Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/17 Nomination Street

(1) PATEL SURFACES, THEN SUBMERGES. A new Sunil Patel story that went online two days ago has been taken down. In its place, David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots (and the Long List Anthology) has posted “An Apology, Regarding Sunil Patel’s Story”.

On March 15th, I sent a story to Diabolical Plots publishing newsletter subscribers written by Sunil Patel. The story had been purchased and contracted in August 2016, before stories about Sunil’s abusive behavior surfaced (in October). I neglected to remove the story from the schedule and it went to the inbox of 182 subscribers of the newsletter.

This was not the right choice for me to make. Diabolical Plots is here to serve the SF publishing community, and I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I can’t unsend an email, but the story will be removed from the publishing lineup scheduled on the Diabolical Plots site (and replaced with a different story if I can work it out). If anyone wishes to provide further feedback, please feel free to email me at editor@diabolicalplots.com.

The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –

(2) SLICING UP THE PIE. New from Author Earnings, “February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”.

Greg Hullender says “This report just came out, and it’s fascinating. Although it doesn’t have the breakdown by genre (so probably not useful for File770 yet) it shows big-five publishers continuing to lose ground in e-book sales—mostly to small/medium publishers, not to independents.”

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

(3)  IN MEMORY YET GREEN. A St.Patrick’s Day coincidence? Cat Rambo has a new entry in her Lester Dent retrospective — “Reading Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre”.

Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and his footwear worthy of a J. Peterman catalog.

In this read, book eighteen of the series, we finally get to see another of Doc’s men, electrical engineer Long Tom. I do want to begin with a caveat that this book starts in Alexandria and initially features an Islamic villain, Pasha Bey; while I will call out some specific instances, this is the first of these where the racism is oozing all over the page and betrays so many things about the American popular conception of the Middle East. I just want to get that out of the way up front, because it is a big ol’ problem in the beginning of this text….

(4) DRIVING THE TRAINS OUT OF IRELAND. On the other hand, our favorite train driver James Bacon says explicitly that the new Journey Planet is “Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

This is our second issue looking at comic connections, in one way or another, to Ireland. I thought you would be interested, and hope you are.

Co-edited with ‘Pádraig Ó Méalóid and Michael Carrolll, this issue features an interview with Steve Dillon when he was living in Dublin, and an interview with Neil Bailey who co-edited The comic fanzine Sci Fi Adventures where Steve’s comic work began. We have an interview with Steve Moore about Ka-Pow the first British comic Fanzine and the first British Comic Con. We have and extended looks at the fan art of Paul Neary and fan and professional art of Steve Dillon and we reprint a piece about Steve Dillon that I wrote for Forbidden Planet.

This fanzine is all about histories, stories and in many respects is an oral history.  We have a lovely cover by co–editor Michael Carroll.

I’ve loved reading and writing about the comic connections, interesting, yet I feel historically significant happenings. The Fanzine connection, the Irish Connection, the comics connection. It is all connected and it is fascinating fun to find out about them. I am exceptionally graceful to Neil Bailey, Alan Moore, Paul Neary, Dez Skinn, Michael Carroll, Paul Sheridan, and of course to my co-editors Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Michael Carroll and Christopher J Garcia who have grafted very hard on this one. My thoughts are with those who mourn Steve Dillon and Steve Moore and I hope we remember them well here.

(5) FLEET OF FOOT. A scientific study from the University of Felapton Towers, “What Are Pixel Scrolls About?”, shows I haven’t been running nearly as much Bradbury material as I thought. So maybe I don’t really need the excuse of St. Patrick’s Day to plug in this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Irish story “The Anthem Sprinters.”

(6) AURORA AWARDS CALENDAR. The Aurora Awards calendar is up.

Nominations for the 2017 awards will open on March 31, 2017….

Online nominations must be submitted by 11:59:59 PM EDT on May 20th, 2017.

Voting will begin on July 15, 2017. Online votes must be submitted by 11:59:59 EDT on September 2nd.

The Aurora awards will be presented during at Hal-Con / Canvention 37 on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017 in Halifax.

(7) NEW MANDEL STORY. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in collaboration with Slate’s Future Tense channel, just published “Mr. Thursday,” a new short story by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) about time travel, determinism, and unrequited longing. Read it (free) here, along with a response essay, “Can We Really Travel Back in Time to Change History?” by Paul Davies, a theoretical physics professor at Arizona State University and author of the book How to Build a Time Machine.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 17, 1755 – The Transylvania Land Company bought what became the state of Kentucky for $50,000, from a Cherokee Indian chief.

(9) A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS. Matt Wallace’s award suggestion rapidly morphed into a vision for a deadly cage match competition.

(10) PEWPEW. In Myke Cole’s interview by Patrick St.Denis the author does not hold back.

Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you’re selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I’m not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.

You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters’ team.

Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.

Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don’t know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer – Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying “manhunting” and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.

It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I’m most pleased that it’s a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.

(11) DIY CORNER. Charon Dunn knows a good interview helps publicize a book. But who, oh who, could she get to do the interview?

Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.

IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.

CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old….

II: Hard military science fiction, then?

CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.

And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.

I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.

That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.

The jacket copy is here. And Cora Buhlert ran the cover together with an excerpt from the book at Speculative Ficton Showcase. There’s even a photo of Charon with, as she calls it, “my humongous SJW credential.”

(12) THE CREATOR. With the impetus of the American Gods series, Neil Gaiman is becoming a television maven.

The comic book legend will develop projects from his library as well as original ideas.

Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.

The creator and exec producer of Starz’s upcoming American Gods has signed a first-look TV deal with FremantleMedia.

Under the multiple-year deal, Gaiman will be able to adapt any of his projects — from novels and short stories — as well as adapt other projects and original ideas.

“Working with my friends at FremantleMedia on shepherding American Gods to the screen has been exciting and a delightful way to spend the last three years,” Gaiman said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”

(13) ALL ABOARD! The Digital Antiquarian tells how Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley cooked up Railroad Tycoon.

The problem of reconciling the two halves of Railroad Tycoon might have seemed intractable to many a design team. Consider the question of time. The operational game would seemingly need to run on a scale of days and hours, as trains chug around the tracks picking up and delivering constant streams of cargo. Yet the high-level economic game needs to run on a scale of months and years. A full game of Railroad Tycoon lasts a full century, over the course of which Big Changes happen on a scale about a million miles removed from the progress of individual trains down the tracks: the economy booms and crashes and booms again; coal and oil deposits are discovered and exploited and exhausted; cities grow; new industries develop; the Age of Steam gives ways to the Age of Diesel; competitors rise and fall and rise again. “You can’t have a game that lasts a hundred years and be running individual trains,” thought Meier and Shelley initially. If they tried to run the whole thing at the natural scale of the operational game, they’d wind up with a game that took a year or two of real-world time to play and left the player so lost in the weeds of day-to-day railroad operations that the bigger economic picture would get lost entirely.

Meier’s audacious solution was to do the opposite, to run the game as a whole at the macro scale of the economic game. This means that, at the beginning of the game when locomotives are weak and slow, it might take six months for a train to go from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. What ought to be one day of train traffic takes two years in the game’s reckoning of time. As a simulation, it’s ridiculous, but if we’re willing to see each train driving on the map as an abstraction representing many individual trains — or, for that matter, if we’re willing to not think about it at all too closely — it works perfectly well. Meier understood that a game doesn’t need to be a literal simulation of its subject to evoke the spirit of its subject — that experiential gaming encompasses more than simulations. Railroad Tycoon is, to use the words of game designer Michael Bate, an “aesthetic simulation” of railroad history.

(14) CAT MAN DUE. Zoe Saldana enlists the help of Stephen Hawking to solve a quantum riddle in order to get Simon Pegg’s cat back in Quantum is Calling. Released by a CalTech production group in December 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, Cat Rambo, Joey Eschrich, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/16 Rudyard Pixeling’s Just Scroll Stories

(1) IT AIN’T ME BABE. George R.R. Martin is not at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Now, normally, I would not feel the need to post about where I’m not and what I am not doing… only I am getting reports from friends in San Diego, and friends of friends, that I have been sighted at the con.

It’s not me.

Really. It’s not. It’s some other old fat guy in a Greek sailor’s cap and pair of suspenders, maybe. Who may or may not be consciously cosplaying as me.

((And you have no idea how weird it feels to be typing that sentence. Way back when the show was first starting, there were a couple of Daenerys Targaryen cosplayers at San Diego, and I thought that was way cool. Fans dressing up as my characters, hey, hot damn! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that anyone would ever want to dress up as me. But now I seem to encounter it wherever I go….))

((And just to be clear, no, I do not disappove of fans cosplaying as me. I do find it surreal, but hey, what they hell, have fun… so long as they don’t actually pretend to be me)).

Damn near as funny to me, a friend of mine who uses the handle kalimac truthfully answered:

I am also an old fat guy with a Greek sailor’s cap and a pair of suspenders, though my beard is not yet as white as yours. But I’m not at Comicon either!

(2) FILE EIGHTY-EIGHT FORTY-FOUR. From News.Mic “Turkish Protesters Are Spray Painting ‘8.8.8.8’ and ‘8.8.4.4’ On Wallls – Here’s What It Means”.

As hard as the Turkish government might try, shutting down Twitter isn’t as easy as it seems. At 11:30 p.m. Thursday the Turkish government officially blocked the country’s 33 million Internet users from Twitter, but clever, tech-savvy Turks are sharing a simple and effective method to help fellow citizens bypass the ban — and they’re sharing it everywhere.

Just hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “root out” Twitter, graffiti has been popping up around Istanbul with two IP addresses anyone can use to circumvent the government’s ban. The two numbers — 8.8.8.8. and 8.8.4.4. — refer to Google’s Public DNS, which can be easily utilized to maintain access to Twitter.

And it’s working. Despite a short blackout, many Turks are back on Twitter, and there’s nothing the government can really do to stop them.

” … it seems that masses of ordinary citizens are learning how to use this technology,” wrote Serhatcan Yurdam, a blogger who lives in Istanbul. “Everybody is teaching each other how to change their DNS, how to use VPNs … and clearly they’re catching on quickly, since so many people are still tweeting!”

Step-by-step instructions like this are being widely shared by Turkish Internet users. 

Erdogan’s motivation was to “eradicate” social media, which he considers “the worst menace to society.”

(3) MARKO KLOOS KISSES FACEBOOK GOODBYE. You’ll still find him on Instagram and Twitter, but as of today Marko Kloos is done with Facebook.

I’ve known for a while that it had become more distraction than useful or fun tool, but today things kind of tipped over for me when one of my real-world writer acquaintances got pissed off over a comment I left on their post. (It was, of course, about politics, and that always spells trouble on Facebook because most people who post about politics don’t look to argue or debate. This election in particular has cranked up everyone’s sensitivity up to eleventy-twelve, and 95% of political posts are just there to have one’s opinion reaffirmed by The Tribe, not to actually talk about the subject.) It was my mistake, of course, but it was the proverbial straw for me…..

I’ve had to curate my posts on Facebook for years. Most of my publishing friends are on the left side the fence, and quite a few of my real-life non-publishing friends are libertarians or (GASP!) conservatives. When you have to make sure you have the right audience button selected before you post a picture or an opinion lest you offend half your friends list inadvertently, it stops being fun and starts becoming work–and hazardous work at that, like tap-dancing through a minefield.  The drawbacks have now outweighed the benefits of the platform, at least for me.

(And to be honest–it’s a massive time-waster designed to make you come click for your dopamine pellet a hundred times a day. If I had written fiction in all the times I’ve wasted time scrolling through Facebook over the last five years, Frontlines would now be a 20-book series.)

(4) BUT NOT ONE WORD ABOUT ANY REDSHIRTS. Once he drafted today’s post about Trump’s speech, John Scalzi cleansed his palate by reviewing Star Trek Beyond.

One complaint I do hear from longtime Trek fans is that the new Trek films don’t give enough lip service to Gene Roddenberry’s humanistic ethos, and I have a couple of thoughts on that. The first was that while that ethos was and is laudable, Roddenberry was as subtle about it as a sledgehammer, which is why TOS episodes sometimes now play like Very Special Episodes where learning happens (some TNG episodes play that way too, notably in the first couple of seasons). As a viewer I don’t actually want the Roddenberry Moral Sledgehammer. I’m not a child. The second is that as it happens Beyond is the Kelvin-era film that most overtly signals in the direction of that Trek ethos, both in what it says and what’s on screen. And for me it was the right amount — enough to know it’s there and important, not enough that you feel like you’re being lectured by a tiresome hippie uncle.

(5) SNEAK PREVIEW. Star Trek actors attended the White House’s advance screening of Star Trek Beyond on Tuesday. The highlight was a little gaffe by the First Lady.

After greeting the actors and welcoming the military families, Michelle Obama concluded her remarks with a phrase that was made famous by that other sci-fi franchise, “Star Wars.”

“May the force be with you,” she said. (We think she was kidding by invoking the rival films, but who knows — President Obama once mixed the two by referring to a “Jedi mind meld”).

Urban, slightly sheepishly, added his film’s signature line: “And live long and prosper!”

(6) THE AUTHOR/EDITOR RELATIONSHIP. At Magical Words, Melissa Gilbert used dating as an analogy to help advise self-published authors how to choose the right editor.

Decide you want a date:

First, you have to decide that you want to hire a freelance editor and why. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to learn more and improve your craft? Do you want to improve your chances of getting picked up by an agent? Basically, what’s your endgame? Like a date, are you looking to develop a long term relationship or just have some fun? ….

The First Date:

The first edit is much like a first date. You both are looking to see if you’re a good fit for each other. Writers, the editor is evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the editor, so professional courtesy should be extended by both parties.

Editors: don’t change the writer’s voice, be honest about the level of edit needed, be straightforward about your pricing and other policies, and communicate with the writer.

Writers: don’t rush the editor (ex: if it’s your first novel, your edit will likely take more than a few days, so don’t plan a huge release party!), reply promptly to their emails, remember that their job is to critique your work so it won’t be rainbows and butterflies the whole way through, and communicate with the editor.

(7) LIKE HELL. Playlist says these are the “50 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century So Far”.

The ease with which we sailed to 50 titles and the number we still felt bad about excluding speaks volumes about the health of this thriving and somehow ever-more-necessary genre. We’re hardly the first to notice that recent world events feel distinctly dystopian, and seeing various scenarios play out as extended thought experiments is something that only this genre really affords us.

And number one?

  1. “Children Of Men” (2006) Not just the best sci-fi movie of the last 16 years, but one of the best movies period, Alfonso Cuaron’s bravura dystopian masterpiece cemented the Mexican helmer’s status as not just a fast-rising star, but as one of our very, very best. Based on P.D. James’ novel, it’s set in a world where no children have been born in two decades, and society has collapsed as humanity waits to die out. Theo (Clive Owen) is entrusted with transporting a young immigrant woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is pregnant, the first person in a generation to be so. Aside from its central premise, everything about “Children Of Men” is chillingly plausible, and Cuaron’s vision is brought to life seamlessly with subtle VFX and the never-bettered docudrama-ish photography of Emmanuel Lubezki (including two of the greatest extended shots in cinema history). The cast, including Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Peter Mullan, and Danny Huston, is impeccable, it’s disarmingly funny, deeply sad, enormously exciting, fiercely political, and endlessly inventive, and people will be stealing from it for decades to come. Though many dismissed it on release as being too bleak (and everything from the Zika virus to Brexit is proving it to be all to prescient), that was to miss the point: “Children Of Men” is a film about hope, and in the 21st century, we need all the hope we can get.

(8) FAN ART FOR THE MASSES. Well, to be precise, it’s a fan’s art, but it’s not fan art, nevertheless, Nick Stathopoulos’ portrait of Deng is currently plastered all over Sydney as part of an ad campaign for the Archibald Prize exhibit.

Archibald Prize ad

(9) MERCURY MISSION CONTROL. Larry Klaes covers the launch for Galactic Journey: “[July 22, 1961] Into Space – and the Deep Blue (The Flight of Liberty Bell 7 )”. Regardless of what you may have heard, Gus didn’t screw the pooch….

After three failed attempts just this week, yesterday (July 21, 1961), astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom finally became this nation’s second (and the world’s third) man to reach outer space.  Grissom achieved another sort of milestone when his spacecraft unexpectedly sank after splashdown – and almost took the astronaut with it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean!

(10) PROTIPS FOR CHRONONAUTS. “10 Things You Should Never Do While Time Traveling” is a pretty damn clever and well-researched post – at B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog.

  1. Signal your presence The protagonists of Replayby Ken Grimwood, have an odd method of time travel. Upon death, their consciousness is sent back 25-odd years into their own bodies, with all future memories intact, to relive the same number of years time until they die again, at the exact same moment—creating a kind of Groundhog Dayloop. Naturally, the first thing anyone does is fix old mistakes and use their foreknowledge to become fabulously wealthy, then begin mucking about with history. These actions reach their peak when one of the replayers decides to enlist George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to make her a science fiction film, with the specific intent of finding and meeting other people replaying their lives. It also turns out to be a horrible idea, since at least one of said travelers is a deranged murderer, and a shadowy government agency may be actively seeking replayers for their own nefarious purposes. Telling people when you’re from is usually a bad idea in general anyway.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 22, 1899 — Director James Whale is born in The Black Country region of England. And what did he do, I asked? Does Frankenstein count?  How about Bride of FrankensteinThe Invisible Man?

(12) MOANA. Entertainment Weekly reports from “Comic-Con 2016: Moana heroine won’t have a love interest in the film”.

Disney’s Moana doesn’t hit theaters until November but Comic-Con attendees not only learned the plot of the animated film, they also got to see several clips at the Thursday panel moderated by EW’s own Marc Snetiker.

Set 2,000 years ago in the South Pacific, Moana is the story of the titular 16-year-old girl, voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, who goes in search of a banished demi god named Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) in order to, naturally, save the world….

[Directors] Musker and Clements made a point to say that Moana doesn’t have a love interest in this story and that it’s a film about the heroine finding herself.

(13) FANTASTIC BEASTS. Hypable presents the poster released at San Diego Comic-Con for Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Newt is looking over his shoulder in the middle, holding a wand in one hand and a suitcase (with a beast trying to get out!) in the other. Supporting characters Graves, Jacob, Queenie, and Tina appear in the wings. Also here: Our very first looks at two female characters. We believe the one in the bottom left is Mary Lou, played by Samantha Morton. The guy on the right is Credence played by Ezra Miller.

 

fantastic-beasts-sdcc-2016-poster

(14) KEVIN AND URSULA EAT CHEAP. Cally pointed out this opportunity in a comment: If you want to hear someone eat a Carolina Reaper live, here’s the episode of Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap where Our Wombat’s husband Kevin eats a Reaper that Ursula grew in the garden – “Fear The Reaper Redux”. Buildup to Reaper eating begins at about minute 12, actual eating stars at 13:50.

Now that Cally has helped me discover this podcast, here are links to a couple of the most recent installments.

We’re back from Anthrocon, and who should arrive on our doorstep this week, than the chairman himself, Uncle Kage! He has come bearing gifts in the form of Sake and ShoChu, which we pair with Velveeta Chipotle Mac & Cheese, Hot Pockets, pastry puffs, and w hole range of things found on our travels.

Be warned, this one is not for the faint of heart, when We Eat It, So You Don’t Have To!

(Also of note – there is a glitch towards the end, due to a disk issue on the recording machine, so expect a bit of a jump in there)

This week, we have a margarita mixer, which means we break out the tequila, which leads to drunken geekery. We also have the biggest frozen pizza we’ve found to date, beer, mac &  cheese, and lots and lots of chocolate. We even have duck fat caramels. Yes, you read that correctly : DUCK. FAT. CARAMELS.

This is not a drill folks, this week when We Eat It, So You Don’t Have To!

(15) SHOT AT A FREEBIE. LA area fans interest in seeing The Pit and the Pendulum free on July 26 should go to Facebook and sign up.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has graciously offered a block of FREE TICKETS to our customers of CREATURE FEATURES for their archival revival screening of Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM starring Vincent Price, this Tuesday, July 26th at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills at 7:30pm. Featuring a brand new 35mm print, the screening will highlight a Q&A with Roger Corman & Julie Corman, along with four newly restored trailers from other Corman classics. To sign up for your free ticket, simply click “Going” on this event before 11pm on Monday, July 25th and your name will be at the Will Call desk at the theatre entrance. Seating is limited and first come first served, while space lasts. Theater reserves right to limit admission as necessary. Based on the classic shocker by Edgar Allan Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum, with a screenplay by Richard Matheson, deviates somewhat from the original, but Roger Corman, who also produced and directed, succeeds in translating Poe’s eerie mood to the screen. Set in the 16th century, horror film icon Vincent Price stars as a Spanish nobleman whose wife (Barbara Steele) dies under mysterious circumstances. Despite its modest budget of $300,000 over 15 shooting days, Corman employs his legendary “bag of tricks” and the mastery of cinematographer Floyd Crosby to create a colorful, visually impressive and atmospheric film. Cast: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Lynn Bernay, Larry Turner, Mary Menzies, Charles Victor

(16) ALTERNATE HISTORY. Original fiction by Jonathan Edelstein at Haibane.info“Saladin at Jerusalem: A Friday Story”.

This is another alternate history vignette, originally posted here and centering on Abdelkader El Djezairi, one of the most fascinating and heroic characters of the nineteenth century.  The story takes place some years after the end of his resistance to French colonization in Algeria, and after an incident in Damascus which ironically made him into a friend of France.  Those who know what happened there might have some idea of where this story will go… or maybe not.

(17) MORE MIÉVILLE. Tor.com has posted an excerpt from China Miéville’s new book The Last Days of New Paris. Here is the description of the story –

1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer—and occult disciple—Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever.

1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts—and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse. But Sam is being hunted. And new secrets will emerge that will test all their loyalties—to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality itself.

(18) YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND. Steve Fahnestalk has a great tribute to “MY PAL, JERRY SOHL!” at Amazing Stories

Most of you are familiar with Jerry’s main Star Trek script; the episode is called “The Corbomite Maneuver”; but you may not know that as Nathan Butler (one of his pseudonyms) Jerry also wrote and/or co-wrote either the script or the original stories for “Whom Gods Destroy” (with Lee Erwin) and “This Side of Paradise” with D.C. Fontana. Earlier in his career, Jerry was in a writing group called “The Green Hand” which included variously, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan and several others from time to time. When Beaumont fell ill with several Twilight Zone episodes due, Jerry wrote them (“Living Doll,” “Queen of the Nile,” and “The New Exhibit”) to be submitted under Beaumont’s name; Beaumont insisted that Jerry keep half the money. (Jerry was especially proud of “Living Doll”—“My name’s Alicia and I’m going to kill you!” being a line he repeated to me several times.

(19) MYSTERY SOLVED. Did anyone get a memo about there being a “blackout”? What about The Guardian, the LA Times, and other such outlets which have covered the Hugos this year?

(20) STUCK IN THE STONE. Digital Antiquarian tells the developmental history of Infocom’s game “Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur”.

And so at last, twelve years after a group of MIT hackers had started working on a game to best Crowther and Woods’s original Adventure, it all came down to Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur, Infocom’s 35th and final work of interactive fiction. Somewhat ironically, this era-ending game wasn’t written by one of Infocom’s own long-serving Imps, but rather by the relatively fresh and inexperienced Bob Bates and his company Challenge, Incorporated, for whom Arthur represented only their second game. On the other hand, though, Bates and Challenge did already have some experience with era-ending games. Their previous effort, Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels, had been the last text-only Infocom game to be published. As Bates’s buddy Steve Meretzky delights in saying, it’s lucky that Challenge would never get the chance to make a third game. What with them having already “single-handedly killed” the all-text Infocom game with Sherlock and then Infocom as a whole with Arthur, a third Challenge game “probably would have killed the entire computer-game industry.” We kid, Bob, we kid.

(21) THE BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. This is supposed to be a new product from Discworld Emporium (it was on their FB page) but I can’t find it in the online catalog. It’s still funny anyway.

Pratchett blue plaque

(22) HOW THE MOON GOT ITS BLACK EYE. The BBC relays a theory that “Vast asteroid created ‘Man in the Moon’s eye’ crater”. Well, of course it did. But now, math.

One of the Moon’s biggest craters was created by an asteroid more than 250km (150 miles) across, a study suggests.

It smashed into the lunar surface about 3.8 billion years ago, forming Mare Imbrium – the feature also known as the right eye of the “Man in the Moon”.

Scientists say the asteroid was three times bigger than previously estimated and debris from the collision would have rained down on the Earth.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

It would have been a catastrophic period of timeProf Peter Schultz, Brown University

The asteroid was so big it could be classified as a protoplanet – a space rock with the potential to become a fully formed world….

(23) CHART OF THE UNKNOWN. The Literary Gift Company is selling a “Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Map” of the British Isles created by Jonathan Coleclough.

These writers have created amazing new worlds, or have re-imagined the world we think we know. In turn we have mapped their landscapes: the towns and regions that created or inspired these writers. We meet Tolkien not in Middle-Earth, but the Midlands, for example, and we spy Philip Reeve in his current Dartmoor setting. From Angela Carter to Mervyn Peake, by way of John Wyndham, Alistair Reynolds, and over 200 other authors this stunning hand-lettered poster has been compiled and designed by Jonathan Coleclough.

 

 

(24) PLEASE DON’T PET THE ACTORS. Movie Pilot writer Tisha Mae Eaton tries to convince fans “Celebrity Is Not Consent”.

During cons, meeting one of your favorite celebrities can be an incredibly exciting experience, especially if you are able to walk right up to them. Your first instinct may to be a gushing adoration of all of their work, or to get nervous and clam up, or maybe even to just fling your arms around them. While the first two are understandable, the latter is actually quite inappropriate, and it’s become an increasing problem at conventions.

(25) THE HUNGER GAME. Those of you who haven’t followed Marko Kloos out the door at Facebook can click on this silly cat graphic posted by Janis Ian.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcocki, JJ, Aziz Poonawalla, Martin Morse Wooster, Dawn Incognito, David Langford, Bartimaeus, Cally, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]