Pixel Scroll 6/7/17 Pixel Me Your Best Shot, File Away!

(1) A LITTLE LIST. James Davis Nicoll returns with “Twenty Core Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field.

There are two filtering rules:

Only one work per author per list

Any given work can appear on only one list

(2) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Sign up for video conference call from 1962 hosted by The Traveler from Galactic Journey.

Hello, friends and fellow travelers!

As some of you are aware, Galactic Journey is a frequent presenter at conventions around the country. In a mix of seminar and road show, the Journey brings the past to life with a personal appearance.

Well, this month, we’re going to take that to the next level — using Visi-phone technology developed for the 1962 Seattle World Fair, the Journey will be appearing live Coast to Coast (and beyond) at 11 a.m. [PDT] on June 17.

Tune in, and you’ll get a peek behind the scenes at the Journey, meeting the Traveler, himself, and potentially the Young Traveler and the Editor! We’ll show off some of our favorite vintage toys, answer your questions — and there will be prizes for the best ones!

RSVP for this no-charge event — The Traveler personally guarantees it’ll be worth every penny you spend!

(3) WORLDBUILDERS AND WORLDRUNNERS. Political lessons with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz at Inverse“Here’s Why Sci-Fi Authors Will Always Tell You To Fuck Off”.

“People will visit my website or Twitter feed where apparently I have political opinions,” said Scalzi. “Then I get the sorrowful email that says, ‘I thought I was coming to you for entertainment, but you’re telling me how to think and regretfully I must not read your books anymore.’ They’re expecting me to say something like, ‘No, don’t leave.’ They’re not expecting the email I actually send, which is ‘Dear whomever: kiss my ass.”

(4) IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS. Discussions about cultural appropriation are not typically about the Irish, but they could be. Fantasy-Faction Brian O’Sullivan discusses “Wading in the Cultural Shallows: How Irish Mythology Became A Commodity for Fantasy”.

One night at a party I was introduced to a woman who proudly informed told me she’d named her baby daughter ‘Banshee’ in celebration of her Irish heritage. Even at the time I was pretty stunned by the announcement. For an Irish person (and I would have thought most people would have known this), this was the equivalent to naming her daughter — Death.

About two weeks later, at another party (I had a life back then!), I was cornered by a different woman demanding a translation for the chorus from Clannad’s haunting Theme Song from Harry’s Game. The Irish lyrics for the chorus had been written on her CD sleeve as ‘Fol dol de doh fol-de de day’!) which she thought was absolutely beautiful and must mean something mythically profound.’ Needless to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed when I translated it as ‘La, la la la, la la laaah!’

These are just two examples of the cultural disconnect between Irish people and those who dabble in Irish mythology. They are however only two of the hundreds I’ve personally experienced over the last twenty years or so and I know many other Irish people who’ve had similar experiences. It’s actually a source of continual bemusement to to see how bizarrely and inaccurately our culture’s been represented over that time.

…I don’t believe for a moment that it’s any author’s intention to be offensive when they use mythologies that aren’t their own. In fact, I’d suspect the vast majority of them would be dismayed if they knew their work was somehow considered offensive. Unfortunately, authors write stories based on their own experiences or what they’ve managed to learn and, frankly, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Different cultures aren’t easily transferable (although if you spend enough time living in them or studying them intensely you can certainly pick up a lot) and this makes wading in the mythological shallows that much more dangerous. This is particularly the case with Irish mythology as there’s so much misinformation already out there (many people, for example, through no fault of their own, still believe W. B. Yeats is a credible authority on Irish mythology!).

(5) WEIMER IN THE WILD. If this is what DUFF delegates get to do, everyone will be running next time. (Having lunch with Ian Mond and Likhain.)

Of course, some things you can do without traveling 12,000 miles:

(6) HERITAGE SPACE AUCTION RESULTS. Heritage Auctions released some sales figures from Space Exploration Auction #6173,which had total sales of $822,203 .

Vintage NASA photographs were strong, especially the nice Selection of “Red Number” Examples we were pleased to offer. The definite “star” of this category was the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” Photo (NASA Image AS8-14-2383) of the earth above the moon’s horizon, taken by Bill Anders on Christmas Eve 1968 from lunar orbit. This is one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century and one tenacious bidder laid claim to this early red number print for $10,625. Another exciting lot was a Collection of Sixteen Apollo 11 Photos (twelve red number and four blue number) which included an example of the famous Buzz Aldrin “visor” portrait. Six bidders competed for the group before one took it home for $7,812.

Robbins Medallions are always a popular category. In this auction, two examples made particularly strong showings. A beautiful Unflown Apollo 15 Medal partially minted with flown “treasure” silver from a 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck ingot closed at $7,500. A rare Flown STS-6 Space Shuttle Challenger Medal (one of only sixty-seven carried on the mission) brought in $11,250. Of particular interest, a notarized presentation letter signed by the entire four-man crew accompanied this one. This was the first from this mission that Heritage has offered in ten years of Space auctions.

One-of-a-kind items are always difficult to estimate and there were a few in this sale that performed quite a bit better than our best guess. Project Mercury was represented in this category by a Capsule Flight Operations Manual that sold for $10,625. At what price would two sets of Gemini Spacecraft Crew Hatch Door Assembly Shingles and their associated blueprints be valued? The answer, supplied by six eager bidders, is $11,250.

(7) HELSINKI BOUND TRAVELER SEEKS ADVICE. Daniel Dern has asked me to put out his request for information, as in, “Seeking European SIM card suggestions for Helsinki Worldcon”.

I’m sure I’m not the only fan who’s not a frequent international (here, “not living in Finland”) traveler, trying to suss out a reasonable (as in “affordable” and “non-complex”) answer to having (moderate) cellular connectivity during and pre/post-Worldcon.

Here’s my particular constraints/deets (obviously, YMMV):

o Aside from Worldcon, looking at ~2 weeks in Denmark/Norway/Sweden.

o I’m in the US. However, since a) my carrier is AT&T, whose international rates are excessive, and/but b) not planning to bring my primary phone, so a) is moot. Yes, I know that being a T-Mobile’s customer would be a simple, goodly-priced answer, but that’s not an option here.

o I’ll be packing an unlocked Android phone. Probably my Moto G4, if I can find it. That’s what I’m looking for a pre-paid refillable SIM card for.

o Initial landing is Copenhagen.

o Main cellular uses: for brief local phone calls to restaurants, etc, and texting “where are you?” etc. Some data. Everything else can be done using Skype (and other VoiPs), etc over WiFi.

o Probably looking for a multi-country 30-day pass with 1 or 2GB data and some local phone, ideally unlimited texting.

Web search is turning up bunches of suggestions, but other than wading through comments, I have no clue. Experienced Eurotravellers, what say ye?

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

There’s a lot to know about Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot/. Like, who was inside?

“One of the first things you do when you design a robot or monster,” [Art Director Robert] Kinoshita recalled in an interview, “is to try to confuse the audience as to where you put the guy inside. It’s difficult to completely fool an audience because they know there is someone inside. But if you make an effort to confuse them it can work in your favor and make the whole creation more believable. Robby was designed so that the man inside could see out of the voice box below the glass head.” Although many people were fooled by Robby’s disproportionate form, he was controlled by Frankie Darro from inside, and his voice was provided by talented actor and announcer Marvin Miller, who gave Robby that distinctive, sophisticated wit so loved and remembered by audiences everywhere.

(9) STALKING THE WILD GANACHE. Gourmet chocoholic Camestros Felapton gives Americans an advance look — “Review: Kinder Joy — eating refined sugar so you don’t have to”.

For those of us outside of the US, the Kinder Surprise egg is a familiar sight. A thin chocolate egg which encases a plastic capsule within which is a small toy. Often you have to assemble the toy and sometimes they are themed collectibles. The chocolate itself — well it’s is an acquired taste. Mass manufactured chocolate is one of those paradoxically regional things.

Americans have not had ready access to Kinder Surpises because of the dangers of them eating the encased toy accidentally. However, the more recent Kinder Joy egg has sidestepped the problem. It retains the egg shape but has two seperate halves — one with chocolate (sort of) in it and the other with a toy.

Wednesday I saw one in the wild and bought one and ate the bits you are supposed to eat. This is my story….

(10) INVISIBLE COVER REVEAL. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj have revealed the cover and contributors list for Invisible 3, the third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.” See the image at the link.

The introduction is by K. Tempest Bradford. The contributors are Alex Conall, Alliah, Alyssa Hillary, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Brandon O’Brien, Carrie Sessarego, Chelsea Alejandro, Dawn Xiana Moon, Fran Wilde, Jaime O. Mayer, Jennifer Cross, Jeremy Sim, Jo Gerrard, Mari Kurisato, MT O’Shaughnessy, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sean Robinson, and T. S. Bazelli.

There isn’t an official release date yet. Hines says that will be coming very soon.

(11) TO INFINITY. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s space opera collection Infinite Stars is available for pre-order. I thought the table of contents looked pretty interesting — it helps that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity is one of my favorite sf stories.

(12) BAD WRAP. Entertainment Weekly reports “The Mummy reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”. Quotes at the site.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(13) NAPOLEON DID SURRENDER. James Davis Nicoll sends along a link to The Watchtower restaurant website, a nerd-themed tavern in Waterloo, Ontario.

They have a fantasy-themed origin story.

Their plethora of monthly events includes Nerd Nite.

On the final Wednesday of every month, KW’s own Nerd Nite takes over the Watchtower. Join us for unique, informative, and entertaining presentations, trivia, and socializing in a fun, positive, and inclusive atmosphere. Presentations are done on a ton of nerdy topics!

They also have a series of YouTube videos of their barmaster making some of their signature drinks.

(14) ROLL THE BONES. One researcher says, “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Or if there is a Garden of Eden it’s the size of Africa. — “Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity’s birth back to 300,000 years” at USA Today.

Digging on a hilltop in the Sahara Desert, scientists have found the most ancient known members of our own species, undermining longstanding ideas about the origins of humanity.

The newfound Homo sapiens fossils — three young adults, one adolescent and a child of 7 or 8 — date back roughly 300,000 years, says a study in this week’s Nature. The next-oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, the scientific name for humans, are about 200,000 years old.

(15) NEST UNFEATHERED. The argument goes on: “Study casts doubt on the idea of ‘big fluffy T. rex'”

Primitive feathers have been identified in some members of the Tyrannosaur group, leading to speculation that the king of reptiles also sported feathers.

In the latest twist, researchers analysed skin impressions from a T.rex skeleton known as Wyrex, unearthed in Montana.

They also looked at relatives that roamed during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and other parts of North America, including Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Skin patches from the neck, pelvis and tail of Wyrex show scaly, reptilian-like skin, says a team led by Dr Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

(16) BOND. 20 LB. BOND. Is your printer tattling on you? “Why printers add secret tracking dots”.

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 — at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

(17) A CLASSIC. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary #94, 60,000 words of lively book talk and analysis, is available for download from eFanzines.com:

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, Gideon Marcus, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/17 Don’t Scroll Until You See the Whites Of Their Pixels

(1) WISDOM. Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture has been posted online.

By listening to all the early folk artists and singing the songs yourself, you pick up the vernacular. You internalize it. You sing it in the ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea shanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs. You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details.

You know what it’s all about. Takin’ the pistol out and puttin’ it back in your pocket. Whippin’ your way through traffic, talkin’ in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you’ve heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you’re pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You’ve seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.

I had all the vernacular all down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head — the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries — and I knew all the deserted roads that it traveled on, too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day. When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

(2) TO THE MOON, ALICE. Chuck Wendig couldn’t just review the movie — “Greetings From The Eunuch Moon Colony #457!”

On the first day, I’d heard some rumblings about how the film was doing very well in the box office, perhaps even setting records as a film directed by a woman — strange to think how that was once unusual! — and I’d also heard that there were a handful of “women-only” screenings happening, and that some men were noticeably upset about being excluded. What I didn’t know was what happened during those screenings. They were the start of it. The beginnings of the rebellion. A fast-growing fire….

That was it. That was how it began. Bloody and brutal. Turns out, there was a Special Edition Wonder Woman film. One we men did not get to see. One that indoctrinated the women and the girls, one by one, in the ways of Matriarchy. That was the start of the Lady’s Laws. They spliced in iPhone footage from those initial women-only screenings: the male organs bouncing around, the blood, the chanting, the Vagenda of Manocide laid bare for all to see. It was brainwashing, pure and simple. I’m with her, they said again and again. A mantra. Pointing to the woman on the screen. Wonder Woman. An Amazon. A goddess made of clay killing all the men.

It wasn’t long before the women had taken over. It was only two years later I found myself on a shuttle bound for the moon. To one of the expansionist eunuch colonies. I expected that you’d need us for breeding — not you personally, of course, but the Greater General Lady-You — but turns out, with genetic manipulation, we aren’t needed for much at all.

(3) TOO MUCH GAS. The Center for Planetary Science offers an explanation for “The ‘Wow!’ Signal”.

ABSTRACT

In 2016, the Center for Planetary Science proposed a hypothesis arguing a comet and/or its hydrogen cloud were a strong candidate for the source of the “Wow!” Signal. From 27 November 2016 to 24 February 2017, the Center for Planetary Science conducted 200 observations in the radio spectrum to validate the hypothesis. The investigation discovered that comet 266/P Christensen emitted a radio signal at 1420.25 MHz. All radio emissions detected were within 1° (60 arcminutes) of the known celestial coordinates of the comet as it transited the neighborhood of the “Wow!” Signal. During observations of the comet, a series of experiments determined that known celestial sources at 1420 MHz (i.e., pulsars and/or active galactic nuclei) were not within 15° of comet 266/P Christensen. To dismiss the source of the signal as emission from comet 266/P Christensen, the position of the 10-meter radio telescope was moved 1° (60 arcminutes) away from comet 266/P Christensen. During this experiment, the 1420.25 MHz signal disappeared. When the radio telescope was repositioned back to comet 266/P Christensen, a radio signal at 1420.25 MHz reappeared. Furthermore, to determine if comets other than comet 266/P Christensen emit a radio signal at 1420 MHz, we observed three comets that were selected randomly from the JPL Small Bodies database: P/2013 EW90 (Tenagra), P/2016 J1-A (PANSTARRS), and 237P/LINEAR. During observations of these comets, we detected a radio signal at 1420 MHz. The results of this investigation, therefore, conclude that cometary spectra are detectable at 1420 MHz and, more importantly, that the 1977 “Wow!” Signal was a natural phenomenon from a Solar System body.

(4) A BAD DAY FOR DINO SCI-FI. While astronomers were eliminating the Wow from that space signal, other researchers were taking the mick out of some exciting fossils: “Scientists just destroyed our dreams of a real Jurassic Park”.

Jurassic Park — you know, that silly little novel-turned-movie about mankind bringing dinosaurs back from the dead that made a measly $1 billion — is science fiction, but could it ever actually happen? Researchers studying the remains of one special Tyrannosaurus rex thought it just might be when they discovered what they thought was intact proteins deep within the dinosaur’s fossilized bones. Now, new research has absolutely destroyed the already hazy dream that dinosaurs could one day be resurrected.

When first announced, the discovery of these proteins proved a very exciting event for many paleontologists and scientists. It was the first time that such a discovery had been made, and seemed to fly in the face of the accepted belief that dinosaur fossils simply couldn’t provide the DNA data that would be needed to even begin the process of resurrecting such long-extinct animals. Unfortunately, there was apparently no reason to be excited in the first place, because the proteins detected by lab analysis weren’t even that of a dinosaur.

(5) SALLIS OBIT. Actor Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace of Wallace & Gromit, has died at 96.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park led tributes to Sallis, describing him as a “unique character”.

“I’m so sad, but feel so grateful and privileged to have known and worked with Peter over so many years. He was always my first and only choice for Wallace,” Park said in a statement.

(6) HE’S BACK. John Crowley (Little, Big) has a new publication from PM Press — Totalitopia.

John Crowley

John Crowley’s all-new essay “Totalitopia” is a wry how-to guide for building utopias out of the leftovers of modern science fiction. “This Is Our Town,” written especially for this volume, is a warm, witty, and wonderfully moving story about angels, cousins, and natural disasters based on a parochial school third-grade reader. One of Crowley’s hard-to-find masterpieces, “Gone” is a Kafkaesque science fiction adventure about an alien invasion that includes door-to-door leafleting and yard work. Perhaps the most entertaining of Crowley’s “Easy Chair” columns in Harper’s, “Everything That Rises” explores the fractal interface between Russian spiritualism and quantum singularities—-with a nod to both Columbus and Flannery O’Connor. “And Go Like This” creeps in from Datlow’s Year’s Best, the Wild Turkey of horror anthologies.

Plus: There’s a bibliography, an author bio, and of course our Outspoken Interview, the usual cage fight between candor and common sense.

(7) SUPER SHOWCASE. Some of the best sff author around are contributors to —

Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions
Editors: Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson
Released May 12th, 2017

Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others.

It is partially a prose nod to the comic world: the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.

The authors in this collection, both established and new, are all dexterous and wonderfully imaginative, each deserving of their own form-fitting uniforms and capes.

Some of the stories pulse with social commentary, like Cat Rambo’s whimsical and deft “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut” and Keith Rosson’s haunting “Torch Songs.”

Others twist the genre into strange and new territories, like Stuart Suffel’s atmospheric “Birthright,” Kate Marhsall’s moving “Destroy the City with Me Tonight,” and Adam Shannon’s reality-bending “Over an Embattled City.”

Some punch with heart and humor, like Matt Mikalatos’s satisfying “The Beard of Truth” and Chris Large’s adventurous “Salt City Blue,” while others punch with bite and grit, such as Michael Milne’s evocative “Inheritance,” Aimee Ogden’s poignant “As I Fall Asleep,” and Jennifer Pullen’s heartfelt “Meeting Someone in the 22nd Century.”

Some of the stories feature characters who might not be superheroes in the traditional sense, yet are heroic nonetheless, such as Sarah Pinsker’s imaginative “The Smoke Means It’s Working” and Stephanie Lai’s majestic “The Fall of the Jade Sword.”

Some shine a unique, captivating spotlight on supervillains, like Keith Frady’s dramatic “Fool” and Carrie Vaughn’s romantic “Origin Story.”

Some are somber, ponderous works, where our heroes consider their impact on the world, like Lavie Tidhar’s regret-tinged “Heroes” and Nathan Crowder’s resonant “Madjack.” Others tread more light-hearted waters, with heroes adjusting to the sometimes-comical, sometimes-stressful life in the public eye, like Seanan McGuire’s entertaining “Pedestal” and Patrick Flanagan’s lively “Quintessential Justice.”

And then there are the softer, quieter moments between heroes, as they navigate their extraordinary lives in their own unique ways, such as Ziggy Schutz’s tender “Eggshells” and, of course, Kelly Link’s captivating “Origin Story.”

(8) ROGUE REVIEWER. Aaron Pound at Dreaming of Other Worlds discusses a Hugo finalist “Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

Short review: A convoluted plot sends Jyn Erso to Scarif with a band of ruffians where they set about stealing the plans for the Death Star and kick off the plot of the original Star Wars movie from 1977.

Haiku
Her father taken
A secret design flaw
Desperate mission

(9) LANDMARK NOT DEAD YET. The LAist says “Rejoice, West Hollywood’s Historic Formosa Cafe Plans To Reopen”.

Is West Hollywood’s iconic Formosa Cafe coming back to life? Sure seems that way. In an interview with Los Angeles Magazine, Bobby Green, Dimitri Komarov, and Dima Liberman of 1933 Group (who restored the Highland Park Bowl and The Idle Hour, among other establishments) revealed that they have signed a long-term lease with the property’s owners and will restore the Formosa to its former glory. “We’re gonna put it all back,” Green told LA Mag. “Vince [Jung, the previous, long-time owner/operator] has everything in storage: All the autographed photos, all the Elvis decanters, the lucky Buddha. He’s got everything.”

(10) TWILIGHT OF THE GODS. In 1962, not all customers are satisfied. Galactic Journey takes readers “[June 5, 1962] Into the Sunset (the End of The Twilight Zone, Season 3)”.

You hear that? That’s the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe it’s also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I’d like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Camestros Felapton for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/17 Scroll Sat Alone On His File Of Stone, And Pixeled And Godstalked A Bare Old Bone

(1) ADVANCED ALT-MARKETING. Jon Del Arroz is convinced you can sell more books if you fight with the right people. And the right people are on the left.

His business had a good day on Monday, as he garnered negative attention from Paul Weimer, and tangled on Twitter with SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney.

Things got rolling after this Weimer tweet:

Jon took all that back to his blog and positioned himself as a staunch defender of Anne McCaffrey against a benighted feminist in “The Cult Of The New And Its Destruction Of Culture”.

…It started because I was talking to a Tordotcom reviewer. A Hugo Nominated Fanzine writer chimed in to tell me how irrelevant I am by referencing my last novel, how she looked up “Rescue Run” and found that there was “nothing in sci-fi that returned on a google search”.

I corrected, of course, stating not only is there my extremely highly regarded, award nominated and well-reviewed book, but that I chose the title intentionally as an homage to the late great Anne McCaffrey, who wrote a book by the same name. This work was demeaned by her first as “it’s only a short story” (It’s a novella, actually) and this person who is nominated for the Hugo Award for fanzine work, retorted to that by calling Anne Mccaffrey “old and irrelevant.”

… And of Hugos? This fanzine writer who writes self-described “feminist” commentary on science fiction is attacking the first woman ever to win the award! For shame! It boggles my mind to see this kind of lack of reverence for her.

When it comes to protecting the reputation of Anne McCaffrey, I didn’t know Jon had a dog in this fight. Now I know he’s got at least a puppy.

(2) HIGH ON KYLO. If you think the death of Han Solo might make people question having children at all, that’s because you haven’t met last year’s crop of new parents: “Turning to the Dark Side: Kylo is the fastest growing baby name in the US in honor of the latest Star Wars villain” — the Daily Mail has the story.

  • The name, inspired by Star Wars’ Kylo Ren, has jumped a massive 1,467 spaces
  • Popular culture also inspired parents to name their girls after popstar Kehlani
  • The most popular boys’ name is still Noah and it’s Emma for girls once again
  • Despite being in news every day, Donald and Hillary proved unpopular names

… The Social Security Administration released its annual list of the 1,000 most popular baby names for 2016 on Friday.

(3) ANOTHER CAPTAIN ON ANOTHER BRIDGE. This part is obvious – The Verge says “Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming TV series looks like a parody of classic space adventure shows” – but the idea that it takes inspiration from GalaxyQuest is hopeful.

(4) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Why do the Imperial Stormtroopers all appear to be left-handed?  It’s because their ammunition magazines on their weapons are on the left side, so it’s easier to hold the guns left-handed.

So is this Lego Storm Trooper inaccurately showing a right-hander?

(5) BONUS TRIVIAL TRIVIA

And while we’re on the subject of Star Wars, did you know….? (Via Scifihistory.net.)

(6) BOOTHE OBIT. Powers Boothe, who appeared in Deadwood and Sin City died May 15 at the age of 68. Boothe also played Gideon Malick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first in The Avengers (2012), then on TV in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum

(8) HEADQUARTERS IN THE SADDLE. Gamer and comic owner lives the life as a jouster: “The boss who lives as a medieval knight”.

Given how Jason spends his weekends, you might imagine that his day job is equally daring, that he is some sort of professional stuntman.

Instead, he is the chief executive of one of the UK’s largest computer games companies – Rebellion Developments.

Jason set up the Oxford-based business with his younger brother Chris in 1992, and today it has an annual turnover of more than £25m.

Still wholly owned by the two siblings, its best-selling titles include Sniper Elite and Rogue Trooper.

For the past 17 years the company has also owned cult UK comic book series 2000 AD, and publishes a range of novels.

(9) CALLING DR. DYSON. Maybe there is a Ringworld? “The most mysterious star in the galaxy”.

The starlight dips in an irregular pattern, suggesting that something is intermittently blocking the star. This bizarre behaviour, first reported in autumn 2015 and not seen in any other star, has scientists baffled. Researchers have proposed a myriad of explanations, including black holes, comet swarms, and interstellar clouds. But a conclusive answer remains elusive. And one hypothesis in particular has raised eyebrows: aliens.

Yes, aliens.

Perhaps, researchers have posited, an advanced alien civilisation has constructed a vast structure encircling their star, maybe an enormous power plant that harnesses the star’s energy. When parts of the structure pass in front of the star, it creates dips in the starlight.

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. A local Albuquerque TV station recently  devoted 1-minute video bio to — “George R.R. Martin Living and Loving New Mexico”.

(11) UNLUCKY STRIKE. The Chicxulub asteroid hit “the worst possible place”:

Scientists who drilled into the impact crater associated with the demise of the dinosaurs summarise their findings so far in a BBC Two documentary on Monday.

…It is becoming clear that the 15km-wide asteroid could not have hit a worse place on Earth.

The shallow sea covering the target site meant colossal volumes of sulphur (from the mineral gypsum) were injected into the atmosphere, extending the “global winter” period that followed the immediate firestorm.

Had the asteroid struck a different location, the outcome might have been very different.

“This is where we get to the great irony of the story – because in the end it wasn’t the size of the asteroid, the scale of blast, or even its global reach that made dinosaurs extinct – it was where the impact happened,” said Ben Garrod, who presents The Day The Dinosaurs Died with Alice Roberts.

(12) ORION DELAYED. And we’re getting farther from returning to the Moon — “NASA nixes Trump’s moonshot plan” reports The Register.

NASA will miss its deadline for the first flight of the Orion capsule and the Space Launch System, with the launch moved from 2018 to 2019.

The agency’s Bill Gerstenmaier also told media in a briefing last Friday that as well as delaying the first flight (designated Exploration Mission One, EM-1), the EM-2 mission that will carry astronauts will probably miss its original 2021 date.

In February, the new Trump administration asked NASA to assess the feasibility of changing the EM-1 mission, planned as an uncrewed jaunt into cislunar space between Earth and Luna, to instead carry human cargo around the moon.

NASA has concluded that it can’t justify the cost of such a change to the schedule.

(13) FLYING TOYOTA IN YOUR FUTURE? The car maker pushes in a big stack of chips: “Toyota ‘backs flying car project’ in Japan”.

Japanese carmaker Toyota has announced its backing for a group of engineers who are developing a flying car.

It will give 40 million yen (£274, 000) to the Cartivator group that operates outside Toyota city in central Japan.

The Nikkei Asian Review reports Toyota and its group companies have agreed in principle to support the project.

So far crowdfunding has paid for development of the so-called Skydrive car, which uses drone technology and has three wheels and four rotors.

(14) GIFTED CHILDREN. Here is the trailer for Fox’s series The Gifted, set in the X-Men universe. It will air this fall.

(15) INSTANT CLASSIC. Bill filed the numbers off an old earworm in this update to “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”

With apologies to Allan Sherman

Hello Scrolls and Hello Pixels
Many posts are just for ticks. You’ll
Find that some are entertaining.
But not those that end up being all mansplaining.

I follow daily the blog of Glyer.
And I’ve become a faithful Filer.
You remember Rabid Puppies?
Their campaign to win the Hugos got them bupkis.

Some folks come here to rant and foment
But I’d prefer a Meredith Moment
A nice movie for my Roku,
Or a book to put on top of Mount Tsudoku.

[bridge]
Let’s go scroll, we pixel filers
Let’s go scroll, my reading pile has
Climbed so high. It’s not so long til the
Ballots are due in Helsinki.

I see my comment is second fifth.
It’s regarding Bob Asprin’s Myth.
But it’s missing a URL link
So I shall leave and appertain myself a cold drink.

[Thanks to Lex Berman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

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”.

caps-for-sale-240x300

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.]