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.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14 The 7 Pixels of Highly Effective Scrolls

(1) Here is Hampus Eckerman, “A happy Filer on way to see The Martian.”

Eckerman on way to see Martian RT COMP

(2) But did he know that The Martian is a comedy? Nobody else knew it either until the people who run a set of Hollywood awards started playing games —

The Martian is one of my favorite films of 2015. It was intellectually stimulating, inspiring, thrilling, and even funny here and there, but was it a comedy? I don’t think so, but that’s the opinion of Hollywood Foreign Press: the organization behind the Golden Globes award. Apparently, the film is being shuffled over into comedy so it’ll have a chance to snatch a few awards–any awards–from the grasps of lighter fare: something that it won’t be able to do in the drama category, where there’s stiffer competition.

(3) In case anybody is really going to Mars, NASA wants to have spacesuits ready:

NASA is not wasting any time in developing new spacesuits to be used in a variety of locations for the Journey To Mars. Two new suits, PXS and Z2, were introduced in October and they have now reached the stage of working advanced prototypes.

The PXS, or prototype exploration spacesuit, was developed to improve performance on extra-vehicular activities (EVAs), spacewalks, in low-earth orbit or outer space. The suit aims to minimize the amount of equipment necessary for long duration EVAs. The PXS has a versatile approach to fittings. Many features are 3D printed, so the suit can be personalized for any crew member and for different types of EVAs.

(4) Remember Westworld, “Where nothing can possibly go wrong…”? If you’re going to the screening of Westworld at the Ace Hotel in LA on November 15, please note that the correct start time is 1:00 PM, not 2:00 PM as displayed in the original show banner.

Westworld screening COMP

(5) Neil deGrasse Tyson will start a 10-city speaking tour in January 2016.

Join Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, award winning- astrophysicist, author, and host of FOX’s Cosmos for an evening of engaging conversation on science, exploration and the world as we know it.

(6) Fantasy Faction has an extensive and quite interesting report of the Gollancz Festival for Writers.

On Sunday, 18th of October, prolific SFF publisher Gollancz held the Gollancz Festival for Writers, as a sort of addendum to the already sold-out Gollancz Festival 2015. It had a smaller line-up of authors compared to the main festival itself, and focused solely on writing (obviously). I was gutted that the main festival sold out so it was a pleasant surprise when this was announced, and I snapped up tickets immediately.

The main line-up consisted of Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, Joanne Harris and Joe Hill. Out of these four, I’d only read Abercrombie, and I’ve also seen him at events twice before (including Fantasy-Faction’s own Grim Gathering). Joe is one of my favourite writers and also a joy to see speak, so I was already thrilled to be going, but also seeing three other authors I’ve not seen before was a massive bonus.

(7) David K. M. Klaus sent a link to Daniel Castro’s op-ed at Computerworld, “’Ban the killer robots’ movement could backfire”.

Efforts to establish a global ban on offensive autonomous weapons — a.k.a. “killer robots” — have intensified in recent weeks. This uptick in lobbying comes on the heels of an open letter calling for such a ban from a group of artificial intelligence and robotics researchers, including well-known luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Noam Chomsky.

Unfortunately, these efforts have stigmatized much-needed research on autonomous robots that will be central to increasing economic productivity and quality of life over the next half century — but only if the technology is able to be developed. Rather than allowing those predicting a techno-dystopia to dominate the debate, policymakers should vocally champion the benefits of autonomous robots — including in the military — and embrace policies designed to accelerate their development and deployment.

Klaus responded:

“Ban the Killer Robots!” sounds like a demonstration-slogan shout in a scene on Futurama or something from an Ed Wood movie, but this article is about a real organization with real concerns.

From tele-operated drones to rudimentary A.I. in battlefield machines, they’re worried about the further mechanization of war against enemies of a lower technological level which would still be using human soldiers.

Nobody uses the word “cylon” but it sure as hell was the first thing that came to my mind.

And — I am not making this up — according to Twitter, one of the followers of “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” tweets is Edward James Olmos.

I keep remembering this quotation by Allen Ginsberg, that “We live in science fiction.”  That’s always resonated with me as prophetic, and it becomes more and more true every year.

(8) The BBC would like to get Tom Hanks on Doctor Who.

‘Doctor Who’ has attracted some impressive guest stars over the years including Brian Blessed, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, and more recently Maisie Williams, but it seems like the Beeb has its sights set on an even higher stratosphere of names for the future.

Peter Capaldi, the actor currently in the lead role, says his BBC bosses asked him to tap up Tom Hanks to appear on the hit sci-fi show.

Not that he’d actually have to parallel any role he’s done in movies, but Hanks has experience with some of the show’s familiar tropes – he’s been through a time paradox in Radio Flyer, had his own Pompeii moment in Joe Versus the Volcano, and had an extended lifespan in The Green Mile.

(9) John King Tarpinian has been catching up on Scream Queens: [Spoiler Warning]

I watched the other night’s episode this afternoon, they had a big belly laugh scene. Jamie Leigh Curtis is taking a shower, the opening of which is shot-for-shot the same as her mother did for Hitchcock.  Except that Jamie beats down the bad guy saying, “I’ve seen the movie like fifty times.”

(10) WIRED’s article “We Flew a Lego X-Wing Into the Death Star Because Awesome” has a clever video of exactly what you’d expect from that title.

You can’t make an omelette, they say, without breaking a few eggs. Well, you also can’t blow up a Death Star without crashing a few X-wings. (That was the lesson of Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, right?) But while that sucks if you’re Porkins or one of his pilot brethren, the collision of X-wings and Death Stars makes for some pretty awesome destruction.

(11) Today In History

  • November 14, 1964:  Santa Claus Versus The Martians is released – generally regarded as one of the worst films ever made…

(12) Today’s Birthday Girl

Man, this has been a shitty year in many ways, and one full of life lessons that apparently the universe felt were overdue. Some of those I’m still grappling with. I am so freaking behind on this book it’s not even funny, but thank god for both the wonderful time spent writing in California this summer and the kick in the ass that NaNoWriMo has administered. I’m feeling hopeful about that again and making steady progress.

At the same time among the bumps there’s been plenty of bright spots. Among them my first novel, my first appearance in a Year’s Best collection (edited by Joe Hill, no less), and my first acceptance to longtime goal Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (I have been submitting there for over a decade now). I’ve had nineteen original publications come out since my last birthday, and twelve are currently forthcoming, including a team-up with Mike Resnick. Rachel Swirsky and I are working on some projects together, which is terrific fun. I have a good half dozen stories already spoken for. My collaboration with Bud Sparhawk finally got accepted so he can stop nagging me about why it hasn’t sold yet.

(13) So H. P. Lovecraft was actually a good Democrat? Scott Edelman ran this quote in a 2010 blog post, “What H. P. Lovecraft Thought of Republicans”.

As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.

(14) You can buy Forrest J Ackerman Presents Music For Robots, created by Frank Coe, on iTunes for $9.99.

The album was released in 2005. It seems that some (all?) of it has already been uploaded to YouTube.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/25 The Shapeshifting Starship Captain Who Shouted “Fromage!” At The Heart Of The World

(1) Watch out for bi-Klingual train conductors!

A Trek-referencing TV commercial is nominated for a national award in Austria reports Nina Horvath at Europa SF.

What is it all about? Two men dressed up as Klingons go by underground railway (yes, it is the underground railway, although it goes above-ground in this scene) in Vienna, when they find out that a ticket controller is around. As they haven´t bought a ticket, they decide to confuse the ticket controller (by the way a pretty blonde woman) with Klingon language. But she also replies to them in Klingon and seems to know enough about Klingon culture, to call them “dishonourable worms”. What follows is an advertisement for the “Volkshochschule Wien”, a school where adults can take several courses, e.g. on languages. (Probably also Klingon …?)

Public voting for the winner continues until November 3 here (German language website).

(2) Richard C. White, in “World Building 101: The Village” at Black Gate, vents about cliché adventurers who return to the local village to spend their newfound treasure.

If you’re like me, that scene sounds awfully familiar. It’s appeared too often in bad fantasy stories, bad fantasy movies, and WAY too many role playing games. “But Rich,” you say, “the party has to have somewhere to spend their treasure. Otherwise, there’s no point in giving it out?”

And my response is, “You’re absolutely right, but for the wrong reasons.” Let me explain what I mean. (Good, otherwise this would be a darn short blog entry – Editor).

The biggest problem is, that scene above should be taking place in a large town or at least a small city. A medieval (or pseudo-medieval) village is not going to have jewelers or places to sell magic items (if you’re doing that kind of fantasy). The tavern is not going to have a bevy of barmaids and taverns do not traditionally sell food — that’s what the inn was for (if there even was an inn). And why in heaven’s name would you have a village that close to a dungeon populated by evil creatures anyway? Most sensible villagers would have packed up and moved to safer places years ago (if they hadn’t all been killed in their sleep by the monsters). No, this village in the scenario above seems to have only one purpose — to provide adventurers with a place to stay while they’re off looting the local dungeon de jure. Not only is that not realistic — it’s boring.

(3) A New Yorker profile of Guillermo del Toro from 2011 begins with a LASFS connection —

[Forrest J] Ackerman founded a cult magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and, more lucratively, became an agent for horror and science-fiction writers. He crammed an eighteen-room house in Los Feliz with genre memorabilia, including a vampire cape worn by Bela Lugosi and a model of the pteranodon that tried to abscond with Fay Wray in “King Kong.” Ackerman eventually sold off his collection to pay medical bills, and in 2008 he died. He had no children.

But he had an heir. In 1971, Guillermo del Toro, the film director, was a seven-year-old misfit in Guadalajara, Mexico. He liked to troll the city sewers and dissolve slugs with salt. One day, in the magazine aisle of a supermarket, he came upon a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland. He bought it, and was so determined to decode Ackerman’s pun-strewed prose—the letters section was called Fang Mail—that he quickly became bilingual.

Del Toro was a playfully morbid child. One of his first toys, which he still owns, was a plush werewolf that he sewed together with the help of a great-aunt. In a tape recording made when he was five, he can be heard requesting a Christmas present of a mandrake root, for the purpose of black magic…

(4) The Martian remains in first place at box office, however, several other genre movies failed on their opening weekend.

Four new films, including Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter, crowded into theaters this weekend and were swiftly pulverized and left for dead.

And John King Tarpinian says he saw only seven people in the audience at a showing of Bill Murray vehicle Rock The Kasbah.

(5) On Reddit — Author Becky Chambers will be joining us in SF Book Club to discuss The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on October 28!

Details are yet to be fully worked out, but will look something like the rest: she’ll come in the morning to post a thread where we can ask questions, then come back in the afternoon/evening to answer the posted questions and interact with folks for a while.

(6) David K.M. Klaus questions the taste of using a formation of stormtroopers on the Great Wall of China to promote the next Star Wars film.

Yeah, this is cute — except that it looks just like the mass exercise and marching China used to have and North Korea still does — and “Imperial Stormtroopers”, had they existed, would have been used to rout the students and destroy the statues of the Goddess of Democracy in Tianamen Square in 1989.

Today “Tank Man” blocks the path of an AT-AT walker.

Thanks, Disney! Unfrozen, conventionally-buried-at-Forest-Lawn Unca Walt is a veritable whirligig in his grave right now.

(7) John Hertz responds to the notice in the October 23 Scroll about the passing of Harriett Klausner:

Of more immediate interest to us, Klausner was a pillar of Barry Hunter’s reviewzine Baryon, which came in the mail (Ned Brooks R.I.P.) for years.  She read and wrote fluently and much, and wherever I formed an opinion of my own, well; she had few companions, perhaps no equals.  I don’t believe I’ve seen a later issue than B 129 in 2014, but that if accurate is hardly conclusive in Fanzineland.

(8) I received this link to “The 40 Most Awesome Supergirl Covers” at Comic Book Resources with the admonition “For Historical Reference ONLY.” I’d say the covers are pretty tame – it’s CBR’s own Supergirl header that tends toward the cliché.

supergirl cover

(9) Tufts University political scientist Daniel W. Drezner looked at the Star Wars trailers and concluded that the rebels were “guilty of poor post-war planning” in “’Star Wars, Episode VII’: The Rebel Alliance’s catastrophic success”.

The evidence is right there in this trailer and the previous two. The desert planet of Jakku does not seem to have benefited all that much from the three-decades-old Rebel victory. Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, appears to be a scavenger, and the planet is just littered with Imperial wreckage. If that hasn’t been cleaned up after 30 years, it’s a good sign that the Rebel Alliance has failed at statebuilding.

He also wonders why they didn’t revive the Senate or let the people know that Darth Vader switched sides minutes before he died.

(10) Time to move to Canada? Netflix will stream Star Wars: The Force Awakens there in 2016.

Fortuitously for Netflix Canada subs, the company’s deal with Disney started with 2015 releases after the previous agreements for the pay-TV window with Corus Entertainment and Bell Canada expired. A Netflix rep confirmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is slated to come to the service in the country; under the terms of the deal, that will occur approximately eight months after the movie leaves theaters.

(11) Political scientists should also be looking at the world’s newest nation – it’s in a remote corner of Utah.

There is a four-acre piece of land in northwestern Box Elder County that very few people know about. Even fewer people recognize it as what it’s meant to be — its own country.

A decade ago, Zaq Landsberg, a man from New York, bought the land online with a unique goal in mind.

“The conceptual goal is I want it to become a real country,” Landsberg said. “I mean, that goal is not going to happen. It’s impossible, but going through the motions, (I’m) trying to make that happen.”

The area is known to Landsberg as the Republic of Zaqistan, and he is its president….

Zaqistan has its own flag, a border patrol gate, a supply bunker, a robot sentry that guards the land and even official passports.

“Zaqistan works the best, I think, when it’s wedged up against the real world, and when the passports circulate,” Landsberg said.

The passports look and feel real. You can even get them stamped when entering and exiting his land.

 

One Man?s Sovereign Nation

(12) What, wait, what? William Shatner was The Chairman on the original Iron Chef USA?

(This attempt to import the popular Japanese series preceded the later, successful Iron Chef America.)

There’s a short clip from an episode on YouTube. Chairman Shatner mugs for the camera starting at about :10.

(13) Ann Leckie fans have reported a great disturbance in the force!

(14) While we’re in the midst of this Ann Leckie festival, take a listen to Comedrinkwithme’s musical rendition of “It All Goes Around”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Gregory Benford, Will R., Jim Henley, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Wolf’s Empire Is On The Way

By David Klaus: I was looking at SDCC videos on YouTube, including the first of three parts of the Babylon 5 cast panel, during which Claudia Christian mentioned that by the time of next year’s SDCC her novel Wolf’s Empire will be published by Tor.

It’s part of a saga/series, the first of four books.

Puppies will partially like it as she described it as, and I quote: “military sci-fi in a Rome which never fell.”  You don’t get more Manly Man than in a Roman Army story — if Rome had had firearms, they’d be beating their brains to peanut butter trying to invent a time machine to go to Puppy Heaven.

However they’re going have the problems that the protagonist is a “female gladiator and discus throwing bad-ass”) and the publisher is Tor, “one of [her] favorite publishers.”

She also said it was “more violent than Homer and more sexy than Game of Thrones.”