Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

(1) WHAT I READ. Mary Robinette Kowal sent several tweets prodding reviewers to do better assessments:

When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

(2) TOO MANY WORDS. But those reviews we’re complaining about above look like gems beside the work of The Literate Programmer at A Literate Programmer’s Blog who posted his “Hugo Awards – Best Novella” rankings with a confession –

…With the voting deadline for the Hugos coming up on the 15th, I decided that I wouldn’t have the time to read all the books in their entirety, and would instead just read far enough to get a feel for the style….

So I began once again working my way up to the novels, this time reading the novellas….

This Census-Taker by China Miéville was the first of the novellas I dug into. …However, the story definitely has a strange and slow start, so it was easy to move on….

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson sets up a nice inversion right from the beginning…. I didn’t finish it yet, but I expect it to take a rather darker turn eventually, tough not entirely too dark….

Then I picked up Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and didn’t put it back down until I was done. …

Victor LaValle wrote the other novella I finished in its entirety, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is another take on Lovecraft… Definitely something I will finish, as I want to know what happens to Vellit….

Last but not least comes Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like what I’ve read so far and it’s entertaining …

Someone else might have spent the time it took to write this post on, oh, I don’t know, reading the rest of these novellas before voting?

(3) BOOK JENGA. Walter Jon Williams describes the “Tower of Dreams”.

So the other night I dreamed I was in the Tower of Definitive Editions, a giant structure literally built from the definitive editions of every book ever written.  There was some kind of mechanism that would pluck the book that you wanted from the structure without either damaging the book or destabilizing the tower.  (Maybe it stuffed the hole with John Grisham novels or something.)

(4) DON’T LET THE DOOR BANG YOUR BUTT. Tony B. Kim at Crazy4ComiCon does not sympathize with what he calls “Mile High Comics breakup letter to San Diego Comic-Con” by owner Chuck Rozanski. Kim devotes several paragraphs mocking him as a “dinosaur” in “Comic-Con has changed and it sucks…”.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. Will this work? “Nasa to send asteroid away from Earth by firing a bullet at it in attempt to save the Earth from future strikes”.

The agency has laid out the plans for its DART mission – where it will send a space capsule the size of a fridge towards an asteroid to shoot it off course. For now, the mission is just a test, but in the future it could be used to save Earth from what scientists say is an underappreciated threat from asteroids.

The mission has now been approved by Nasa and will move into the preliminary design phase, getting ready for testing in a few years.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

DART’s target is an asteroid that will pass by Earth in 2022, and come back two years later. More specifically, it’s actually two asteroids: a binary system called Didymos B made up of a larger and a smaller rock.

It’s the smaller one that Nasa will try and knock off course. But by using a binary system, scientists will be able to check with more accuracy how well their test has worked.

(6) KEEPING THE STEAM IN SELF-ESTEEM. Jon Del Arroz says 80% of the people responding to his survey recommended he not join SFWA. So our genre’s leading concern troll has worked up a list of what needs to be fixed. With SFWA, that is.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Twilight Zone episode, “A Penny for your Thoughts,” written by George Clayton Johnson was shopped around as a series where each episode would have a different cast experiencing the ability to read minds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 9, 1982 TRON premiered on this day.

(9) CLASSIC ROCHE. Next year’s Worldcon chair Kevin Roche makes a fashion statement in this (public) photo on Facebook.

(10) SOLO ACT. ScreenRant evaluates Ron Howard’s latest news-free tweet.

While Howard’s tweet is amusing, it’s realistic to think that at some point Star Wars fans will grow tired of non-news “news” from the Han Solo set. Since Howard is relatively new to the project, perhaps he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing anything from a film that he hasn’t really taken ownership of yet, his presumably strict NDA aside. Hopefully, that time will come once he not only completes principal photography but the five weeks of reshoots which were previously budgeted into production. Only then will Howard be able to help shape the tone and vision that Han Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally intended.

(11) DRAGON QUEEN. TIME Magazine’s Daniel D’Addario, in “Emilia Clarke on Why Dragons Are Daenerys’ True Love on Game of Thrones”, has a lengthy interview with Emilia Clarke where she says “I’m five-foot nothing, I’m a little girl” and adds that she thought she would be sacked from Game of Thrones because it was her first job out of drama school and she felt insecure.

(12) FIGHTING WORDS. Jonathan Cook, in “Wonder Woman is a hero only the military-industrial complex could create” on Mondoweiss, says the heroine is “carefully purposed propaganda designed to force-feed aggressive Western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism, to unsuspecting audiences.”

My reticence to review the film has lifted after reading the latest investigations of Tom Secker and Matthew Alford into the manifold ways the U.S. military and security services interfere in Hollywood, based on a release of 4,000 pages of documents under Freedom of Information requests.

In their new book “National Security Cinema,” the pair argue that the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency have meddled in the production of at least 800 major Hollywood movies and 1,000 TV titles. That is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as they concede:

“It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld.”

(13) BIG PACIFIER THEORY. Baby’s first quantum-mechanics book: “Something New For Baby To Chew On: Rocket Science And Quantum Physics”.

The books introduce subjects like rocket science, quantum physics and general relativity — with bright colors, simple shapes and thick board pages perfect for teething toddlers. The books make up the Baby University series — and each one begins with the same sentence and picture — This is a ball — and then expands on the titular concept.

In the case of general relativity: This ball has mass.

But some of the topics Ferrie covers are tough for even grown-ups to comprehend. (I mean, quantum physics? Come on.)

(14) SLOW DEATH. A Ghost Story may be too slow for some: “Grief Hangs Around At Home In ‘A Ghost Story'”.

I should mention that the film is virtually without plot, so it requires some patience. Major stars and that title notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is not a Saturday-night date movie. More a provocative art film in the European sense. Though barely 87 minutes, it unfolds in long, static shots, most of them without faces to hang onto. It’s almost a film without genre, and by the end it’s become a story untethered from time itself.

(15) A SERIOUS HARRY HABIT. The 100,000 UKP Potter habit: “Harry Potter fan from Cardiff spends £100K on memorabilia”.

Her collection features posters, scarves in the house colours, broomsticks and the official Harry Potter magazines – with the memorabilia costing more than £40,000.

The rest has been spent travelling to Orlando in Florida to the film studios and more recently to Harry Potter World in both London and America.

(16) AVAST ME HEARTIES. Davidoff of Geneva is sold out of the pen and letter opener set shown here, but they have plenty of other golden loot they would love to sell you.

(17) ANOTHER AMAZON PRODUCT. Brazil gets into horror: “The Blair Witches of Brazil”.

Their titles practically shriek at you: Night of the Chupacabras, When I Was Alive, The Necropolis Symphony. Right away you can guess that these are films you might need to watch through your fingers, tales of horror to quicken the heart. But you might not know where they’re from. Step aside Carmen Miranda and The Girl from Ipanema, these frightfests are from Brazil.

(18) NOT GOING APE OVER THIS ONE. The BBC is disappointed by War for the Planet of the Apes.

The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.

(19) GOOD NIGHT. Next year’s CONvergence GoH Elizabeth Bear signs off from this year’s con:

(20) LAST WORD. John Hertz is never impressed when I use idioms as I please.

(21) DARTH HOMER. Here’s a selection of YouTube videos in which Darth Vader is voiced variously by Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King Tarpinian declares the Homer Simpson version to be the funniest.

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

Cornell and CONvergence

Michael Lee of CONvergence, where Paul Cornell will appear in July, sends his answers to my survey questions about the gender balance initiative.

> Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?

> Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Michael Lee: It’s possible that since our convention’s theme is Women Characters and Creators this year, and we’ve had Paul as a guest, I might have something to add.

I’m the head of activities at CONvergence, and that means the programming department reports up to me, and I also sit on the board of directors for our non-profit. I was also a programming head for five years before that. This is primarily my own thoughts here, and isn’t an official CONvergence statement.

CONvergence had Paul Cornell as a guest of honor two years ago, and he’s returning on his own this year. He’s a popular and fantastic panelist and participant, and I respect what he’s trying to do here. Our convention theme this year is “Women Characters and Creators in Science Fiction in Fantasy” — and the organization chose to make all of our guests this year women, in part because we haven’t historically been as representative as we could have been with guests of honor, and we’re trying to do better. Our membership is very evenly matched with men and women, as well as having a mix of men and women on our staff all the way up to our board of directors.

One thing I did was I started to track the overall distribution a little closer than before in response to Paul’s request in our programming database for CONvergence — not because I expected that each panels will balance 50/50, and we don’t have genders identified for all of our panel participants. We’re still in the process, so I don’t know where we’re going to end up, and I’m sure we’ll have things that work well and things that don’t.

I believe that the threat of civil disobedience to make spontaneous programming replacements is something that most conventions can avoid with some co-operation with participants. I know that he’s made his request about being on gender-balanced programming items to CONvergence’s programming team, and that’s not really much different of a request than people who don’t want panels before noon, or don’t want to be on a panel with someone they don’t get along with, or that they want to be on a panel with their friends, or any number of other requests that people make to program teams. I know that we try to plan our programming schedule out far enough that we’re trying to work with Paul on specific items, just as we try to balance a lot of peoples’ desires to see what they want in programming.

I think Paul’s efforts have helped emphasize the issue of women on convention panels, and I think that is a good discussion to have. I think we’ve seen that across the wide variety of responses you’ve already had on this subject, by a lot of people that I have a lot of respect for.

I think it’s part of a larger movement that we’ve been seeing, not just in SF fandom, but also very strongly in comics fandom and Doctor Who fandom (which Paul is actively a part in as well), and other parts of the culture (like technology) where women making their presence known and acknowledging the institutional barriers to women (as well as other groups) in the culture. And really, I think it’s important for those of us that are conrunners toot just making programming participants more varied, but also making a stronger more diverse mix as guests of honor. And it’s also to seek out and be happy when you see a more varied mix of creators in books, comics, and television shows. We’re after all in a world where perhaps the most successful fantasy book series and the most successful science fiction book series are written by women. That needs to be reflected in our conventions as well.

Thanks,

Michael Lee