Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Teaser Trailer

“The legend you know has a dark side.” Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms comes to theaters on Nov. 2, 2018.

All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and featuring a special performance by Misty Copeland, Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/17 You’ve Got The Wrong Android, I Scroll My Name Danger

(1) HE DOOD IT. How could he not? “Wil Wheaton Wears ‘Star Trek’ Uniform To ‘Star Wars’ FOR REAL”.

Life gloriously imitated art Thursday when actor Wil Wheaton wore a “Star Trek” costume to a screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994), and has been playing himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” In a 2015 episode of the hit sitcom, he watched a “Star Wars” movie in “Star Trek” garb, attracting boos from the audience and an insult from one moviegoer. “Live long and suck it!” he yelled back in a memorable line.

(2) A DISTURBANCE IN THE THEATER. Fans weren’t prepared to accept the first silent Star Wars movie: “Uprising at Burbank AMC after ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ starts without sound”.

According to Twitter user, Isaias Rodriguez, theater management attempted to appease the angry fans by either moving them to another screening at the same theater — albeit not in the IMAX format — or to attend a screening of the much-anticipated film at another AMC theatre Friday.

Police reportedly were called to the Southern California venue.

(3) ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. Scott Edelman invites you to lunch at the Society of Illustrators with Irene Gallo in Episode 55 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Gallo

Gallo has worked as an art director at Tor Books for more than two decades, where she currently holds the title of Creative Director. She’s also the Associate Publisher of Tor.com, and is ultimately the one responsible for the look of the publishing company’s book covers, as well as its online output. She’s been nominated for a Chesley Award for her art direction an astounding 19 times, the first back in 1999, and has won 13, as early as 2001, and as recently as 2017.

We discussed what it was like the first time she realized she wasn’t the only one in the world who cared so strongly about art, how she felt the day she discovered Harlan Ellison as well as the title of his that made her go “whoa,” why seeing book covers as thumbnails started long before the trend of Internet bookselling, how a manuscript moves from cover concept through to final cover, whether the cliche that an author is the worst possible designer of their own book cover is true, how self-published authors who create their own books can get the best possible covers, and much more.

(4) WHO PREVIEW. If you want to read some “minor spoilers” for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “Twice Upon A Time,” ScienceFiction.com is ready to oblige: “15 Things To Watch For In ‘Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time’”. If not – DON’T CLICK!

With just 11 days to go until to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the Steven Moffat say their final farewells, some fans are finding it hard to wait! Some sites have been granted early access to ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ so to hold us over until December 25, we have a list of hints and teasers from the episode!

(5) SJW CREDENTIALS ARE GO. Corey J. White has identified “5 of the Coolest Cats in Space” for readers of Tor.com.

The cat is on the floor, looking up at me and yelling as I type this. My original plan was for a piece on ‘Pets In Space’, but she’s threatened to vomit on my bed, under the covers, if I don’t focus solely on cats. Why? Because cats are better than dogs. I am typing this of my own free will. Please send salmon.

In all seriousness though, even dog lovers have to admit that cats would make better pets aboard a space craft: they don’t require as much food as any but the smallest dogs, unlike many dog breeds they don’t need a lot of space to run around, and they’re great at catching the rodents chewing on the cables of the life-support system.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. John Scalzi shares his “Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi”.

  1. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

(7) PLAY BALL. Cut4.com, a Major League Baseball site, tried to attract a few clicks by assembling a baseball team out of Star Wars characters in celebration of The Last Jedi — “This is the team you’re looking for”. This one you need to follow baseball to fully appreciate:

Starting Pitchers: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jamie Moyer

The wise old wizard, utilizing a psychological advantage to best his enemies and thrive, despite all odds. And, as a solid No. 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(8) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VET BACK ON TV. Deadline reports — “Apple Orders Ronald D. Moore Space Drama Series”.

Ronald D. Moore is heading back to space. Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a space drama from the Battlestar Galactica developer. The untitled project hails from Sony Pictures Television and Moore’s studio-based Tall Ship Productions.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1958 Frankenstein’s Daughter came out.
  • December 15, 1961 The Twilight Zone aired “Once Upon A Time,” starring Buster Keaton.
  • December 15, 1974 Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres.
  • December 15, 1978 Superman – The Movie premiered in U.S. theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1949 — Don Johnson, who starred with his canine companion in A Boy and His Dog.

(11) MATH PROJECT. Do we know anyone attending Emmanuel College in Boston?

(12) DUBIOUS FAN. Camestros Felapton is restraining his enthusiasm about new mix-and-match possibilities after the Disney/Fox merger for several reasons. Here’s one of them: “Disney, Fox and MCU”.

A comic book universe relies on somehow making superheroes whose basic premise is quite different work together. Marvel has juggled this by having elements that work together and elements that work as given character’s own domain. Thor can be a god-like alien being on Earth and exist side-by-side with Iron Man a human with fancy gadgets but their separate adventures put the characters in quite different characters. Some suspension of disbelief is required to accept that these characters can have their own stories without every film requiring all the Avengers to turn up to help but the settings help and each character can have separate stories.

Now add the X-men. The X-Men aren’t the X-Men without the key premise that they live in a world in which:

  • Some people get random mutant superpowers.
  • That the wider population knows this.
  • That the mutant population is feared and persecuted and suppressed.

Captain America has to be cool with this. I mean, obviously, he isn’t but for the X-Men to have their stories, basically The Avengers have to not do anything when the US government starts hunting people with giant killer robots. Also, the wider public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch. It has to be OK to get superpowers from a spider bite but not from a genetic mutation AND people have to believe that story (i.e. people don’t think Spiderman is a dangerous mutant).

(13) CHRISTMAS GOAT. Hampus Eckerman says, “Sometimes you have to go to the foreign press to understand why the Gävle goat is burned down every year. The Guardian has its own theory, totally new for me.” — “Killing Gävle – a Swedish city divided by a giant straw Christmas goat”.

Welcome to the small northern Swedish city of Gävle where there’s an annual battle over a 12-metre-high straw effigy of a goat. Local custodians try to protect a giant straw goat from mischievous pagans in a fight for the spirit of Christmas.

Every year since 1966, in the dark days of winter, the business owners pay for a goat to be built in the central square on the first day of advent. For 37 of those 51 years, the goat has been burnt down or damaged by shadowy outsiders, sometimes within a few hours of going up.

In the latest Guardian documentary, Killing Gävle, residents and those who might want to burn the goat explain their hopes and motivations as Christmas approaches and the battle over the goat is fired up once more.

The goat, which pulls Santa’s sleigh, has come to symbolise Christmas in Sweden, drawing people in from the surrounding country. Families bring their children to look in wonder and, the businesses hope, do a bit of shopping while they are there.

But there are other people in the dark forests that surround the city who hold an entirely different view of the goat. They believe in a time before Christianity appeared in Sweden, when people worshipped Norse gods including the goat goddess Heidrun (goddess of enlightenment) and the god of thunder, Thor, who rode around on two goats. Each night he would burn and then eat them, only to wake up the following morning to them having been reborn and able to pull his chariot again….

 

(14) DOPPELGANGER. When they get it right and find one that has nine planets, then we can talk: “NASA’s Kepler finds solar system like ours with eight planets” in USA Today.

Researchers used data from NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope to discover an eighth planet orbiting a star known as Kepler-90.

The planet, dubbed Kepler-90i, is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star every 14.4 days, and was found with the help of artificial intelligence, NASA said Thursday. The discovery marks the first solar system to tie with our solar system in the number of planets orbiting one star.

(15) STAY FROSTY. Timothy Cama, in a December 12 article in The Hill called “Emails: Disney annoyed by Obama push to use ‘Frozen’ brand” said that recently unearthed emails showed a 2015 negotiation between the Obama administration and Disney about using Frozen characters to promote warnings about climate change broke down because, according to one Disney executive, “it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.”

Papp’s outreach generated extensive media coverage at the time and attracted mockery and criticism from conservatives who already thought then-President Obama’s climate agenda had gone too far.

The effort to use “Frozen” for climate messaging was part of an extensive plan by the Obama administration to convince Americans and the world that climate change is a major issue with enormous consequences.

(16) OCEANS, NOT CANALS. The BBC considers “Pacific ‘baby island’ is natural lab to study Mars”.

It is one of Earth’s newest landforms and it could just tell us where to look for evidence of life on Mars.

The tongue-twisting volcanic island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015, and its shape has been evolving ever since as it has been lashed and bashed by waves.

Scientists are watching this slow erosion very closely.

They think they see the remnants of many such water-birthed islands on the Red Planet.

(17) FORERUNNER. The 60th anniversary of this project recently passed — “Skylark: The unsung hero of British space”.

It wasn’t a big vehicle, and it didn’t go to orbit. But the anniversary of that first flight from Woomera, Australia, should be celebrated because much of what we do in space today has its roots in this particular piece of technology.

“Skylark is an unsung British hero really,” says Doug Millard, space curator at London’s Science Museum.

“The first one was launched during the International Geophysical Year of 1957, and almost 450 were launched over the better part of half a century. It was the Skylark space rocket that really laid the foundations for everything the UK does in space.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Slaughterbots” on YouTube is a near-future film warning about the problems of miniature drones trained to kill.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/17 Don’t Crush That Scroll, Hand Me The Pixels

(1) THE CLOCK IS DRIPPING. Mary Anne Mohanraj reminds everyone today’s the last day for becoming a founding sponsor of the Speculative Literature Foundation on Drip. Minimum is a buck a month.

The Speculative Literature Foundation encourages promising new writers, assists established writers, supports magazines and presses, and develops a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction.

(2) ANNUAL ASIMOV DEBATE. You have until December 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern to enter the lottery for the right to purchase tickets to the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. It takes place at the Hayden Planetarium in New York on Tuesday, February 13, beginning at 7 p.m.

Each year, the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate brings the finest minds in the world to the Museum to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Join host and moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, for the 2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

There is no purchase necessary, and no cost to enter the lottery. The lottery is randomized, and the order of entry has no effect on your chances of winning. …A full description of terms and conditions can be found here.

(3) NICOTINE OVERDOSE ON MARS. James Davis Nicoll turned the crew loose on Piper’s classic “Omnilingual” at Young People Read Old SFF. They took no prisoners!

H. Beam Piper’s career was cut short when, believing himself a failure and his career effectively over, he shot himself1. One of John W. Campbell’s stable of writers, he stands out as one of the few in that crowd willing to give women agency, even if he did not often feature one as a protagonist. Omnilingual is one of the few Piper stories with a woman lead, something I hope will distract from Piper’s stylistic quirks—the cocktail parties, the endless smoking—that tie the story’s creation to the early sixties. Presumably the people who suggested it had similar hopes. But what did my Young People think?

(4) CANADA’S ILLEGAL ALIENS. Echo Ishii’s series about old genre TV shows continues with “SF Obscure: First Wave”.

First Wave was a Canadian action/Adventure SF series that ran from 1998-2001. It ran for three seasons on the Space Channel in Canada. Yay Canada!

The plot centers around Cade Foster who’s framed for his wife’s murder and is on the run to uncover a vast alien conspiracy. From what I gathered-it took a bit to put the pieces together-the aliens kidnapped him and made him part of an experiment to test emotions or responses or something. Anyway, Foster doesn’t become their pawn and goes on the run. He is helped along by Eddie, a guy who ran a paranormal magazine and does all the computer nerd stuff. They are later joined in their quest to stop the aliens by an alien assassin turned ally named Joshua.

(5) HISTORIC ROCKET. Lookie what appears in “To Boldly Go,” the 11th and final episode of webseries Star Trek Continues (screenshot from around 44:00m) —

JJ explains:

It’s the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation won by “The Menagerie” (it’s the lucite rocket used in 1967, see screenshot). Rod Roddenberry was a big supporter of this webseries and was an extra in one of the episodes; I’m guessing that he lent it to the show as an Easter egg for fans.

As far as a prop, it’s a rocket and that’s the desk of an Admiral in a space force. I’m sure that lots of people at NASA have / had rocket and spaceship-related trinkets on their desks, too. And if you start at 44:00 and play forward, Robert Sawyer’s model display of all the starships Enterprise also appears in the Admiral’s office. (Sawyer co-wrote some of the ST:C episodes, including this one, and also appears as an extra.)

(6) THE TYPO FROM HELL. Adweek makes sure you don’t miss out when “Anomaly Goes to Hell This Holiday With Diabolical ‘Dear Satan’ Film Narrated by Patrick Stewart”. Video at the link.

Satan—the original Heat Miser!—reduces Santa Claus to a pile of ash, but ultimately saves Christmas, sort of, in this fiendishly farcical animated holiday film from Anomaly London.

The heavenly voiced Patrick Stewart narrates “Dear Satan,” portraying various characters with impressive wit and charm. Dude’s on fire throughout, basically.

… The new six-minute film begins with a little girl named Hope mistakenly asking Satan, rather than Santa, for a puppy at Christmastime. (She makes an unfortunate typo in her letter, and on the envelope, you see.) Naturally, her note goes straight to hell. And if you’re thinking the plot takes an infernal turn at that point, you’re getting warmer. Much warmer.

(7) OSCAR-WORTHY SHORTS. The Hollywood Reporter offers “Oscars: Breaking Down the 10 Animated Short Contenders”. Very little explicit sff content, however, there is a fannish tendency to think all animation is fantasy so that may not be a problem.

Revolting Rhymes

In celebration of what would be the 100th birthday of author Roald Dahl, Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer adapted his poetry collection based on classic fairy tales. Dominic West, Rose Leslie and Gemma Chan lend their voices to the likes of the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White.

(8) FEELING BETTER. Mike Kennedy recommends a video at Gizmodo, “An Undead Outbreak Summons a Stealth, Ruthless Response in Chilling Short The Plague.

It’s an otherwise quiet night when a woman hears a noise—and discovers her elderly father has wandered from his nursing home for an unannounced visit. Things then take a turn for the decidedly insane in Guillermo Carbonell’s short The Plague. Zombies are involved… but not how you’d expect.

(9) DON’T SAY HE CAN’TERBURY. The artist known as Chaucer hath some lofty ambitions:

(10) WEHRLE OBIT. Fan, artist, writer Joe Wehrle, Jr. died December 10. The Larque Press Blog has numerous examples of his work:

Joe Wehrle, Jr. is a writer and artist. His stories and artwork have appeared in the Cauliflower Catnip Pearls of Peril, Menomonee Falls Gazette, 1971 Clarion Anthology, Vampirella, Two-Gun Raconteur, Worlds of If, Galaxy and many other publications.

The family obituary is here:

Joseph J. Wehrle, Jr., 76, Punxsutawney, died Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh. Joseph was a self-employed artist working for The Digest Enthusiast. He was an illustrator, cartoonist and writer.  He enjoyed collecting comic books, original comic art and science fiction and fantasy genre books. Joseph loved jazz and blues music and loved playing the guitar and saxophone. He also loved his cat, Khufu. He is survived by a daughter, Jillian Rouse and husband Jim of Punxsutawney. Services will be private for family and are under the direction of the Deeley Funeral Home, Punxsutawney.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered.
  • December 14, 1984 Starman opened in theaters.
  • December 14, 1990 – Marvel’s Captain America (but not the movie you’re thinking of) was released in the UK. This iteration didn’t make it to the U.S. for two years, then went direct-to-video.
  • December 14, 2007 — Another film adaptation of version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend was released. Matheson famously wondered why studios kept optioning his novel because they never once made a movie that followed the book.

(12) TIME CAPSULE. It’s not easy for humorists to keep ahead of reality.

(13) MOUSE EATS FOX. The Verge tries to figure out “What does Disney’s acquisition of Fox mean for the MCU?”

Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox’s film and TV studios in a landmark $52 billion deal. This means that the door is open for Disney to incorporate the Marvel properties previously controlled by Fox — including X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool — into its Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In its statement, Disney says the agreement will allow it to reunite these characters “with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love.” Marvel is already planning to overhaul the MCU after the studio’s “Phase Three” arc. That will finish with a fourth and supposed final Avengers film in 2019, which will end the Infinity War story. “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after,” Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, has previously said.

(14) CHEAPER BY THE HUNDRED. Here’s a diagram showing who owns what Marvel characters after the Disney/Fox merger.

(15) BLUNDER DOWN UNDER. Michael J. Walsh gifted Filers with this link to the recipe for Vegemite Icy Poles, a sweet treat that violates the Geneva Convention. The instructions begin –

COMBINE in a saucepan the sugar, cocoa, honey, VEGEMITE, corn flour and milk.

(16) SURVIVOR. The BBC profiles the plesiosaur: “Sea reptile fossil gives clues to life in ancient oceans”.

A new fossil is shedding light on the murky past of the sea reptiles that swam at the time of the dinosaurs.

With tiny heads on long necks and four pointed flippers, plesiosaurs have been likened to Scotland’s mythical Loch Ness monster.

The German discovery proves that these sea creatures were alive more than 200 million years ago during the Triassic.

The fossilised bones give clues to how the animal survived a mass extinction that wiped out most living things….

By being warm-blooded, plesiosaurs were able to roam the open seas in late Triassic times.

”Warm-bloodedness probably was the key to both their long reign and their survival of a major crisis in the history of life, the extinction events at the end of the Triassic,” said Prof Sander.

Plesiosaurs were not as hard hit by the extinction as shallow water and coastal animals. Their fossils have been found all over the world in Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks.

(17) ACCIDENTAL FANFIC. People are loving it — “Harry Potter gets a weird new chapter from a computer”.

Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash is a new story created by a predictive keyboard.

“He saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione’s family,” runs one line from the ridiculous – and funny – tale.

It was created by the team at Botnik, who fed all seven books through their computer programme.

(18) ROBOCRIMINAL. Jackie Chan fights somebody who looks vaguely like the lovechild of Voldemort and the Terminator in this Bleeding Steel trailer.

[Thanks to Dave Doering, Daniel Dern, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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

2017 Additions To National Film Registry

“Is this Heaven?” Well, it is if you love Field of Dreams as much as I do. Or liked Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Disney’s Dumbo, or The Goonies. All are motion pictures on the list of 2017 additions to the National Film Registry announced today.

1. Ace in the Hole (1951)
2. Boulevard Nights (1979)
3. Die Hard (1988)
4. Dumbo (1941)
5. Field of Dreams (1989)
6. 4 Little Girls (1997)
7. Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s and ’30s)
8. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
9. The Goonies (1985)
10. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
11. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
12. Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)
13. La Bamba (1987)
14. Lives of Performers (1972)
15. Memento (2000)
16. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
17. The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)
18. Spartacus (1960)
19. Superman (1978)
20. Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)
21. Time and Dreams (1976)
22. Titanic (1997)
23. To Sleep With Anger (1990)
24. Wanda (1971)
25. With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said–

The selection of a film to the National Film Registry recognizes its importance to American cinema and the nation’s cultural and historical heritage. Our love affair with motion pictures is a testament to their enduring power to enlighten, inspire and inform us as individuals and a nation as a whole.  Being tasked with selecting only 25 each year is daunting because there are so many great films deserving of this honor.

Here are the official descriptions of the items of genre interest:

Dumbo (1941)

Disney’s charming, trademark animation finds a perfect subject in this timeless tale of a little elephant with oversize ears who lacks a certain confidence until he learns — with the help of a friendly mouse — that his giant lobes enable him to fly. Disney’s fourth feature film gained immediate classic status thanks to its lovely drawing, original score (which would go on to win the Oscar that year) and enduring message of always believing in yourself.

Field of Dreams (1989)

Iowa farmer Kevin Costner one day hears a voice telling him to turn a small corner of his land into a baseball diamond: “If you build it, they will come.”  “They” are the 1919 Black Sox team led by the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson. Although ostensibly about the great American pastime, baseball here serves as a metaphor for more profound issues. Leonard Maltin lauded “Field of Dreams” as “a story of redemption and faith, in the tradition of the best Hollywood fantasies with moments of pure magic.”

The Goonies (1985)  

The fingerprints of executive producer Steven Spielberg visibly mark every second of “The Goonies,” with the plot sporting a narrative structure and many themes characteristic of his work. Spielberg penned the original story, hand-selected director Richard Donner and hired Chris Columbus (who had written the 1983 “Gremlins”) to do the offbeat screenplay. With its keen focus on kids of agency and adventure, “The Goonies” protagonists are Tom Sawyeresque outsiders on a magical treasure hunt, and the story lands in the continuum between where “Our Gang” quests leave off and the darker spaces of Netflix’s recent “Stranger Things” pick up.

Superman (1978)

Director Richard Donner’s treatment of the famous superhero was not the first time the character had been on the big screen. Kirk Alyn played the role back in a 1948 serial and George Reeves appeared in both theatrical and TV versions in the 1950s. However, for many, Christopher Reeve remains the definitive Man of Steel. This film, an “origins” story, recounts Superman’s journey to Earth as a boy, his move from Smallville to Metropolis and his emergence as a true American hero. Beautiful in its sweep, score and special effects, which create a sense of awe and wonder, “Superman” — as the tag line reads — makes you “believe a man can fly.”

The Librarian made the annual registry selections after conferring with members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of Library specialists, and considering the 5,200 titles nominated by the public.

The Library also announced that 64 motion pictures, previously named to the National Film Registry, are now freely available online here, among them the cartoon “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30/17 Go Not To The Filers For Counsel, For They Will Say Both Scroll And Pixel

(1) IT GETS WORSE. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted about her horrendous experience at the hands of TSA while trying to enter the U.S. to attend a retreat. Begins here —

She missed her flight, needed to get rebooked, had to go through Customs a second time (another bad experience), and spent long hours at the airport waiting for the next flight. Here are a couple of the tweets from that thread:

There was an outpouring of sympathy, support, and indignation, for example:

(2) BEWARE. David Gerrold shared this warning on Facebook:

A friend has sent me a cautionary note not to do business with Atomic Network. (I wouldn’t anyway, I’m currently involved in a much more promising effort.) But the advice is appreciated. I won’t repeat the long explanatory message here, the language is a little blunt and might cross a couple lines, but the evidence presented is damning enough on its own merits. The point is that SF content creators and investors would probably not be happy with the track record of the CEO and his previous ventures. Consider this a Writer Beware warning.

I believe this is the website for Atomic Network.

(3) MORE CON TRADEMARK LITIGATION. Two Boston anime conventions are going to court: “Anime Boston sues to block similarly named event in Hanover”.

The New England Anime Society of Somerville, which puts on the annual Anime Boston show at the Hynes, this week sued two of its former volunteers, who are using the phrase “Boston Anime Fest” to promote their own show at the Hanover Mall, which is somewhere south of Boston.

In addition to trying to stop the organizers from associating themselves with the show that’s actually in Boston, in a trademark lawsuit filed in US District Court, New England Anime has filed a request for a temporary restraining order to try to block the Hanover show, schedule for Dec. 8 and 9.

Although the main name of the Hanover show is the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, its Web site, with a URL of www.bostonanimefest.com, prominently features a Boston Anime Fest logo.

New England Anime says the branding is likely to confuse anime fans into thinking it has something to do with the Hanover show, which it does not. That the new show’s organizers, Fantastic Gatherings, Inc. – founded by the two former Anime Boston volunteers – and Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment, initially linked their social-media accounts to Boston Anime, is also an issue.

(4) BOOKSELLERS LOVE IT. Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage has been named the Waterstones book of the yearThe Guardian has the story.

Pullman pronounced himself delighted to have won an award chosen by booksellers, which he called “the most important channel between the publishers and the public”.

“Writers are at one end of a complicated network that includes editors, reviewers, designers, printers, and many other real people – as well as phantoms such as the writer the readers imagine and the readers the book seems to expect,” he said. “Part of this great living network or ecology of the book world is the ancient and distinguished profession of bookselling, which I respect and value very much.”

(5) BEST SFF OF 2017. And The Guardian thinks it none too soon for Adam Roberts to tell his picks for “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2017”.

A year ago, Amitav Ghosh usefully stirred things up with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change? Well, it turns out that the answer is science fiction. Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s three best novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. Kim Stanley Robinson is the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his prodigious New York 2140 (Orbit), a multilayered novel set in a flooded Big Apple, is by any standard an enormous achievement. It is as much a reflection on how we might fit climate change into fiction as it is a detailed, scientifically literate representation of its possible consequences.

Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near?future Antarctica transformed by global warming. Jeff VanderMeer’s vividly weird Borne (4th Estate) takes a different, neo-surrealist approach to the topic. You won’t soon forget its star turn, a flying bear as big as a cathedral rampaging through wastelands….

(6) NABORS OBIT. Actor and singer Jim Nabors (1930-2017), best known for playing Gomer Pyle on two TV series, died November 30. I didn’t know he had any genre-related connections beyond his character’s tendency to say “Shazam!” in place of an expletive, however, SF Site News notes that his credits include

…the Saturday morning children’s show The Lost Saucer with Ruth Buzzi. He also made appearances in an episode of Knight Rider and provided voicework for Off to See the Wizard.

 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Ridley Scott
  • Born November 30, 1985 — Kaley Cuoco

(8) CAPTAINS OUTRAGEOUS. You’ll all be thrilled to know — “William Shatner ends Star Trek feud, unblocks Jason Isaacs on Twitter”.  According to Entertainment Weekly:

Shatner never publicly said why he blocked the Star Trek: Discovery star in the first place, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with an interview that arguably mischaracterized Isaacs as saying he would never want Shatner to be a guest star on the new series

(9) SIR JULIUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) declares that nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are open.

Nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are now being accepted. The nomination period will close at 8.00 pm on 2 February 2018.  The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2017 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! To make a nomination, go to http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwards.shtml  and fill out the web-based nomination form.

Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. We have a list of New Zealand works that may be eligible for nomination here.

(10) LE GUIN. Arwen Curry, who’s making a Kickstarter-funded documentary about the writer, worried that Ursula K. Le Guin’s home might have been threatened by the recent Northern California fires. All is well, writes Curry: “In Thanks for Houses”.

We were also worried for Kish, Ursula K. Le Guin’s family ranch in the Napa Valley. Thankfully, it was spared. After the air cleared, we drove up to capture some of our film’s final images, of the land where she spent the long summers of her childhood, and the setting for her 1985 masterwork, Always Coming Home. We filmed the buzzards circling, the wild oaks, the river beginning to swell, the sunset-colored vineyards, “the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right.”

(11) LIVE-ACTION MULAN MOVIE. The Guardian tells how Disney has avoided controversy with a Mulan casting decision: “Liu Yifei gets starring role in Mulan, as tide turns against ‘whitewashing'”.

A Chinese actor will play the title role in a live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan, a move seen as a victory for Asian actors in Hollywood after repeated controversies over “whitewashing”.

Liu Yifei, who also uses the name Crystal Liu, was picked to star in the film after a worldwide search that screened nearly 1,000 candidates. The 30-year-old actor has appeared in more than a dozen films in China and began her career in television.

The decision to cast a Chinese actress was widely praised on social media after a series of controversies over whitewashing and follows Beyoncé’s casting in the upcoming Lion King remake.

Hollywood has attracted widespread criticism for casting white actors to play Asian characters. Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone have all played characters who were Asian in the source material.

(12) SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. The Los Angeles Times speculates whether The Shape of Water will earn Guillermo del Toro an Academy Award. Video at the link.

Is this the year that Guillermo del Toro — close friends with Cuarón and Iñárritu since the ’90s and, like them, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed and successful filmmakers — wins his Oscar?

Del Toro stands as a strong contender for directing “The Shape of Water,” a lavish, deeply felt love story involving a pair of outsiders — a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) and an Amazonian water creature (frequent Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones).

(13) CAN I GET A WITNESS? NPR reports “Arkansas Prosecutors Drop Murder Case That Hinged On Evidence From Amazon Echo”.

Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.

The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.

The move marks a curious end to a still more curious case, which had revolved around the role played by a personal assistant device that’s supposed to begin recording as soon as someone says its wake word — “Alexa,” in this case — in its presence.

… At the time of Victor Collins’ death, the Echo had been out on the market in the U.S. for only several months, and the search warrant issued for the device’s recordings prompted some fears that the new technology was opening another battlefield over personal privacy protections.

(14) FETCH! From NPR — “Scientists Train Bacteria To Build Unnatural Proteins”:

One feature of this new system is that these germs need to be fed the precursors for the X and Y components, as well as synthetic amino acids, which are the building blocks for the artificial proteins.

“There’s actually an advantage of having to do it this way,” he says, and that’s safety.

“I think synthetic biology by its very nature scares a lot of people, because you’re sort of playing with life and trying to optimize it to do new things. And people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute — that could be dangerous. What if they escape into nature?’ And I think that’s a significant concern. I think people should be worried about that kind of thing.”

But because his organisms need to be fed man-made starting materials, they can’t survive outside the lab, he says.

(15) CROWDSOURCED SCIENCE. Sometimes you do need a weatherman…. The BBC tells about the “Huge weather rescue project under way”.

It is shaping up to be a mammoth citizen science project.

Volunteers are wanted to digitise early 20th Century weather records covering the UK and other parts of Europe.

The temperature, pressure, rainfall and wind observations are in handwritten tables and need to be converted to a form that computers can analyse.

The data comes from the Met Office’s “Daily Weather Reports”, which were started by Robert FitzRoy shortly after the agency was founded in 1854.

If this old information is recovered, it can then be used to reconstruct past conditions.

That will put more context around some of the changes now occurring in our atmosphere, says Prof Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Reading University.

“Whenever we have big weather events today we need to ask ourselves, have we seen them before? And if we go further and further back in time and don’t recognise such big storms or such heavy rainfall, then we can be more confident that the changes we’re seeing today really are the result of shifts in the climate system,” he told BBC News.

(16) DIAGNOSING NARRATIVE DISORDER. Malka Older’s Null States, sequel to Infomocracy, inspires a discussion of the writer’s imagined society: “’Patchwork Futures’: Sci-fi meets the political thriller” in Harvard Magazine.

In the future imagined by Malka Older ’99, author of Infomocracy and its new sequel, Null States, the inability to distinguish narrative from reality has become a medical diagnosis, officially codified as “narrative disorder.” Older describes the condition as a rewiring of the mind in a world shaped by shared narratives. “On the one hand, there’s an addiction to narrative content, to wanting to distract ourselves with stories,” she says. “But this is also changing how our brains work. We’re changing our expectations of what’s going to happen and the way people act and the kinds of characters we’re likely to meet, and by changing those expectations we end up changing reality, because people act on those expectations.”

(17) THE VILLAIN’S RIDE. “Epic Star Wars Build Test: Colin Furze x X Robots” comes courtesy of British eBay, and features Colin Furze who decided to build a full-size fighter of the sort Kylo Ren uses, and then tested it in front of some kids from the Peterborough Star Wars Club.  The kids are happy and there are lots of fireworks.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Steven H Silver, David K.M .Klaus, Darnell Coleman, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, NickPheas, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 11/22/17 By Jove, Who Scrolled The Quartz Monkey Pixel Fudge?

(1) WORLDCON 76 HOTEL RESERVATIONS. Worldcon 76 emailed the passkey to members today and opened reservations today at 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The Marriott and the Hilton, the two hotels directly connected to the CC, and the least expensive of the official hotels, almost immediately became unavailable, presumably due to being booked up.

The Fairmont, the party hotel ($199/night), The Hyatt Place, Westin and The AC Hotel by Marriott remain available on the convention dates (Thursday-Monday) at this writing. However, when I added Wednesday to my request, only The Fairmont was available.

(2) NEW “NOTHING TO READ” UPDATE. North Carolina schoolteacher Becky Sasala (sister of John Joseph Adams) has received hundreds of donated books for her classroom library since her appeal was posted in September (item #2).

Updated classroom library. #englishteacher

A post shared by Becky Donovan Sasala (@becky_sasala) on

(3) NEW HUMBLE BOOK BUNDLE. The “Humble Book Bundle: Stellar Sci-Fi & Fantasy by Tachyon” is offered for a short time at the usual pay-what-you-want rates. Pay more, unlock more books.

$1+

  • Falling In Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (World Fantasy Award Winner)
  • The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
  • Invaders by Junot Diaz, Katherine Dunn, Jonathan Lethem, contributors
  • Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

$8+

  • The Very Best of Kate Elliott
  • The Very Best of Tad Williams
  • Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts
  • Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology by John Kessel, James Patrick Kelly, contributors
  • Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

$15+

  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror by Stephen King, Clive Barker, George R. R. Martin, contributors
  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Locus Award Winner)
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick (Hugo Award Winner)
  • Hap and Leonard Ride Again by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Hugo Award Winner)

$18+

  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Campbell Award Winner)
  • Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress (Nebula Award Winner)
  • Led Astray: The Best of Kelly Armstrong
  • Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter Beagle, Jacob Weisman, contributors

(4) SPEED SHOPPING. Pornokitch’s 2017 gifting guide begins with Becky Chambers’ suggestions:

Becky recommends:

If they need a laugh after this garbage fire of a year, then get them season one of The Good Place, because we’re all messy humans, we’re all caught up in stupid systems beyond our control, and we all could use some frozen yogurt.

If they’re still ride or die for Game of Thrones while simultaneously nursing a bitter resentment over how much better this show could do by its female characters, then get them the Skyrim Special Edition and let them live their own high fantasy adventure. It’s got all the time-sucking goodness of the original game, but the art’s gloriously remastered, the DLC’s unlocked, and the bugs are (mostly) fixed.

If they aren’t religious but love the winter holidays for symbolizing love and kindness in the face of the freezing dark, then give them The Bonobo and the Atheist by primatologist Frans de Waal. It’s a thought-provoking, perspective-altering, brain-calming book about compassion as natural instinct….

(5) PIXAR EXEC PLACED ON “SABBATICAL”. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Disney animation guru John Lasseter takes leave after sexual misconduct allegations” follows up The Hollywood Reporter piece about John Lasseter being sidelined on sexual harassment allegations by noting that Lasseter is “one of the most important figures in modern entertainment…in charge of hundreds of people, making discipline a more fraught affair.”

Citing a six-month “sabbatical,” Lasseter closed the letter to employees saying he looked forward to “working together again in the new year.”

It remains unclear whether Disney could extend the leave or make it permanent. The company released a short statement late Tuesday saying that it is “committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

…The Hollywood Reporter piece cited one woman as saying Lasseter was prone to “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Another woman said that Lasseter’s statement Tuesday that centered on hugs minimized the alleged offenses. Many of the accusers were anonymous.

The story said that the writer-actor Rashida Jones had left “Toy Story 4” because of Lasseter’s behavior. But she and writing partner Will McCormack later issued a statement that “we did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances.  That is untrue.” They said instead that diversity concerns played a role. “There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films.  But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice,” they wrote.

(6) BLABBING FOR DOLLARS. SyFy Wire says “J.J. Abrams is selling Star Wars spoilers for a good cause”.

When J.J. Abrams directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was his usual secretive self right up until the end. But something seems to have changed in the Star Wars/J.J. Abrams universe since he was tapped to direct Star Wars Episode IX. He’s now selling Star Wars spoilers to the highest bidder.

After Ron Howard’s masterful use of social media when it came to getting fans engaged with Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy announced a shift in the company’s attitude toward sharing more information with the fans, and we even saw a verified Twitter handle pop up for Abrams (no tweets yet, but we remain hopeful), but J.J.’s appearance on HBO’s Night of Too Many Stars definitely qualifies as a new development.

To help raise money for autism, J.J. offered up the plot of Star Wars Episode IX to one lucky bidder. What happened next? Well, you’ll just have to watch….

(7) UNLIKELY PAIR. Yahoo! Entertainment writer Gwynne Watkins, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: 7 things we just learned”, summarized  the Entertainment Weekly issue devoted to the film, and says that a reunion between Luke and Leia is highly unlikely and General Leia’s successor is her childhood friend Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern.

One of the biggest questions for longtime Star Wars fans is whether estranged twins Luke and Leia will find one another in The Last Jedi, since Carrie Fisher died before shooting any scenes for Episode IX. (Lucasfilm has said they will not digitally recreate the character to conclude her storyline.) EW won’t say either way, but their coverage suggests that a reunion may have been planned for the third part of the trilogy, which is slated for 2019 and hasn’t begun production. Nevertheless, director Rian Johnson chose to pair Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia on one of EW‘s four covers. “It’s nice seeing them on the cover though. Even if all we have is that,” Johnson told the magazine.

(8) PROP WORTH MORE THAN MOVIE. After Bonham auctioned Robby the Robot for over $5.3M, Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia did a little checking —

According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true!), the movie cost $1,968,000. It took in $2,765,000 at the box office. So Robby alone has earned nearly double what the film earned.

(9) TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES FOR FORTY THOUSAND BUCKS, Another sff treasure sold at yesterday’s auction was “A Harper Goff scrapbook pertaining to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, for $40,000 including premium.

“Forget Robby,” says Andrew Porter. “Click on images to see gorgeous preproduction paintings and behind-the-camera photos.”

Titled “A history in informal photography,” this is production designer Harper Goff’s personal scrapbook documenting every stage of the making of his masterpiece, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is a mother lode of original artwork, rare photographs, and ephemera from the film, curated throughout with Goff’s handwritten captions. Goff’s original art in this lot includes an incredible series of 5 vividly-colored, action-packed sequential paintings of the submarine Nautilus’ attack on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(10) PHOENIX EVENT CANCELLED. From Nerdvana we learn — “LepreCon 44 cancels 2018 Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo”.

The Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 16-18, 2018, in conjunction with and presented by LepreCon 44, is apparently canceled — but may be retooled.

…According to the group’s Facebook page and website, “LepreCon 44, in the form of the Phoenix Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 2018 at the Unexpected Art Gallery, has been cancelled. LepreCon, Inc. is no longer associated with any event of that name.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. Dominic Winter Auctioneers will be handling the sale of The Library Of Richard Adams on  December 14. The catalog is now available in print and online.

Comprising 1500 books sold singly and in groups in a total of 134 lots, the antiquarian highlights include a Shakespeare Second Folio, 1632, a uniformly calf-bound set of the first editions of Jane Austen, a very rare first edition of John Milton’s Lycidas, 1638, and a two-volume first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, 1755. Among the highlights of the children’s books are first editions of Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and the four Winnie-the-Pooh books. Adams’s deep interest in the history of English literature, poetry, nineteenth-century fiction and country matters is also reflected throughout the collection, many of the highlights of which bear his bookplate.

(12) COCO. NPR’s Bob Mondello says: “In ‘Coco,’ Pixar Finds Joyous Life — In Death”

We get there alongside young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who lives with his shoemaking family in a Mexican village. He’s a happy kid, except for one thing: His family has lived an entirely music-free existence for three generations. His grandmother (Renee Victor) has forbidden it all — no blowing into soda bottles, no listening to passing car radios and absolutely no mariachis.

Miguel knows why. Years ago, his musical great-great-grandfather grabbed his guitar and left, never to return. On Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead — when it’s said the deceased return to visit their families, no one so much as mentions great-great-granddad. Which means Miguel gets a bit of a shock when he strums a guitar in a cemetery on that day and finds himself and his street puppy Dante — get it? — transported to the land of the dead.

(13) TANZER REVIEWED. NPR’s Jason Sheehan approves of subtlety: “‘Creatures Of Will And Temper’ Is A Slow-Burn Slide Into Deviltry”

The biggest problem with most urban fantasy is that, by nature, it becomes alternate history. It’s Renaissance Italy, but with vampires. Or Victorian England, but everyone wears cool goggles and has an airship!

And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are stories out there that have done wonders with their skewed versions of our shared past. I’m just saying it’s rare for a writer to be able to do one (insert a fantasy element into a historical setting) without doing the other (letting the dragons eat the townsfolk, thereby giving rise to Bert the Dragonbasher, hero of West Crudwell, or whatever). And when someone pulls it off as well as Molly Tanzer in her new novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, it’s worth checking out just to see the restraint and careful worldbuilding gymnastics required.

Honestly, if that was the only thing Tanzer accomplished here, I’d be impressed. She has created a Victorian England which is, in all noticeable ways, exactly the Victorian England we know — the mother of our modern world, by turns smoky, smutty, gross and backward, then beautiful, wondrous and louche with the turn of a corner. And yet, embedded in it — woven so closely into the fabric of normalcy that almost no one can see it — Tanzer has given us … demons.

(14) DON’T SPARE THE ROD. John W. Campbell would have been thrilled to hear it: “U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods To Find Pipes”.

Most of the major water companies in the United Kingdom use dowsing rods — a folk magic practice discredited by science — to find underwater pipes, according to an Oxford Ph.D. student and science video producer who accidentally discovered the practice is still in use.

Ten out of the U.K.’s 12 regional water and sewer utilities confirmed to Sally Le Page that they at least occasionally use dowsing rods, also known as divining rods or “witching sticks,” to locate underground water sources. Many of the companies later emphasized that dowsing is done by individuals, not as a company-wide policy, and that it does not cost any money.

Le Page began asking water companies about the practice after her parents told her that they saw a water technician holding “two bent tent pegs” to decide how much of the road needed to be closed off. Le Page was incredulous and started asking water companies if this was an actual practice they used.

(15) FREQUENT VISITOR. It’s been in and out of Europe multiple times: “Plague reached Europe by Stone Age”.

Plague was present in Europe during the late Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains.

Writing in Current Biology journal, researchers suggest the deadly bacterium entered Europe with a mass migration of people from further east.

They screened more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the full genomes of plague bacteria from six individuals.

These six variously date to between Late Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

The plague-positive samples come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

“The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest plague-positive samples published. They are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia],” co-author Alexander Herbig from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.

The plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, was responsible for several major historic pandemics, including the infamous Black Death in the 14th Century, which is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population.

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

A Wrinkle in Time Official US Trailer

A Wrinkle in Time comes to theaters March 9

From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/17 Scrolly McPixelface

(1) GOODREADS CHOICE WRITE-INS. Because Mount TBR can never be high enough, Mark Hepworth did his best to figure out the write-in nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2017 in the Fantasy, SF and Horror categories. These are the popular additions to Goodreads’ own handpicked finalists:

Fantasy:

  • City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Age of Swords by Michael J Sullivan
  • The Land: Raiders by Aleron Kong
  • Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

SF:

  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
  • The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
  • The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Horror:

  • A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau
  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong
  • The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
  • Bone White by Ronald Malfi

(2) HUNG BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE. Popsugar has been out shopping: “Hold the Door — These 21 Game of Thrones Gifts Are So Cool, We Want Them For Ourselves”.

Hodor Door Stop

As you know, this Hodor Door Stop ($8) will be quite dependable.

(3) BREW TO BEAM UP. Meanwhile, ThinkGeek is hustling “Star Trek Transporter Pad LED Coasters”. (Note: Will not actually materialize / dematerialize your drinks.)

Until a future comes in which condensation no longer exists, coasters will be a useful device. This is a set of 4 coasters that look and sound like ST:TOS transporter pads. Yes, we said “sound.” When you place a drink on one or remove it, the coaster lights-up and plays either a materialization or a dematerialization sound. If it’s all a little too overwhelming, you can set it just to light up. But that’s basically only half the fun.

 

(4) WHALESONG. SPECPO, the official blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, introduces a poet: “Words, Whales and Wonder: An Interview with Jenna Le”.

What inspired you to write A History of The Cetacean American Diaspora? What was the most challenging of the poems for you to include in this collection?

At least for me, a collection of poetry comes into existence in a very different way from how I’m told a novel comes into existence: each poem has its own inspiration, its own reason for being. Some of the book’s many inspirations included: the American Museum of Natural History’s 2014 exhibit “Whales: Giants of the Deep”; Rudy Boschwitz’s flavored milk stand at the Minnesota State Fair; my Taylor & Ng “La Baleine” coffee mug; the Waterboys album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, especially the song “Sweet Dancer,” which inspired me to research the life of Yeats’s mistress Margot Ruddock; my 7th-grade English teacher Mr. Sandeen, who taught me to love the passage in The Song of Hiawatha wherein Wenonah is impregnated by the wind god; some documentary about the Fall of Saigon that was available to watch for free on Hulu, whose name I can’t remember; an advertisement I saw for Le Lam’s documentary Cong Binh: The Lost Fighters of Vietnam; my parents’ oral narratives about their own flight from Vietnam and immigration experiences; embryology class in my second year of med school; various mythology compendia and PBS nature documentaries.

(5) HOORAY. Phil Nichols chronicles the friendship of “The Two Rays”, Bradbury and Harryhausen, at Bradburymedia.

In 1993, Bradbury paid perhaps the highest tribute of all, by incorporating a fictionalised Harryhausen as a major character in his Hollywood novel A Graveyard for Lunatics. Special effects wizard “Roy Holdstrom” is a very thinly disguised Harryhausen, and accompanies the narrator in attempting to solve a murder mystery in 1950s Hollywood. Here is how the narrator first sees Holdstrom’s workshop, which we can imagine is similar to what Bradbury saw back in 1938 when first invited into Harryhausen’s garage:

Stage 13 was, then, a toy shop, a magic chest, a sorceror’s trunk, a trick manufactory, and an aerial hangar of dreams at the centre of which Roy stood each day, waving his long piano fingers at mythic beasts to stir them, whispering, in their ten-billion year slumbers.

(6) THE FORMER MRS. SISKO. CinemaBlend asked “How The Orville’s Penny Johnson Jerald Feels About Competing With Star Trek: Discovery”.

Penny Johnson Jerald has built up a hell of a resume as a veteran TV actor, with shows such as 24, The Larry Sanders Show, and even Castle all playing important parts in her body of work. But for Star Trek fans, she’s most notably known for playing Kasidy Yates Sisko on Deep Space Nine. This is a fact that wasn’t lost on anyone from the Trek fandom who also watches The Orville on Fox, which of course means that Jerald would most definitely have an opinion on her Fox show running around the same time as Star Trek: Discovery is unfurling on CBS All Access.

…While some may try to pit the two shows against each other, Penny Johnson Jerald isn’t interested in playing that game at all. As The Orville’s Dr. Claire Finn, she gets to play a role different from the law-breaking romantic interest to Avery Brooks’ law-abiding space station overseer.

(7) HAWK YOUR WARES. The SFWA Market Report for November compiled by David Steffen includes such information as —

NEW MARKETS

Guilds and Glaives

Razor’s Edge

Second Round: A Return to the Urbar

Sword and Sonnet

(8) LAUGHING ALL THE WAY. Alex Acks raves about Thor: Ragnarok:

I saw it twice this weekend. I’ll be seeing it more times before it leaves the theater. And after several days to collect my thoughts so I can write something more coherent than a high-pitched squeal of delight, I’ve calmed down to the level of OH MY GOD COLORS AND FUNNY AND LOKI AND VALKYRIE AND SO MANY JOKES PLEASE TAIKA WAITITI TAKE MY SOUL IT’S YOURS.

If you’re not familiar with Taika Waititi’s work, it’s time to get right with the world. A great place to start is with What We Do in the Shadows, which is a mockumentary about vampires living in New Zealand–and bonus swearwolves. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is also freaking amazing and easy to find. I first encountered his work in Flight of the Conchords, and was hooked. His sense of humor (heavy on the irony and diminution) and aesthetic sensibility are both right up my alley, so I’d already just about lost my mind when I found out he would be directing Thor: Ragnarok. Finally, I thought, if someone was going to get Loki right as a character, it would be him.

Well, I was right. And so much more. SO MUCH MORE.

…The big thing that doesn’t really show up in the summary is how fucking hilarious this movie is. It just doesn’t stop the entire time, even in the action sequences. And the humor cleverly disguises–and also sharpens–some incredibly fucked up things that the film examines. And between jokes, there are quiet character moments that have more impact because they occur in the ten seconds you aren’t laughing–or you are laughing and then you realize just how important this is to that character and it’s like a punch to the sternum. I’d also recommend this piece about the Maori spin on Waititi’s brand of humor as seen in the movie, though it could be considered spoilery depending on how sensitive you are about that stuff.

(9) GORDON OBIT. Astronaut Richard Gordon died November 6.

Richard Gordon

Former Apollo 12 astronaut Richard Gordon, one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn’t land there, has died, NASA said. He was 88.

Richard “Dick” F. Gordon Jr. was a test pilot chosen in NASA’s third group of astronauts in 1963. He flew on Gemini 11 in 1966, walking in space twice. During Apollo 12 in November 1969, Gordon circled the moon in the command module Yankee Clipper while Alan Bean and Charles Conrad landed and walked on the lunar surface.

Gordon died Monday at his home in California, according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

“Dick will be fondly remembered as one of our nation’s boldest flyers, a man who added to our own nation’s capabilities by challenging his own. He will be missed,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday.

Born in Seattle, a Navy captain and a chemist, Gordon was such a steely professional that after a difficult first spacewalk, he fell asleep during a break in his second spacewalk. He downplayed Apollo 12 being hit by lightning during launch.

In a 1997 NASA oral history, Gordon said people would often ask if he felt alone while his two partners walked on the moon. “I said, ‘Hell no, if you knew those guys, you’d be happy to be alone’.”

(10) MOLLO OBIT. Oscar-winning costume designer John Mollo died October 25.

John Mollo, a largely self-taught historian whose expertise on military uniforms led George Lucas to choose him to design costumes for “Star Wars,” winning Mr. Mollo the first of two Academy Awards, died on Oct. 25 in Froxfield, Wiltshire, England. He was 86. His death, in a care facility, was confirmed by his wife, Louise Mollo, who said he had had vascular dementia. Mr. Mollo had a long career in the movies, creating costumes for Richard Attenborough’s epic “Gandhi” (1982), which brought him his second Oscar; the Revolutionary War drama “Revolution” (1985), with Al Pacino; “Cry Freedom” (1987), with Denzel Washington as the South African freedom fighter Steve Biko; “Chaplin” (1992), with Robert Downey Jr. in the title role; and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), the second installment in the first “Star Wars” trilogy.

… Mr. Mollo’s costumes, intricate but appearing lived-in, were based on Mr. Lucas’s instructions and on his own sketches and those of a concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie, who drew some of the earliest renderings of many of the characters. The results included the weather-beaten martial arts outfit of Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill; the monkish robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness; the dusty cowboy look of Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford; and the pure white dress draped over Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. For the dark side, Mr. Mollo encased the imperial storm troopers in hard white carapaces and masks and hid Darth Vader, played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, in a swooping black cloak and a helmet that brought to mind that of a samurai. The imperial outfits were designed to embody a fascist, dehumanizing order.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PHOTON LEAP. On Camestros Felapton’s blog, Dr Timothy the Talking Cat and Professor of Thought-Expansion Straw Puppy M.D. continue to spin their epic yarn — “McEdifice Returns: Chapters are just another way the man tries to control us”.

Journal Entry. Field Officer Qzrrzxxzq Day 39 since the dimensional distortion event.

As far as I can ascertain our current location is an urban centre called ‘Manchester’. I can confirm now that we are moving in time as well as space. Possibly we have shifted to another reality as this one appears to have been drained of much of its colour. Sky, buildings, people all appear more grey than normal. The translator device seems to be broken as the local language is unintelligible but the device insists that it is still ‘English’.

Earlier in the day we successfully infiltrated the sub-culture festival apparently named “Woodstock”. Levels of casual nudity and psychotropic substances were higher than the cultural norms we had observed elsewhere. Our mission was simple – find the cultists who had possession of McEdifice, regain the asset and then use ScanScan’s powers to evac.

“If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.” sang a young man at us both. A coded message? Helpful advice? Or just frankly insulting given that I’m bald? I side stepped and made my way through the crowds of long haired youths.

(13) HOW ARE YA FIXED FOR BLADES? Deadline reports “Millennium To Produce Female-Strong ‘Red Sonja’ With Cinelou”.

Millennium Media will finance and produce a new version of Red Sonja and is looking to it as a new franchise for the company. The project will be produced by Millennium’s Avi Lerner and Joe Gatta alongside Cinelou’s Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon. They are fast-tracking this project and next will hire a writer.

Red Sonja is based on a comic book heroine from the 1970s. She has appeared in hundreds of comic books over the decades, which Dynamite Entertainment continues publishing today.

“We have been waiting for the right time for this remake,” said Lerner, “and with the success of Wonder Woman, the audience has spoken. They want female heroes.”

(14) THAT IDEA IS QUACKERS. Michael Isikoff, in “Kill The Damn Duck!  Ex-DNC Head Brazile Describes Clash Over Trolling Donald Trump In Donald Duck Costumes” on Yahoo! News, says former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile told representatives of the Hillary Clinton campaign that showing up at Donald Trump rallies with someone in a Donald Duck outfit with a sign saying, “Don’t Duck Your Taxes” could backfire because Donald Duck was Disney’s “intellectual property” and “they could sue us.”

She called Marc Elias, the senior lawyer for the Clinton campaign, and told him “that I had heard from ABC and Disney about the duck and he had to kill it.”

“The duck is the intellectual property of Disney,” Brazile told Elias, on her account. “They could sue us, OK? Do you want that story out there? Hillary’s about to go to California to raise money, and she’s going to see Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, who is holding this fundraiser, and this is coming from him. What do you want to do? Have him cancel the fundraiser? I know you all want that money. So get rid of the f—ing duck!”

(15) LGBT SEARCH. Autostraddle leads fans to “8 Queer Speculative Short Story Collections”. Part of the “Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian” post series, this list includes —

Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn

Starting with the two questions “What do queer women fear the most?” and “What do queer women desire the most?,” Amber Dawn created this amazing collection of stories to both turn you on and scare you, sometimes simultaneously. The stories range from ones that are genuinely terrifying and not so erotic to ones that would be at home in an erotica anthology. For example, Aurelia T. Evans’s “In Circles,” which features an intersex main character, will make you never think of that silly sleepover game Bloody Mary the same way again. Dawn’s “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver” is part ghost story, part anti-gentrification treatise, and part mean mommy and little girl kinky erotica. “Homeland” by Kristyn Dunnion peels back the horrors possible in the average night at your local lesbian bar….

(16) HEAD’S UP. A fashionable hairstyle is a genre inspiration — “The Sci-Fi Bob Is the Out-of-This-World Hair Trend for Fall”.

Calling all you Trekkies and sci-fi fans, fall 2017 has a new hair trend that is designed with you in mind. The sci-fi bob is a simple, short blunt cut that features sharp angles and is usually paired with a baby bang. This futuristic femme style, inspired by movies like The Fifth Element and Star Trek, is here to heat up limp cold-weather ‘dos, just in time for the holiday season.

 

(17) THE POINT. Clive Barker tells The Guardian “How we made Hellraiser”.

Clive Barker, director

I worked as a hustler in the 1970s, because I had no money. I met a lot of people you’ll know and some you won’t: publishers, captains of industry. The way they acted – and the way I did, to be honest – was a source of inspiration later. Sex is a great leveller. It made me want to tell a story about good and evil in which sexuality was the connective tissue. Most English and American horror movies were not sexual, or coquettishly so – a bunch of teenagers having sex and then getting killed. Hellraiser, the story of a man driven to seek the ultimate sensual experience , has a much more twisted sense of sexuality.

By the mid-80s I’d had two cinematic abominations made from my stories. It felt as if God was telling me I should direct. How much worse could I be? I said to Christopher Figg, who became my producer: “What’s the least I could spend and expect someone to hire a first-time director?” And he said: “Under a million dollars. You just need a house, some monsters, and pretty much unknown actors.” My novella The Hellbound Heart, which mostly took place in one house, fitted those parameters. Roger Corman’s company New World – who agreed to fund a film for $900,000 – said very plainly it would go straight to video.

(18) ON STAGE. Lythgoe Family Panto’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – A CHRISTMAS ROSE will play December 13-17 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

An updated version of the classic tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST A CHRISTMAS ROSE features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), contemporary music and more…

Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster.com/PantoPasadena or by calling 626-449-7360.

(19) AREN’T YOU BLIND? Another wild ride on Twitter begins here.

(20) RETWEET. Or whatever the right term is for what I’m doing on a blog —

(21) UNSOLVED. io9 has heard “Creator Donald Bellisario Has Written a Quantum Leap Film Script”.

That news comes courtesy of this weekend’s LA Comic Con event, where Quantum Leap’s creator, Donald Bellisario, reunited with Scott Bakula during a panel discussion that inevitably turned to reboots.

“I just finished writing a Quantum Leap feature,” Bellisario announced. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I did write it.”

Quantum Leap ended infamously, with one of the most tragic (and unintentionally funny, or maybe that’s just me) end title cards in history, announcing that Bakula’s Sam Beckett never made the leap home. After five seasons of interdimensional problem solving, Sam Beckett was never going to get to solve his own.

(22) TECH DEMO. SyFy Wire explains the joke — “Stargate alum David Hewlett parodies 1980s sci-fi series Automan in hilarious short”.

We love a good fake trailer. After all, it creates its own broad vision while at the same time distilling it to hilarious specificity. The most recent one to cross our paths, Hewlogram, below, one-ups the fake trailer genre in two ways: 1) It stars David Hewlett, who played Rodney McKay, our favorite snarky scientist on Stargate: Atlantis, and 2) It doubles as a demonstration of some fairly nifty technology.

The special effects software and filmmaking company Red Giant produced Hewlogram and could have created a standard commercial to promote the release of its Red Giant Universe 2.2 tools for filmmakers and visual effects producers. Instead, it gave us a wacky short for a 1980s television show you’ve never seen but recognize in your geeky fiber, a buddy cop show spliced together with Tron and folded into 21st century reality—a self-aware Automan.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/11/17 Can He Bake A Pixel Pie, Charming Mikey?

(1) AFTER THE STORM. Yahoo! Lifestyle has collected tweets with photos of hurricane damage at DisneyWorld – and while there is some, it’s not too heavy.

(2) BABYSITTING ORION. Let NPR tell you what it’s like “Riding Out Irma On Florida’s Space Coast — And Keeping An Eye On The Spacecraft”.

Every time a major storm hits the Space Coast, the ride-out crew members pack their toothbrushes and nonperishable food and settle in to spend the duration of the storm inside the Launch Control Center. Helms is riding out his second hurricane at the center, along with firefighters, security officers, building experts and contractors responsible for the hardware itself.

The most sensitive equipment is secured in climate-controlled spaces. The challenge is to make sure that no matter what happens outside, nothing changes inside.

“Humidity and temperature — those are the big two that affect the spacecraft,” Helms says. For most people, if you rode out a hurricane and just lost air conditioning for a few days, it’d be a victory. For the Space Center, that’s the worst-case scenario, Helms says.

(3) TOP COMICS ARTISTS SINCE 1992. SfFy presents, in no order, “The 25 greatest comic book artists from the last 25 years”.

To celebrate the last 25 years in comics, we’re looking back at the greatest comic book artists from the last quarter-century. Before anyone cries outrage on why George Perez or Walt Simonson are not on this list, please remember that we’re just talking about the last 25 years, and the legendary works we are highlighting only go back to 1992. Our criteria is based on a balance of unique creativity, distinct and influential style, longevity, and impact, as opposed to quantity or how big the profile was of said project(s). Their interior artwork had to be their biggest contribution (even though their cover art may be depicted below) during this era, and it must inspire, evoke emotion and/or transport the reader to a far off vivid world and keep the reader dreaming when they close the book. Now, without further ado…

1. Mike Allred

Notable works: Madman, Red Rocket, The Atomics, Sandman, X-Force/X-Statix, Silver Surfer, Wednesday Comics, iZOMBIE, Fantastic Four, Batman ’66

(4) CROWDSOURCED SCHEDULE. James Davis Nicoll calls on you to help decide “What 12 Dianne Wynne Jones books should I review in 2018?”

This is a work in progress. Open to suggestions. In 2015 and 2016, I devoted Fridays to Norton and Lee, respectively. That led to a certain level of fatigue towards the end of the projects. In 2017, I focused on authors from Waterloo Region, which side-stepped the fatigue issue at the cost of causing problems with the gender ratio of authors reviewed1. In 2018, my idea is to

Focus on four primary authors, three women and one man: Dianna Wynne Jones, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Carrie Vaughn. A rotating roster avoids fatigue and with women outnumbering men three to one, I shouldn’t have the same problem maintaining my desired women to men ratio.

(5) EIGHTIES REBOOT. According to Deadline, “‘The Greatest American Hero’ Reboot With Female Lead Gets Big ABC Commitment”.

A re-imagining of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic The Greatest American Hero is flying back to development with a new creative team, a big new commitment and a big twist.

ABC has given a put pilot commitment to the half-hour single-camera project. In it, the unlikely (super)hero at the center — Ralph Hinkley (played by William Katt) in the original series — is Meera, an Indian-American woman. The Greatest American Hero comes from Fresh Off  the Boat writer-producer Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan’s Fierce Baby. 20th Century Fox TV, where Fierce Baby is based and Fruchbom recently signed an overall deal, will co-produce with ABC Studios.

(6) MANIC MONDAY. And another manic Chuck Wendig / John Scalzi thread.

(7) DISCOVERY CREW. In a Cnet video, cast members of the upcoming series discuss their characters and how they each fit into the Trek universe

(8) MONSTERS FROM THE ID. How much can you say about Forbidden Planet before you’ve said it all? A lot! In “Creating Our Own Final Frontier: Forbidden Planet”, Centauri Dreams’ guest blogger, Larry Klaes, discusses the film in great detail (19,383 words). Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment explaining, “Centauri Dreams is usually about science, not SF, so this is a little unusual for them, but Klaes does a pretty good job of tying the movie to our modern understanding of reality.”

While the makers of FP no doubt knew better than to outright criticize their government and country’s agenda against its Cold War adversaries, they did find in Dr. Morbius (just say his name out loud for the proper effect) a symbol for representing their fears of a field and its practitioners who were increasingly being seen as amoral if not directly malevolent as well as appointing themselves as the single-point arbiters of what was best for the rest of humanity. This is exactly what Morbius did with the incredibly powerful and deadly Krell technology he encountered and subsequently obsessed upon as he cut himself off from the rest of his species over the next twenty years, the very same technology that had wiped out an entire civilization in one swift blow many centuries before. The captain of the C-57D was not just following protocol when he attempted to radio home for further orders once he began to realize the full extent of what he was dealing with on Altair 4: Adams was hoping to get a wider consensus on the alien power he had come upon beyond the words and actions of a single self-appointed authority figure in the guise of the scientist Morbius.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 11, 1976 Ark II made its television premiere.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

If you know Wonder Woman, you’ll laugh at today’s Off the Mark.

(11) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. Code Blue. Code Blue…..

(12) THEATER IN THE GROUND. Unbound Productions presents Wicked Lit 2017 between September 29-November 11:

Wicked Lit has been staged at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena where audiences walk through the hallways of the mausoleum and among the headstones in the cemetery as our plays are staged all around.

Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave. Altadena.

(13) TRANSLATION: WHY HE THINKS YOU SHOULD BUY HIS BOOK. At Slate, Lawrence Krauss answers the rhetorical question: “Why Science-Fiction Writers Couldn’t Imagine the Internet”.

What I find most remarkable of all is that the imagination of nature far exceeds that of human imagination. If you had locked a group of theoretical physicists in a room 50 years ago and asked them to predict what we now know about the universe, they would have missed almost all the key discoveries we have made since, from the discovery of dark energy and dark matter to the ability to detect gravitational waves. That is because we need the guidance of experiment to move forward in science. How we hope nature will behave or how we think it should behave is irrelevant. Experiment determines what we must build our theories on, not a priori prejudice about elegance or beauty, or even what seems like common sense. Quantum mechanics defies common sense—so much so that Einstein never really accepted it. But as experiments today, from entanglement to quantum teleportation, demonstrate, quantum mechanics does describe the universe at fundamental scales.

That’s why science fiction—though it can inspire human imagination, as Stephen Hawking said in the preface of my book The Physics of Star Trek—is fundamentally limited. It is based on human imagination and past experience. That is a great thing. But it doesn’t mean the science-fiction future will resemble our own.

(14) JUST PUCKER UP AND BLOW. “Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert’s Plan for an NYC Transit System Powered By Air”The Daily Beast remembers.

In fact, he was beat over a century and a half ago by a former Civil War surgeon named Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert who came up with the idea for a public transportation system for New York City that would have established an elevated pneumatic tube system in place of the underground subway that New Yorkers love to hate today.

Gilbert may have seemed like an unlikely candidate to invent such an innovative solution for New York City’s transportation woes, but his idea was rooted in his original profession.

It all started before the Civil War when the doctor went on a tour of Europe following the death of his wife. There, a grieving Gilbert was gripped by the terrible conditions in the slums, and he became convinced that the overcrowded and dirty environment was to blame for the high rates of disease and death among the poor. If only they could escape the cramped conditions of the inner city and live out in the fresh air, he thought, all their health problems would be solved….

His technological ideas were impressive and cutting-edge for his day—and even for our day—but he also conceived of a look for the system that was downright beautiful. Elaborate, Gothic metal arches would top the streets of New York, extending out of sleek columns secured to the sidewalk at regular intervals. Plenty of scrolls, flourishes, and metal detailing decorated each arch, and they were all capped by two large tubes that would serve as the conduit for passengers to get around the city.

(15) KEEPING THE CAN’T IN REPLICANT. How the actor prepared — “Blade Runner 2049: Jared Leto made himself ‘partially blind’ for role”

Preparing for Blade Runner 2049, Leto went full method actor again, apparently partially blinding himself by wearing sight-limiting contact lenses.

“He entered the room, and he could not see at all,” director Denis Villeneuve told the SWJ magazine in a profile piece about Leto.

“He was walking with an assistant, very slowly. It was like seeing Jesus walking into a temple. Everybody became super silent, and there was a kind of sacred moment. Everyone was in awe. It was so beautiful and powerful — I was moved to tears. And that was just a camera test!”

(16) THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Thanks to people who have sent me links to Jon Del Arroz, or to posts reacting to Jon Del Arroz.

(17) THIS SPACE UNINTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Camestros Felapton, in “Just One Last Note on ex-Kerfuffles”, says the dog park of the internet has allowed its domain to expire.

As I already have one whateverhappenedtoo post up about those unhappy hounds of Hugo hostility, I’ll leave one more snippet: the domain name ownership of “sadpuppies4.org” has expired. The website that hosted the fourth iteration of distempered doggedness…

(18) TIPPING POINT? The BBC’s report “Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear” may be specific to the UK, but might also be a signpost to changes elsewhere.

Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time.

The cost of subsidies for new offshore wind farms has halved since the last 2015 auction for clean energy projects

Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.

This compares with the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant securing subsidies of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

(19) MISSION ENDS FRIDAY. Cassini: Saturn probe to set up death plunge: “Cassini: Saturn probe turns towards its death plunge”.

The international Cassini spacecraft at Saturn has executed the course correction that will send it to destruction at the end of the week.

The probe flew within 120,000km of the giant moon Titan on Monday – an encounter that bent its trajectory just enough to put it on a collision path with the ringed planet.

Nothing can now stop the death plunge in Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday.

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