Pixel Scroll 4/28/17 Never Mind the Scrollocks, Here’s the Sex Pixels

(1) FARGO/HUGO. On Fargo, the Hugo Award-look-alike turned out to be a “Golden Planet” won by Thaddeus Mobley. Observer’s episode roundup covers it at the end:

But Gloria is on to…something, definitely, something strange. At least as strange as the title Space Elephants Never Forget, one of many cheap pulp-fiction paperbacks written by a Thaddeus Mobley that Gloria found in a safe inside her murdered father-in-law’s house. Or were Thaddeus Mobley and Ennis Stussy one and the same? It appears so, just another way specters from the past–be it a former life as a famed sci-fi writer, or a murderous Cossack with the name Yuri Gulka–continue to materialize in, of all places, Minnesota. But I guess that makes Gloria Burgle uniquely qualified to take this case on; if you’re fighting the past, you may as well employ someone who is stuck there.

Mobley’s books were shown:

  • The Planet Wyh
  • The Dungeon Lurk
  • Space Elephants Never Forget
  • Toronto Cain Psychic Ranger
  • Organ Fish of Kleus-9
  • The Plague Monkeys
  • A Quantum Vark

(2) I WONDER. Syfy asks “Where is the Wonder Woman movie advertising?” — and starts me wondering is the movie is being “John Carter-ed”?

Wonder Woman finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life.

We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League‘s six. Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Supes both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal, General Mills? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.

It’s been pretty quiet out there, regardless of the fact that people have reacted positively to the little advertising that’s been released. The few trailers Wonder Woman has have garnered close to 60 million views. Imagine what would happen if the trailer were embedded on major entertainment sites and there were stories out there about the film?

(3) DOC OF THE BAY. Cat Rambo doubles back to cover a book in the series she missed — “Reading Doc Savage: Land of Always-Night”:

The man menacing poor Beery, who Beery calls Ool, is odd in many ways, including being skeleton thin and having enormous, pale eyes. He wants something back, something Beery has stolen to take to Doc Savage and is currently carrying on a money belt around his waist

Beery is standing in front of a candy store; when the inevitable happens, he reels back and smashes into the plate glass. After a struggle, he dies, “becoming as inert as the chocolate creams crushed beneath him.”

Ool takes his possession back from Beery, which turns out to be a peculiar pair of goggles with black glass lenses. He tastes one of the scattered chocolates, smacks his lips, and gathers as many chocolates as he can into his hat. As he departs, he eats the candy “avidly, as if it were some exquisite delicacy with which he had just become acquainted.”

(4) THE CULTURE ON RADIO. Available for the next 28 days: a BBC audio adaptation of Iain Banks’s story “State of the Art”, adapted by Paul Cornell.

The Culture ship Arbitrary arrives on Earth in 1977 and finds a planet obsessed with alien concepts like ‘property’ and ‘money’ and on the edge of self-destruction. When Agent Dervley Linter, decides to go native can Diziet Sma change his mind?

(5) GUARDIANS REVIEW. BBC reviewer Caryn James says too many explosions in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…The film’s spindly plot is just an excuse, a peg on which to hang action scenes. When the team is hired to retrieve some valuable battery-sized energy sources, Rocket slips a few in his pocket. Soon the Guardians are being pursued all over the cartoonish universe.

Many antics ensue, but like so many other space movies this is essentially a father-son story. As the last film ended, Peter learned he was only half-human, on his mother’s side. The sequel adds a vivid new character, Peter’s long-lost father. He is played by Kurt Russell with a twinkle in his eye and a swagger that reveals where his son got that roguish attitude.

(6) SILVER CHAIR. ScienceFiction.com has a progress report on the next C.S. Lewis movie adaptation – “Joe Johnston To Helm ‘Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair’”.

Director Joe Johnston (‘Jurassic Park III’,’The Wolfman’) sure likes shields! Having worked with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ he now has a more fantasy based movie to helm where characters will wield shields in in ‘Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair.’ Disney and Fox were only able to bring three of the novels to the big screen previously, and now we’re getting a fresh look into the iconic C.S. Lewis classics through Sony. Apparently, the studio wants to make sure someone with blockbuster experience to bring this film to life.

While Johnston hasn’t been too busy since working with Steve Rogers, the type of work he’s done in films ranging from this to ‘Jumanji’ to ‘The Rocketeer’ seem perfect for the action-adventure portion of this epic fantasy.

As ‘The Silver Chair’ doesn’t follow the original Pevensie children but their cousin Eustace Scrubb it is the perfect way for them to reboot the universe and not have to really dwell on the first movies and move forward at the same time.

(7) THE FEDERALIST POOPERS. Bill Nye was a big hit at the March for Science.  Not surprisingly, The Federalist came out with a dissenting view of Nye a few days later — “Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive”.

Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a keynote speaker.

“We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity has blossomed, despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors

(8) ACTRESS PRAISED. A Yahoo! Movies critic recognizes “Alexis Bledel As Ofglen in The Handmaid’s Tale Is the Role She Was Born to Play”.

In the Handmaid’s pilot, Bledel’s character, Ofglen, makes a 180 in the eyes of Elisabeth Moss’s Offred. The two characters, who shop together but are the de facto property of two different men, suspect each other of being enthusiastic participants in Gilead’s totalitarian state. “I sincerely believe that Ofglen is a pious little shit with a broomstick up her ass,” Offred says in voice-over as she approaches her companion with a smile. “She’s my spy and I’m hers.” With Bledel as Ofglen, you instinctively believe Offred’s assessment. Hasn’t she always seemed too perfect? Too brittle? Too willing to be a snitch? (Or was that Rory Gilmore?)

(9) MORE OF OFFRED’S VOICE. Refinery interviews Elizabeth Moss about Handmaid’s Tale, feminism, and the Trump election — “Elisabeth Moss Talks The Handmaid’s Tale — & How It’s Definitely A Feminist Show”.

“I welcome any time feminism enters a conversation. I would firstly say, obviously, it is a feminist work. This is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve been filming it for six months, I’ve been involved with it for a year, I’ve read the book nine million times. It is a feminist show, it is a feminist book, and as a card-carrying feminist, I am proud of that. [Regarding the controversy at the TriBeca Film Festival panel], I think there is a very important word, which is ‘also.’ I think that it is a feminist work, and it is also a humanist work, which is what I believe Margaret says as well, so I’ll defer to the author of the book on that one.  Women’s rights are human rights, hence how it becomes a humanist work.”

(10) THE FUTURE IN A BAG. The Verge reports: “An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next”. There are lots of “don’t celebrate yet” caveats, but many fans say it sounds like an important first step towards the “uterine replicators” in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy. But it’s important not to get ahead of the data, says Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study. “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there,” he says.

(11) STAR POWER. An interview with the Astronomer Royal tests his ability to envision the limits of the universe: “Astronomer Royal Martin Rees on aliens, parallel universes and the biggest threats to mankind”.

Q: How big is the universe … and is it the only one?

Our cosmic horizons have grown enormously over the last century, but there is a definite limit to the size of the observable universe. It contains all the things from which light has been able to reach us since the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago. But the new realisation is that the observable universe may not be all of reality. There may be more beyond the horizon, just as there’s more beyond the horizon when you’re observing the ocean from a boat.

What’s more, the galaxies are likely to go on and on beyond this horizon, but more interestingly, there is a possibility that our Big Bang was not the only one. There may have been others, spawning other universes, disconnected from ours and therefore not observable, and possibly even governed by different physical laws. Physical reality on this vast scale could therefore be much more varied and interesting than what we can observe.

(12) BAXENDALE OBIT. Passing of a famed comic-strip maker: “Leo Baxendale: Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx comic legend dies”

He was regarded by aficionados as one of Britain’s greatest and most influential cartoonists.

His creations also included The Three Bears, Little Plum and the comic Wham!.

Baxendale’s son Martin, also a cartoonist, said his father died at the age of 86 after a long fight with cancer.

(13) SUSAN WOOD REMEMBERED. Carleton University is still awarding the Susan Joan Wood Memorial Scholarship.

Awarded annually on the recommendation of the Department of English Language and Literature. Preference will be given to a student proceeding from the Third to Fourth year of an Honours program in English with an emphasis on Canadian literature. Donor: Friends and colleagues of Susan Joan Wood. Endowed 1982.

Andrew Porter recalls, “It was folded into Carleton’s general scholarship funds, after an initial funding period during which I and many other individuals and conventions provided funds.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 28, 1930 — Best known as Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones is born in Texas.

(15) STREAKING ACROSS THE STORIED SKY: Webwatcher Jason of Featured Futures reports on the brightest lights seen this month with the “Summation of Online Fiction: April 2017”:

I thought ralan.com might have been hasty in declaring Terraform dead but I’m calling it, too. Leaving aside comic strips, after four stories in January, there’ve only been two in each of February and March and none in April. The remaining dozen prozines brought us forty-two stories of 199K words.

In one of Dozois’ Annuals (I forget which) he says something about the industry going in streaks with some years producing no anthologies about wombats and others producing ten of them. The same is true of webzines on a monthly basis. As March was Horror and Tor/Nightmare Month, so April was Fantasy, BCS/Lightspeed, and Novella Month….

(16) LONG HIDDEN CONTRIBUTOR’S FIRST NOVEL. Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey was a 2016 release from Thomas Dunne.

In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.

When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother’s magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa’s door.

Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he’s already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.

Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.

  • Bio: Claire Humphrey’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ”Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot” appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story “The Witch Of Tarup” was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.

(17) DON’T BLAME DIVERSITY. Martin Wisse responds pungently to the question: “Is diversity killing Marvel sales?”

Short answer: no. Long answer:

 

Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different….

(18) DIAGNOSIS MARVEL. ComicsBeat has a few ideas to add: “Tilting at Windmills #259: What the hell is wrong with Marvel Comics anyway?!?!”

The harder you make it to collect “Marvel comics”, the fewer people will do so. And that audience fracturing has finally come home to roost.

One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”. Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.

Sell-through is, thus, what matters for retailers as a class, and it is virtually impossible to sell comics profitably if your initial orders are so low. Even a book like “Amazing Spider-Man”, we now are down to a bare eleven preorders, and we’re selling just three or four more additional rack copies of current issues. There’s no room to “go long” here – I really only have a two copy tolerance for unsold goods before what should be a flagship book of the line becomes an issue-by-issue break-even proposition, at best. It’s just math.

(19) MORE RESOURCES. Here are some of the news reports that set the Marvel discussion in motion.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.”

“I don’t see much evidence of a sales slump at all,” Millers says. “In fact, the comics industry has seen its best stretch it’s seen in many decades over these last five years — we’ve seen five consecutive years of growth in the comics shop market.”

(20) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Drunk gets into fight with a Knightscope robot on the copany’s premises: “Silicon Valley security robot attacked by drunk man – police”.

One local man told ABC News it was not a fair fight.

“I think this is a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn’t even have any arms.”

(21) ONLINE INTERNATIONAL. Around the world, lots of connectivity used for play: “Unlocking the potential of technology”. A captioned photo gallery at the link.

[Thanks to rcade, Cat Rambo, amk, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Bruce D. Arthurs, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Clack and Bonnie McDaniel, and alternate universe contributing editor Kip. W because he actually said it a month earlier.]

Pixel Scroll 4/26/17 A Scroll On The Hand May Be Quite Continental

(1) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED AN ARCHITECT. The structure replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home is nearly finished. LA Observed interviewed architect Thom Mayne and his wife about the design in “What would Ray think? Thom and Blythe Mayne’s house in Cheviot Hills is almost ready to call home “. Despite the title, it didn’t seem to me the question was really addressed.

Prominent LA architect Thom Mayne razed the longtime Cheviot Hills home and work space of Ray Bradbury to build his own home. Mayne promised the neighborhood and fans a “very, very modest” house that would honor Bradbury in its design. Now that the teardown-and-replace is nearly complete, KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of Design & Architecture, gets a tour and assesses if the promise was met.

However, the promised fence with Bradbury quotes is there, although you really can’t make them out in this photo from LA Observed.

A metal screen, fabricated by Tom Farage, contains quotes from Ray Bradbury’s writings. The moving gate will eventually have a hedge that moves with it (photo: Frances Anderton.)

(2) THAT TIME GRUMPY AND DOC WENT TO THE MOVIES. Atlas Obscura unearthed “The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney”.

…According to an account in the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Tolkien didn’t go see Snow White until some time after its 1938 U.K. release, when he attended the animated film with [C.S.] Lewis. Lewis had previously seen the film with his brother, and definitely had some opinions. In a 1939 letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton, Lewis wrote of Snow White (and Disney himself):

Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

… Tolkien didn’t like the goofball dwarfs either. The Tolkien Companion notes that he found Snow White lovely, but otherwise wasn’t pleased with the dwarves. To both Tolkien and Lewis, it seemed, Disney’s dwarves were a gross simplification of a concept they held as precious….

(3) DEMENTOR INVENTOR. Zata Rana, in an article on Quartz, “How JK Rowling Overcame Depression and Went On To Sell Over 400 Million Books”, reminds us that Rowling began to write Harry Potter novels after being diagnosed with clinical depression in the 1990s and her struggles to overcome her depression provides inspiring lessons for us all.

…During this period, her depression took a dark turn, and she considered herself a failure. She had fallen and felt stuck. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, she found it in her to seek help, and writing became an outlet. The idea for the Harry Potter series had come to her years before on a train ride from Manchester to London. She had worked on a few chapters in Portugal, but she only really found her momentum back in the UK.

Rowling finished the first two books while still on welfare benefits. The dementors introduced in the third book were inspired by her mental illness….

(4) STINKS IN SPACE. The popular video game took a wrong turn when it left the Earth: “Activision admits taking ‘Call of Duty’ to space was a bad idea”.

Right from the very start it was clear that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise had taken a bit of a wrong turn with Infinite Warfare. The initial trailer for the game was absolutely slaughtered on YouTube, and early sales indicated that the game just wasn’t striking a chord with some of its target audience. Now, Activision is admitting what we all knew: Infinite Warfare was a misstep.

In a recent earnings call with investors, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and COO Thomas Tippl revealed that the company wasn’t particularly pleased with how the game sold, or its overall reception….

(5) CAN’T PULL OVER TO THE ROADSIDE. And you know what else is going to stink in space? Blue Origin “Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips”. Here are a couple quotes from a Bezos Q&A session.

What if I get queasy? Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness. “You’re going to be fine,” Bezos said.

What if I have to use the bathroom in flight? Go before you go. “Listen, if you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems,” Bezos said. You may have to hold it for more than 11 minutes, though, since passengers will board the spaceship a half-hour before launch.

(6) TODAY’S TRIVIA. “What, Me Worry?” Alfred E. Neuman made his debut as Mad Magazine’s mascot by appearing on the cover of The Mad Reader, a reprint paperback published in November 1954. He appeared for the first time on the magazine’s cover in issue #21 (March 1955).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 26, 1956  — The Creature Walks Among Us was released.

(8) THEY STOPPED FOR LUNCH. And didn’t clean up after. Better hope your litter doesn’t last this long. “Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative study says”

A startling new report asserts that the first known Americans arrived much, much earlier than scientists thought — more than 100,000 years ago __ and maybe they were Neanderthals.

If true, the finding would far surpass the widely accepted date of about 15,000 years ago.

Researchers say a site in Southern California shows evidence of humanlike behavior from about 130,000 years ago, when bones and teeth of an elephantlike mastodon were evidently smashed with rocks.

The earlier date means the bone-smashers were not necessarily members of our own species, Homo sapiens. The researchers speculate that these early Californians could have instead been species known only from fossils in Europe, Africa and Asia: Neanderthals, a little-known group called Denisovans, or another human forerunner named Homo erectus.

This reminds me of my visit 40 years ago to the Calico Early Man Site where Louis (but not Mary) Leakey thought they had found evidence of equally ancient toolmaking. According to Mary, their disagreement over this contributed to their split.

(9) QUESTIONS BIGGER THAN THE EXPANSE. The Space Review ponders the utopian and quasi-religious aspects of space advocacy in “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

A few years ago historian Roger Launius wrote “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” in the journal Astropolitics. He noted the similarities between human spaceflight enthusiasts and what we understand as traditional religion. For much of the history of the space age the comparisons have often been blatant, with spaceflight leaders such as Chris Kraft and Wernher von Braun, as well as numerous political leaders such as Ronald Reagan, talking about spaceflight in quasi, or even literally religious terms. Launius observed that human spaceflight, like religion, has its immortality myths, its revered leaders and condemned villains, its sacred texts, and its rituals, rules, and shared experiences. According to Launius, “The belief system has its saints, martyrs, and demons; sacred spaces of pilgrimage and reverence; theology and creed; worship and rituals; sacred texts; and a message of salvation for humanity, as it ensures its future through expansion of civilization to other celestial bodies.”

These religious aspects can be found throughout the writings of spaceflight advocates, the self-styled missionaries of the spaceflight religion. One of the most common arguments for space settlement is to achieve immortality for humankind by moving a portion of humanity to Mars in event of catastrophe. The Space Review regularly publishes these kinds of appeals to transcendence. The advocates argue that humankind could be wiped out by natural disaster—typically a meteor strike—and settling the Moon and Mars would help avoid the species being wiped out (see “Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space”, The Space Review, February 1, 2016). Other commonly-cited threats include man-made ones like war and environmental destruction—as if space settlers would not also face the same things in a far more fragile biosphere. The Expanse has highlighted this vulnerability and interdependence with a subplot about food production on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede collapsing because the ecosystem lacks the robustness of Earth’s complex environment.

(10) CHU ON WRITING. In an interview at Outer Places, “Author John Chu Talks Cybernetics, Short Fiction, and Sci-Fi”.

OP: Are there themes or elements you find yourself returning to again and again in your work?

Chu: At a LonCon 3 panel, I joked that all the parents in my stories make unreasonable expectations of their children. That may be truer than I’d like. Certainly, I like to explore the notion of family in its many forms, i.e., family does not have to mean blood relation. The most interesting characters in my stories are likely either navigating relationships with their blood relatives, searching for their family, or both.

(11) PLUS ATWOOD’S CAMEO. An NPR reviewer finds  “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Compelling — And Chilling”.

One searing scene features Offred’s memory of Aunt Lydia, the abusive headmistress who trains new Handmaids, quoting scripture and shocking the women with cattle prods. Eventually, she explains their duties as breeders. “You girls will serve the leaders of the faithful and their barren wives,” says Aunt Lydia, who cites Tinder as one source of the moral turpitude that has caused God to create the infertility crisis. “You will bear children for them. Oh! You are so lucky!”

(Atwood, who also served as a consulting producer on Hulu’s series, pops up in one scene from the first episode, where she slaps Offred for being slow to respond during an indoctrination session.)

This is a world of 1984-style paranoia and doublespeak. On the surface, it’s a placid, polite community that just happens to have black-clad guards with machine guns on every corner. But beneath that veneer is a world of grim desperation, fear and oppression. Women are stripped of husbands, children, jobs, their own money and control over their sexuality.

(12) MARVELS AND MARTYRS. Carmen Maria Machado reviews The Book of Joan for NPR.

One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer’s ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish. Fans of her previous novel, The Small Backs of Children, will recognize these themes and their treatment.

(13) HELL’S JINGLING BELLS. And the BBC tells us why Milton should be more widely read.

…Ricks notes that Paradise Lost is “a fierce argument about God’s justice” and that Milton’s God has been deemed inflexible and cruel. By contrast, Satan has a dark charisma (“he pleased the ear”) and a revolutionary demand for self-determination. His speech is peppered with the language of democratic governance (“free choice”, “full consent”, “the popular vote”) – and he famously declares, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. Satan rejects God’s “splendid vassalage”, seeking to live:

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile Pomp.

(14) SOME LIKE THE LIGHTNING — SOME DON’T. Two perspectives on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of ciscentricity, allocentricity, intersexis, and gender essentialism, and for quoted anti-trans and anti-intersex slurs apply to the following essay, as well as SPOILER WARNINGS.

Too Like the Lightning has been feted and critically acclaimed, and now nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I read it back when it first came out, after hearing about how well it supposedly handled queerness, and especially gender in the context of queerness, from a number of people whose opinions on the topic I usually respect; I did not agree with these assessments. I’ve been asked a number of times to discuss more fully my issues with the presentation of gender in the novel, so, with the Hugo Awards now open for voting, it seems like this might be the moment, to let voters see what this particular genderqueer person thought of the presentation of gender in the book. For context, I’m a bisexual nonbinary person and my pronoun is they….

Hi! I’m trans. I’m queer. I would like to talk about trans characters who end up dead in the course of story, or queer characters who are not the heroes of the story, and why that is frequently completely all right with me; and why the frequent labeling of works as “problematic” for not portraying trans (etc.) characters as paragons of virtue is itself a problem….

Now, I can completely sympathize with someone, especially a trans or nonbinary someone, noping out of Palmer’s novel due to the use of pronouns. I am personally of the opinion that you can refuse to leisure-read a book for any reason you damn well please, and I can see why that would hit a sore spot. (To reiterate: we’re talking about leisure reading here, things you read of your own will.) But I do not agree that Palmer’s worldbuilding here was problematic, and I do not think she should have been discouraged from writing this future….

“But is it hurtful?” you ask.

I feel this is the wrong question.

Individuals are hurt by whatever hurts them. And that’s not always something an author can predict–given the number of individuals in this world that’s a losing proposition, to try to write a work that never hurts anyone. I was not hurt by Palmer’s exploration of gender and society and use of pronouns, but again, trans people are not a monolith; and I want to be clear that people who noped out of the novel because of the pronouns (or any other reason) are entirely within their rights. I do think she was doing something interesting and definitely science fictional and that that’s fine, and that she should not have been prevented from writing with this device.

(15) CLASSIC WHO. Michael O’Donnell contributes an “it’s always new to someone on the internet” news item, a Doctor Who documentary, 30 Years In The Tardis posted on Vimeo by the director Kevin Davies around a year ago. It was originally broadcast by the BBC in 1993 to celebrate the Doctor’s 30th anniversary and never repeated (although it was included with one of the Doctor Who box sets).

Part 1:

Part 2:

(16) WELCOME TO KARLOFFORNIA. And A.V. Club remembers when “Thriller turned classic pulp stories into terrifying television”. (A post from 2014.)

… “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!” was the catchphrase associated with Thriller, the horror anthology hosted by the craggy, silver-haired Englishman who in 1960 was still the world’s most emblematic scary-movie star. Rod Serling’s nervous energy animated The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic drawl set the tone for his eponymous suspense series. Karloff was a natural choice to join their ranks: He let viewers know what they were in for just by saying his name….

Here is the prosaic chain of events by which Thriller came to meet Weird Tales: Frye’s associate producer, Doug Benton, asked writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) for his ideas on material to adapt for Thriller. Beaumont suggested the pulp magazine and steered Benton to superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned a complete set. Ackerman wouldn’t part with his trunk of back issues but agreed to loan them to Benton, a few at a time. Benton set out to track down authors and rights, and so Thriller began to offer relatively authentic screen versions of many key Weird Tales authors: August Derleth, Harold Lawlor, Margaret St. Clair, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch. Only Lovecraft was missing.

(17) PASSING GO. Atlas Obscura goes inside the history and geography of the iconic game: “Touring the Abandoned Atlantic City Sites That Inspired the Monopoly Board”.

One of the last traces of old Atlantic City is the Claridge Hotel. Found on the corner of the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board—Park Place and Boardwalk—the Claridge was known in its heyday as the “skyscraper by the sea.” Opened in 1930, it had an Art Deco opulence that wouldn’t be out of place in midtown Manhattan.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/16 Here Come Old Pixel, He Come Scrollin’ Up Slowly

(1) DUCK! Science News explains, “Asteroid Day is a chance to learn about space and plan for disaster”.

Asteroid enthusiasts, rejoice! Thursday, June 30 is your day to remind the world that humankind is just one impact with a space rock away from annihilation (or, at the least, a very bad day)….

The date coincides with the anniversary of the most powerful impact in recorded history, when a roughly 40-meter-wide asteroid crashed near Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908….

(2) GIVING ANTIQUITY A CHANCE. In the second installment of Young People Read Old SF, James Davis Nicoll’s recruits share their reactions to A Martian Odyssey.

Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1934 debut, “A Martian Odyssey,” is the second of the two short stories I have selected to represent the science fiction of the 1930s.

Weinbaum is one of the earliest hard SF writers, someone whose stories were shaped by what was then known (or guessed) of the other worlds of our solar system. Weinbaum’s stories are little known and little read these days, in part because his career was so short: eighteen months from the publication of his first science fiction story to his death.

Jamie, for example, has this to say:

What quaint ideas about “atomic blasts” and the medicinal benefits of hard radiation. Writers of SF in the deep past were much more free to be optimistic about new scientific discoveries. Nowadays every new advance is going to cause at least as many problems as it solves, and the unexpected downsides are what drive the plots. This story is just happy to be exploring a crazy new planet and all it’s crazy improbable life forms, held down by only the lightest of plots. Old fashioned optimism about progress, I suppose

(3) MADE YOU CLICK. Barry Malzberg, in a new Galaxy’s Edge column, says for Judith Merril, “There Is No Defense”. You know, it’s not every day you see someone literally say a woman destroyed sf.

Merril, before she gave up anthologies, criticism, and citizenship to expatriate herself to Canada in 1968, was made desperate by the unending, irretrievable, uncorrectable stupidity and murderousness of Vietnam. She had been on an increasingly evident, now unapologetic campaign to destroy science fiction.

She knew it: the campaign was purposeful. In her story introduction to Bob Shaw’s “Light of Other Days” in her final volume, she conceded that the excellence and rigor of the story called her back to an earlier time when she had been entranced by such work and her own desire to  replicate. But that story introduction was half or three-quarters an apology: its appearance in Best SF, its very quality, were an implicit rebuke to the scattered, unfocused, false literary emptiness which had come to occupy most of the anthology. Meanwhile, she was writing savage reviews in Fantasy& Science Fiction, reviews as savage as those of Alfred Bester’s half a decade earlier which had created a good deal of foul karma and eventually got him fired.

Malzberg argues she was intentionally trying to destroy sf. I read Merril’s anthologies as they came out, and there were so many new and completing voices in the Sixties that it made sf a pretty robust literary form. Pulp writers and experimental New Wave authors were all getting published, which forces me to ask — If sf couldn’t be destroyed by bad writing, how could it be destroyed by good writing?

[Note:  The column about Merril has been pulled back since earlier today. What was posted can still be seen via Google Cache — at least for now.  I subsequently learned this was an effect of an ordinary transition from one online issue to the next. The Merril column is available at The Wayback Machine. So I have linked to that.]

(4) CONVENTION IN LISBON. The Portuguese SF convention Fórum Fantástico will take place in Lisbon from September 23-25 at the Biblioteca Municipal Orlando Ribeiro. Curator Rogerio Ribeiro is organizing the event. No registration needed, no entry fee.

Forum Fantastico

(5) JOE SHERRY. At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry’s analysis of his Hugo ballot moves on to the Best Fanzine category. First place goes to:

Lady Business: Lady Business is smart, incisive, and should be considered a required stop for anyone who wants to read more about genre. It is one of my must read blogs and I don’t have many of those anymore. When I talk about fanzines, this is what I mean. If you’re not too familiar with what Lady Business is all about or where to start, take a look at this post. The editors at Lady Business comment on media, generally SFF media, with “an intersectional feminist perspective”.  Whether they are reviewing books, video games, or recapping Xena: The Warrior Princess, Lady Business is always worth reading and is consistently one of my favorite blogs. You’d think that I would have more to say, but all I want to do is wave my arm, point, and mumble “Lady Business – Awesome – Read” and try not to be awkward about it.

(6) SHORT FICTION NOMINEES. Jonathan Edelstein unpacks his Hugo ballot for novelette and short story.

The two categories are a study in contrasting quality. Despite the second year of Rabid Puppy interference (I still can’t believe I just wrote that), the novelette shortlist is quite credible. Folding Beijing is easily one of the best stories of 2015 and would no doubt have made it onto the ballot without Theodore Beale’s help. And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead belongs on the ballot too – yeah, gratuitous foul language and dated cyberpunk plot, but it’s a hell of a story. Obits isn’t Stephen King’s best work, but even bad King is better than most of what’s out there. Even the two Castalia entries aren’t terrible – What Price Humanity is a tightly written and suspenseful story of war veterans being trained in virtual reality for one last mission, and Flashpoint Titan is no worse than ordinary missile porn. Granted, in a year where the eligible works included Ian McDonald’s Botanica Veneris and Rose Lemberg’s Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds, I’m sorry to see the Castalia stories there instead, but the top of the shortlist is very good indeed and none of it is bad enough to get No Awarded.

The short stories, on the other hand, piss me off.

(7) NOVELLA NOMINEES. Doctor Science’s current post at Obsidian Wings is “Wednesday Reading including Hugo Novella nominees. All re-posts from File 770 comments, but collated.

Penric’s Demon by Lois Bujold. This is another one where the treatment of sexuality confuses me. I think I can say, without major spoilers, that the basic plot is the trope known as “Sharing a Body”, and in this case the body-owner is a young man, while the passenger turns out to be, essentially, n pbafbegvhz bs gjryir jbzra.

Now, I’m used to seeing this trope in fanfiction, where I would expect the story to be heavily focused on issues of sexuality, gender, and the characters’ feelings about bodies. At first I thought Bujold was heading there, but then she sort of veered off to Plot-land, before the POV character had done more than guvax nobhg znfgheongvat. I was left feeling rather wrong-footed, and only sort of interested in the Plot. In sum: for me it was a good enough story, but rather bizarrely incomplete.

(8) GONE VIRAL. Jeremiah Tolbert relives “My Short Time as a Viral Hit Maker”.

On June 23rd, as the results from the British EU Referendum or “Brexit” began to come in, it was clear that the Leave vote was ahead.  Once the lead solidified and the BBC called the result, the Pound Sterling began to tank. The mood on Twitter turned grim.  I had an IM window with Nick Mamatas open at the time.  Sparked by I’m not sure what, I shared the notion that I might Photoshop the big reveal at the end of Planet of the Apes and replace the Statue of Liberty with Big Ben.  Nick said, paraphrasing, “DO IT.”  Not the most original joke I’ve ever come up with, but I’m fairly proficient with photo-editing, so I got to work….

I sent the image over to Nick, and before I could tweet it out myself, he tweeted the image along with credit:

Nick sending it out turned out to be the ticket to success for it, because it spread the image far faster and wider than my own followers list would have. Within seconds, the retweets began.  Early on, Cory Doctorow retweeted it. By the time I went to bed just after midnight, the tweet had over a thousand retweets and showed no sign of slowing down as morning came in the UK….

(9) NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. CNN Money asks “Should robots have to pay taxes?”

If robots are going to steal human jobs and otherwise disrupt society, they should at the very least pay taxes.

That’s the takeaway from a draft report on robotics produced by the European Parliament, which warns that artificial intelligence and increased automation present legal and ethical challenges that could have dire consequences.

“Within the space of a few decades [artificial intelligence] could surpass human intellectual capacity in a manner which, if not prepared for, could pose a challenge to humanity’s capacity to control its own creation and … the survival of the species,” the draft states.

The report offers a series of recommendations to prepare Europe for this advanced breed of robot, which it says now “seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution.”

The proposal suggests that robots should have to register with authorities, and says laws should be written to hold machines liable for damage they cause, such as loss of jobs. Contact between humans and robots should be regulated, with a special emphasis “given to human safety, privacy, integrity, dignity and autonomy.”

(10) MERINGUE PIE MUSEUM. John Kass cuts loose in the Chicago Tribune: “George ‘Star Wars’ Lucas releases the mayor’s mind and not a moment too soon”.

Somehow, the immortal words of little old Yoda finally got through to his creator, George Lucas:

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

So Lucas let go.

He let go of that ridiculous meringue pie of a museum he wanted to plop on Chicago’s lakefront.

And he let go of the mind of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, so that it was free once more to try running a city that is drowning in red ink and violence.

Unfortunately, Rahm and Lucas didn’t just hush up and go away. Instead, they whined and stamped their feet and complained (in prepared statements) and blamed everything on Friends of the Parks.

But Friends of the Parks did what it’s supposed to do: Stand up for the people of Chicago, to protect the lakefront, because the lakefront doesn’t belong to Hollywood moguls or their political footmen.

I said it a few days ago in the column on Lucas holding Rahm’s mind in thrall with some Jedi trick, and I should say it again.

Rich people have their country clubs and their estates and their private jets to take them away. But the lakefront is the country club for the people. It’s where working people go to take themselves away.

(11) TOFFLER OBIT. “Alvin Toffler, Author of ‘Future Shock,’ Dies at 87”  reports the New York Times.

Mr. Toffler was a self-trained social science scholar and successful freelance magazine writer in the mid-1960s when he decided to spend five years studying the underlying causes of a cultural upheaval that he saw overtaking the United States and other developed countries.

The fruit of his research, “Future Shock” (1970), sold millions of copies and was translated into dozens of languages, catapulting Mr. Toffler to international fame. It is still in print.

In the book, in which he synthesized disparate facts from every corner of the globe, he concluded that the convergence of science, capital and communications was producing such swift change that it was creating an entirely new kind of society.

His predictions about the consequences to culture, the family, government and the economy were remarkably accurate. He foresaw the development of cloning, the popularity and influence of personal computers and the invention of the internet, cable television and telecommuting.

(12) PROPHET OBIT. SF Site News brings word that 1959 Worldcon co-chair Fred Prophet (1929-2016) passed away June 29.

Fred served as the co-chair, with Roger Sims, of the Detention, the 1959 Worldcon in Detroit. He and Roger were appointed Conchairs Emeritus at Detcon1, the 2014 NASFiC, which both men were able to attend. Prior to the Detention, Prophet was active in the Detroit Science Fiction League and Michigan Science Fantasy Society (MISFITS) after attending his first convention,The Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention, in 1953.

(13) MANTEC OBIT. Maurice George Dantec (1959-2016), a French naturalised Canadian science fiction writer and musician, died June 25 in Montreal reports Europa SF.

Dantec’s first novel, La Sirène rouge (“The Red Siren”), was published in 1993 and won the 813 Award for best crime novel. His second novel, Les Racines du mal (“The Roots of Evil”, 1995), had a cyberpunk affinity and was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and Prix Rosny-aîné.

Dantec’s Babylon Babies was adapted for the screen under the direction of Mathieu Kassovitz as Babylon A.D. (2008), starrring Vin Diesel.

babylon-ad-poster

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1905 — Albert Einstein introduced his theory of relativity in his publication, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.
  • June 30, 1974 — The July 4th scene from the Steven Spielberg movie Jaws was filmed at Martha’s Vineyard.

(15) THIS IS MY DUBIOUS LOOK. David Russell Mosley, in “The Magician’s Fairy Godmother: A Follow Up to Are there Elves in C.S. Lewis?”, says the answer is yes.

The other day, I wrote a post attempting to answer the question, “are there elves in the works of C. S. Lewis.” As I noted in the original post, the idea came from a discussion on Facebook where the asker was particularly interested in the elvish absence in the Chronicles of Narnia. Well, two nights ago I was reading The Magician’s Nephew when I came across this passage I had forgotten:

“‘For my [Uncle Andrew] godmother [a certain Mrs. Lefay] was a very remarkable woman. The truth is, she was one of the last mortals in this country who had fairy blood in her. (She said there had been two others in her time. One was a duchess and the other was a charwoman.) In fact, Digory, you are now talking to the last man (possibly) who really had a fairy godmother’” (The Magician’s Nephew, 21).

There it was, an elf (for we should keep in mind that fairy and elf are, linguistically at least, interchangeable), or really three partial elves in the Chronicles of Narnia.

(16) YOU’RE QUITE A CHARACTER. Austin Gilkesen explains “How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book” at The Toast. From a long list of diagnostic tests, here are four examples:

  • A Dark Lord fancies your jewelry.
  • A mountain is out to get you.
  • You had to learn the hard way not to follow the lights in the marsh.
  • Your exhaustive knowledge of whimsical riddles has saved your life on multiple occasions.

(17) FANS WANT TO KNOW. Do the houses in Ilvermorny correspond to those at Hogwarts? J.K. Rowling says no.

“There is no equivalence between Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses,” Rowling wrote when a fan asked if Wampus was equivalent to Hogwarts’ Hufflepuff. “But don’t diss Hufflepuff!”

(18) YEARS OF EXPERIENCE. Entertainment Weekly spotted the tweet — “Elizabeth Warren offers to teach at J.K. Rowling’s North American wizarding school”.

(19) FINNCON. Catherynne Valente issued ecstatic tweets about breakfast at a Finnish convention hotel.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Sean Wallace, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohnFromGR.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/16 If You Pixel Us, Do We Not Recommend? If You Scroll Us, Do We Not Read?

(1) NO MCKELLEN AUTOBIO AFTER ALL. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Ian McKellen Explains Why he Returned $1.4M Memoir Advance”.

“It was a bit painful — I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.”

The world isn’t going to get to read Sir Ian McKellen’s autobiography.

Last year it emerged that the celebrated and Oscar-nominated thespian would be penning his own memoir in a deal with publishers Hodder & Stoughton reported to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million). But earlier this month the 76-year-old stage and screen icon revealed that he’d pulled the plug on the contract.

(2) OVERFLOWING WITH VERSE. Poems that Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden gets a plug at Book View Café . One of the contributors, Ursula K. Le Guin, explains her choice of a poem in the collection:

I chose Robinson Jeffers’ “Hurt Hawks” because it always makes me cry. I’ve never yet got through the last lines without choking up. Jeffers is an uneven poet, and this is an uneven pair of poems, intemperate and unreasonable. Jeffers casts off humanity too easily. But he was himself a kind of maimed, hurt hawk, and his identification with the birds is true compassion. He builds pain unendurably so that we can know release.

(3) KUZNIA MOVES UP. ”Job Moves” at Publishers Weekly reports “Yanni Kuznia, previously director of production, is being promoted to managing editor and COO at Subterranean Press.” SF Signal did an interview with Kuznia last year when she was still Director of Production.

AJ:  Subterranean Press has a pretty small staff, so everyone wears multiple hats. Can you tell us a little about what you do at Subterranean? What is a typical work week like for you?

YK: As Director of Production, it’s my job to keep titles moving through the production machine. I need to make sure every book is proofed, art is commissioned, signature sheets are designed and signed, ARCs are ordered and sent out, authors receive and return page proofs, and that everything is reviewed one last time before we go to press. Of course, I have help doing all of this. I have two wonderful people, Geralyn Lance and Kyle Brandon, who work under me in Production, overseeing the day-to-day of several titles each. We talk continuously throughout the process to make sure every milestone is hit on time.

(4) FAITH. Deborah J. Ross at Book View Café finds three ways out for writers forced to deal with their “Original Vision vs. Compromising With the Market”. Number two is – go indie.

If you believe in your work, how can you be sure but this is not infatuation with your own words but that your work truly is of high quality? Every writer I know goes through spasms of self-doubt. Writing requires a bizarre combination of megalomania and crushing self-doubt. We need the confidence to follow our flights of fancy, and at the same time, we need to regard our creations with a critical eye. Trusted readers, including workshops like Clarion and Clarion West, critique groups, fearless peers, and freelance editors can give us invaluable feedback on whether our work really is as good as we think it might be. Of course, they can be wrong. It may be that what we are trying to do falls so far outside conventional parameters that only we can judge its value. It may also be that we see on the page not what is actually there but what we imagined and hoped.

Assuming that we are writing from our hearts and that the product of our creative labors is indeed extraordinary, what are we to do when faced with closed doors and regretful rejection letters? As discouraging as this situation seems, we do have choices. We writers are no longer solely dependent upon traditional publishers. We live in an era where writers can become publishers, and can produce excellent quality books, both in digital form and Print On Demand.

However, not all of us are cut out to format, publish, and market our work. All of these activities require time in which to acquire skills and time to actually perform them. That’s time we have lost for writing. While becoming your own publisher is a valid choice, it is not right for everyone. Some of us would much rather write in the next book.

(5) YURI’S NIGHT WORLD SPACE PARTY IN SAN DIEGO. Down in San Diego on April 9, Yuri’s Night celebrations will include a movie will include an sf movie showing. They’ll show Contact free at 7:00 p.m. in Studio 106 (San Diego Reader Building, 2323 Broadway, 92102).

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work.

Although it is free, please RSVP as seating is limited.

(6) GUESS WHO? The website for Innominate (“The Con with no name!”) is up.

Innominate is the 2017 Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention. Eastercon’s have been held over the Easter weekend every year since 1955 and is a regular gathering place for science fiction fans from around the UK and elsewhere to celebrate the genre in all of its formats.

Eastercons stand in a long tradition which we intend to celebrate, while aiming to bring in new elements too. The convention will cover books, film, television, art and costume and the programme will include talks, discussions, exhibits, workshops and other entertainment.

(7) FIREFLY LESSONS. Tom Knighton points out what businesses can learn from his favorite TV series in “Loyalty, Firefly, and Captain Mal”.

From a management perspective, Mal may be an ideal leader to emulate.  Oh sure, there are others out there.  Real life examples exist.  I’ve been blessed to work with someone like that myself, but not everyone is exposed to that.  However, anyone can pop in a DVD and watch Mal and learn.

So why is Mal so ideal?

First, he is a hands-on leader.  In the pilot episode, Mal and Jayne are moving crates of their ill-gotten gains, stashing them where prying eyes won’t see.  He doesn’t relegate the task to anyone else, but instead works just as hard as his crew does.  When they don’t eat, he doesn’t eat.  When they work, he works.

This firmly establishes his belief that he’s not better than anyone, despite being captain.  Yes, he issues orders, but because he’s shown that he’ll do anything he asks others to do, his orders are followed.

Second, his top-down loyalty.  Mal doesn’t have to like a member of his crew to be loyal.  He doesn’t care for Simon, not in the least.  It’s obvious to everyone, especially Simon. However, he refused to leave a member of his crew behind, regardless of his personal feelings about the man.

(8) OTTO BINDER BIO. Bill Schelly’s Otto Binder, The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is coming back into print June 7 from North Atlantic Books (paperback, 320 pages, $19.95.) It has 28 new images, of which 14 are new photographs.

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

(9) PENNED BY C. S. LEWIS. There are a couple dozen entries on Brenton Dickieson’s list of “Photographic Plates of C.S. Lewis’ Manuscripts and Letters”, and several illustrate the post.

A reader suggested I add to my collection of previously unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscripts (“The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis“) by providing a list of manuscripts that show up in photographic plates in books and journals. I know that most of these are published by now, but this list is valuable for people who want to get to know C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.

(10) RACHEL SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS FRAN WILDE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Fran Wilde, expert on man-made wings”.

3. Have you ever done skydiving or hang gliding or anything similar?

I haven’t! I’m a sailor. I have relatives who hang-glide, and I spent a lot of my childhood watching storms roll in on the cliffs of the Chesapeake Bay (it gets really windy), but in order to do the research for UPDRAFT, I wanted to feel the physics of being in a wind tunnel, and I wanted to make sure I was writing a flying book, not a sailing book turned sideways. So I went indoor skydiving, which was a hoot. And very spinny.

The wings in the book aren’t hang-gliding wings, they’re more like a cross between furlable wings and wing-suit wings, so I also watched a lot of wingsuit fliers on long-flights and also doing particularly dangerous things like flying through canyons. I researched about 2,000 years of man-made wings in history, and talked a lot with engineers who understand the physics of foils – aka: wings.

(11) YA REVIEWS YA. My favorite YA reader, Sierra Glyer, added a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to her blog.

…It is about a 18 year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She is the most feared assassin on the continent but one day she gets caught. After she gets caught she is sent to a slave camp and this is where the book starts….

(12) WEIST ESTATE AUCTION. The catalog for this year’s Jerry Weist estate auction (to be held at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention April 22-24, 2016) is now available. Over 4,000 pulps, dime novels, men’s adventure magazines and other magazines. Here’s a link to the catalog  (19 pages).

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 5, 1908 – Bette Davis

Bette David fountain

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. Among his many roles: Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

Gregory Peck Moby Dick

  • Born April 5, 1933 — Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on Batman and the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele on an episode of Star Trek.

(15) THREE-BODY. Ethan Mills tackles the “Wobbly Relations of Past, Present, and Future: The Three-Body problem by Liu Cixin (Translated by Ken Liu) at Examined Worlds.

The Philosophy Report: Is Nature Uniform?  What to Expect from ETs?

Philosophy is mentioned several times, including the Chinese philosopher, Mozi, and the German philosopher, Leibniz, who are both characters in the game.  Aside from such small connections, two major issues are the uniformity of nature and the reaction to extraterrestrial intelligence.

In philosophy of science (and regular life for that matter) we all rely on what some philosophers have called the principle of the uniformity of nature.  This is usually discussed in (constant) conjunction with David Hume’s problem of induction.  Could we live as successfully in the world as we do, could we do science, if the laws of nature were not in some sense uniform across time and space?  If the laws of nature varied over time or between countries or planets, could we really get around?  Could we do science?  Or — closer to Hume’s point — whether this principle is really true or not, should we believe it?  Could we stop believing it even if it turned out to be unjustified?

But what if we had lived on a planet where as far as we could tell the laws of nature do sometimes change, where things are never the same over time, could we have evolved as we did and could we have developed science?  Those are some of the intriguing questions raised in The Three-Body Problem.

(16) HEARING MCCARTHY. TC McCarthy is not alone in his opinion:

(17) GETTING THE CAMEL’S NOSE UNDER THE TENT. A list of “11 sci-fi and fantasy books for people who don’t like sci-fi and fantasy” at Minnesota Public Radio News.

Sci-fi picks for people who don’t like sci-fi

So, you think you don’t like sci-fi. What turned you off?

Long descriptions of space ships and their alternative fuels? Too many alien names to keep straight? Just not into “nerd” stuff? Send your stereotypes packing to Planet Zurlong for a minute, and try one of these books that may offer you a new perspective on the genre.

For the record, most of these fall into the category of “soft” science fiction. “Hard” science fiction revels in technical details, whereas soft is not as focused on the specificity of its futuristic elements. Consider this a “soft landing” on your genre dive.

(But yes, sometimes descriptions of space ships can be fascinating.)

1) “The Wool Omnibus” by Hugh Howey

When Howey’s work first caught critics’ eyes in 2012, it was dubbed the “sci-fi version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'” That comparison is purely about how the book was published, not about the quantity of whips or handcuffs in it. Like “Shades,” it took off as a self-published Internet phenomenon.

Howey posted the first 60 pages of “The Wool Omnibus” online as a standalone short story in 2011, but within a year, that turned into a 500-plus page project that topped bestseller lists. The books take place in the Silo, a post-apocalyptic city built more than a hundred stories underground.

(18) DANIEL RADCLIFFE RETURNS. Swiss Army Man will be in theaters June 17.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. You might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

(19) BFG OFFICIAL UK TRAILER 2.

From Director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG” is the exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/16 Police My Tears, the Scrollman Said

(1) SIAM SINFONIETTA. Somtow Sucharitkul conducts at Carnegie Hall tonight! On Facebook, he posted a picture of his dressing room.

Somtow at Carnegie Hall

(2) SOCIETY PAGES. The Planetary Society has released the second installment of The Planetary Post with actor and Society board member Robert Picardo, their newsletter featuring the most notable space happenings.

For this issue, we took a trip to the set of the scientist-produced musical called “Boldly Go!” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

 

(3) HOP ON POP. “William Shatner sued for $170 million by man claiming to be his long-lost son”

William Shatner is being sued for $170 million by a radio host who claims to be the “Star Trek” legend’s long-lost son.

Peter Sloan has boldly gone and filed legal paperwork in Florida demanding Shatner submit to a DNA test and cease claiming he isn’t his father.

Sloan, 59, claims his birth mother, late Canadian actress Kathy McNeil, had a brief affair with Captain Kirk in Toronto. She gave him up for adoption at 5 days old.

But Shatner, 85, denies Sloan is his son, and claims the local radio host is trying to unfairly live long and prosper from the connection.

(4) MEMORY NUMBER ONE. Madeleine E. Robins makes a riveting anecdote out of her earliest memory, in “My Mother Went Out for Lemons” at Book View Café.

As a small child my family lived in the top two floors (or more properly, the top floor and an attic) of a brownstone on 11th Street in New York City. Four years after this story we moved to another brownstone, also on 11th Street, where we lived in the bottom two floors.  But that’s neither here nor there in terms of this memory.

My brother would have been about six months old–I know this because it was spring (and both my brother and I were December babies, but it wasn’t swelteringly hot the way that summer in New York City so often is). I would have been about two and a half. And my mother was making dinner and realized that she needed a lemon. Rather than waking the baby and packing us both into the stroller and going down to the corner to fetch a lemon, Mom made a different call: she sat me down on the couch, told me not to move, and went out to buy a lemon….

(5) ONE RULE TO BIND THEM ALL. Jeffe Kennedy warns against violating the One Rule, in “Romance Tropes for SFF Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

The romance in the book does not end happily. It does not end with even the promise of happiness. The heroine and the hero part ways with every indication that this will be a permanent separation.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this ending for a science fiction novel. However, for a book marketed as SFR, it’s a huge violation of reader trust. It’s an ending that makes romance readers throw the book against the wall. It’s a profound betrayal that destroys their trust in an author.

An argument that gets introduced in a lot of these conversations – always from non-romance readers – is that the HEA/HFN is not mandatory. That it’s okay for a story to end tragically. Romeo and Juliet gets trotted out. And sure, that’s true! But Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies! Sure, there’s a romance in it. You can even say the romance is the core of the story, but that doesn’t make it a romance. Why not?

Because it ends tragically, not happily.

(6) TRUST. R. S. Belcher says “Trust Your Editor” in a post at Magical Words.

Like I said, I was pissed. I had been doing this job of writing and getting paid for it for a long time, years. I paid bills, mine and my family’s bills, on my words, and I thought, after busting my hump on this piece that it was one of the best journalism pieces I had written.

The first chicken McNugget of “wisdom” I’ll throw out here, is whatever you write, if you expect to get paid for it, expect to deal with criticism…from all corners. You have to learn how to deal with that anger or it will eat you up like acid, or worse, it will influence how you write. It will affect how fearless you get in your writing, what you do, how you say it, and what you decide to not say. If you can’t handle that, pack it in, take up alpaca herding or something, ’cause you will be a bitter, miserable, and poor writer (in more ways than one).

So, I took a few days, because my deadline allowed me to, and did nothing in regards to the article. I did not email this editor and tell him exactly what I thought of his revisions, and where he could stuff them. I did not quit in a funk, or bad-mouth the guy and his publication in social media. In other words, I didn’t shoot my career in the face with a bazooka. I raged in private, I calmed the hell down, and I got back to work.

I did every single thing this editor had wanted me to do; when all was said and done, when all the ego, and emotional sturm und drang was over, it was a better piece, a better creation of my writing, my words. My editor was right, and he was damn good at his job. The moral of this story is trust your editor.

Now, I’m not saying trust every editor, I’m saying trust your editor.

(7) TWO DADS. The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, on sale May 31. The Fireman by Joe Hill, on sale May 17. John King Tarpinian says, “Joe Hill gave Ray Bradbury credit for the title. Both books are dedicated to the authors’ newborn babies.”

Fireman and gaiman

(8) PATTY DUKE OBIT. Patty Duke passed away March 29 at the age of 69. Sean Astin paid tribute to his mother online:

Shortly after the news was made public that his famous mother Patty Duke had passed, Sean Astin took to social media to post a heartwarming tribute — and announce that he’s launching a mental health initiative in her honor.

“I love you mom,” he wrote alongside a photo of his mother holding him as a baby. The message also included the statement that the family released to announce the passing.

Along with image, Sean posted the words, “Her work endures,” along with a link to the Patty Duke Mental Health Project.

“My mother’s life touched tens of millions of people. Her ground breaking portrayal of iconic American legend Helen Keller, launched a career that would span six decades,” Sean wrote of the crowd-funded project. “First on broadway and then on the silver screen, Patty Duke’s characterization of the extraordinary development of the blind/deaf child brought global attention to the plight of people living with those challenges.

“The nature of this kind of illuminating and compassionate work become the sacred mission of her life,” he continued. “She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

revenge of the creature

  • March 29, 1955 Revenge of the Creature was seen for the first time.  Clint Eastwood, uncredited, makes his first screen appearance in this movie as the goofy white coated lab assistant.
  • March 29, 2004 Shaun of the Dead premieres in London.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL.

  • March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless of Xena fame.

(11) A LENS MAN LOOKS AT NARNIA. Vishwas R. Gaitonde has some thoughts about the worldwide popularity of Lewis’ Narnia stories. “With No Inkling of the Contents: Viewing Narnia Through a Hindu Lens” at The Mantle.

Recognizing Hindu Philosophy in Narnia

I began to wonder: what would Narnia be like if it were viewed through a Hindu lens? Perhaps part of the worldwide popularity of the Narnian saga lies in people from other cultures discovering a resonance of their own spiritual beliefs—meanings that Lewis never consciously intended. But then, works of imagination are open to interpretation. As I contemplated the Christian themes in Lewis’ work, I began to wonder: what would Narnia be like if it were viewed through a Hindu lens? Could a reader find such themes throughout Narnia?

…In viewing Narnia through a Hindu lens, I have largely drawn from the Hindu school of philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, which is arguably the most popular contemporary concept of Hinduism.

Atman, Brahman, and Maya: Hindus believe that the human soul (Atman) intuitively knows that existence within a physical body is not its true nature—that it is part of the Godhead, the Universal Spirit (Brahman). But in its body prison, the soul has forgotten its real identity. This ignorance (avidya) forms the human quandary and its accompanying sorrows….

Mythology awakens within us the desire for our true selfIn The Silver Chair, Prince Rilian has similarly forgotten who he is for years whilst bewitched by the Lady of the Green Kirtle. When liberated, Rilian regains full knowledge that he is the heir to the Narnian throne. He declares, “For now that I am myself, I can remember that enchanted life, though while I was enchanted, I could not remember my true self.” Similarly, in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is clueless about his true identity, but he knows that he isn’t who he and others think he is (a slave or serf). His intuition sets him on a quest that ultimately reveals he is the lost heir of Archenland. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lord Rhoop is trapped on Dark Island where subconscious dreams come to life, where one is a prisoner of his or her own mind. In The Silver Chair, Jill Pole sees boulders and is fooled into thinking they may have given rise to the old wives’ tales of giants—until the boulders turn out to be actual giants. In The Last Battle, Puzzle the Donkey cloaked in a lion’s skin deceives others into thinking he is Aslan. And in Prince Caspian, Caspian longs for the old Narnia, just as the soul instinctively knows that there is a better place and a better experience (viz., Brahman, Spirit) than its current surroundings. Mythology awakens within us the desire for our true self—so just as Caspian clings to his myths, Hindus hang on to theirs.

(12) JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS. Here’s how John Joseph Adams said it, in “NEWS: Hugo Award Nomination Deadline is March 31”:

If you like a thing, and you think it’s deserving of a Hugo Award, nominate it! If you’re not familiar with a thing, but you saw it on a suggested nominations list or something of the sort, either read/watch it, and then nominate it because you like it, or don’t nominate it because you didn’t like it. Point being, please don’t nominate stuff just because it’s on somebody’s list somewhere; only nominate things you personally think are deserving.

(13) DOGGED EFFORT. At Chaos Horizon, Brandon Kempner continues “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 2”.

A pretty simple model and not terribly informative so far. What you’ll glean from this is that the Rabid Puppies are likely to deliver a large block of votes to the works on their list. When we combine this chart with the estimated chart from the Typical vote and the Sad Puppy vote, that’s when we’ll be in business.

The core question is whether or not this block will be larger than other voting groups. In more lightly voted categories like Best Related Work or categories where the vote is more dispersed like Best Short Story, 400 votes is likely enough to sweep all or most of the ballot. Think about Best Related Work: the highest non-Puppy pick last year managed only around 100 votes. The top non-Puppy short story only managed 76 votes last year. Even if you triple those this year, you’re still well under 400 votes. In a more popular category like Best Novel or Best Dramatic Work, I expect the impact to be substantial but not sweeping. Perhaps 3 out of 5? 2 out of 5?

(14) WHAT A WAG. The Good Dog News can be found in this Maximumble cartoon.

(15) SHOPPING ONLINE IN THE STONE AGE. Martin Morse Wooster advises, “The YouTube video ‘Internet Shopping–Database—1984’ is another installment of the 1984 ITV series Database, in which the manager of the Nottingham Building Society reveals ‘If we give away one of these’ (keyboards) ‘We won’t have to build any more branches!’

“The excitement of shopping and looking up your bank statements on your TV is palpable!”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29 Scroll to my pixel, click inside and read by the light of the moon

(1) SITH PACK. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in “Star Wars wayback machine: Revenge of the Sith”

It’s the final piece of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and, if I may be a touch heretical, on a par with Return of the Jedi. It very much echoes what made the original trilogy special, despite having many of the problems that plagued the other prequels.

(2) DIY STORMTROOPER. At io9 Andrew Liptak reports progress on making his own Stormtrooper armor in “So You Want To Join The Empire: Finishing Touches”. Some of the lingo is a bit specialized…

Greebles

I ended up trimming down the greeble on the abs plate – I didn’t trim it down enough the first time. The paint was also slightly off color after it dried, so I ended up picking up the correct shades,

(3) BARRIS FUNERAL. “I was wondering why there were so many cool cars in Glendale yesterday,” remarked John King Tarpinian. The answer: Batmobile designer George Barris was being laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Barris passed away November 5 at the age of 89 — click on the link to see Comic Book Resources photo of Barris’ casket, which features an airbrushed ’66 Batmobile on its side and specially-made fins on top, in honor of the creator’s work.

(4) DOCTOR STRANGE. Did they really want to work together? “Clea-ing The Air: Neil Gaiman And Guillermo del Toro Have Differing Memories Of Their Nixed ‘Doctor Strange’ Movie” at ScienceFiction.com.

What if… Neil Gaiman wrote a ‘Doctor Strange’ movie and Guillermo del Toro directed it?  Sadly, that’s one tale that will never be told, but could it have been?  Well, at least according to one of the creators involved, Gaiman, who tweeted a lament, expressing:

“I still wish Marvel had been interested in a [Guillermo del Toro] & me Dr Strange movie, because I wanted to write Clea so badly after 1602.”

(5) SEED BOMBAST. RedWombat cut loose with a mighty rant about the seed bombs entry in yesterday’s Scroll that is too good to be missed, so I am repeating it in today’s Scroll….

Part I: Okay. Seed Bombs. *clears throat*

Seed bombing is super-duper popular with “guerrilla gardeners,” with Girl Scout troops, civic-minded crafters, basically with all sorts of well-meaning folks who think that you can turn a vacant urban lot into Eden by throwing a ball of clay full of seeds over the fence and walking off with the warm glow that you have given nature a helping hand.

Except they don’t work.

There’s a couple factors at work here. #1, very rarely do people research the plants–like those wildflower meadow mixes in a can, they’re often dumping invasive weeds or short-lived annuals…because those are the only things that might survive under those conditions.

Which leads us to #2 — even assuming the seeds germinate (a big if, as we’ll see below) they will be packed in incredibly tight in the seed bomb, compete with each other for root space, the ones that die will rot intertwined with the others, etc. There’s a reason we thin seedlings. Your only survivors are going to be the hardy souls who can stand intense root competition, and frankly, those plants don’t need your help moving around…

…because #4, there is a massive seedbank in the soil already. Billions and billions! Japanese stilt grass seeds can survive up to seven years in dirt, waiting for the moment to strike. Wind, water, animals…there are seeds there already. If humanity vanished tomorrow, half our cities would be forests before the decade was out. So if nothing is growing in that vacant lot, the reason is probably…

#5 – Compacted soil is shit soil. I have been fighting for years with a hillside where the builders ran earthmoving equipment over it, and Nothing Grows. Not even weeds. Not even kudzu or stiltgrass or Japanese honeysuckle. It is hardpan. It is dead clay. Nature could fix it, but in a century or two. There are no worms, no microbes, no LIFE.

I’ve made great inroads, but not with plants. I had to fix SOIL. I tried seeds first, and what self-respecting seed would grow there? I dug in plants by hand, grimly. Most died. A few lived, but the toughest clay-busters nature can provide could not do more than occupy one small, hard-won clump.

I brought in dirt, compost, raked in leaves–not much, just an inch or two over the clay and that was enough. There are worms and microbes and the layer keeps the dead stuff moist and slowly it gets dug through and aerated by roots. It felt more like terraforming than gardening. A seed bomb on compacted soil is useless, unless you can find the very toughest pioneer species, the sort that are first to grow in abandoned quarries, and those don’t need help from guerrilla gardeners.

And even if you DID get the right seeds, it won’t matter because #6–seed bomb construction is desperately flawed. (Can’t speak to the one above, this is just the standard method.) The standard method is to pack seeds in damp clay, let them dry, and then throw them. Congratulations, you have killed a bunch of seeds!

The vast majority of seeds germinate when moist. A dry seed is a live seed, unless it gets wet, then it is a growing seed. If you dry it out immediately, you have killed that seed. You get one shot at germination if you’re a seed. No do-overs. Seeds can live in the pyramids and be viable, seeds can live in the fridge and be fine, seeds that get wet are done unless planted pronto. (Exceptions: those that require other, more specific triggers–fire, animal digestion, cold stratification, etc, and some few plant species adapted specifically to floodplains.)

Those paper cards with seeds in the paper, plant them, yay earth? Dead. Seeds are mixed with slurry pulp, get damp, dried out. Unless they pick the seeds very carefully, it’s just feel-good crap.

And now I have to go to breakfast, so part two: Why It Looks Like A Seed Bomb Worked will have to wait for a bit.

Part II: Ok, so Round Two!

“But RedWombat!” you say. “I made a seed bomb and stuff grew! Also there is no #3 in your rant!”

To which I say “shut up and let us troubleshoot your miracle.”

If you made a bomb and ran out the same day and flung it, the seeds didn’t dry out. If you threw it on soil that didn’t completely suck, that was not already overgrown with weeds, that was then gently watered by either moist ground or rainfall, if your seed bomb was not too densely packed or was a variety that tolerates close competition, then you may indeed have successfully grown a plant. If you picked your seeds carefully, there is even a chance that it’s not a corn poppy or some other short lived annual. This is basically why stuff sprouts under the birdfeeder.

Alternately, if you don’t specifically recognize the seeds you planted, then it was quite possibly stuff already in the soil bank and you’re taking credit for its hard work.

Now, nature is a mutha, and some seeds will survive terrible treatment through dumb luck or a tiny pocket of dryness or are a floodplain species or whatever. Or they land in the one tiny pocket of hard pan along the fence that’s loose because of the post-hole digger, and it rains at the right moment or whatever. But a seed would have ended up there ANYWAY. You could get the same effect dumping safflower over the fence, as above, except that the safflower has a far better chance of sprouting.

So, in conclusion, this is feel-good crap that lets nice but wrong people and smug Eco-bros feel like They’re Helping, when they aren’t, and there’s a dozen things you could do that DO help, but most of those are work and also don’t pay extra for the cards with seeds in them. If you’re going to green the world, there are very few quick fixes.

The end.

And there’s extra credit reading about working with hardpan soil in RedWombat’s third installment!

(6) RING MUSIC. Deborah J. Ross confesses “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings”.

When at long last it was my time to embark upon piano lessons, as a first-time older adult student, I grabbed a copy of the easy piano versions of The Lord of the Rings music. My goal was to play “Into the West.” I was one of those folks in the theater with tears down my cheeks as the song ended. But I was just starting out, I had zero self-confidence, and I wanted to make sure I had the skill to play it well. My teacher and I selected “In Dreams” (which is also the leitmotif for the hobbits) as one of my early pieces. Even in the easy version, it was a challenge. And it had words, words in a key within my limited vocal range.

Like others of my generation, I got caught in the folk scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even taught myself a few chords on the guitar. Although I enjoyed singing in a group, I had become convinced I had a terrible voice. I remember being told as a child that I couldn’t sing. So of course, my voice was strained, thin, unreliable in pitch. With the piano to support my voice, however, along with lots of practice when no one else was in the house, not to mention having an encouraging teacher, I learned how to breathe more deeply and relax my throat. The higher notes became easier and more clear. I added other songs and vocal exercises, which helped my confidence. “Wow,” my teacher said after one class, “who knew you had such a voice?”

(7) Today In History

  • November 29, 1972Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

We’re still not sold on Turkish Delight, but thank you for Puddleglum and Mr. Tumnus, Mr. Lewis!

(9) Today’s Birthday Girl

Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.

(10) STAMOS OR SCALZI. John Scalzi’s poll “Does Teenage John Scalzi Look Like Teenage John Stamos?” crowdsources the answer to a question that has plagued John since he was a high schooler with a rock idol haircut.

In comments, David P. provides disturbing evidence that young Scalzi looked more like Snot from American Dad.

I can only hope David P. isn’t out there researching my look-alike….

(11) STARFLEET. At Future War Stories, a blog devoted to explaining the world of military science fiction — “Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET”.

Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well…not if you are Riker).

(12) JESSICA JONES SPOILER WARNING. “The 13 Most Epic Marvel Easter Eggs in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’” at Yahoo! TV. The first Easter egg should be okay to quote, it’s not very spoiler-y.

  1. “And Then There’s the Matter of Your Bill”: Right off the bat, you know showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones team are going to provide plenty for comic fans to geek out over. One of the first scenes of the series is a shot-for-shot recreation of Jessica’s introduction in Alias #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos.

(13) X-MEN SPOILER WARNING. From ScienceFiction.com, “James McAvoy Hints At How Professor X Loses His Hair In ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’”. If you don’t want to know, don’t read! If you do want to know, well, I’m not sure this is really going to help…

But in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, McAvoy’s appearance will bring him more in line with Stewart’s.  Back in May, the actor tweeted a picture of himself having his head shaved for the film, indicating that even though he is a younger Xavier, he will actually go bald to more closely resemble his comic book counterpart.

How does this come about?  Well, as is the norm, details about this super hero flick are being kept tightly under wraps.  But while promoting his new movie ‘Victor Frankenstein’, McAvoy appeared on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ and did spill a tease about his character’s follicle metamorphosis:

“He ends up going through something so horrible and physically painful that he literally half pulls his hair out/half it falls out. Maybe, or maybe not…I just shit myself because I know Fox Studios who own me might be angry with me for sharing that.”

(14) CHARLIE BROWN. Since it’s a big favorite of mine, I hesitate to think about the Bizarro Charlie Brown special contemplated by the original producers. From “It’s your 50th television anniversary (and your 50th TV Christmas), Charlie Brown”.

Imagine “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with a laugh track and with adult actors providing the children’s voices. Now imagine it without Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy music and without Linus quoting the Bible, telling Charlie Brown what “Christmas is all about.”

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? There goes the charm. There goes the magic. And, perhaps, there go all of the animated Peanuts specials that followed this first one, including “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

But if even some of the producers’ early suggestions and the network’s preferences had been followed, the version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that first aired on Dec. 9, 1965, wouldn’t have become a cherished classic. And, good grief, it would have been an hour special, rather than a half-hour

[Thanks to Michael J. Martinez, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome .]

Pixel Scroll 10/20 Hugo, we have a problem

(1) David Brin urges everyone to make a fashion statement for Back To the Future Day:

Okay so October 21 is “Back to the Future” Day,” when movie houses all over will be holding special showings of BTTF-II, to commemorate our crossing that particular frontier — when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived at the ‘future’ of 2015 from the year 1985. Here is a rundown of ways the film was eerily on target… and another… if you set aside hover boards and flying cars and hydrated pizzas. And Mr. Fusion, alas. Hey, everyone wear a DOUBLE TIE that day!  I haven’t heard anyone else pushing that meme, so pass it on starting here!

Mockfry(2) Jim C. Hines’ Icon report includes a photo of a group posed around the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk” monument in Riverside, Iowa. Hines is there with Ann Leckie, David Gerrold, Joe and Gay Haldeman, and some others I should probably recognize.

(3) Amanda S. Green considers possible outcomes of Amazon’s new move against fake reviews in “To Pay or Not to Pay”.

I can’t speak for Amazon but I have a feeling what we will see happening is that a number of reviews will simply drop off the site. These reviews will either be directly tied to the sites Amazon has suspicions about or will have key phrases that are oft repeated across other reviews. It is easy enough to code a data crawler to find such similarities. It is basically the same sort of tool that schools use to determine if a paper contains any plagiarized parts.

Amazon might go one step further. Right now, if you look at Amazon customer reviews, you will see some from verified purchasers and then those that aren’t. A verified purchaser is someone who actually purchased the item from Amazon. The only problem with this is it doesn’t reflect those who borrowed a book or short story under the Kindle Unlimited program. This may be the point where Amazon needs to add that as one of the descriptors. I know a number of authors, and readers alike, who have been asking Amazon to do just that. At least that way, people who look at reviews before buying something would have an idea if the reviewer actually put down money on the book in question.

There is always the possibility that Amazon will require you to have purchased an item from them before you are allowed to review it. I’ll admit to being torn about this option. That would keep reviewers like Shiny Book Review from posting reviews on all sales sites. It would kick out reviewers who receive free copies of books unless Amazon has them register as reviewers. This is a path I’m not sure I want to see them go down.

Right now, Amazon gives more weight to reviews written by verified purchasers. As they should.

(4) The Tiptree Award is looking for recommendations. Got one? Click and fill out their form.

Most of the books and stories that Tiptree Award jurors read to pick a winner are nominated by authors and readers. We need your suggestions. If you’ve read a work of science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our notions of gender, please tell us about it by filling out the recommendation form below. If you have more than one, just fill out the form again with a new recommendation and submit it until you’ve told us about them all.

Recommendations close on the 1st of December, 2015.

(5) Fans and everyone seeking eyeballs for their blog are busy mining the newly-released Star Wars trailer for provocative material like – Who dies in the movie?

The first full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave fans plenty to speculate wildly about, but one moment in particular is causing widespread panic across the galaxy — or at least, the Internet. Towards the end of the trailer (watch it here!), there is a one-second shot of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) sobbing over what looks like a dead body. So who dies?

(6) Geeks Are Sexy has photographic proof that Canada’s Newest Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a member of the Rebel Alliance. Eh?

trudeau

(7) Catherynne M. Valente delivers The Big Idea today at Whatever. You were warned!

Radiance doesn’t have a big idea at its heart.

It has about six. It’s a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales.

Over-egging the pudding, you say? Too many cooks going at the soup? Gilding that lily like it’s going to the prom? I say: grab your eggs and hold onto your lilies because I am cannonballing into that soup FULL SPEED AHEAD.

(8) Brandon Kempner assesses the chances of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora getting a Hugo nomination.

The Hugo is a murkier award in 2016, given the turbulence surrounding it. 2312 took third place in 2013, and was also third in the nominations. Given the campaigns that are sure to take place in 2016, 3rd place is probably vulnerable to being pushed out. Add in that 2016 is a strong Hugo year (former Best Novel winners Robinson, Stephenson, Leckie, Walton, Bacigalupi, Scalzi, and Liu are all fighting for 5 spots, and that’s not even factoring in Puppy campaigns or buzzy authors like Novik). As a result, I think Robinson will miss the ballot, but a strong year-end push could definitely grab Robinson a spot.

As for metrics, as of mid-October 2015, Aurora has 2,535 Goodreads ratings with a 3.79 score and 264 Amazon ratings with a score of 3.7. Those aren’t great but they aren’t terrible. It’s a rare thing to see the Goodreads score higher than Amazon, but I couldn’t tell you what that means. I think around 1500 Goodreads / 100 Amazon is the cut off to be competitive, so KSR is well above that. Score doesn’t seem to matter for either the Hugos or Nebulas; VanderMeer won a Nebula last year with a 3.62 Goodreads score.

(9) Tobias Buckell is losing readers right and left. Mostly right. “Today’s passive aggressive fan mail: reader will not read more of my books because I don’t speak English English as my first language”

(10) Peter David “Just when boycotts couldn’t get any more stupid: Star War VII”

When the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1977, it was criticized for the overall whiteness of it. The one major black actor, James Earl Jones, wasn’t even given voice credit (his choice). This was answered with the introduction of Lando in the very next film, but still, mostly white.

So now the new film prominently features a black hero and there are actually idiots who are declaring it should be boycotted because of that? I mean, I knew there are people for whom Obama can do no right because of his skin color, but this is quite simply insane.

(11) But Gary Farber says it’s a fake boycott trolled by 4chan.Here’s one of those claiming credit.

(12) Meanwhile, in the interests of being fair and balanced, we bring you the A.V. Club’s post “Conservative pundit bravely comes out in support of the Galactic Empire”.

Star Wars’ Galactic Empire tends to get a bad rap. Oh sure, Emperor Palpatine started the whole thing by manufacturing a phony war to scare people into supporting a leader who would slowly take away their freedom in exchange for “safety,” the entire organization is suspiciously stocked with almost exclusively white human men, and there was that one time it destroyed an entire planet full of innocent people just to prove that it could, but is any of that stuff objectively evil? Conservative pundit Bill Kristol doesn’t think so, according to a tweet he posted this morning in response to a joke about how the Star Wars prequels encouraged conservatives to root for the Empire….

(13) Today In History:

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House makes its theatrical debut.

(14) Today’s Birthday Boy:

  • Born October 20, 1892 – Bela Lugosi. As they say at IMDB:

It’s ironic that Martin Landau won an Oscar for impersonating Bela Lugosi (in Ed Wood (1994)) when Lugosi himself never came within a mile of one, but that’s just the latest of many sad ironies surrounding Lugosi’s career.

(15) Today’s Birthday Book:

The Return of the King, being the third part of the novel, was released on 20 October 1955, completing the publication of the tome that had begun on 29 July 1954 with the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Return of the King had originally been planned for release much earlier in the year, but Tolkien delayed it due to working on the book’s appendices, to the annoyance of readers (yet another epic fantasy trend begun by the Tolkmeister).

(16) Belfast-born writer C.S. Lewis is to be honored in his native city with a series of new sculptures depicting characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe reports the BBC.

Belfast City Council has commissioned six new pieces of public art, including Aslan the Lion and the White Witch.

They will be erected in a new civic square, currently under construction, at the Holywood Arches in east Belfast.

…As well as the lion and the witch, the six pieces of art also include sculptures of Mr Tumnus, Jewel the unicorn, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the Stone Table

(17) Belfast is also where the third C.S. Lewis Festival takes place from Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 November 2015, marking the 52nd anniversary of the death of the author, theologian, academic and creator of the incredible Chronicles of Narnia series.

Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.   There will be something for everyone with many magical and free events offered; it’s definitely worth checking out.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. The C.S. Lewis Festival will recognise and celebrate both his life and his legacy to the world.   Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.

(18) Free lifetime memberships for trying it! One of the best book cataloging sites. LibraryThing launches in iPhone app.

We’re thrilled to announce the official LibraryThing iPhone App!

What it does. This is our first version, so we’ve limited it to doing the most basic functions you’ll need for cataloging on the go:

  • Browse and search your library.
  • Add books by scanning barcodes. Scanning to add is VERY FAST!
  • Add books by searching.
  • Browse and upload covers, using the iPhone camera.
  • Do minor editing, such as changing collections and ratings. Major editing sends you to LibraryThing.

(19) Wait, you mean it isn’t fake? “This Software Lets Someone Else Control Your Face”

Researchers created expression transferring software that projects mouth, eye, and other facial movements onto another face in real time.

(20) “Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago – much earlier than scientists thought” reports Phys.org.

“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” added Harrison, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly.”

The new research suggests that life existed prior to the massive bombardment of the inner solar system that formed the moon’s large craters 3.9 billion years ago.

“If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly,” said Patrick Boehnke, a co-author of the research and a graduate student in Harrison’s laboratory.

Scientists had long believed the Earth was dry and desolate during that time period. Harrison’s research—including a 2008 study in Nature he co-authored with Craig Manning, a professor of geology and geochemistry at UCLA, and former UCLA graduate student Michelle Hopkins—is proving otherwise.

“The early Earth certainly wasn’t a hellish, dry, boiling planet; we see absolutely no evidence for that,” Harrison said. “The planet was probably much more like it is today than previously thought.”

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Bell—a postdoctoral scholar in Harrison’s laboratory—studied more than 10,000 zircons originally formed from molten rocks, or magmas, from Western Australia. Zircons are heavy, durable minerals related to the synthetic cubic zirconium used for imitation diamonds. They capture and preserve their immediate environment, meaning they can serve as time capsules.

(21) A New York Comic Con panel on the economics of Star Trek  gathered Trek writer Chris Black; Manu Saadia, author of the book “Trekonomics”; Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the culture site io9; moderator Felix Salmon, of Fusion; Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist; and Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Gene Roddenberry tried to paint our future,” said DeLong, noting that we’ve gone far down that road. “We’re now, in fact, approaching post-scarcity in food and products.”

But, as Newitz pointed out, because “Trek” is a future where money no longer exists, people work because they want to but are therefore supported by other economies. To prove her point, she cited as an example “Measure of a Man,” an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that centered on the character of Lt. Cmdr. Data, an android.

Even though Data is a crew member of the starship “Enterprise,” unlike his fellow crewmates, he’s a robot. But does that make him a person or Starfleet property?

“We’re constantly being reminded that slavery and low wages support the comfortable, ‘Enterprise’ living,” Newitz said….

Salmon, the panel’s moderator, pointed out that in 2016, “Star Trek” will turn 50 and Thomas More’s book, “Utopia,” will turn 500. He then asked the panel if there is anything utopian about “Trek.”

“We are problem-solving, puzzle-solving, status-seeking creatures,” DeLong said.

Krugman responded by saying: “People have an amazing ability to be unhappy. The problem with utopia is not the lack of scarcity — it’s people.”

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

 

Alice’s Copy of Carroll Brings Top Dollar

The first edition, dedication copy of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, presented to the original Alice by Lewis Carroll, fetched $115,000 at a Profiles in History auction on December 16. Another first edition of the book that also came with two fine original pencil drawings by John Tenniel of Alice and Humpty Dumpty sold for $46,000.

The auction was full of items science fiction and fantasy fans would love to own. Beatrix Potter’s personal copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit went for $92,000; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, First Edition, first state of the text and first state of the plates, cost a bidder $51,750; and The Time Machine: An Invention, first edition, presentation copy inscribed by the author, H.G. Wells, brought $25,875.

Inklings fans would have needed deep pockets to take home The Fellowship of the Ring, first British edition in dust jacket: its new owner paid $11,500. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, with a tipped-in autograph letter about Narnia by C. S. Lewis, was a comparative bargain at $9,200. Diana has wanted a Lewis autograph for years, but more becoming of Scrooge than Peter and Susan, just before the auction I blew the family fortune on a used 2007 Camry.

The full press release follows the jump.

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