Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

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

ComicMix Gains Partial Victory in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up

Last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!

ComicMix LLC moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the motion was partially granted on June 9. U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the trademark infringement claims, but allowed the copyright claim to proceed, awaiting proof of any harm to the Dr. Seuss estate’s licensing opportunities. The estate has been given two weeks to amend its copyright infringement claims.

As ComicMix reports:

Judge Sammartino found that the book is “a highly transformative work that takes no more than necessary [from Dr. Seuss’s books] to accomplish its transformative purpose and will not impinge on the original market for Plaintiff’s underlying work” She emphasized that the case has broader significance: “…This case presents an important question regarding the emerging ‘mash-up’ culture where artists combine two independent works in a new and unique way. … Applying the fair use factors in the manner Plaintiff outlines would almost always preclude a finding of fair use under these circumstances. However, if fair use was not viable in a case such as this, an entire body of highly creative work would be effectively foreclosed.”

The court decision also explained why it rejected the motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim.

In codifying the fair use doctrine, Congress set forth four non-exclusive factors for courts to consider in evaluating whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

…As it stands in this case, factors one and four — which “…have ‘dominated the case law’ and are generally viewed as the most important factors[,] …currently stand in equipoise. Factor two weighs slightly in favor of Plaintiff [DSE], and factor three is neutral. And although it would appear that the purposes of copyright favor Defendants [ComicMix, et al], that determination is also a close and unsettled call. Ultimately, given the procedural posture of this motion and near-perfect balancing of the factors, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, without relevant evidence regarding factor four the Court concludes that Defendants’ fair use defense currently fails as a matter of law.

Doctor Seuss Enterprises has until June 23 to present evidence about the effect on the market for the work whose copyright is allegedly infringed.

Pixel Scroll 5/2/17 Pixel Packing Mama, Lay Your Pixel Down

(1) YOUNG AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll will be doing a Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF and asks — What short works published before 1980 would File 770 readers recommend?

(2) POTTERPOLOGY DAY. Following her tradition of apologizing for killing off a character on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted today —

And as Katherine Trendacosta astutely observed at io9:

See? She knows she’s stirring shit up and she does it anyway.

For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.

(3) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. May 6 is Free Comic Book Day when participating comic book shops give away special sample comics free to anyone who comes into their shops. There are a lot of different issues involved – see the catalog.

(4) BEAGLE SUIT. Peter S. Beagle isn’t as broke as people are making him out to be says Snopes’ David Emery in “The Trials of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle”.

Contrary to Internet rumor, the beloved science fiction and fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (perhaps best known for his classic 1968 novel The Last Unicorn) is neither destitute nor teetering on the brink of starvation.

A cry for immediate financial assistance went up shortly after the writer’s 78th birthday on 20 April 2017, in the form of tweets describing Beagle’s circumstances as “dire”:

Several posts repeated the claim that Beagle, who has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with his former manager since 2015, was having difficulty even meeting basic household expenses such as grocery bills. However, we spoke to Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen A. Hunt of El Cerrito, California, who told us that her client’s money woes, albeit chronic, are not as acute as they have been portrayed:

It’s true that he doesn’t have lots of money, but it’s not true that his living situation is dire. Peter does need the help and support of his friends and fans, but it is not the case that he’s in danger of being on the street.

We also spoke with Beagle himself, who said he considers himself a lot better off than the average writer:

It’s always dicey, but anybody who makes a living as a writer learns to cope with lean times. Compared to so many other people, I’m fortunate.

The impromptu fund drive nevertheless resulted in a welcome infusion of cash, not to mention an outpouring of love and support from Beagle’s many online fans. “The response was pretty phenomenal,” Hunt said.

The writer’s ongoing money woes are due in part to court costs from a 2015 lawsuit he filed against Connor Cochran, owner of Conlan Press, who had managed the author’s creative and business affairs for fourteen years…

Cochran filed a counterclaim denying the allegations, and posted a series of statements on his web site alleging that Beagle was being unduly influenced by individuals close to him who seek personal gain from the suit…

At present, Beagle says he feels fine and endeavors to write every day (with varying levels of success, he admits), focused mainly on a novel he envisions as a semi-sequel to Two Hearts, which itself he describes as “kind of a sequel to The Last Unicorn.” He will appear at BayCon, the annual San Francisco Bay Area science fiction convention, in May.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial in January 2018.

(5) RHETORICAL VIOLENCE. In The Guardian, Jessa Crispin challenges a popular narrative: “The Handmaid’s Tale is just like Trump’s America? Not so fast”.

…If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)…

(6) IN JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway reports:

On Monday’s Jeopardy! episode, the defending champion Alan Lin (“a software engineer from Santa Barbara, CA”) was asked by Alex Trebek about his writing. Lin replied that he writes SF short stories, but hasn’t sold one yet. But last summer he went to this writing workshop…. Checking the Clarion site, he’s listed as an alumnus. He’s doing well; as of the end of Monday’s show, he’s a six-time winner at $123,600 and still going. But on Monday’s show, he was beaten to the buzzer by another player on the clue in the category The Book of Verbs of “‘The Cat Who ____ Through Walls’ by Robert A. Heinlein”

(Jeopardy! will be doing an uncommon midyear online tryout test at the end of the month (three nights, May 30, 31, June 1) for those others who want to tryout. See Jeopardy.com for details)

(7) SEVEN TIME STOKER LOSER. Scott Edelman has a story:

Saturday night, I was up for my seventh Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, and emcee Jeff Strand took that opportunity to root for me … if you can call it rooting. Here’s what he had to say during his opening comments. Note that since the livestreamed video was so dark Jeff wasn’t even visible, I replaced that video with a photograph of me after I donned a new button once the results were announced in my category.

 

(8) DICK OBIT. Anne Dick died April 28 after surviving with congestive heart failure for many years. The former wife of Philip K. Dick published a biography about him in 2010, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

Tandy Ford, Anne Dick’s daughter and Philip Dick’s step-daughter, told a member of Facebook’s Philip K. Dick group, “She was still working away on her computer the night before her passing. She was a force of nature and her loss leaves a great void.”

In a 2010 profile by the New York Times’ Scott Timberg Anne Dick said:

“I think he’s what you might call a psychomorph,” Ms. Dick said recently, sitting in the boxy, modernist home she once shared with him. “He was quite different with each person. He had this enormous gift of empathy, and he used it to woo and please and control. I’m not saying he wasn’t a very nice person too; he was. He just had a very dark shadow.”

…After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, “everything changed,” she said.

“You see a person in the round,” she continued. “I started writing this after he died, because I was still so confused by what had happened.”

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. When screenwriter William Goldman first tried to get The Princess Bride made into a movie in the 1970s, he wanted the relatively unknown actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the role of Fezzik. By the time the film was made in 1987, Schwarzenegger was a too big star. The part instead when to former wrestler Andre the Giant.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 1933 — Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

(11) THEIR STEELY KNIVES. Mark Lawrence explains how his Stabby Award finally arrived after some difficulty, and treats fans to a photo gallery of all the daggers and double-headed axes his work has won:

And finally here they are with my growing collection of pointy literary awards, along with the books responsible. My quest to win the Fluffy Bunny award for Friendliest Fantasy continues in vain.

(12) VIVA MAX. I can’t stay away from “five things” posts any more than a dog can avoid noticing a squirrel. Today Max Florschutz blows the myths away in “Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing”.

1) Writing is a Lot of Hard Work This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear about writing. That it’s not work. That’s it’t not hard. That it’s not a “real” vocation (Yes, I hear all of these all the time).

This just plain isn’t true. Writing is a dedicated effort that takes hundreds, thousands of hours worth of both practice, planning, and devotion. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of it as something that does, because after all, they can write. They do it all the time! Text messages, letters, Facebook posts … they write all the time. How hard could it be to write a story?

The truth is that it’s very hard to write a story. It requires a very different set of tools to writing a text message, copying down the minutes of a meeting, or writing someone a letter. These things are straightforward and simple because they’re personal. Writing a story, however, is very impersonal. It has to be written from a perspective outside the writer’s own, and convey it’s tale to a vast audience of varying talent, comprehension, and capability. Writers must figure out how to paint a picture in each and every reader’s mind—a challenge considering that all of them will be very different people, and yet the same words the author pens must in each case create the same vision.

(13) AMAZON AUTHOR. Amanda S. Green continues her Mad Genius Club series with a lesson in Amazon marketing — “It’s really a business, pt. 2”.

Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY FINISHES. Tomorrow the real Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist will be revealed. Today, the Shadow Clarke Jury issued its collective decision about who belongs on that list.

My final shortlistee is another popular novel among the Sharkes: the reality-bending investigation of light and perception, A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna. While Jonathan approves of its class consciousness in the form of a cynical satire of academia, Maureen is intrigued by the alt-Oxford setting and intricate unfolding of universes, while Nina finds it good for “bust[ing] wide open” the science fiction envelope. The Sharke reviews, so far, have demonstrated just how malleable and diaphanous this novel is.

…Too often in the past, we agreed, Clarke shortlists had tended to feel weighted towards two or at the most three contenders that immediately looked stronger than the others, with the remainder simply making up the numbers. We wanted to avoid that scenario if we could, to present a genuine six-horse race.

And so the discussion proper was soon underway. The first two slots were filled very quickly – indeed, I think we all came to the meeting in the knowledge that Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station? were scoring high marks with just about every juror. Paul Kincaid called The Underground Railroad ‘essential’, and even went so far as to say he would judge this year’s Clarke Award on whether or not the official shortlist included it. Those who read the comments on the Sharke reviews here will know that I am not The Underground Railroad’s strongest advocate myself – and if the book makes it through to the official shortlist I will do my best to write in greater detail about why that is – but as I said to my fellow Sharkes I wasn’t about to step in front of a juggernaut. And as for Central Station, I was only too happy to see this very special book go through, especially since if the Clarke made any sense Tidhar would have been shortlisted twice already in previous years, for Osama and for A Man Lies Dreaming.

With two down and four to go, the question was then asked of each Sharke: of all the novels on your personal shortlist, are there any that you would say, absolutely, should be in the Sharke Six…

(15) THE GHOST BRIGADIER WHO WALKS. So why is the first thing that pops into my mind The Phantom comic strip? It’s not as if John goes around punching people in the jaw. (But if he ever did!)

(16) EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOIN’ DOWN. Galactic Journey gets another letter of comment from 1962 — “[May 02, 1962] A Good Lie (Letter Column #2)” – by a writer who wonders what the heck the U.S. is doing in Indochina.

Anyway, I thought of something I didn’t write about in my first letter to you.  (Thanks for sending some back issues of your publication.) I see that you are aware that there is something going on in Indochina that involves the US (March 31, 1961), but now, a year later, yes, it is clear that we as a nation are involved in war, but are just being sort of secretive about it.

(17) SOMETHING FOR MOTHERS’ DAY. Now on eBay, it can be yours for $28,000 – Bride of Frankenstein Movie Novel Signed by Elsa Lanchester & Forrest J Ackerman”.

First Edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title by the film’s star, Elsa Lanchester, to Philip J. Riley, the editor of the book ‘The Bride of Frankenstein. Screenplay by William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston.  Introduction by Valerie Hobson. Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman’ which reprinted the film’s screenplay. Inscribed: “To Phil, From THE Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa Lanchester. With all my very best wishes.” Additionally signed and inscribed to Riley from Forrest J Ackerman on the front free endpaper: “Phil – Aunt Beeze is fine and here’s The Bride of Frankenstein. What else? Forry, at 59.” Ownership signature dated 1938 on the front pastedown…

(18) MIDNIGHT SEUSS. The Tennessean apprises locals of a chance to see “Dr. Seuss’ secret ‘Midnight Paintings’ at the Factory at Franklin”.

Presented by Ann Jackson Gallery (Roswell, Ga.), the exhibition on view May 5-7 charts the wider reaches of Geisel’s prolific artistic imagination, featuring nearly 100 limited edition reproductions of his work that have been largely unseen by the public. In addition to sketches, illustrations, and political cartoons he created during World War II, the major highlight of the exhibition are the selections from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that Geisel created late at night for his personal enjoyment.

… The paintings and drawings, detached from a narrative, are more formally sophisticated and experimental.

Though they depict familiar Seussian settings populated by flamboyant characters and animals rendered in the same waggish visual vernacular as his storybook illustrations, they are more detailed, diversely colored, and at times more wondrous.

His sculptures, which comprise their own sub-collection of his secret art called, “Unorthodox Taxidermy,” are also remarkable. Using plaster, metal, and taxidermied animal parts, Geisel sculpted what look like the heads of his own outlandish animal creations — a “Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast” or “The Carbonic Walrus” — and mounted them on wood like hunting trophies.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Tom Galloway, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

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

Review of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical”

grinch-logo

By Martin Morse Wooster: I saw Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!—The Musical last night at the National Theatre in Washington.  From the musical’s website and Wikipedia, I learned that this musical has been around since 1994 and has played in 41 other cities in the U.S. before it showed up in Washington.  The production I saw played in Cleveland last week.

The book is by Timothy Mason and the music by Mel Marvin.  I never heard of either of them but they’re both pretty experienced and Marvin did the score for a version of Elmer Gantry a few years ago.  But both Mason and Marvin realize the two songs from the ‘60s TV special in this production, with music by Albert Hague and lyrics by Dr. Seuss, are better than anything they came up with, so we heard “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” twice, the second time in a sing-along version.

You know the plot.  The citizens of Whoville are looking forward to Christmas when they can get lots of stuff and eat many sugary treats.  Then that mean Grinch shows up and steals all their stuff.  But why?  Deprived childhood? Acid reflux? The answer here is that the Grinch is tired of all the noise the Whovians make.  At that point I started cheering the Grinch on.

I especially cheered on the Grinch when Cindy-Lou Who showed up to play the perky pre-teen who should have been in Annie, but ended up here.  “Oh no,” says the Grinch.

“Here comes a ballad!” Cindy-Lou Who then gets to sing two more songs, and we could feel her perkiness in the balcony.

The costumes and set design were excellent, and Philip Bryan was suitably malevolent as the Grinch.  Bob Lauder was almost as good as Thurl Ravenscroft in singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” but I never understood why he played a dog.  Danielle Guilbot played Cindy-Lou Who, and no doubt her agent is looking for touring productions of Annie that need tykes.  There were a dozen other Whovians but I can’t remember anything about them except their Pepto Bismol-pink costumes.

Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!—The Musical was all right and more entertaining than the movie with Jim Carrey.  But I don’t need to see it again.

ComicMix Moves For Dismissal of Seuss Lawsuit

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-go

File 770 reported in September a crowdsourced appeal for funds to publish Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

While the Kickstarter was in progress, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) objected, claiming that the project infringed their copyright on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! They filed suit for damages on November 10 in Dr. Seuss Enterprises vs. David Gerrold, et al.

Now ComicMix’s Haumann reports his attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the Dr. Seuss lawsuit on the grounds that Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

A GeekNation article by Michael Hinman summarizes the contacts between DSE and ComicMix prior to the lawsuit:

Even at the start of the campaign, ComicMix acknowledged there could be problems moving forward with the book project, telling potential donors “there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes. And we may even lose that.”

Just before the crowdfunding campaign was completed, raising nearly $30,000, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made a copyright claim to Kickstarter, forcing the company to remove the campaign and freeze the funds. That prompted an angry letter from ComicMix attorney Booth just before Halloween.

In that letter, Booth demanded the Seuss people to reinstate the campaign, especially since Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel Publishing had agreed to publish the book, and rush it for a Christmas release.

“Also anticipating Christmas sales, one vendor ordered 5,000 copies of the book as long as printing and shipping are completed by Nov. 11, but ComicMix expects to lose that order because, thanks to your notice, Kickstarter is withholding all $29,575 that the campaign raised, so ComicMix cannot use that money to cover the printing costs as intended.”

ComicMix’s response to the suit and its motion to dismiss are analyzed by Janet Gershen-Siegel at Semantic Shenanigans (“Seuss v. Gerrold, et al – Getting the Ball Rolling”). Her post includes links to copies of all the defense’s filings.

The Memo of Points and Authorities filed with the court outlines the defense’s arguments for dismissal. Here are two excerpts illustrating their main justifications. The memo itself also contains highly-detailed narrative comparisons showing the differences between the original work and ComicMix’s takeoff.

Introduction: Oh, the Uses Seuss Sues!

Defendant ComicMix LLC (“ComicMix”) respectfully moves the Court for an order dismissing this matter for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the grounds that ComicMix’s allegedly infringing book constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

This case presents a simple question: May an author’s estate use the courts to stymie publication of a book that makes critical, parodic use of the author’s books? On the facts alleged, the answer must be no. The Copyright Act, the Lanham Act and the First Amendment fully protect ComicMix’s right to comment and build on Dr. Seuss’ works. The law does not place his beloved books above parody, beyond critical commentary, or past the reach of cultural transformation and nominative use….

Copyright law limits the scope of DSE’s claims.

DSE alleges that Boldly infringes its copyrights to Go!’s title, “story arc,” and characters and illustrations from Go!, Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”), The Lorax, and The Sneetches and Other Stories. Doc. 1 ¶ 26. Yet copyright covers few of those elements, and Boldly infringes none….

DSE declines to identify any such well-delineated character, leaving its allegation of character “misappropriation” wholly speculative. No character in Go! meets this standard. The one character to appear more than once (except perhaps some elephants, who do not reappear in Boldly) is the protagonist, a walking cipher. The boy has no name or dialogue and few distinguishing characteristics beyond his yellow knit-cap and onesie. This lightly sketched everyman lacks the “distinctive character traits” required to be protectable by copyright. Towle, 802 F.3d at 1020.  Further, Boldly does not copy any Dr. Seuss character or its traits. In the boy’s place is the Enterprise’s captain, wearing the uniform of Star Trek commanding officers (a gold shirt with an arrowhead insignia over the left breast, and black trousers) or a spacesuit, or on one page, a green tunic like Captain Kirk sometimes wore. His spiky, adult hairstyle is not covered by a child’s knit-cap. Boldly’s wholly distinct characters do not infringe on any protectable character trait of the original. Nor does Boldly infringe on Go!’s simple, episodic storyline. See RJN Ex. 6. In Go!, the boy decides to leave town. He joins a balloon race, taking the lead before getting stuck in a tree. He lands in a “Slump,” comes to a place with unmarked streets, and has a hard time deciding where to turn. In confusion, he races down the road to “The Waiting Place,” where “everyone is just waiting.” He escapes to watch a musical performance by a “Boom Band”, then to join a parade of banner-flying elephants, and then to play on a convoluted ball-field. His athletic skill makes him world-famous, but he is again left all alone to face more scary things. Copyright does not protect the general plot line of an adventurer persevering as he faces both emotional and physical highs and lows. “The copyright of a story covers what is new and novel in it.” Bradbury v. CBS, 287 F.2d 478, 485 (9th Cir. 1961). “General plot lines are not protected by copyright law.” Cavalier v. Random House, Inc., 297 F.3d 815, 823 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). “Familiar stock scenes and themes that are staples of literature are not protected.” Id.

Any story element in Go! that is not too generic to warrant copyright protection is not copied in Boldly, which depicts no confusing streets, balloon races, Slump, Waiting Place, music, elephants, or parades. The Go! boy’s one idiosyncrasy, a talent for playing an unusual multi-player sport, also does not recur in Boldly. Instead, Boldly is filled with allusions to episodes of the original Star Trek series. Any similarities between the plot lines of Boldly and Go! are generic and unprotectable.

The judge has allowed the plaintiff until January 19 to file its opposition to the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, ComicMix will have three weeks to file any reply. And the judge set a hearing for March 16, 2017.

Pixel Scroll 11/13/16 ROFLMPO – Rolling On File, Laughing My Pixels Off

(1) LITIGATION. File 770 reported in September about the Kickstarter appeal raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

The holders of the Dr. Seuss rights have objected and sued for damages reports TMZ.com in “Oh, The Lawsuits You’ll See”.

Dr. Seuss‘ stories should NOT be rehashed with Vulcans or Klingons in the mix — at least not without permission … according to a new lawsuit.

The Doc’s camp just filed suit against ComicMix, which thought it’d be neat to make a ‘Star Trek‘ version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the Seuss’ co. says ComicMix fused elements of the classic book with their own story, and even jacked actual prose from the original … all without asking.

They say ComicMix knew damn well it was doing the Doc dirty because its Kickstarter page for the project mentioned they might have to go to court to prove their work was parody and not a violation of copyright. They acknowledged, “we may even lose.”

Team Seuss is suing for damages. A lawyer for ComicMix tells us they love Dr. Seuss and hope to resolve the suit amicably.

(2) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MARS SERIES. Don’t wait until the November 14 premiere. Stream the Mars premiere now.

The year is 2033, and humanity’s first crewed mission to Mars is about to become a reality. As a clock counts down the final 90 seconds to landing, an expert crew of astronauts endures the final harrowing moments before touching down on the red planet. Even with the best training and resources available, the maiden crew of the Daedalus spacecraft must push itself to the brink of human capability in order to successfully establish the first sustainable colony on Mars. Set both in the future and in the present day, the global miniseries event MARS blends feature film-caliber scripted elements set in the future with documentary vérité interviews with today’s best and brightest minds in modern science and innovation, illuminating how research and development is creating the space technology that will enable our first attempt at a mission to Mars.

(3) TAOS TOOLBOX. Walter Jon Williams announced today the “Most Famous Author in the World” George R.R. Martin will be joining the Taos Toolbox faculty as a special guest. The Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop takes place June 18-July 1, 2017.

George was our guest for the very first Taos Toolbox, and now he’s consented to return for our tenth anniversary. We’re pleased and flattered to have him, even if it’s only once per decade.

The other faculty are Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, with special lecturers Steven Gold and E.M. Tippets.

(4) DINO DUTY. Tastes great? Less filling?  “Jurassic World 2 Will Be Both a Jurassic World Sequel and Jurassic Park 5, Says J. A. Bayona” at CinemaBlend.

Earlier today, I had the great pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with J.A. Bayona in promotion of his upcoming movie A Monster Calls, and it was towards the end of our chat that we talked a bit about his next project. I posed the aforementioned question to the filmmaker, and he not only enjoyed the challenge of the query, but explained why his installment in the dinosaur franchise will be both Jurassic World 2 and Jurassic Park 5.

(5) TOVAR OBIT. Lupita Tovar, the Mexican actress who starred in the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula that was shot at the same time on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi picture has died at the age of 108 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

… Lupita returned to Mexico to great acclaim to star in Santa (1932), her country’s first talking film, and later appeared in The Invader (1936) opposite Buster Keaton, Blockade (1938) with Henry Fonda, South of the Border (1939) with Gene Autry and The Westerner (1940) with Gary Cooper….

Lupita Tovar’s daughter is Susan Kohner, who earned an Oscar nomination for portraying the young woman who rejects her black mother (Juanita Moore) and tries to pass herself off as white in the 1959 Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life.

Other survivors include her grandchildren Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, Kohner’s sons, who shared an Oscar screenplay nomination for About a Boy (2002).

Tovar was married to Czech-born producer and Hollywood agent Paul Kohner, who represented the likes of Greta Garbo, John Huston, Lana Turner, Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner, David Niven, Billy Wilder and Charles Bronson, from 1932 until his death in 1988.

(6) DRACULA EN ESPAÑOL. For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s some background: “Night Shift: 6 Reasons to Watch Universal’s Spanish-language Dracula (1931)”.

They worked like children of the night, shooting from sundown to sunrise. Directed by a man who didn’t know a word of their language, the Spanish-speaking actors filmed an obscure alternative version of what would become one of the most famous movies of all time.

“Above all,” explains Lupita Tovar, the film’s heroine, “we wanted our version to be the best.” And, in many ways, it is.

For those of us who’ve watched and rewatched the Lugosi version, the simultaneously shot Drácula opens up a mind-boggling parallel universe—one with much improved camerawork and often more convincing acting.

This is a lavish, artful film in its own right, so much more than the “bonus feature” it’s listed as on home releases. If I haven’t hooked you already, here’s why any movie buff or horror fan needs to see Drácula.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premieres. Did you know: in order to achieve the effect that Claude Rains wasn’t there when his character took off the bandages, James Whale had him dress completely in black velvet and filmed him in front of a black velvet background.
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born November 13, 1955 — Whoopi Goldberg

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 13, 1947 – Joe Mantegna, who appeared in both the stage production and the Disney movie of Ray Bradbury’s Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

(10) NORTHBOUND SEASON 2. Production has begun on GeekNation sci-fi series Northbound Season 2. Watch the Season 2 Teaser.

Northbound is a post-apocalyptic webseries set in a North American wilderness soon after a mysterious, cataclysmic event killed millions in a single day. Season 1 of the series is available to view for free exclusively through the entertainment website, GeekNation. The filmmakers are comprised of a Michigan and Los Angeles-based team that is dedicated to shooting in Michigan, and contributing to the long-term growth of the Upper Peninsula region.

Season 1, and the upcoming Season 2 of Northbound are designed as a prelude series to a feature film titled Northstar. Taken as a whole, The Northstar Saga will tell the story of a father as he works to discover why his daughter was one of the rare survivors to be rendered comatose after The Cataclysm. His journey will put him into contact (and inevitable conflict) with others that are struggling to rebuild lives, communities and an overall sense of purpose in a hazardous new world.

northbound-northtar

(11) PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH. Ethan Mills reviews the movie Arrival (beware copious spoilers) at Examined Worlds.

Director Denis Villeneuve has created a beautiful adaptation, from the striking cinematography to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unnervingly sublime score. Amy Adams portrays the quiet strength and struggle of the main character, Dr. Louise Banks. I think I speak for most of my fellow college professors when I say it’s great to see a college professor depicted in a movie as a full human being rather than a pompous jerk, an emotionless egghead, or the absent-minded comic relief.

(12) STYLING ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry takes the aliens in Arrival as a cue to look at how Hollywood has looked at aliens in sf films of the past 40 years, including Close Encounters, Mars Attacks! and Edge of Tomorrow. Beware mild spoilers in “The aliens in ‘Arrival’ are stunning. How do they compare to other film creatures?”

The aliens in “Arrival” are spectacular, and that’s no small feat. In most “first contact” movies, the otherworldly creatures almost always let us down. Either they’re predictable — you know, little green men speaking an echoey, indecipherable language or stereotypical “Greys” with the big eyes and the egghead — or they look fake.

Carlos Huante tested many iterations with director Denis Villeneuve before they settled on the final design for “Arrival,” which came out this week and follows a linguist (Amy Adams) who’s trying to understand what these visitors want. The creature artist first considered a very conventional look but also tried out beings that were more like stone creatures; ones composed of stacks of paper; and egg-shaped critters ambling around on spider legs.

(13) ROLL ‘EM. Victoria Silverwolf at Galactic Journey finds fiction sometimes parallels Hollywood in “[November 13, 1961] (Un)moving Pictures (December 1961 Fantastic)”.

Back to the movies.  Point, by John T. Phillifent (perhaps better known under his pen name John Rackham), deals with a group of filmmakers who travel to Venus to make their latest blockbuster.  The proposed feature involves beautiful female Venusians, and seems intended to provide a bit of satire of silly science fiction movies such as Queen of Outer Space.  Although the author’s description of Venus is a bit more realistic than that, it’s still not terribly plausible.  The Planet of Love is a very dangerous place, inhabited by all kinds of deadly creatures, but its atmosphere is breathable, and humans can walk around on its hot, steamy surface without spacesuits.  The plot deals with a pilot who agrees to take the film crew into the Venusian wilderness.  As you might expect, things quickly go very wrong, and the story turns into a violent account of survival in a hostile environment.  All in all it’s a fairly typical adventure yarn, competent but hardly noteworthy.  Two stars.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkelman.]

A George Pal and Doctor Seuss Collaboration

the-500-hats-of-bartholomew-cubbins

By James H. Burns: Some weeks back, we talked about the beauty in George Pal’s series of Puppetoon shorts for Paramount Pictures, featuring some of the best fantasy filmmaking ever, with what remains astonishing stop-motion animation and simply extraordinary vistas of the fantastic.

(We also discussed, of course, what can be considered some of the series’ controversial aspects.)

But in this week of the one hundred-and-twelfth anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss, the great Theodor Geisel, on March 2, we thought it might be fun to present one of the two adaptations of Seuss tales that George Pal lensed, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  (The other was, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!)

Journey with us back to 1943!