Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/17 In The Country Of The Pixelated, The First-Fifth Man Is God(stalk)

(1) GAME OF THRONES AND WORLDCON 75 MAKE NEWS. George R.R. Martin mentioned in his blog the other day (“Tick, Tick, Tick”) that Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are coming to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Chair Jukka Halme confirmed it and the story made it into Finland’s biggest newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat). You can get all the details there…if you read Finnish: “Game of Thrones -sarjan tekijät tulevat vierailulle Suomeen elokuuss”.

(2) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. The July 2 New York Times Magazine has an article by Steven Johnson called “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)” about the search for extraterrestrial life and the debate about whether we should wait for aliens to contact us (the “SETI” approach) or actively send messages to outer space (a method known as “METI”).  Johnson interviews David Brin, who is fiercely opposed to actively broadcasting messages of our existence to other worlds:

Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organization in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. ‘‘Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,’’ the statement argued, ‘‘raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.’’

One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. ‘‘I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,’’ he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. ‘‘If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?’’

(3) KAISER. JoAnn Kaiser reopened The Magic Door within a week of the death of her husband, Dwain, reports David Allen in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin “Pomona bookstore’s reopening binds community after owner’s death”.

But Saturday she was revived, buoyed by her family and friends. A 12th anniversary sale that had been set to end July 5 instead continues, with all merchandise 30 percent off. The sale pricing may continue indefinitely.

Her goal is not to keep the store long-term. For one thing, she’s 82. But she wasn’t going to let the tragedy mark the end of Magic Door.

“I could have locked the door. I’m not a door-locker,” JoAnn Kaiser told me firmly. “The plan is to get the books he loved to the people who want them, who need them. He didn’t want his books dumped. He wanted them to go to somebody.”

…The bookstore fit the Arts Colony like a glove. “It was just part of the ambience of downtown Pomona,” customer Bill Martinez told me outside after buying two books. (I recognized “The Best of S.J. Perelman” as one I had sold Dwain Kaiser a few weeks ago.)

“Everybody knew them,” Martinez said of the Kaisers. “They were part of the community, and one of the best parts.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval has visited to offer his condolences and at Monday’s City Council meeting asked for a moment of silence in Dwain Kaiser’s memory.

…Not every customer knew of Dwain Kaiser’s death. Monica Berrocal was saddened when I told her. She liked to bring her children there. Once JoAnn Kaiser gave her son a Thomas the Tank Engine book. “They were always so kind,” she said.

Hino, a Pomona High graduate, greeted customers warmly from Dwain Kaiser’s usual seat and thanked them for coming. A hospital executive, he confided that this was his first retail job. He’ll be there helping out as he can, as will his sister, Kim.

“It’s very different from what I normally do,” Hino told me cheerfully. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice. And it’s good being back in Pomona.”

…“Pomona’s resilient. I think tonight shows the best of Pomona,” JoAnn Kaiser said.

The store has a lot of books, and there are more in storage that Dwain Kaiser, due to age and mobility issues, had not seen in years. JoAnn Kaiser, with help, hopes to dig them all out, put them on the shelves and get them homes before shutting the doors for good.

“He had a mad love affair with books,” she said of her husband of 32 years.

“The support will fade. I know that. But I’m doing what he would have wanted.”

(4) BEAU GESTE. Deadpool gracefully yielded his place on the box office record lists to Wonder Woman:

(5) FOLLOW THE MONEY. What does John Scalzi have in common with Milo Yiannapoulos? Probably not much, except this one thing – Bookscan doesn’t count all their sales. Scalzi explains in “How to Screw Up a Triumphant Bestselling Debut”.

Here’s the deal: Yiannopoulos has asserted his book’s opening week sales were on the order of 100,000 copies. Contrasting this, Nielsen Bookscan, the service which tracks physical book sales via many (but not all) booksellers, including Amazon, has his first week sales as 18,268 in the US (and — heh — 152 in the UK). As most of us probably know, 18,000 is less than 100,000.

Or is it? Because here’s the thing about Bookscan — it doesn’t in fact track all sales of a book. It doesn’t track eBook sales, for example, nor does it track audiobook sales. Nor does it track sales from some small independent booksellers, who might have not signed up to be Bookscan-reporting retailers. As a result, depending on how much you sell in other formats, and where you sell your books, Bookscan can massively underreport your total sales.

I know this because that’s what Bookscan does with me. A couple of years ago I tracked the sales of the hardcover era of Lock In (which is to say, all the sales reported while the physical book was only available in hardcover). For the time it was in hardcover, Bookscan reported 11,175 hardcover sales in the US. However, overall the book sold about 22,500 copies in hardcover and about 87,500 copies across all formats (hardcover, ebook, audio).

In all, Bookscan recorded roughly 12.7% of my total sales. Which is not a lot! If Yiannopoulos were seeing a similar sort of ratio, based on his physical copy sales, he could indeed have sold something on the order of 100,000 copies of his book in the first week. He might not be lying.

With all that said, on further examination, this is why I very strongly suspect that Yiannopoulos has not, in fact, sold, 100,000 copies of his book in the first week…

(6) WE GET LETTERS. CBR.com tells you about “15 Times Fans Changed Comic Book History”.

15. INVISIBLE WOMAN’S POWERS

Other comics had certainly had an element of fan interaction in them before Marvel Comics, but Stan Lee took things to a whole other level when he began the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the early 1960s. Lee made fan interaction a key element of the success of Marvel. In Fantastic Four #11, Lee and Jack Kirby even worked in actual letters to the series into the comic book, having the characters respond to frequently asked questions.

Infamously, though, that issue also included their attempts to defend the Invisible Girl from all the hate mail she got for being seemingly useless (their “defense” was hilariously conceived – “She inspires them! Like Lincoln’s mother!” but still). They got enough of those complaints that they decided to give her invisible force fields in Fantastic Four #22, eventually leading to her becoming the most powerful member of the team!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 14, 1999 Muppets From Space screened theatrically

(8) A KEY TO WRITING. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles gives tips: “On Character Development”.

An understanding of character development techniques can bring many benefits to your writing and help improve your work, so let’s start by establishing what it is. In essence character development is the change in nature of a character brought about by events in the narrative, it can be subtle or pronounced, and it may happen over a long period or reasonably quickly. The difficult part is actually showing it on the page, and just as importantly, showing it’s justified. For a character to change their whole nature for no apparent cause or just because the plot requires it is sloppy writing and obvious to the reader. While the methods and timeframe may very per character, a well-constructed piece of character development will follow a set formula.

Establishment

In order to show change an author must first establish an original nature to change from. When the author introduces the character they must detail their personality, opinions and mannerisms in order to make us view them as a believable and realistic person, particular focus should be given to any traits that might be relevant to later development.

For example, if you’re planning to have a cowardly character show a moment of bravery and save the day at the end of the novel, then you need at least a couple of scenes showing his cowardice in action. It could be crumbling in an argument with a shopkeeper, avoiding a hostile boss, or literally running away from a fight. Before the development even begins the author must cement a character’s nature quickly in the reader’s mind, this can be done with a variety of traditional characterisation methods and tricks and ideally is accomplished as quickly as possible. Without this establishment there is no baseline to measure development against and the change will lack meaning. Think about our introduction to Daenerys in A Game of Thrones as she is appraised and abused by her brother:

“You don’t want to wake the dragon do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.

Without seeing the timid girl she was at the start of the story her later accomplishments and changes would be far less moving for the reader, but after Martin has shown us some early scenes of her life the reader gains a greater perspective to realise how pronounced her development is through several books.

(9) ECLIPSE VIEWING AND ECLIPSE CON. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is reputed to be the “point of greatest eclipse” for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Just call them Eclipseville.

We’re already planning for your visit; our southern hospitality will make you and your group welcome, and your Solar Eclipse experience memorable.  So, whether you are a bona fide eclipse chaser, or just looking for the best place to experience Mother Nature’s rare eclipse show, we invite you to be with us in Hoptown.  Our community’s big enough to provide everything you’ll need and want for the 2017 Eclipse weekend experience… we’re planning a big Friday-Sunday Eclipse celebration before the sun disappears – for two minutes and forty seconds – at 1:24:41 pm CT on Monday, August 21, 2017.

And that’s where you’ll find Eclipse Con “raising awareness and funds for the Boys & Girls Club” with nationally recognized celebrities and vendors in the genres of cartoons, comics, anime, cosplay, sci-fi and superheroes

August 19-20, 2017

James E. Bruce Convention Center

Currently Confirmed Guests:

  • Samantha Newark, best known for her beloved voice-over work as the speaking voices of “Jem” and “Jerrica” on the wildly popular cartoon series Jem and the Holograms;
  • The Walking Dead’s Santiago Cirilo, who was also a member of the 101st Airborne Infantry and was stationed at Fort Campbell prior to his acting career;
  • and the award winning creator of sci-pulp series, VIC BOONE, Shawn Aldridge.

(10) IT’S DARK OUT. Mental Floss explains “How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map”.

Today, James McClean is an eclipse chaser. That’s not the name of some cute weekend hobby. It’s a lifestyle. For the past two decades, McClean, a professional photographer, has given up everything resembling a normal life. He has no permanent home base, opting instead to trot the globe, work odd jobs, and live on tight budgets to see solar eclipses.

Every. Single. One.

McClean has made a living as a cartographer and an aurora borealis tour guide. He’s lived on an island near Sitka, Alaska and taught photography. (When he needed Internet, he’d kayak an hour and a half to the nearest library.) He’s spent summers in Germany doing archaeology and winters in Sweden constructing, and living in, a hotel made of ice. He’s slept in bamboo huts on top of volcanic islands, backpacked through Egypt, and trudged the snows of Svalbard, Norway. One time, in Indonesia, he was invited to sip coffee in a sultan’s palace.

(11) BERNECKER OBIT. The Walking Dead suffered another loss today when stuntman John Bernecker,  seriously injured in a stunt (he reportedly missed the landing mattress while doing a 20-ft. fall), was declared brain-dead. There are many tweets with condolences from industry professionals included in the linked article.

(12) OUT, OUT DARNED SPOT. Nautilus interviews UC Berkeley’s Philip Marcus, a computational physicist and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, about “Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Refuses to Die”. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work been done on this.

Why did it start on Jupiter and not somewhere else?

Here on Earth, if you fly over the ocean, you can almost certainly tell when there’s an island below you because there’s a cloud hanging on top—topographic features often pin clouds to themselves. But there’s no solid surface on Jupiter until you get down to a very small core. It’s basically a ball of fluid. You don’t have differential heating between continents and oceans. You don’t have winds interrupted by mountain ranges. You don’t have all that messy stuff, so it’s got a really well organized set of jet streams on it. Once you’ve got jet streams, vortices just form naturally. You’ve got winds going in opposite directions, shearing against one another. Think of a ball bearing between two oppositely moving walls. The walls make the ball bearing spin, and the oppositely moving jet streams on Jupiter make the air between them spin. Vortices between jet streams are resistant to anything smashing into them. If I create a vortex in a bathtub and I smash it, the vortex is generally gone. If I do a simulation of a big Red Spot on Jupiter sitting between zonal winds and I smack it, try and break it in two, it’ll come back together. So I think of jet streams as gardens in which you want to grow vortices.

(13) DO PANIC. Two Travelers from Galactic Journey praise a low-budget Roger Corman production. You know, somebody should make Roger a Worldcon guest of honor someday — “[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)”.

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

(14) FORK YOU. The January 30 New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Movie with a Thousand Plotlines”, is about efforts in Hollywood to create films that have alternate endings that viewers can choose among. The article focuses on efforts by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Swiss Army Man, to come up with films that fit this template.  The sf news is that both War Games and The Twilight Zone have had rights sold for interactive television series that are under development.

Treehouse is an intuitive program for a nonintuitive, nonlinear form of storytelling, and Bloch is adept at demonstrating it. In his office, he called up a series of video clips featuring the model Dree Hemingway sitting at a table. Below the clips, in a digital workspace resembling graph paper, he built a flowchart to map the forking narrative—how her story might divide into strands that branch outward, or loop backward, or converge. At first, the flowchart looked like a “Y” turned on its side: a story with just one node. “When you start, it is always ‘To be, or not to be,’ ” he said. The choice here was whether Hemingway would serve herself coffee or tea. Bloch dragged and dropped video clips into the flowchart, then placed buttons for tea and coffee into the frame, and set the amount of time the system would allow viewers to decide. In less than a minute, he was previewing a tiny film: over a soundtrack of music fit for a Philippe Starck lobby, Hemingway smiled and poured the beverage Bloch had selected. He then returned to the graph paper and added a blizzard of hypothetical options: “You can decide that here it will branch again, here it goes into a loop until it knows what to do, and here it becomes a switching node where five things can happen at the same time—and so on.”

As Bloch was getting his company off the ground, a small race was under way among like-minded startups looking for financial backing. In Switzerland, a company called CtrlMovie had developed technology similar to Interlude’s, and was seeking money for a feature-length thriller….

The article also discusses Mr. Payback, a 1995 interactive film about a cyborg – script by Bob Gale! – that was panned by Roger Ebert.

Early experiments in interactive film were likewise marred by shtick. In 1995, a company called Interfilm collaborated with Sony to produce “Mr. Payback,” based on a script by Bob Gale, who had worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In the movie, a cyborg meted out punishment to baddies while the audience, voting with handheld controllers, chose the act of revenge. The film was released in forty-four theatres. Critics hated it. “The basic problem I had with the choices on the screen with ‘Mr. Payback’ is that they didn’t have one called ‘None of the above,’ ” Roger Ebert said, declaring the movie the worst of the year. “We don’t want to interact with a movie. We want it to act on us. That’s why we go, so we can lose ourselves in the experience.”

(16) IN MOLT. Joe Sherry has reached the artist categories on his Hugo ballot: “Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist” at Nerds of a Feather. Too bad it includes a slam against Steve Stiles, one of the greatest fan artists of all time.

(17) PINCH HITTER. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin discovered something at the movies: “Star Trek IV Now Exists in the Same Universe As All Marvel Films Thanks to a Special Cameo”.

When nerds make movies, beautiful things can happen. In this case, the fact that MCU producer Kevin Feige happens to be a big fan of Star Trek IV led to a cameo that now places a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I won’t spoiler her spoiler – you’ll have to click through.

(18) UNEXPECTED CASTING. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will voice Harley Quinn in the upcoming Bruce Timm animated film Batman And Harley.

CinemaBlend is all in favor:

As far as casting decisions go, Melissa Rauch is a fairly pitch perfect choice for the role of Harley Quinn. Not only does she have a high-pitched voice that’s very reminiscent of Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong; she also has developed a reputation as an actress through her work in a show predicated on the passion and intensity of geek culture. Something tells us that all of those years on The Big Bang Theory have given her an understanding of how fans will respond to her performance, thus ensuring that she will deliver the best possible Harley Quinn.

 

(19) POETRY CORNER. Johnstick joined the throngs who have been raining limericks in the File 770 comments section.

As prophets of eld have foretold,
and pixels of all hues have scrolled,
Death takes the clever
and redshirts forever,
plus all those whose glister’s not gold!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Terhi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/17 No File For You Till You Scroll All Your Pixels

(1) THANKED AND EXCUSED. Mattie Brahan, in a non-public post, said her husband, Darrell Schweitzer, was told he won’t be needed as a Readercon 28 program participant –a piece of news Barry Longyear exaggerated in his public post as “banning”.

Readercon has been banning (“disinviting”) former guests from being guests, Darrell Schweitzer being the most recent about whom I’ve heard. I originally thought it was for political reasons (I was part of the Northern Maine Rebellion), but apparently the reason was age, experience, having been around for too long. It’s sort of like having an AA meeting and forbidding the attendance of anyone who has more than one year of sobriety….

Is it really because Schweitzer is too old? There are any number of men and women listed as part of the forthcoming Readercon program who are not young.

(2) THE FOREVER QUEUE. Io9 reports yesterday at Disneyland “Lines Snaked Through Entire Park for Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Ride Debut”.

Looks like the hype was real. Disney’s ride for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! opened at Disney’s California Adventure on Saturday… and the effects could literally be felt everywhere in the park.

The Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom also opened in Florida over the weekend. It took fans about two hours just to get into the Pandora park, and ride lines were averaging about three to four hours for rides. Hell, some people reporting three-hour lines to get into the damn gift shops. Insane amount of standing and slowly walking aside, fans seemed happy with both Mission: Breakout! and Pandora.

(3) OPEN CASTING. Yes, this needs to happen. Emily Asher-Perrin and Leah Schnelbach team up to answer “Who Could Play This Merry Fellow? Dreamcasting Tom Bombadil” at Tor.com.

Emily pointed out that there should have been a DVD extra of Bombadil material, and then, naturally, that led to a dreamcasting of Bombadil. We gave ourselves a few restrictions–these had to be people who would have fit the role in 1999-ish, when they would have been hired for The Fellowship of the Ring, and all of the actors have been cast on the assumption that supermodel Claudia Schiffer is playing Goldberry…

(4) NEGATORY, GOOD BUDDY. As for my own attempt to cast the next Doctor Who — “Would Hayley Atwell Take The Role Of Doctor Who? Here’s What She Says”.

Hayley Atwell is frequent on fan’s most wanted lists, and while Atwell would likely kill it in the role, what does she actually think of all this? She wants that particular role to go to someone else.

I don’t want to play it. No. It’s just not my thing, but I really respect it. I’m a big fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, though. She plays the lead in Fleabag. There were talks of her being the next Doctor, and she’s so funny and eccentric and unique; she’d be great. I can’t really see anyone other than her playing it.

Appearing at Heroes and Villains Fanfest in London (via Geekfeed), Hayley Atwell made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to be the next Doctor.

(5) WHAT YOU MISSED. Chaz Boston Baden reports on his party at this weekend’s BayCon:

“A Bear’s Picnic” closed at 3:30 am, when the last four people left. As far as I know, no noise complaints were received about out party, even when Diane Osborne started singing about her rooster being dead….

Curious as to what song that might be I Googled “lyrics dead rooster” –you’d be surprised how many songs feature them.

(6) BODY WORK. Camestros Felapton went to the movies. He has posted the autopsy —“Review: Alien Covenant”.

…Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus are both variations on the theme of the original Alien. The same elements have to appear (some of which are shared with Aliens films), the horseshoe ship and the undiscovered planet and the body horror. The tone is serious and visuals are striking.

Covenant’s cast is sufficiently good and the dialogue strong enough that while the characterisation is not deep there is at least a sense of these people having some depth of character –it’s just that we don’t get to see it before they variously die horribly. Looking back at the original film, I suppose the same could have been said of it –even Ripley….

(7) FAN FILM. The Verge says “This Harry Potter prequel fan film looks even better than Fantastic Beasts” –and they’re right, it’s pretty slick.

The story follows a witch named Grisha Mac Laggen (heir to Griffindor and original character to this film), who suspects trouble when Hepzibah Smith, a descendant of the Hufflepuff family, was found murdered. The case goes cold, but Laggen suspects that there’s some sort of dark magic at play, and she believes that former Hogwarts student and future dark wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle is involved somehow. Visually, the teaser looks stunning, with visual effects and production design that feel like they fit alongside that of the official Harry Potter films.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

(9) A BIT OF FAME. Contributor Francis Hamit’s letter to the editors of TIME Magazine got a mention:

May 25, 2017

HACKING U.S. DEMOCRACY

Massimo Calabresi’s May 29 story about Russia’s use of social media to influence Americans was a reminder to be “wary of the source of that liked/upvoted social post,” wrote Sanjeev Verma of Sunnyvale, Calif. However, as Francis Hamit of Sherman Oaks, Calif., pointed out, foreign attempts to sway American politics aren’t necessarily new. “It’s just that we are finally paying attention,” he noted.

Hamit adds, “What TIME used was the tag line of a longer letter about Soviet €˜active measures’ during the Vietnam War.”

(10) SHAZAM. Adweek tells about a recent public service campaign: “Shazam Suddenly Started Forgetting Song Titles to Highlight a Little-Known Fact About Alzheimer’s”.

We’re naturally inclined to attribute human characteristics to the apps that continuously follow us around, which is part of why Siri is so amusing and Alexa so charmingly useful. But for Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam–the ability to forget…

 

The purpose of the campaign was to tell young people that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just concern seniors; it can affect people as young as 40 years old. Over 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the U.K. alone.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

(11) HUGO SHORTS. Camestros Felapton continues sharing his ballot, and the reasons therefore: “Hugo 2017: Short Story”.

  1. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.

(12) HUGO LONGS. Ethan Anderton’s Twitter robots made me look, but it was later pointed out to me that the material had been thieved from Mark Kaedrin, so here’s the direct link to Mark — “Hugo Awards: The Dark Forest and Death’s End”.

Those ideas that evoke the fabled SF goal of Sense of Wonder are what make these books work. The more sociological and philosophical aspects of the story are a little less focused and successful, leading to some inconsistency in terms of characters and pacing that perhaps make the series too long and pull the books down a peg or two. I suspect some things are lost in translation here, but this is not meant as a slight on Ken Liu (who translated the first and third books in the series), just an acknowledgement that translations naturally produce, for example, awkward dialog and pacing. I’ll put this on me too, as reading a book from another culture always presents challenges that I’ll readily admit I’m not always equal to. However, most of my complaints are far outweighed by what this series gets right, and this will rank high on my Hugo ballot, though I don’t know that it will unseat my current frontrunner (which remains Ninefox Gambit).

(13) THE DAMN DOGS DON’T LIKE IT. WIRED ponders “Why Are Colleges So Hostile to Fantasy Writers?”

For decades aspiring fantasy writers have been subjected to dismissive behavior from college professors who disparage genre literature, even though such professors often admit they’ve never actually read any fantasy or science fiction. This sort of hostility is unfortunately alive and well today, as college freshman Alina Sichevaya can attest.

“I’d heard everyone else’s horror stories, because occasionally this comes up on Twitter, and people will talk about their college experience,” Sichevaya says in Episode 257 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But I definitely wasn’t expecting such a strong response from my professor about genre fiction.”

Sichevaya says she attempted to defend fantasy, and to recommend high-quality examples to her professor, but she’s not optimistic it’ll do much good.

(14) HOW TO LOSE THE SALE. Stay away from these if you want to sell to Dave — “Dave Farland’s 10 Points to Avoid in Writing Short Fiction” at Writers of the Future.

…Seriously, though, I sometimes wish that I could explain to a young writer why I’m passing on a story. So I’m going to talk about it here.

Here are ten reasons why I reject stories quickly–usually within the first page:

  1. The story is unintelligible.Very often I’ll get submissions that just don’t make sense. Often, these seem to be non-English speakers who are way off in both the meaning of words, their context, or in their syntax, but more often it’s just clumsiness. I’ve seen college presidents who couldn’t write. But this lack of care is on a gradient scale, from “I can’t figure out what this is about” to “I don’t want to bother trying to figure this out” to “there are minor problems in this story.” For example, yesterday a promising story called a dungeon the “tombs.” Was it a mistake, or a metaphor? I don’t think it was a metaphor. The author had made too many other errors where the “almost correct” word was used.
  2. The story is unbelievable. “Johnny Verve was the smartest kid on earth, and he was only six. He was strongest one, and the most handsome, too. But the coolest part was when he found out he had magical powers!” At that point, I’m gone, and not just because there were four uses of “was” in three sentences…

(15) TROLLING. Squawks over women-only screenings of Wonder Woman in Texas.

Now unimpressed men are lambasting the idea on Facebook, claiming they are being discriminated against.

“Great, let us know when you have guys-only screenings of Thor, Spider-Man, Star Wars, etc. Let’s see you walk the walk now that you set this precedence [sic],” one man wrote.

“Very sorry if you feel excluded,” came the reply on the [Alamo DraftHouse] cinema’s official account.

(16) ALL WOUND UP. Picture of cyclones on Jupiter’s south pole: “Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter’s Poles”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter’s north and south poles.

That’s just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It’s the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet’s poles. It’s in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days.

(17) HOW TO TALK TO FILM CRITICS AT MOVIES. The BBC trashes the movie of Gaiman’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”: “This is one of the worst films ever made”.

It may seem harsh to say that How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one of the worst films ever made, given that it isn’t a cynical studio blockbuster, but an indie passion project with a budget that wouldn’t pay for the Botox on most Hollywood productions. But this shambolic punks-meet-aliens rom-com is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the acclaimed auteur behind Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s also adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, it has costumes by the triple-Oscar-winning Sandy Powell, and it features Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. If nothing else, then, it should seem vaguely professional. Instead, it’s like a shoddy school play put on by a drama teacher who thinks he’s cool for liking the Sex Pistols.

(18) MONSTROUS HIT. Carl Slaughter notes: “The Munsters wasn’t just a horror sitcom. It was a cultural phenomenon. After only 2 seasons and 70 episodes, it was buried by another cultural phenomenon: Batman.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Mark Kaedrin, Chip Hitchcock, Francis Hamit, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/16 The Pixel With The Ticks Will Be The Scroll That Is Droll

(1) IS IT DEAD JIM? BBC reports “Fears grow for European Schiaparelli Mars lander”, which arrived on Mars today.

There are growing fears a European probe that attempted to land on Mars on Wednesday has been lost.

Tracking of the Schiaparelli robot’s radio signals was dropped less than a minute before it was expected to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface.

Satellites at Mars have attempted to shed light on the probe’s status, so far without success.

One American satellite even called out to Schiaparelli to try to get it to respond.

The fear will be that the robot has crashed and been destroyed. The European Space Agency, however, is a long way from formally calling that outcome.

(2) CHAMBERS RETURNS. Becky Chambers’ new novel launched this week. Thea James from Book Smugglers gives it thumbs up.

….A Closed and Common Orbit picks up right after the final events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, with the once-Lovelace Artificial Intelligence, now reset and memory-less, finding a new life aboard a new body. Before, Lovelace had eyes everywhere and her task was to care for the health and wellbeing of the Wayfarer’s crew. Now, renamed Sidra, she finds herself in a new–and illegal–synthetic body, trying to cope with a limited, isolated, and physical existence that simply doesn’t seem enough.

(3) IT COMES IN PINTS? Emily Asher-Perrin undertakes a highly scientific thought experiment at Tor.com “How Much Beer Does it Take to Get a Hobbit Drunk?”

But how much can a hobbit actually drink?

There is a joke in the Lord of the Rings films that is not present in the books–while hanging around at The Prancing Pony, Merry comes back to the table with a great big tankard. and Pippin asks what he’s drinking:

“This, my friend, is a pint,” he says wickedly.

Pippin’s eyes widen. “It comes in pints?”

It makes sense that hobbits would veer toward smaller pours because they are smaller people–you wouldn’t give a five-year-old a pint glass of juice because they have smaller stomachs and the glass would be harder to manage in smaller hands. But even if the average hobbit goes from half-pint to half-pint, that doesn’t mean that their rates of consumption are low in the alcohol department.

(4) ALLUSION OR UNCITED SOURCE? At Electric Literature, Carmen Maria Machado, in “How to Suppress Women’s Criticism”, argues that Neil Gaiman’s jacket blurb for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life essentially did a disservice to Joanna Russ.

It was only then that I saw the lead blurb at the top of the dust jacket. Written by Neil Gaiman, it reads in part:

“Not just a terrific biography, but a remarkable act of reclamation: if there was ever a great writer of the twentieth century who fell victim to ‘How to Dismiss Women’s Fiction,’ it was Shirley Jackson.”

…That might seem like a lot of pressure to put on a blurb, especially because blurbs are an unavoidable part of a professional writer’s life. But Russ is dead. Jackson is dead. And in the thoughtless, uncredited, mangled deployment of that phrase —even in praise— Gaiman broke the chain between the two of them; a prominent, living male artist inserted between Russ’ ideas and Jackson’s reality. It would have been such a little, correct thing to keep that link alive — a gesture whose implications would have far outweighed its size. And yet, like so many tiny, seemingly insignificant cultural gestures — whose collective weight can buoy, or suffocate — it is a symptom of a larger condition.

(5) LOST LIGHT. James Davis Nicoll sent this link with the note, “Female blogger silenced.” After six years in the fight, wundergeek’s (Anna Kreider) game industry blog Go Make Me a Sandwich (how not to sell games to women) is signing off.

While it is undeniable that my blog has resulted in positive change in some parts of the games industry and community, that change has come at tremendous personal cost. First and foremost, it’s cost me my reputation; because of this blog, I will always be “controversial”. Go Make Me a Sandwich started as a personal project, something that I started as a hobby because I wanted to write about something that was a growing area of interest for me. By the time it took off, the damage was done; my Google Rank has inextricably tied my name to feminism forever, and that can be dangerous. It’s certainly translated into a level of difficulty in my meatspace life that I never anticipated before starting this blog.

Writing this blog has also taken a tremendous toll on my mental health. The backlash that I’ve faced because of what I do here has been terrifying…..

There are also those who know about the abuse and choose to believe that the abusers aren’t the problem. The real problem is me: my feelings about my experiences of marginalization and harassment and how I express them. There are many in our community who think that it’s a bigger problem that I’m not nice about my feelings toward my abusers than it is that I’m being abused. So instead of holding the abusers accountable for their abuse, which is known and well-documented, they instead decide to publicly castigate me for committing the womanly sin of having feelings about a thing incorrectly…..

…. MY WHOLE GODDAMN LIFE I’ve been told that I was “too much”. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too brash. Too arrogant. Too abrasive. Too bossy. My whole life, people have been trying to shove me into a box that I just don’t fit in, no matter how hard I try – the box of proper womanhood. This blog was my place where I could be ME. Unapologetically. Loudly. Defiantly! And walking away from that feels like walking away from part of myself.

It feels like climbing into the box voluntarily.

It feels like capitulation. Like surrender.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1953 Fahrenheit 451 published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 19, 1945 – John Lithgow, of Buckaroo Banzai and Third Rock from the Sun.

(8) IT BITES. Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley says you can pass on the local production of Zombie Prom.

That shine is missing in “Zombie Prom,” another campy 1990s off-Broadway musical getting its area premiere. Boy meet girl, boy loses girl, boy despairs and jumps into a vat of nuclear waste. He returns as a zombie — but can he still go the prom?

This is strictly for hardcore musical devotees who want to see what Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey wrote before their musicals “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick.” The Unexpected Stage Company, last seen showcasing Deb Margolin in “8 Stops,” isn’t giving buffs a particularly good look. Virtually the only number inspiring a grin is the 1950s-style girl-group ballad “Jonny Don’t Go” (“ . . . to the nuclear plant” is the rest of the plea), sung with nice comic understatement by Julia Klavans as the doomed Jonny’s girlfriend, Toffee. The rock-and-roll quartet tucked up onto a platform in a back corner of the stage tries to capture the feel of the 1950s sock-hop score but can’t quite swing it. Neither can much of the rest of the indifferently designed, unevenly performed show.

(9) REFILL. John King Tarpinian found an even better image of the Logan’s Rum reference on The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode.

logans-rum-2

(10) RURITANIA MISUNDERSTOOD. Since Ian Sales reads this blog, wouldn’t it be more efficient for him to engage the commenters here and clarify the misunderstanding?

And spare my tender feelings, please – the new LJ, indeed!

(11) BIRDS OF MANY FEATHERS. Publishers Weekly talked to Ursula K. Le Guin about her new collections that are releasing today: “Four Questions for…Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Your work is typically labeled “speculative fiction” or “science fiction” or “fantasy,” in spite of your protests. How do you think the typical demarcations of “mainstream,” “literary,” and “speculative” fiction have evolved since you began writing?

I’ve never protested when my science fiction and fantasy is called science fiction and fantasy—why should I, when that’s what it is? But a lot of it isn’t, and I do protest having all my work lumped into a genre that only some of it belongs to. I’ve written for decades in various genres including realism, SF, fantasy, kiddilit, and fable. I published poetry long before I sold a story, and am still publishing it. I’m no longer writing fiction. I don’t fit into any pigeonhole. I’m all kinds of birds. The walls between fictional genres that were constructed by critical prejudice and ignorance are going down fast, and I love to watch them go! [That being said], genre is a permanently useful idea when used rightly, to indicate actual difference in subject-matter, style, expectation. It’s sort of like dogs, isn’t it? Your basic dog is a mongrel. No one breed is “superior” to all others, and exclusive inbreeding results in monsters. But variety and adaptability are valuable traits in a species, and there are real differences between breeds. Long live the Chihuahua, the Elkhound, the Poodle, and the Mutt.

(12) RESEARCH. Sarah A. Hoyt shares her strategy for “Making it Real – How To do Targeted Research” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this is my method: if I am asked — as I was recently — to write something set in say the time of the revolution, the first thing I do is buy one or two general interest books, preferably ones well thought of.  Then I buy a biography or ten written by people of the time.  And then I outline the book and decide what targeted research I’ll need.  Will they sit down at table?  Will there be a tavern scene?  All of those have books written about them.  I find those and read them for the specific scenes I need.  At this time, too, to “soak in” the feel of things I start watching documentaries about that time and place.  This gives a “texture” to the book it would otherwise lack.

Of course, my books change as I write them, so sometimes I’ll find I have to write a scene that wasn’t in the outline, like horse shoeing or perhaps riding between two specific scenes.  At that time, I will put notes all over the book that say “look up x” — most people use something to bracket those, that isn’t used in normal writing, so that we can do a final look see and make sure we got them all.  I use curly brackets — and also, my monitor gets “porcupined” with sticky notes with things like “try to find book or website or reenactor who knows about x.” and “I’m almost sure the description of horse shoeing in the blah blah novel is wrong,” but it’s all I could find “so, replace it when you figure out the right one.” …

(13) NUMBER ONE. Castalia House again has topped an Amazon sales category with its latest release – a book that apparently was acquired at a bargain price:

Mike Cernovich’s new book, MAGA MINDSET: Making YOU and America Great Again, is the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s Politics & Social Sciences>Leadership category. That’s not surprising, as his prevous book, Gorilla Mindset, self-published in 2015, was also a bestseller

What is surprising, however, is that languishing behind the Donald Trump-supporting author’s latest bestseller is Stronger Together, a book published only last month, written by Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The Clinton-Kaine book, signed by Simon & Schuster to $14 million advance, currently sits at 5th place in the category…..

The new Cernovich bestseller, signed to an advance that was, according to Day, “pretty close to $14 million less than Clinton and Kaine got,”….

(14) ANCILLARY CUISINE. Lunchtime at Ann Leckie’s table earlier this week.

(15) INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. Are people still trying to find out?

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

NYRSF Readings Celebrate 50 Years of Star Trek

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

By Mark Blackman: On the evening of Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 (or Star Date [-27] 04610.00), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series boldly commemorated the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on NBC-tv with a stellar crew of writers reading from their or others’ Trek-related works and performing a comedic skit about Trek Fandom.  (Fittingly, the day was as hot as Vulcan.)  The event, opening the Reading Series’ 26th season, and held at its current venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, located in the Alpha Quadrant near the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Barclays Center, was guest-curated by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the author of 16 Trek novels (several of them best-sellers), 13 novellas, seven short stories, six comic books, and the coffee-table book The Klingon Art of War, as well as articles, reviews and overviews on Star Trek.

The voyage began with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, and giving a rundown of upcoming readings:  On Sept. 27th (the last Tuesday of the month), readers will be N.K. Jemisin (“the award-winning N.K. Jemisin,” he beamed) and Kai Ashanti Wilson.  Nov. 1st – all Souls Day, the day after Hallowe’en – will debut the Margot Adler Memorial NYRSF Readings Series, with Terence Taylor its first guest curator.  (Margot was the original host of Hour of the Wolf; the Series’ topics might range from vampires – in her later years, she became addicted to the genre, reading 325 vampire novels, and, in fact, once guest-curated a NYRSF Reading spotlighting the creatures of the night – to Faerie to Wicca and psychology.)  One of the readers on Tuesday, Nov. 15th will be Kij Johnson.  Also reading in November will be Matthew Kressel, Alyssa Wong and Madeline Ashby.  December will, as traditional, feature a Family Night, with readings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

Continuing, Freund plugged a variety of CDs from Skyboat Media for sale, including a 13-volume set of his interviews over the years, and, marking Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Harlan Ellison’s full-cast original teleplay of “The City on the Edge of Forever” (which is not what aired on tv).  He also noted that, as it happens, Gordon Van Gelder, the first curator of the NYRSF Readings Series, was born on the very date that Star Trek broadcast its premiere episode, “The Man Trap” (aka “The Salt Monster”).

(Curiously, there was, I observed, what might be called a generation gap, with some in the audience – and even of the readers – having never seen the show in its original run and had watched it only in its syndication on local stations, demonstrating Trek’s enduring appeal.  The other generation gap – between the classic and the subsequent series – never really arose.)

In due course, Freund turned the podium over to guest host Keith DeCandido, who described himself as “a Star Trek fan since birth, having grown up watching the show in reruns on Channel 11.”  (Coincidentally, he remarked, it was also the 47th anniversary of the premiere of the underrated animated series.)  Star Trek, he extolled, gave us “a wonderful future,” where Earth – where humanity – had come together and was working together in space.  It was the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, and here were an African-American, an Asian and a Russian (not to mention an alien) as part of the crew.

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes

That diversity was an apt introduction to his pre-recorded interview with Steven Barnes. Barnes is a New York Times bestselling author who has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts – from Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits and Andromeda to Baywatch (that’s a fantasy, right?) – and three million words of published fiction (including the novelization of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” the alternate history Lion’s Blood, and collaborations with Niven and Pournelle), and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, and received the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards.  Regrettably, the recording was badly glitched (Keith probably forgot to open hailing frequencies before Skyping), and DeCandido was obliged (with profuse apologies to us and to Barnes) summarize his talk about writing and about race on ’60s tv.  Barnes respected the intent of “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio in split black/whiteface), what they were trying to do, though it looks ridiculous now.  (Isn’t that a satisfying sign of progress since?)  He also discussed the importance of black characters equal with and alongside whites on Trek, Mission: Impossible and I Spy, and of having Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) as a nonwhite lead on a genre show.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

There being fewer technical glitches in a live reading, DeCandido introduced the first reader, David Mack, a New York Times bestselling author of roughly 30 sf, fantasy and adventure novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies, and the forthcoming Star Trek: Legacies, Book II: Best Defense, part of a new trilogy celebrating the franchise’s 50th anniversary.  Mack’s offering departed from The Original Series as it was set in the Next Generation era several years after Nemesis.  The Enterprise follows clues to a planet where someone has been cranking out copies of Lore – Dr. Noonian Soong, they learn, who has uploaded his consciousness into an android body.  Soong is soon laboring to resurrect Data (B-4 may have Data’s memories, but not his “soul” or his emotion chip), even at the cost of his own existence.  (Mack did a delightful Worf, by the way.)

Emily Asher-Perrin

Emily Asher-Perrin

Next up was Emily Asher-Perrin, who described herself as a kid as “a great big geek who preferred to talk about robots and aliens and lightsabers and magic,” and who works on the internet, notably on Tor.com, “talk[ing] and get[ting] excited about all the science fiction and fantasy that she loves most.”  She read a couple of scenes from Jean Lorrah’s The Vulcan Academy Murders; in the first, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are on Vulcan, and have joined Sarek and Amanda’s healer for dinner at an Italian restaurant (meatless, of course – vegan Vulcans, you know); and in the second, they are at a funeral (spoiler:  no, not Amanda’s), where they encounter T’Pau, the Vulcan matriarch from “Amok Time.”

During the intermission, people grabbed a bite (happily, the Commons Café did not offer gakh) and a raffle was held for a flash drive that might be called a mix tape, including miscellany like Shatner’s rendering of “Rocket Man” and bridge sound effects, and for two tickets to an astronomy lecture at the Intrepid on Saturday the 10th.

The second half of the program opened with a comedic skit by another New York Times bestselling Trek novelist, Dayton Ward (who was not present).  Set in a movie theater “somewhere in the U.S.” on June 9, 1989 where Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is about to begin, a group of Trek fans (the word “Trekkie” was never, never uttered all evening), played by Keith, David, Emily and Jim (typecasting) schmooze about – and one persistently pans – the year’s sf movies, and Batman.  (Some ironic humor was derived from what we know about subsequent films.)  Plus ça change …

Finally, DeCandido, drawing from his “Federation version of The West Wing,” delivered the Federation President’s commencement address to Starfleet Academy in the wake of the events of Nemesis.

The crowd of about 40 included Melissa C. Beckman, Catelynn Cunningham, Melissa Ennin (the landlady), Nora (NK) Jemisin, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Nora Larker, Mark W. Richards, Wrenn Simms, Ian Randal Strock, and Bill Wagner.  As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and copies of Trek books and stories by DeCandido and Mack were available for sale and autographs.  As the evening concluded, various audience members hung around or adjourned to the Café.

Pixel Scroll 6/28/16 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right to Be Free

(1) LEARNING SPACE. Steve Davidson has a fine interview with Jim C. Hines about the Launch Pad Academy Workshop.

Steve Davidson for Amazing Stories Magazine: How did you hear about the Launch Pad Workshop?

Jim C. Hines: I heard about it years ago online — I think it might have been the Speculations writing boards, back when it was still active. At the time, I didn’t feel qualified to apply, in part because I was only writing fantasy.

But I kept an eye on how it was going from year to year, as well as the comments and reports from other attendees.

ASM:  Was it a program you always wanted to participate in or was your interest piqued when you learned about it?

JCH: I’ve been interested in attending ever since I heard about the program, but there was the combination of needing to be able to leave for a week without causing difficulties with work or at home, and having a project where I thought the knowledge would be useful. This year, I’ve started working on my first SF trilogy, and I’d quit my day job last fall, so the timing was perfect.

ASM: How would you describe your familiarity with astronomy, cosmology, etc., prior to attending?

JCH: I think I had some basic foundational knowledge, but most of it wasn’t anything I’d studied in depth. I knew enough to answer most of my kids’ basic questions about space, which astronomical bodies orbit one another, how the seasons work, and so on. And I’d read Douglas Adams, so I knew space was big. Really big.

(2) WOMEN IN SF, 1961. At Galactic Journey, in “[June 28, 1961] The Second Sex in SFF, Part IV”, The Traveler issues an invitation to increase our history of the genre:

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF.

The six are Kit Reed, Jane Dixon Rice, Jane Roberts (the only woman invited for the first science-fiction writers conference in Milford, PA – I didn’t know that), Joanna Russ, Evelyn Smith, and Margaret St. Clair.

(3) YOUR HOUSE IN NORTH AMERICA. At Tor.com, Emily Asher-Perrin has scouted Pottermore for the latest additions: “Get Sorted Into Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts!”

A ton of new information on the North American magic school, Ilvermorny, was just dropped onto Pottermore. But that’s not all! You can now get Sorted into the various Houses (if you have a Pottermore account, so sign on up).

As a reminder, the four Ilvermorny Houses are Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird! Here is where you go for the Sorting, provided you have a Pottermore account. (I got Horned Serpent, which seems to be the brainy house? Not what I expected.) These Houses don’t break down quite the same way the Hogwarts ones do; instead, they are associated as follows….

 

(4) HOLD THAT TIGER. Lisa Goldstein reviews another Hugo nominee at inferior4 + 1 “Short Story: ‘Seven Kill Tiger’”.

This review contains spoilers.

“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao is a disturbing story, but maybe not for the reasons the author thinks.  We start with a deeply unpleasant main character, Zhang Zedong, a company man sent from China to Zambia who needs to improve his production numbers and who is prone to thinking things like “Africa would be a glorious place were it not for the Africans.”  “What he needed was more Han people,” he thinks, and the solution he comes up with is to wipe out the native population of Africa using genetic warfare.

(5) BEST FANCAST. Joe Sherry is “Listening to the Hugos: Fancast” for Nerds of a Feather.

Admission of Bias Time: The longer the podcast, the less interested I am in listening to it. 30 minutes is my sweet spot, I’m comfortable up to an hour, and the farther a podcast goes past an hour the less interested I become, even when the topic and conversation is interesting. Most of the episodes of 8-4 Play run over 90 minutes, with a not insignificant number running over 120 minutes.

8-4 Play did not include links to recommended episodes, so I pulled one from 2015 that was focusing on some video games I was interested in (Zelda and Dragon Quest). 30 minutes later, I was done. 8-4 Play is a video game focused podcast, and it took way too long for the hosts to actually start talking about the games. The opening seemed more focused on refreshing each other what they’ve been up to than moving on to the games. Now, first main section on one guy’s Retro Collection was okay (and I love me some old school games) and they were only just moving into Fallout 4 by the time I gave up on the podcast, so maybe there is solid game talk and a reason why I should consider listening to 8-4 Play in the future, but this particular episode is more than two hours long and that’s really tough for me to overcome, and given that for this particular episode the hosts took waaaaaay too long getting to the meat, I won’t be coming back to it. Perhaps I selected the wrong episode and perhaps I should have skipped forward to the 38 minute mark, but perhaps this podcast is simply not for me. Pass.

(6) OBAMA’S TAKE ON STAR WARS. In the series “Conversations With Tyler,”  Tyler Cowen interviews Cass Sunstein about his Star Wars book. The Star Wars geekery begins at about 18:00 and continues to about 40:00, and all of the audience questions are about Star Wars. (There’s also a full text transcript available.) Many examples of the public policy ramifications of Star Wars are discussed, and at one point Sunstein, who served in the Obama administration as chief regulator of the Office of Management and Budget, reveals that he asked President Obama about which Star Wars movie was his favorite and argued with his boss that The Empire Strikes Back was better than A New Hope.

(7) WEDDING. Congratulations to Becky Thomson and Tom Veal, who married on June 25 in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

(8) KYRA IS BACK. Mini-reviews from Kyra today:

Airplane read #1: In the Time of Dragon Moon, by Janet Lee Carey (here)

Airplane read #2: The Wrath & The Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh (here)

Airplane read #3: Kingfisher, by Patricia McKillip (here)

Airplane Read #4: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (here)

Airplane Read #5: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (not SFF) (here)

Airplane Read #6 (last one!): Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Moon (here)

(9) ENTERPRISE DUE TO LEAVE DRYDOCK. NPR has a progress report: “Smithsonian Sets Phasers To Restore On Original Starship Enterprise”.

Sorry to disappoint Trekkies who still believe, but the actual USS Enterprise did not really take up much space.

That famous starship of Mr. Spock and Capt. James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series — which turns 50 this year — was a model. Quite a large one, to be fair: 11 feet long and about 200 lbs., made out of blow-molded plastic and wood. But not life-sized.

And for more than a decade, it hung in the gift shop of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.

“From a conservator’s standpoint, that is probably one of the worst places to put an artifact,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator of the National Air and Space Museum….

On Tues., June 28, the USS Enterprise will reach its final frontier beside other famous and historical aircraft in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 28, 1926 – Mel Brooks. He’d like to make Spaceballs 2.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day

(12) THE ACTOR IS IN. At the invitation of Samantha Bee (Full Frontal), “David Tennant Unleashes His Inner Time Lord On Donald Trump”

The “Full Frontal“ host called on Scottish actor David Tennant to read a series of anti-Trump tweets that his fellow countrymen posted after the real estate magnate erroneously said they were “going wild“ for Brexit.

In contrast to the United Kingdom as a whole, the majority of Scots actually voted to remain inside the European Union.

By proxy, “Jessica Jones“ star Tennant called Trump a “wiggy slice,” “weapons-grade plum” and “ludicrous tangerine ball bag” in the segment that aired Monday.

 

(13) HOWARD DAYS. Keith West delivers a “Report on Howard Days 2016” at Adventures Fantastic.

Howard Days has grown, something that was emphasized since this year marked the 30th anniversary of the first Howard Days.  While things officially don’t start until Friday, people are showing up on Wednesday evenings.  Space is becoming a consideration, with events this year moved from the library to the high school auditorium or the Senior Center across the street from the library.  There were a number of new attendees, which is always a healthy thing for an event, and I’m not referring the 10,000 or so mosquitoes that showed up.There were multiple anniversaries, such as the first Frazetta cover on a Lancer paperback and both the publication and film version of Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir, One Who Walked Alone (filmed as The Whole Wide World).

There have been some excellent reports on the 2016 Howard Days, such as this one by Lee Breakiron and this one by David Piske.  Also, Ben Friberg has uploaded Mark Finn’s interview with guest Michael Scott Myers and the boxing panel to YouTube.  I expect there will be more videos coming.  I’ll not repeat what they’ve said, especially since I don’t trust my memory on some of the details and didn’t make some of the panels that they did.  Rather I’ll focus on some personal highlights…..

(14) ENCELADUS. Scientific American discusses why “Excitement Builds for the Possibility of Life on Enceladus”.

Saturn’s frozen moon Enceladus is a tantalizing world—many scientists are increasingly convinced it may be the best place in our solar system to search for life. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn, has made intriguing observations of icy jets spewing from a suspected underground liquid ocean on the mysterious world that might be hospitable to alien life.

Cassini’s tour is due to wind down in 2017, and scientists badly want to send a dedicated mission to Enceladus to look for signs of life. In fact, some have already started seriously thinking about exactly how they might do this—including planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, who is the imaging team leader for Cassini. Earlier this month, she gathered a group of researchers including oceanographers, organic chemists and astrobiologists at the University of California, Berkeley, to strategize how to search for extraterrestrials on Enceladus—which, according to Porco, “is a total bitch of a problem to solve.”

Although Enceladus is small in size and shrouded in a thick shell of ice, it appears to be a habitable world: It has a source of energy from friction created by its orbit around Saturn, organic compounds that are building blocks for life and a liquid water ocean underneath all that ice. But just because Enceladus may be hospitable to life does not mean life exists there; it will take much more work to definitively prove it.

(15) TEACHING WITH COMICS. San Diego Comic-Con International has teamed up with the San Diego Public Library to host a free four-day “Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians” from July 20-23.

This first-of-its-kind educational conference will take place during Comic-Con, and will explore the role comics play in promoting education and literacy for all ages.

Library professionals and educators are invited to this free event to learn creative and exciting ways to incorporate comics and graphic novels into their work. Through presentations and panel discussions, the conference aims to engage the community, promote comics as a powerful tool for learning, and celebrate the medium as an important literary art form. The Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians is also an opportunity for attendees to connect and dialogue with publishers and industry professionals.

The Conference will be located in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the ninth floor of the San Diego Central Library. Each day of the Conference will have different themes….

The conference is free to attend, but space is limited and registration is required for each day. Comic-Con badge-holders with valid single same-day or four-day badges are welcome to attend and are not required to register. Further details about the Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians will be provided for registrants in the coming weeks.

(16) THE TWINKIE OFFENSE. “The World’s Oldest Twinkie” is has spent 40 years on display at a Maine school.

Bennatti had students buy a package of Twinkies from a nearby store during a 1976 lesson on food additives and shelf life. He placed the Twinkie on the blackboard for the class to observe, and there it remained until Bennatti retired in 2004 and passed custody of the aging snack cake to Rosemeier, who placed it in a case in her office.

(17) HOYT SERIES. Jeb Kinnison has kind words for “Sarah Hoyt’s Through Fire – Darkship Book 4”.

Through Fire, Book 4 in Sarah Hoyt’s Darkship series, came out last month and I bought it immediately, but despite its can’t-put-it-down action, I had to put it down until this week.

It’s a fine entry in the series, plunging us into action on the Seacity Liberté, which unlike the last book in the series I read, A Few Good Men (review here) is dominated by French cultural influences, with the rebellion set in motion in the first scene modeled on the French Revolution and its Terror.

(18) LMB ON SELF-PUBLISHING. At Eight Ladies Writing,“Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three Questions about Self-Publishing”, now that she’s self-pubbing increasingly large parts of her back-catalog, and her novellas.

LMB: I first had some e-publishing experiences starting in the early 00s with the e-books company Fictionwise (later to be bought out and terminated by B&N.) This was not self-pubbing; they just took my manuscript files, or in some cases made OCR files themselves of my older paper books, did everything else themselves, and sent me checks. (These were the selection of my books whose old contracts predated e-books, hence those rights were still mine.) Their sales were all through their own website. But for one very interesting statement, my Fictionwise backlist e-titles were for sale on or via Amazon, for which the maybe $500-to-$1000-a-quarter they’d been jointly clearing shot up seven-fold, which riveted my attention. But then that went away as mysteriously as it had arrived, for corporate reasons I never discovered….

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Lisa Goldstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]