Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/17 You Are A Scroll Of The Pixelverse/You Have No Right To Be Here

(1) DYSTOPIAS SELL LIKE INFERNAL HOTCAKES. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles notes that sales of dystopian novels, including Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale, are soaring under a Trump presidency.  He interviews Orwell biographer Gordon Bowker about what 1984 (Amazon’s #1 bestseller) tells us about a Trump administration.

President Trump may not be a big reader, but he’s been a boon for sales of dystopian literature. Amid our thirst for adult coloring books and stories about missing girls and reincarnated puppies, some grim old classics are speaking to us with new urgency. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451 ,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World ” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale ” have all risen up the latest paperback bestseller list.

But by far the greatest beneficiary of our newly piqued national anxiety is George Orwell’s “1984.”

Soon after senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that the administration was issuing “alternative facts,” Orwell’s classic novel spiked to No. 1 on Amazon.

And if you prefer an autographed leatherbound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, eBay has one on sale this week.

(2) MIND MELD. Ken Liu, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Helen Lowe, T. Frohock, Mur Lafferty, and Margo-Lea Hurwicz participate in “Mind Meld: Alternate Histories We Love” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

Alternate history can be a thrilling, but daunting, subgenre of science fiction, fantasy, and horror to dive into; there are seemingly endless possible “what-if,” timeline, and story combinations for readers to try. This month, Mind Meld asks writers:

What is your favorite alt-history novel?

What about the author’s treatment to the particular time period and story made you fall in love? What about the alt-history subgenre draws you in, as an author or a reader?

(3) STARS AND STRIPES. Jack Clemons tells the story of the late “Gene Cernan And The Last Flag On The Moon” at Amazing Stories.

Before Cernan and his fellow moonwalker Harrison Schmitt finished their final moonwalk, as a salute to the Apollo Program and a reminder to others of where we came from and how far we could go, Cernan positioned his camera so that Schmitt and the American Flag were framed in the black sky with the flag pointing to the distant blue Earth. Cernan’s own reflection can be seen in the visor of Schmitt’s helmet.

(4) WEREWOLF, THERE CASTLE. Here’s fan love for you – someone made Larry Correia a 50-pound “Bronze Statue of Earl Harbinger from MHI”. See photo at the link.

Pretty cool, huh?

That’s Earl Harbinger, mid transformation into werewolf (spoiler alert).

Devon Dorrity is a fantastic sculptor, He likes to listen to Audible while working, and had gone through the MHI series a couple of times. Alpha inspired him to create this.

(5) OVERFEASANCE. While we’re still flailing to catch up with last year’s award-worthy fiction, Jason has already evaluated this month’s new stories from semiprozines and other free sites in “Summation of Online Fiction: January 2017” at Featured Futures.

I tried forty-three stories of 176,695 words from thirteen January 2017 pro-rate webzines (Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Diabolical Plots, the final issue of the now-defunct Fantastic, Flash Fiction Online, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny)….

(6) PRINCE OBIT. Sarah Prince, a longtime fan who started receiving File 770 in 1978, passed away at the beginning of the week. Exact details are not immediately available – she was found when a friend asked someone to check on her.

Prince was a talented artist and potter. She was a resident of Columbus, OH when I first had contact with her in the Seventies, but has lived for many years in New York state. Prince ran for TAFF in 1999. Her website is here.

Sarah Prince in 2015

Sarah Prince in 2015

(7) CLOVEN COSPLAY. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn gets to the bottom of a new round of complaints in “Angry Goat Productions’s Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles Is Setting Off Red Flags For Sailor Moon Fans”.

Are people getting scammed by Angry Goat Productions, or is this simply a case of Angry Goat Productions being really bad at this….

We can confirm that the photos posted to the event’s page are stolen. The examples come from an event held in Japan last year, and that in itself is a pretty big red flag. Taking an image from someone else’s business and misrepresenting it as your own is a big no no pretty much everywhere, but it’s considered an especially egregious sin in the cosplay and convention world.

I know quite a few people who would boycott an event just for that.

The warning also links to a Who Scammed You? page, which claims that organizer Ray Jelley isn’t a real person. Now, I’ve had some experience dealing with people pretending to be other people online, and while Mr. Jelley does occasionally use an Errol Flynn photo on social media, I can honestly say that he appears to be a real human being.

A real human being with an interesting history….

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends this installment of Brevity, with a Star Wars twist.

(9) UNLISTED NUMBERS. ComicsBeat learned that graphic novels will no longer be part of the New York Times Bestseller list.

According to an email subscription version of February 5th’s NY Times Best Sellers List, “Beginning with the advance BSL edition that will be delivered today for February 5, 2017 there will be revisions to multiple categories in the publication. These changes will span weekly and monthly lists.” One of these changes appears to be the deletion of the hardcover graphic novels, softcover graphic novels, and manga Best Seller lists, as none of these sections are included in the document that we have reviewed.

ComicsBeat had further comment here and here, in which an unnamed spokesperson for the Times cites that “the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers.”

(10) MARCHING INTO PREHISTORY. If you’ve got six minutes, you can see how a vast number of dinosaur species compared in size to modern humans.

(11) REPEAL. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America reports –

Assembly Bill 228 has been introduced by California State Assembly Members Gloria and Chiu. If passed, this bill will provide significant relief from the most troubling and onerous provisions of AB 1570, California’s new autograph law.

The full language of AB 228 is found HERE.

…The legislative process is long and complicated.  Bills pass through policy committees in each house of the legislature and the process takes many months.  What AB 228 needs to help ensure that it becomes law is your support.  Right now, the best help you can provide is to:

Write a letter of support for AB 228 addressed to the bill’s primary author:

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

P.O. Box 942849

Sacramento, CA 94249-0078

Make sure you have added your name and comments to the change.org petition.

(12) DON’T DRINK AND CRUNCH. All that and a bag of chips – they may have too much sodium, but otherwise a bag of Tostitos keeps you out of trouble.

Frito-Lay unveiled “Party Safe” Tostitos bag for the Super Bowl that detects whether its holder has been drinking and can even order an Uber.

The limited-edition “Party Safe” Tostitos bag, designed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, contains a sensor connected to a microcontroller that detects trace amounts of alcohol on a person’s breath, turning the front of the bag red and showing an image of a steering wheel and the message, “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

The bag also flashes an Uber code and contains technology that allows the holder to tap their phone against it to order an Uber for $10 off during and after the Super Bowl Feb. 5.

“We’re proud to introduce to the world the first bag of chips that gets you home safe,” Roger Baran, a Goodby Silverstein & Partners creative director, told Adweek

(13) ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. Observing the 50th anniversary of the Apollo pad fire on January 22, 1967: “The fire that may have saved the Apollo programme”.

Fifty years ago, a fire broke out during a test of the rocket that would take men to the Moon. Three astronauts died on the launch pad – but their deaths were not in vain.

As countdown resumed, the air in the capsule was replaced with pure oxygen. The oxygen was maintained at higher pressure inside the capsule than outside. This simulated the increased pressure of the spacecraft in orbit and allowed the astronauts to breathe comfortably.

Both the single-man Mercury and two-man Gemini capsules had followed the same procedure without incident. It was so routine that the safety manual for testing the spacecraft made no reference to the hazards of strapping a crew into an experimental space capsule in a pressurised oxygen environment.

17:40, Apollo 1 spacecraft

There had been problems all day with communications between the ground and spacecraft, which was only a few hundred metres away from the control centre on the launch pad. As the countdown continued and more systems were switched across to Apollo 1, at times it was impossible to make out what the astronauts were saying. “I remember Gus Grissom got very exasperated,” recalls Griffin. “He was really mad.”

“Jesus Christ,” Grissom exclaimed. “How are we going to get to the Moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”…

(14) PEAKE PERFORMANCE. Soyuz capsule ridden by Tim Peake’s goes on exhibit in London’s Science Museum.

The museum says the Russian capsule is an important part of UK space history and hopes it will inspire the public.

The Soyuz TMA-19M has been refurbished, but is still slightly singed from re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed that Major Peake will make a second mission to the space station.

The timing will be decided by the European Space Agency (Esa).

(15) TECH HOT AIR. Hideo Kojima says games and films will merge together.

“In life people are very busy doing lots of things,” he explains through a translator.

“The time you have to choose what media or entertainment you experience is dwindling.

“More and more people are looking at types of media that combine elements together.”

“If we just make a game people are less likely to choose that as something to do.

“They would rather engage in something that combines different forms of entertainment together.

“That’s where we need to focus our efforts, on this convergence.”

(16) BOOKS BEYOND NUMBER. Hampus Eckerman calls it, “The roots of Mount Tsundoku.” The Guardian calls it “Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying”.

In the 19th century, book collecting became common among gentlemen, mostly in Britain, and grew into an obsession that one of its participants called “bibliomania”. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, which was a gentle satire of those he saw as afflicted with this “neurosis”. Dibdin medicalised the condition, going so far as to provide a list of symptoms manifested in the particular types of books that they obsessively sought: “First editions, true editions, black letter-printed books, large paper copies; uncut books with edges that are not sheared by binder’s tools; illustrated copies; unique copies with morocco binding or silk lining; and copies printed on vellum.”

(17) NO ALIEN SEQUEL. Alien Theory analyzes the fate of the series – “Alien 5 Cancelled: Where Does This Leave the Series? And Ripley?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jason for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/16 It’s Only Pixels I Recall; I Really Don’t Know Scrolls At All

(1) THE CORRELATION OF MARKET FORCES. John Z. Upjohn delivers another stinging social criticism on Alexandra Erin’s blog — “Sad Puppies Review Books: Caps For Sale”.

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A head-based cap delivery service is so woefully inefficient that it is no surprise he does not sell a single cap all day. “Not even a red cap,” he laments, which suggests that he knows that red caps are best, even if he insists on wearing his ridiculous checked one. Yet they are the ones at the top of the stack, where no one can reach them. SJWs don’t believe in simple market forces like supply and demand. If he knows that red caps are the caps preferred by the majority, there’s no financial reason for him to stock anything else. It’s okay for people to like other caps, but they can’t just expect to be pandered to!

(2) THAT ROTTEN VELOUR. Esquire studies “Why Star Trek’s Uniforms Haven’t Changed Much in 50 Years”.

Remember, this was the Age of Aquarius, when bold hues reigned supreme and NBC was billing itself as the “full-color network.” You can also see nods to the costumes’ 1960s heritage in the boots’ go-go contour, especially their Cuban heels. The flared trousers even suggested the evolution of bell-bottoms.

Beyond the prevailing cultural mood, Roddenberry’s working kit entailed some heavy ergonomic thinking. “No matter how many times NASA described the outfit of the future,” he once quipped, “it always sounded like long underwear.”

“Gene’s idea was that a replicator would redo the clothes every day,” said Andrea Weaver, a Star Trek women’s costumer. “In his mind, the crew would go in and the clothes would materialize, molded to the body form.”

That form was all-important. “Roddenberry’s theory,” said Joseph D’Agosta, the casting director, “was that by the 23rd Century, diet would be down to a science and everyone would be thin.”

Unfortunately, 20th Century reality didn’t always match 23rd Century fitness. “We found ourselves having to stay away from longer shots wherever possible,” Roddenberry observed, “as the simple plain lines of our basic costume render most unflattering any extra poundage around the waist.”

(3) UNIQUE WORKSHOP. Whoever heard of a writer’s workshop that pays for you to attend? The deadline to apply for Taliesin Nexus’ Calliope Workshop for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors is August 8.

Calling the next great American author!  If that’s you, then this September 9-11 get ready to have us fly you out to New York City, put you up in a hotel, and spend an entire weekend developing your work at the Calliope Authors Workshop.  You will have the opportunity to get thorough notes on your in-progress work as well as career advice from successful novelists, nonfiction authors, publishers, and literary agents.

(4) A STEP IN TIME. After seeing all those movies and cartoons in which someone stands inside the giant dinosaur footprint, well, here’s one in which you really can — “Meter-wide dinosaur print, one of largest ever, found in Bolivia”.

A footprint measuring over a meter wide that was made by a meat-eating predator some 80 million years ago has been discovered in Bolivia, one of the largest of its kind ever found.

The print, which measures 1.2 meters (1.3 yards) across, probably belonged to the abelisaurus, a biped dinosaur that once roamed South America, said Argentine paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia, who is studying the find.

(5) BRONYCON REPORT. Wesley Yiin of the Washington Post says “The grown men who love ‘My Little Pony’ aren’t who you think they are”. His article about Bronycon takes a sympathetic look at the fans.

More than half a decade into the Brony phenomenon, the grown men who love “My Little Pony” understand that the world remains curious about them. So they kicked off their recent BronyCon gathering in Baltimore with a crash course on dealing with the media, from which a couple of helpful pointers emerged:

  • Don’t use jargon like “OC” or even “original character.” Simply explain that the Pony-inspired name you go by in Brony circles is, for example, “Champ Romanhoof,” the persona claimed by Chaim Freedman, a 17-year-old Brony from New Jersey.
  • Do ask for their credentials. Certain publications of a conservative bent have been quick to smear Bronies. You’ll never be able to convince these kind of journalists that Bronyism is not a weird sex fetish, nor a sad childhood hang-up, but just another earnest, all-American fan community.
  • Do talk up the narratives you’d like reporters to work into their stories, such as the money Bronies raise for charity. “The media,” emphasizes Jake Hughes, the leader of this seminar, “is not the enemy.”

Hughes, who goes by “Jake the Army Guy” at conventions, is a communications specialist for the Army with a stuffed Pinkie Pie toy perched on his shoulder, which perfectly complements his denim biker vest. Like many people in this room, Hughes has gotten his fair share of flak for loving a kids’ cartoon inspired by a cheesy plastic toy marketed to little girls during the Reagan administration. (Once, he says, he was quoted in a story that complained of Bronies’ body odor.)

But no one’s in a defensive crouch here. BronyCon, which attracted more than 7,600 attendees this year, is the ultimate safe space: When you’re in a rainbow wonderland of fellow travelers wearing unicorn horns and technicolor manes, randomly hollering catchphrases like “Fun! Fun! Fun!” and singing fan-written songs with titles like “Mane Squeeze,” you can stop worrying about what’s normal and what’s weird or where you fit in.

(6) ANTICIPATING THE 1961 HUGOS. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is bracing himself for disappointment, in “[July 27, 1961] Breaking A Winning Streak (August 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Take a look at the back cover of this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction.  There’s the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn’t settle for a lesser sci-fi mag.  And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh’s WorldCon.  That’s the third Hugo in a row.

It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine.  Sure, it’s the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories.  I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad.  Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us….

(7) DEBUT REVIEWED. Paul Di Filippo reviews David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars at Locus Online.

This seems to be a “steam engine time” kind of period in publishing, when writers who have focused exclusively on short fiction for many years now step forth with their long-anticipated debut novels….

(8) LITIGATION. Slender Man is an online fiction creation. Two Wisconsin girls, age 12 at the time, allegedly attempted to kill their classmate to please this character. They have lost their appeal to be tried as juveniles rather than adults.

Anyone 10 or older charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult under Wisconsin law. But defense attorneys have argued that the case belongs in juvenile court, saying the adolescents suffer from mental illness and won’t get the treatment they need in the adult prison system.

Experts testified that one of the girls has schizophrenia and an oppositional defiant disorder that requires long-term mental health treatment. The other girl has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and a condition known as schizotypy, which a psychologist testified made her vulnerable to believing in Slender Man.

In a pair of rulings Wednesday, the 2nd District Appeals court affirmed a lower court’s determination that it was reasonable to try both girls as adults. Citing the ruling last year, the appeals court said if the girls were found guilty in the juvenile system they would be released at age 18 with no supervision or mental health treatment.

It also noted that the evidence showed the crime was not accidental or impulsive, but planned out and violent. Given the serious nature of the offense, it would not be appropriate for the trial to take place in juvenile court, the appeals court ruled…..

According to a criminal complaint, the girls plotted for months before they lured Payton Leutner into a park in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, and attacked her with a knife.

Leutner suffered 19 stab wounds, including one that doctors say narrowly missed a major artery near her heart. After the attack in a wooded park, she crawled to a road and was found lying on a sidewalk by a passing bicyclist. Despite the attack, she staged what her family called a “miraculous” recovery and was back in school in September three months later.

The girls told investigators they hoped that killing her would please Slender Man, a demon-like character they had read about in online horror stories. The tales describe Slender Man as an unnaturally thin, faceless creature who preys on children.

(9) LIEBMANN OBIT. SF Site News reports filker Michael Liebmann died on July 26. Liebmann founded GAFilk in 1999. More information at the link.

(10) JACK DAVIS OBIT. Artist Jack Davis (1924-2016) died July 27 at the age of 91. I knew him from MAD Magazine, though he was even better known for his movie posters, advertising art, and work in mainstream magazines.

Mark Evanier wrote an excellent appreciation of Davis at News From Me.

One of America’s all-time great cartoonists has left us at the age of 91. Jack Davis made his initial fame in EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt and MAD but went on to become one of the most visible (and imitated) creators of advertising, movie posters and record album covers ever. His ability to make anything funnier when he drew it and his keen eye for caricatures could be seen darn near everywhere in this country for well more than half a century.

(11) ANOTHER BALLOT SHARED. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday revealed his “2016 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

I didn’t wind up reading a lot of the nominees and blogged about even fewer, but I at least wanted to get my votes up.  To be honest, I’ve lost a certain amount of interest in the Hugos.  And despite the big, big nomination numbers, the Hugos don’t seem to be getting nearly as much attention this year in general. It will be interesting to see if that is reflected in the voting….

How could someone who voted Jeffro Johnson first in three Hugo categories ever weary of the fun?

(12) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Eric Franklin at Game Thyme not only shared part of his ballot, but his fascinating process for ranking the nominees in “Hugo Awards: Done Voting”.

I read as much as I could of the others. I looked at the art nominees.

And then I grabbed an excel spreadsheet and rated everything based on a +10 to -10 scale of “Good” and “Fun.” I plotted that on a graph, and figured out where my “No Award” point was – it’s equivalent to 0 Good, 0 Fun. Anything with a score worse than that scored below No Award.

I also weighted the spreadsheet in favor of Good.  So a Good 5, Fun 0 work will have a better score than a Good 0, Fun 5 work.

Remember that this is zero average. Mediocre scores for good and fun are the +2 / -2 range. 3-5 is good, 6+ is great.  -3 to -5 is bad. -6 and less is awful.

Then I fed it to a formula to determine the distance from 10,10, as if it were a triangle and I was calculating the hypotenuse. So low numbers were good, high numbers bad.

0, 0 in my spreadsheet, BTW, comes to a final score of  11.53, so anything above that level was out.

I’m going to discuss two categories, tell you how I voted, and discuss each nominee in that category. I’m going to discuss Best Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form.

And yes, I know. I crazy-overthought this.

(13) JOURNEY’S END. Kate Paulk reaches the John W. Campbell Award and the Retro-Hugos in the culmination of her series for Mad Genius Club, “Hugo Finalist Highlights – The Retros and the Campbell Award Finalists”.

Brian Niemeier – DAMN YOU BRIAN NIEMEIER! Okay. Now I’ve got that out of my system. I couldn’t stop reading Nethereal. The combination of fantasy styling over science fiction with an intricate layered plot and remarkably human characters sucked me in and refused to let go. Of note: Niemeier is the only finalist in his first year of Campbell eligibility.

(14) UK GAMING CON FOLDS. Conception is a role playing game convention on the south coast of England. Held every year since 2000 it has raised over £150,000 for charity. There won’t be another.

It is with great sadness and regret that we must announce that the CONCEPTION Committee have unanimously decided to call it day.

There will no longer be a CONCEPTION 2017.

We have decided that after 17 years of hosting events at Hoburne Naish that we would rather end it on the virtual miracle that was this years event and retain the wonderful memories of CONCEPTIONs Past.

This choice was not an easy one for us to make. We have invested a considerable amount of time and effort on something that proved extraordinarily hard for us to let go. We emerged from CONCEPTION 2016 with some doubts and concerns about the future but also a renewed vigour for the challenges set by the new management. We were still optimistic that we could weather this re-structuring and re-development at Hoburne Holidays and still reliably host a convention in 2017.

However, recently even more changes have been forced upon us by Hoburne Holidays which severely limit the quantity of accommodation to a point where we cannot with any great certainly be assured that we can host the event in the same manner as we have in the past without badly tarnishing the experience for all our attendees.

So, rather than be forced to accept the uncertainty of dealing with Hoburne Holidays in the future or struggling to hurriedly find and negotiate terms with an alternative economically/ergonomically viable venue we decided to permanently discontinue the event.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(15) WORLDCON PREVIEW. One artist shares how his work is getting to the con.

(16) THE BAD NEWS. Unfortunately, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller won’t be making it to MACII.

Steve and I are very sorry, indeed, to announce that we will NOT be attending the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, to be held in Kansas City, August 17-21.

A direct casualty of this is the signing we were to do at the Bradley Fair Barnes and Noble, in Wichita, Kansas, on August 14.

We apologize to everyone who thought they’d have a chance to meet us, or to renew our acquaintance.  And we especially apologize for the lateness of the hour.  Up until this past Saturday, we were certain that we’d be attending.

So, here’s what we’d like you to do — go to the con, and have a terrific time.  Raise a glass of whatever it is you’re having, and share the toast with friends:  “To Plan B!” which is our own most-used salute.  Drop us a note, if you can, and tell us about the con. We’d like that.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY RABBIT

  • July 27, 1940 — Bugs Bunny made his cartoon debut.

(18) GREEN HARVEST. This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism you’ve been looking for. Fox News headlined this story “Sexy cosplayers can make $200,000 a year at comic book conventions”.

Scores of attractive women made their way to Comic Con in San Diego, Calif. last week to don skimpy cosplay outfits to entertain the convention’s superhero fans. Many do it just for fun, but for some it’s a job that pays well into the six figures.

“In addition to a per diem and travel costs, popular professional cosplayers can make at least $5,000 to $10,000 a show,” comic book expert Christian Beranek told FOX411. “If you add in mail order sales, crowd funding contributions and YouTube ad revenue, the top talents are pulling in close to $200,000 a year.”

(19) SAME BAT-TIME. Amazon would be delighted to sell you The Ultimate Batman 75th Year Limited Edition Watch Set.

  • DC Comics super hero are depicted from four eras of comic book history in the square-shaped watches.
  • In addition, there are four incarnations of the Bat-Signal depicted in the round-shaped Swatch-like minimalist watches. The watches from left to right as presented in the box; watches 1 and 2 of the set features Batman with his fists clenched. This muscular, determined Caped Crusader has spent the Modern Age of Comics defending Gotham City from its most notorious villains.
  • Watches 3 and 4 displays Batman dramatically staring up at the Bat-Signal. By the Bronze Age of Comics, artists had encased the super hero’s spare black bat emblem with a yellow oval. The insignia became the crime fighter’s trademark. Watches 5 and 6 then shows Batman swooping into the frame with his cape flying behind him. The image, from the Silver Age of Comics, accentuates the super hero’s signature glowing white eyes and utility belt.
  • Lastly, watches 7 and 8, highlights Batman as first envisioned by creator Bob Kane during the Golden Age of Comics. The super hero’s black cape and cowl and gray suit formed his iconic visual identity.

the-ultimate-batman-75th-year-limited-edition-watch-set-bat3104-2

(20) KILLING JOKE IS DOA. At Forbes, Scott Mendelson passes judgment: “’Batman: The Killing Joke’ Review: The Controversial Comic Is Now A Terrible Movie”.

Final paragraph:

We may not have gotten the Killing Joke adaptation that we wanted, but we may well have gotten the one we deserved.

(21) BIG PLANS. George R.R. Martin tells how he will celebrate the third anniversary of his theater.

Hard to believe, but we are coming up on the third anniversary of the re-opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema. Santa Fe’s hometown movie theatre, and first art house, had been dark for seven years when we turned on the lights again and opened the doors in August 2013. Needless to say, that calls for a celebration… a week-long celebration, in fact!!!

(22) DIRECTOR’S TOUR. Tim Burton takes us inside the peculiar world of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dawn Incognito, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Gregory N. Hullender.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

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

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

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

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

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

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

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

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

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

A SHOT —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

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

Not enough!

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

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

Godzilla apologizes

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/16 You Don’t Send Me Pixels Anymore

(1) MIDWIVES OF THE CURSED CHILD. In “Why J.K. Rowling Endorsed ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ for the Stage” the New York Times presents edited excerpts from a conversation between Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman, producers; Jack Thorne, the playwright; John Tiffany, director; Jamie Parker, who plays Harry; and Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione – in which they spoke “about everything but the plot.”

You both share story credit with J. K. Rowling. How did it work having three writers in the mix?

John Tiffany Jo Rowling was incredibly generous. I met her first, and I already had a soft spot for her because she used to write in the cafe of the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh when I was the director. It was only after the first book came out that I realized it had been her, nursing one cappuccino for four hours. When we met to talk about the play, she asked, “What do you think the Harry Potter stories are about?” I said, “Learning to deal with death and grief.” There was something in her eye — I thought, we didn’t say it’s about transformation or magic or flying on brooms, and we’re on the right track.

Thorne We all met in Edinburgh and as the day developed, we knew we would take the epilogue of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” as a starting point.

Tiffany All the seeds are there; we start with that scene in the train station. Am I allowed to say that? Anyway, it was clear that she was going to let us take those characters and have our own ideas.

Callender Of course, Jack came to the table with an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry, so that helped.

Thorne All right, I’m a nerd. With abandonment issues.

(2) YOUR NAME HERE. Cat Rambo tells how to win a Tuckerization in one of her stories.

This month my newsletter subscribers and Patreon supporters have a chance to win a Tuckerization in one of my stories. It’s not too late to get next week’s newsletter with details about how you can enter.

If you haven’t heard of a Tuckerization, that means you supply the name of one of the characters for a story – you may want to name them after yourself, a friend, or someone else you want to pay tribute to. I will offer you your choice of three possible genres, and do reserve the right to reject names that will not work with the story. In such cases I will work with you to find an acceptable name.

(3) SARKEESIAN. “Lingerie Is Not Armor” on Feminist Frequency, a video series is created by Anita Sarkeesian.

The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters, but remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.

Click here for the full transcript, links and resources for the episode.

(4) BEWARE SPOILERS. The latest installment of Slate’s series about the nastiest folk in Game of Thrones “This Week’s Worst Person in Westeros: The High Sparrow”.

After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 6, we’ll be answering a crucial question: Who is currently the worst person in Westeros? This week, technology and culture writer Jacob Brogan is joined by Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton.

Brogan: Hi, Jack. Thanks for joining me to talk about “The Broken Man.” Last week, Dan Kois and I declared the waif the worst, with Dan going so far as to claim that she is, in fact, the worst person “in all episodes in which she appears.” While that’s a bold statement on a show that includes the (still mercifully absent) Ramsay Bolton, this episode went a long way toward proving Dan right. She shows up briefly, using mere seconds of screen time to repeatedly stab Arya in the stomach. While I have little doubt that the girl-formerly-known-as-the-girl-with-no-name will survive, I’m mostly looking forward to her doing a little stabbing of her own at this point.

(5) WORLDBUILDERS. The charitable fundraiser Geeks Doing Good 2016 is in full swing.

GDG-2016_mik3tc

Worldbuilders was founded in 2008 by New York Times bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss to bring the geek community together to make the world a better place. We work hard to raise money for reputable charities while giving back to the community who supports us with things like giveaways, auctions, and our online store.

To date, Worldbuilders has raised just shy of $5 million for charities like First Book, Mercy Corps, and Heifer International, and this year, we’re continuing  to expand our fundraising efforts.

In addition to our annual end-of-the-year fundraiser, we have another tradition: the week-long Geeks Doing Good summer campaign. This is different from our usual lottery and auction set up, where you might win fabulous prizes, or you pay top-dollar at auction for something rare or limited. Instead, for this summer fundraiser, we’ve taken the chance out of it.

When you donate during this Geeks Doing Good campaign, you are guaranteed to get the advertised reward. They’re affordable, they’re cool, and there’s no guesswork. You pledge at the soap level, you will get a bar of beautiful, handmade soap. Wha-BOOM! Hit in the face with Awesome!

 

(6) SHE REALLY DUG DINOSAURS. “Unearthing History: Mary Anning’s Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants” from the Smithsonian Libraries Unbound blog.

You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a real person who not only sold seaside curiosities by the seashore, but became world renowned for her fossil discoveries.

(7) LEGACY. Steve Vertlieb invites people to enjoy his post “Careening Spaceships & Thundering Hooves’ … Children’s Television in the 1950s & The Legacy of Buster Crabbe”: “Here’s my affectionate remembrance of children’s television during the comparative innocence of the 1950’s, the early days of televised science fiction and cowboys upon a deeply impressionable young boy, and the towering influence of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion, all of whom both looked and sounded like the personification of celluloid heroism…Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe.”

When I was a little kid, prior to the Civil War, I had an imagination as fertile and as wide as my large brown eyes, dreamily filled with awe and wonder.  My dad brought home our first television set in 1950.  It was an old RCA Victor TV with a screen not much bigger than my youthful head, but I was glued to its black and white imagery like flies on butter.  I was but four years old. In those early days of television, programming didn’t even begin until late afternoon or the dinner hour, but I would sit in front of the little brown box staring longingly at the Indian head portrait frozen in Cathode promise.

(8) QUINNFUNDING. Jameson Quinn’s YouCaring appeal to fund his trip to MidAmerCon II has raised $580 of its $1400 goal at this writing.

For the past two years, a minority of slate nominators have managed to pick a majority of the Hugo finalists. Last year, I helped propose an improvement to the voting system, E Pluribus Hugo (EPH). I raised funds to attend Sasquan, and I was there to help explain the proposal, which passed the Business Meeting by a 3:1 margin after extensive debate; if we ratify it this year, we can start using it next year.

This year, my coauthor Bruce Schneier and I were given access to last year’s nomination data in order to see how EPH would have worked. We found that it would have helped significantly, ensuring that at least one nominee in each category was slate-free. But we also found that there would still have been several categories without a choice between two or more slate-free nominees.

There are several ways we could deal with this. We could use just EPH, and live with the possibility of only one slate-free nominee per category; we could strengthen slightly it using a proposal called EPH+, which would tend to raise that number to two; we could pass a proposal called 3SV, to allow voters to disqualify disruptive slate nominees before they become finalists; and there are other, related, proposals that have been floated. I believe that there will be at least two new proposals on the table this year, and I think that, as with last year, my voting systems expertise could be valuable in helping the Business Meeting understand the implications of these options and decide what to do.

So, again, I’m raising funds to go to Worldcon this year (MAC II). I’m also hoping to raise extra money for The Center for Election Science, an incorporated charitable organization which supports reforming election systems more generally. (I’m a board member for the CES, and of course I feel that we do good, important work.)

(9) ART SHOW There’s been some discussion of Arisia 2017’s art show space and pricing policies.

Applications for space in the 2017 art show are now open.

New for Arisia 2017, we will be allocating space by lottery. More information is available on the reservations page.

Unlike most other science fiction convention art shows, sales at Arisia 2017 will be at fixed price only.

Since I don’t know the answer I thought I’d throw open the question – are these policies unusual, or increasingly common?

(10) TENTACLE TIME. Gamespot’s introduction to a new Independence Day TV commercial points out a fresh alien image:

It might have taken twenty years, but the sequel to ’90s blockbuster Independence Day finally hits cinemas in a few weeks. Independence Day: Resurgence sees the human race once again forced to defend itself against extra-terrestrial invaders, and the latest TV spot provides a first look at the aliens’ queen.

 

(11) TART SENTIMENTS. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dead Horses is keeping an eye on Indiana Jim.

(12) THE LUCHA LIBRE APPROACH TO SCHOLARSHIP. “Mexican ‘Spider-Man’ weaves web of knowledge for science students” – Reuters has the story.

A Mexican science teacher has come up with a novel way to get his students’ attention – giving lessons dressed as Spider-Man.

Moises Vazquez, 26, said he was inspired to pull on the tight blue and red suit of the superhero after reading in comics that the Marvel character behind the mask, Peter Parker, worked as a science teacher after his time as a freelance photographer.

“I do the same job as anyone else, I don’t think it’s the best class in the world just because I put on a suit. But I assure you I want to be the most honest and dedicated there is, I just want to make the classroom a better place,” he said…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Dave Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John M. Cowan.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/16 Babylon Hive

(1) RULES OF FASHION. Mary Robinette Kowal knows the inside story about “David Hartwell’s sartorial splendor 1941-2016”.

David was a fashion junkie. I know– I know exactly what you’re thinking. That a man who would wear paisley and pinstripes is not an example of sartorial sense. But wait. He collected haute couture pieces. Those jackets, terrifying ties, shirts, and trousers had been the height of fashion when it was produced.

He might spend years tracking one down. Often, he was wearing them in combinations that the designer had actually intended. When I saw him at conventions after that, we didn’t talk fiction. He would tell me the story behind whatever pieces he was wearing and talk about the designer and the theory behind why this particular combination had been fashionable in its day. He wasn’t buying clothes because they were tacky; he was buying them because he was enjoying this whole meta-conversation about fashion and taste.

(2) YOUR OWN SPACESHIP. SF Signal’s new Mind Meld, curated by Paul Weimer, poses these questions —

Q: Congratulations. You can take a trip on, or if you prefer, captaincy of, the spacecraft of your own choice from genre literature. The only catch is–it can’t be the Millennium Falcon or the Firefly. Rey and Mal refused to give up their ships. What spacecraft would you want to own, or travel on? Why?

The answers come from Amanda Bridgeman, K.V. Johansen, Jay Garmon, Alexandra Pierce, Julia Rios, Joshua Bilmes, Josh Vogt, Brenda Cooper, Jacey Bedford, Laurel Amberdine, L. M. Myles, and Angela Mitchell.

(3) ONE CREEPY LANE. J.J. Abrams is a busy man. His movie 10 Cloverfield Lane is coming to theatres March 11. Esquire writer Michael Sebastian summarizes what the trailer reveals about its story.

The movie stars John Goodman, whose character is living in a bunker with what appears to be his family. There’s a nostalgic sheen to the setting, and it’s reminiscent of the hatch in the Abrams co-created TV show Lost. It’s unclear whether they’re stuck in the bunker because of what happens in Cloverfield, when a giant monster wreaks havoc on New York City. The movie is told through what is said to be found footage of the disaster.

 

(4) HUGO RULES IDEA. Jonathan Cowie’s solution for what he feels is broken in the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form category is, ironically, to undo the change that was made to fix the category in the first place, and go back to voting for series as a whole.

A possible suggested solution? My suggestion actually would not impact on Hugo nominators and voters in any way! As far as they would be concerned they would carry on nominating and voting on the short-list in the usual way as if nothing had changed.  But what would change would be the way the nominations were treated: both the series and the episode titles would be counted differently.

Here, with nominations, a nominator could nominated episodes from five separate series or, at the other end of the extreme, for five episodes from the same series, or any mix in-between just as nominators can do now. (And ‘yes’, I know that the nominating rules are about to change but for now I want to keep this simple.)  The change would be in the way these nominations were counted.  Nominators would get just one vote per series they nominate. This means that if you voted for four episodes of Star Trek and one of Tripped then that would only  count for one vote each for Star Trek and Tripped (two series votes — one for Star Trek and one for Tripped — even though four episodes of Star Trek were nominated).  At this first nomination stage we would only be considering series (not episodes).  In this specific way the series with the most votes would get on the short-list ballot with nominators effectively getting just one vote per  series they nominate.  Ignoring episode titles at this stage, and considering only series (be they TV or web series or even short films), would ensure that the ballot had on it a list of different series with no duplicates.  In other words all the series on the ballot would reflect the numbers of people nominating series (and not, as is now, the numbers nominating different episodes of the same series).

Then, with the next stage of finalising the shortlist would come the individual episode part.  At this stage we have just a list of series and an episode title needs to be associated with each. However some series may have had more than one episode nominated. Here, all those that nominated for series on the short-list would have their nominations for all  their individual episode titles counted: again, one vote per  episode title.  And so, to continue with our example, all  our nominator’s four Star Trek episodes would all be counted and each episode title get one vote.  Of all the nomination forms submitted, the individual episode with the most nominations for any single series is the one that gets on the ballot.

This would mean that the Hugo for Dramatic Presentation Short Form nominations would better reflect the diversity of televisual SF that exists with a range of different series always ending up being on the short-list final ballot and then with the most popular episode at the nomination stage associated with each one.

(5) KUSHNER REMEMBERS. So many fine reminiscences about David Hartwell are being posted. Here is an excerpt from Ellen Kushner’s:

I quit that job to write my first novel. When I finished Swordspoint, no one in the field would touch it but David. While my agent tried selling it mainstream, David said he would be there waiting (then at Arbor House) if that failed. I joked that it was just his revenge on me for quitting on him – to get me back in his clutches – but they were fine clutches to be in. He made sure my little ms. was read by the likes of Samuel R. Delany, and he proudly told me he was getting me a Thomas Canty cover, knowing that was my ultimate dream…

(6) DONATIONS REQUESTED. Kathryn Cramer, grateful for the care David Hartwell was given at a local hospital, asks people to make a contribution

Though David was on a respirator for an extended period of time, Elizabethtown Community Hospital in Elizabethtown, NY does not have a mechanical respirator of its own. A wonderful nurse whose name I didn’t catch or have forgotten spent FIVE HOURS, yes FIVE FUCKING HOURS, compressing a blue rubber bulb that substituted for the action of David’s diaphragm. They took wonderful, compassionate care of him, and this is not a complaint about the service.

Rather, if you are thinking of David tonight and wish you could have done something, please follow THIS LINK http://www.ech.org/make-a-contribution.html and make a donation earmarked to buy ECH its own mechanical respirator.

ECH is a small, rural hospital. They do not own their own respirator. Rather, there is a shared one that travels from one facility to another.

David did not die for lack of a respirator. Nothing could have saved him. But please, as you think of him this evening, think not just of David, but of the matter of the nurse who was his lungs Tuesday night. I am deeply grateful to her. But what she did should not have been needed.

Based on my experience of the past few days, it is my considered opinion that NO HOSPITAL IN AMERICA SHOULD BE WITHOUT ITS OWN RESPIRATOR.

This is the 21st century. We can do this.

(7) IS COSPLAY IMPERILED? The lawsuit is about copyright protection for cheerleading uniforms, however, Public Knowledge in “Cosplay Goes to the Supreme Court” says the decision could have consequences for recreation costumers. Truth or clickbait?

Yes, you read that right: the Supreme Court of the United States may get to decide the legal status of all those Jedi robes you’ve got squirreled away. The Supreme Court is considering a case that will set the standard for when clothing and costume designs can be covered by copyright—and when people who mimic them (such as costumers) can be sued for potentially enormous damages.

The parties to the case, Star Athletica and Varsity Brands, both design cheerleading uniforms. Varsity claims that major portions of their designs are entitled to copyright protection, while Star Athletica points out (and is backed up by a long line of caselaw) that clothing designs are explicitly exempted from copyright. Their arguments rest on different interpretations of a legal concept known as “separability”—a topic so abstract and murky that even seasoned copyright lawyers avoid it.

To understand the case and its impact, you need to keep in mind two things. First, copyright protects creative works. It does not protect what it calls “useful articles,” or items which are designed purely for utility. Copyright protects a statue; it does not protect the chisel….

All of which brings us back to cosplay. If the Supreme Court decides on a test that gives a lot of leeway for “original” designers to sue others for infringing on the “look” of their clothing, costumers are left right in the crosshairs. And copyright damages can be positively massive, running up thousands of dollars per infringement. Public Knowledge will be filing in support of Star Athletica’s petition before the Supreme Court, highlighting the scope of hobbyists and consumers that the ruling could impact.

(8) TERMINATED. Don’t be looking for a second Terminator 2. Be happy with the one you had. Yahoo! Movies explains, “A Sequel To ‘Terminator Genisys’ Is Likely Dead In The Water, But That’s Okay”.

Hollywood loves reboots and prequels so much right now that they want them to make love and create preboots. Yes, preboots. Something to kickstart cash cows back into delivering that sweet sweet franchise milk. Prometheus is kind of a good preboot, X-Men: First Class was great, but Terminator: Genisys was the motion picture equivalent of Budnick holding onto your waist and spending your arcade cash (except more confusing). That’s probably why the sequel to the prequel reboot (presequeboot?) that was unfathomably titled Terminator 2, has been removed from Paramount’s release calendar.

(9) ELLISON VOICES GAME. The game originally created in 1995 can now be played on a phone. “I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream is now on mobile” reports Jeffrey Matulef on Eurogamer.net.

Based around the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name, I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the last five humans are immortal and forever tortured by a supercomputer that wiped out humanity 109 years ago. You play as all five survivors as they confront the various psychological and physical tortures bestowed upon them by their sadistic, sentient captor.

You can play each chapter in any order and there are multiple endings available. You can also change the graphics and sound by choosing different audio and visual filters and new touch-based control inputs are available as well….

This time out Night Dive, who now owns the rights to the game, joined forces with mobile porting company DotEmu, who previously ported Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition, The Last Express and Double Dragon Trilogy.

I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream costs £2.99 / $3.99 on iOS and Android.

Game play is reviewed in this video from Monsters of the Week by RagnarRox.

(10) ASIMOV ANALOGY. New Republic contributor Jeet Heer, who was quoted here in a Hugo roundup last year, has worked a classic sf reference into his recent speculation about Trump’s appeal within his own party.

Trump, on the other hand, is so anomalous a figure that the GOP establishment can console themselves with the knowledge that he leads no faction. Even if he wins the nomination, Trump can be safely relegated to the category of a one-off, a freak mutation, never to be repeated. Trump would be like the character The Mule, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. In the schema of Asimov’s far future science-fiction series, The Mule is a galactic conquerer who throws history off the course that it was expected to take, but the changes he introduces are ultimately minor because he has no successor.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 – The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy, is published in Boston. (Apparently it wasn’t banned in Boston – think how much that would have helped sales.)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 21, 1938 – Robert “Wolfman Jack” Smith. My friend, “Imponderables” author David Feldman, ran Wolfman Jack’s campaign for president, once upon a time.

For President Wolfman Jack

(13) LOCAL FOSSIL MAKES GOOD. I’m a bit skeptical about the idea of a “Welsh dinosaur” – especially one that avoided being turned into coal. But the BBC feels perfectly comfortable writing headlines like “Welsh dinosaur named ‘dragon thief’”.

A 201-million-year-old dinosaur that fell out of a cliff face at Penarth in South Wales in 2014 has been formally named as Dracoraptor hanigani.

Loosely translated, the Dracoraptor part means “dragon thief”; hanigani honours Rob and Nick Hanigan – the two fossil-hunting brothers who found it.

In a new analysis, scientists say the specimen is possibly the oldest known Jurassic dinosaur from the UK.

(14) PUN CONTENT WARNING. Fresh from reading about the Puppy characterization of Damien G. Walter’s grant, James H. Burns saw that Blackpool is to stage a ‘reimagining’ of the King Kong story, thanks to a £680,000 Arts Council grant and wondered if it was bananas to think this means King Kong is on the Dole…

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(15) OTHER MONKEY BUSINESS. The very last thing in Eric Robert Nolan’s “Throwback Thursday: Weird 1970’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ merchandise” is a book cover identifying Jerry Pournelle as the author of the novelization Escape From The Planet of the Apes. How did we forget that?

Finally, pictured below is a novelization of one of the movie’s sequels, “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971).  I think I saw this among the disheveled paperback library that always occupied the back seat and back floor of my Dad’s car.  I saw Boulle’s source novel in that back seat once, with a weird minimalist art cover.  My Dad explained that it was “very different from the movie.”  Or I might have seen it on the floor of the closet I shared with my brother.  (That closet functioned according to trickle-down economics — the really cool stuff occasionally fell from his top shelf to the floor where I could grab it.)

(16) A LITTLE LIST. No, I am not going to be linking to many more of these, or really, any more of these, but I laughed when I saw Luther M. Siler’s headline – “Oh, why not: #Hugo awards eligibility post”.

Rumor has it that Hugo nominations are going to open up next week, and I have two– count ’em, two! different works that will be eligible for nomination.

(Yes, indie authors are eligible.  I checked.)

(17) ASPIRING SPACE TAILOR. Adam Savage has been talking recently about his desire to make one of the spacesuits from The Martian to add to his costume collection. And he convinced Fox to loan him one to take a look at first.

(18) ZOOLANDER/MOONRAKER MASHUP? It’s not just Adam Savage who wants to wear a spacesuit. In “To infinity and beyond: how space chic is ready for blast off”, The Guardian says all kinds of fashion designers are returning to 2001 — the film, that is.

At the men’s shows in Milan last week, astronauts appeared almost as often on the catwalk as the inevitable Bowie tributes. Versace produced a show dedicated, as Donatella said, to the future. The mood – all shiny white plastic – felt very 2001 (the film, not the year), especially when the show began with models running around the darkened catwalk in bright fibre-optic outfits, like those training for a mission. When the lights went up, Versace’s idea of an astronaut was earthbound, slick and boardroom-ready, probably with important financial reports rather than space food in his backpack-cum-jetpack. He wore a silver mac, or chunky bright white trousers and matching biker jackets, a bit like the fashion version of Buzz Lightyear’s outfit. A cropped leather jacket with Versace’s version of Nasa badges was another highlight of haute astronaut style.

One outfit in the accompanying photos has enough decorative pins on it to be Radch haut-couture.

(19) BINKS RECLAIMED. Chris Hallbeck’s Maximumble comic for January 21 has a new use for Jar-Jar Binks.

And after you read the comic, you’ll understand why it makes me think of this routine by Lily Singh –

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Will R., Glenn Hauman, Lorcan Nagle, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 10/6 Beyond the pixelated event horizon

(1) Put together “William Shatner” and “flying” and I’m going to think of the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of The Twilight Zone. Not Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond — he thinks of a different Shatner role when he flies, and it got him into trouble.

Alex Salmond found himself in a bizarre situation with airline staff after booking on to a flight under the name James Kirk – the captain of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise.

The former Scottish first minister caused confusion when British Airways initially refused to let him board a flight at Heathrow under the sci-fi alias.

The Mail on Sunday reported that it took a series of telephone calls for the senior politician to persuade the airline that he should be allowed on board.

Salmond said he often travelled under a false name for security reasons and as a Trekkie – as fans of the show are known – he liked to use Kirk’s name, partly as a joke but also because it was easy to remember….

He told the Mail on Sunday: “It was all sorted out. I just wanted BA to ‘beam me up, Scotty’.”

(2) “Lines from The Princess Bride that Double as Comments on Freshman Composition Papers” by Jennifer Simonson on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

[Last 3 of 9.]

“Skip to the end!”

“That is the sound of ultimate suffering.”

“Inconceivable!”

(3) Ursula K. Le Guin will appear at UCLA on Sunday, November 15 at 4 p.m. Tickets from $19-$49.

Incomparable storyteller and worldweaver Ursula K. Le Guin joins us for a conversation celebrating her incredible oeuvre, hosted by Meryl Friedman, CAP UCLA Director of Education and Special Initiatives.

(4) A report on Diana Pavlac Glyer’s talk about the Inklings’ “dangerous friendships”, by Scott Keith.

I recently finished the C. S. Lewis biography authored by Alister McGrath entitled, C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet. I highly recommend it. Over the weekend, I also attended The Great Conversation (TCG) C. S. Lewis symposium. At the symposium, Diana Pavlac Glyer, professor of English at Azusa Pacific University gave a talk on the influence of the Inklings on the thought of C. S. Lewis. I am struck by the extent to which great writers like Lewis and Tolkien seemed to use what McGrath calls, “midwives” when writing their great works. Or as Glyer put it, “We all need dangerous friends.”….

Gradually, the schedule of Inklings’ meetings became regularized, so they generally met on Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child pub (which they called the “Bird and Baby” or just the “Bird”) and at Lewis’s study rooms in the college where he was an Oxford Don, Magdalen College, on Thursday evenings. At the pub they smoked their pipes, drank, and had good food almost like hobbits. While they sat in the bar, they talked about language and literature. Others in the group included Owen Barfield, Warren Lewis, Nevill Coghill, Hugo Dyson, and Charles Williams.

As it is described by those in the know, the Inklings were not afraid to mix it up a bit. These men were not all alike. Lewis was brash and boisterous. Tolkien seems to have been more reserved and introspective. They did not agree on many things. Tolkien is said to have believed that Lewis’s use of allegory in his Ransom Trilogy and Chronicles of Narnia, was perhaps too obvious. In fact, they often disagreed on issues of morality. McGrath explains that Tolkien believed that Lewis’s view concerning civil marriage was against the teaching of the church. Thus, the evidence points to the fact that Tolkien disapproved of Lewis’s marriage to Joy Davidman.

(5) Gregory N. Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank has responded to Neil Clarke’s recent editorial “The Sad Truth About Short Fiction Reviews”, where Clarke opined that short-fiction reviews are of little value.

In Hullender’s RSR post “Getting More From Short Fiction Reviews” he draws a distinction between a review system and a recommendation system. While conceding that Clarke is probably right that reviews alone aren’t worth a lot to most people, he argues that as part of a recommendation system, reviews can be very valuable indeed.

(6) Scientists think they may soon be able to answer “What color was the T-Rex?”. From NPR –

INSKEEP: That’s Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol in Britain. Vinther and scientists from Virginia Tech confirmed traces of melanin in fossils dating back millions of years, and that melanin may provide a vital clue.

VINTHER: The kinds of hair colors that we see in humans, ranging from black to ginger, are made by melanin.

MONTAGNE: Bits of melanin are found inside cells, and the shape of those bits says something about the color of the creature.

VINTHER: If you have a black melanosome, they’re shaped like a sausage whereas if you have a red melanosome, then they’re shaped like a little meatball.

INSKEEP: Turns out, this meatball and sausage theme is pretty consistent across nature.

VINTHER: I myself is quite sort of ginger in my appearance. My beard is very, very sort of reddish. And if you took a look at the melanosomes in my beard, they will be shaped like little meatballs. And then if you have, for example, an American robin, they have this reddish-brown chest and they would also have these kinds of meatballs.

MONTAGNE: So the researchers are presuming the shapes may also have matched the color of creatures from the distant past. The team checked the melanin from two species of bat that lived almost 50 million years ago. They were a reddish-brown color.

(7) The Western Science Fiction Association maintains a convention listing page, and Stephanie Bannon invites conrunners to send their events for inclusion. Contact info at the site.

(8) It never occurred to me the Archie characters were based on anybody in particular. A documentary filmmaker tracked down the real life Betty.

In 1939, 18-year-old Betty Tokar Jankovich briefly dated, and quickly dumped, a comic book artist named Bob Montana. Though she quickly forgot about the young illustrator, he never forgot about her. More than seven decades later, Jankovich was shocked to discover that an ex-boyfriend she only vaguely remembered had named a character after her: She was the inspiration for Betty Cooper from the Archie comics.

Jankovich would likely never have known about her Archie connection if not for filmmaker Gerald Peary. A documentarian, journalist, and Archie super-fan, Peary decided to research the real-life inspiration for the comic book characters. He didn’t expect to actually meet any living real-life members of the gang—he just wanted to find out if they’d really existed.

(9) Sales prices of some items in Profiles in History’s recent Hollywood Auction have been made public.

The “slave Leia” costume worn by Carrie Fisher in Return of the Jedi sold for $96,000.

The costume — once colorfully described by Fisher in a Newsweek article as “what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell” — came with a certificate of authenticity from Star Wars designer Richard Miller.

CBS News has results for 22 other pop culture items. Among them:

  • The 16-inch miniature Rebel Blockade Runner, seen in the opening moments of Star Wards (1977), sold for $450,000.
  • Leonard Nimoy’s velour tunic from the second season of the original Star Trek series went for $84,000.
  • George Reeves’ gray knit wool costume from The Adventures of Superman, when it was filmed in black-and-white, fetched $216,000.
  • The signature stylized “S” insignia is in dark brown on a field of crème. An “undersuit” made of durable synthetic satin-like fabric featured a sculpted rubber muscles. Also includes a molded fiberglass “flying pan” to hold Reeves when he flew, after he refused to hang from wires.
  • The duck that dropped down when someone said the secret word on Groucho Marx’ You Bet Your Life brought $16,800.
  • Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones fedora from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade sold for $90,000 and his bullwhip, used in the first three movies, sold for $204,000.

(10) John Ringo, who has said before there will be a continuation of the March Upcountry series, co-authored with David Weber, had a status report on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed the series so I’m glad to hear it, although fans should expect to wait another couple years before seeing more of Empire of Man.

(Another funny. David had just broken his wrist and was just starting to use voice-to-text to write. So at one point in an email I got the line ‘I’m looking forward to senior manuscript.’ Took me forever to figure out ‘senior’ was Dragon’s attempt to translate a Southern accent saying ‘Seeing your.’) 🙂

Anyway, most of the ‘middle stuff’ is politics. So I’m going to write what I know (blowing shit up) and send it to David then say ‘David, this is your specialty. You figure it out. Looking forward to senior manuscript.’ 🙂

I’ll probably end up writing it, Junior Author’s job, but it will give David a skeleton to hang the ‘politics’ on and come up with some ideas. 🙂

So the answer to ‘what next’ is Empire of Man. But don’t get your hopes up. It will only be about half done when I’m done and currently the schedule is blocked with other stuff out to 2017.

(11) Previously unreleased Apollo photos, rather spectacular in places — “8,400 High-Res Images From The Apollo Moon Missions Were Just Put Online – Here Are The Best”.

Apollo 9

Apollo 9

(12) In a news flash apropos of our latest round of brackets, Deadline.com ran an article “HBO Confirms ‘Preliminary Discussions’ For ‘Watchmen’ TV Series”. HBO has spoken with Zack Snyder, director of the 2009 movie Watchmen, about a potential series.

(13) Pepsi will release Back to the Future Part II-inspired Pepsi Perfect, but like Doc Brown’s DeLorean, the price will be sky high.

Pepsi announced it is paying tribute to Back to the Future Part II with the release of Pepsi Perfect, the formerly fictional beverage featured in the film.

The company announced Pepsi Perfect, which contains Pepsi Made with Real Sugar and features packaging consistent with the beverage served to Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II‘s fictional version of 2015, will be available starting Oct. 21.

The company said fans thirsty from a hard day riding on their hoverboards will be able to buy the limited-edition Pepsis at a price of $20.15 for a 16.9-ounce bottle and visitors to New York ComicCon will have an opportunity to get their hands on the collectable beverages early starting Oct. 9.

Must be the law of supply and demand at work — they’re making only 6,500 bottles.

(14) Today is election day at North Pole, Alaska and a familiar name is on the ballot. Seriously. So they say.

Santa Claus is running for the North Pole City Council.

The North Pole Clerk’s office announced on Thursday that the former North Pole Chamber of Commerce president, whose driver’s license really does bear his legal name of Santa Claus, is one of two candidates who have launched write-in campaigns for City Council. The other is La Nae Bellamy.

The North Pole City Council has two seats up for election this year, but no one filed for office during the regular filing period. Candidates run as a group for the at-large seats, with the top vote-getters declared the winners. Claus and Bellamy will need voters to write in their names next Tuesday, Oct. 6.

The lack of candidates appears to be a problem throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The two candidates for the Fairbanks City Council are uncontested, as are two school board seats. North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward is also uncontested in his re-election bid.

[Thanks to Mark sans surname, Locus Online, Ansible Links, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

My Father, And The Brontosaurus

1190429869_1By James H. Burns:  “I couldn’t believe I found myself talking to a dinosaur, Jim,” my father told me, some years ago. “I should have felt silly, but there I was, with this happy Tyrannosaur, saying, ‘Good afternoon, my friend.’ ”

Some people, of course, would have seen the T-Rex as glowering, rather than  with a smile.

My parents had gone to what must have been one of the very first editions of “Dinosaurs Alive,” in 1989, a neat attraction featuring “life-sized” primevals in a natural setting,” moving and roaring in animatronic splendor.

One could actually walk around the dinosaurs.

(My folks saw this “prehistoric park,” at Sand Points, along the  Long Island Sound, in New York — also the site of the magnificent 1923 medieval-styled castle, Falaise.)

My Dad, Hugh — known to almost all by the nickname “Hy” (derived from his original birth-name,  Hyman Birnbaum) — was a retired mechanical engineering professor (at NYU, Polytechnic, and the City College of New York), and a decorated World War II veteran. In other words, he wasn’t necessarily one to be overwhelmed by whimsy, although he certainly embraced that part of his personality.  (If you were there, with the dinosaurs by the woods, you might have seen a rather dignified looking gentleman, about six feet tall — imagine, if you will, Telly Savalas with a grey crewcut, and beard; or, from certain angles, Dean Martin, under similar accoutrements…)

113bHe was also a science fiction guy going back to the golden age of Flash Gordon in the newspapers, and Stanley G. Weinbaum and Jack Williamson (and Astounding and Planet Stories magazines) on the newsstands,  in the 1930s.

He first must have seen dinosaurs come to life in the halcyon era of 1933’s King Kong, probably later in its run, when a movie really could only cost a nickel…

(One of the few easily accessible miracles of the Depression (still the greatest economic calamity to ever face our nation), was that ANY American for the equivalent today of about a buck, could see a cinematic miracle; or for a bit more purchase over one hundred pages of pulp parables; and, for absolutely free, tune into wonder on the radio, with a myriad of adventure serials, comedies, and other entertainment.)

As others have pointed out, has there been a child of the century who wasn’t fascinated by dinosaurs?

dinoland-1964-5-world-s-fair_imagelargeThe first dinosaurs we would have shared must have been at the New York World’s Fair in 1965, in Flushing Meadows, Queens (where the baseball Mets still play).  In the second, and final year of that unparalleled spectacular’s existence, we saw Dinoland,  Sinclair Oil’s famous “dinosaur garden.” (A small plastic stegosaurus soon became one of my prized possessions).

But the most stunning experience at the Fair — and a highlight not only of childhood, but of many attendees’ lifetimes — was “The Magic Skyway.”  The Ford Motor Company in collaboration with Walt Disney and associates, fashioned a “ride” where you actually sat in a real car.  The brand new automobile first took you through the distant past — dinosaurs and early man — and then as you went through what felt like a tunnel in time, you were suddenly surrounded by dioramas of the worlds of tomorrow, including a happy future in space.

(For decades before the internet’s inception — and the ability to prove  a veracity of memory — people would doubt my toddler’s reminiscence  that the Ford vehicles first went through a window, and journeyed on a track outside the building, several stories high, in what resembled a glass corridor, before reentering, and commencing this voyage through the eons!

tumblr_n4gn3hwA9X1s6mfc6o1_500(Memory, of course, can be tricky. My father, beginning in the 1980s, swore that as a three-year old, I insisted that the family wait for a Ford convertible.  But when fact-checking this small memoir, I discovered that every one of the cars used for the exhibition was a convertible.  Perhaps, in 1965, I urged that we should wait for a Mustang, which was debuted at the Fair, a year earlier!)

(The other featured automobiles included Galaxie 500s,  Lincoln Continentals, Mercury Montereys, Ford Falcons, Thunderbirds, and Mercury Comets.)

Sadly, Disney felt that “The Magic Skyway” was too expensive to remount at Disneyland, but some of the dinosaurs were transferred to the park, as well as a reconfigured cave man.  (Certainly, much of the spirit of the Flushing Meadows EXPOSITION  lives on in certain venues at Disney’s EPCOT, in Orlando, Florida.)

Pasta-Brontosaurus COMPThere was also, of course, the Hall of Dinosaurs at New York’s Museum of Natural History, a chamber of awe that my Dad first saw in his own youth.  (There are few places I have been in my life, that seem permeated with such reverence.) And in 1968, on one of my first trips to a movie theatre to see an adult motion picture (as opposed to a “kiddie matinee”), we saw a Saturday afternoon double-bill of One Million Years B.C. featuring the incredible stop-motion animation dinosaurs of Ray Harryhausen (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts), and the particularly resplendent Raquel Welch, paired, remarkably, with Planet of the Apes!

how_and_why_dinosaursVirtually forgotten today, though, is what must have been one of the most widely viewed of “filmed” dinosaur depictions, or at least the one in the most American homes…

In 1956, Irwin Allen (Lost In Space, The Poseidon Adventure) put together a theatrical documentary, The Animal World, which included a lengthy sequence on dinosaurs, created by stop-motion animation filmmakers Willis O’Brien (King Kong, Mighty Joe Young) and the aforementioned Harryhausen.

Viewmaster — the amazing company that innovated three-dimensional images released on circular reels that could be seen through a special hand-held, dual lens device — licensed the movie, using its Mesozoic sequences for a packet entitled, Battle of the Monsters.

Unexpectedly (and rather incredibly), the reels make a cameo in Jurassic World.

Before home video, Viewmasters offered the most readily affordable chance to “own” a TV show or movie that one liked, or at least a reproduction of such.  It can still be a thrill to see 3-D shots from other genre fare as Zorro, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, The Addams Family, Batman, Star Trek, The Green Hornet…. There were also excellent sets devoted to NASA and our early manned space missions.

The most fantastic Viewmaster reels may have been their fairytale and mythology editions, for which they devised their own models and dioramas.  The inherent enchantment of these hand-crafted vistas seemed to touch a special place in the imagination, and have remained timeless.

(These miniatures, and their photography, were largely the work of Florence Thomas, and later, her assistant, Joe Liptak, in Portland, Oregon..  Thanks to their artistry, and ingenuity, it was also marvelous to see many of the most famous cartoon characters (including Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker) be brought to “realistic” stereoscopic life. I can still remember my shock, as a boy, in seeing The Animal World’s ceratosaurus, through the viewer, drawing bloood from its prey.  (Although I can guarantee you that, at the time, I had no idea of the first dinosaur’s name!)

Battle of the Monsters was released under different titles, over the decades:  its model work easily holding its own against more contemporary effects outings. (And coincidental to this article, it’s intriguing to note that Viewmaster was introduced at the very first World’s Fair, in 1939!)

LR-22422_TP_00042RI felt bad, when my father lay dying in the summer of 1993, that he may have missed Jurassic Park, a movie that could have fulfilled what might have been some of his early dreams.

(It was, of course, the least of my family’s sorrows.)

But my mother told me that he had gone out one July afternoon, to catch it locally.

I knew that he had already been impressed by a sequence he saw on TV, which he recounted as the heroes being afraid that they’re about to be trampled by a herd of dinosaurs, only to be ultimately IGNORED by the charging horde–action which reminded him of a jungle stampede he thought he once saw in King Solomon’s Mines, or one of the other “Africa” movies of the past.

Somehow, my Dad wound up conveying to me that he did indeed love the movie. I wasn’t as crazy about Jurassic Park, apparently, but especially enjoyed, and admired — and was struck by, really — its last moments, when the paleontologist gazes through the window of a soaring helicopter, watching a flock of pelicans flying over the sea: The film’s subtle reflection on the long held theory that birds may be the modern descendants of dinosaurs.

I’m not sure when I first encountered that premise, but it has resonated with me as a lovely possibility, for what now seems ages.

My parents always had a deep affinity for all creatures. I grew up watching my mom — with my dad’s encouragement! — put food out daily for the birds and squirrels—

A habit I continue to this day.

Often now, for years, as I watch the sparrows and mourning doves and starlings a dancing, I think how lucky I’ve been, to know all these primordial, and blissful kingdoms.

Pteranodonte_di_Charles_Knight

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April Balances the Scales

They say April is the cruelest month. I say there’s evidence for both sides.

  • April 27, 1951:  The Thing from Another World opens in Los Angeles.

  • April 26, 1991:  Family sitcom Dinosaurs premieres on ABC.

  • April 20, 2015: Jurassic World Official Trailer #2 is released.