Detecting SF in
Murdoch Mysteries

By David K.M. Klaus: I found Murdoch Mysteries by following disparate links, always one of the great things about the Web.  It looks like great fun.

Seasons 1-6 are on Hulu, 1-7 on Netflix, and 1-8 on Amazon, and I suspect you have at least one of those services; also on DVD and Blu-ray, and there are connected webisodes, in which the viewer is invited to solve the case through clues in each one.  This Wikipedia page includes Canadian availability since it is a Canadian show, with Australian, British, and even French availability.

There is a definite science-fictional element as this is set at the turn of the 19th-20th Centuries, yet Murdoch invents prototypes for cases or foresees more modern devices using the technology of the time — sonar, microwave ovens, airships, bit-mapped graphics using a letter-number coordinate color code on a telegraph to send a fax, Silly-Putty (!), even the game Clue.

There’s a subplot in which one character, a police constable, spends an entire season trying to write a fantasy novel.  There are two cross-overs with future (that is, now) detective shows through two different means.

Guest characters include Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain (portrayed by William Shatner), H. P. Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, Jack London, Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and more.

There have been many guest stars who have been in sf genre shows such as Colm Meany, Victor Garber, Trenna Keating, Aaron Ashmore, Samantha Bond, David Hewlett, Robbie Arnell, etc.

It’s even had Colin Mochrie, who described himself as the last Canadian actor who hadn’t been on the show before (not actually true, but close), like one theater actor of whom I read who described himself as the only New York actor who had never been in an episode of Law & Order.  

It hasn’t had Benedict Cumberbatch, Julian Glover, William B. Davis, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, or Jewel Staite, but if the show is on long enough, they will be inevitable because the show will be running out of actors.

It has had Canadian fan Yvonne Penney, who won a walk-on role and appeared in two episodes.

Yvonne is in the background between Julia and William (pink hat).

If you already know all of this, sorry, it’s just that even though it’s been Emmy-nominated in the U. S., I never heard of it before and I’m looking forward to watching it.

Pixel Scroll 10/22/17 As You From Scrolls Would Pixel’d Be, Let Your Fandom Bring Forth Glee

(1) SUPPORT WANTED. Jim Barker, Rotsler Award-winning fanartist (and 1979 Hugo nominee), is looking for financial support while he deals with health problems. He hasn’t set up a crowdfunding appeal, but you can reach out to him at the email address shown in the illustration below.

My apologies for the continued absence of the Monday Cartoon. As I said last time, I am Not Well. I have had a problem with my liver for a couple of years now and it’s finally got to the point that I need a liver transplant and I need to go into hospital for tests at the beginning of November, just to find out how suitable I am.

The Problem is that it’s been a very slow couple of months and I simply can’t afford to be out of action for the five days needed for the tests. So while I hate the idea of going round with a begging bowl,I’m asking if you could possibly help out financially. Please contact me if you feel you can. Thank you.

(2) DEEP THOUGHT. The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Nicas reports “How Google’s Quantum Computer Could Change the World”. [Behind a paywall.]

Hartmut Neven believes in parallel universes. On a recent morning outside Google’s Los Angeles office, the 53-year-old computer scientist was lecturing me on how quantum mechanics—the physics of atoms and particles—backs the theory of a so-called multiverse. Neven points to the tape recorder between us. What we’re seeing is only one of the device’s “classical configurations,” he says. “But somewhere, not perceived by us right now, there are other versions.”

David Klaus sent the link with a note:

This much computational ability will finally give us fusion power, F-T-L travel, and the stars. I knew about the idea of parallel universes in 1963 when I was 8, because of The Flash.  Heinlein wrote about them (first?), Niven wrote about them, Robert Anton Wilson wrote about them, but there should be statues of Gardner Fox and Jerome Bixby, because if Fox hadn’t created the DC Multiverse and Bixby hadn’t written “Mirror, Mirror” to soak the idea into the popular culture and triggered the minds of the best and the brightest to pursue this, it wouldn’t have happened. In this universe, anyway.

(3) FOR EXAMPLE. Learning from scratch: “Computer Learns To Play Go At Superhuman Levels ‘Without Human Knowledge'”, defeats program that beat world champion:

“In a short space of time, AlphaGo Zero has understood all of the Go knowledge that has been accumulated by humans over thousands of years of playing,” lead researcher David Silver of Google’s DeepMind lab said in remarks on YouTube. “Sometimes it’s actually chosen to go beyond that and discovered something that the humans hadn’t even discovered in this time period.”

(4) NEW AWARD FOR WHITEHEAD. The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown reports “‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead wins 2017 Hurston/Wright award for fiction”, an award given by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Literary Foundation for significant books by African-Americans.

His award was among those presented Friday by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which was founded in Washington in 1990 with a mission to ensure the survival of black writers and their literature.

Whitehead’s attention to the pain of slavery and “the current state of race in this country is unprecedented,” the judges said. The novel, which was a New York Times bestseller, “confirms Whitehead’s place in the African American canon” of great authors.

The Washington Plaza hotel in Northwest Washington was bustling Friday with literary stars, publishing icons, writers, poets, editors and essayists. More than 200 people attended the annual gala, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who won the Ella Baker Award that honors writers and arts activists who advance social justice. Lewis said he was honored to receive the award named after Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist who helped organize the Freedom Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

(5) BORDERLANDS SEEKS PERMANENT HOME. Shelf Awareness reports that the bookstore that needed a crowdfunded incentive to stay in business is now thinking long-term: “Borderlands Seeks $1.9 Million to Buy Building”.

Borderlands, the San Francisco, Calif., science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore that nearly closed two and a half years ago, has made an offer to buy a building and has launched a campaign to raise $1.9 million in loans from customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. After eight days, Borderlands has raised $500,000 and another $300,000 “is pending.”

In 2015, owner Alan Beatts had planned to close the store, but after customers rallied in support, Borderlands created a sponsorship program; the $100 annual membership includes a range of benefits. The store has a minimum of 300 sponsors.

There is no rush to move: Borderlands still has three years left on its current bookstore lease and eight years on its café lease.

In a blog post last week, Beatts wrote in part, “The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business. Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died. But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession….”

(6) MYSTERY SOLVED. “Not broccoli,” says that sleuth of sustenance, John King Tarpinian, who can tell you what these really taste like:

I bought a mystery box for a friend who likes Oreos.  We all tasted one and it was a generally agreed, they tasted like stale Fruit Loops.  And I have never eaten Fruit Loops.

We even offered one to the waiter.  He had already had one on his own and without our prodding came up with Fruit Loops as his answer.

(7) FROM ROWLING TO REALITY. “Secretly wish you could be invisible? Science is getting close”Quartz discusses five methods for turning invisible, ranked by the inventor of a real-life invisibility cloak.

  1. Cloaking

The idea of making something invisible by bending light is so captivating that, despite the obstacles, scientists continue their attempts to create the effect. And that includes me.

Our group at Duke University, in collaboration with theoretical physicist Sir John Pendry, suggested and later demonstrated one method using a special type of material called a “metamaterial.” Metamaterials are human-made materials with little circuit-like elements—conducting rings and wires, for example—that mimic the properties of atoms and molecules of conventional materials.

Rather than physically warping space, we can use the idea of warping space to find a recipe for a material that will have the same effect. In this way, we can design an invisibility cloak just by picturing the way we would like waves to circulate around the cloaked object. This is a technique called “transformation optics.”

Light—or, in the case of our experiment, microwaves—are redirected in a metamaterial cloak, appearing to bend or flow around the cloaked object. They are then restored on the other side as if they had passed through empty space. The metamaterial cloak is a real device that forces light to flow exactly as it might around a cloaked Romulan ship, which means this type of invisibility device is plausible.

(8) INTRODUCTION TO A NIGHTMARE. Parade’s Samuel R. Murrian, in “Netflix’s Stranger Things Serves Up Thrills and Chills in Season Two “, tells how co-creator Matt Duffer was told the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street by his babysitter when he was four.

“My babysitter in preschool told me the story of Freddy Krueger,” says Matt. “I was 4 years old! From then on, I just knew I had to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. When we were young, we knew we weren’t supposed to be watching horror movies. That made the appeal of them so strong.

“It’s like forbidden fruit. You just want to taste it. I remember wandering into the horror section of the video store and just staring at the covers of these movies, feeling desperate to know what it was.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 22, 2134 B.C. – The earliest recorded solar eclipse took China by surprise:

In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

  • October 22, 2006 Torchwood premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 22, 1938 – Christopher “Dr. Emmet Brown” Lloyd
  • Born October 22, 1952 – Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in Buckaroo Banzai, Jurassic Park and The Fly.

(11) COMICS SECTION

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. Meantime, let the New York Post tell you where the skeletons are buried in Gotham: “The most infamous times Marvel and DC ripped each other off”.

Wonder Man vs. Wonder Woman In a 1964 issue of “The Avengers,” Marvel introduced Wonder Man. DC was not amused, feeling that the new hero sounded too much like its own Wonder Woman. So Marvel honcho Stan Lee agreed to kill him off.

Twelve years later, DC debuted a new female superhero named Power Girl — despite Marvel having introduced Power Man in 1972. Lee felt that DC was perpetrating a double standard and, in a payback bid, decided to resurrect Wonder Man. The hero joined the Avengers in 1977 and is still a major part of the Marvel print universe to this day. Although he’s never appeared in an Avengers film, actor Nathan Fillion did film a cameo as Wonder Man for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” that got cut in the end.

(13) DEADLY PLAZA. This will be handy for me – I’ll head in the other direction: “The Most Haunted Places in Los Angeles”. (Well, I say that, but for five years I worked a block away from the first place on their list….)

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Supernatural spirits abound where the city of L.A. started: at El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its immediate surrounding area. Because this area was essentially the original town square before moving a few blocks west, it was also the town gallows and the site of public hangings and their hanging trees. Some of them occurred directly in front of City Hall, which seems bedeviled by a ghost or two. Security cameras often pick up an image of someone walking around locked offices at night, but when guards go to investigate, they find nothing. When they return to their night shift station, they frequently hear footsteps following them.

Los Angeles was once a dangerous, violent place to live, filled with gunfire and murder. The lawless and the pious were forced to coexist in the establishment of a new sprawling metropolis. At El Pueblo, early adobes were torn down, and the remains of more than 100 people were improperly excavated and relocated from the first cemetery at El Pueblo, next to La Placita church. The area where Union Station now stands, and directly adjacent to it, was not only the site of Old Chinatown but also the infamous and horrific Chinese Massacre of 1871, the largest mass lynching in American history. For a more lighthearted encounter, take your French Dip to one of the upstairs dining rooms at Philippe The Original, where the ladies of the former bordello are said to linger.

(14) HELP ME HONDA. The co-creator of Godzilla unjustly labored in obscurity. The SyFy Wire tries to remedy that in ”7 revelations about the co-creator of Godzilla”.

Despite his status as one of the most commercially successful Japanese film directors of his day, Ishiro Honda has been somewhat neglected when it comes to discussion within critical circles. His science-fiction classics — which include Godzilla (1954), Rodan (1956), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and The War of the Gargantuas (1966) — have reached and dazzled audiences all over the world; and yet his name has only on occasion appeared in serious film studies. But now, from noted kaiju eiga historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski comes the biography Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa.

(15) IRISH EYES. Marcin Klak of Fandom Rover chronicles his adventures at “Octocon 2017 – the Irish National SF convention”.

Golden Blasters – the Octocon’s short film festival

There were four “major” events happening during Octocon. The first and the last ones were very modest opening and closing ceremonies, which lasted for a short time. They were serving a rather informative purpose and didn’t include any performances. On Saturday night there was an Octocon’s Monster Ball. I was able to stay only at the beginning, but it started with some music and dancing. I am not sure how long it lasted. The last one of the major events I participated in was the Golden Blasters film festival.

(16) FUSE LIGHTER. WIRED touches base with Ellison biographer Nat Segaloff in “Harlan Ellison Is Sci-Fi’s Most Controversial Figure”.

Harlan Ellison is the enormously talented author of many classic stories, essays, and scripts that helped transform science fiction, but his long history of inappropriate behavior has also made him one of the field’s most controversial figures. Author Nat Segaloff tried to capture both sides of Ellison in his new biography A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

“Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t like Harlan,” Segaloff says in Episode 278 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “and I wanted to try to get to as many of those people as possible to make a rounded interview.”

(17) LIGO LEVERAGE. NPR tells how “A New Era For Astronomy Has Begun”.

With this kind of precision, astrophysicists will learn more about the size, mass, spin, and internal properties of neutron stars, one of the most exotic forms of matter in the universe. They will also find out whether the final product of the merger is a big neutron star or a black hole, and gain a better idea of how many of such pairs (binaries) exist out there. As a bonus, they will be able to test the properties of gravity at extreme events, and measure different properties of the universe, including how fast it is expanding.

But the truly remarkable discovery, confirming what astrophysicists had predicted years back, is that such violent impacts, which eject something close to 2 percent of the stars’ mass at high speeds, produce loads of chemical elements heavier than iron, including gold, platinum, and heavy radioactive atoms. The collision creates a dense disk of protons and neutrons that circle the remains of the stars; the particles quickly combine into heavy atoms as the cloud grows and cools.

In a million years, the cloud will spread across the whole galaxy, seeding stars and their solar systems with heavy elements. Quite possibly, the gold in your ring or inside your cell phone came from such collisions in the distant past.

(Follow-up to “Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars”.)

(18) LESS SPLAT PER SCAT. ‘Windshield index’ falls: “Alarm over decline in flying insects”.

It’s known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

And the causes are unknown.

(19) AWWWW. See Mauricio Abril‘s sweet painting of Carrie Fisher in character as Princess Leia on Facebook.

I started this piece back in January after learning of Carrie Fisher’s passing but never got around to finishing it until recently. In honor of her birthday today here’s my tribute to the unforgettable woman who’ll continue to inspire generation after generation of little Leias.

(20) ROWLING PAPERS ON DISPLAY. The Guardian says, “Swearing, scrapped characters, editors’ notes – JK Rowling’s exhibits are a treasure trove for fans of Hogwarts.” — “Wizard! The magic of Harry Potter at the British Library”.

While some authors would baulk at showing anyone, let alone hundreds of thousands of museum visitors, their “process”, Rowling is entirely unafraid of sharing even her ropiest Potter ideas in public. She does so at talks, on Twitter and on a website, Pottermore, where she publishes all her unexplored, unfinished plots for a starry-eyed audience. Dumbledore is gay! Harry’s grandfather made hair products! Lupin and Tonks got married in a pub in Scotland! Even for a fan, it is easy to feel suspicious of this seemingly endless post-Potter expansion. There is no hidden significance or justifying quality in Rowling’s titbits that explains their publication. No, we now know Harry’s transfiguration teacher Professor McGonagall had two brothers and a husband who died because Rowling and her publishers believe our appetite for Potter is insatiable – and on that, they’re probably right. What luck then, that Rowling has always written with pen on paper and has produced such a treasure trove, and how lucky too that revealing her failed or abandoned ideas is not an embarrassment to her, even when cushioned by such success.

…Harry Potter, a Journey Through the History of Magic, is at the British Library, London NW1, until 28 February, and the New York Historical Society from October 2018. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on BBC2, on 28 October.

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

Steven M. Frischer (1955-2014)

[An appreciation for someone whose passing went unnoted by the fan press at the time,]

By David K.M. Klaus: Steven M. Frischer, just Steve Frischer to his friends (1955-2014), St. Louis, Mo.  Heart attack.  Attended his first convention, St. Louiscon, in 1969.  He once said he could be remembered as the 13-year-old in a red baseball cap who bothered Harlan Ellison by following him around the convention and continually asking Star Trek questions.  He hitchhiked to L.A.Con in Los Angeles in 1972, then from there hitchhiked north to Guerneville, California to meet Robert Anton Wilson, who was very down on his luck in that part of his life.  Steve bought groceries for Wilson’s family contributing to their survival in a small part until Illuminatus! finally sold, launching Wilson’s career as a novelist.  Hitchhiked to TorCon in Toronto in 1973, said the Royal York was the nicest, friendliest hotel he’d ever seen.  When people with no rooms slept on the chairs in the hotel lobby, they were gently awakened around ten a.m. and offered tea at no cost, courtesy of the hotel.  Actually rode in a friend’s car to and from MidAmeriCon in Kansas City in 1976, no hitchhiking needed.  Member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association (OSFA), the Graphic Fantasy and Science Fiction Society of St. Louis (GRAFAN), the St. Louis Science Fiction Society.  Regular attendee at Archon, St. Louis’ local convention for many, many years as well as one day mini-cons hosted by GRAFAN in the mid-’70s.  Active member of the Church of All Worlds.

Open, friendly, found and welcomed new members for each of the groups he was in.  Son of two Buchenwald survivors, what they survived darkened his life.  He eventually married and had a daughter, Gidget Frischer, to whom he was devoted and close both before and after he and her mother Jodie divorced.  Steve was intelligent, both school- and self- educated, learned enough kenpo karate to stop a mugging attack by three men on him, then ran before they could recover from the shock of the short, skinny Jewish guy kicking one of them to the ground.  Enormously well-read in all forms of sf, loved reading Heinlein over and over, as well as del Rey, de Camp, Blish, Tolkien, Dickson, Anderson, Niven, and so many beyond counting.  Original Star Trek too, of course.

Gidget had to break down the door to his apartment, too late to save him, but he now has a grandchild even though they will never meet.  His ashes were scattered at the base of trees planted in his honor in the same cemetery where his parents were laid to rest.

Pixel Scroll 6/25/17 One Click, My Bonny Pixel, I’m After A Scroll Tonight

(1) MORE, PLEASE. Here’s a provocative (in a good way) question:

(2) NOMINEE REVIEWING. Marco Zennaro is making progress in his Hugo reading, adding reviews as he goes along. Here’s the latest addition to “The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novels”.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu Death’s End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.

I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.

I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.

The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent…

Hugo worthy? Yes! It was one of the books I nominated.

Was it part of a slate? No

Zennaro has also written about the nominated Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories.

(3) COMPELLED. In a review for Strange Horizons, Alexandra Pierce works hard to explain the complex world of Jo Walton’s novel Necessity.

On the philosophical side, the interactions of Apollo and Hermes demonstrate how gods are themselves constrained by higher powers: both by Zeus, father of all the gods, and Necessity. As the title suggests, the compulsion of Necessity is an important aspect of the novel. It’s a force that not even gods can avoid, and it can even be used to avoid the potentially damaging aspects of time travel, of getting stuck in difficult situations: if Necessity says you must do something later in your timeline, you can’t be stuck somewhere else. Complementing this is a strong focus on the free choices of humans to undertake either stupid or worthy actions, in politics and personal relationships and everything else—and the contention that this is a noble part of the human condition.

(4) BRONZE PLATE SPECIAL. The other day I Scrolled about the “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era” – never suspecting my friend, archeologist Louise Hitchcock, has personally worn a replica.

After you’ve looked at the picture, check out Minoan Architecture and Urbanism: New Perspectives on an Ancient Built Environment edited by Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett, which includes the co-authored article “Lost in Translation: Settlement Organization in Postpalatial Crete – A View from the East” by Louise A. Hitchcock and Aren M. Maier. The book is available for pre-order, with a release date of September 23.

(5) IMMORTAL CATS. No one can forget them once she’s told their story — “Mog author Judith Kerr, 94, to publish new book Katinka’s Tail”.

Almost 50 years after the appearance of one of the most famous felines in children’s books, Mog creator Judith Kerr is to publish a book inspired by her latest pet cat, Katinka. The much-loved author and illustrator, who celebrated her 94th birthday last week, is to publish Katinka’s Tail in the autumn.

The story of a “perfectly ordinary cat with a not-so-ordinary tail” was inspired by Kerr’s observations of her cat, the ninth in an inspirational line. “She is a ridiculous-looking white cat with a tabby tail that looks as though it belonged to somebody else,” she said. It was watching the “bizarre” behaviour of her first family pet, Mog – which included licking her sleeping daughter’s hair – that inspired the eponymous stories beloved by generations of children.

(6) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. The Last Knight, an unimpressive number one at U.S. box offices this weekend, did better overseas — “No. 1 ‘Transformers’ hits new low with $69-million domestic debut, but is saved by global box office “.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise from Michael Bay, may have topped the weekend, but all the robot-smashing has gotten a bit rusty at the box office.

The Paramount film, which opened Wednesday, took in $45 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, placing it in the No. 1 spot ahead of returning titles “Cars 3” and “Wonder Woman.” When factored into its five-day debut, “The Last Knight” grossed a franchise low of $69 million.

….The latest installment, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins and features a new mythology involving King Arthur and Stonehenge, cost $217 million to make. And however squeaky “The Last Knight’s” debut may have been domestically, the film took in an Optimus Prime-sized number overseas. It earned $196 million from its first 40 markets — with $123 million of that haul coming from China.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“I’m Batman.”

Anyway, he was – Olan Soule (1909-1994).

Soule’s voice work on television included his 15-year role (1968-1983) as Batman on several animated series that were either devoted to or involved the fictional “Dark Knight” superhero

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster began stalking movie theatres.
  • June 25, 1982 The Omen arrives to terrify movie audiences.
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner was shown on some theater screens.
  • June 25, 1982 – Meanwhile, other screens played John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DYSTOPIAN

(10) LINE DIRECTOR. While being interviewed about his new assignment directing the Han Solo movie, Ron Howard reminisced that right after he and his wife saw Star Wars they loved it so much they got right back in line and waited to see it again.

As news of the 1977 film Star Wars began to unfold, Howard said he became “so curious.” He and his wife went to see it on the first day of release and were “so moved by the movie. It was all the things you dream you’re going to experience in the movies.”

Although they had stood in line for two hours to see it, when Howard and Cheryl came out, they threw each other a look and decided to see it again immediately — standing in line for another 90 minutes.

Which made me wonder — how did Ron Howard not see this movie at a free pre-release screening? After all, I did — along with many other LASFSians.

(11) WHY IT HAPPENED. Carl Slaughter recommends, “For those in shock or scratching their heads over the Han Solo project shakeup, Mr. Sunday Movie offers an explanation that seems to make sense.”

(12) EQUIVALENCIES. Jesse Hudson makes clear there are some usages of alternate history that have worn on him, in his “Review of Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore” at Speculiction.

Its Jonbar point the American Civil War, Bring the Jubilee looks into the idea ‘what if the South won’?  The story of Hodge Backmaker, son of a poor farmer in what’s left of the United States of America (essentially the Union), the young man breaks free of his rural home at an early age and heads to New York City—an impoverished metro compared to the grand, lavish cities of the Confederate States of America.  Getting lucky and finding work with a book printer, Hodge spends the next few years of his life learning the trade.  And he learns much more.  The book printer’s essentially a front, namely that of printing propaganda and counterfeiting money, Hodge learns of ongoing secret operations to build a Grand Army and restore the United States to its former glory.

While many readers might expect such an early effort of alternate history to go the black and white route of vilifying the South by portraying them as tyrannical victors while glorifying the North as honorable victims, instead, the South is not portrayed as a slave-loving region which stamps the poor further into the ground, rather simply an economically and politically aggressive government bent on empire.  In other words, Moore spins the tables… to look something like the North.  This is all a convoluted manner of saying Bring the Jubilee is more interested in finding common ground between reality and the alternate reality, than it is putting the 8 millionth nail in the coffin of ‘slavery is bad’.

(13) EUROCON REPORT. Alqua shares the many highlights of “Eurocon 2017 (U-con) in Dortmund” at Fandom Rover.

The evening concert on Friday was called A night to remember. I was a little bit sceptical if it would be really a night I will remember for long, but I was wrong. There were few artists presenting their pieces. We were able to hear people playing guitar and theremin, reciting poetry or “interpreting alien poetry”. But the best pieces of this evening were songs played by Dimitra Fleissner on her harp and the ATS show by Gata. Music and dance were quite different but they both left me astonished and I will be looking forward for another possibility to see one of these artists performing.

(14) DISSENTING VOICE. Brad R. Torgersen deems “cultural appropriation” of no concern in his Mad Genius Club post titled: “If you’re not appropriating culture, you’re not paying attention”.

Clearly, nobody owns culture. So why do we worry about appropriating it?

(Cough, when I say “we,” I mean American progressives and Social Justice Zealots who clearly have too much time on their hands, cough.)

My take: If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, you have more to say on this topic than anyone. Because you’re extrapolating futures, presents, and pasts. Alternative histories. Possible horizons. The “What if?” that makes SF/F so much fun in the first place. There are no rules which you aren’t automatically authorized to break. The entire cosmos is your paint box. Nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Are we really going to be dumb enough to pretend that SF/F authors of demographics X, Y, or Z, cannot postulate “What if?” for demographics A, B, and C?

We’re not even talking about homework — which is a good idea, simply because some of your best syntheses will occur when you take Chocolate Culture and Peanut Butter Culture — kitbash them together — and come up with the inhabitants of a frontier planet for your thousand-year-future interstellar empire.

We’re talking about authors voluntarily yoking their creative spirits to somebody else’s pet political and cultural hobbyhorses. A game of rhetorical, “Mother, may I?”

(15) WEIRD TECH. Labeling produce with lasers instead of paper: “M&S says labelling avocados with lasers is more sustainable”.

M&S will sell avocados bearing what look like pale tattoos, showing a best-before date and origin.

Peeling away the traditional labelling will save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year, says M&S.

More of its fruit and vegetables may be laser-branded in future, the retailer says.

“The laser just takes off one layer of skin and instead of inking it or burning it, the skin retracts and leaves a mark,” says Charlie Curtis, senior produce agronomist at Marks and Spencer.

“What we’re putting onto the fruit is country of origin, best before date and there’s a short code so you can put it through quickly at the [checkout] till.”

(16) JUST WEIRD. The new Canadian Toonie glows in the dark.

Canadians may now have a slight advantage when it comes to digging for lost change in sofa cushions and car seats; the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled what it described as the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation.

The specially designed two-dollar coin, or toonie, as it’s known in Canada, features two people paddling in a canoe as the northern lights – vivid in green and blue – dance high above them. When the coin is put in the dark, the aurora borealis glows softly, thanks to a new ink formulation that contains luminescent material.

The coin, part of a collection created to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, also ranks as the world’s first coloured bimetallic coin, said a mint spokesperson. “Only the core of the $2 coin is coloured and the glow effect makes the aurora borealis part of the design look lifelike,” said Alex Reeves.

(17) UNABOMBER INVESTIGATION. Polygon’s article “The FBI kept a list of D&D players as part of its hunt for the Unabomber”.

It appears that in 1995 the FBI made a sincere effort to investigate a group of D&D players. It suspected them of having a connection with the Unabomber, a terrorist named Theodore Kaczynski who spent the better part of two decades mailing people explosives.

Step one was to dig back into the past of TSR and the role-playing hobby as a whole. In so doing, the FBI put together a pretty decent three-page history, if I do say so myself. It also came up with a list of armed and dangerous individuals who were “known members of the Dungeons & Dragons” that it pulled from TSR’s own computer system.

David Klaus sent the link along with his comments:

The fishing expedition into TSR as a cocaine front would appear to be sparked by cultural bigotry.  Unable to find real crime, to justify his existence, local FBI agent investigates legitimate business run by “weirdos” playing a game Pat Robertson says is Satanic.  (This would be in keeping with the Secret Service act of stupidity against Steve Jackson Games at about the same time.) Again, having no evidence of crime, just prejudiced opinion, the personal histories of all corporate officers are gathered, civil rights being violated, the company computers are invaded and lists of game purchasers are kept on file. And that Gary Gygax!  He answers his mail!  He ‘s a Libertarian Party member!  He had a difficult divorce!  He’s eccentric!  Somebody whose credibility can’t be judged says he’s “frightening”! His business makes money!  He spends his own money as he pleases!  The file included allegations he breaks drug and gun laws.  (If there were evidence, why didn’t they make an arrest?  Perhaps because there wasn’t?) We’re incompetent to find the Unabomber, and this guy uses a computer.  It might be him, yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s drop some hints among his friends and watch them get paranoid about each other!  Since we couldn’t find evidence, let’s see if one of them will manufacture some out of fear!  Scare ’em enough, and they’ll say anything. These Flatfeet Keystone Cops are supposed to protect us from foreign terrorism.  Right.

(19) THE WAKING LAND. Strange Horizons reviewer Mark Granger finds much to like in The Waking Land by Callie Bates.

Callie Bates’s strength lies in how quickly and succinctly she lays down the plot without making it complicated, a great feat when you consider the story is told in the first person; Elanna’s view point restricts us to what she is seeing and hearing, but never distracts from the bigger picture—and Bates manages to cleverly insert plot points along the way without them appearing to be shoe-horned in. I was immediately sympathetic to Elanna’s plight, her confused and conflicted state: the fact that everything she has been taught—from history to basic morals—is falling down around her makes her someone you want to side with. In a lesser writer’s hands Elanna’s character could have easily become whiny, but Bates makes her a strong, opinionated woman, yet one who is forced to have her mind opened to something beyond herself.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and Louise Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 6/4/17 Like A Scroll Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Tick Me Now

(1) $100 MILLION WEEKEND. (Redundant word “dollars” omitted in keeping with our new style sheet…) Moviegoers showed up with cash in hand: “‘Wonder Woman’ Shatters Box Office With Biggest Female Director Opening. Ever.”

A box office wonder.

Wonder Woman” smashed records this weekend to become the biggest domestic opening for a female director ever. Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot under Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, the film grossed an estimated $100.5 million at more than 4,000 theaters domestically, according to a statement from Warner Bros. Sunday. Thursday night’s pre-show raked in $11 million alone.

(2) WONDERFUL. Eileen L. Wittig declares “Yes, I’m a Feminist. Yes, I Enjoyed ‘Wonder Woman'” in a review for the Foundation for Economic Education.

I don’t care that she wore heels the entire time. They looked very supportive, and are probably better weapons for spin kicks than sneakers. And maybe she just likes wearing heels. Maybe they make her feel powerful. They have that effect on me.

Beyond Her Looks

I do care about how Diana managed to walk that thin, thin line between literally being a weapon, and having empathy.

I care that she saw an unknown life and saved it, because she could, and because she cared.

I care that she was moved to tears when she heard about the suffering of millions of people she’d never even met, and then took that sorrow and turned it into motivation to save the rest.

I care that she was willing to sacrifice her own future life of peace among her family to save strangers.

(3) SECRET ORIGINS. Jill Lepore’s “The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman” appeared in Smithsonian in 2014, but David K.M. Klaus is right in thinking it makes a timely item after this weekend. He comments, “Information about comics history and the people involved in the creation of Wonder Woman never published before so far as I know, as well as the reasoning behind her creation. Also, the first reveal of the deliberately vicious and jealous motives of Frederik Wertham in the censorship of comics: He didn’t give one damn about children, he was angry at a professional superior who didn’t share his anti-woman attitudes. Frederik Wertham was the true advocate of bondage for Wonder Woman, psychological, emotional, and political bondage.”

Here’s an excerpt from Lepore’s article:

Marston was a man of a thousand lives and a thousand lies. “Olive Richard” was the pen name of Olive Byrne, and she hadn’t gone to visit Marston’she lived with him. She was also the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most important feminists of the 20th century. In 1916, Sanger and her sister, Ethel Byrne, Olive Byrne’s mother, had opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States. They were both arrested for the illegal distribution of contraception. In jail in 1917, Ethel Byrne went on a hunger strike and nearly died.

Olive Byrne met Marston in 1925, when she was a senior at Tufts; he was her psychology professor. Marston was already married, to a lawyer named Elizabeth Holloway. When Marston and Byrne fell in love, he gave Holloway a choice: either Byrne could live with them, or he would leave her. Byrne moved in. Between 1928 and 1933, each woman bore two children; they lived together as a family. Holloway went to work; Byrne stayed home and raised the children. They told census-takers and anyone else who asked that Byrne was Marston’s widowed sister-in-law. “Tolerant people are the happiest,” Marston wrote in a magazine essay in 1939, so “why not get rid of costly prejudices that hold you back?” He listed the “Six Most Common Types of Prejudice.” Eliminating prejudice number six “Prejudice against unconventional people and non-conformists” meant the most to him. Byrne’s sons didn’t find out that Marston was their father until 1963 — when Holloway finally admitted it’and only after she extracted a promise that no one would raise the subject ever again.

Gaines didn’t know any of this when he met Marston in 1940 or else he would never have hired him: He was looking to avoid controversy, not to court it. Marston and Wonder Woman were pivotal to the creation of what became DC Comics. (DC was short for Detective Comics, the comic book in which Batman debuted.) In 1940, Gaines decided to counter his critics by forming an editorial advisory board and appointing Marston to serve on it, and DC decided to stamp comic books in which Superman and Batman appeared with a logo, an assurance of quality, reading, “A DC Publication.” And, since “the comics’ worst offense was their blood-curdling masculinity,” Marston said, the best way to fend off critics would be to create a female superhero.

(4) PUT THE LID ON. Tales From the Crypt is not even being allowed to linger in development hell: “M. Night Shyamalan’s Tales From the Crypt Reboot Shelved Due to Rights Issues”.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Tales From the Crypt reboot for TNT is currently no longer in the works due to rights issues, though the network may revisit the project in the future.

In an interview with Deadline, TNT and TBS president Kevin Reilly confirmed that, because of “a very complicated underlying rights structure,” Shyamalan’s reboot is no longer in development. The project faced legal issues since it was first announced back in 2016.

“That one got really caught up in a complete legal mess unfortunately with a very complicated underlying rights structure,” Reilly said. “We lost so much time, so I said, “Look, I’m not waiting around four years for this thing.'”

…The Tales From the Crypt reboot was set to use the original William Gaines-created Tales From the Crypt EC Comics from the 1950s for some episodes, mixed in with original stories, with one of the episodes directed by Shyamalan.

In lieu of the Tales From the Crypt reboot’s cancellation, Reilly revealed that TBS is currently working with Ridley Scott on an unannounced sci-fi series. The network is considering a straight series order and is aiming for a 2018 release, with Scott also potentially directing.

(5) HOW ALARMING. They’re here. “First Wave Of Twin Peaks Funko Pops And Action Figures Includes Dale Cooper, Killer BOB, And The Log Lady”.

Are you prepared for a tsunami of official Twin Peaks merchandise? The first wave of official Twin Peaks Funko Pops and Action Figures inspired by the original series is expected to hit the stores by April and May 2017 respectively.

The initial group of Pop! figures includes Dale Cooper, Audrey Horne, Killer BOB, the Giant, Laura in Plastic Wrap, the Log Lady, Leland Palmer, and the Giant.

(6) STILL SUPER. Carl Slaughter calls your attention to this 2013 edition — Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor.

Together again for the first time, here come the greatest comic book superheroes ever assembled between two covers: down from the heavens’Superman and the Mighty Thor’or swinging over rooftops’the Batman and Spider-Man; star-spangled, like Captain America and Wonder Woman, or clad in darkness, like the Shadow and Spawn; facing down super-villains on their own, like the Flash and the Punisher or gathered together in a team of champions, like the Avengers and the X-Men!

Based on the three-part PBS documentary series Superheroes, this companion volume chronicles the never-ending battle of the comic book industry, its greatest creators, and its greatest creations. Covering the effect of superheroes on American culture — in print, on film and television, and in digital media — and the effect of American culture on its superheroes, Superheroes: Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture appeals to readers of all ages, from the casual observer of the phenomenon to the most exacting fan of the genre.

Drawing from more than 50 new interviews conducted expressly for Superheroes! creators from Stan Lee to Grant Morrison, commentators from Michael Chabon to Jules Feiffer, actors from Adam West to Lynda Carter, and filmmakers such as Zach Snyder — this is an up-to-the-minute narrative history of the superhero, from the comic strip adventurers of the Great Depression, up to the blockbuster CGI movie superstars of the 21st Century. Featuring more than 500 full-color comic book panels, covers, sketches, photographs of both essential and rare artwork, Superheroes is the definitive story of this powerful presence in pop culture.

Check out interviews from PBS Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Did Sam Clemens get it wrong? “‘Tom Sawyer’ was NOT the first typewritten novel”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 4, 1982 The Wrath of Khan debuted in theatres.
  • June 4, 1982 — Poltergeist premieres.

(9) MAJOR LEAGUE QUIDDITCH. The season has just begun: “There May Not Be Flying, But Quidditch Still Creates Magic”.

When Colby Palmer started his freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University, some students approached him in his dorm and asked whether he wanted to play quidditch.

Palmer had read all of the Harry Potter books and knew about the sport but said he felt reluctant to try it out.

“My impressions of quidditch was just that it’s for nerds by nerds ‘ that they wouldn’t be like people who I would find things in common with,” Palmer says.

Despite his hesitations, Palmer did give it a try and found he loved it and the community. Now, he’s heading into his senior year at VCU and is spending the summer playing for the Washington Admirals, one of 16 Major League Quidditch teams. The season starts this weekend.

(10) I’M MELTING…. These are the jokes, folks.

(11) NOT YOUR NAME HERE. “Colossus Con Rebrands After ColossalCon files Trademark Complaint”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn has the story.

After running two events, California based Colossus Con has now been forced to rename their comic conventions. This has happened in the wake of a trademark complaint from Ohio based anime con ColossalCon. The Colossus Con events planned for Merced, CA and Campbell, CA have been renamed California Republic Comic Con and Campbell Con respectively.

As a 2018 Pleasanton, CA event hasn’t been announced yet, we don’t know what that event will be called if it happens again.

(12) GAME OVER. In “End-Times for Humanity”, Claire Colebrook, a Penn State English professor, looks at the recent spate of apocalpytic movies and asks what these films say about the fragility of our culture.

What contemporary post-apocalyptic culture fears isn’t the end of “the world” so much as the end of “a world” — the rich, white, leisured, affluent one. Western lifestyles are reliant on what the French philosopher Bruno Latour has referred to as a “slowly built set of irreversibilities –, requiring the rest of the world to live in conditions that “humanity” regards as unliveable. And nothing could be more precarious than a species that contracts itself to a small portion of the Earth, draws its resources from elsewhere, transfers its waste and violence, and then declares that its mode of existence is humanity as such.

To define humanity as such by this specific form of humanity is to see the end of that humanity as the end of the world. If everything that defines “us” relies upon such a complex, exploitative and appropriative mode of existence, then of course any diminution of this hyper-humanity is deemed to be an apocalyptic event. “We” have lost our world of security, we seem to be telling ourselves, and will soon be living like all those peoples on whom we have relied to bear the true cost of what it means for “us” to be “human’.

(13) LINGUINISTICS. It’s always news to someone…

(14) WALKING THE TALK. “World Bank Economist Demoted for Demanding Clear Prose”. Why? The explanation is simplicity itself.

This week, the financial press reported the downfall of a high-profile grammar pedant, Professor Paul Romer, the World Bank’s chief economist, who was hoist(ed) on his own pedantic petard.

He is being replaced as head of the bank’s research arm after he demanded that his colleagues write succinct, clear, direct emails, presentations and reports in the active voice with a low proportion of “and’s”. Romer will remain the bank’s chief economist.

In fact, he had threatened not to publish the bank’s central publication, World Development Report, “if the frequency of “and” exceeded 2.6 per cent€. He had also cancelled a regular publication that he believed had no clear purpose.

Why, you may ask, did the economists who work in the World Bank’s research department take exception to these strictures? Who wouldn’t want the corporate report that was a flagship publication of the bank to be narrow and “penetrate deeply like a knife”? Romer’s 600 colleagues, that’s who. But why?

It seems that, while he was encouraging his staff to avoid their customary convoluted “bankspeak”and consider their readers, he failed to follow his own advice. He was apparently curt, abrasive and combative. The troops refused to fall into line and he was ousted.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Joe H., Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/17 P.S. I Love You

(1) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Rowling’s Potter postcard was probably worth more than the jewels that were taken at the same time — “J.K. Rowling begs fans not to buy stolen ‘Harry Potter’ prequel”.

An extremely rare “Harry Potter” prequel idea, handwritten by bestselling author J.K. Rowling, has been stolen. And the author is pleading with fans not to purchase it on the black market.

According to England’s West Midlands Police, the 800-word story was handwritten on the front and back of an A5 postcard. It was stolen during a robbery in central England, sometime between April 13 and April 24.

Rowling hand wrote the story to raise money for English Pen, an organization that promotes literature. It sold at a charity auction for £25,000 or approximately $32,000, in 2008.

(2) ROCK OF AGES. National Geographic has a piece on one of the best preserved dinosaurs ever found. “The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada”.

The cavernous warehouse swells with the hum of ventilation and the buzz of technicians scraping rock from bone with needle-tipped tools resembling miniature jackhammers. But my focus rests on a 2,500-pound mass of stone in the corner.

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips….

(3) VAS YOU DERE SHARLY? The biggest bangers of them all make clear any dissent from the prevailing theory is unwelcome — “Big Bang or Big Bounce? Stephen Hawking and Others Pen Angry Letter about How the Universe Began”.

Stephen Hawking and 32 of his fellow scientists have written an angry letter responding to a recent Scientific American article about how the universe began. In it, they declare their “categorical disagreement” with several of the statements made, and explain why the theory of inflation is still one of the best models for the origin of the cosmos.

The article in question was published in February. Titled “Pop Goes the Universe,” physicists Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt, Abraham Loeb examine the latest measurements from the European Space Agency relating to cosmic microwave background (CMB).

CMB is the oldest light in the universe—light emitted just after the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago. In 2013, a map of the CMB appeared to show how the universe inflated extremely fast, before settling down to become the universe we see today. This, many experts said, backed up models relating to inflation theories, where the universe expanded exponentially fast a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

However, Ijjas, Steinhardt and Loeb disagreed with this interpretation. “If anything, the Planck data disfavored the simplest inflation models and exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory, providing new reasons to consider competing ideas about the origin and evolution of the universe,” they write.

The three physicists argue that since the 2013 map was produced, more precise data has been gathered. And this data, they say, adds more evidence to the argument that the Big Bang and inflation do not adequately explain how the universe started. “Yet even now the cosmology community has not taken a cold, honest look at the big bang inflationary theory or paid significant attention to critics who question whether inflation happened,” they say….

(4) BICENTENNIAL SPACEWALK. It wasn’t without its problems — “U.S. spacewalkers overcome glitch on 200th station outing”.

Two U.S. astronauts overcame an early equipment glitch to complete an abbreviated spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Friday, accomplishing all the major tasks initially planned for a longer excursion in four hours, NASA said.

Station commander Peggy Whitson and rookie flier Jack Fischer began what was expected to be a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk more than an hour late, after a cable supplying power and cooling water to Fischer’s spacesuit developed a leak.

The spacewalk was the 200th outing in support of station assembly and maintenance since construction of the $100 billion laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, began in 1998.

And the news item inspired David K.M. Klaus to share his theory why the International Space Station doesn’t run as smoothly as the Starship Enterprise.

The largest department on any version of the ENTERPRISE in STAR TREK had to have been Engineering and Ship’s Services — the redshirts — because of the constant amount of maintenance required to keep the ship running smoothly; we don’t have that kind of balance because the crews aren’t large enough — we have a command structure in theory but not used in reality, and everyone doing both science and engineering / maintenance, so neither science nor maintenance get the full attention they demand.  Only because there are also engineers on the ground in close communication can the work be accomplished.

(5) AMA PATTERSON OBIT. SF Site News reports author and Clarion grad Ama Patterson (1961-2017) died May 1.

[Patterson] helped found the Beyon’ Dusa writing group and the Carl Brandon Society. She served as a judge for the 2001 Tiptree Award and her short fiction appeared in Dark Matter, Scarab, and 80! Memories and Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 12, 1989 — The aquatic monster is back – in The Return of Swamp Thing.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 12, 1935 — Actor, archivist, and legendary monster kid Bob Burns.

(8) MILLIONAIRE BASH. Dick and Jane must be doing a lot more than just seeing Spot run for kindergarteners to be making these numbers — “This Kindergarten Class Threw A ‘Millionaire Bash’ To Celebrate Reading 1 Million Words In A Year”.

Breyden’s mom, Denetta Suragh, told BuzzFeed News the school estimated 1 million words was equal to 250 books, which they kept track of with reading logs.

This year, the entire class met the goal, Suragh said.

“Breyden was really on me about it,” she said. “He was like, ‘I want a limousine ride so we have to turn in all our reading logs!’ It encourages every child to want to read even more.”

(9) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. The ultimate collision of science and science fiction. Hear Neil deGrasse Tyson and William Shatner on Star Talk.

Captain on the bridge: Neil deGrasse Tyson invites Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, to discuss Star Trek and the enduring power of science fiction. Joined by comic co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist Charles Liu, we hit warp speed as we explore the ins and outs of the Star Trek universe. You’ll hear how William landed the iconic role as Captain Kirk and about his memorable role in The Twilight Zone. Charles breaks down why Star Trek: The Original Series was more popular in syndication than during its original on-air run. You’ll also hear William reflect on Star Trek episodes “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboots, the design of the bridge, and his fascination with the science fiction genre. William also gets a chance to ask Neil questions about the universe, igniting a wonder-infused conversation about spacetime, photons, relativity, and the speed of light. NASA Aerospace Technologist David Batchelor stops by to discuss his article “The Science of Star Trek” and weighs in on what technology from the show could soon become reality. All that, plus, fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on the disappearance of the sun, distant galaxies, neutron stars and we check in with Bill Nye as he shares his appreciation for Star Trek’s optimistic views of the future.

(10) EQUAL TIME. Cirsova editor P. Alexander’s only printable tweet in reply to the  discussion here yesterday:

It’s not impossible to
-have friends & readers who were SPs
-support some writers on SP
-have a broadly different view on fiction from SPs

(11) WAVE BYE-BYE. Real cases of the wave in “Wave Rider”, and studies of what makes them happen: “Terrifying 20m-tall rogue waves are actually real”.

However, what really turned the field upside down was a wave that crashed into the Draupner oil platform off the coast of Norway shortly after 3.20pm on New Year’s Day 1995. Hurricane winds were blowing and 39ft (12m) waves were hitting the rig, so the workers had been ordered indoors. No-one saw the wave, but it was recorded by a laser-based rangefinder and measured 85ft (26m) from trough to peak. The significant wave height was 35.4ft (10.8m). According to existing assumptions, such a wave was possible only once every 10,000 years.

The Draupner giant brought with it a new chapter in the science of giant waves. When scientists from the European Union’s MAXWAVE project analysed 30,000 satellite images covering a three-week period during 2003, they found 10 waves around the globe had reached 25 metres or more.

(12) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. “Superbugs ‘Crawled Out’ Of The Ocean 450 Million Years Ago” —  and had lucky genes.

About 450 million years, animals made one of the most important decisions in Earth’s history: They left the wet, nourishing seas and started living on the dry, desolate land.

At that moment, humanity’s problems with superbugs probably began.

Scientists at the Broad Institute have found evidence that an important group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are as old as terrestrial animals themselves.

(13) NOT-SO-SPECIAL. NPR thinks there are too many effects in Arthur: Legend of the Sword; is this a pattern? “‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’: An Edgy Script, Dulled By CGI”.

Note especially the caption on the lead photo.

(14) SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE. Atlas Obscura drops in on the world’s oldest bookshop.

It has changed hands and locations several times and has been renamed 11 different things. But for 285 years, the Livraria Bertrand, as it is known today, has served Lisbon’s bibliophiles and been a space for intellectual and cultural conversations. Opened in 1732, it holds the Guinness record as the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation.

(15) WHEELBARROW BARDS. I don’t know how long this meme will run, but here’s the first three I spotted:

(16) TIMOTHY IN THE OVAL OFFICE. I laughed so much that I was sorely tempted to gank the picture and all of Camestros Felapton’s setup. But fair is fair – go look at the set-up and the payoff post on Camestros’ blog.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, and Ryan H. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/17 Put A Pinch Of Pixel Into Five Cups Of Scrolls And Knead Until It Becomes Lembas

(1) MOUNT TBR. Telluride, Colorado has a new cultural resource – the Clute Science Fiction Library. [Via Ansible Links.]

The library, a program of the Telluride Institute, contains over 11,000 volumes, many of them first editions. It is located on Colorado Avenue next to Ghost Town Grocer.

The Clute Science Fiction Library is intended to be a place of excellence for scholars, writers and researchers, according to Pamela Lifton-Zoline, vice president and founding trustee of the Telluride Institute, a nonprofit that works to enrich “the health of environments, cultures, and economies,” according to the organization’s website.

The volumes were a private collection belonging to John Clute, an award-winning author, essayist and editor of “The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.” Clute contributed over 2 million words and thousands of entries to the encyclopedia.

Clute, who resides in England, has been a trustee of the Telluride Institute since its inception in 1985 — but he has been friends with Lifton-Zoline since high school, where she remembers meeting him in their French class.

“He came into this French class and he was just so exotic, (being) from Canada. We became really good friends,” Lifton-Zoline said. “(The library) is a work of friendship as much as it is a work of ownership.”

She added, “He has promised to bless the library with his visits, his presence, his connections and his whole community of wonderful writers.”

Clute has visited Telluride more times than he can count. He will return again in June 2017, this time to give an inaugural lecture at the Sheridan Opera House entitled: “Those Who Do Not Know Science Fiction are Condemned to Repeat it.”

(2) THE MUSIC INSIDE YOU. Articles that reference Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Inklings research in Bandersnatch don’t usually begin with a great big photo of Beyonce and a hook about the Grammys. The exception is Jeff Goins’ “Why You’ll Never Do Your Best Work Alone”.

When it was released on April 23, 2016, Lemonade credited 72 writers—and earned a swift public backlash as a result. One person on Twitter wrote, “Is this the time of year where we call Beyoncé a musical genius even though she has 50 [to] 100 writers and producers for each album[?]” Another said, “Beyoncé has FIFTEEN writers on one of her songs. But she’s a genius, they say.”

…Beyoncé’s detractors believe geniuses work alone, but history and modern research both suggest not….

…Diana Glyer has spent decades studying the Inklings, that famous literary group that birthed the careers of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. And as she sees it, the myth of the starving artist who works alone is not only wrong, it “robs writers and other creatives of the possibility of writing the way that writing or creating normally takes place, which is in a community.”

Embracing that reality, rather than resisting it, can actually encourage creativity itself by helping us find like-minded creatives to collaborate with. If anything, our success is contingent on our ability to work well with others—which may be just one reason why employers seem so desperate lately to hire people with high emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Of course, we need to spend significant amounts of time alone with our craft. But we also need significant amounts of time with people who can guide us in doing better work.

Otherwise, creative output becomes a much slower, more grueling slog than it needs to be. As Glyer puts it, “the life of an artist, [or of] any kind of creator, is fraught with discouragement. You need people to correct your path.”

(3) SHARING THE SHIELD. In her article “My grandfather helped create Captain America for times like these”, Megan Margulies tells Washington Post readers about her grandfather, Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, and how Captain America “came to symbolize the immense love I had for my grandfather” but also Captain America’s shield is “again serving as a tool to fight all that threatens our Constitution and our national decency.”

Amid the masses of strangers gathered to protest at the Boston Women’s March, I spotted something familiar: that shield — red, white and blue — a simple design that holds the weight of so much conviction. Captain America’s iconic getup caught my eye, not only because of the principles it stands for but because he reminds me of another hero of mine. On Dec. 20, 1940, a year into World War II, my grandfather Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both sons of Jewish immigrants, released the first issue of “Captain America.” The cover featured Cap slugging Adolf Hitler . Because the United States didn’t enter the war until late 1941, a full year later, Captain America seemed to embody the American spirit more than the actions of the American government.

As Cap socked the Führer, many rejoiced, but members of the German American Bund, an American pro-Nazi organization, were disgusted. Jack and my grandfather were soon inundated with hate mail and threatening phone calls, all with the same theme: “Death to the Jews.” As the threats continued, Timely Comics employees became nervous about leaving their building in New York. Then my grandfather took a call from Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who promised to send police officers to protect them. “I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice,” my grandfather recalled in his book “The Comic Book Makers.” “’You boys over there are doing a good job,’ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

(4) BACK TO THE BEAR FLAG. David Klaus sent the following link with a comment: “I have been saying for twenty years that Heinlein accurately predicted an eventual balkanization of the U. S., particularly a ‘California Confederation’ made up of today’s California, Oregon, and Washington ad depicted in Friday — although Northern California is probably more likely to band with the two other states while Southern California will set apart on its own.” — “’California is a nation, not a state’: A fringe movement wants a break from the U.S.”, in the Washington Post.

About 15 people huddled in a luxury apartment building, munching on danishes as they plotted out their plan to have California secede from the United States.

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of an independent California,” Geoff Lewis said as he stood in a glass-walled conference room adorned with California’s grizzly-bear flag and a sign reading “California is a nation, not a state.”

Sweaty onlookers from the gym across the hall peered in curiously.

Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States.

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. The Everyone: Worlds Without Walls Kickstarter reached its minimum goal in the first five days. Since then editor Tony C. Smith has announced the addition of a story by Lavie Tidhar, and now a previously unpublished story by Ken Liu.

(6) WHEN THE EMPIRE STRUCK BACK. Washington Post columnist John Kelly continues his investigation of the Internet myth that the paper fired its film critic for giving Star Wars a bad review (“Would you believe that a Post critic was fired for hating ‘Star Wars’? Well, don’t”). He finds that, like most Internet myths, it’s a garbled version of the truth. Washington Star film critic Tom Dowling stopped writing film reviews (he continued to work for the newspaper) shortly after a May 1980 review where he called The Empire Strikes Back a “two-hour corporate logo explaining the future of the Star Wars industry.”

Several readers…wrote to say it was the Washington Star’s Tom Dowling who was canned for a pan — not of the first film, but its sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.” True?

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Dowling said when Answer Man rang the retired newspaperman up at his home in Northwest Washington. “The story is true as far as it goes. I don’t know how far it factually goes.”

…Never, he wrote, “had such unlimited resources, unparalleled good will and guaranteed formula of success been frittered away in such irreparable fashion.”

For most of its history, the Evening Star was the dominant newspaper in Washington, but by 1980 it had fallen behind The Post. It had been bought in 1978 by Time magazine, which that very week had put Darth Vader on the cover. The story inside noted: “In many ways the new film is a better film than ‘Star Wars,’ visually more exciting, more artful and meticulous in detail.”

Was it corporate embarrassment that got Dowling the ax? Hard to prove. Dowling said that years later, at a reunion of Star employees, a former editor sidled up and told him that Time magazine had a “secret interest” in the movie and executives were worried his pan would discourage people from going to see it.

“I have no idea if that was true,” Dowling said.

But the review had apparently irritated someone. Dowling filed a few more reviews — “The Gong Show Movie,” “Fame” — before Star editor Murray Gart moved him to a column called “Federal Cases” that poked fun at government bureaucracy. (“Actually, it was the most fun I’ve ever had in newspapers,” Dowling said.)

(7) ALDRIDGE OBIT. British artist, graphic designer and illustrator Alan Aldridge died February 17 at the age of 73. Best known as the creator of album covers for The Who (A Quick One) and Elton John (Captain Fantastic), he also worked as Penguin Books’ art director for a number of years. His SF cover artwork and design for Penguin Books is discussed at length here. Andrew Porter observes, “To say he was not popular with Penguin’s owners and the authors published would not be amiss.”

By 1967 Allen Lane was harbouring deep misgivings about the direction Tony Godwin was taking Penguin with regard to the marketing and distribution of fiction. Lane felt that the covers being designed by Alan Aldridge et al. were becoming too commercial and increasingly tasteless. To Lane such covers were undignified and not in keeping with Penguin’s reputation. Worse still, the use of images he regarded as titillating or even offensive was an insult to the books’ authors, some of whom were now making their own feelings known, with more than one threatening to move to another publisher.

Matters were made worse by Godwin’s desire to sell Penguin books in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets. Lane disliked the idea and as booksellers joined authors to protest at the way Penguin was heading so the rift between the two men deepened. To Lane, Aldridge’s ‘vulgar covers’ and Godwin’s ‘gimmicky selling’ were a threat to over thirty years of Penguin tradition and brand identity. If left unchecked it would only be a matter of time before the books were being packaged and sold just like any other consumer product. The crisis came to a head in late April and early May, with a boardroom bust-up that resulted in Godwin’s departure and Lane’s barbed comment that ‘a book is not a tin of beans’.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

Thought to be introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair by brothers F.W. and Louis Rueckheim, legend has it the caramel-coated treat got its name three years later when a salesman — impressed by the process that kept the concoction from sticking together — exclaimed in delight: “That’s cracker jack!”

(9) A ROOM OF KIRK’S OWN. A Boca Raton mansion with Star Trek and other pop culture themed rooms is on the market for $30M.

The nine-bedroom home belongs to Marc Bell, whose portfolio has included Penthouse and Adult Friend Founder over the years. The entrepreneur equipped his one-of-a-kind estate with rooms modeled after the popular TV series/movie franchise, including the bridge from the Starship Enterprise, which serves as the home theater.

Designed by architect Randall Stofft, the Mediterranean villa also features a full-scale Borg model, a fictional alien race first appearing in the Star Trek television series. Other details include a Call-of-Duty-modeled video game room, retro arcade, 16 bathrooms, resort-style pool with waterfalls, wine room, gourmet kitchen, and a full basketball court.

The Star Trek-themed room shows up at the 1-minute mark of this sales video.

(10) HELP ME OBI-WAN. Your wallet may need rescuing after you’ve bought all these — “Hasbro 40th anniversary ‘Star War’ toys recreate classic movie scenes”.

Hasbro has unveiled a new line of retro-style Black Series toys for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars this spring. And they’re unveiling them with this series of photos featuring the playthings recreating memorable scenes from the film.

Although these new 6-inch toys are much larger than the Kenner originals that hit shelves in late 1977, they are displayed in similar bubble and card packaging — for an extra helping of nostalgia. (Hasbro acquired Kenner in 1991.) Each of the toys retails for $19.99 and will be available later this spring.

Above, you see the new Black Series Han, Leia, and Luke fleeing Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers in a scene aboard the Death Star.

(11) CAST A GIANT SHADOW. New posts at the Shadow Clarke site. Two more jurors introduce themselves, plus a “guess the shortlist and win the books” competition.

The Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Anglia Ruskin University is delighted to host a competition for readers to guess the short list.

The winner, thanks to the generosity of the Arthur C Clarke Award, will receive copies of all six of this year’s shortlisted novels.

To enter, post a comment in reply to this post with a list of six books (no more, no fewer), selected from the list of 86 eligible submissions, along with a rationale as to why you think that shortlist will be the ones which the judges have chosen. Pingbacks won’t be accepted as entries.

That is what makes the Clarke Award great. The fact that it doesn’t conform to genre stereotypes, the fact that it bucks the trend, the fact that it regards science fiction as the broadest of broad churches, and will look anywhere within that spectrum for the best. And that restless, wide-ranging aspect of the award is what gets people arguing about it. And that argument is good, not just for the award itself (though it does keep the award alive in people’s minds), but for science fiction as a whole. Because the more the Clarke Award challenges our expectations, the more it opens us up to an ever wider, ever changing sense of what science fiction is and can be.

Let’s face it, the biggest debate within science fiction at the moment is the debate surrounding the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and that debate is all about narrowing science fiction. The Puppies want to enclose and limit the genre, restrict it to a narrow spectrum that resembles the science fiction they remember from the 1950s: overwhelmingly masculine, almost entirely American, distinctly technophiliac, and ignoring the literary changes that have occurred within the genre over the last half century. This is science fiction that repeats what has gone before, that depends upon its familiarity; this is science fiction that is not going anywhere new. Okay, some work that fits within this spectrum can be interesting and important, but it cannot be, it should not be, the whole of science fiction. The best way to counter the Puppies’ argument is with the sort of expansionist, innovative, challenging argument about science fiction that has traditionally been associated with the Clarke Award.

I don’t particularly like SF, which is also to say that I am very particular about SF. My relationship to SF has been long, unbidden, unlabeled, and mostly uninformed, and I suspect this is the case for the majority of human beings who are not in fandom, but who have, at some point, been drawn to a kind of storytelling that presents the world in a way that’s different from our reality. Those same folks who are non-fans might not want to read books because they think books are boring (they often are), they don’t read SF because they think it’s dorky (it often is), and they’re not involved in fandom because there’s life to live (though perhaps not for very much longer). I completely get this. Even the term “SF” is relatively new to me: I doubt I’ve ever said “SF” in public, much less “SFnal”; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never said “SFnal” out loud. SFnal. I said it. It echoed off the kitchen walls and it sounded unfamiliar and now I feel weird.

So you don’t have to tell me there’s a problem in SF. There are a number of problems, not the least of which are its fannish exclusiveness and its inability to properly recognize itself, its shortcomings, and its potential.

SPIELS ON WHEELS. Messy Chic has a cool gallery of old bookmobile photographs.

Long before Amazon was bringing books to your doorstep, there was the Bookmobile! A travelling library often used to provide books to villages and city suburbs that had no library buildings, the bookmobile went from a simple horse-drawn cart in the 19th century to large customised vehicles that became part of American culture and reached their height of popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with this forgotten four-wheeler…

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Nila Thompson Passes Away

Nila Thompson (1954-2016), St. Louis club and con fan, Anglophile, who came in to fandom via Star Trek and met her husband David K. M. Klaus at a Trek club meeting.  Partially fafiated to raise to adulthood two of the Next Generation of fen, but never lost her love for sf/fantasy, written or screened, esp. any with a British theme.  Died on December 10 of ovarian cancer, body buried in a deliberately natural fashion so that it can nourish the future.  She was 62.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

(1) OPENING DAY. The PKDFest is three days long — I posted about the Friday and Saturday sessions at Cal State Fullerton. The party starts Thursday, April 28 on another campus — at UC Irvine.

PKD IN OC CROP

Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Humanities Gateway 1030)

Philip K. Dick spent the last decade of his life from 1972 to 1982 in Orange County, having fled the Bay Area convinced he was the target of various malevolent forces, ranging from governmental agencies to religious groups. In Orange County, PKD experienced the anonymity of everyday life in suburbia. He also experienced a divine vision that, as he explained in later writings, permitted him to glimpse the “trans-temporal constancy” of the universe. During his decade in Orange County, he produced some of his most enduring and enigmatic works, including novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS that reflect a pervasive sense of paranoia and also PKD’s attempts to make sense of his life-altering spiritual experience.

Schedule:

Opening Remarks & Welcome – 10:30am

  • Jonathan Alexander

10:45am-12:00pm

  • Interviewing Phil, Charles Platt
  • PKD in Perspective, Gregg Rickman
  • PKD on the Couch, Barry Spatz

Lunch Break – 12:00pm-1:00pm

Living with Phil – 1:00pm-2:00pm

  • Tessa Dick, Grania Davis, Gregory Benford (moderator)

Visualizing Phil (in the High Castle and Otherwise) – 2:00pm-3:00pm

  • Sherryl Vint, Jonathan Alexander, Antoinette LaFarge

Coffee break – 3:00pm-3:15pm

PKD and Privacy – 3:15pm-4:30pm

  • David Brin, Gregory Benford

Closing Reception – 4:30pm

Please RSVP to icruse@uci.edu to confirm your attendance.

(2) B.C. Things Kelly Link did before being announced as a Pulitzer finalist yesterday now appear in a strange new light….

(3) VENDORS IN SPACE. Russ Ault told Facebook readers merchants are getting a bum deal at Worldcons.

Some of us out here in the world of convention merchants have, for some time now, been getting increasingly disenchanted with the opportunity presented by the typical Worldcon. (For those unfamiliar, that’s the annual “World Science Fiction Convention”, held in a different place each year, and nominally staffed and run by a different group each year as well.) In a space that is typically similar to that occupied by a Wizard World event, at a cost of more than twice as much per attendee, they end up hosting a crowd that is just 10% to 25% of the size of the typical media or comic con – but the rates they want for vendor space (when you include the price of the separate membership) end up being commensurate with the worst of the WW shows in terms of per-live-body-square-foot results. An eight-foot table and one membership will cost you over $400, with the prospect of having a crowd of as few as 3500 to 4000 people. (Compare that to a 10×10 booth for $1500 with a delivered head count that’s typically in the area of 20,000 – which is not really a very good deal either.)

And they wonder why we bristle when they say things like “The Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything.”

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHARM. Hugh Hancock foresees the “Rise of the Trollbot” in a guest post on Charles Stross’ blog.

… In “Accelerando”, Charlie posited the idea of a swarm of legal robots, creating a neverending stream of companies which exchange ownership so fast they can’t be tracked.

It’s rather clear to me that the same thing is about to happen to social media. And possibly politics.

What makes me so sure?

Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot. Oh, and the state of the art in Customer Relationship Management software….

2: On The Internet, No-one Knows Their Friend Is A Dog.

In many ways, the straightforward trollswarm approach is the least threatening use of this technology. A much more insidious one is to turn the concept on its head – at least initially – and optimise the bots for friendliness.

Let’s say you wish to drive a particular group of fly-fishers out of the fishing community online for good.

Rather than simply firing up a GPU instance and directing it to come up with the world’s best fly-fishing insults, fire it up and direct it to befriend everyone in the fly-fishing community. This is eminently automatable: there are already plenty of tools out there which allow you to build up your Twitter following in a semi-automated manner (even after Twitter clamped down on “auto-following”), and Tay was already equipped to post memes. A decent corpus, a win condition of follows, positive-sentiment messages and RTs, and a bot could become a well-respected member of a social media community in months.

THEN turn the bot against your enemies. Other humans will see the fight too. If your bot’s doing a half-decent job – and remember, it’s already set up to optimise for RTs – real humans, who have actual power and influence in the community, will join in. They may ban the people under attack from community forums, give them abuse offline, or even threaten their jobs or worse.

For even more power and efficiency, don’t do this with one bot. One person starting a fight is ignorable. Twenty, fifty or a hundred respected posters all doing it at once – that’s how things like Gamergate start.

(And of course, the choice of persona for the bots, and how they express their grievances, will be important. Unfortunately we already have a large corpus of information on how to craft a credible narrative and cause people to feel sympathy for our protagonist – storytelling. If the bot-controller has a decent working knowledge of “Save The Cat” or “Story”, that’ll make the botswarm all the more effective…)

(5) A NUMERICAL LACK. From the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, ”a compendium of imaginary words and their uses,”comes —

Anquintan, n.

a person without five

That’s what happens when someone uses double share!

(6) DO AS I SAY. Dr. Mauser says “Don’t Pirate Indies”. (But dude, your blog is named Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas!)

…. Now, I understand a bit of what’s going on, there’s an awful lot of piracy going on out there, and yeah, in strictest terms, virtually every picture you’ve got on your phone or hard drive that you didn’t take yourself is some kind of copyright violation. I’m not going to go down that puritan road. But let me go through the usual excuses and explain why they don’t apply to indy books….

But I’m broke! – No, you’re not, you just can’t prioritize, or childishly can’t manage your budget. We’re talking an e-book in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. Hell, Comic books are about that much apiece these days. You just bought the latest video game for enough to buy TEN eBooks. You could stock a library for what you spent on that Con. Give up ONE Latte? (Furries are particularly notorious for pleading poverty when their favorite artists put out a $10 portfolio, then drop $50 for a single commission of their personal character in some sexual position – go fig.)

Hey, I’m doing you a favor, it’s free publicity! – Bullshit. In my friend’s case, it’s costing him plenty – hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Free publicity is writing reviews, having discussions, all that stuff they call “Word of Mouth”, and actually BUYING the book so that its Amazon Rankings go up. If you actually Love the author’s work, why are you destroying it?

(7) CAT’S PICTURES. Cat Rambo tells “How I Use Instagram”.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 19, 1987 — The Simpsons first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show.

(9) MORTALITY. Rachel Swirsky has revised her essay “On Writing and Mortality”. “It was originally published in 2011. I had recently had a death scare.”

A year or two ago, an article made the rounds which had asked a number of famous authors for ten pieces of writing advice. Some of the advice was irritating, some banal, some profound, and some amusing.

One piece of advice that got picked up and repeated was the idea that if you were working on a project, and found out that you had six weeks to live, if you were willing to set the project down then it was the wrong project for you to be writing.

I dislike that advice. It seems to come from the same place that makes writers say things like “a real writer has to write” or “any writers who can be discouraged should be.” (A convenient excuse for acting like a jerk.)

(10) GOOGLE BOOK SCANNING UPHELD. “Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project”. As David Klaus puts it, “The court says ‘to Hell with your ownership of the books you write.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir “Ball Four.”

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

(11) WICKED AUTOGRAPH. Abe Books has a special Something available for Bradbury fans.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. (SIGNED)

BRADBURY, Ray, [ Christopher Lee ].

Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1962 Second Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket. (1962)

Used Hardcover Signed

…Signed presentation from the author on the front endpaper to Christopher Lee, ‘For Christopher Lee, who is Mr. Dark! With the admiration of his fan – Ray Bradbury, Mar. 21st 1964’. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE,(1922–2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. He was notably in ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ but is best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films and later as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

(12) SPOCK AT TRIBECA. Yahoo! Movies’ Seth Kelley has the story: “’For the Love of Spock’ Q&A Remembers Leonard Nimoy, Talks Future of ‘Star Trek’ Franchise”.

Adam Nimoy remembered his late father, Leonard, during a Q&A that followed a screening of his documentary “For The Love of Spock.” The discussion took place on Monday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival where the film first screened two days earlier.

Variety‘s Gordon Cox moderated the conversation, which also included Zachary Quinto, EP David Zappone and film critic and self-proclaimed Trekker Scott Mantz.

Adam Nimoy, who wrote and directed the film, said that he had plenty of material. “A lot of things got left on the cutting room floor, unfortunately,” he said. But he added that his father would have approved of the final cut. “I think he would be very pleased and proud.”

(13) IMMURED. “Elizabeth Banks Unrecognizable As Power Rangers Reboot’s Rita Repulsa” says Yahoo! News.

People magazine has lifted the lid on 2017?s live action ‘Power Rangers’ reboot by revealing the film’s villain Rita Repulsa as played – beneath layers of costume and prosthetic make up – by Elizabeth Banks.

The ‘Hunger Games’ star is channelling her dark side to play the mean green witch – her first villain role – describing the character as “a modern and edgy re-imagining of the original Rita”.

(14) CROWDSOURCED BOWIE TRIBUTE. Unbound’s project Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie will be an anthology of writers inspired by the musician.

Our mourning isn’t over, but we want to write, we’ve got to write: to him, for him, about him. Fill Your Heart: Writers On Bowie is an anthology by some of our greatest contemporary writers. It is an anthology celebrating David Bowie with creativity. Whether a short story, a poem, a piece of memoir, psychogeograhy or creative non-fiction, these pieces will be personal responses to Bowie, to his shaping work and influence.

Edited by the novelist Tiffany Murray, this will be an important celebration, possibly a strange, mad celebration, but it is for anyone who was and is inspired by David Bowie and his work.

Fill Your Heart will be creating something new, a bold anthology that in some way shows us all how Bowie sparked each generation’s imaginations: how he made us.

Let’s spark together.

The collection is 11% funded so far.

(15) GUARDIANS. A Russian Marvel-esque superhero flick. It’s called Zaschitniki (Russian) or Guardians (English).

Set during the Cold War, a secret organization named “Patriot” gathered a group of Soviet superheroes, altering and augmenting the DNA of four individuals, in order to defend the homeland from supernatural threats. The group includes representatives of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union, which each one of them have long been hiding their true identity. In hard times, they settled down to business and gather to defend their homeland.

 

[Thanks to Kendall, JJ, Will R., Gregory Benford, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]