Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

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

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/17 Blah, Blah, Blah, Pixels, Blah, Blah, Scroll

(1) FOR THE RECORD. Odyssey Con co-chair Alex Merrill published an official response to the departure of GoH Monica Valentinelli yesterday – filling the void left by Richard S. Russell’s retracted statement with something more socially acceptable.

We, the Convention Committee of Odyssey Con, deeply regret losing Monica as a Guest of Honor, especially in the way the last twenty-four hours have unfolded. Odyssey Con strives to be a warm and welcoming place for all people to express themselves and engage in fandoms. We took a long and hard look at the issue of having Jim Frenkel continue to be a member of our convention committee when he was banned from WisCon in 2012. Our position at that time was to look at our policy on harassment and ensure that any situation that may take place at our convention would be dealt with professionally. We now have an ombudsman, anonymous reporting procedures, and a very detailed policy. There have been no complaints filed against Mr. Frenkel from attendees of Odyssey Con. However, in light of Monica’s email, the following changes have been made: Mr. Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.

I personally wish to apologize for the mishandling of our response to Monica’s concerns. It has never been our intent to minimize any guest’s complaints. Odyssey Con is an all volunteer organization staffed by people who have many strengths, but not all of us are great communicators.

I have already reached out to Monica to personally apologize for the email response she received from one of our ConCom members and for the subsequent posting of email chains publicly. This exchange was not an example of Odyssey Con as a whole, which is run by fans, for fans. I hope to have a continued dialogue with you all.

However, the first comment left on the post identified a number of questions that remained unanswered by the statement.

And after K. Tempest Bradford looked over the new response, she shared her reaction in the comments of her blog.

…No matter how much the Internet is mad at your organization, that does not excuse any implication that the person reporting feeling unsafe because a harasser is involved in running the con is at fault here. That’s immature. That’s not professional. That’s yet another indication that guests would not have been treated professionally by OddCon as an organization.

Also an indication that attendees will not be treated in a professional manner.

And being a volunteer run con is not an excuse for that. Yeah, you’re all volunteers, but you’re running an event. People attending said event as fans or guests have the right to expect a certain level of safety and respectful treatment from those running the event. That was not what happened. Now they’re sorry. Yet I still do not see that behavior addressed in a meaningful way in this Sorry….

(2) MARVEL FIRES SYAF. Marvel pencil artist Ardian Syaf, who inserted anti-Semitic and anti-Christian political references into his work on X-Men Gold has now been officially terminated.

Over the weekend, Marvel released a statement that it had been unaware of the references, and they would remove the artwork from all upcoming versions of the issue.

The company’s follow-up statement, quoted in Paste Magazine, says:

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. X-Men: Gold #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly.

Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men: Gold in the coming weeks.

Syaf wrote on his Facebook page:

Hello, Worlds…

My career is over now.

It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.

Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.

In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.

My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.

Ardian Syaf

However, Coconuts warns that statement should not be confused with Syaf actually regretting his actions.

…In an interview about the controversy with local newspaper Jawa Pos published today, Ardian explained why he thought that Marvel could not accept his explanation for including the references.

’But Marvel is owned by Disney. When Jews are offended, there is no mercy,” he was quoted as saying.

After making the anti-Semitic remark, Ardian reiterated to the interviewer that he was not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian because, if he was, he wouldn’t have worked for a foreign publisher.

(3) WHITE AWARD DELAYED. The British Science Fiction Association has postponed the date for revealing the winner of the James White Award:

With apologies to those who have entered this year’s competition, we are sorry to announce that the announcement of this year’s James White Award winner has been delayed.

The longlist will announced shortly after Easter and the shortlist shortly after that. We are working to complete the judging as quickly as possible.

We intend to announce the winner by Friday, 19 May at the latest.

(4) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has unveiled The SFWA Science Fiction Storybundle.

The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle is a very special collection full of great sci-fi books that benefit a great cause! If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. This bundle is filled with talented SFWA members and their wonderful works, such as Tech Heaven by Locus-award-winning Linda Nagata and Factoring Humanity by Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winning Robert J. Sawyer, plus 10 more tremendous reads. You can easily choose to donate part of your purchase to the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America to support these fantastic authors. Don’t forget to click here to read much more about the bundle, and make sure to click on each cover for reviews, a preview and a personal note from our curator!

It has another 22 days to run.

(5) DISTRACTIONS. With so much happening in 1962, Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf finds it hard to concentrate on her reading — “[April 12, 1962] Don’t Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic).

Maybe it’s because it’s almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it’s because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it’s because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it’s because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it’s because of George Schelling’s B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye….

(6) TIPTREE. There will be a Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41 on Saturday, May 27.

Can’t get enough Tiptree fun on Facebook? Are you curious about Tiptree auctions? Fan of Sumana Harihareswara? Want to support science fiction that explores and expands gender? Want to roar with laughter? There are dozens of possible reasons to go to the Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41.

(7) APEX REPRINTS EDITOR. Apex Magazine is bringing aboard Maurice Broaddus as reprints editor. The magazine publishes one reprint in each issue, and he will be responsible for finding those reprints beginning with issue 98, July 2017.

Maurice Broaddus and Apex Publications have a long history together going back 10 years. He has been published in several of our anthologies, including most recently in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Vallentinelli and Jaym Gates. He has also had several books published through Apex, including Orgy of Souls (co-written by Wrath James White), I Can Transform You, and the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations which he co-edited with Jerry Gordon. Most recently, Maurice Broaddus guest edited an issue of Apex Magazine—issue 95 (http://www.apex-magazine.com/issue-95-april-2017/) , which included original fiction by Walter Mosley, Chesya Burke, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Kendra Fortmeyer, poetry by Linda D. Addison and LH Moore, and nonfiction by Tanya C. DePass.

(8) NEW COLUMNIST. Galaxy’s Edge magazine has a new columnist, Robert J. Sawyer. He’ll replace Barry N. Malzberg starting with issue 27.

Robert J. Sawyer, author of the bestselling novel Quantum Night, has agreed to write a regular column for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Robert is currently one of the foremost science fiction authors in the field and one of Canada’s top writers. He was admitted into The Order of Canada (one of the country’s highest civilian honors) in 2016. His novels have won more awards than any other person in the history of the genre (as per the Locus index for science fiction awards) from countries around the world.

(9) SINISALO. At Europa SF, Cristin Tamas conducts a lengthy interview with 2017 Worldcon GoH Johanna Sinisalo.

Cristian Tamas : Johanna Sinisalo seems to have emerged, along with Leena Krohn and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, as a central figure in the ‘‘Finnish Weird’’, which like many such movements may be a coincidence, a plot, or even, as Sinisalo herself said in her introduction to last year’s Finnish Weird anthology, simply a ‘‘brand.’’ In any case, it seems to carry with it a celebratory feeling of having just rediscovered the possibilities of nonrealistic fiction, even as some of its major works come with pretty grim premises.” – Gary K.Wolfe ; Please comment !

Johanna Sinisalo : Finnish Weird is basically a term invented for commercial uses, based on the fact that most of the Finnish Weird writers do not want to be pigeonholed as fantasy or sf or horror writers. Words like “nonrealistic” or “speculative fiction” are relatively strange to the wider audiences, so we came up with this kind of definition that could perhaps be compared to the commercial term “Nordic Noir”. Analogically, the Scandinavian crime writers have not “rediscovered the possibilities of crime fiction”, but the term Nordic Noir tells the reader that those books are a part of a certain literary tradition (and in many cases it is also considered as a sign of high quality).

Cristian Tamas : Isn’it weird that the oldest (beginning of the 13th century) known document in any Finnic language, the Birch Bark Letter no.292 is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish (or Finnic language) and it was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky in the Nerevsky excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod, Russia ? Is this an avant-la-lettre sample of Finnish Weird ?

Johanna Sinisalo: It is an interesting document. As far as I know the only words in that letter that the scholars totally agree upon are “God” and “arrow”, and the most popular theory is that the the text is a spell or prayer protecting from lightnings, saying “Jumaliennuoli on nimezhi”, roughly ”You are / will be called as the Arrow of Gods”. Perhaps it forecasts that we Finnish Weird writers are lightnings of the literary gods?

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Bookmobile Day

Bookmobile Day is an opportunity to celebrate one of the many services offered through public libraries. Originating in the nineteenth century, the earliest bookmobiles were horse-drawn wagons filled with boxes of books. In the 1920s, Sarah Byrd Askew, a New Jersey librarian, thought reading and literacy so important that she delivered books to rural readers in her own Ford Model T. And today, Kenya still uses camels to deliver materials to fans of reading in rural areas.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 12, 1981 — Space shuttle Columbia first launched.

(12) COMIC SECTION. A horrible pun and a funny gag – John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Brevity.

(13) HATERS. John Scalzi, the midst of his annual Reader Request Week, takes up the subject of “Haters and How I Deal With Them”. This section of his post is from a list of “things I know about haters, and how they relate to me.”

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

(14) MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH. Quite coincidentally, Vox Day put up a post titled “This is what ‘Zero Fucks’ looks like” that’s all about….would you like to guess?

(15) LIBRARIANS LIKE IT. Library Journal gives its take on the 2017 Hugo ballot in “Quality and Diversity”

After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their fangs, was thrilled by the lists. “The fact that so many women are represented (and trans women! and women of color!), just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited to see a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—make the list.

Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally excited by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big squeeing girlfan of Seanan McGuire, and I think Every Heart a Doorway has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. Then I see N.K. Jesmin, Charlie Jane Anders, and [Lois McMaster] Bujold? Amazing stories that never cross our desks? The editors, movies and everything else that makes this genre amazing? I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”

(16) A VISIT TO DYSTOPIA. Nerds of a Feather continues its series on Dystopian Visions. Here are excerpts from two of the major critical essays. And the link will also lead you to innumerable posts about individual books and films with dystopian themes.

What marked Utopia out from these fantasies of plenty was that it could be reached, and reached in two ways. Reached physically: there was a long, arduous but supposedly practicable journey that could get you from here to there. It was a journey beyond the abilities and wishes of most people, but the idea was established that perfection did not exist only in dreams or upon death, but here in the everyday world we all inhabited. And it could be reached structurally: this perfection was not the province of god or of fairies or some supernatural inversion of the natural world, this perfection was achieved by rational men. If a safe, secure, happy existence could be achieved by sensible human organisation in Utopia, then sensible, rational men could achieve the same here.

No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…

Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.

…The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.

Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”… Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing.

(17) DO YOU? I had to answer “No.”

(18) EXOTIC GAME. Review of Simon Stålenhags RPG Tales from The Loop at Geek & Sundry — “Tales from the Loop Invites You to Roleplay in the ‘80s That Never Was”.

Tales from the Loop takes place in a retro-futuristic version of the 80’s where Cold War Era science brought us hover-vehicles, robots, and other advancements that pepper this light sci-fi landscape. It’s an idyllic time. Kids are free to roam after dark. The same children who have grown up around robots and Magnetrine Vehicles geek out over Dungeons & Dragons and Atari systems. There are problems, but the future is hopeful.

If this whole setting sounds like a sci-fi version of Stranger Things you wouldn’t be far off. If that’s what it takes to get you to crack into this portal into a future past then by all means: it’s a sci-fi version of Stranger Things. But in reality it captures more of the feeling of E.T. or The Goonies. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas were able to get help from Joyce and Sheriff Hopper. In Tales from the Loop the focus is squarely on the trials, challenges, and successes of the kids. One of the 6 Principles of the game right in the book is that “Adults Are Out of Reach and Out of Touch”, and if your character ever turns 16 years old, they age out of the campaign

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Marc Criley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W, who will be awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the basic Scroll title DNA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/17 A Pixel That Scrolls For A Day, Replaced Next Morrow

(1) THE WEED OF CRIME. The Washington Post has an article by Rachel Weiner about Amil Chaudry being sentenced to nine years for identity theft, visa fraud, and money laundering.  Prosecutors said that Chaudry was part of a ring that charged $25 million on phony credit cards, and when banks challenged the charges used phony passports to back the claims.

“The scheme was uncovered in part because an FBI agent recognized actress Laura Vandevoort in one of these passports,” Weiner reports.  “The image was taken from a scene from the television show ‘V’ involving visas, authorities said.”

Vandevoort also played Supergirl in “Smallville” and Indigo in “Supergirl.”

(2) AN EVEN LISTIER LIST. Von Dimpleheimer has updated his ebook compilation of people’s lists of 2017 award recommendations. The latest version adds the File 770, Shadow Clarke, and SFWA recommendations and the finalists of the Asimov’s Readers’, Crawford, and Phillip K. Dick awards. JJ has approved his handling of the File 770 entry. The ebook is available as a free download.

(3) LEARN ABOUT AFRICAN SFF.  Geoff Ryman’s “100 African Writers of SFF” series continues at Strange Horizons.

Jennifer Nansubaga Makumbi

(An earlier version of this chapter was published at Tor.com in November 2016.) In Part Two of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet: a crime writer whose grandfather was a king—one who made a Western artist a priestess in the Ogun religion. A white South African anti-apartheid activist whose sister was tried under the security laws—and introduced him to the work of Joanna Russ. A Rastafarian from Zimbabwe whose experience of life under Mugabe has made him a free-market neoliberal. A South African rap/ jazz-rock star, illustrator, and author who models his look on the Wicked Witch of the West.

In Part Three of 100 African Writers of SFF, you’ll meet the editors of Cape Town: the people who make things happen. They include Constance Myerberg/Jenna Dann, co-founder of Jungle Jim; Kerstin Hall, founder of Luminous Worlds; Nerine Dorman, writer and editor of the anthology Terra Incognita; Ntone Edjabe, founder and editor of Chimurenga; and Rachel Zadok, a force behind Short Story Day Africa.

(4) BAD GUYS WHO WEREN’T VERY GOOD. Factory seconds from the comic book industry — The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains explores ill-thought comic book bad guys”.

Sometimes even comic greats can have terrible ideas — and in a fascinating new book, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History, author Jon Morris explores the history of ill-thought and sometimes laughable antagonists you’ve probably never heard of. Below, check out a few highlights, complete with captions Morris has written for EW exclusively, to get a sneak peek before The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains hits shelves on March 28.

For example:

MIRROR MAN Created by: Mike Sekowsky and an uncredited writer Enemy of: Captain Flash Debuted in: Captain Flash #1 (Sterling Comics, November 1954)

© 1954 by Sterling Comics

The courageous Captain Flash fought a surprising number of menaces in his abbreviated career, but none quite as deadly, implacable and likely to jump out of a medicine cabinet as Mirror Man. A silicon-starved, glassy nogoodnik from a malevolent dimension, Mirror Man comes to Earth to destroy its finest scientific minds. Why? It’s never explained, but at least it gives Captain Flash something to do while running out the clock on his short-lived series. Boasting the ability to disappear into any reflective surface, and to appear from any other, Mirror Man is one of the first alien menaces to make his initial salvo against Earth from the convenience of a men’s restroom.

(5) A FINE POINTILLIST. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Bob Mankoff, who is ending his tenure as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor in April.  Mankoff discusses how he created the Cartoon Bank to provide another income source for cartoonists and how he imagines his late mother being asked about his job and told, ‘They paid you for that?”

Since he became editor, “the biggest change was that cartoons, even of the very benign variety that appear in the New Yorker, now have great power to offend — at least among the easily offended, a class whose numbers grow even as I write,” Mankoff says. “Now, even Canadians take offense at being stereotyped as polite.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 4, 1952 — Ernest Hemingway completes his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote his publisher the same day, saying he had finished the book and that it was the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and became one of his bestselling works.
  • March 4, 2017  — People read the above and demand to know why Mike is posting this item about a non-genre work.

(7) GONE BATS. Given enough time, critics will talk themselves into redeeming the irredeemable — “Why this ridiculous 1966 Batman movie is the most important Batman movie ever” by Greg Cwik in The Week.

You may look back affectionately on Batman’s innocently zany antics of the 1950s and early ’60s. But Batman was almost ruined by those robots and radioactive big bugs and kitschy toys and gimmicks and the definitely not-gay Bat-Family of Bat-Hound, Bat-Girl, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and Mogo the Bat-Ape. Sales sunk. In fact, “they were planning to kill Batman off altogether” in 1964, said co-creator Bob Kane.

But then editor Julius Schwartz took over, and tried to save the comic by eradicating the Bat-Family. He was aided by artist Carmine Infantino, who redesigned Batman to be “more realistic.” Sales went up. But ironically, it was another gimmick-laden endeavor that truly rescued the Dynamic Duo: the Adam West-starring camp comedy Batman, which premiered in 1966, the year Kane retired.

Batman fans, particularly Frank Miller acolytes, like to say West’s show and movie “ruined” Batman. Actually, the parodic depiction made Batman a cultural icon after a decade of mail-in toys and cynical strategies. It presented a starkly different kind of Batman, at once refuting Wertham’s provocations while slyly embracing them through its ostensible innocence.

A genuine fad, the show and movie came and went in 26 months. But its influence altered the legacy of the Caped Crusader. The movie, which came out July 30, 1966, was the first official Batman movie since the serials of the 1940s. A generation of television viewers and moviegoers, unfamiliar with Kane and Bill Finger’s brooding detective (Batman killed people — by noose, by gun, by defenestration) now knew Batman only as a campy crusader with painted-on eyebrows and a syncopated delivery that sounds, to modern ears, like a lascivious cross between William Shatner and Jeff Goldblum. The juxtaposition between Walter Cronkite’s 1968 Vietnam expose on the dinnertime news and Burt Ward yawping, “Holy Diversionary Tactics!” must have been dizzying.

(8) BEAU OF THE BALL. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will appear in Game of Thrones.

According to Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, Syndergaard filmed his cameo in Spain in November when he had some free time after the Mets were eliminated from the postseason in the NL Wild Card Game.

“They just know that I’m a fan and they invited me to do that,” Syndergaard told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “I couldn’t say no.”

(9) NERDS IN HELL. Nerds of a Feather is launching an ambitious series on dystopianism in SF/F that will continue for the next two months.

This series, conceived of as a sequel to Cyberpunk Revisited, seeks to explore questions of what dystopianism is and what purpose(s) it serves. What are the tropes and conventions of modern dystopian fiction? How have dystopian visions evolved over time, both in terms of approach and theme? And what do dystopian visions about the points in time and space in which they are written?

Equally, we will ask questions about why we like to read about dystopias. Is it possible that we even find them comforting, and if so, why?

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we will consider dystopianisms’s complex relationship to its forebear, utopianism. We will explore works where dystopianism serves to negatively define utopia, as well as those where dystopia and utopia are presented side-by-side. Just how essential or intrinsic is the concept of utopia to that of dystopia?

We will explore these and other questions through a series of essays and dossier-style reviews, including of works not commonly associated with dystopianism, but which present dystopian themes. Our dossiers will have the following subheadings:

Filetype: whether the work under review is a book, film, game, etc.

File Under: whether the work presents a statist, stateless, fantasy or hybrid-form dystopia.

Executive Summary: summary of the plot.

Dystopian Visions: discussion of dystopian themes/content present in the work.

Utopian Undercurrents: whether and to what degree the work’s dystopianism underlies a utopian understanding of politics, society, etc.

Level of Hell: a quantitative rating of how terrible the presented dystopia is, from first to ninth—with an explanation of the rating.

Legacy: the importance of the work in question within its field.

In Retrospect: an editorial commentary on how good/not good the work is, from the vantage point of 2017.

Interspersed with these dossier reviews, we and a selection of guest writers will explore how to contextualize dystopia and dystopianism within literature and other media, as well as the moments in time and space when it has surged forward into popular consciousness.

(10) ACTING WITHOUT THE ACTOR. What if Leonard Nimoy’s Spock could be digitally resurrected for appearances in future productions of the Star Trek franchise? Here’s what Adam Nimoy has to say about it at CinemaBlend.

Adam Nimoy, who directed the 2016 documentary For The Love Of Spock that focused on his father, made this admission to Trek Movie.com, insisting that he wouldn’t have a problem with seeing his dad up on screen again as Spock. He also admitted that he was blown away by what Rogue One had achieved with Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher. Adam Nimoy remarked,

Yeah I think it’s an interesting idea. I loved what they did in Rogue One. I thought it was pretty clever, and I was blown away by it, frankly. All of the stuff that Peter Cushing was doing was mind-boggling to me. I’m a sucker for that stuff. I think it should certainly be explored, but I’m not the final arbiter as to whether it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a great idea, personally.

There’s every chance that an opportunity to resurrect Leonard Nimoy, who died back in 2015, as Spock could present itself in the near future. As the question was being posed to Adam Nimoy, the interviewer explained that Star Trek: Discovery will take place a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, during which time Spock served under Captain Pike on the Enterprise.

(11) THINKIN’ UP SH*T. This reminds me of Bruce Willis’ line in Armageddon about what he assumed NASA spent its time doing. ASU’s workshop where “AI Scientists Gather to Plot Doomsday Scenarios (and Solutions)” is covered by Bloomberg Technology.

Artificial intelligence boosters predict a brave new world of flying cars and cancer cures. Detractors worry about a future where humans are enslaved to an evil race of robot overlords. Veteran AI scientist Eric Horvitz and Doomsday Clock guru Lawrence Krauss, seeking a middle ground, gathered a group of experts in the Arizona desert to discuss the worst that could possibly happen — and how to stop it.

Their workshop took place last weekend at Arizona State University with funding from Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn. Officially dubbed “Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes,” it was a kind of AI doomsday games that organized some 40 scientists, cyber-security experts and policy wonks into groups of attackers — the red team — and defenders — blue team — playing out AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.

Horvitz is optimistic — a good thing because machine intelligence is his life’s work — but some other, more dystopian-minded backers of the project seemed to find his outlook too positive when plans for this event started about two years ago, said Krauss, a theoretical physicist who directs ASU’s Origins Project, the program running the workshop. Yet Horvitz said that for these technologies to move forward successfully and to earn broad public confidence, all concerns must be fully aired and addressed.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]