Pixel Scroll 11/26/17 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction

(1) PRONOUNS AND ROCKET STACK RANK. Bogi Takács wrote a series of tweets criticizing Greg Hullender’s statements in reviews about the usage of pronouns for non-binary characters in stories reviewed at Rocket Stack Rank, adding many screenshots of examples. Takács also pointed out the reviews are given a certain implied authority because Rocket Stack Rank is linked from the official The Hugo Awards site as a “Third Party Recommendation Site.”

Get into the thread here:

The Hugo connection is illustrated here:

The comments on the Hugo linkage include one from Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

For those who are unfamiliar, here is Bogi Takács’ brief bio from Patreon:

I’m Bogi Takács, a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person (e/em/eir/emself or singular they pronouns) currently living in the US as a resident alien. I write speculative fiction and poetry – I have had work published in various professional venues like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Apex and Strange Horizons.

Other comments on RSR, Hullender’s views, and their impact included —

(2) COCO CASHES IN. On opening weekend in the U.S., “Pixar’s ‘Coco’ feasts on ‘Justice League’ at box office”.

Pixar’s “Coco” sang its way to the fourth best Thanksgiving weekend ever with an estimated $71.2 million over the five-day weekend, a total that easily toppled Warner Bros.’ “Justice League.”

“Coco” rode strong reviews and an A-plus CinemaScore from audiences to the top spot at the domestic box office. According to studio estimates Sunday, it grossed $49 million from Friday to Sunday. Centered on the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), “Coco” has already set box office records in Mexico, where it has made $53.4 million in three weeks.

(3) BSFA AWARDS. The British Science Fiction Association invites members to “Nominate for the BSFA Awards” between now and December 31:

The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.

…Nominations are open until 31st December. This will be the first round. Then from 1st January to 30th January the opportunity for members to vote for their shortlist from the collated suggestions will be provided. This will be the second round.

To nominate in the first round, fill in the form here: http://tinyurl.com/BSFA2017nominations

or email your nominations to awards@bsfa.co.uk. A form and process for the second round will be made available on this page after the first round has closed.

(4) FLORIDA EXPANDS RIGHT TO CHALLENGE TEXTBOOKS. The Associated Press has the story: “New Florida law expected to increase textbook challenges”.

A parent in Florida is citing profanity and violence in trying to get the local school to ban Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” — itself a cautionary tale on the banning of books. Another wants to remove Walter Dean Myers’ “Bad Boy” for using the word “penis” and a homophobic slur.

Elsewhere in Florida, some say global warming and evolution are a hoax and should not be taught in textbooks unopposed. Others say their local school’s textbooks shortchange Islam’s role in the world, while their opponents argue it’s the danger posed by Muslim terrorists that’s underexposed.

Under a bill passed by the Florida Legislature this year, any district resident — regardless of whether they have a child in school — can now challenge material as pornographic, biased, inaccurate or a violation of state law and get a hearing before an outside mediator.

The mediator advises the local school board, whose decision is final. Previously, challenges could only be made by parents to the school or district. There was also no mediator and fewer mandates. Districts must now also post online a list of all new books and material by grade level to make monitoring easier.

(5) THANKSGIVING AT THE ISS. A day like any other day, only turkey was there: “Happy Space Thanksgiving: How the Food-Stuffed Holiday Went Orbital”.

One Thanksgiving party will literally look down upon them all, as the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) continues its longstanding tradition of observing the festive harvest holiday from orbit. This year’s menu includes irradiated smoked turkey, rehydratable cornbread dressing, green beans and mushrooms, broccoli au gratin, mashed potatoes, candied yams, sweet tea, and thermostabilized cherry blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Space.com says “Thanksgiving in Space Means Turkey, Work and Football for Astronauts”:

“They don’t actually have the day off on Thursday,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com in an email, adding that the crew has “a lot of cargo-unloading tasks to complete” with the Cygnus spacecraft that arrived last Tuesday (Nov. 14). However, the astronauts will at least have Friday off, Huot said.

Along with over 7,700 lbs. (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and science equipment, the Cygnus cargo craft delivered the crew their Thanksgiving dinner and some other tasty treats, like pizza and ice cream. Holiday gifts and care packages from the astronauts’ families also shipped with Cygnus. With that trove of holiday goodies just waiting to be unpacked, the astronauts have plenty of incentives for working through the holiday

(6) AFTER THE STUFFING. Here’s how it looks from the Batcave:

(7) ANTHOLOGY APPEARANCE. Cora Buhlert highlights her recently-published story: “New science fiction anthology with a new “In Love and War” story available: The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw”.

The Guardian includes eleven science fiction stories by international authors, all featuring guardians of some kind. My own story in the anthology, “Baptism of Fire” is a prequel story to my In Love and War space opera romance series, so all you fans of Anjali and Mikhail (come on, I know there are some of you out there) rejoice.

(8) ALAS, POOR ALANTIM. Motherboard invites you to “Watch a Robot Eulogize Its ‘Brother’ at Moscow’s New Cemetery for Dead Machines”; video at the link.

The sad news is that this Alantim could not be revived after the attack. But the silver lining is that its death inspired Olga Budnik, a spokesperson for the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark, to create the world’s first dedicated robot cemetery.

“Alantim was a really good robot,” Budnik told me in an email. “It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet. And [the cemetery] was an idea to bury it like a pet. Not disassemble or carry it to the trash. To say good-bye.”

On October 31, Alantim’s Earthly remains were placed at the Phystechpark cemetery site next to a box for collecting other dead robots. He was eulogized by another Alantim, who honored his dearly departed “brother” for being “very useful to your people and Russian science,” according to a Russian-to-English translation of the ceremony as seen at the top of this article.

(9) COURT IS IN SESSION. Lauren Davis briefs io9 readers about “Six Strange Cases of Science Fiction Trademarks”.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Ownership Claimed by: The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate

The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate owns numerous trademarks based on Tolkien’s works, as well as registered trademarks on Tolkien’s name. Last year, a fellow who sold buttons reading “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion” through Zazzle was contacted by Zazzle, who said that they were removing the buttons at the Tolkien Estate’s request. Later, Zazzle restored the buttons, saying that they had been removed erroneously due to a miscommunication, but it shined a light on the estate’s ownership of Tolkien’s name and left lots of folks wondering where the line was. When are you invoking Tolkien the brand and when are you referring to Tolkien the man?

The estate also owns the right to publicity for Tolkien’s name and image, which they used to challenge the publication of Steve Hillard’s historical fiction book, Mirkwood: A Novel About JRR Tolkien. Eventually Hillard and the estate settled, with Hillard agreeing to make some changes to the book’s appearance to make it look less like one of Tolkien’s novels. A Mirkwood movie is in the works.

Bonus Round: Like any other trademark holder, the Tolkien Estate has to be vigilant about enforcing their trademarks. But some are stranger than others. In 2004, the estate issued a cease and desist letter to the owner of the domain Shiremail.com, claiming the estate owned the trademark on the word “shire.” The word “shire,” which means an administrative subdivision, such as a county, has been around since the 12th century.

(10) BOARDMAN OBIT. Perdita Boardman (1931-2017) died November 26 after a long illness. Mark Blackman writes:

Perdita was best-known in Northeast Fandom for hosting Lunarians meetings and running the Lunacon Con Suite for many years, and with her husband, John, hosting a monthly fannish gathering called First Saturday. For their long service, she and John were voted Honorary Members of the Lunarians.

Her younger daughter, Deirdre, shared the following on Facebook:

I wanted to share with family (& friends) about the passing of my mom this morning peacefully in her sleep.

Many know she has been suffering from severe dementia well over a decade now, but she became very sick about two weeks ago and moved to hospice care.

Born Dec 27, 1931 in Baxter Springs, KS she grew up outside of Detroit, bounced around a bit living in Chicago, San Francisco, Virginia and finally settling in New York City about 1960, first in Manhattan, then Park Slope and finally her well known home in Flatbush. She spent her final years in Frederick, MD to be closer to Karina & I.

She has loved science fiction & fantasy (as well as mysteries & regency romances) novels since the 50s and was an avid reader.

She was a talented artist, master seamstress and knitted the most amazing sweaters!

I could go on all.

One of her funny quotes from the other day after being annoyed by nurses prodding her was, “I am Perdita Ann Lilly Nelson Boardman and I am going to sleep”

Good night mom.

(11) LE GUIN AS CRITIC. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison – stories “for the uncommon reader” in The Guardian:

One of these brilliantly told stories, “The Walls”, begins: “A man, let’s call him D, is seen digging his way out through the wall of his cell. To help in this project, D has only the thinnest and least reliable tools: two dessert spoons (one stainless steel, one electro-plated nickel silver); half of a pair of curved nail scissors; some domestic knives lacking handles; and so on. The cell wall, constructed from grey, squarish cinder blocks about a foot on a side has been carelessly mortared and laid without much attention to detail. But this lack of artifice makes no difference; none of the knives is long enough to reach the last half inch of mortar at the back of each block, and the more D uses them the shorter they get. Each block must, eventually, be loosened and removed by hand, a task which can take several months, and which leaves him exhausted.”

A close attention to detail characterises this story and contributes much to its effectiveness, and yet, like the careless mortaring of the cinder blocks, it makes no difference in the end. Why and how does D have two dessert spoons? What does he live on during these months (which become years)? Who brings it to his cell? We have nothing with which to fill in unstated facts, as we’re used to doing when reading fiction, because the story is consistent only in pulling the carpet out from under its own feet. It is a play of imagination in a void. Its power is that of a dream, in this case a bad one, the kind that keeps repeating itself with variations in an endless loop of frustration.

This holds for all the stories collected in You Should Come With Me Now. Some of them are surrealistic, some are spoofs, some are fables; many are funny, all are inventive; none entirely escapes the loop….

(12) 25 WAYS TO RUB YOUR LAMP. A Yahoo! Movies piece, “Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: 25 magical fun facts for 25th anniversary”, has lots of trivia about Aladdin, including how Patrick Stewart nearly played Jafar but couldn’t get out of his Star Trek: The Next Generation commitments and how there is a hidden Aladdin reference in Hamilton.

  1. The animators crafted the Genie around Williams’s rapid-fire improv. Co-director Ron Musker said Williams did 25 takes for the movie’s first scene, “and they were all different.” The entertainer would stick to the script for the first few takes, “then he would riff.” Musker said Williams recorded 16 hours’ worth of material, forcing the creative team to piece the character together “like a ransom note.”

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy quit groaning at the Tolkien pun long enough to send a link to today’s Brevity.

(14) HE’S DEAD ED. The Smithsonian covers nine theories about “The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” (2014 article.)

On September 27 [1849] —almost a week earlier—Poe had left Richmond, Virginia bound for Philadelphia to edit a collection of poems for Mrs. St. Leon Loud, a minor figure in American poetry at the time. When Walker found Poe in delirious disarray outside of the polling place, it was the first anyone had heard or seen of the poet since his departure from Richmond. Poe never made it to Philadelphia to attend to his editing business. Nor did he ever make it back to New York, where he had been living, to escort his aunt back to Richmond for his impending wedding. Poe was never to leave Baltimore, where he launched his career in the early 19th- century, again—and in the four days between Walker finding Poe outside the public house and Poe’s death on October 7, he never regained enough consciousness to explain how he had come to be found, in soiled clothes not his own, incoherent on the streets. Instead, Poe spent his final days wavering between fits of delirium, gripped by visual hallucinations. The night before his death, according to his attending physician Dr. John J. Moran, Poe repeatedly called out for “Reynolds”—a figure who, to this day, remains a mystery.

(15) MISSING FROM THE MARQUEE. The project loses some name cachet as “Adam Nimoy Steps Down From Directing Deep Space Nine Doc, Release Pushed Back” – story at TrekMovie.com.

On Saturday there were two announcements from What We Left Behind, the upcoming crowd-funded Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary.  Adam Nimoy, while remaining involved, will no longer be directing, and the release date  is likely being pushed back.

Nimoy stepping back

In a statement posted on Facebook Saturday, Adam Nimoy revealed he was stepping down as director for What We left Behind, but he will continue to be a producer and advisor on the doc. The reason given for the change was that he needed more time to focus on other responsibilities. From the statement:

“The real creative force behind the DS9 documentary was well in place before I came along. I was happy to lend them support and guidance to push the project along so that it could be completed in time for the 25th anniversary of the show which is coming up in 2018. I wish the creative team all good things as they Boldly Go!”

(16) WINDOW ON THE UNIVERSE. Motherboard’s article about the “Casting of a Giant Mirror for the First Extremely Large Telescope” has a good infographic comparing the relative sizes of all the existing large telescopes, as well.

(17) HARD SF. Down these mean starlanes a man must go…. A Twitter conversation begins here:

(18) COMPLETE HORSESHOE. Here’s another statistic I never knew anyone kept – the record for world’s largest horseshoe sculpture: “Camberley artist’s dragon ‘could obliterate’ world record”.

Mr Poolman’s sculpture is described as “not just a dragon but a tableau”, telling the story of a village bringing a dragon from the sky with arrows and stones.

“It’s partly collapsed,” Mr Powell said, “brought to the ground, in its death throes.”

Tens of thousands of old horseshoes were provided by farriers in Hampshire – some of them were used whole and others cut into smaller pieces.

“A complete horseshoe is quite limiting in what it can be made into,” Mr Poolman said.

(19) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Brandon Sanderson isn’t just on the list, he’s #1 —

(20) UNDER THE TREE. We continue our cavalcade of holiday presents with –

(21) MULTITASKING. It’s a Jedi thing: “Elle UK Interviews Daisy Ridley While She Builds A Lego Millennium Falcon”.

She’s talented and beautiful and she plays Luke Skywalker’s new padawan, Rey, in one of the most anticipated “Star Wars” films of all time, but now comes the true test: Can Daisy Ridley build the Millennium Falcon with Legos?

Elle UK interviewed the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress, asking her things like when was the last time she cried, what color her lightsaber would be, and if her father still prefers “Star Trek” (ouch) ? all while she’s tasked with building the Millennium Falcon out of Legos.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Happiness by Steve Cutts is a cartoon on Vimeo about rats trying to survive the rat race as commuters, consumers, and at work. I’m having trouble getting it to embed, so here’s the link — https://vimeo.com/groups/motion/videos/244405542

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, DMS, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark Blackman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/17 Is That A Pixel On Your Screen, Or Are You Just Scrolled To See Me?

(1) YOU CAN ORBIT BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. Alex Parker likes to think Cassini’s dive into Saturn is payback for the dinosaur extinction event. A thread explaining his complicated theory starts here:

(2) SFWA GALAKTIKA SETTLEMENT NAMES AFFECTED AUTHORS. There are further developments in a story reported here in July. Full information at the SFWA Blog: “Agreement Reached with Galaktika on Past Infringements”.

The Authors Guild and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced today that they collaboratively reached an agreement with a Hungarian science fiction magazine, Galaktika, which for years had been reprinting stories of American and British science fiction writers without their permission….

Part of the settlement between the magazine Galaktika and SFWA and the Authors Guild was that Galaktika would provide a complete list of authors whose work had been published without authorization by Galaktika. The list below was created from the spreadsheet that they provided, and, as far as SFWA can discover, it is accurate. This list includes authors or their representatives who have already come to agreements with Galaktika or are still in the process of negotiation. It is being made public to aid authors who may not know their work was published without authorization. Note that some of the works affected may be out of copyright in Hungary.

(3) BOOK SMUGGLERS KICKSTARTER. Thea James and Ana Grilo have launched The Book Smugglers: Level Up Kickstarter.

Ana and Thea

We celebrate our tenth anniversary next year and we would like to level up, so we finally decided to take the leap and create a Kickstarter of our own. We are trying to raise $16,500 which will go towards a new season of short stories (under the theme “Awakenings”) at a higher pay rate and ensuring we can hire freelancers to do production work for the ebooks. We would also love to get paid contributors to the blog on a weekly basis. If we raise more than the initial amount? The sky is the limit. All with a view to continue to publish and highlight diverse voices.

We donate our time to the Book Smugglers because we love the work that we do, which we hope to continue doing for another ten years.

To date their Kickstarter has raised 5,842 of its $16,500 goal.

(4) KEEP ON TICKING. Jim C. Hines reviews “The Tick, Season One”. BEWARE SPOILERS. In case that sort of thing worries you….

I didn’t need this to be a repeat of the animated show I loved. But it felt like it tried way too hard to be dark and gritty and edgy, at the cost of the heart and joy I was hoping for.

With all that said, I might still watch the next batch of six episodes when they come out. (I’m told that technically, this won’t be season two, but the second half of season one.) If they continue to improve the way they did in those last couple of episodes…

But for now, I’m rating this a solid disappointment.

(5) GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Anybody who’s watched the right episodes of the TV series Suits on the USA Network knows that lawyer Louis Litt is a Game of Thrones fan … at one point, he said, referring to himself, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” This clip from the most recent episode shows that watching aGoT may not always be good for your mental health:

(6) ACROSS THE ATLANTIC BY HOT AIR. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan blows the whistle on a pre-internet author of bogosity: “Edgar Allan Poe Wrote Fake News”.

In 1844 he was working for the New York Sun, and penned a front-page story for the April 13 issue trumpeting a new scientific wonder — the crossing of the Atlantic in three days by balloon. The story breathlessly related how a crew of eight men, including William Henson and Monck Mason, both well-known aeronauts, and famous British novelist Harrison Ainsworth, traveled in a powered balloon from England to Charleston, South Carolina, in 75 hours. The article went on to give various technical details.

(7) GETTING PAID, BUT NOT MUCH. Catherine Baab-Migura, in “Edgar Allan Poe Was A Broke-Ass Freelancer” on The Millions looks at how little money Poe made for his great works and how much time he had to hassle publishers to pay him. But now that you know his history with fake news, how broken up can you really feel?

A lot of fans know Edgar Allan Poe earned just $9 for “The Raven,” now one of the most popular poems of all time, read out loud by schoolteachers the world over. What most people don’t know is that, for his entire oeuvre—all his fiction, poetry, criticism, lectures—Poe earned only about $6,200 in his lifetime, or approximately $191,087 adjusted for inflation.

Maybe $191,087 seems like a lot of money. And sure, as book advances go, that’d be a generous one, the kind that fellow writers would whisper about. But what if $191,087 was all you got for 20 years of work and the stuff you wrote happened to be among the most enduring literature ever produced by anyone anywhere?

(8) AFTER THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION. Jennifer Brozek’s new project returns her to the BattleTech universe: “Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy”.

Catalyst, licensors of the BattleTech tabletop game and Shadowrun roleplaying game, is taking the next step in creating a diverse BattleTech universe with a new young adult trilogy. Jennifer Brozek, award-winning author of BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident and Shadowrun: DocWagon 19, is developing a character-driven, action-filled story set after the Jihad, and exploring the tumultuous aftermath of the Age of Destruction. Currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release date, it can’t come soon enough for BattleTech fans looking for brand new fiction set in the military science fictional universe.

(9) SADCOMS. The Guardian should warn readers they might need a tissue here: “In the golden age of TV, the existential-animation is king”

Why is a talking cartoon horse making me cry? It’s a question many of us might have asked ourselves as the new season of BoJack Horseman – an improbably moving Netflix cartoon about a version of Hollywood populated by talking animals – surfaced over the weekend.

The characters, led by BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett), make terrible decisions about sex and dating, sell themselves short, and generally end up miserable in the funniest possible ways. It’s a show at the forefront of a recent crop of animated TV series for adults that surpass most live-action shows this side of Twin Peaks in terms of sheer emotional ambition.

There’s BoJack, Adult Swim’s critically lauded sci-fi series Rick and Morty, the Duplass brothers’ Animals on HBO, and Archer, a workplace comedy about a spy agency that has gone crazily off the rails. In broad terms, TV is still embracing what critic Jenny Jaffe dubbed the “sadcom” – a show with an ostensibly comic outlook that trades in for pathos – but something special is happening in animation. With animated shows TV is able to flex different muscles.

(10) FROZEBUD. Citizen Lucas might go for this — “Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe” from ThinkGeek.

We’re going to be honest here: we squeed when we first unboxed this product. Our excitement might have drawn other employees over to look. There are SO many little details. “Oh look! Luke’s lightsaber is in the snow!” “I love how the ice of the cave starts on the inside of the globe and continues outside it.” “OMG. THERE’S A DEAD TAUNTAUN ON THE SIDE.” A Hoth snow globe just makes sense. And this Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe created by our GeekLabs team is magnificent. It perfectly captures the tense atmosphere of the cave scene while still being a flippin’ snow globe. Watch the snow gently settle around Luke in what looks like a hopeless situation. And the Tauntaun isn’t gory so it’s appropriate for all ages. Stick it behind your little holiday village diorama as a reminder to the elves and reindeer not to wander out alone.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 13, 1965 Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster battled their way into theaters
  • September 13, 1974 Planet of the Apes TV version premiered.
  • September 13, 1977 — Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(12) TODAY’S CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANGER

  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl

(13) YOUR FAVORITE ICONOCLASTS. Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy declare “Chapters are cultural convention that we need not adhere to” at Camestros Felapton’s blog as they unleash (get it?) a new installment of their classic work.

“Well, well, well,” said McEdifice, “if it isn’t Commander Clench, my old nemesis. I thought I told you never to set foot again on the Grassland Planet of Steppe.”

“Well yes, you did but as I explained at the time, I’m free to go anywhere I like and also I outrank you and also I have an orbiting space-dreadnought directly above us that could wipe you off the face of the planet before you could even grimace at me in a way I didn’t like.” explained Commander Clench.

I don’t know, I thought this was quite readable…. Send help….

(14) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Bullets with the Monster Hunters International logo on sale for charity. Ten percent goes to the Houston Food Bank. They’ve already sold 60,000. Living in interesting times.

These are just bullets for handloading. This is not loaded ammunition. Also, be aware that this design is on the front of a 9mm bullet. It is VERY small and serves no purpose other than being really cool. Please do not expect anything magical or supernatural from them. They are just bullets with an awesome stamped logo. Though the lead we sourced does contain trace amounts of silver, it isn’t enough for serious hunting. They are to be used on nothing larger than a gnome.

(15) NZ CONREPORT. At Concatenation, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts and Darian Smith discuss LexiCon 2017, New Zealand’s 38th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention – with a shout out to DUFF delegate Paul Weimer.

LM:  First up for me panel-wise was moderating a session on the language of science fiction and fantasy, with Swedish writer Emma Lindhagen, Cloud Ink Press’ Mark Johnson and local personality Jack Newhouse sharing the front table. One of the first panels of the con, it was too soon for convention goers to have succumbed to con crud, so the room was packed and it was a lively discussion covering topics such as conlanging, conlinging, inclusiveness, and Klingon. I also moderated a panel on Introducing new readers to SFF, but because the session was scheduled against Paul Mannering in conversation with Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire, there were only seventeen of the con’s attendees present. So we decided to pull the chairs into a circle and invite everyone to join in, which turned out to be a great idea as the input from the audience was terrific. I think that’s one of the advantages of our New Zealand conventions: because we are small and most of us know each other, we can be flexible and no one throws a hissy fit. The DUFF delegate, Paul Weimer from Minneapolis, made a comment to that effect in the ‘Australia and Us’ panel, saying he hadn’t realised before he came, just how close-knit our SF/F/H community is here, an aspect he felt might be unique to New Zealand.

DR:  In the way of all good cons, a good portion of the Con should have seen the bar buzzing with people rubbing shoulders and chinking glasses, and from time to time it was. Surprisingly, there was less of this than expected, mainly because so many of the attendees were going to panels, which in some cases came as a surprise even to them. So while there was less action in the bar than we are used to, the panels were humming and people were networking and fan fund delegates were hanging out and talking community-building while peddling raffle tickets and auction lots. I am not quite sure the Suncourt knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to our booking the place out for a convention, but they were amazing hosts as well, and everything went off about as smoothly as we could have hoped.

(16) SCHRODINGER’S 7-11. Fast Company says “Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete”.

While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store–or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles–still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you’re bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer.

Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Interesting idea but expecting it to be viable in ethic communities where a bodega or the cultural equivalent is as much community centre as store is incredible culturally naive.”

Where Cat lives, “We have, other than gas stations that carry a range of stuff this plans on carrying, exactly one English language as first tongue convenience shop for the twenty thousand inhabitants of the peninsula. But there’s dozens of ethically based shops including Central American, Middle Eastern, African, Russian and at least one Armenian one.”

And to see the Bodega Cats, er, SJW Credentials mentioned in the above article, click here, Instagram has photos.

@whiskeygems

A post shared by Bodega Cats (@bodegacatsofinstagram) on

(17) BRIGHT. Will Smith in Bright available on Netflix starting December 22.

In an alternate present-day where magical creatures live among us, two L.A. cops become embroiled in a prophesied turf battle. Stars Will Smith.

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

 

(18) LEAGUE OF GODS. Out on DVD.

Based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Feng Shen Yan Yi (The Investiture of the Gods), the story tells of how King Zhou of Shang becomes a tyrant due to the wiles of Daji, a vixen spirit who is disguised as one of his concubines.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/17 I Saw A Pixel Filing Through the Streets of Soho With A Chinese Menu In Its Scroll.

(1) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. James Davis Nicoll gives the Young People Read Old SFF panel Vonda McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”.

The second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake. I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young People.

Mind you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before….

(2) GENRE BENDER. Jeff Somers praises Gregory Benford’s new book at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project Gives Science and History a Thrilling Twist”.

The lines between book genres can get a blurry as authors push against boundaries, trying to do something new with a story. Sometimes the result is a novel that incorporates the best parts of several genres, creating a category all its own. Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project is one of those books—equal parts alternate history, spy thriller, history lesson, and physics textbook, it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining sci-fi novels of the year.

(3) EXPANSE. Aaron Pound’s review of Caliban’s War is online at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: Caliban’s War continues the story started in Leviathan Wakes, with James Holden returning along with the rest of the crew of the Rocicante to deal with yet another interplanetary crisis. They are joined by new characters who replace the missing Detective Miller as view point characters – the tough Martian marine Bobbie, the naive Ganymedean botanist Prax, and the calculating and shrewd U.N. official Avasarala, all of whom must navigate the crisis caused by the raw tensions between the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Against the backdrop of this raging internecine human conflict, the mysterious alien protomolecule carries out its enigmatic programming on the surface of Venus, sitting in the back of everyone’s mind like a puzzle they cannot understand and an itch they cannot scratch.

(4) ZENO’S PARADOX. You can’t get to the Moon, because first you have to…. “So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery”, a guest post at According To Hoyt.

Do you want to put people on your rocket?  There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt:  space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call.  Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew.  That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence.   However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches.  You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing.  You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.

(5) NEWS TO ME. Did you know that Terrapin Beer’s Blood Orange IPA is “the official beer of the zombie apocalypse?”

It is an official tie-in beer with The Walking Dead and has a cool blood red label with a turtle on it!

(6) NEWS TO SOMEONE ELSE. Daniel Dern sent me a non-spoiler review of Suicide Squad when I was in the hospital last August. I didn’t notice it again until today. Sorry Daniel!

(“Non-spoiler” as in, assumes you have seen some or all of the three trailers, particularly trailer #2, done to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”…)

I enjoyed it enough. Hey, it’s a comics-based movie.

I’ve skimmed some reviews listing the flaws in S/S. Probably mostly correct, but arguably BFD.

The good: it didn’t thematically overreach or overbrood, unlike (cough) BvS (which I liked enough, but accept that it had big problems). A lot of good lines (you’ll see many/most in the trailers), good action, etc. A little (but not too much) Batman.

The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:

– DEADPOOL has set/upped the ante and standard for humor/violent comic-based live-action movies. Particularly the BluRay version of Deadpool, which is what I saw. And before that, lots of Guardians of the Galaxy bits.

– S/S’ Trailer # 2. I would have been happy/er with a shorter, even 12-minute, video not bothering with plot, just lovely musical jump cuts and snappy lines.

– Is it just me, or did S/S seem to do the “who’s who” twice, and not really bring in the antagonist (“big bad(s)”) for an astonishingly long time?

– This is an A-level plan? I mean, Captain Boomerang? Having seen Ghostbusters a week earlier, I would have considered sending that team in instead, in this case.

On the other hand, at least it wasn’t Manhattan that got trashed this time.

I can see how if you aren’t a superhero comic fan you’d find this less satisfying. Granted, I’m still happy-enough when it simply looks reasonable, doesn’t insult continuity gratuitously, and doesn’t try to go all philoso-metaphysical on us.

Recommended enough, particularly if you can get a bargain ticket price…

(7) TV LIFE AND DEATH. Cat Eldridge says Adweek’s “A Guide to 2017’s Broadcast TV Renewals and Cancellations” “on who stays and who gets the ax is fascinating as regards genre shows.”

The renewal is pretty much everyone save Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Frequency, and possibly iZombie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Arrowverse of course was kept intact.

If you’ve not watched the second season of Legends, do so as its far entertaining than the first season was.

(8) O’HARA OBIT. Quinn O’Hara (1941-2017), a Scottish-born actress who starred in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, died May 5. The Hollywood Reporter elaborated:

In The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), from American International Pictures, O’Hara played Sinistra, the nearsighted daughter of greedy lawyer Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone); both were out to terrorize teens at a pool party held at a creepy mansion. She also sang “Don’t Try to Fight It” and danced around a suit of armor in the horror comedy.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1886 — Coca-Cola went on sale.

(10) THE SAME OLD FINAL FRONTIER. Tom Scott explains “Why Sci-Fi Alien Planets Look The Same: Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone.”

There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.

 

(11) MEMORIAL NIGHT. See Poe performed in a Philadelphia graveyard, May 18-20.

As the sun sets over the cemetery’s historic tombs, The Mechanical Theater will bring some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting tales to life in this original production, directed by Loretta Vasile and featuring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

Two young men hide out in the shadows of Laurel Hill Cemetery while hosting a secret on-line auction. The clock is ticking as they try to sell a priceless, stolen object known only as The Anathema. When the antique expert finally arrives to verify the object’s authenticity, he shares with them some of The Anathema’s dark history as well as rumors of its power. But as the night goes on, one of the thieves starts to suspect these stories are far more than legend. This anthology piece will include Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-frog,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and The Pendulum.”  Written and directed by Loretta Vasile.  Starring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

(12) BIG ANSWERS. Coming June 5 on the UCSD campus: “Sir Roger Penrose: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics”.

Sir Roger Penrose

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents an evening with Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated English mathematician and physicist as well as author of numerous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. The talk is titled “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics.” A book signing will follow.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations, developed with his father Lionel, inspired the works of MC Escher, and the Penrose Steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transit Terminal. Their five fold symmetry, which was initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

(13) DEARTH WARMED OVER. Trailers are supposed to sell people on a movie. But here’s a pre-dissatisfied customer.

On the other hand, a cast list on IMDB includes three Hispanics and a black actor born in England

(14) DIALING FOR NO DOLLARS. Vote on how Jim C. Hines should spend his time. Well, within certain limits, anyway.

(15) SPLASH. Most SF writers didn’t think about the waste heat of monster computers:” Google Moves In And Wants To Pump 1.5 Million Gallons Of Water Per Day”.

“We’ve invested a lot in making sure the groundwater quality that we treat and send to the customers is of high quality. We also want to protect the quantity side of that,” Duffie said.

In addition to building several reverse osmosis plants to treat the water, Duffie said the community has spent about $50 million since the mid-1990s to install pipelines and purchase surface water from the Charleston Water System to supplement the water being pumped from underground.

Google currently has the right to pump up to half a million gallons a day at no charge. Now the company is asking to triple that, to 1.5 million. That’s close to half of the groundwater that Mount Pleasant Waterworks pumps daily from the same underground aquifer to help supply drinking water to more than 80,000 residents of the area.

(16) WHITE NOISE. On the other hand, sff authors are wellaware of the high noise levels from widespread communication: “Facebook – the secret election weapon”.

A quarter of the world’s population now use Facebook, including 32 million people in the UK. Many use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends and are unaware that it has become an important political player.

For example, the videos that appear in people’s news feeds can be promoted by political parties and campaigners.

The far-right group, Britain First, has told Panorama how it paid Facebook to repeatedly promote its videos. It now has more than 1.6 million Facebook followers.

(17) AUDIO KILLED THE MUSIC HALL STAR. Edison probably never realized he was killing off the mid-level performer: “Superstar economics: How the gramophone changed everything”

In Elizabeth Billington’s day, many half-decent singers made a living performing in music halls.

After all, Billington herself could sing in only one hall at a time.

But when you can listen to the best performers in the world at home, why pay to hear a merely competent act in person?

Thomas Edison’s phonograph led the way towards a winner-take-all dynamic in the performing industry.

The top performers went from earning like Mrs Billington to earning like Elton John.

But the only-slightly-less good went from making a comfortable living to struggling to pay their bills: small gaps in quality became vast gaps in income.

(18) BANAL HORROR. In other news: the BBC slags Alien: Covenant but still gives it 3 stars: “Film Review: Is Alien: Covenant as good as the original?”

Given that he is now 79, and so he doesn’t have many directing years left, you have to ask whether it’s really the most stimulating use of [Ridley] Scott’s time and talents to churn out yet another inferior copy of a horror masterpiece that debuted nearly four decades ago. He certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in recapturing the scruffy naturalism, the restraint, or the slow-burning tension which turned the first film into an unforgettable classic.

Much of Alien: Covenant is simply a humdrum retread of Alien. Once again, there is a spaceship with a cryogenically frozen crew – a colony ship this time. Once again the crew members are woken from their hypersleep, once again they pick up a mysterious radio transmission, once again they land on an Earth-like world, and once again they discover some severely rotten eggs.

(19) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Pascal Lee, Director of the Mars Institute, talks to Money magazine about the expense of going to Mars: “Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Travel to Mars”

At this point, what would it cost to send someone to Mars?

Pascal Lee: The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime.

Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years.

(20) TOP TEN FELLOW WRITERS HELPED BY HEINLEIN, AND WHY: Compiled by Paul Di Filippo. None of these facts have been checked by File 770’s crack research staff.

10) A. E. van Vogt, needed money to open a poutine franchise.

9) Barry Malzberg, stuck at Saratoga racetrack with no funds to get home.

8) Gordon Dickson, wanted to invest in a distillery.

7) Keith Laumer, wanted to erect barbed wire fence around home.

6) Damon Knight, wanted to enroll in Famous Artists School.

5) Anne McCaffrey, ran out of Mane ‘n’ Tail horse shampoo during Irish shortage.

4) Joanna Russ, needed advice on best style of men’s skivvies.

3) Isaac Asimov, shared the secret file of John W. Campbell’s hot-button issues.

2) Arthur C. Clarke, tutored him in American big band music.

1) L. Ron Hubbard, helped perform ritual to open Seventh Seal of Revelation.

(21) SJW CREDENTIAL ENTRYIST INVASION. The Portland Press Herald is aghast: “Cats at the Westminster dog show?”

Dogs from petite papillons to muscular Rottweilers showed off their four-footed agility Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, tackling obstacles from hurdles to tunnels. And next door, so did some decidedly rare breeds for the Westminster world:

Cats.

For the first time, felines sidled up to the nation’s premier dog show, as part of an informational companion event showcasing various breeds of both species. It included a cat agility demonstration contest, while more than 300 of the nation’s top agility dogs vied in a more formal competition.

It didn’t exactly mean there were cats in the 140-year-old dog show, but it came close enough to prompt some “what?!” and waggish alarm about a breakdown in the animal social order

(22) POOH ON THE RANGE. Atlas Obscura explains the popularity of “Five Hundred Acre Wood” outside London.

Every year, more than a million people travel to Ashdown Forest to find the North Pole. Ashdown Forest is 40 miles south of , but they’re not crazy. In the forest they’ll find the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and somewhere in the Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place where Christopher Robin discovered the North Pole.

Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, the magical place in which a fictionalized version of A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had adventures with Winnie the Pooh and friends.

In 1925, Milne bought a Cotchford Farm on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and he brought his family there on weekends and for extended stays in the spring and summer. The next year, he published the first collection of stories about a bear that would become one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son, his son’s toys, and the family’s explorations of the woods by their home.

The book’s illustrator, E. H. Shepard, was brought to Ashdown Forest to capture its essence and geography, and a plaque at Gill’s Lap (which became Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories) commemorates his collaboration with Milne and its importance to the forest. A pamphlet of “Pooh Walks” is available to visitors who want to visit places like Gill’s Lap, or Wrens Warren Valley (Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place), the lone pine (where the Heffalump Trap was set), a disused quarry (Roo’s Sandy Pit), or, yes, the North Pole.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/16 The Scroll’s My Destination

(1) WIRE TOWN. The UK’s Daily Mail ran a photo gallery, “A city balancing on The Wire: Eerie pictures capture the lonely beauty of Baltimore’s Street corners at night revealing another side to its crime-ravaged neighborhoods”, and contrary to what you might expect from a collection with that title, the first picture is of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society clubhouse.

(2) MY LUNGS REMEMBER SASQUAN. The Darwin Award candidates responsible for the wildfires during Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, have been sentenced. “Vancouver men who started wildfire ordered to pay state $2.3 million” reports The Oregonian.

Three Vancouver men responsible for setting fire to 110 acres of forest in southwestern Washington have been ordered to pay the state more than $2.3 million in firefighting costs.

The Daily News reports Nathan Taylor was sentenced Monday and all three defendants were ordered to pay damages the state Department of Natural Resources.

Court documents say the fire started July 19, 2015 after Taylor, his brother Adrian Taylor and Michael Estrada Cardenas used propane tanks and soda cans for target practice near Woodland.

(3) ESCAPE FROM SAN QUENTIN. The Public Domain Review has “Astral Travels With Jack London”, a lengthy discussion of Jack London’s great 1914 sf novel The Star Rover. Jack London died in November 1916.

London’s sole foray into the realm of science fiction and fantasy is simultaneously a hard-bitten, minimalist monologue about life in solitary confinement and an exuberant tour of the universe. The book’s narrator, Darrell Standing, moves disarmingly from the agony of his confinement in a strait-jacket to his travel amidst the stars equipped with a glass wand that allows him to access an infinity of past lives, including a fourth-century hermit, a shipwrecked seal-hunter, a medieval swordsman, and a confidant of Pontius Pilate. It is a novel about sensory deprivation in a shared reality, and sensory overload in a private one.

This is a deeply eclectic book. It borrows liberally from the forebears of the fantasy genre: fairy stories, Norse legend, Greek myths. But it also manages to include feuding UC Berkeley scientists, “dope fiends,” Neolithic hunter-gatherers, kimchi, and a journalistic exposé of the modern prison system. The bizarre multiplicity is precisely the point. London’s narrative does many things, but it always seems to circle back to the question of how the worlds encompassed within a single consciousness can interfere with the shared reality of modern society. As we hurtle towards a near future of immersive virtual reality and unceasing digital connectedness, The Star Rover has much to tell us.

(4) NEIL GAIMAN IS THE PRIZE. A reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” by Neil Gaiman is a Worldbuilders Fundraising Reward.

The Worldbuilders charity passed its stretch goal of a million dollars, so I lit a whole bunch of candles, put on a coat once worn by a dead brother in the Stardust movie, and I read Edgar Allan Poe’s poem THE RAVEN by candlelight. You can donate to Worldbuilders at worldbuilders.org. And you should.

 

(5) NUMBER FIVE. The Traveler at Galactic Journey marvels at the recent development of radio astronomy in “[Dec. 10, 1961] By Jove! (Jupiter, the Fifth Planet)”.

In the last ten years or so, a brand new way of looking at Jupiter has been developed.  Light comes in a wide range of wavelengths, only a very small spectrum of which can be detected by the human eye.  Radio waves are actually a form of light, just with wavelengths much longer than we can see.  Not only can radio be used to communicate over long distances, but sensitive receivers can tell a lot about the universe.  It turns out all sorts of celestial objects emit radio waves.

Jupiter is one of those sources.  After this discovery, in 1955, astronomers began tracking the planet’s sporadic clicks and hisses.  It is a hard target because of all of the local interference, from the sun, our ionosphere, and man-made radio sources.  Still, scientists have managed to learn that Jupiter has an ionosphere, too, as well as a strong magnetic field with broad “Van Allen Belts.”  It also appears to be the only planet that broadcasts on the radio band.

Using radio, we will be able to learn much about King Jove long before the first spacecraft probes it (perhaps by 1970 or so).  It’s always good to remember that Space Age research can be done from home as well as in the black beyond.  While I am as guilty as the next fellow of focusing on satellite spectaculars, the bulk of astronomy is done with sounding rockets and ground-based telescopes – not to mention the inglorious drudgery of calculations and report-writing, universal to every science.

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #14. The fourteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed coy of Impulse by Steven Gould.

Today’s auction comes from award-winning author and former SFWA president Steven Gould, who’s offering an autographed first edition hardcover copy of his novel IMPULSE, which is currently being developed for a pilot on YouTube Red.

About the Book:

Steven Gould returns to the world of his classic novel Jumper in Impulse.

Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation, with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport, and from the government agencies who want to use his talent. Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. She’s teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her mother and father, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never been in danger.

Until the day when she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time.

(7) TOBLER’S PICKS. The Book Smugglers continue their year-end theme: “Smugglivus 2016: Books That Surprised Me (In a Good Way) by E. Catherine Tobler”. They published Tobler’s short story “The Indigo Mantis” earlier this year.

Bloodline, Claudia Gray

I did not expect to read another Star Wars novel in my lifetime; the expanded universe of books was never wholly my thing. I liked the Han Solo novels (A.C. Crispin) well enough, but could not get into the Thrawn books, or anything tackling Leia. And then, Bloodline showed up. Bloodline spends some time with Leia after Jedi and before The Force Awakens and let me say, I never realized how much I missed not seeing Leia be allowed to grieve over the loss of Alderran. Gray gives us that and much more, unpacking and exploring Leia’s marriage with Han Solo, and yes, her relationship to Darth Vader. Such a satisfying read.

(8) DEBRIS WHACKER. Finally somebody’s cleaning up space. From NPR, “Japan Sends Long Electric Whip Into Orbit, To Tame Space Junk”

A cable that’s as long as six football fields has been launched into orbit — and when it’s deployed, it’ll test an idea to knock out orbital debris. Japan’s space agency sent the electrodynamic tether into space along with supplies for the International Space Station.

Reels aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori 6 craft will deploy the 700-meter (2,296 feet) tether, essentially unspooling a clothesline in space that could help clean up the roughly 20,000 pieces of potentially hazardous space debris that are tracked by systems on Earth.

Those pieces of junk are dangerous enough on their own — but they can also generate thousands more smaller pieces of debris if they collide, creating even more risk to the space station and satellites orbiting the Earth.

With the official acronym of EDT (for electrodynamic tether), the Kounotori’s cable “is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost,” JAXA says.

(9) ONE THOUSAND AND ONE IRAQI DAYS. At NPR, Amal El-Mohtar reviews the Iraqi SF anthology: “’Iraq + 100’ Is Painful, But Don’t Look Away”.

Though a few of the stories — Alhaboby’s “Baghdad Syndrome,” Hassan’s “The Here and Now Prison,” and Ibrahim al-Marashi’s “Najufa” — are warm and hopeful, focused on love, family, and friendship, overall the collection hurts. Underlying these pieces are exhaustion, disgust, contempt, disillusionment, all of which Western readers of speculative fiction will no doubt find alienating; built into our narrative of fiction’s usefulness is a sense of healing, catharsis, nourishment that this collection resists. Thoughts of the future are rooted in the recent past and present, leeching poison from its earth, and what grows can’t be separated from that soil, as when Alhaboby writes “I knew that soon my vision would start to go the way the lights once did over Baghdad all those years ago … You see, if you’re a sufferer of Baghdad Syndrome, you know that nothing has ever driven us, or our ancestors, quite as much as the syndrome of loving Baghdad.”

(10) THE LONG WATCH. Former LASFS President, now thriving commercial actor, Ed Green appears in this spot beginning at :14 —

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(12) ALDRIN LEAVES NEW ZEALAND. He’s recovered from what ailed him at the South Pole — “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin heads home after stay in Christchurch hospital”.

Mr Aldrin’s manager, Christina Korp, tweeted a photo of him on the flight home, saying they hoped to return again.

“But next time for vacation and not evacuation,” she wrote.

Mr Aldrin began showing signs of altitude sickness, including low oxygen levels and congestion in his lungs, after reaching the South Pole.

“Once I was at sea level I began to feel much better,” he said last Sunday.

(13) ENGLISH EVOLVING BEFORE YOUR EYES. Thanks to everyone at work in the File 770 comment laboratory….

(14) HIGHEST BIDDER. Black Gate says the sale happened Friday on eBay — “Original Woodgrain Edition Dungeons and Dragons Box Set Sells For $22,100”.

(15) CHRISTMAS HORROR AND SHATNER – TOGETHER! Hampus Eckerman, inspired by a link in the last Pixel Scroll, decided to check online for more Christmas Horror movies. And he found the most horrific of al – one starring William Shatner(!)

In A Christmas Horror Story, Shatner is the DJ who sets the scene —

Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.

christmas-horror-story

(16) STAR TREK CHRISTMAS. Here’s how the franchise paid tribute to the Christmas season.

  • Captain Sisko & the DS9 Ensemble sing “Wonderful Deep Space Nine”

In the grand tradition of Star Trek captains singing holiday standards, for your consideration: “Wonderful Deep Space Nine” sung by Captain Sisko, Major Kira, Constable Odo, Lieutenant Commander Worf, Chief O’Brien, Congenial Barkeep Quark, Plain Simple Garak, and the rest of the Star Trek: DS9 ensemble. Special appearances by Morn, Martok, Moogie, and Vorta Iggy Pop.

 

  • Star Trek Voyager – Christmas 2008

The Voyager crew give their take on the 12 days of Christmas.

 

(17) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. The Jimmy Kimmel Show ran videos in which “Pets React to Star Wars Rogue One Trailer.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Eva Whitley, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/16 The Pixel Came Back from the Nothing-at-Scroll

(1) YOUR ONE-MAN WIKI. Remember, Camestros Felapton is reading Infogalactic so you don’t have to – “Say, Camestros what’s your new fave Voxopedia page? [Update]”.

Why, I’m glad you asked that question, disembodied voice that writes the blogpost titles. My new favourite Voxopediapage is:

LIST OF ASIAN MEN’S INVENTIONS: …

And that’s not all – Elsewhere on Voxopedia more women have gone missing:

Kitty Joyner is the lead picture for ‘engineer’ on the Wikipedia page

Look, she has a slide rule and everything! Sadly her presence was just too confusing for the poor folks at Voxopedia. Maybe that big circular gizmo in the background didn’t look pi=4 enough. So, to prevent fainting and to protect sensitive dispositions, Joyner has been replaced by Oliver Heaviside.

Phew!

(2) BIG BRAIN THEOREM. TV Guide’s Liam Matthews ranks “The 11 Smartest People Who Have Appeared on The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory is a show about scientists, and it bolsters its academic credibility by bringing in guest stars from the world (galaxy?) of science to play themselves, as well as casting actors with graduate degrees to play characters on the show.

I’m not qualified to rank these guest stars on smarts, because I failed physics in high school. But as a professional clickbaiter, I am qualified to rank them based on how annoying I find their public persona. So without further ado, here are the 11 smartest people who have appeared on The Big Bang Theory, ranked from most to least annoying.

(3) KELLY FREAS. The Space:1970 blog posted “Kelly Freas STAR TREK Portfolio (1976)”.

In 1976, legendary science fiction illustrator, Frank Kelly Freas, published the Star Trek Portfolio, featuring gorgeous charcoal portraits of the officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Needless to say, it’s a highly-desired collectible these days.

spock-freas-portfoilio

JJ says, “I think that Spock bears a strong resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones! Of course, in 1976, Tommy Lee Jones looked like this…”

tommy-lee-jones-1976

(4) VERBAL ENGINEER. Popular Science interviews Ken Liu:

In your Dandelion Dynasty series, you reimagine transportation, military hardware and the rest of the technological landscape in a style you’ve come to call “silkpunk.” How did you come up with that approach?

In creating the silkpunk aesthetic, I was influenced by the ideas of W. Brian Arthur, who articulates a vision of technology as a language. The task of the engineer is much like that of a poet in that the engineer must creatively combine existing elements of technology to solve novel problems, thereby devising artifacts that are new expressions in the technical language.

In the silkpunk world of my novels, this view of technology dominates. The vocabulary of the technology language relies on materials of historical importance to the people of East Asia and the Pacific islands: bamboo, shells, coral, paper, silk, feathers, sinew, etc. And the grammar of the language puts more emphasis on biomimetics?—?the airships regulate their lift by analogy with the swim bladders of fish, and the submarines move like whales through the water.

(5) FABULOUS OLD STUFF. Marcin Wichary recommends the Museu de la Tècnica de l’Empordà in Figueres, Spain.

(6) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Episode 21 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic features Alyssa Wong and one of  Kansas City’s famous barbecue joints.

Alyssa Wong

Alyssa Wong

Listen in as we chow down on BBQ and talk about what franchise inspired her to write fanfic, the exciting moment when she first encountered a character who looked like her, where she hopes to be 10 years down the road, how she encountered Faceless Ghost Grandma, why she said, “I hate being bored and I don’t like rules,” and more.

(7) EUROCON LIVESTREAM. The 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona, Spain will be livestreamed on November 4, 5 and 6 — http://kosmopolis.cccb.org/bcneurocon/.

Their trilingual dictionary may come in handy —

eurocon-barcelona-trilingual-dictionary

(8) NAME THE YA AWARD. Lew Wolkoff of the Young Adult SF/F Award Committee asks fans to participate in their survey.

As you know, the World Science Fiction Society is in the process of creating a Campbell-like award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Award.  The motion passed at Kansas City and was passed on to Helsinki for, hopefully, final approval.

One of the matters that has yet to be settled is the name of the award.  The Young Adult SF/F Award Committee is currently doing an online survey to get suggestions on what that name will be.  This survey ends on November 15.  The results will be tabulated, and a second survey of members of the World Science Fiction Society will be taken to get a recommended name (or names) for the 2017 Business Meeting.

Each year the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) gives out the Hugo and Campbell awards at its annual convention, Worldcon. The awards highlight the best science fiction and fantasy works of the previous year, and they are presented for best novel, short story, graphic story, editor, artist, and a number of other categories. Thus far there has been no award to recognize young adult (YA) books.

In response to this, the Young Adult Award Committee was created to study the viability of an award recognizing excellence in YA science fiction and fantasy at Worldcon. WSFS has since supported the creation of an award for YA fiction, and the committee’s task now turns to naming it.

We are looking for an award name that is especially evocative. We hope to capture the transformative, transportational, and captivating power of books for young adults.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 28, 1902 – Elsa Lanchester, Frankie’s bride.
  • Born October 28, 1952  — Annie Potts. When you decide who ya gonna call, she answers the phone.

(10) KEEPING YOUR UNIQUE VOICE. Credit where it is due – Dave Pascoe had a good column of writing advice today at Mad Genius Club.

One significant trick I learned from Dean Wesley Smith is focusing on a specific writing technique for a story. Make sure you get the sensory information into every page. Whether it’s a mention of the odors you characters smell, or the vivid colors around them (or drab, if that’s the way you roll, you dystopianist, you), or the moan of the chill wind between the weathered slats of the abandoned homestead in which your people are sheltering for the night, give the reader anchors for their imagination. And then, let the reader know the character’s reactions. That low moan, that sends a prickle up the spine of your hero, that recalls the hunting cat that terrified him as a child.

(11) TEXT TO SCREEN. Those who have been participating in the adaptation discussion here will want to eyeball Violette Malan’s “My Top Ten Novel-to-Movie Adaptations” at Black Gate.

I want to begin by saying that I’m making no judgments (well, hardly any) on which is the better version, the book or the movie. I’m only saying I thought the adaptations were good. Anyway, in no particular order, here are my top ten film adaptations (at least for this week) with the screenwriter, the source material, and the director identified.

The Princess Bride William Goldman from his own novel, directed by Rob Reiner I can’t think of anything new to say, at least not today, about what is probably my favourite movie of all time.

The Shawshank Redemption Frank Darabont adapted and directed from the Stephen King novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption)

The single greatest change from novella to movie was casting the Red character as a black man. Whether that was done because they wanted Morgan Freeman, or whether it was done beforehand, I don’t think matters. A couple of other things were changed (the kid whose testimony could have freed Andy Duschesne wasn’t murdered in the original) but in each case it was done to underline some aspect of character or plot that the conciseness of screenwriting (see above) necessitated.

(12) A VIKING FUNERAL. Anne C. Perry witnesses “The Extinction Event: The Beginning of the End” at Pornokitsch.

Five years later, Jurassic has published almost fifty books. That’s thousands upon thousands of pages of stories by over a hundred authors, with art by a dozen artists, which have (so far) raised more than £8,000 for charity along the way, which is a hell of a history. Especially given that Jurassic London lost fully half of its staff after the first year, when one of the two of us (me!) leveraged her experience founding a small press to get a job in traditional publishing.

If, five years ago, we could have chosen how we’d end Jurassic, The Extinction Event is exactly what we would have wanted: it’s big, bold, brilliant and beautiful. It contains 33 stories, some from previous publications and some which are entirely original, and features new art from nine artists. In Extinction you’ll find apocalypse, bombast, lightning and lava. You’ll also fine joy and sorrow and laughter and misery, cowboys and werewolves and mummies and spaceships… and, for some reason, rather a lot of spiders.

(13) TUCKERIZING RAISES BONANZA. Monster Hunter Nation came through in a big way to help pay someone’s medical bills. Larry Correia reports:

Earlier this week I posted about taking donations to help out my buddy Mitch with his medical bills, and that we’d be taking donations in exchange for me using your name in a book.

So many of you jumped in that we had to close it the next day. We raised over $20,000 in a day and a half….

Logistically speaking, that many names is going to take me a long time and several books to work through. There are a few spots in Monster Hunter Siege I will be able to use for charity red shirts, but this is going to take years.

I tell you, once I run through these names, and I’m doing this again for some other cause several years down the road, I’m totally going to jack up the price on you guys. 🙂

The important thing is that you are awesome, and you did something amazing for a good man. Mitch is already using this money to pay bills. Once again the Monster Hunter Nation has come through. I love you guys.

(14) SCHADENFREUDE. If you like seeing someone dish it out, Michaele Jordan’s “MidAmeriCon II: Con Report” at Amazing Stories is for you. She flays the programming division, MidAmeriCon’s version of LonCon’s Fan Village, Dave Truesdale, and Charlie Lippincott.

This programming bias came back to bite them in the butt. When [Charles] Lippincott saw that MidAmericon II was planning a Star Wars day, he decided this was his chance to cash in. He prepared his own ‘MidAmericon II’ program. (We know he prepared it in advance because 4-page, 10 x 14, glossy fliers with full color illustrations do NOT happen overnight.) It was to be an all-day media event, hawking autographs ($50.00 apiece) and featuring talks, slideshows and Q&A (conflicting with numerous other con functions, including the masquerade, and again not free). He did NOT consult with the con about this program.

Having laid his plans, he proceeded to escalate his demands to MidAmericon II, demanding more money, more publicity, more perks, etc. (As I was working the press room, I saw some of his emails myself, and can personally verify that he took a high-handed ‘gimme-gimme’ approach to what we will laughingly call negotiations.) When the con failed to meet some of his new demands, he canceled on the day before the con.

He then proceeded to hold his own stream of events anyway, just across the street — without removing MidAmericon II’s name from his glossy flyer — while bad-mouthing the con at every opportunity. He stood by his plan to charge high prices for attendance at his events. I mean, really. Would YOU pay $50.00 for Charles Lippincott’s autograph? Or another $50.00 to see a slide show of scenes from movies you already know well?

Well, turnabout is fair play. The Lippincott counter-con was a disaster.

(15) THE BIRD. Why, no, Stubby, I didn’t know these authors were acquainted! “When Charles Dickens & Edgar Allan Poe Met, and Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Poe’s Poem ‘The Raven’”.

“There comes Poe with his raven,” wrote the poet James Russell Lowell in 1848, “like Barnaby Rudge, / Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge.” Barnaby Rudge, as you may know, is a novel by Charles Dickens, published serially in 1841. Set during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, the book stands as Dickens’ first historical novel and a prelude of sorts to A Tale of Two Cities. But what, you may wonder, does it have to do with Poe and “his raven”?

… It chanced the following year the two literary greats would meet, when Poe learned of Dickens’ trip to the U.S.; he wrote to the novelist, and the two briefly exchanged letters (which you can read here). Along with Dickens on his six-month journey were his wife Catherine, his children, and Grip, his pet raven. When the two writers met in person, writes Lucinda Hawksley at the BBC, Poe “was enchanted to discover [Grip, the character] was based on Dickens’s own bird.”

(16) SANDERSON HITS JACKPOT. “DMG Nabs Rights to Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Cosmere’ Book Universe in Massive Deal” reports Variety.

DMG Entertainment has nabbed film and licensing rights to “Cosmere,” Brandon Sanderson’s acclaimed series of interconnected fantasy novels. The entertainment and media company has committed to spending $270 million, which will cover half of the money needed to back the first three movies made from Sanderson’s canon. That makes it one of the largest literary deals of the year. DMG beat out several interested parties for rights to the series. As part of the pact, insiders say Sanderson will receive a minimum guarantee on each film that is produced, as well as a rich backend, allowing the author to make millions.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]

My “Immersive Transmedia” Experience with Edgar Allan Poe

poe-and-virginia-at-torpedo-factory

By Martin Morse Wooster: I’ve been in many strange places in my lifetime.  But I spent the night of September 12 in an insane asylum!

Well, it wasn’t really an insane asylum.  It was the Torpedo Factory Arts Center in Alexandria, which was transformed into an asylum for “A Dream Within a Dream: Madness” which is being held there through October 31.

I would say that this was a play about Edgar Allan Poe, except that I learned from the website of the company that produced it, Through the 4th Wall, that what they do is produce “immersive transmedia” which is at “the avant-garde branding intersection of advertising, P.R., and immersive performance.”

(Gosh wow!)

The premise of this story is that Edgar Allan Poe, mourning the death of his child bride Virginia (but is she really dead?) has checked in to the Maison de Sante, which I think is French for “House of Creepy.” There he wanders the grounds, and when we don’t see Poe, we see his stories come to life.

The mostly female cast were dressed in costumes similar what I would imagine are those at the World Horror Convention costume contest.  Or maybe they were looking forward to the World Crinoline Convention.  Or perhaps they were extras in the PBS Civil War drama “Mercy Street,” set in Alexandria.

One woman, who didn’t have a speaking part, was dressed in a black leotard, with a scary black wig, owl eyes, and a lot of white pancake makeup.  I nearly asked her, “say, have you dated the Joker?”  But I restrained myself.

The arts center was quite dark.  Dirges by Beethoven played in the background, with the soundtrack of an occasional burst of thunder.  We divided into eight groups and duly climbed up and down three flights while listening to the music and stopping at various sections of the arts center to see various skits depicting Poe stories.

One of the skits featured Poe, who railed about the loss of Virginia (if she was dead!), and asked us to write the names of our deathless loves on a wall.  Virginia Poe was in another section and talked about how she mourned Edgar.

Other sections had skits depicting various Poe stories.  Some of them were pretty obscure.  I’ve never read “The Imp of the Perverse” or “William Wilson”, but they were retold here.  One sketch was about a painter who had to work on a portrait of his girlfriend forever because he could never fully capture her ethereal beauty.  Still another had twins (if they were twins!) where one twin endlessly repeated what the other one was saying.

While we were escorted from one station to another, the escorts talked to us.  “Have you ever had an immortal love, one you would remember for your entire life?” one woman said.  But I remembered we were immersed in the nineteenth century, an age that did not know the meaning of “oversharing” and “too much information.”

Another woman played the part of Rosalie Poe, Edgar Allen Poe’s sister.  “Have you heard of my brother, Edgar?  He’s a writer.”

“Ummm….graphic novels?” I said.

“No, anime,” said someone else in my group.

We were given programs afterward, so I know the production was created by Jennifer Schwed and Doug Bradshaw, and starred Ian Blackwell Rogers as Edgar Allen Poe and Bette Cassatt as Virginia Poe.  Both were acceptable, although Rogers would have been more persuasive if he used half as much eyeliner.

As for “immersive transmedia,” what this really was was a play with LARP-like elements.  I went with a Groupon and got my money’s worth.

What this reminded me of was the World Fantasy Convention in 1980, when we went to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave.  Fritz Leiber recited Poe poems with his excellent voice.  We learned that the founders of Baltimore were Rosicrucians and Masons who liked being buried in mass graves, including a giant pyramid.  We were allowed to look inside these tombs and saw dozens of cobweb-covered skulls falling out of centuries-old coffins.

Now that was creepy.

Pixel Scroll 1/19/16 That Wretched Hive of Scrolls and Pixelry

(1) LE GUIN’S PROTEST. Ursula K. Le Guin’s letter to the editor in The Oregonian concisely explains the injustice of allowing Ammon Bundy and company to continue occupying a federal wildlife refuge.

Federal land: The Oregonian’s A1 headline on Sunday, Jan. 17, “Effort to free federal lands,” is inaccurate and irresponsible. The article that follows it is a mere mouthpiece for the scofflaws illegally occupying public buildings and land, repeating their lies and distortions of history and law.

Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren’t trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can’t go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it. That’s what public land is: land that belongs to the public — me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn’t belong to and who don’t belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens.

Those citizens of Harney County have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife. They’re suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders.

Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn’t The Oregonian talk to the people who live there?

Ursula K. Le Guin

Northwest Portland

Think Progress has a story about the letter with more comments by Le Guin.

Le Guin told ThinkProgress that the letter was printed unchanged, and she “got a pleasant note informing me it was to be published,” but nothing more from the paper or the author. A request for comment to the Oregonian’s public editor went unanswered as of publication.

The science fiction author is not alone in wanting the ranchers to return Malhuer to the public. Most Western voters, according to a recent poll, disagree with Bundy and do not want the states to take over public lands.

“We have been going out to the Steens Mountain area, on and near the Wildlife Refuge, for 45 years — first to teach summer classes at the field station, later just to be there in the grand high desert country,” she said. “We spend a week every summer on a cattle ranch very close to Refuge lands. I am proud to consider the family who own the ranch and the local hotel as friends, and I have learned a great deal from them. The Refuge Headquarters is a quiet, fragile, beautiful little oasis that is particularly dear to us.”

(2) WHAT IF BOOK FESTIVALS PAY WRITERS? Claire Armitstead’s opinion piece in the Guardian argues the burden of paying writers to attend book festivals would have unintended side-effects: “Book festivals are worth far more than fees”.

Philip Pullman became cheerleader for a growing band of refuseniks last week when he resigned as president of the Oxford literary festival because it didn’t pay speakers. Thirty more writers immediately picked up the chant, with a letter to the trade journal the Bookseller calling for all authors and publishers to boycott festivals that expected writers to appear for free.

…Edinburgh is one of the biggest festivals and an honourable exception to the no-pay rule, offering the same flat rate to all its contributors. But it’s not unusual to hear writers grumbling that this is tokenism, and no recompense for the hours (and expense) of travelling. So what is a reasonable return? Should it be calibrated to audience size, or offset against book sales? Or should it be a flat rate – only bigger than it currently is?

There are now more than 350 literary festivals in the UK, which adds up to a whole heap of calls on writers’ time and energy – and one argument is that if they can’t afford to pay contributors they should simply shut down. But small festivals do more than simply put writers on stage; they support local bookshops and create a buzz around books. They circulate flyers publicising authors and their work. They are part of the great reading group boom that has bolstered book sales by turning reading into a social activity.

…So while I have every sympathy for hard-pressed authors, I feel they need to be careful what they wish for. The logic of the marketplace – in book festivals as in every other arena – is that, were fees to become obligatory, the haves will end up having more, while the have-nots will find themselves banished to outer darkness. It would mean the end of a golden era of access to books and the people who write them. And that would be impoverishing for all of us.

(3) OXFORD MAY PAY WRITERS. Philip Pullman and other protesting writers have made the Oxford Literary Festival consider paying authors.

In a statement issued on Tuesday morning, the Oxford literary festival said that it “recognises and understands the strength of feeling in the literary community regarding the payment of speaker fees to authors and writers and we are sympathetic to this cause”.

But, adding that it is a registered charity that receives no public funding, with no full-time staff, supported by a team of 40 unpaid volunteers, the festival said that “for every £12 ticket sold, a further £20 in support has to be raised from our generous sponsors, partners and donors in subsidy”. The festival’s current supporters include FT Weekend and HSBC.

“We have of course been aware of the debate regarding author payments for some time, but given the limitations of the tight budgets we run to (the festival’s last audited accounts show a loss of £18,000 in 2014) paying each speaker would require an additional 15% in costs or £75,000 for the 500 speakers across our 250 events planned for 2016,” said the festival.

Once this year’s event in April is over, organisers have nonetheless said that they “will meet with all interested parties to discuss how to achieve payment of fees for all speakers – while safeguarding the presence of our record levels of unknown writers for 2017 and beyond”.

(4) ONE LORD A’LEAPING. Middle-Earth political science student Austin Gilkeson lectures on “The Illegitimacy of Aragorn’s Claim to the Throne” at The Toast. (Traffic to the post is hyped by the GIF of a flaming Denethor hurling himself from the promontory of Minas Tirith.)

After the War of the Ring and Denethor’s death, Gondor did embrace Aragorn as its new king, partially because he’d arrived at the head of an army of the Dead. But while “commands a terrifying ghost army” is a fantastic qualification for fronting a Norwegian black metal band or a community Halloween parade, it’s less than ideal for ruling a vast and diverse country of the living.

Even worse, Aragorn’s supposed suitability to rule is directly tied to his pure Númenorean blood….

Given that the Númenoreans ruined their civilization to the point that it was personally destroyed by God Himself, the Gondorrim probably shouldn’t have been so quick to crown a long-lived, pure-blooded Númenorean like Aragorn. They’d probably have been better off elevating Pippin Took to the throne. Hobbits at least dally with the good things in life: hearty food, heady ales, fireworks, and weed.

(5) EVERYMAN HIS OWN NUMENOREAN. Stephen Hawking issued another warning that humanity may wipe itself out in years to come.

Cheery physicist Professor Stephen Hawking says that mankind could be wiped out by our own creations within the next 100 years.

Answering audience questions at this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, he said that our rush to understand and improve life through science and technology could be humanity’s undoing.

He has previously suggested that colonising other planets will be the only way that the human race can survive, but he warns that we may lose Earth to some kind of major disaster before we have a chance to properly do so.

“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low,” he explained, “it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years.

(6) SFWA KICKS IN. Science Fiction Writers of America has begun donating to some non-members’ crowdfunded self-publishing efforts.

Beginning in January, SFWA will be making small, targeted pledges to worthy Kickstarter projects projects by non-members, designating them a “SFWA Star Project.” Projects will be selected by the Self Publishing Committee, coordinated by volunteer Rob Balder. Selections will be based on the project’s resonance with SFWA’s exempt purposes, and special preference will be given to book-publishing projects in the appropriate genres.

Funds for these pledges will come from the SFWA Givers Fund, from a $1000 pool approved by the Grants Committee in December. When a pledge results in receiving a donor reward such as a signed book, these items will be auctioned off at fundraising events, to help replenish the Givers Fund.

The first two Star Projects are:

SFWA President Cat Rambo also blogged about the initiative.

Over the past few years, I’ve been helping with the effort to open SFWA doors to professional writers publishing outside the traditional structure, to the point where we are the only writers organization (I believe) to accept crowdfunded publications as membership qualifying material. The Star Project effort ties in nicely with that and it’s gratifying to see SFWA continue to expand to match the changing needs of professional F&SF writers.

(7) BETTER THAN THE FILM. Rachael Acks has a completely entertaining and THOROUGHLY SPOILERY review of SyFy’s theatrical release 400 Days. You’ve been warned. And it’s safe to read the first paragraph, where nothing is given away  –

400 Days is the first theatrical release film from a company (SyFy) that’s been cranking mediocre to howlingly (we hope intentionally) funny terribad movies out onto its cable station for years. Getting in to movie theaters is a big deal, a major investment, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee a movie’s actually good, right? Let me tell you, I’d rather watch a SyFy offering any day than Transformers 4. But is this Syfy going legit, so to speak?

(8) RSR INDEXES ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has now added exhibit and viewing tools for a wide number of creators eligible in the Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist categories. Gregory N. Hullender says, “The value we’ve added here is that we’ve gathered together hundreds of online images and set up a lightbox so people can riffle through them quickly.”

The drawback to the Best Fan Artist exhibit is that it features only semiprozine cover contributors at the site, and a link to eFanzines’ cover index where one can see some artwork in fanzines produced as PDFs. I will be the first to agree there are technical barriers and questions about permissions in the way of indexing art from PDFs (in contrast to semiprozine covers which are already available online) – however, RSR needs to figure out how to present fan art on a level playing field.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 19, 1990 — Natives of a small isolated town defend themselves against strange underground creatures in Tremors, seen for the first time on this day in 1990.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe

(11) CONRUNNERS COULD USE MORE FANS LIKE THIS. Icelandic strongman Hafthor Bjornsson, known for his role as “The Mountain” on HBO’s Game of Thrones set a Guiness World Record for being the fastest person to carry two refrigerators 65 feet.

(12) CLEVELAND THANKS THE FANS. In response to a club’s charitable work, “Cleveland celebrates Star Trek’s roots with thank you to The Federation”.

Cleveland City Councilman Martin Keane will present a resolution of appreciation at 7 p.m. PJ McIntyre’s, on Lorain Avenue in Kamm’s Corners, is hosting a celebration from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

According to the resolution, the 60-member Cleveland chapter, named the USS Challenger — named to honor the crew of the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger — has raised $15,000 for local charities, and has conducted annual drives for food for local food banks; supplies for local animal shelters; Toys for Tots campaigns and supported March for Babies, Heartwalk and Laura’s Home.

Given that the reporter pointed to another Cleveland/Star Trek connection — did you know Majel Barrett was a native of suburban Shaker Heights? — it’s a pity no one told her that Roddenberry previewed the show for fans at the 1966 Worldcon in Cleveland.

(13) LOVECRAFT LETTERS. Heritage Auctions will take bids on a parcel of 10 handwritten letters by H. P. Lovecraft at its Rare Books Auction #6155 on April 6. The letters to aspiring author Frederic Jay Pabody are full of writing and publishing advice.

Lovecraft recounts recent visits with his “literary friends” R.H. Barlow and Adolphe de Castro, the suicide of Robert E. Howard, other “weird” fiction authors, the nature of good marriages and bad marriages, religion (or the lack thereof), Atlantis, some splendid passages about the nature of “seriously artistic” weird fiction, and his repeated inveterate hatred of typewriters.

One highlight from the letters includes a hand drawn map or, as Lovecraft calls it, a “rough Mercator’s Projection chart” of Kusha, a land associated with the myth of Atlantis.

Another letter, displaying Lovecraft’s somewhat morbid sense of humor, describes his short story “The Haunter in the Dark”, in which he kills off a character based on his friend and fellow writer Robert Bloch, as “a kind of revenge.”

In both ‘The Dark Demon’ and ‘The Shambler from the Stars’ Bloch has a figure modelled more or less after me come to a hideous end. Well- I’ve survived other fictional deaths – Long having left me as a charred cinder on the floor of my apartment over a decade ago in “The Space-Eaters.” In a recent unpublished mss. Kuttner kills off Bloch, himself, + myself under thin disguises… slaughter de-luxe! I am decapitated – but my head is later found with its teeth buried in his carotid artery. Nice, wholesome ideas the boys have!” (December 20, 1936).

(14) BUGS. Kudos to Black Gate’s John ONeill for turning today’s entomological headline into a beautiful genre blog post – “I Don’t Mean to Alarm Anyone, But We’ve Discovered Giant Insects on Monster Island”.

(15) PEOPLE OF EARTH. TBS has given a series order to People of Earth, a comedy starring Daily Show alum Wyatt Cenac as a skeptical journalist investigating a support group for alleged alien abductees.

In the series, from Conan O’Brien and Greg Daniels (The Office) and formerly known as The Group, Cenac’s Ozzie Graham slowly becomes sympathetic to the survivors’ stories and eventually comes to suspect that maybe he is an abductee, as well.

The cast includes Ana Gasteyer (Suburgatory), Oscar Nuñez (The Office), Michael Cassidy (Men at Work), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Selfie), Brian Huskey (Veep) and Tracee Chimo (Orange Is the New Black).

 

[Thanks to Will R., Brian Z, Cat Rambo, Jim Reynolds, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10 A Filer on the Deep

(1) The Art of The Lord of the Rings by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull was released in the UK on October 8. The American edition, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, will be out on October 13.

art-of-lord-of-the-rings-trial-binding

Wayne and Christina say “The final product still has 240 pages, as we reported earlier, with 192 numbered figures (including 10 details), around 100 of which were not previously published. In the last stages of production, we located further small instances of art in the Lord of the Rings papers at Marquette and had to revise how the pictures were presented.”

Ethan Gilsdorf has an early review of the book on Wired.com — “See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used To Build Middle-Earth”.

The many maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words. For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined.

In the book The Art of The Lord of the Rings, we see how, and why….

Tolkien didn’t seem to care what he drew or painted on. His sketch of “Helm’s Deep and the Hornburg,” the fortress enclave of the Rohirrim people, is executed on a half-used page of an Oxford examination booklet. Drawn in perspective, the tableau nicely captures Tolkien’s final description of the castle from The Two Towers: “At Helm’s Gate, before the mouth of the Deep, there was a heel of rock thrust outward by the northern cliff. There upon its spur stood high walls of ancient stone, and within them was a lofty tower. … A wall, too, the men of old had made from the Hornburg to the southern cliff, barring the entrance to the gorge…” One can imagine Tolkien pausing in the middle of grading a student’s paper, pondering how the castle wall and mountain valley might have appeared from a distance, both in his mind’s eye and the eyes of his characters.

(2) Cinemablend has a piece about “How Star Trek’s Walter Koenig Found Out He Got the Job” based on an interview he gave to the Whine at 9 podcast. Said Koenig —

They told me it was a very serious character and that I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the role. All the while they had me dressed up in any number of different colored wigs… The most important thing was, after I finished reading this with all this great intensity, they asked me to make it funny and I had to totally reverse on the character, which in no way was part of what was written. It worked, they all laughed and as a consequence I became immediately one of the two people in the running for the role… Finally, the costumer came by, didn’t introduce himself, just asked me to follow him. I went to wardrobe and he dropped to his knees in front of me, put his hand on my crotch. I said, ‘What are you doing, please?’ He said, ‘Well, I have to measure you for a costume, don’t I?’ And that’s how I found out that I became a member of Star Trek.

 

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

(3) Walter Koenig’s own website features all kinds of funny confessions in his Tales From The Lunch Counter.

I phoned Mario at “Two Guys From Italy”.and ordered a turkey sausage pizza. Mario called me “Mr. Star Trek” . My order wasn’t ready when I arrived. In fact, they couldn’t find my name. Then they told me that they didn’t carry turkey sausage. I was getting upset. I asked to speak to Mario. “Mario died ten months ago” I was told. There was a movie called “Gaslight” where the husband tried to drive his wife insane. “God Damn it,” I said, let me talk to Mario!” “God, damn it”, came the reply “Mario is dead and we don’t have turkey sausage!” “Do you know who I am?!”, I shouted. “Some whacko short guy!” came the rejoiner. I grabbed the menu determined to find the turkey sausage. Before I could thumb the pages I saw the name of the restaurant on the cover “Little Tony’s” it said in bold script. I had phoned in my order at one place and had gone to another to pick it up. What an idiot! A waiter came by. “Hey, aren’t you the guy from that Star Trek show?” Not me”, I said lunging for the door.

(4) It’s not explicitly said, but I think Rachel Swirsky may have in mind Ruth A. Johnston’s comments on Superversive SF:

(5) All of the videos Kjell Lindgren recorded for Sasquan are now on the Worldcon website — http://sasquan.org/2015/10/kjell-lindgren-videos/

Unfortunately, when I tried one, it buffered so slowly I abandoned the attempt.

(6) I hope John Scalzi shares a bit more about the con that led to these acrobatics —

(7) I was unable to figure out what anyone is supposed to learn by looking at Christophe Cariou’s Hugo statistics graphs.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

October 10, 1924 — Director Ed Wood, Jr. is born in Poughkeepsie, NY.

(9) FUD or a real concern. YOU decide!

There are claims that Gravatar is a privacy risk.

Your email generates a unique Gravatar hash, and allegedly you can be identified by the email you registered with across multiple websites that have Gravatar enabled, even though only the hash, not the email, is displayed.

Thus, people allegedly can learn the hash ID of someone’s email and find out what the person has been saying anonymously on the internet when they register with that address on Gravatar enabled sites.

Plus there is a handy site where you can “check if someone used the email you think they did in a blog comment.” — http://lea.verou.me/demos/gravatar.php

Gravatar says there is provision made for profile privacy.

(10) “You Can Now Download Stephen Hawking’s Voice Software for Free”

The software that Stephen Hawking uses to speak via a synthesized voice on his computer has been released freely on the internet. Its creators, Intel, hope that it can now be used in research to create interfaces that similar sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can use.

The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) system has been released on Github, complete with a user guide. It allows researchers to develop communication systems where minimal input is needed. Hawking’s system, for example, relies solely on him moving a muscle in his cheek to type and use his computer. Hawking’s latest system was installed last year, which doubled his typing rate and improved his use of other computer functions by ten times.

(11) The Maryland Historical Society will revive the tradition of the “Poe Toaster”.

The Toaster appeared by Poe’s gravesite every year until 2009. Some speculate that in more recent years the original Toaster’s son took over; others think there have been several Toasters.

Since the last sighting, there had been hope that the Toaster would return, but the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum finally declared that the tradition was no more in 2011.

“We’ve been without one of our interesting characters for four years now, so we thought it would be fun to put a new twist on it and reinvent the tradition,” Caljean said.

The Maryland Historical Society is encouraging artists to submit proposals via email to describe how they would perform the toast. Submissions are due by Oct. 23, and a handful of finalists will be announced on Halloween.

(12) Elsewhere in Maryland today….

(13) Number one on Jalopnik’s list of “The Ten Strangest Space Weapons Ever Developed” is the USAF’s 1956 proposal for a home-grown UFO:

The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle was another U.S. government “black budget” item that never had its time to shine. It was a flying saucer-like spacecraft with the power to start a nuclear World War III. Supposedly, the LRV would be carried atop an Apollo rocket 300 miles into space, then deployed on a six-week voyage of hell-raising doom, armed with four nuclear missiles.

After completing its mission, the LRV would rocket back down to Earth, deploy a multi-stage parachute and touch down on a strategically determined lakebed.

(14) Cartoon Brew has posted a six-minute short, “Giant Robots From Outer Space”–a 2014 graduation film made at Supinfocom Valenciennes by Elsa Lamy, François Guéry, Aurélien Fernandez, Valentin Watrigant, and Louis Ventre.

“In the 1950s, earth is invaded by a mechanical menace. Love emerges between a man, a woman, and a giant robot from outer space. A tribute to classic science fiction and ’50s cinema.”

James H. Burns warns, “There seems to be an odd misogynistic tone, and some other strange stuff, perhaps, but otherwise (!), there is some spectacular stuff here!”

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Will R., Mark, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 10/7 The Sprite Stuff

(1) “The Phantom Fame: ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast,’ Secretly TV’s Most Influential Show”. Shea Serrano explains his theory on Grantland.

Repurposing existing Space Ghost images from the original cartoons, Lazzo created the first animated late-night talk show in 1994. Operated in tandem with Keith Crofford, a fellow Southerner with whom Lazzo shared an office as well as seemingly a brain, the show boasted a premise that was somehow both simple and endlessly, mutably ridiculous. Now retired from the business of fighting intergalactic evil, Space Ghost (real name: Tad Ghostal) and a support staff consisting of his imprisoned enemies Zorak (anthropomorphic mantis/bandleader) and Moltar (gravel-voiced lava man/director) flies face-first into show business, interviewing pop-culture luminaries through a monitor screen lowered into the chair where a guest would normally sit. Interviews with the celebrities involved were filmed separately, in largely improvisational fashion, then combined with the cartoon characters’ dialogue — often producing results diametrically opposed to the context of the original questions.

(2) Christopher Martin says “Everybody’s Invited To My All-Male, All-White Literary Panel” on McSweeneys Internet Tendency.

Dear Writers,

Congratulations on having a short story accepted for publication in the anthology Rusted, Lusted, Busted: Contemporary Southern Fiction, edited by myself and my good buddy Richard Head!

Richard and I, both of us straight cisgender nominally Christian white males, have put a shit-ton of work into this anthology, mostly over beers and hot wings at the local Tilted Kilt while our wives assumed 100% of the burden of watching our kids. Now this baby we’ve labored over is out and it’s time to party!

That’s why we’re hosting an all-male, all-white panel tomorrow at Lily White Books in Mansfield, SC, to celebrate the anthology’s release and your contributions to it. We’d love it if some of you could come be part of the panel!

Given the twelve-hour notice, however, along with our inability to compensate you in any way, and our unwillingness to compensate you even if we could, I completely understand that most of you — including all our woefully underrepresented contributors who do not identify as heterosexual white men — will not be able to participate in this seminal event, except perhaps as late-arriving, paying audience members ($5 at the door).

(3) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld, curated by Paul Weimer, taps the contributors’ autobiographies.

For each one of us, there is a book, or a series, that hooked us on genre fiction. Maybe it was the first SF book you read, maybe you had to read a couple before you hit the one that hooked you.

Tell me what book got you to become a fan of SFF, and why?

Answering the question are Gail Carriger, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Yoon Ha Lee, Rachel Swirsky, Beth Cato, Tehani Wessely, Alan Baxter, Sarah Hendrix, Olivia Waite, Anthony R. Cardno, Ann VanderMeer, Sarah Williams, Pamela Sargent, Jaye Wells, Mike Glyer, Sabrina Vourvoulias, , Kerry Schafer, Jim Henley, Melanie R. Meadors, M L Brennan, Meghan B., and Jon Courtenay Grimwood.

(4) The author explains it all to you in “The Big Idea: Ann Leckie” on Whatever.

So instead of going over the AJ stuff again–what is a person? Who is anybody anyway?–I instead give you the Ancillary FAQ. These are all questions I’ve actually gotten (or oveheard) at one time or another.

Q: How can you possibly wrap the story up in one more volume? There’s too much going on; I don’t see how you could manage it.

A: The easiest way for me to answer that is to actually do it. Which I have, and you can see the answer for yourself wherever fine books are sold. Or at a library near you. I love libraries. They’re awesome.

Q: Will there be more books after this one?

A: There will be more books, and certainly more books in this universe, but not books about Breq. Nothing against her, I’ve had a lovely time these past three books, but it will be nice to do something different.

(5) Brian Fung’s article for the Washington Post, “’The Martian,’ NASA and the rise of a science-entertainment complex”, looks at the extensive cooperation between NASA and the producers of The Martian, and notes that NASA hopes to get more out of this film than other projects with which it has extensively cooperated (like the Transformers movies).

When Navy flyboy Tom Cruise got too close for missiles and switched to guns in the spring of 1986, what seemed like an entire nation got up to follow him. Military recruitment booths popped up in theaters, eager to attract young Americans who’d just seen Maverick tell Charlie about the inverted dive he’d done at four Gs against a MiG-28.

To say “Top Gun” was a boon for recruitment would be an understatement. That year, the Navy signed up 16,000 more people than it did the entire year before, according to the author Richard Parker, writing for Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute’s monthly magazine. Other estimates suggest that among naval aviators alone, this spike in registrations amounted to growth rates of 500 percent….

With “The Martian,” NASA has the same opportunity defense officials had in the 1980s, only now with additional social media superpowers. By highlighting everything from the real-world technologies depicted in “The Martian” to explaining the science behind Martian dust storms to calling on young women to take after the fictional Ares III mission commander, Melissa Lewis, NASA’s hoping to turn moviegoers into the nation’s next generation of scientists, technologists and the other all-around bad-ass eggheads celebrated in the film. In the run-up to the movie’s release, NASA even made a major announcement about the discovery of liquid water on Mars that some believed was simply too conveniently timed to be a coincidence.

(6) The Motherboard’s Jason Koebler eschews any idea of a jolly NASA/media alliance from the very first words in his post “NASA Wants Astronauts to Use Mars’s Natural Resources to Survive”.

Humans have thoroughly wrecked Earth’s environment, now it’s time to move on to using the natural resources of another planet.

Fresh off the discovery of flowing, liquid water on Mars, NASA said Wednesday it wants ideas for how to best exploit the natural resources of the Red Planet for human survival…. NASA plans on giving away modest $10,000 and $2,500 prizes to people who can come up with potentially viable ideas for Mars resource use.

(7) Todd VanDerWerff asked the editors of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 to name “10 of the best science fiction and fantasy short stories ever” for Vox.

Because some of the most exciting American writing is happening in the fields of science fiction and fantasy right now, I hopped on the phone with the book’s two editors, Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams, to hear their picks for the 10 best science fiction and fantasy stories ever written.

They included stories from Malamud, Tiptree, LeGuin, Keyes, Harlan Ellison, Link, Bradbury, Borges, and others.

(8) Today In History –

  • October 7, 1849 – Edgar Allan Poe succumbs to a mysterious condition, days after having been found delirious in the streets of Baltimore. Tragically, only seven people attended his funeral. Quoth the Raven: Nevermore.
  • October 7, 1960 — CBS broadcasts the premiere episode of “Route 66.”  Why do we care? Because Episode #79, “A Gift for a Warrior” was based on a story by Harlan Ellison.

(9) “Superman’s Getting a Brand New Secret Identity” and io9 has the name. Spolier warning!

Spoilers ahead for today’s Action Comics #45!

Now that Superman (and Clark) are taking the heat for Lois’ story leaking his alter-ego, Kal-El has had to go into hiding and lay low. Fired from the Daily Planet when his co-workers discover they’d been in grave danger simply by being in Clark’s vicinity all the time, and facing persecution from the Government, Superman has vanished… and replaced himself with a mild-mannered trucker.

Yes, Clark Kent is now Archie Clayton! It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

(10) The Today show reunited the Rocky Horror cast for an interview, including Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf.

(11) Unlike many other original Ghostbusters cast members, Rick Moranis turned down the offer to appear in the reboot.

When the new all-female Ghostbusters reboot arrives in theaters next summer, nearly all the living actors from the original 1980s films — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, et al. — will be doing cameos. But not Rick Moranis, who was offered the chance to appear in a walk-on role but turned it down. “I wish them well,” says the 62-year-old comedic legend, who’s so stunned by the outcry over his absence in the film that he decided to grant a rare interview with THR. “I hope it’s terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”

(12) In a follow-up to his “Fisking the New York Times’ Modern Man”, Larry Correia’s “Update! Modern Manhood ACHIEVED!” shares photos of his important new acquisition —

Yes! That is a melon baller! Despite my never buying shoes for her, my wife purchased this for me when she saw it in a store. Because Modern Manhood ACHIEVED!

Now all I need is some Kenneth Cole oxfords and a crying pillow, and I’m set.

(13) Coin World discusses a silver coin commemorating exploration of the space-time continuum.

2015-Cooks-Island-Space-Time-Continuum

A four-dimensional concept is now presented in a three-dimensional format.

A 2015 $2 coin in the name of Cook Islands visibly explains the relationship between space and time, as created by scientist Hermann Minkowski. Building on Albert Einstein’s 1905 Special Theory of Relativity, Minkowski suspected the existence of a fourth dimension (time, in addition to height, width and length), in which space and time are connected geometrically, and he created a diagram illustrating the connection.

The Prooflike half-ounce .999 fine silver $2 Space–Time Continuum coin was issued by Coin Invest Trust. It was struck by B. H. Mayer‘s Kunstprägeanstalt Mint in Munich, Germany.

The reverse of the coin depicts the Minkowski diagram, a geometric illustration of the formula of special relativity, which is engraved in one of the diagram’s columns together with the inscription SPACE–TIME CONTINUUM. The center of the high-relief coin is marked with a magnetic sphere, which can be removed.

The obverse, whose shape is a mirror or inversion of the reverse, displays the Ian Rank-Broadley portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the issuing nation and the face value.

Einstein incorporated Minkowski’s ideas into his general theory of relativity in 1915, six years after Minkowski died.

(14) A black eye for Myke Cole?

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]