochefort (Christopher Lee) is well worth watching. There’s also some terrific ensemble fighting, notably the scene between the four leads and the Cardinals’ Guard in the convent courtyard. It should be noted that Christopher Lee was a fencer IRL as well…

(4) KA-CHING! Mary Rosenblum analyzes “What REALLY Sold in 2016?” at the SFWA Blog.

In 2016, 43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online.  Now, THAT is a reason to break out the champagne!  Why?  Because most readers pay little to no attention to the publisher.  As long as the small press or self published book looks professional and has a professional looking cover,  it’s competitive with books from the ‘bookstore’ publishers.  If your ebook or print book includes those 5 critical elements for success and looks like the other professionally published books out there, readers don’t care who published it.  They’ll look at price.

Aha!  That might just be the reason that self publishing authors sell almost as many ebooks as the traditional publishers. They can usually price their books lower.

But what about print books?

2016 Self Published Print Book Sales

In 2016, 21,800,000 self published print books were sold, mostly published through Create Space.  The average price was $10.34.  Amazon imprints sold another 959,000 copies.

That’s a lot of print book money!

(5) NEW EDITION FROM PENGUIN. Here’s the version of George Orwell’s book for the alternate timeline you’re living in.

(6) COMPLIMENTING SMUGGLERS. Nigel Quinlan writes, “I would like to selfishly draw your attention to the new issue of The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac. It contains a fun Mid-Grade fantasy short story by me, ‘The Gobbleens,’ which is featured on the utterly gorgeous cover.”

I’m happy to give it a mention, in part for the beautiful cover, and in part because I owe them thanks for sending a copy of the first one, which had a great story by Tansy Roberts.

Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC is essential for any SFF fan.

IN THIS VOLUME (JANUARY 2017): BECKY CHAMBERS, SHERRI L. SMITH, A.E. ASH, KATHERINE MACLEAN, NIGEL QUINLAN, ZETTA ELLIOTT, ALLIAH/VIC, KATE C. HALL, NICOLE BRINKLEY, ANA GRILO AND THEA JAMES

(7) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Maura McHugh reviews the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred on Irish national radio, now up as a podcast on this page — “Arena with Sean Rocks, Monday, January 30”

Maura McHugh reviews the sci-fi graphic novel “Kindred” by Octavia E Butler which has been adapted by writer Damien Duffy and artist John Jennings (published by Abrams ComicArts)

(8) BURNING MAN. I09 did a story on the edition of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that was bound is asbestos. John King Tarpinian adds this “Fun Fact” —

Ray had one of his copies with burn marks on it because he would hold a lighter to it to show people it would not burn.

(9) TO THE STARS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has released the fourth episode of is podcast Into the Impossible, about “How to Make a Spaceship”.

How do you jumpstart the private spaceflight industry? Passion, commitment, bold risk-taking, some inspiration from Charles Lindbergh, and a little luck. On today’s show, we hear from Peter Diamandis, whose XPRIZE Foundation launched the competition that gave us the first private manned spaceflight–and paved the way for Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and his own Planetary Resources, among others–along with the prize-winning pilot, Brian Binnie, and the writer Julian Guthrie, who chronicled their stories along with those of the other teams from around the world inspired by this unprecedented challenge. Also on this episode: convincing Arthur C. Clarke to buy your college friends dinner and a nearly disastrous incident with a mother-in-law and a cup of coffee.

Be sure to check out Julian Guthrie’s book, How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight, for the rest of the story!

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE

“The next time you’re abducted, just steal something off the ship.”  — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

(11) TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS YOU NEVER HEARD OF

  • February 3, 1993:  Dystopian satire Acción Mutante opens in its native Spain.

(12) BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born February 3, 1970  — Warwick Davis

(13) HAZARDOUS DUTY. No OSHA in the Empire? “Why ‘Star Wars’ Hates Handrails: Finally We Know Why People Keep Plummeting to Their Death”.

Ever noticed that most of the locations in the Star Wars universe wouldn’t pass a basic safety inspection? A number of characters plummet to their doom throughout the series, and the risk of accidentally falling on The Death Star or in Cloud City, or even tripping into that floor hatch on the Millennium Falcon, seems incredibly high. A new episode of the official web series The Star Wars Show explains that this was by design: George Lucas was against building guardrails on Star Wars sets.

 

(14) THE OUTFIELDER WHO WOULD BE KING. San Francisco Giants baseball player Hunter Pence posted a great photo of him wearing a Hakuna Matata t-shirt trying to free Excalibur from the Sword in the Stone at Disneyland. He couldn’t do it! The throne rests easy tonight.

(15) COMIC HISTORY LESSON. Atlas Obscura remembers “Marie Duval, the pioneering 19th-Century Cartoonist That History Forgot”.

In the late 1800s, London was swept up in the new craze of visual, satirical journalism. When Judy magazine, a twopenny serio-comic, debuted a red-nosed, lanky schemer named Ally Sloper who represented the poor working class of 19th-century England, it was one of the first recurring characters in comic history.

But credit for that character has long gone to the wrong person. Two people were responsible for Ally Sloper—and one of the creators has only recently been rediscovered by academics and comic fans.

Wearing a shabby stovepipe hat and carrying a rickety umbrella, the iconic and popular cartoon is often credited to Charles H. Ross, a playwright, cartoonist, and eventual editor of Judy. However, Ally Sloper was actually illustrated and developed by two artists: Ross and his wife, actress-turned-cartoonist Marie Duval—who was responsible for the bulk of the Ally Sloper comics.

(16) SPEAK UP. This LEGO Batman Movie promo clip introduces the voice actors behind the characters.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nigel Quinlan, Bruce D. Arthurs, Cat Eldridge, and Martn Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/17 Midnight at the Well of Pixels

(1) THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS TYRION. ScienceFiction.com says “Peter Dinklage Is Rumored To Be In Talks To Join ‘Avengers: Infinity War’” and makes a very entertaining post from its inconclusive guesses about what Marvel character he might play.

…The next two ‘Avengers’ movies are expected to shoot back-to-back and whatever role Dinklage is in negotiations for, he will appear in both.

Very little is known about ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ other than it will feature every surviving Marvel Cinematic hero, including all of the Avengers, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  And it will feature the clash with warlord Thanos, something that has been teased since the first ‘Avengers’ in 2012.  It will be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who previously helmed ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Captain America: Civil War’. …

(2) HELP CHANGE THE LAW. Opponents of the new California autograph law say they have lined up a State Assembly member to introduce legislation to constructively amend AB 1570. It is anticipated the bill will be drafted and ready to introduce by mid-February. In the meantime, they continue to ask people show their support by signing their petition at Change.org.

(3) BUY LINGUAL. Rachel Cordasco’s “Roundtable on Speculative Fiction in Translation: Past, Present, Future” at Tor.com brings together Neil Clarke, Sarah Dodd, Cristina Jurado, Cheryl Morgan, and Marian Womack:

Q: How do you work to increase the visibility of sf in translation? Is it mainly through marketing and social media, or other avenues as well? What can people like myself (reviewers, bloggers) do to promote sf in translation in effective ways?

Neil Clarke: Unfortunately, translated works still carry a bit of stigma with readers. It’s like your mom trying to get you to eat a vegetable she knows you’ll like if you just give it a try. One approach is to be low key about it. Treat it like any other piece of food on the plate and surround it with their more traditional selections. Publishers have been doing this for years…leveraging one success to create opportunities to take risks on others. The big difference is that translations can be significantly more expensive.

The best thing I can do for translations, aside from publishing great stories, is to be actively involved in making connections in the international science fiction community and keep them aware that translation is an option that is available to them.

The best thing readers and reviewers can do is support the books and stories they enjoy. All authors enjoy their books being favorably reviewed, but many of the foreign authors I’ve worked with have mentioned that recognition from the English-language market is extra special. Many of the biggest names in SF are published in English. It carries some prestige most of us don’t even think about.

Sarah Dodd: A really important thing that reviewers and bloggers can do is name the translator. (Yes, it seems basic, but it’s amazing how often reviews of translated fiction omit the translator’s name entirely!) The wonderful @TranslatedWorld began the #namethetranslator campaign in 2013, and they’ve been really promoting the work of translators to give them greater visibility. One of the things we’ve realized, working on other translation projects, is just how much the translator does, going beyond the translation itself—a lot of translators also do a huge amount of work pitching the books and stories they love, and then helping drum up interest and publicize them when they come out. So it would be really great to see more of a focus on the translators themselves (something we’re planning to do in Samovar, through our author and translator spotlights)….

(4) THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE. Walter Jon Williams, before getting around to the TV adaptation, decided to first reread Philip K. Dick’s novel — “Revisiting the Classics: The Man in the High Castle”.

I hadn’t got very far into the re-reading before I came to the conclusion that there was no damn fucking way this could ever be made into a TV series.  The narration is too internal, there is very little dramatizable action, and you can’t make the manipulation of 49 yarrow stalks followed by the reading of an opaque text dramatically interesting.  What HBO has done, I’m sure, is create a situation more or less parallel to that of the novel, and some characters with the same names and some of the same problems, and then done what TV people do to make that interesting.  The series might well be successful on its own terms, it just won’t be The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick.  (Those of you who have seen the [Amazon] series can tell me if I’m right.  I’m particularly interested to learn whether they made successful drama out of I Ching readings.)

And that’s only his first argument why it couldn’t be made for TV.

(5) CRAVING DYSTOPIAS. Boston Review fiction editor Junot Diaz has put out a call for material on the theme of global dystopias, maximum length 5,000 words.

Over the last decades dystopian narratives have proliferated to the point where they seem to have become our default mode for conceptualizing the future. But dystopias are not merely fantasies of a minatory future; they offer critically important reflection upon our present. If (as Tom Moylan has argued) traditional dystopias crafted cognitive maps of the terrors of the twentieth century, what cognitive maps does our current dystopian turn provide us of our turbulent global present?

Throughout 2017 BostonReview.net will feature stories, essays, and interviews on the theme of global dystopias. The project will culminate in a special print issue in the fall of 2017.

We are seeking essays, interviews, and fiction from writers around the globe that engage the theme of dystopia. Nonfiction, personal essay, genre fiction (SF, fantasy, horror, Afrofuturist, slipstream), and work that resides across/between genres are welcome.

Submissions might explore, but are not limited to:

  • Inequality / precarity
  • The Global South
  • Climate change
  • Global democracy
  • Civic media and civic imaginaries
  • Afrofuturism
  • The War on Terror
  • International politics and speculative futures
  • Post-humanisms
  • The future of females
  • Gendered violence
  • Radical futurities

The submissions period is open for fiction and nonfiction via Submittable until May 1, 2017.

(7) DEALER’S CHOICE. The third video in a series about the origins of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe.is now on YouTube:

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COMPUTER

  • Activated January 12 — HAL 9000. According to the movie, he was activated in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12, 1992. For reasons that even Clarke didn’t remember, years later, in the book the date shifted to 1997.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 12, 1628 — Charles Perrault, author of the Mother Goose stories.
  • Born January 12, 1965 – Rob Zombie

(10) PRATCHETT LIFE COMING TO TV. A Terry Pratchett bio program is in the works at the BBC. From Radio Times “BBC reveal plans for ‘poignant’ new Terry Pratchett documentary”.

The BBC is making a documentary about the late writer Terry Pratchett in which his words will be read in character by actor Paul Kaye.

Terry Pratchett: Back In Black is told in Pratchett’s own words, with contributions from authors Neil Gaiman and Val McDermid, and his long-serving assistant Rob Wilkins. Kaye’s impression of Pratchett is said to be “uncanny” according to the BBC.

The programme, which airs on BBC2 later this year, will follow his life from his troubled schooldays, to being dismissed by literary critics, to the remarkable creation of the Discworld series of fantasy novels, which have since sold over 85 million copies worldwide.

It will also chronicle Pratchett’s battle with Alzheimer’s and his death in 2015.

(11) COMICS ON THE HORIZON. In 2017, at least three SF/F novels will be adapted into comic books. Titan Comics will be adapting Forever War by Joe Haldeman, with Haldeman writing the comic and Mavarno doing the art, as well as Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, with Newman writing and art by Paul McCaffrey. Finally, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods will become a Dark Horse comic book with P. Craig Russell writing and art by Scott Hamilton.

Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War was a groundbreaking science-fiction novel when originally published in 1974, merging high-concept science fiction with gripping social commentary. Next year, Titan Comics are reprinting and serializing the 1988 adaptation written by Haldeman himself, with art by the legendary Mavarno.
Titan’s reprint of the series serializes the original volumes and come packed with bonus materials, including design elements from the series and multiple, brand-new covers for each issue.

And now, it’s finally making it to comics. Titan has announced an Anno Dracula adaptation set for March of 2017, written by Newman with art by Paul McCaffrey.

Originally published in 1992, the first Anno Dracula novel takes place in 1888, focusing on the early years of a society where vampires have just gone public, and a mystery — for the characters, if not the readers — surrounding the Whitechapel murders of Jack the Ripper.

Gaiman said in a statement: “I’ve been watching P. Craig Russell breaking down the book into comic form, watching Scott Hampton painting the pages, watching Glenn Fabry create the covers, and grinning to myself with delight, because the American Gods comic is going to be an astonishing, faithful, and beautiful adaptation.”

(12) DRAFT NOTICE.  Narragansett Brewing Co. wants you to know “The Unnamable Is Coming…”

Unnamable beer

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Rob Thornton JJ, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Michael J. Walsh.]

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 12/11/16 “Scrollitively, Mr. Pixel?” “Pixelutely, Mr. Scroll!”

(1) NOT TODAY’S TITLE. “ONCE UPON a time there was a Martian with a wooden leg named Valentine Michael Smith. What its other two legs were named, nobody knows.”

(2) EXFOLIATE! The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has seasonally decorated the club’s Dalek. Michael J. Walsh snapped a photo —

bsfs-dalek-foto_no_exif

(3) ICON RECOGNITION. The Guardian’s “Picture quiz: how well do you know your sci-fi and fantasy?” is really an elaborate ad for The Folio Society.

Calling all Tolkien heads and sci-fi savants: can you match the illustration to the book? Each one has a clue to help you out.

In theory you should be able to guess from the artwork. Although I scored 7/8, without the clues I don’t know if I’d gotten any of them right.

(4) THE ROOTS OF BABY GROOT. Skeptics have been put on notice that this was something done only for wholesome artistic reasons – I’m sorry, did my nose just grow? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 director says Baby Groot was a ‘creative change,’ not a marketing ploy”.

Despite what some may believe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn insists Baby Groot is not a ploy to sell more Marvel merchandise.

Responding to a fan inquiry on Twitter, Gunn wrote, “I’m sure some people think that but for me keeping him Baby Groot throughout the film was the creative change that opened the film up for me. I was less confident the studio was going to buy in on Baby Groot than I was they were going to buy in on Ego the Living Planet” — the latter being Kurt Russell’s character and Star-Lord’s father.

(5) DYLAN’S NOBEL. The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich covered the ceremony — “A Transcendant Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize”.

That Dylan ultimately accepted the Nobel with a folk song (and this specific folk song, performed by a surrogate, a peer) seemed to communicate something significant about how and what he considers his own work (musical, chiefly), and the fluid, unsteady nature of balladry itself—both the ways in which old songs are fairly reclaimed by new performers, and how their meanings change with time. Before Smith took the stage, Horace Engdahl, a literary historian and critic, dismissed any controversy over Dylan’s win, saying the decision “seemed daring only beforehand, and already seems obvious.” He spoke of Dylan’s “sweet nothings and cruel jokes,” and his capacity for fusing “the languages of the streets and the Bible.” In the past, he reminded us, all poetry was song.

 

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 11, 1972 — Apollo 17 landed on the moon. It was the final Apollo lunar landing. Ron Evans was the command module pilot and Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walked on the surface during the mission. Cernan was the last to re-enter their lunar module — the last man on the moon.
  • December 11, 1991 — Amblin’s Hook opens in wide release after its LA premiere days earlier.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 11, 1922  — Vampira, (aka Maila Nurmi).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 11, 1781 — Scottish physicist and kaleidoscope inventor David Brewster

(9) WHAT’S A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO SF? Jason Sanford returns to controversy he wrote about last year in “Let Us Now Praise ‘Famous’ Authors”.

A few years ago I was on a SF/F convention panel about bringing new readers into our genre. I mentioned that science fiction needed more gateway novels, which are novels new genre readers find both approachable and understandable (a type of novel the fantasy genre is filled with but which are more rare in the science fiction genre).

As I stated this another author on the panel snorted and said we don’t need new gateway SF novels because the juvenile novels written by Heinlein in the 1950s are still perfect. This author believed the first exposure kids have to science fiction should be novels from the 1950s. And that this should never change.

That is the attitude people should fear because, in the long run, it will kill our genre.

This brings me back to my earlier point about the “famous” people our world holds up to acclaim. Yes, many famous authors helped build our genre, but so did the work and love of countless forgotten people.

(10) ROGUE SCIENCE. Neil deGrasse Tyson only needs a minute to explain why he is a Death Star skeptic in a video on Business Insider.

Owning a Death Star comes with some serious risk, especially when it was constructed with a serious design flaw. But astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a more practical reason why the ‘Star Wars’ Death Star didn’t quite make sense.

(11) DIGITAL COMICS POLL. You have until December 23 to vote for Digital Comic of The Year 2016 at Pipedream Comics.

It’s been another bumper year for exciting and innovative digital comics in 2016. From boundary pushing webcomics to crowd-funded sensations to cutting edge apps, we have picked out 10 of the best for you to vote on and declare the best Digital Comic Of The Year 2016. So get involved and make sure your favourite joins the likes of Madefire’s Captain Stone and Mono:Pacific, David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly and last year’s champion Adventures in Pulp, as winner of our prestigious prize. Below is our rundown of the contenders for this year’s prize, and you can cast your vote here. (Polls close at midnight on December 23rd!)

Here are links to some of the contenders, where you can see full comics or samples:

(12) DOG SHOW. When Doris V. Sutherland dared to question the quality of Brian Niemeier’s Dragon Award-winning book, the author and another puppy blogger insisted the emperor was so wearing clothes — “Horror Puppies Redux: Is Souldancer Really Horror Fandom’s New Favourite Novel?”.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at the two books that I personally found to be the strongest contenders in the Dragons’ horror category. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay is at #156,590 in ebooks, and at #561,851 (paperback) and #60,849 (hardback) in books; Alice by Christina Henry is at #156,678 in ebooks and #27,655 in books. I stand by my statement at WWAC: if the Dragon Awards truly honoured the works most popular amongst fans, then the award for Best Horror Novel would not have gone to Souldancer.

Niemeier concluded his post by asking his readers to prove me wrong by posting reviews of Souldancer; he confidently predicted that the book will soon have more than fifty ratings on Amazon. This call to action resulted in Souldancer‘s review count going from eight to twelve, prompting Niemeier’s glass-half-full statement that “Souldancer reviews are up 50%”. A few more reviews have been posted since then – although the more recent ones have been somewhat mixed, as is to be expected from the novel reaching a broader audience following its Dragon Award victory.

(13) LIGHTS, CAMERA, NO MONEY! If Sad Puppies made a sci-fi movie, I  bet their promo would sound a lot like the ads for This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy, a New Zealand comedy film.

What happened to the good old days of sci-fi, when spaceships were real models, monsters made of latex and laser guns a curling iron painted silver? Now imagine a universe where everything was just like this for real.

For three ordinary guys Tom, Jeffrey and Gavin, this just became a reality. One minute they were watching an old b-grade movie, the next they’ve been thrust inside the movie itself and at the helm of a rickety old spaceship. Panic ridden they stumble into a space battle. and make a mortal enemy of the evil Lord Froth while unwittingly saving the space princess Lady Emmanor. Then suddenly Jeffrey starts to change into a sci-fi character called Kasimir. They must adapt quickly if they are to survive long enough to find a way home. For all they know they could be next. If that happens they will be lost in this world forever. They embark on a quest to find a cure for Jeffrey and a way back home. This is an action-packed comedy adventure of giant lizards, space battles, robots, aliens, warlords and amazons that has to be seen to be believed.

 

(14) MR. SCI-FI. Marc Scott Zicree shares his afterword for the new Magic Time audio play he and Elaine directed and wrote that will be released by Skyboat Media. It’s based on his bestselling series of novels from HarperCollins, and stars Armin Shimerman of Deep Space Nine and Buffy and Christina Moses of The Originals and Containment.

(15) EXTRATERRESTRIAL SEASON’S GREETINGS. Another sampling from the sci-fi Christmas catalog.

Barry Gordon – Zoomah the Santa Claus From Mars

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. “Not Today’s Title” credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/12/16 Like A Scroll On A Wire; Like A Pixel In A Midnight Choir

(1) ROBOTIC PREDICTION OR CAMPAIGN PROMISE? “Meet Sofia, the Humanoid Robot That Looks, Thinks and Talks Like a Human”.

Right now, artificially intelligent robots are part of the workforce, from hotel butlers to factory workers. But this is just the beginning.

According to Ben Goertzel, AI researcher and entrepreneur who spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon this week, intelligent robots in human-like forms will surpass human intelligence and help free the human race of work. They will also, he says, start fixing problems like hunger, poverty and even help humans beat death by curing us of all disease. Artificially intelligent robots will help usher in a new utopian era never before seen in the history of the human race, he claims.

“The human condition is deeply problematic,” says Goertzel. “But as super-human intelligent AIs become one billion-times smarter than humans, they will help us solve the world’s biggest problems. Resources will be plentiful for all humans, work will be unnecessary and we will be forced to accept a universal basic income. All the status hierarchies will disappear and humans will be free from work and be able move on up to a more meaningful existence.”

(2) FAN FICTION. In an article called Full-body reading” on the website Aeon (aeon.co), University of Toronto English lecturer Anna Wilson talks about how her dissertation on medieval mystic Margery Kempe inspired her to deepen her appreciation of fan fiction and make her a more committed lesbian.

Fanfiction makes its source texts richer for its loving readers. It amplifies allusions and hidden currents, pulls out notes of characterisation and subtleties of plot, and spends time with them. After reading fanfiction, I return to texts I love with a new eye – sometimes a more critical one. For example, I read hundreds of stories embroidering the relationship between the Harry Potter characters Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, which – fanfiction writers suggested – was the real reason Sirius’s family had thrown him out. Thanks to fanfiction, I was wondering ‘Where are all the gay people at Hogwarts?’ long before J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay (but his first crush was an evil wizard, and he apparently never loved again – thanks, JK).

Fanfiction can fill gaps in the world of the story, or tease out elements forbidden or unspeakable in the original text and bring them to the surface. These might be erotic; Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) began life as a hugely popular erotic fanfiction of the Twilight series that reimagined its characters Bella and Edward in an office BDSM setting. E L James brought out an element of Twilight that many readers found appealing – the erotic power dynamics between Edward and Bella – and rewrote those dynamics for a commercial audience. Another example is slash fiction – fanfiction that imagines a gay romance into a straight narrative, like those Remus/Sirius stories I binged on (the name ‘slash’ comes from the /).

Slash is particularly powerful for me as a queer woman because it subverts some fundamental assumptions in media narratives about who is watching, and what they want. When I read slash, I feel recognised and loved as a reader in a way I almost never do when I watch TV. In fact, fanfiction gave me something I’d been craving; it was literature for me. Though I’ve always loved science fiction, I felt obscurely unwanted by books in which the female characters were unsatisfying and marginalised: women are barely imagined as part of the science fiction audience, let alone catered to. By the same token, romance novels (one of the few genres that almost exclusively caters to women) were overwhelmingly heterosexual, with male and female characters I found boring and unrelatable, moving through prescribed motions that always ended with marriage and babies. Reading romance novels felt like forcing myself into a too-tight corset: reading fanfiction was like taking a deep breath.

(3) INDIVIDUAL PROTESTS. Two comics creators will quit attending shows in states that voted for Trump reports Bleeding Cool — “George Perez To Fulfill Current Commitments, Then Stop Attending Shows In Trump States”

Yesterday, Humberto Ramos, the Mexican comic book creator, currently topping the charts with Champions #1 for Marvel declared that he had chosen not to attend comic book shows in the US, in states that had voted to elect President-Elect Trump.

He was, today, joined in that by American creator George Pérez, co-creator of the New Teen Titans, also joined that number.

(4) SEFTON OBIT CORRECTION. While other details in the November 10 Pixel Scroll about the late Amelia (Amy) Sefton were correct, I was mistaken in identifying her as working for Tor. That is a different Amy Sefton. Thanks to Andrew Porter for the correction.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 12, 1982Creepshow opens in theaters nationwide.

(6) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities and for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(7) CROSSOVER SEASON. The CW has released a promo for upcoming DC crossover between Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, a sequence of episodes that begins November 28.

During a press event earlier this week, executive producer Marc Guggenheim offered up a few details on the crossover, which will actually begin at the end of an episode of Supergirl as Kara is enlisted by Barry (Grant Gustin) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to help battle the threat of the extraterrestrial Dominators.

“Some people call it a four-way crossover because it involves four shows; my ulcer requires me to call it a three-part crossover,” states Guggenheim explains. “The story that’s being told has a beginning, middle, and end: a beginning in Flash, a middle in Arrow, and an end in Legends.

 

(8) BRING OUT YOUR UNDEAD. Fox has ordered a pilot for a drama series based on bestselling vampire novel The Passage.

Sink your teeth into this news, vampire fans: Fox is adapting the popular book trilogy The Passage into a drama series.

The network has ordered a pilot for a TV adaptation of Justin Cronin’s book series, per our sister site Deadline. Friday Night Lights writer Liz Heldens will pen the pilot, with Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves attached to direct.

The 2010 novel The Passage, a New York Times bestseller, envisions a post-apocalyptic future where virus-infected vampires roam the earth, with human colonies banding together to survive. (That book was followed by 2012’s The Twelve and this year’s The City of Mirrors.) Fox bought the film rights to The Passage before it was even published, and a Twilight-like film series was planned for years, but now they’re opting to bring it to the small screen.

(9) MUSEUM GETS TAKEI COLLECTION. George Takei is giving 70 years of his belongings to a museum. The LA Times gives you a viewing.

The donation itself was announced in September.

Actor and activist George Takei is donating a trove of art and artifacts from his life and career to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

The museum announced the gift Wednesday and said the collection will be featured in an exhibition next year. “New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” is set to open March 12, 2017.

Takei’s collection includes photos, sculptures, scripts and other memorabilia from his “Star Trek” days, as well as his run for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 and the Olympic torch he carried ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

(10) MR. SCI-FI IS BACK. Sci-Fi Writer-Director-Producer Marc Zicree talks about politics in science fiction, as relates to Trump, alternate worlds with different Presidents, how science fiction reaches across all political beliefs, and more.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]