Pixel Scroll 9/18/17 The Lethal Weapon Shops Of Isher

(1) GOOD OMENS. Shooting began yesterday… After they got Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins (Terry’s manager) to return a necessary bit of equipment:

Me, with @terry_and_rob. They cannot start shooting Good Omens as we have stolen their clapperboard.

A post shared by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on

And Terry Pratchett’s account tweeted a photo of David Tennant and Michael Sheen in costume as Crowley and Aziraphale. [H/T to Nerd & Tie blog.]

(2) HIGH EXPECTATIONS. Joe Sherry gets on the scoreboard with a “Microreview [book]: Provenance, by Ann Leckie” at Nerds of a Feather.

Let’s start like this: Provenance is a novel about family, identity, culture, truth, and what it means to belong.  Provenance is set in the universe of Ann Leckie’s earlier Imperial Radch trilogy, but only connects with references and by association. This is not Breq’s Story 2.0. This is the story of a young woman, Ingray, attempting to run a pretty significant con in order to impress her mother, the matriarch of the Aughskold family.  She’s a bit out of her league on this one.  There’s something about hiring a company to rescue a disgraced member of a rival family out of a prison planet called Compassionate Removal with the hope / assumption that he will be willing to embarrass his family and help hers by providing her with stolen “vestiges” from his family.

A word about vestiges. Vestiges are highly valued historical documents and items, which could range from documents similar to a Declaration of Independence or the American Liberty Bell to an original copy of a famous speech or perhaps some sort of miscellany from some long ago gala where someone famous appeared. The older and the more historical the vestige, the more valuable and the more important the vestige. Vestiges can, in some respects, represent the identity of not only a family, but the heritage of an entire world.

So, what happens when some of the most significant of them are quietly called into question?

(3) HUGO HISTORY. Just like you read in one of those clickbait history articles about some artifact that sat unrecognized on a museum storage shelf for time out of mind, at last someone has recognized the significance of the lists in a 1956 Worldcon progress report. The official Hugo Award site announced the find in “1956 Hugo Award Page Updated”.

Thanks to new information coming to light, we have updated the 1956 Hugo Award history page with the finalists that appeared on the ballot that year. We thank Olav Rokne for bringing to our attention an article on page 15 of the 1956 Worldcon Progress Report 3 that included the names of the finalists along with voting instructions.

Note that the order in which the finalists are listed is the same order that they appeared in the progress report and does not imply order of finish on final ballot. According to the article, the final ballot included space for write-in candidates. In Best Fanzine, one of the winners appears to have been such a write-in. In Best Professional Magazine, no finalists were listed at all, so all votes were write-ins.

Also, Kevin Standlee said in a comment here:

Remember that in those early days, the rules were “whatever the committee says” and were probably first-past-the-post, and quite possibly “close enough, we’ll call it a tie.” We’ll probably never know the full details. Over time, the model for the Hugo Awards has been evolving toward “tell us everything you possibly can short of how each individual person voted.”

(4) LONG LIST 3. David Steffen has launched his Kickstarter for “Long List Anthology Volume 3”, the third edition of an anthology series of stories loved by Hugo voters – this year including stories by Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, and others.

The base goal of the campaign will include only the short stories.  There will be stretch goals to add novelettes and novellas.  The goals listed here include only stories that I’ve heard agreement back from the authors–some queries to authors are still pending, there may be another story or two added as an additional stretch goal.  If these stretch goals are reached, I may add on other goals as well.

This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission. Please note that the anthology is NOT called “The Hugo Long List Anthology”. It is called “The Long List Anthology”, or the full wordy title: “The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List”.  (I’m noting this because it’s pretty commonly referred to by the wrong name)

At this writing people have contributed $1,094 of its $1,700 goal.

(5) THE FUTURE IS NOW. Eliza Angyanwe of The Guardian says of Nnedi Okorafor, “the Nigerian-American writer is flying the flag for black, female geeks” — “‘So many different types of strange’: how Nnedi Okorafor is changing the face of sci-fi”.

As the science fiction novelist Nnedi Okorafor takes to the stage at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania, she challenges stereotypes before she has said a word. The 43-year-old writer who won the 2016 Hugo award (the Oscars of the sci-fi world) for best novella doesn’t look like much of a geek. Yes, she wears oversized glasses, but Okorafor’s specs are trendy, royal-blue Cat-Eyes, not wiry aviators. And, crucially, she happens to be a black woman.

The Nigerian-American’s success has been applauded as a victory by a community that has long cheered her on from the margins. So when she tweeted on 11 August that she was working on her first project with the comic publisher Marvel, fans were thrilled. (“A Marvel story. Written by a Nigerian woman. Set in Lagos. Superhero’s name: NGOZI. What a time to be alive,” wrote one fan on Twitter) And with a novel, Who Fears Death, to be adapted for TV by HBO (George RR Martin is its executive producer) Okorafor is about to go from the solitary geek reference-point for young African women to everybody’s favourite new sci-fi writer.

(6) MORE SUPERHEROS. The Teen Titans are coming to CW (well, actually, to DC’s new digital service.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1973 – Georgia governor (and future President) Jimmy Carter reports a UFO sighting.
  • September 18, 1989Alien Nation premiered on TV.
  • September 13, 2002 – The third incarnation of The Twilight Zone TV series premiered.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Web comic artist M. Patrinos of Seasonal Depression made this clever comic about the questionable marketing decisions LEGO has made to target girls with the “LEGO Friends” line.

(9) GET YOUR SHARE OF SMUGGLED BOOKS. Ana Grilo & Thea James from The Book Smugglers have added a bunch of new signed copies of books as reward levels for donors to “The Book Smugglers: Level Up” Kickstarter.

Thanks to the generosity of some of the best SFF and YA authors out there, we have a number of signed copies of new and upcoming books including but not limited to: Provenance by multiple-award winner Ann Leckie, audiobooks of the astonishingly good Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, both Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem by the incomparable Yoon Ha Lee, the YA time travel Fantasy The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, and many more.

We also have MAPS AND ART! Aliette de Bodard donated a copy of House of Binding Thorns, along with character art by Hugo Award nominated artist M. Sereno! And Megan Whalen Turner is offering signed copies of not only her entire Queen’s Thief series (and we turned that into a SUPER MEGA reward level for SUPER FANS) but also a cool map of that world.

They’re raising money for “A brand new season of short stories and novelettes, new contributors, …a new look and more.” As of today, backers have given $8,068 toward their $16,500 goal, with 16 days to run.

(10) THE POET FROM BEGINNING TIL NOW. SPECPO, in “Monsters and Heroes: An Interview with Bryan D. Dietrich”, quizzes the author of a book-length study on comics, Wonder Woman Unbound, and six books of poems, who’s also co-editor of Drawn to Marvel, the world’s first anthology of superhero poetry, and a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

When are you most satisfied with a poem you’ve written?

When it surprises me.

When it does something I never do.

When it loses control and runs rogue, only to come back to the pack.

When it makes me cry.

When it reminds me why I started writing poems in the first place, which is to say when it lives up to the debt I owe to the language I love.

George Orwell once famously said that a poetry reading is “a grisly thing.” How do you feel about poetry readings?

Well, I think reading about a man having his soul broken in a locked room with a locked cage filled with rats attached to his face is a pretty grisly thing too, but then who am I to judge?

(11) CRACKDOWN ON NAZI COSPLAY. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports “Rose City Comic Con Taking Firmer Stance Against Nazi ‘Cosplay’”.

When you get down to it, there are two kinds of people who put on Nazi cosplay. There are people who are two microfocused on their fandom to think about how what they’re wearing will be perceived by the people around them, and then there are people who are completely aware of it and it’s the whole reason they’re doing it. The former are good people who need to take their convention blinders off (and I’ve been complaining about this issue for a while). The latter though are people who have no place in our community, and we need to take a stand against it as a community.

(12) ASSUME A KINDER, GENTLER ASTEROID. “What if dinosaurs hadn’t died out?” — a fannish preoccupation.

Imagine a world where an asteroid hadn’t wiped out the dinosaurs. What would have happened afterwards – and how might their presence have affected mammals like us?

…Even closer to the present day, dinosaurs would have had to deal with the various ice ages of the past 2.6 million years. But we know that Cretaceous dinosaurs were living above the Arctic Circle. “Maybe in cooler places you would see things with thick and elaborate pelts, covered in fuzz and feathers all the way down to the tips of their toes and tails,” says Naish.

“It wouldn’t have been difficult for a ‘woolly’ tyrannosaurus or dromaeosaur relatives of Velociraptor to evolve,” adds armoured dinosaur expert Victoria Arbour of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. “Maybe we could have even had shaggy and woolly ceratopsians, ankylosaurs, or hadrosaurs.”

(13) TIPSY SCHADENFREUDE. BBC has the story: “The whiskey toasting the demise of Lehman Brothers bank”. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Perhaps a Maltcon will tell us if it’s any good?”

A London entrepreneur decided that the whole world should be able to taste one of the most profound company collapses in modern times. On 15 September nine years ago 25,000 people lost their jobs when the bank went bankrupt.

James Green says he was inspired to keep the bank’s name alive by the significance of those events.

“After living through the economic disaster of 2008, it really resounded with me. I personally related to it, there were people in my neighbourhood, my family that were personally affected by the crash,” he says.

He says his three different whiskies, one of which is named Ashes of Disaster, have been specially crafted to capture the flavour of the once mighty bank’s fall from grace.

(14) NOTHING IMPORTANT. From the BBC we learn that “Carbon dating reveals earliest origins of zero symbol”.

The Bakhshali manuscript is now believed to date from the 3rd or 4th Century, making it hundreds of years older than previously thought.

It means the document, held in Oxford, has an earlier zero symbol than a temple in Gwailor, India.

The finding is of “vital importance” to the history of mathematics, Richard Ovenden from Bodleian Libraries said.

The zero symbol evolved from a dot used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali manuscript.

Other ancient cultures like the Mayans and Babylonians also used zero symbols, but the dot the Bakhshali manuscript developed a hollow centre to become the symbol we use today.

It was also only in India where the zero developed into a number in its own right, the Bodleian Libraries added

(15) TV GUIDANCE. Do you get Turner Classic Movies? Then you can look forward to a very scary month! So says a blogger at Thought Catalog “Here Are All The Classic Horror Movies TCM Will Be Airing (Commercial Free!) During October”.

It’s good to see some classic movies getting some love. This year Turner Classic Movies will be airing vintage horror movies all month, and unlike other networks, TCM airs the movies commercial free. If you know someone who needs a good education in the history of horror movies, tell them to tune in.

(17) FAUX WORLDCON BID. Calamity Caitlin rediscovered the exhibit she and a friend made for a Springfield, Vermont Worldcon bid in years gone by. (There are 1+12 tweets, but the chain is broken, so you have to look at her Twitter accountfor September 17 or use this search to see them all.)

And it ends with this one:

(18) REPLACES DANDELION. Do you want to know what the latest Crayola crayon color is? Well, here’s the link anyway

The winner was chosen beat out four other names with 40% of the vote in an online naming contest launched in July.

(19) THE HISTORIC DOCUMENTS. Ed Emshwiller’s sf parody short The Thing From Back Issues, made at the Original Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference in the 1950s, was posted online this past summer by Susan Emshwiller. I only recognize one of the writers, although some well-known names were at the 1956 conference, including Robert Silverberg, Cyril Kornbluth, Katherine MacLean, and Lester Del Rey.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Ana Grilo, Kevin Standlee, Andrew Porter, David Steffen, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. And an overdue credit for iphinome. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/17 Pay No Attention To That Scroll Behind The Pixel

Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…

(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.

…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.

And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.

But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?

Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….

(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.

Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.

Hey, we can all dream.

The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.

My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:

Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)

Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.

(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.

(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.

Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.

Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.

(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.

We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.

(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.

(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.

So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:

  1. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…

(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson”  at Warbler Books.

A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.

(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:

First, the site is a mess. It’s like a weird cross between Goodreads and MySpace. I know there’s a lot of people who love Goodreads, but sorry, that site is almost impossible to navigate. Way too much clutter, with the option you’re looking for hidden in some tiny link that doesn’t actually look like a link. Unless you’re a frequent user, you constantly feel like you’re lost. That’s Facebook now. It’s very unfriendly for new users, which I know is like me and ten people living in Yurts in Mongolia, but still. In terms of user-friendliness, it’s going the way of MySpace.

Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?

He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.

But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.

(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.

It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.

The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.

Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.

Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.

French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.

(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”

The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….

(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.

Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.

(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”

(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.

This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.

(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

(1) CORTANA’S WRITERS. The Financial Times’ Emma Jacobs, in “Robots replacing our jobs? Microsoft’s Cortana is creating them”, interviewed Joanthan Foster, principal content publishing manager for Microsoft’s Cortana, who oversees a staff of 28 (including a children’s novelist and a playwright) tasked with giving this personal digital assistant a personality.

“Why, for example, does Cortana have to have a favourite movie? ‘Because people are asking that,’ says Mr Foster.  For a while, her favourite film was ET (she skews to science fiction) but today it swings between Star Wars and Star Trek films.  Her favourite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Another sf reference:  Cortana’s name “is a reference to a buxom character clothed in a transparent sheath in the video game Halo.”

How to access this article – Look it up on Google and you will be able to click through to read it. If you use the link above directly, you will hit a paywall.

(2) ASTRONAUT FASHIONS. Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, in “A first look at the path NASA astronauts will walk when the U.S. launches humans into space again”, has an overview of activities at Cape Canaveral, with reports on activities by Boeing, Blue Origin, Moon Express, and SpaceX.  But the news here is about the Boeing spacesuits.

Then there’s the sleek new blue Boeing spacesuit that, at 20 pounds, weighs 10 pounds less than the one worn by shuttle astronauts. It comes with gloves that work on touch screens and lightweight boots designed by Reebok that feel like slippers. Instead of having a huge fishbowl bubble helmet, as the shuttle astronauts’ suits did, the new suit’s helmet slips over the head like a hood.

2017-boeing-blue-starliner-spacesuit-SUIT0117

(3) MOVING POSTERS. Disney released a collection of motion posters featuring the cast of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. UPI has the story.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On February 15 the hosts of the reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, will present Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann. Begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe NarratorThe Great Lover, Animal Money, The Wretch of the Sun, and a short story collection, Secret Hours.  His fiction has appeared in The WeirdLovecraft Unbound, and Black Wings (among others). His scholarly work has appeared in Lovecraft StudiesThe Weird Fiction ReviewIranian Studies, and Lovecraft and Influence. He lives and teaches in New York City.

Nicholas Kaufmann’s work has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, a Thriller Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Dying is My Business from St. Martin’s Press was selected for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Gift Guide, and the sequel, Die and Stay Dead, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. His latest novel is In the Shadow of the Axe, out now from Crossroad Press with an introduction by Laird Barron.

(5) STICK A FORK IN IT. Write On by Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at a Wattpad competitor, is closing down March 22, a year after leaving beta testing. Users have been advised:

Your Amazon.com account will not be affected by the closure of Write On. If you don’t have any content you wish to save, no further action is required on your part.

If you do have content you wish to save, we encourage you to download your posted and drafted stories by March 22.

(6) HURT OBIT. Actor John Hurt died January 25 at the age of 77. The Vanity Fair tribute listed some of his many genre credits –

The cause of death was not immediately reported; Hurt was diagnosed in 2015 with pancreatic cancer, but in October of that year announced that he was “thrilled” to have had his final scan, “and it‘s all gone brilliantly.”

… He earned his first BAFTA award in 1976, for playing gay author and ranconteur Quentin Crisp in the TV film The Naked Civil Servant; that same year, he played notorious Roman emperor Caligula in the TV film classic I, Claudius.

As a trained actor with a resonant voice and an unmistakable screen presence, Hurt could be a leading man—as in the 1984 version of George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man—but may be more familiar to audiences as a supporting player, from the first, unlucky victim of the chestburster in 1979’s Alien to 2016’s Jackie, in which he plays a priest who has the ear of a mourning Jacqueline Kennedy. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in 1979‘s Midnight Express, as a heroin addict doing time in a Turkish prison, and in The Elephant Man. He’ll also be remembered by a generation of children as the mysterious Mr. Ollivander, wand salesman, from the Harry Potter films. And thanks to a 2013 appearance as the War Doctor on Doctor Who, he will also forever belong to a legion of fans.

In the last decade of his career alone, Hurt worked with some of the world’s most fascinating directors, from Guillermo del Toro in the Hellboy series to Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Lars von Trier on Melancholia to Joon-ho Bong on Snowpiercer.

— To which we can add The War Doctor in Doctor Who, the voices of Aragorn and Hazel (the rabbit) in the animated Lord of the Rings and Watership Down respectively, and still be guilty of leaving some out.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

(7) GARRAY OBIT. Artist Pascal Garray (1965-2017), a prolific Smurfs creator, passed away January 17.

During his career of 26 years, he also participated in the creation of 17 albums of ‘The Smurfs’ (‘Les Schtroumpfs’), and was the lead artist on at least six albums since 2002. The other regular Smurfs artists are Ludo Borecki, Jeroen de Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso, while most of the writing is done by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. Garray had just finished drawing the 35th Smurfs album (‘Les Schtroumpfs et les Haricots Mauves’, about bad eating habits), when he passed away on 17 January 2017.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood (actor)

(9) RSR’S GUIDE TO SHORT FORM EDITORS. Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank introduces its recently-posted guide to those eligible for the Best Editor Hugo – Short Form category.

With luck, this won’t be as controversial as it was last year. We’ve made it clearer that you’re supposed to use this data to vet a list of editors of works you’ve read—not to construct a slate of people whose publications you’ve never read (or even heard of).

Since people are more likely to know works than editors, we start by helping them find the editors who produced different publications. It’s a lot of work to figure out who’s qualified, so we’ve done that too.

Then, like last year, we show how much work each editor produced and how well that work was reviewed—both in terms of word count and percentage, which we encourage people to use to see how the editors in their list stack up.

New this year is a chart showing how much fiction from new writers each editor published, since this was the commonest thing people asked for last year. There are also sortable tables with the raw data so people don’t need to stare at charts to try to guess which editors were in the top four or five.

As ever, we’d love to hear ideas for what would make this easier to do.

(10) SEMIPROZINE HUGO. Neil Clarke’s Semiprozine.org announced last month they are “Currently updating directory”, which hopefully will happen soon because I need an authoritative answer to settle a difference of opinion!

We are currently updating the directory to reflect any changes in eligibility for the year ending December 31, 2016. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

(11) COACHING. George R.R. Martin reminds everyone how TV shows can be eligible for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo – Long Form, whether you want them to or not.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before… most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show… I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I’d nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there’s GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and “The Door” also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

(12) GREATEST ANIMATOR. Brian Phillips on MTV.com has an article called “The Little Gray Wolf Will Come”, a profile of Yuri Norstein, whose short films “Tale of Tales” and “Hedgehog in the Fog” are regarded as among the greatest pieces of Soviet animation but who has been stuck for 40 years working on a full-length version of Gogol’s The Overcoat that he may never finish.

Here he is, an old man, onstage at the Dom Kino. Cinephiles of Moscow, your evening’s entertainment: Yuri Norstein, 74, white-bearded, small, stout, urbane, rumpled, and mischievous. Sitting in front of a pale gold curtain, with a bump on his nose the size of a pistachio shell. Considered by many to be a great, if tragically self-defeating, Russian artist. Considered by many to be the finest animator in the world.

He did not move to Moscow last week; he knows what they say about him. How he sabotaged his own career at what should have been its peak. How he has not managed to release a new film in 37 years. How he made Hedgehog in the Fog, a movie every Russian child knows by heart, and then Tale of Tales, which international juries have more than once named the greatest animated picture ever made. How he threw it all away to chase an absurd, unattainable ideal, an animated adaptation of Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat” that he has toiled at for nearly 40 years and has never been able to finish. He takes questions at events like this, and the sequence is always the same. First a few respectful queries about his past work, his process, his inspirations. Then, when some brink of nerve has been crossed: When will you finish The Overcoat? Do you think you ever will?

(13) TIMEY-WIMEY STUFF. Science Alert says “Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals”.

First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.

But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.

Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.

But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.

Imagine it like jelly – when you tap it, it repeatedly jiggles. The same thing happens in time crystals, but the big difference here is that the motion occurs without any energy.

A time crystal is like constantly oscillating jelly in its natural, ground state, and that’s what makes it a whole new form of matter – non-equilibrium matter. It’s incapable of sitting still.

(14) WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS. David Tennant told The Last Leg viewers it’s all going to be okay:

[Thanks to Dawn Incoognito, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/16 Pixel Bell Rock

(1) DUCKTALES. As a kid I loved my father’s Donald Duck imitation. He was so funny. That memory immediately came to mind when I read David Tennant will voice Scrooge McDuck in the reboot of Disney DuckTales. I can’t stop imagining Tennant doing my father’s duck accent. Admittedly, Tennant’s character doesn’t sound like Donald, even so, will the voice of the deadly serious Tenth Doctor really be transformed into the dialect of a Scottish billionaire duck?  ScienceFiction.com has the story.

To announce the cast for the highly-anticipated reboot, Disney XD released a video of the all-new stars singing the original series’ theme song. Headlining the quack pack for the upcoming globe-trotting adventures is ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Jessica Jones’ star David Tennant, who will no doubt bring his particular Scottish burr to Uncle Scrooge. He’ll be joined by ‘Powerless’ and ‘Community’ star Danny Pudi, ‘Parks and Recreation’ favorite Ben Schwartz, and ‘Saturday Night Live’ staple Bobby Moynihan as the voices of mischief-making Huey, Dewey and Louie, respectively. The cast will be rounded out by Beck Bennett as Launchpad McQuack, Toks Olagundoye as Mrs. Beakley, and Kate Micucci as Webby Vanderquack. But to get in on the fun that is that unforgettable theme song, check out the video below of the cast participating in a ‘DuckTales’ sing-along:

 

(2)LICENSED TROUT. My good friend, who chooses to be identified as “Kilgore Trout” for purposes of this news item, is organizing a convention, and like good conrunners should he is licensing the music they’ll be using. But Kilgore was bemused by the aggressive terms of the ASCAP agreement —

I note their list of potentially infringing uses:

Please note that your organization is responsible for any music used at the event, including music used by exhibitors, speakers or music provided overhead by the facility in your meeting/event rooms.  

Examples of reportable music uses:

Live music (bands, soloist,pianist, harpist, etc), Disc Jockeys, karaoke, Guitar Hero or mechanical music (Internet streaming or downloaded music, CD’s, Records, Radio, iPod music,DVD’s, Videos, background music provided by the hotel or facility)

Music during the receptions & closing ceremonies

Lead in & exit music

Music used during meetings, PowerPoint presentations

Pro-speakers using music at part of their speeches, whether live or

mechanical

CD players,iPod, Music via computers in booths or exhibits

Music utilized during awards banquets, event dinners and parties

Comedians and magicians using music or parodies of songs

Multiple or large screen TV’s used at events

Flash Mobs

Zumba, Yoga and group relaxation sessions using music

Event video/DVD streamed or archived on your event website

In particular, I want to highlight “flash mobs”, “large screen TVs”, and event video as reportable. I have asked for clarification, as surely they can’t mean the presence of TVs requires a license.

Also, note the requirement for a license if the hotel provides background music in the facility. (Isn’t that an issue between ASCAP and the hotel?)

(3) DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE. WIRED rounded up all the grumpy, sneezy and dopey designers in town to “shove a lightsaber through the Death Star’s design”. Go ahead, click on it and reward their bad behavior….

Despite its reputation as a symbol of fear and oppression and its confounding vulnerability to proton torpedoes, the Death Star continues to be a subject of endless fascination—especially in the design world. In advance of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a new book—Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual—lays bare the plans for the station that, presumably, get stolen by rebels, transmitted to Princess Leia, secreted in an R2 unit on board the Rand Ecliptic, and eventually made possible the Death Star’s destruction. Oh, sorry: spoilers.

Point is, the drawings of the planet-killing not-a-moon may look like gobbledygook to you, but to a trained designer, they’re fare game for criticism. And when WIRED asked a bunch of designers, architects, and other professionals for their assessments, most were not kind. That’s not just because of the Death Star’s evil connotations, but due to obvious design flaws. These include, among many other things, limited amenities for stormtroopers and other employees, defense vulnerabilities, severe aesthetic disappointments, and a real lack of creativity when it comes to disposal of waste heat.

Architect Cameron Sinclair, founder of Small Works, a firm that specializes in building solutions in post disaster zones and underserved communities, calls it “yet another techno-driven ego play by the Empire,” primarily blaming a lack of community engagement during the building’s conceptual phase. “If you look at the accommodation wings, there is little room for troopers and their families. No educational spaces, no decent public places and extremely limited access to fresh produce. (Seriously, vertical food farms have been around for generations.) All the communal spaces have been downsized due to an over emphasis on unproven technology.”

(4) LONG LIST EBOOK. David Steffen wants you to know that the Long List Volume 2 ebook was released this week. Hie thee hence!

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #18. The eighteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a TGM Fundraiser: Manuscript Critique from Jessica Reisman.

Attention authors: today’s auction is for the critique of a manuscript, up to novella length (39,999 words), from author Jessica Reisman. Reisman is the author of more than 25 published stories, several of which have been honorable mentions in various Year’s Best anthologies. She won the Southeastern Science Fiction Achievement Award (SESFA) for her story “Threads.”

(6) A BUNDLE OF BRONZE. Captainco is offering a Forrest J Ackerman statue & Tales From The Acker-Mansion Bundle.

Celebrate Uncle Forry’s Centennial with a very limited faux bronze statue of Forrest J Ackerman by Dark Horse, accompanied by the Tales From The Acker-Mansion anthology. A perfect gift for any Monster Kid you know or the Monster Kid in yourself. A $300+ value for only $200!

statue-ackermansion-bundle_large

(7) MORE FAVES. Smash Dragons has picked its “Best of 2016”.

Well it’s that time of the year again. The festive season is in full swing here at the lair (no, I’m not drunk… yet), and I figured it was time I reflected on what has been an amazing year for genre fiction.

Looking back over the books I read in 2016 made me realise just how lucky I am to be a reader. I’ve witnessed the emergence of some stunning new talent this year, and I’ve rediscovered some old favourites along the way. To paraphrase George R R Martin, I’ve lived a thousand different lives over the past twelve months, and I’ve loved every single one of them! Choosing a top ten proved extremely difficult. I struggled to make my selections for a long time. However, after much deliberation and thought I managed to nut it out, and I’m pretty happy with the list I came up with. Most of the top ten have full reviews (those that don’t never fear, I will get to them soon), which I have provided links to if you’d like to check them out. I’ve also linked purchase information. It is the season of giving after all, and as a friend of mine pointed out when you buy a book you are buying two gifts essentially (one for the reader, and another for the author of the book you purchased). So be generous to those around you!

So without further ado, I give you my top ten best reads of 2016!

1 – The Fisherman by John Langan/Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

I cheated a little here, but I really couldn’t seperate the two. The Fisherman is a magnificent character- driven cosmic horror that crawled under my skin and refused to budge. Langan is a masterful storyteller, and The Fisherman is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. You can buy The Fisherman here.

Crow Shine is also an incredible book that is filled to the brim with rich and powerful dark fiction. It is one of the best collections I’ve ever read, and Baxter is one of the best short fiction writers working in the world today. I loved this book so much I even forked out a lot of money to buy a signed limited edition copy of it! Highly recommended. Check out my full review here, and buy yourself a copy here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 16, 1901: Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published.
  • December 16, 1983 – Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison in The Keep, seen of the first time on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born December 16, 1917 – Arthur C. Clarke
  • Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick

(10) THESE AREN’T THE CRITICS I’M LOOKING FOR. This NPR review makes Rogue One sound “meh”.

You won’t get more plot than that from me, because plot is the chief attraction in Rogue One. With Stormtroopers lurking ’round every intergalactic corner, director Gareth Edwards hasn’t much time for such other Star Warsian charms as character, grace, whimsy and, most of all, fun. He does like to linger over battles, although I can’t say their outcomes are ever much in doubt, the fears of a pessimistic droid (voiced indispensably by Alan Tudyk) notwithstanding.

We’ve been here before, and will doubtless go here again, probably with more imagination, and hopefully with more seeming to ride on the outcome. Rogue One is allegedly a standalone story, but it’s also a prequel, tied so tightly to the stories we’ve already heard that most 9-year-olds will be able to tell those nervous Nellies in the rebel alliance how it’s all going to come out, even before Jyn delivers the script’s flatfooted version of a St. Crispin’s Day speech.

(11) CURTAIN OF HISTORY DRAWN BACK. Another NPR review — “’Hidden Figures’ No More: Meet The Black Women Who Helped Send America To Space”.

Shetterly grew up in the 1960s in Hampton, Va., not far from NASA’s Langley Research Center. She’s African-American, and her father, extended family and neighbors were all scientists, physicists and engineers at NASA. But it wasn’t until about six years ago that she understood the magnitude of the work black women were doing there. She recently told NPR’s Michel Martin, “I knew that many of them worked at NASA. I didn’t know exactly what they did.”

Shetterly spent the next six years searching for more information. She researched archives and interviewed former and current NASA employees and family members. In her book, she details the journeys and personal lives of Langley’s star mathematicians, and recounts how women computers — both black and white — broke barriers in both science and society.

(12) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. The BBC tells “Why Children of Men has never been as shocking as it is now”.

Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian thriller is one of the 21st Century’s most acclaimed films – and its version of the future is now disturbingly familiar. Nicholas Barber looks back….

If the plot harks back to two classic fictions of the 1940s, Casablanca and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the setting is breathtakingly contemporary. Cuarón doesn’t use captions or speeches to explain what has happened to civilisation, but, judging by the old newspapers we glimpse, society has been rocked by climate change, pollution, nuclear accidents, social division, and terrorist bombings. Nevertheless, all of Britain’s troubles have been blamed on asylum seekers, who are locked in cages, and then bussed to hellish shanty towns. “Poor fugees,” says Theo’s hippy friend Jasper (Michael Caine). “After escaping the worst atrocities, and making it all the way to England, our government hunts them down like cockroaches.”

The blame game

Ring any bells? Mass migration was a major issue in 2006, so it’s not surprising that it should be so central to Children of Men. But, a decade ago, no one had predicted the Syrian refugee crisis, or that the US’s President-elect would propose registering Muslims, or that the UK would vote to leave the European Union after a campaign that focused on immigrant numbers. Today, it’s hard to watch the television news headlines in Children of Men without gasping at their prescience: “The Muslim community demands an end to the army’s occupation of mosques.” “The homeland security bill is ratified. After eight years, British borders will remain closed. The deportation of illegal immigrants will continue.” In 2006, all of this seemed plausible enough, but perhaps a little strident, a little over-the-top.

(13) CHECK YOUR PHONE. Here are “20 Extremely Real Texts From Superheroes” selected by Cracked.

Sometimes we like to take a break from writing words about superheroes to look at images of words written by superheroes. To show you what we mean here’s another installment from our friends over at Texts From Superheroes. Check out their website here.

(14) COVER LAUNCH. Orbit has unveiled the cover and title for N. K. Jemisin’s final Broken Earth book.

The highly lauded and award winning Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin comes to its remarkable conclusion in THE STONE SKY. The first book in the series won the Hugo award and was shortlisted for the Nebula, Audie, and Locus award, was the inaugural Wired.com book club pick, and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. The sequel, The Obelisk Gate, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best of the Year and one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2016.

THE STONE SKY, publishing in August 2017, closes out a trilogy that is haunting, beautiful, and surprisingly prescient. Our earth-shattering cover for the third book was designed by Wendy Chan.

jemisin_stonesky-tp

(15) FREE FANZINES. Bruce Gillespie has made three of his fanzines available for download as PDF files from eFanzines:

SF Commentary 92, July 2016. 70,000 words. Ray Sinclair-Wood’s ‘Poems of the Space Race’, Michael Bishop’s ‘Scalehunter: Lucius Shepard and the Dragon Griaule Sequence’ and ‘I Must Be Talking to My Friends’: a cat story, plus 80 correspondents. Cover art by Carol Kewley and Ditmar.

SF Commentary 93, December 2016. 60,000 words. First part of John Litchen’s ‘Fascinating Mars: 120 Years of Fiction About Mars’; Colin Steele’s ‘The Field’: the year’s SF and fantasy books; and two accounts of ‘My Life, Science Fiction, and Fanzines’ — Bruce Gillespie and James ‘Jocko’ Allen. Cover art by Ditmar and Elaine Cochrane.

Treasure 4, October 2016. 50,000 words. Mervyn Barrett’s tales of the Melbourne SF Club during the 1960s; Robert Lichtman’s pocket history of FAPA; four tributes to John Collins (from Robyn Whiteley, Bruce Gillespie, Don Collins, and Gail Reynolds); Jennifer Bryce’s ‘Travels in the UK, 2014 and 2015’; and Robert Day’s tales of another fandom — trainspotting around Britain and Europe. Plus many correspondents.

(16) RAGE. The New Inquiry has a transcript of a panel with Deji Bryce Olukotun, Maria Dahvana Headley, and Haris Durrani — “The Changing Faces of Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

The trio discussed the limits of heroism, the politics of reality-building, and the whitewashing of publishing. The following is a transcript, edited for length, of their conversation.

DEJI BRYCE OLUKOTUN  When PEN approached me to help organize the event, I was in the middle of reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther comic books, which are super popular: they sell out every week. I felt real enthusiasm that a writer of color who was a National Book Award winner and MacArthur Fellow was tackling comic books, but at the same time, I wasn’t thrilled with some of his depictions of African themes and cultures.

Let me explain a little more what I mean. I was excited that Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has been a comic book fan his whole life, is tackling the genre, but I had critiques about his technique–some of the dialogue, some of the writing. I felt the dilemma that a lot of people feel if you are from a marginalized group. A lot of voices, especially black voices aren’t making it on the page with major publishers. Was I going to actually destroy opportunities if I spoke out against his work and said, “Well, I love this part of the story but I don’t like this part”?

(17) READING THE NIGHT AWAY. Not a new article, but seasonally appropriate! From NPR, “Literary Iceland Revels In Its Annual ‘Christmas Book Flood’”.

In the United States, popular holiday gifts come and go from year to year. But in Iceland, the best Christmas gift is a book — and it has been that way for decades.

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the “Christmas Book Flood.”…

What kind of books, exactly?

“Generally fiction and biographies would be the mainstays, although it varies a lot,” Bjarnason says. “Two years ago one of the surprise best-sellers was a pictorial overview of the history of tractors in Iceland.”

That book, And Then Came Ferguson, wasn’t the only unusual breakout success. Another, Summerland: The Deceased Describe Their Death And Reunions In The Afterlife, came out last year. The book, by Gudmundur Kristinsson, an author in his 80s who believes he can talk to the dead, sold out completely before Christmas 2010 — and sold out yet again after being reprinted in February 2011.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and David Steffen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 7/5/16 Scrollamagoosa

Radio SFWA(1) RADIO SFWA OFFICIAL VIDEO. Henry Lien has released the video of Radio SFWA as performed on stage at the Nebula Banquet in May.

Lien, who wrote the song as a recruiting anthem for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, sang as Emperor Stardust backed by the brilliantly-choreographed Eunuchs of the Forbidden City doing SFWA spellouts and other routines. They received a well-deserved standing-O at the end.

Click CC (Closed Captioning) to view the lyrics.

Click Settings to watch it in 1080 HD.

Emperor Stardust

  • Henry Lien (Nebula Nominee, SFWA Member)

The Eunuchs of the Forbidden City

  • Liz Argall (SFWA Member)
  • Tina Connolly (Norton Nominee, SFWA Member)
  • Alyx Dellamonica (SFWA Member)
  • Patrice Fitzgerald (SFWA Member)
  • Fonda Lee (Norton Nominee, SFWA Member)
  • Reggie Lutz (Future SFWA Member)
  • Kelly Robson (Nebula Nominee, SFWA Member)

(2) MIDWESTERN MIGHTINESS. “Marvel reveals New Great Lakes Avengers Series”Nerdist has the story.

They’re not Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. They’re not even the West Coast Avengers. At one point, they received a cease-and-desist order to prevent them from using the Avengers name. But their tenacity could not be stopped and their inherent silliness endeared them to readers all around the world. And that is precisely why Marvel is announcing today, exclusively on Nerdist, that they are bringing back the Great Lakes Avengers in an all-new monthly ongoing comic book series….

Let’s begin with the obvious question: why is now the right time to revive the Great Lakes Avengers?

“Now is the time for Great Lakes Avengers to return, one, because I simply want to do it,” [editor Tom] Brevoort joked. “They need to give me perks to keep doing the comics that people like and that sell really well,” he added with a laugh.

Great-Lakes-Avengers-Cover

(3) SALTIRE. At another spot on the map, BBC reports a “Scottish superhero challenge to Marvel and DC Comics”.

Glaswegian [John] Ferguson, who set up Diamondsteel Comics with his Lancashire-born wife Clare, said other elements of Scotland’s past and folklore also feature.

He said: “The Stone of Destiny, the Blue Stanes, the Loch Ness Monster and the Caledonian Fae traditions all have a significant place in the Saltire universe.

“Saltire’s origin is built from myth and legend so a comparison might be Marvel’s Thor although perhaps a bit darker and grittier. He does have an iconic visual appeal similar to the famous American superheroes.”

A year in the making, Saltire: Legend Eternal, the first comic book in a new series of the comics has been “meticulously inked, coloured and lettered” to compete with the high standards set by Marvel and DC Comics, said Ferguson.

(4) WHO NEEDS A DEGREE? Recently, David Tennant and Steven Moffat each received honorary degrees from different schools in Scotland.

Dr Who star David Tennant has travelled back in time to his old acting school to pick up an honorary degree.

The Broadchurch actor has been awarded an honorary drama doctorate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The 46-year-old was recognised during a ceremony in Glasgow.

Tennant studied drama at the Royal Conservatoire between 1988 and 1991, then known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before enjoying success on stage and screen.

He said: “I’m honoured and rather humbled to be here – it’s all quite overwhelming but lovely to be back. It evokes some very vivid memories.

“It was a very important time for me. I don’t think I would have survived without my time here – for me it was essential. Three years of getting to practice in a safe environment.

“I was quite young, quite green, and I did a lot of growing up here and learned an enormous amount. They were very formative years that I look back on very fondly.”

Dr Who writer Steven Moffat also received an honorary degree from the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley.

(5) TRUDEAU. In Yanan Wang’s story for the Washington Post, “How Canada’s prime minister became a superhero”, about Justin Trudeau’s appearance in the Marvel comic Civil War II: Choosing Sides  she explains that writer Chip Zdarsky (who writes as “Steve Murray”) put Justin Trudeau in the comic book because his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, made an earlier appearance with the Alpha Flight team (who are Canadian superheroes) in the 1980s.

She also unleashes this quote from Peter C. Newman, a prominent Canadian business journalist:

“If God had meant for us to be heroic, he wouldn’t have made us Canadians.  This is the only country on Earth whose citizens dream of being Clark Kent, instead of Superman.” To regard themselves as heroes would be “boastful,” Newman observed, which Canadians were decidedly not.

(6) CONTROVERSY. “In His New Novel, Ben Winters Dares to Mix Slavery and Sci-Fi”, a New York Times article, covers a lot of ground about a book whose reception is all over the spectrum.

In Ben H. Winters’s chilling new thriller, “Underground Airlines,” a bounty hunter named Victor tracks fugitives for the United States Marshals Service. But his mission, like his past, is complicated: The people he’s chasing are escaped slaves. Their main crime is rejecting a life of forced servitude. And Victor himself was once one of them.

From the moment he started writing it, Mr. Winters knew that “Underground Airlines” was creatively and professionally risky. The novel tackles the thorny subject of racial injustice in America. It takes place in a contemporary United States where the Civil War never happened, and slavery remains legal in four states, and it’s narrated by a former slave who has paid a steep moral price for his freedom.

“I had reservations every day, up to the present day, because the subject is so fraught, and rightfully so,” Mr. Winters said. “It isn’t as if this is ancient history in this country.”

Mr. Winters, 40, has pulled off high-wire acts before. As one of the early literary mash-up artists, he churned out zany best sellers like “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” and “Android Karenina.” His best-selling trilogy, “The Last Policeman,” is a genre-defying blend of crime writing and science fiction, starring a stoic police officer trying to solve crimes as the world braces for a catastrophic asteroid collision….

“He’s taking a direct whack at one of the main critical things that’s happening in this country right now,” said Lev Grossman, a book critic and author of the fantasy series “The Magicians.” “This is a white writer going after questions of what it’s like to be black in America. It’s a fearless thing to do.”

(7) WORLDCON IN MEMORIAM LIST. Steven H Silver announced that the deadline for getting names onto the In Memoriam list for the MidAmeriCon II program book is Friday, July 8.  Names currently under consideration can be found at http://www.midamericon2.org/home/general-information/memoriam-page/. Suggestions for additional names can be made there as well.  Any names suggested after July 8 will make it into the Hugo scroll, but not the program book.

(8) TODAY IN SILLY HISTORY

  • July 5, 1935 — Hormel Foods introduced the canned meat product SPAM.

(9) DID YOU PAY ATTENTION? Den of Geek put the Back to the Future movies under a microscope and came up with “The Back to the Future Trilogy: 88 Things You Might Have Missed”. The most I can say is that I hadn’t missed all of them. Take number one, for example:

  1. The Doc’s clocks (I)

As the first film opens and we pan across Doc Brown’s incredible assortment of clocks – all previously synchronized to be exactly 25 minutes slow – the eagle-eyed may notice that one of the clocks features a man hanging from its hands. It’s actually silent comedy star Harold Lloyd, dangling from a clock in perhaps his most famous turn in 1923’s Safety Last. Aside from being a cool little nod to a past movie, it also prefigures the later scene in which Doc hangs from the Hill Valley clock in near-identical fashion.

(10) FUTURE WARFARE. Jeb Kinnison will be on the “Weaponized AI and Future Warfare” panel at LibertyCon, and is preparing by organizing his thoughts in a series of highly detailed blog posts.

In Part I of Weaponized AI: My Experience in AI, Kinnison shares details of his professional background in technology, which informs the rest of his discussion.

Autonomous control of deadly weaponry is controversial, though no different in principle than cruise missiles or smart bombs, which while launched at human command make decisions on-the-fly about exactly where and whether to explode. The Phalanx CIWS automated air defense system (see photo above) identifies and fires on enemy missiles automatically to defend Navy ships at a speed far beyond human abilities. Such systems are uncontroversial since no civilian human lives are likely to be at risk.

DARPA is actively researching Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). Such systems might be like Neal Asher’s (identity) reader guns, fixed or slow-moving sentries equipped to recognize unauthorized presences and cut them to pieces with automatic weapons fire. More mobile platforms might cruise the skies and attack any recognized enemy at will, robotically scouring terrain of enemy forces:…

Many of the readers of Mil SF have had experience in the military themselves, which makes platoon-level fighting stories especially involving for them. The interpersonal aspects are critical for emotional investment in the story — so a tale featuring a skinny, bespectacled systems operators fighting each other by running AI battle mechs from a remote location doesn’t satisfy. Space marines a la Starship Troopers are the model for much Mil SF — in these stories new technology extends and reinforces mobile infantry without greatly changing troop dynamics, leaving room for stories of individual combat, valorous rescue of fellow soldiers in trouble, spur-of-the-moment risks taken and battles won by clever tactics. Thousands of books on this model have been written, and they still sell well, even when they lack any rationale for sending valuable human beings down to fight bugs when the technology for remote or AI control appears to be present in their world.

One interesting escape route for Mil SF writers is seen in Michael Z Williamson’s A Long Time Until Now, where the surrounding frame is not space travel but time travel — a troop from today’s Afghanistan war find themselves transported back to paleolithic central Asia with other similarly-displaced military personnel from other eras and has to survive and build with limited knowledge of their environment.

(11) KRUSHING IT. At secritkrush, Chance Morrison has launched a review series about Hugo-nominated short fiction. Still looking for one that Morrison liked…

Novella it a tough length. Most of the time Novellas feel like they are either bloated short stories which could benefit from an edit or a story which really ought to be expanded into a novel to do it justice. Binti is one of the latter….

Why, given this setup, was the book not a comedy, even a dark one because I really cannot take it seriously but it is really not funny?

One day Google (the search engine) develops consciousness and decides that it doesn’t want to be evil, unlike Google the company….

Writing stories under 1000 words is exceedingly difficult. Writing one of the five best (allegedly) SF short stories of the year in less than a thousand words? Highly unlikely.

Data and River Tam/Jessica Jones together at last! They fight crime commit crimes….

(12) ON THE TRAIL. Lisa Goldstein feels a little more warmly about “’And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead’” – at least room temperature.

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander is the only novelette on the Hugo ballot that was not also on the Rabid Puppies’ slate.  To get that far, against all the Puppies voting in lockstep, means that it’s probably a very popular story.  I liked it as well, but I had some reservations.  Which puts me in a minority, so you should definitely read it and make up your own mind.  Hey, I don’t claim to be infallible here.

(13) WORLDCON ANNOUNCES FILM FESTIVAL. The 2016 Worldcon will host the MidAmeriCon II International Film Festival.

The Festival will showcase the best film shorts, features and documentaries from around the world, spanning the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic genres. Many film makers will also be in attendance and taking part in Q&A sessions to provide a unique behind the scenes perspective on their work.

The MidAmeriCon II International Film Festival is being led by Nat Saenz, whose extensive track record in the field includes the Tri-City Independent/Fan Film Festival (www.trifi.org) as well as events at the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 World Science Fiction Conventions. Nat continues to bring a truly global perspective to his audience, with the 2016 programme including films from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Spain, Greece, France, Italy, and the UK, as well as the USA and Canada.

The Film Festival will run through all five days of the convention, starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17 and concluding at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 21.  All films are open to full and day attending convention members (subject to relevant age restrictions in line with film classifications). All screenings will take place at the Kansas City Convention Center.

A full screening schedule can be found at www.midamericon2.org/home/whats-happening/programming/film-festival/.

[Thanks to Henry Lien, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/16 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right to Be Free

(1) LEARNING SPACE. Steve Davidson has a fine interview with Jim C. Hines about the Launch Pad Academy Workshop.

Steve Davidson for Amazing Stories Magazine: How did you hear about the Launch Pad Workshop?

Jim C. Hines: I heard about it years ago online — I think it might have been the Speculations writing boards, back when it was still active. At the time, I didn’t feel qualified to apply, in part because I was only writing fantasy.

But I kept an eye on how it was going from year to year, as well as the comments and reports from other attendees.

ASM:  Was it a program you always wanted to participate in or was your interest piqued when you learned about it?

JCH: I’ve been interested in attending ever since I heard about the program, but there was the combination of needing to be able to leave for a week without causing difficulties with work or at home, and having a project where I thought the knowledge would be useful. This year, I’ve started working on my first SF trilogy, and I’d quit my day job last fall, so the timing was perfect.

ASM: How would you describe your familiarity with astronomy, cosmology, etc., prior to attending?

JCH: I think I had some basic foundational knowledge, but most of it wasn’t anything I’d studied in depth. I knew enough to answer most of my kids’ basic questions about space, which astronomical bodies orbit one another, how the seasons work, and so on. And I’d read Douglas Adams, so I knew space was big. Really big.

(2) WOMEN IN SF, 1961. At Galactic Journey, in “[June 28, 1961] The Second Sex in SFF, Part IV”, The Traveler issues an invitation to increase our history of the genre:

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF.

The six are Kit Reed, Jane Dixon Rice, Jane Roberts (the only woman invited for the first science-fiction writers conference in Milford, PA – I didn’t know that), Joanna Russ, Evelyn Smith, and Margaret St. Clair.

(3) YOUR HOUSE IN NORTH AMERICA. At Tor.com, Emily Asher-Perrin has scouted Pottermore for the latest additions: “Get Sorted Into Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts!”

A ton of new information on the North American magic school, Ilvermorny, was just dropped onto Pottermore. But that’s not all! You can now get Sorted into the various Houses (if you have a Pottermore account, so sign on up).

As a reminder, the four Ilvermorny Houses are Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird! Here is where you go for the Sorting, provided you have a Pottermore account. (I got Horned Serpent, which seems to be the brainy house? Not what I expected.) These Houses don’t break down quite the same way the Hogwarts ones do; instead, they are associated as follows….

 

(4) HOLD THAT TIGER. Lisa Goldstein reviews another Hugo nominee at inferior4 + 1 “Short Story: ‘Seven Kill Tiger’”.

This review contains spoilers.

“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao is a disturbing story, but maybe not for the reasons the author thinks.  We start with a deeply unpleasant main character, Zhang Zedong, a company man sent from China to Zambia who needs to improve his production numbers and who is prone to thinking things like “Africa would be a glorious place were it not for the Africans.”  “What he needed was more Han people,” he thinks, and the solution he comes up with is to wipe out the native population of Africa using genetic warfare.

(5) BEST FANCAST. Joe Sherry is “Listening to the Hugos: Fancast” for Nerds of a Feather.

Admission of Bias Time: The longer the podcast, the less interested I am in listening to it. 30 minutes is my sweet spot, I’m comfortable up to an hour, and the farther a podcast goes past an hour the less interested I become, even when the topic and conversation is interesting. Most of the episodes of 8-4 Play run over 90 minutes, with a not insignificant number running over 120 minutes.

8-4 Play did not include links to recommended episodes, so I pulled one from 2015 that was focusing on some video games I was interested in (Zelda and Dragon Quest). 30 minutes later, I was done. 8-4 Play is a video game focused podcast, and it took way too long for the hosts to actually start talking about the games. The opening seemed more focused on refreshing each other what they’ve been up to than moving on to the games. Now, first main section on one guy’s Retro Collection was okay (and I love me some old school games) and they were only just moving into Fallout 4 by the time I gave up on the podcast, so maybe there is solid game talk and a reason why I should consider listening to 8-4 Play in the future, but this particular episode is more than two hours long and that’s really tough for me to overcome, and given that for this particular episode the hosts took waaaaaay too long getting to the meat, I won’t be coming back to it. Perhaps I selected the wrong episode and perhaps I should have skipped forward to the 38 minute mark, but perhaps this podcast is simply not for me. Pass.

(6) OBAMA’S TAKE ON STAR WARS. In the series “Conversations With Tyler,”  Tyler Cowen interviews Cass Sunstein about his Star Wars book. The Star Wars geekery begins at about 18:00 and continues to about 40:00, and all of the audience questions are about Star Wars. (There’s also a full text transcript available.) Many examples of the public policy ramifications of Star Wars are discussed, and at one point Sunstein, who served in the Obama administration as chief regulator of the Office of Management and Budget, reveals that he asked President Obama about which Star Wars movie was his favorite and argued with his boss that The Empire Strikes Back was better than A New Hope.

(7) WEDDING. Congratulations to Becky Thomson and Tom Veal, who married on June 25 in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

(8) KYRA IS BACK. Mini-reviews from Kyra today:

Airplane read #1: In the Time of Dragon Moon, by Janet Lee Carey (here)

Airplane read #2: The Wrath & The Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh (here)

Airplane read #3: Kingfisher, by Patricia McKillip (here)

Airplane Read #4: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (here)

Airplane Read #5: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (not SFF) (here)

Airplane Read #6 (last one!): Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Moon (here)

(9) ENTERPRISE DUE TO LEAVE DRYDOCK. NPR has a progress report: “Smithsonian Sets Phasers To Restore On Original Starship Enterprise”.

Sorry to disappoint Trekkies who still believe, but the actual USS Enterprise did not really take up much space.

That famous starship of Mr. Spock and Capt. James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series — which turns 50 this year — was a model. Quite a large one, to be fair: 11 feet long and about 200 lbs., made out of blow-molded plastic and wood. But not life-sized.

And for more than a decade, it hung in the gift shop of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.

“From a conservator’s standpoint, that is probably one of the worst places to put an artifact,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator of the National Air and Space Museum….

On Tues., June 28, the USS Enterprise will reach its final frontier beside other famous and historical aircraft in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 28, 1926 – Mel Brooks. He’d like to make Spaceballs 2.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day

(12) THE ACTOR IS IN. At the invitation of Samantha Bee (Full Frontal), “David Tennant Unleashes His Inner Time Lord On Donald Trump”

The “Full Frontal“ host called on Scottish actor David Tennant to read a series of anti-Trump tweets that his fellow countrymen posted after the real estate magnate erroneously said they were “going wild“ for Brexit.

In contrast to the United Kingdom as a whole, the majority of Scots actually voted to remain inside the European Union.

By proxy, “Jessica Jones“ star Tennant called Trump a “wiggy slice,” “weapons-grade plum” and “ludicrous tangerine ball bag” in the segment that aired Monday.

 

(13) HOWARD DAYS. Keith West delivers a “Report on Howard Days 2016” at Adventures Fantastic.

Howard Days has grown, something that was emphasized since this year marked the 30th anniversary of the first Howard Days.  While things officially don’t start until Friday, people are showing up on Wednesday evenings.  Space is becoming a consideration, with events this year moved from the library to the high school auditorium or the Senior Center across the street from the library.  There were a number of new attendees, which is always a healthy thing for an event, and I’m not referring the 10,000 or so mosquitoes that showed up.There were multiple anniversaries, such as the first Frazetta cover on a Lancer paperback and both the publication and film version of Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir, One Who Walked Alone (filmed as The Whole Wide World).

There have been some excellent reports on the 2016 Howard Days, such as this one by Lee Breakiron and this one by David Piske.  Also, Ben Friberg has uploaded Mark Finn’s interview with guest Michael Scott Myers and the boxing panel to YouTube.  I expect there will be more videos coming.  I’ll not repeat what they’ve said, especially since I don’t trust my memory on some of the details and didn’t make some of the panels that they did.  Rather I’ll focus on some personal highlights…..

(14) ENCELADUS. Scientific American discusses why “Excitement Builds for the Possibility of Life on Enceladus”.

Saturn’s frozen moon Enceladus is a tantalizing world—many scientists are increasingly convinced it may be the best place in our solar system to search for life. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn, has made intriguing observations of icy jets spewing from a suspected underground liquid ocean on the mysterious world that might be hospitable to alien life.

Cassini’s tour is due to wind down in 2017, and scientists badly want to send a dedicated mission to Enceladus to look for signs of life. In fact, some have already started seriously thinking about exactly how they might do this—including planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, who is the imaging team leader for Cassini. Earlier this month, she gathered a group of researchers including oceanographers, organic chemists and astrobiologists at the University of California, Berkeley, to strategize how to search for extraterrestrials on Enceladus—which, according to Porco, “is a total bitch of a problem to solve.”

Although Enceladus is small in size and shrouded in a thick shell of ice, it appears to be a habitable world: It has a source of energy from friction created by its orbit around Saturn, organic compounds that are building blocks for life and a liquid water ocean underneath all that ice. But just because Enceladus may be hospitable to life does not mean life exists there; it will take much more work to definitively prove it.

(15) TEACHING WITH COMICS. San Diego Comic-Con International has teamed up with the San Diego Public Library to host a free four-day “Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians” from July 20-23.

This first-of-its-kind educational conference will take place during Comic-Con, and will explore the role comics play in promoting education and literacy for all ages.

Library professionals and educators are invited to this free event to learn creative and exciting ways to incorporate comics and graphic novels into their work. Through presentations and panel discussions, the conference aims to engage the community, promote comics as a powerful tool for learning, and celebrate the medium as an important literary art form. The Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians is also an opportunity for attendees to connect and dialogue with publishers and industry professionals.

The Conference will be located in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the ninth floor of the San Diego Central Library. Each day of the Conference will have different themes….

The conference is free to attend, but space is limited and registration is required for each day. Comic-Con badge-holders with valid single same-day or four-day badges are welcome to attend and are not required to register. Further details about the Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians will be provided for registrants in the coming weeks.

(16) THE TWINKIE OFFENSE. “The World’s Oldest Twinkie” is has spent 40 years on display at a Maine school.

Bennatti had students buy a package of Twinkies from a nearby store during a 1976 lesson on food additives and shelf life. He placed the Twinkie on the blackboard for the class to observe, and there it remained until Bennatti retired in 2004 and passed custody of the aging snack cake to Rosemeier, who placed it in a case in her office.

(17) HOYT SERIES. Jeb Kinnison has kind words for “Sarah Hoyt’s Through Fire – Darkship Book 4”.

Through Fire, Book 4 in Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship series, came out last month and I bought it immediately, but despite its can’t-put-it-down action, I had to put it down until this week.

It’s a fine entry in the series, plunging us into action on the Seacity Liberté, which unlike the last book in the series I read, A Few Good Men (review here) is dominated by French cultural influences, with the rebellion set in motion in the first scene modeled on the French Revolution and its Terror.

(18) LMB ON SELF-PUBLISHING. At Eight Ladies Writing,“Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three Questions about Self-Publishing”, now that she’s self-pubbing increasingly large parts of her back-catalog, and her novellas.

LMB: I first had some e-publishing experiences starting in the early 00s with the e-books company Fictionwise (later to be bought out and terminated by B&N.) This was not self-pubbing; they just took my manuscript files, or in some cases made OCR files themselves of my older paper books, did everything else themselves, and sent me checks. (These were the selection of my books whose old contracts predated e-books, hence those rights were still mine.) Their sales were all through their own website. But for one very interesting statement, my Fictionwise backlist e-titles were for sale on or via Amazon, for which the maybe $500-to-$1000-a-quarter they’d been jointly clearing shot up seven-fold, which riveted my attention. But then that went away as mysteriously as it had arrived, for corporate reasons I never discovered….

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Lisa Goldstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Second Pixel Scroll 4/28/16 Scroll Up And File Right

Here’s a bonus Scroll, healthfully free of references to rocket-shaped awards. Well, except for that one.

(1) THE DOCTOR. Vulture provided an introduction for this clip of David Tennant and Stephen Colbert doing their own version of “Who’s on First”.

David Tennant is currently playing Richard II in a cycle of Shakespeare history plays at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and on Wednesday night, he stopped by Stephen Colbert’s show to tell him all about it. But before he could, he had to take part in a very silly “Who’s On First” spoof with late night’s most verbally gifted host, one that wrapped in Doctor Who, Doctor Strange, and Benedict Cumberbatch (who, coincidentally, is about to play Richard III on British TV).

 

(2) PETER DAVID.

(3) GIVE FORWARD. When Ed Dravecky III passed away at WhoFest last weekend, away from home, a crowdfunded appeal was launched on behalf of his partner Robyn Winans seeking financial assistance to help with the transport and funeral arrangements.The target was $2,000 – over $5,000 was raised.

(4) FREE PAOLO BACIGALUPI STORY. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination as Arizona State University, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, has something for you —

I just wanted to share this new (free) short story from Paolo Bacigalupi about artificial intelligence, pleasurebots, and the ethical and legal quandaries of human-machine interaction – I’m hoping you might consider sharing it with your community!

The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, where I work, commissioned and edited the story along with Slate.com’s Future Tense channel – it’s the first in Future Tense Fiction, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The story is accompanied by a response essay from Ryan Calo, a robotics and law expert at the University of Washington.

(5) FULL FURY FIVE. The “Wasteland Weekend” video features people cosplaying entire cars in Mad Max-esque styles.

For Mike Orr, a.k.a. “Sweet Lips,” escapism comes in the form of Wasteland Weekend: an annual four-day post-apocalyptic festival held in the Southern California desert that attracts thousands of people from around the country. It’s basically a giant celebration of end-of-the-world culture, where, per Sweet Lips, “people can do whatever they want.” This includes everything from hand-to-hand combat to burlesque to bonfires that set the night sky ablaze.

But most of all, people come to Wasteland for the cars?—?DIY war machines that look as though they’ve rolled right out of Fury Road.

 

(6) TO THE PAIN. The New York Times explains why “Ramsay Bolton of ‘Game of Thrones’ Is the Most Hated Man on TV”.

Like many successful actors, Iwan Rheon, better known as the blithely malicious Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones,” arguably the most hated man on television, admits he’s concerned about being narrowly defined by an indelible character. But ask a logical follow-up question — what else are you working on? — and the scale of his challenge becomes clear.

“I’m playing a young Hitler,” he replied, referring to the British television movie “Adolf the Artist.” Then realization took hold, and his face crumpled in mock despair: “Oh, I’m typecast already!”

(7) KEEP YOUR YAB BANG CHUT. A side-effect of the studio’s suit against the producers of Axanar is this story: “Paramount Pictures sued over copyright of Klingon language”. Notwithstanding the headline, what’s been filed is an amicus curae brief, which, as Chris Meadow explains, “Is a legal brief in which a party not directly involved in a case puts in a few words about issues that could nonetheless affect them depending on how the case is decided.”

A group called the Language Creation Society is suing Paramount Pictures in federal court over its copyright of the Klingon language from the television series Star Trek, arguing that it is a real language and therefore not subject to copyright.

The suit, filed by Marc Randazza and the Language Creation Society, argues that while Paramount Pictures created Klingon, the language has “taken on a life of its own.”

“A group called the Language Creation Society claims in U.S. federal court that Paramount Pictures lacks the ‘yab bang chut’ or ‘mind property law’ necessary to claim copyright over the Klingon language,” Randazza wrote in the brief’s description.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the issue had previously been brought up in a lawsuit between Paramount Pictures and CBS over a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film that made use of the language.

Ken White at Popehat did his own analysis of the question.

The legal point is a fascinating one: if a language is created in connection with a copyrighted work of fiction, can there be a copyright on other use of the language, even if it’s not to speak the lines from the copyrighted work?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 2007  — Ashes of actor James Doohan, who portrayed engineer “Scotty” on Star Trek, and of Apollo 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper soared into space aboard a rocket.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL.

(10) SINFUL STAR WARS. CinemaSins covers Everything Wrong With Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and reminds us: “Remember, no movie is without sin!”

(11) FUTURE DSC AWARDED. SF Site News learned ConCave to Host DeepSouthCon in 2018.

(12) WE NOW KNOW. In 2016, the planet Mars will appear brightest from May 18 to June 3. NASA has the scoop.

Mars Close Approach is May 30, 2016. That is the point in Mars’ orbit when it comes closest to Earth. Mars will be at a distance of 46.8 million miles (75.3 million kilometers). Mars reaches its highest point around midnight — about 35 degrees above the southern horizon, or one third of the distance between the horizon and overhead. Mars will be visible for much of the night.

There is a nice animation at the above site showing how Mars’ appearance embiggens during the approach…

(13) UNEXPECTED VACANCY IN HALL H. “Fox Movie Studio Pulls Out of Comic-Con Main Event Over Piracy Fears” at The Wrap.

20th Century Fox will not showcase its upcoming movie releases in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con this year.

The studio feels it cannot prevent the piracy of custom trailers and exclusive footage routinely screened for fans in attendance, an individual familiar with the decision told TheWrap.

A representative for Fox declined to comment. SDCC was not immediately available for comment….

(14) THE PLURAL OF NEMESIS. The Verge introduces Batman: The Killing Joke trailer.

The first full trailer for Batman: The Killing Joke, Warner Bros. Animation’s first R-rated Batman movie, is finally here. Based on the acclaimed and highly controversial graphic novel of the same name, the film will explore Batman’s relationship with the Joker, and drive home the fact that they represent perfect arch-nemeses for one another.

Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, released as a one-shot back in 1988, is considered by many fans as the greatest, and perhaps most terrifying, Joker story ever written….

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Glenn Hauman, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Heather Rose Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28 Sympathy For The Devil’s Arithmetic

(1) Connor Johnston opens a different doorway into the commonplace activity of reviewing Doctor Who episodes by “Ranking the Writing Debuts of the Capaldi Era” at Doctor Who TV.

Doctor Who is home to some of the greatest and most confident writers in the history of television, who have each been responsible for some of the most riveting storylines of the last 52 years,  and every great writer must start somewhere. So far in Capaldi’s era, five ambitious personalities have made their first contribution to the show, expanding the already respected list of accomplished Who alumni significantly. With Sarah Dollard’s “Face the Raven” having aired last weekend, she has become the final new addition for the show’s ninth series, as such making this the perfect time to reflect on the newer talent we’ve seen grace our imaginations in the last two years.

(2) Passengers are go! “Airbus proposes new drop-in airplane ‘cabin modules’ to speed up boarding” at ars technical UK.

Today, Airbus has been granted a patent (US 9,193,460) on a method that essentially turns an airplane into an articulated truck. The plane, instead of being a single, contiguous hull, would have a huge hole in the middle where the passengers and luggage would normally be. Instead of boarding the plane directly, passengers and luggage would be loaded into a separate “cabin module.” Then, when the module is ready to go, it’s simply dropped into the airplane. If you ever watched Thunderbirds as a kid, it’s a lot like Thunderbird 2.

The post comes with diagrams.

(3) Sam Weller’s “Where the Hills Are Fog and the Rivers Are Mist” in The Paris Review.

Ray Bradbury’s The October Country turns sixty.

“The Dubliners of American Gothic”—that’s how Stephen King referred to Ray Bradbury’s first book, the little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. There’s good reason few readers, even those well versed in Bradbury’s work, are unfamiliar with Dark Carnival: Arkham House, a small press out of Sauk City, Wisconsin, published the book in a modest run of 3,112 copies; the book went out of print just a few years later. Besides a pricey limited-edition reprint in 2001, Dark Carnival exists as a literary apparition.

And yet many people have read some of Dark Carnival without knowing it

(4) Ryan Britt has a daring demand in “The Ghost of Hayden Christensen: Why Anakin MUST Appear in Episode VII” at Tor.com.

The nice thing about Anakin is that he gets to redeem himself in Return of the Jedi—which, if you’re a kid experiencing the Star Wars movies in the Lucas-order, is a pretty neat arc. Also for contemporary kids, Anakin is the focus of more hours of Star Wars than really any other character, thanks to The Clone Wars. So for better or worse, the prequel-era Anakin defines Star Wars for a big chunk of the viewing public.

If all the actors from the classic trilogy are reprising their roles, the giant space elephant in the room is how old everyone has gotten. Let’s get real, the focus of these new films will doubtlessly be on new characters, but it would be nice to have some existing Star Wars characters in there too, particularly ones who don’t look super old. Luckily, you don’t have to do any Tron: Legacy de-aging CG action on Hayden. He looks good!

(5) N K Jeminsin made the New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2015”. Interestingly, it’s in Fiction. The list does not put sf/fantasy in a separate section.

THE FIFTH SEASON. The Broken Earth: Book One. By N.K. Jemisin. (Orbit, paper, $15.99.) In Jemisin’s fantasy novel, ­civilization faces destruction and the earth itself is a monstrous enemy.

(6) Michael Damien Thomas will work on accessibility at SFWA’s big annual event —

(7) With Carrie Fisher returning in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this 2011 comedy video has a new lease on life —

Kaley Cuoco addresses an important issue affecting cosplay girls across the globe: Slave Leia fatigue. With so many choices available to women who cosplay, there’s no reason everyone needs to be Slave Leia.

 

(8) “Seed bombing to save the bees” at Interesting Engineering.

Seed bombs began as a fun and friendly tactic for greening abandoned lots in urban spaces, but are still a developing idea to be done in large scale. It involves throwing small seed ‘bombs’ from planes onto deserted areas that have suffered deforestation, to gradually begin to recover the ecosystem. This method not only allows the growth of more trees and plants, but helps combat the extinction of bees, indispensable beings for the reproduction of life on Earth….

Each seed capsule is made from biodegradable plastic and functions as a small greenhouse where the seeds grow at first. When they reach the ground, the capsule disintegrates without polluting the environment until it disappears completely, allowing the plant growth to take its natural course.

seed bombs

(9) At Examined Worlds, a philosophical Ethan Mills claims “I’m Thankful For My Regrets”.

Yesterday we celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  One popular tradition is to enumerate what you’re thankful for.  I’m thankful for lots of things.  Of course, I’m thankful for my family and friends and my cats.  I’m thankful that I have a fulfilling career and no major health issues.  I’m thankful that I have neither the greed nor the need to go “Black Friday” shopping today.  I’m thankful that the new Star Wars movie is coming out soon!

Also, I’m thankful for my regrets.  Like most people, I have plenty.  I regret that I haven’t done more international travel and that I haven’t done more charitable giving and volunteering.  I regret never figuring out this whole physical fitness thing.  I regret that I saw Star Wars: Episode I seven times in the theater.  I regret voting for Ralph Nader in 2000.  I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my mom.

I don’t think regrets have to be the soul-crushing thing they’re made out to be; you don’t have to exterminate them entirely to have a healthy life. I also don’t think you need to go in the direction of some Nietzscheans and existentialists to say that you have to take ownership of regrets and affirm them, because they’ve made you who you are.  There is, as Buddhists would say, a middle way between these extremes.

(10) There’s an app for the Battleship Iowa?

The Battleship IOWA experience is at your fingertips – you’re all aboard for adventure! You will never look at the Navy the same way. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour will let you experience, first hand, what it was like to live and serve on this historic ship. You’ll be part of the adventure!

You’ll see and hear the fascinating stories behind the ship, its crew, and the part it played in shaping our world and our country. It is virtually impossible to get a feel for the service and spirit of this historic shp by simply reading a sign or placard. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour puts you in control of your experience. Dive deep into the content of the ship and explore the areas that intrigue you most. You’ll find crewmember stories, fun facts, ship service records, videos of her in action all in the palm of your hand. Enjoy content that isn’t available anywhere else in the museum.

 

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

(11) Tom Knighton’s “Review of Jessica Jones Season 1”:

…The show stars Kristen Ritter as Jones, a private investigator who got super powers after an auto accident that killed her family.  She’s not the typical hero.  An encounter prior to the show with a mind controller named Kilgrave (played by David Tennant) leaves her with a healthy dose of PTSD and a penchant for whiskey.

Early on, she meets a bar owner who she’s been following for a reason explained later in the series.  The bar owner is a large black man named Luke Cage.

Yeah, baby.

Ritter is solid as Jones, nailing the smart mouth and feigned apathy the script called for.  Her natural thinness might not normally fit a super strong hero, but personally I think it fits the character nicely.  Not only does it make it more impressive when she lifts a car’s back wheels without straining, but it fits the alcoholic aspect of the character pretty well….

(12) Den of Geek’s spoiler-filled review of Jessica Jones focuses on the question, “Is Kilgrave Marvel’s Creepiest Villain?”

The casting of David Tennant makes Kilgrave’s grim demands seem ever more shocking, and this must be deliberate from the showrunners. At points, when Kilgrave’s enthusiasm levels rise a little, he really does resemble a twisted version of the Tenth Doctor. His charisma – combined with his creepiness and callousness – makes for unsettling viewing.

(13) Black Gate’s John ONeill knows why it continually costs more to be a fan who’s passionate about “Collecting Philip K. Dick”.

I have a lot of experience selling vintage paperbacks at conventions and other places, and nobody — but nobody — has skyrocketed in value like Philip K. Dick. The only authors who even come close are George R.R. Martin, James Tiptree, Jr, Robert E. Howard, and maybe Samuel R. Delany.

A big part of the reason, of course, is that virtually all of Dick’s novels were originally published in paperback, which means that — nearly unique among highly collectible authors — the coveted first editions of his novels are all paperbacks.

(14) Not all of CheatSheet’s “10 Sci-Fi Cult Classics That Everyone Should See” are as surprising as Snowpiercer (at #4) – who knew it had been around long enough to be a classic? Some might even agree with its strong preference for remakes — John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly (#10) and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (#5).

  1. The Thing

Audiences in 1982 were more interested in cuddly aliens like Steven Spielberg’s ET than they were in monstrous, shape-shifting ones, which explains the critical and commercial failure of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Thankfully, viewers have rediscovered the film, which stands as one of the greatest horror films and one of the greatest science fiction films. An Antarctic outpost of men struggles to identify and destroy an alien that can assume the form and personality of any living thing it consumes. The men, led by a never-better Kurt Russell, act competently in facing the threat, making it all the more terrifying when they can’t stop it. There’s mounds of existential tension and paranoid distrust to go around in the icy and isolated setting. Carpenter knows how to play off the tension brilliantly, using some of the most tactile and creatively terrifying practical effects in cinema history, courtesy of Rob Bottin.

(15) How Attack of the Clones Should Have Ended!

(16) After reading about Ridley Scott’s plans for more Prometheus movies I look forward to a future video series telling How It Should Have Begun.

Ridley Scott has confirmed that ‘Alien: Covenant’ will be the first of three films that will then link up to the story from the original 1979 ‘Alien’.

The second movie in his ‘Prometheus’ series is in its pre-production stage in Sydney, Australia, at the moment, where Scott confirmed the plans in a press conference.

He said that the newly-named ‘Covenant’ and the next two films will answer the ‘very basic questions posed in Alien: why the alien, who might have made it and where did it come from?’.

Covenant will tell the story of the crew of a colony ship which discovers what it believes to be an ‘uncharted paradise’ world, but is in fact a ‘dark and dangerous’ place, inhabited solely by David, Michael Fassbender’s android character from the first ‘Prometheus’ movie.

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