Pixel Scroll 5/23/18 Admit It – You Woulda Done The Same!

(1) HUNDRED BEST. Unbound Worlds knows there’s nothing like a “best” list to get everyone riled up. To that end they present “The 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time”. I’ve read a solid 15 of these, which tells you I’m not a big fantasy fan, but even I know they should have picked a different Pratchett book.

It was daunting, but we did it: a list of the one hundred best fantasy books of all time. What was our criteria? Well, we loved these these books and thought they deserved to be on the list. That’s pretty much it. This list is totally subjective, and with a cut-off of one hundred books, we couldn’t include all of the amazing fantasy tales out there. We hope you look through this list and agree with a lot of our picks, and that you also find some new stories to pick up. If there’s anything we left out, please add it to the comments below — we’d love to see what books would be on your list!

So without further ado, here’s what makes our list of best fantasy books of all time (arranged alphabetically)! Fair warning: your TBR pile is about to get a lot bigger…

(2) NEW GROENING SERIES. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Matt Groening’s new animated fantasy show will premiere on Netflix in August”.

Matt Groening’s animated epic fantasy series has a release date: Netflix has revealed that Disenchantment will premiere on August 17th. The company also shared a handful of pictures that show off an art style that will be familiar to anyone who’s watched Futurama or The Simpsons.

Netflix officially announced the series last year. It’ll follow a “hard-drinking young princess” named Bean, an elf companion named Elfo, and her personal demon named Luci as they encounter all manner of fantasy creatures in a magical kingdom known as Dreamland. Netflix ordered 20 episodes of the show; the first 10 will premiere this year.

 

(3) HELP FRANKENSTEIN AUTHOR GET BUSTED. Sculptor Bryan Moore hopes to crowdfund the rest of the expenses of the Mary Shelley Bronze Bust Project. So far people have contributed $3,546 of the $16,000 goal.

To celebrate the 200th publication anniversary of the legendary novel “Frankenstein”, we’re donating a life size, bronze bust of Mary Shelley to the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, WA on August 30, 2018!!!!

While I’ve donated the last six months of my time sculpting Mary, I can’t get her across the finish line without your help to pay for the considerable costs at the bronze foundry to mold, cast, finish and fire the patina on the bust itself.

Mary Shelley is the second of three busts that MoPOP has graciously agreed to accept in my horror author bronze bust series; “Dracula” author Bram Stoker was unveiled in October, 2017, Mary Shelley will be installed on her birthday on August 30, 2018 and Rod Serling will be unveiled in 2019 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of “The Twilight Zone”. As you’ll see in the video, I’ve also sculpted and donated bronze busts of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.

 

(4) SEEMS LIKE FOREVER. It was another busy day at the Romance Writers of America.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 23, 1969 Destroy All Monsters premiered.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 23, 1933 — Joan Collins, who won genre fame as “City on the Edge of Forever’s” Edith Keeler.
  • Born May 23, 1986  — Black Panther director Ryan Coogler

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian witnessed the first book tour at Non Sequitur.
  • And Lio seems to have the wrong idea about The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

(8) PERSISTENT BELIEVERS. Did you think this was a settled question? Oh, such a silly person you are… “Loch Ness Monster’s Existence Could Be Proven With eDNA”.

Is the Loch Ness real? We may soon have an answer.

A team of scientists have proposed using actual science to figure out if the mythical creature allegedly lurking in Scotland’s River Ness is actually real.

Their proposal? Using environmental DNA, or eDNA, a sampling method already used to track movements in marine life. When an animal moves through an environment, it leaves behind residual crumbs of its genetics by shedding skin or scales, leaving behind feathers or tufts of fur, perhaps some feces and urine.

Scientists think those residual clues left behind by a monster like that of the Loch Ness could be collected by eDNA and subsequently used to prove its existence.

“This DNA can be captured, sequenced and then used to identify that creature by comparing the sequence obtained to large databases of known genetic sequences from hundreds of thousands of different organisms,” team spokesman Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago in New Zealand told Reuters.

It’s certainly not the first time that people, scientifically minded or not, have attempted to track the legendary monster’s existence. A sixth century document chronicles the tale of an Irish monk named St. Columba, who banished a “water beast” to the bottom of the River Ness.

(9) JDA WILL PROVE LOVE. Since his lawsuit won’t even get its first hearing til October, Jon Del Arroz came up with a new plan to make people pay attention to him: “Announcement: Rally For Freedom And Anti-Discrimination Demonstration At Worldcon 76 San Jose” [Internet Archive].

Civil rights activist Erin Sith, trans for Trump, and I talked about this briefly on our livestream last Thursday. As we are both minorities on the right, we’ve both had a lot of shared similar experiences where those of privilege on the left have treated us inhumanly because we left the proverbial slave plantation they set up for us. 2018 is the year we will let our message be heard, in unity, in love, and for tolerance and diversity.

We are planning a gathering outside Worldcon 76 in San Jose, on Saturday, August 18th, 2018. I’ve talked with the city of San Jose and the convention center and we are cleared to go on their end. We cannot allow these institutions to willfully discriminate and spew hatred just because someone is an outspoken political personality. With Worldcon’s actions emboldening ConCarolinas and Origins to similarly attempt to harm and discredit other popular conservative authors because of politics, enough is enough….

(10) ANTIMATTER. Gizmodo swears it happened in 2015: “A Recent Hurricane Shot a Bolt of Antimatter Toward Earth”.

The detector onboard the plane measured a phenomenon that scientists have been interested in for decades: terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. It’s unclear exactly how it happens, but lightning in storms seems to accelerate electrons to nearly light speed. These electrons collide with the particles in the atmosphere, resulting in high-energy x-rays and gamma rays that scientists have measured in satellites and on the ground. The rays could also result from collisions between electrons and their antimatter partners, positrons.

The team behind the newest paper had a tool called the Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions (ADELE) on board a hurricane-hunting WP-3D plane, according to the paper published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

(11) UNDERGROUND. “New whisky distillery in Moray ‘like nothing else'”. It blends in with the landscape, but visits expected to double. Chip Hitchcock asks, “A side trip for next year’s Worldcon?”

The new distillery, on the Easter Elchies estate near Craigellachie in Moray, has been camouflaged under a vast turf roof, to blend in with the rolling hillside.

It is believed to be the most expensive in the country, going 40% over budget, with a total cost for the production facility and visitor centre of £140m.

The roof, with 10cm (4in) depth of turf and meadow flowers, covers 14,000 sq m.

Underneath are ventilation, vapour control, flexible waterproofing and irrigation systems.

Under those is a complex ceiling structure comprising 2,500 panels, few of them the same.

(12) HEAVY DEW. “GRACE mission launches to weigh Earth’s water” – BBC has the story. This is a replacement/upgrade for applauded 15-year-old satellites which will track icecaps, and sea/land exchanges.

A joint US-German mission has gone into orbit to weigh the water on Earth.

The Grace satellites are replacing a pair of highly successful spacecraft that stopped working last year.

Like their predecessors, the new duo will circle the globe and sense tiny variations in the pull of gravity that result from movements in mass.

These could be a signal of the land swelling after prolonged rains, or of ice draining from the poles as they melt in a warming climate.

The satellites were launched on Tuesday aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

(13) SUMMA WHAT? Bakers are more activist in some parts of the country: “US student’s ‘Summa cum laude’ graduation cake censored”.

The South Carolina student’s mother had asked a local grocery store to print the term “Summa Cum Laude” (with the highest distinction) on her son’s cake.

The store censored the term “cum” deeming it offensive and put three hyphens in its place.

(14) TODAY’S CLICKBAIT. Frog in a Well asks “Was Hirata Atsutane Japan’s first Science Fiction writer?”

Maybe. Well, sort of. It kind of depends on how you define things.

Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843) was one of the key thinkers and popularizers of Japanese Nativism. He was a prolific writer, and most of what he wrote was aimed at proving that Japan was the center of the universe. In particular, he argued against Chinese learning, which was pointless, and to the extent it was any good, the Japanese had done it first. He argued against Indian (Buddhist) learning, which was pointless, and to the extent it was any good, the Japanese had done it first. He argued against European (Dutch) learning, which was pointless, and to the extent it was any good, the Japanese had done it first. As you may guess, he was a bit polemical. He was also pretty important in the creation and popularization of a specifically Japanese identity.

One of his important works is Senkyo Ibun (Strange tidings from the realm of the Immortals), 1822. This is an account of his interviews with the teenage tengu Kozo Torakichi. Tengu are the trickster/mountain goblin figures of Japanese folklore. Torakichi claimed to have been raised by them, and to have learned all the secrets of true Japanese-ness in the process.

(15) PERSONAL 451. Mr. Sci-Fi delivers “Ray Bradbury & Fahrenheit 451 – The Untold Story.”

Sci-fi whiz Marc Zicree shares stories his dear friend and mentor Ray Bradbury told him about the genesis of Fahrenheit 451 and gives a history of the work that includes first editions, plays, radio versions and movies.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/18 I Know What You’re Thinking: Did He Scroll Six Pixels Or Only Five?

(1) SAFE AT HOME. Adweek tells about an Incredibles 2 movie product tie-in: “Why The Incredibles Needed an ADT Home Security System”.

Even superheroes need a good home security system, says a fun new ad from ADT and Disney, themed around the upcoming premiere of The Incredibles 2.

In the 30-second spot, animated by Pixar, the film’s titular super-family gets a tour of their new alarm system from superhero costume designer Edna Mode.

There are, for example, water level sensors—to safeguard against “surprise attacks” if a villain is hiding, for some reason, in a full bathtub, wielding a rubber ducking, waiting to pounce. There are motion sensors with live video—useful for tracking Mr. and Mrs. Incredible’s super-fast middle child, Dash. Intrusion detection can warn of invaders—and also help keep their teen daughter, Violet, gifted with invisibility, from sneaking out.

 

(2) CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONAL. Want to know how to tank your writing career before it starts? Tony Perez offers his advice:

(3) DO GIANTS SHRINK? John Scalzi tackled a question about Robert A. Heinlein’s residual influence in “Reader Request Week 2018 #6: The Fall(?!?!?) of Heinlein”.

But the question wasn’t whether Heinlein is going to disappear; it’s whether he’s declined as an influence. I think it’s fair to say he has, if for no other reason than that in the last 30 years, the scene in SF/F has changed. For one thing, fantasy and fantasy writers are much more influential in the field and on emerging writers than they were when Heinlein was alive; there’s an entire generation now edging into their 30s who grew up at Hogwarts, and for whom people like Robert Jordan (with an assist from Brandon Sanderson) and George RR Martin loom large in their landscape. Over on the SF side William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Lois McMaster Bujold (not to mention Suzanne Collins) are much nearer influences, to name just three.

Also, as hinted above, YA authors are much more significant influences now than they were three decades ago. I can’t tell you how many younger authors count people like Tamora Pierce and Scott Westerfeld as significant in their development, and why wouldn’t they? And, yes, Heinlein wrote juvies, but the fact he wrote them is not the same as them currently being widely read and being influential. They’re not, which is not entirely surprising, as almost all of them are now sixty years old and the world they were written in doesn’t exist any more.

(4) DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS. Comics fans won’t be surprised at the wide variety of results, I suspect: “Image Comics Had Seven Different Artists Color a Black & White Todd McFarlane ‘Spawn’ Drawing”.

While we wait for more news on Blumhouse’s Spawn feature film, creator Todd McFarlane is finishing up issue #286 of the Image Comics series, which is going to printers today. For this one, Image did something pretty awesome, enlisting seven different artists to interpret a cover McFarlane drew for issue #286, in their own personal style.

The result? Seven vastly different pieces of art… which all began as the same piece.

McFarlane wrote on Facebook, “Here’s the list of AWESOME people who lent their coloring skills to Spawn issue 286 this month (in order of the covers below):

  • Jean-Francois Beaulieu
  • Nikos Koutsis
  • Moreno Dinisio
  • Frank Martin
  • Matthew Wilson
  • Owen Gieni
  • Annalisa Leoni

Pretty wild to see how much color can completely change the entire feel of a drawing…

(5) RUNNER-UP. Usually the winner gets all the publicity. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “Emilia Clarke calls Brad Pitt’s $120K bid to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ with her the ‘weirdest experience of my entire life'”, says she can’t talk about the anonymous bidder who donated $160,000 to watch an episode of Game of Thrones with her to benefit Haitian relief because the bidder was anonymous.  But she says that Brad Pitt bidding $120,000 was quite strange.

Clarke clearly did not want to get into details — perhaps because the bidder from Sean Penn’s fundraiser for relief in Haiti chose to remain anonymous.

But she did speak a little more about the runner-up, Brad Pitt. The actor fell short in his attempt to spend some QT with the GoT star who plays Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen. Pitt bid only $120K at the Sotheby’s event.

“It was the weirdest experience of my entire life,” Clarke, 31, said of the auction. “I thought my head was going to explode. I went bright red and couldn’t stop smiling. It was amazing. I texted everyone I knew.”

(6) DEEP CUT. Shadow And Act reports “Laura Harrier’s Role As Millie Montag Cut From Fahrenheit 451”.

Laura Harrier’s role in Fahrenheit 451 was cut from the final version of the HBO film. Harrier, who is in Cannes for Black KkKlansman, revealed the fate of her role to The Wrap.

The actress, who starred last in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, would have had the rare distinction of starring in two Cannes films in one year.

Harrier was supposed to play the wife of Michael B. Jordan’s character Guy Montag, but the character was trimmed from the adaptation due to time.

“The character definitely has a big part in the book, but because of the length of the film, (director Ramin Bahrani) decided they needed to change the storyline and the structure of the film,” she said. “And unfortunately my character didn’t fit with the storyline. It’s something you always hope doesn’t happen, but I’m not the first it’s happened to, and I definitely won’t be the last.”

(7) ISS CARGO RATES. I thought there was a popular joke among hard sf writers that Newton’s fourth law tells us “Everything costs more and works less,” but Google says I misremember…. Ars Technica headline: “NASA to pay more for less cargo delivery to the space station”. A large price increase by SpaceX will overcome a smaller price cut by Orbital ATK.

A new analysis finds that NASA will pay significantly more for commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station in the 2020s rather than enjoying cost savings from maturing systems. According to a report by the space agency’s inspector general, Paul Martin, NASA will likely pay $400 million more for its second round of delivery contracts from 2020 to 2024 even though the agency will be moving six fewer tons of cargo. On a cost per kilogram basis, this represents a 14-percent increase.

One of the main reasons for this increase, the report says, is a 50-percent increase in prices from SpaceX, which has thus far flown the bulk of missions for NASA’s commercial cargo program with its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket.

This is somewhat surprising because, during the first round of supply missions, which began in 2012, SpaceX had substantially lower costs than NASA’s other partner, Orbital ATK. SpaceX and Orbital ATK are expected to fly 31 supply missions between 2012 and 2020, the first phase of the supply contract. Of those, the new report states, SpaceX is scheduled to complete 20 flights at an average cost of $152.1 million per mission. Orbital ATK is scheduled to complete 11 missions at an average cost of $262.6 million per mission.

But that cost differential will largely evaporate in the second round of cargo supply contracts. For flights from 2020 to 2024, SpaceX will increase its price while Orbital ATK cuts its own by 15 percent. The new report provides unprecedented public detail about the second phase of commercial resupply contracts, known as CRS-2, which NASA awarded in a competitively bid process in 2016. SpaceX and Orbital ATK again won contracts (for a minimum of six flights), along with a new provider, Sierra Nevada Corp. and its Dream Chaser vehicle. Bids by Boeing and Lockheed Martin were not accepted.

(8) DEADPOOL ROUNDUP. The Mary Sue’s Kaila Hale-Stern claims Deadpool 2 Has Trolled the Critics into Liking It” while scanning reviews of the movie.

There’s a personality divide where some people are just never going to like a main character like Deadpool or a movie like Deadpool 2, and that’s okay! It is, however, refreshing to hear that there’s fun to be had here for those who want to have it. If one of the worst things you can say is that a movie is “too hip” for its own good, our curiosity is piqued.

(9) JOE KUBERT STORYTELLER AWARD. The inaugural award was given this weekend. “‘Usagi Yojimbo’ Creator Wins First Joe Kubert Storyteller Award”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The first Joe Kubert Distinguished Storyteller Award was presented Saturday at Ontario’s Comic Con Revolution, and the recipient is a comic book veteran whose career has lasted for more than 30 years and multiple publishers. Stan Sakai, the creator of epic anthropomorphic historical series Usagi Yojimbo, was tapped for the honor, although he was unable to attend the ceremony.

Sakai, who was born in Kyoto, Japan, and raised in Hawaii, got his start in comics as a letterer in the early 1980s on a number of independent comic book series, including cult classic Groo the Wanderer by MAD Magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones and Mark Evainer. He was soon writing and illustrating his own characters, beginning with The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy in the debut issue of the anthology title Albedo. Usagi Yojimbo followed in the very next issue, setting Sakai’s career path for years to come….

(10) HOSHI OBIT. Japanese monster movie actress Yuriko Hoshi (1943-2018) has died.

Actress Yuriko Hoshi, who was nominated for the Award of the Japanese Academy in 1997 for her supporting performance in Night Trains to the Stars, was perhaps most known for being a staple of Toho’s Kaiju films, appearing in Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and, most recently, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.

Today we’re sad to report, via Toho Kingdom, that Yuriko Hoshi passed away this week after a battle with lung cancer. Hoshi, born in December 1943, was 74 years old.

(11) SUBSEQUENT ARRIVAL. Jeb Kinnison, after reading Filers’ comments, has added a few hundred words to his article “Why ‘Arrival’ is Bad Science Fiction”, linked here yesterday.

(12) DESTINATION MOON. “Aiming for the Moon, Literally: One Foundation’s Plan for a Lunar Library” – but who’ll be there to check it out?

The Arch Mission Foundation has plans to put the entirety of Wikipedia, among other things, into an elaborate microfiche archive, then send it to the moon. And it’s not even the first time they’ve done something like this.

Wikipedia it seems, is everywhere on Earth—on smartphones and dumb phones, in countries with great internet access and in places with less.  But on the moon? It’ll be there soon, too, thanks to a nonprofit group with a mission to share knowledge across time and space.

(13) TRESPASSERS WILL BE VIOLATED. The colors on these Roman stone slabs faded long ago, but scientists have figured out what they were: “Ancient Romans Painted Horrifying Blood-Red Warnings on Wall Across Scotland” at LiveScience.

Ancient Romans used blood red, bright yellow and stunning white paints to illustrate dire warnings on the wall that separated them from the rebellious tribespeople of Scotland, a new study shows.

The painted warnings — including Roman eagles with blood-stained beaks, and the slain and decapitated bodies of the defeated victims of the victorious Roman legions — were shown alongside Latin inscriptions on carved stone slabs placed along a Roman rampart in Scotland.

Archaeologist Louisa Campbell from the University of Glasgow says the carved and painted stone slabs would have served as “Roman propaganda” to local tribespeople north of the Antonine Wall, a fortified wall built across Scotland by the Roman legions during the reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century A.D.

(14) SCI-FI TRAILER. 2036 Origin Unknown with Katee Sackhoff – here’s the official trailer.

(15) ARCHIE MCPHEE. A cultural icon finally gets its due in the Rubber Chicken Museum.

If you make your way to our Seattle Archie McPhee store, you’re in for a treat. Last week we premiered our new Rubber Chicken Museum! You can see the world’s largest rubber chicken and the world’s smallest rubber chicken, as well as everything in between. Our museum is dedicated to the history, cultural zeitgeist and general hilariousness of the rubber chicken. It is a must see! Plus, you can also see our new “Room 6” collection of historical novelties. You’ll get your PhD in LOL!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/18 Ringworlds For Sale or Rent, Moons To Let Fifty Cents

(1) PLANE SPEAKING. CollegeHumor shows what happens when a ticket agent has to deal with the argument that “My Dinosaur Is a Service Animal” (features Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard).

(2) EARLY RETURNS ON 451. Phil Nichols of BradburyMedia saw a preview screener of “HBO’s new Fahrenheit 451” and weighed in on his blog:

…The new Fahrenheit does take many liberties with Bradbury’s story (what, no Millie? Clarisse as a police informant?), but it knows what it’s doing. Specifically, it knows what Guy Montag has to learn, and what he has to become; and it knows what Beatty is in relation to Montag. Most importantly, it knows how to show the relevance of Fahrenheit to today’s world of sound bites, clickbait headlines and fake news. Bradbury said that you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture; you just have to get people to stop reading. And that’s exactly the world Bahrani has created here….

(3) MORE WORK FOR HOLLYWOOD LAWYERS. “Stan Lee Files $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The epic battles in Stan Lee’s comics may be nothing compared to the array of legal fights he’s waging — which now includes a billion-dollar lawsuit against the company he co-founded.

Lee is suing POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company.

POW! was acquired in 2017 by Hong Kong-based Camsing International, and Lee says POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion didn’t disclose the terms of the deal to him before it closed. At the time, Lee claims, he was devastated because his wife was on her deathbed and they took advantage of his despair — and his macular degeneration, which rendered him legally blind in 2015.

Lee says last year Duffy and Champion, along with his ex-business manager Jerardo Olivarez, whom he’s currently suing for fraud, asked him to sign a non-exclusive license with POW! for the use of his name and likeness in connection with creative works owned by the company. Instead, what he purportedly signed was a “fraudulent” intellectual property assignment agreement that granted POW! “the exclusive right to use Lee’s name, identity, image and likeness on a worldwide basis in perpetuity.”

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Lee has been selective about licensing his name and likeness and will only authorize the use on a non-exclusive basis.

(4) AWARD NOMINEE. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert! Her story “’Baptism of Fire’ is a nominee for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Award”.

The nominations for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards, which are run by the small press Bards & Sages, were announced today.

I was going to put the link to the announcement into the weekly link round-ups at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene respectively, but first I took a gander at the list of nominees and all but fell from my chair, because there, a bit down the page, was my name. For it turns out that “Baptism of Fire”, my contribution to the science fiction anthology The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw, has been nominated in the “Best short story” category. I had absolutely no idea about this, until I saw the nominee list.

(5) BLABBAGE. Derek Stauffer, in “Star Wars Comic May Hint At Leia’s Episode 9 Fate” in ScreenRant, says that Marvel’s Poe Dameron comic may have clues about what will happen to Leia Organa in Episode 9.

Given Leia’s weakened state in the comic, it seems even more obvious that she will end up passing the torch to Poe as leader of The Resistance at some point in the near future. The only real question is if that passing will come with Leia’s retirement, or her death.

(6) ARTISTS TO BE INDUCTED. The Society of Illustrators will honor the following artists at its Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony on June 21.

2018 Hall of Fame Laureates
Robert Crumb
Hilary Knight
Jim McMullan
CF Payne
Kate Greenaway
Rene Gruau
Jack Kirby
Heinrich Kley
Kay Nielsen

(7) NEW TO SHORT FICTION? Lady Business offers a “Short & Sweet Roundtable Discussion: Short Fiction Reading Habits” with A.C. Wise, Bogi Takács, Brandon O’Brien, Vanessa Fogg, and Bridget McKinney.

One thing I’ve learned from talking to people about short fiction is that there are many different styles of reading short fiction. There are people like me who read one story (generally online) and then stop and do something else. There are people who sit down with a print or ebook magazine and read the whole thing cover to cover. There are people who only listen to short fiction in podcast form. So I was thinking about the different ways people read short SFF, and I wanted to find out more about these differences. I also thought that since lots of people have different short fiction reading habits, people who want to try short fiction might find that different pieces of advice are helpful to different people. So I’ve invited several guests to the column to talk about their short fiction reading habits and to share advice for people new to short fiction.

This roundtable features prolific short fiction readers, so they have a lot of great ideas for where to find short fiction, but I know it can be a little intimidating when there’s so much to choose from and people who read so much! I hope this roundtable gives readers a taste of how many ways there are to read short fiction and how many entry points there are, and that there’s no wrong way to read, including how much you read or at what point in life you start reading short fiction.

(8) LEND ME YOUR EARS. From Tested in 2013, “ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets”. News to me — the crowds of the pod races in Star Wars Episode I were half a million painted q-tips.

Don Bies: One of the cool things, whenever we’re working together, is people thinking outside the box, and trying to come up with practical solutions. And in the early days, certainly it was ‘let’s see if we can beat the CG guys at their own game.’ Michael Lynch, one of the modelmakers–he was always really good at looking at things this way–he was looking at the crowds. And when you see a crowd in a stadium you’re really just seeing shapes and colors, you’re not really seeing people or individual faces.

So he came up with the idea…of using q-tips, cotton swabs, colored, in the stands of the Mos Espa arena. So there were something like 450,000 q-tips painted multiple colors, and he even researched it to find out how many reds versus yellows and blues and greens that should be in there.

And it was a process of just days of painting. Think about 450,000 cotton swabs, how you paint them, and then how you put them in. Everyone took turns at one point sticking them into the stands. And by blowing a fan underneath they kind of twinkled, like people moving around. Ultimately they did put some CG people on top of it, but I always thoght it would be funny if they caught to a close-up of the stands and you saw a cotton swab sitting in the stands next to the aliens…

(9) ALFRED THE GREAT. Hollywood Reporter headline: “’Gotham’ Boss Sets New Batman Prequel Series at Epix (Exclusive)”. Premium cable network Epix will air Pennyworth. The series has some behind-the-camera personnel ties to Gotham, but is not a prequel of that Fox series. No cast has been announced.

Epix is getting into the DC Comics business.

The MGM-owned premium cable network has handed out a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for Pennyworth, a drama set in the Batman universe from Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller.

The series will revolve around Alfred Pennyworth, the best friend and butler to Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). The series is not a Gotham spinoff but rather an entirely new story exploring Alfred’s origins as a former British SAS soldier who forms a secret company and goes to work with Thomas Wayne — Bruce’s billionaire father — in 1960s London. Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred Pennyworth on Fox’s recently renewed Gotham, is not involved. Casting has not yet begun and the series is set in a completely different universe despite hailing from Heller and producers Warner Horizon. (Others who have played the Alfred role include Jeremy Irons, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, Alan Napier and William Austin, among others.)

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Hershey Kisses were named after the “kissing” sound made by the nozzle that drops the chocolate onto a cooled conveyor belt during their production. Hershey started making its version in 1907 but “kiss” was commonly used as a generic term for candies wrapped with a twist as early as the 1820s. Hershey managed to trademark the term in 2000 after arguing that consumers almost exclusively associated the word “kiss” with their brand versus other candies.

Source: Time

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SCALZI FREE READ. The Electronic Frontier Foundation enlisted John Scalzi to help make their point: “EFF Presents John Scalzi’s Science Fiction Story About Our Right to Repair Petition to the Copyright Office”.

A small bit of good news: Congress designed a largely ornamental escape valve into this system: every three years, the Librarian of Congress can grant exemptions to the law for certain activities. These exemptions make those uses temporarily legal, but (here’s the hilarious part), it’s still not legal to make a tool to enable that use. It’s as though Congress expected you to gnaw open your devices and manually change the software with the sensitive tips of your nimble fingers or something. That said, in many cases it’s easy to download the tools you need anyway. We’re suing the U.S. government to invalidate DMCA 1201, which would eliminate the whole farce. It’s 2018, and that means it’s exemptions time again! EFF and many of our allies have filed for a raft of exemptions to DMCA 1201 this year, and in this series, we’re teaming up with some amazing science fiction writers to explain what’s at stake in these requests.

This week, we’re discussing our right to repair exemption. Did you know the innards of your car are copyrighted?

… The use of DRM to threaten the independent repair sector is a bad deal all-around. Repair is an onshore industry that creates middle-class jobs in local communities, where service technicians help Americans get more value out of the devices they buy. It’s not just cars: everything from tractors to printers, from toys to thermostats have been designed with DRM that stands in the way of your ability to decide who fixes your stuff, or whether it can be fixed at all. That’s why we’ve asked the Copyright Office to create a broad exemption to permit repair technicians to bypass any DRM that gets in the way of their ability to fix your stuff for you.

Our friend John Scalzi was kind enough to write us a science fiction story that illustrates the stakes involved.

(13) HOUSE OF REPUTE. Real estate news site 6sqft profiles a celebrity abode which once housed sf author Robert Silverberg: “Former home of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia lists for $3.5M in Fieldston section of Riverdale”. Numerous photos of the inside and outside.

A stately English Tudor mansion in the historic Fieldston neighborhood of Riverdale, considered one of the city’s best preserved early 20th century suburbs, has just hit the market for $3.5 million, and it’s oozing history filled ghosts, science fiction, New York master politicians, and urban planners. Former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved to 5020 Goodridge Avenue after serving three consecutive terms as mayor and living in Gracie Mansion….

In 1961, Robert Silverberg, a well-known science fiction author – and not as well-known as the prolific writer of erotica novels for quick cash – bought the house. In his 1972 novel, The Book of Skulls, Silverberg mentioned the neighborhood, writing, “How unreal the whole immortality thing seemed to me now, with the jeweled cables of the George Washington Bridge gleaming far to the southwest, and the soaring bourgeois towers of Riverdale hemming us on to the right, and the garlicky realities of Manhattan straight ahead.”

(14) PROBLEM FIXER. Michael Z. Williamson’s advice is to ban the people who complain about a convention GoH.

…Your only rational, immediate response to avoid “controversy” is just to ban the person making the public scene. They’ve already told you by this action that they intend to cause trouble for at least one of your guests and that guest’s followers.

“I wouldn’t feel safe with this person at the con!”
“We’re sorry you feel that way.  Here’s a full refund.* We hope to see you at a future event.”

Then stop responding. You’ll only give attention to an attention whore.

Having seen this happen to guests at least three times, any future guest invitations I accept will involve a signed cancellation clause and a cash penalty for doing so, because once a guest has made arrangements for your event, they can’t schedule something else, and you’re eating up their writing/art/production time. They are there for YOUR benefit, not you for theirs. In my case, I currently have three novels, a collection, an anthology, all contracted, another novel offer, three on spec, an article request, three short stories and a lengthy stack of products to test and review, and an entire summer of professional bookings. I have a not-quite four year old and a teenager. Don’t waste my time then roll over for some worthless whiner….

(15) MAKING PLANS. John Ringo, in a public Facebook post, advises writers —

…With every other convention, assume you’re being set-up at this point and don’t be played for a sucker.

Oh, yeah, and as fans and lovers of liberty, never, ever attend Origins again if you ever have. Or ConCarolinas. (Sorry, Jada.) Or ArchCon. Or WorldCon.

We need a list. They never will be missed. No they never will be missed.

(16) ALTERNATE SPORTS HISTORY. Counterfactual: “Blimps Full Of Money And 30 Other Sports Fantasias In ‘Upon Further Review'”. What if football had stayed boring, or the US had boycotted the Berlin Olympics, or …?

Mike Pesca assembled the new book titled Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs In Sports History and a companion podcast. In an interview, he explained some of the book’s 31 different scenarios written by 31 sportswriters.

(17) SYMBOLISM. “Henrietta Lacks’ Lasting Impact Detailed In New Portrait” — shoutouts to unwitting donor of a cell line that has been used all over biomedicine.

When Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in 1951, her cells were harvested without her knowledge. They became crucial to scientific research and her story became a best-seller. Since then, Lacks has become one of the most powerful symbols for informed consent in the history of science.

On Monday, when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., honored Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks’ grandchildren were there.

(18) BIRD IS THE WORD. “Dinosaur parenting: How the ‘chickens from hell’ nested”. “How do you sit on your nest of eggs when you weigh over 1,500kg?”

Dinosaur parenting has been difficult to study, due to the relatively small number of fossils, but the incubating behaviour of oviraptorosaurs has now been outlined for the first time.

Scientists believe the largest of these dinosaurs arranged their eggs around a central gap in the nest.

This bore the parent’s weight, while allowing them to potentially provide body heat or protection to their developing young, without crushing the delicate eggs.

The feathered ancient relatives of modern birds, oviraptorosaurs lived in the Late Cretaceous period, at least 67 million years ago.

(19) SF TV ARCHEOLOGY. Echo Ishii’s tour of old sf TV leads this time to “SF Obscure: Cosmic Slop.

Cosmic Slop was a 1994 TV anthology series on HBO featuring three short black science fiction movies. (I have also seen the broadcast date listed as 1995.) It features three short “Space Traders” based on the Derrick Bell short story; “The First Commandment” and “Tang”. It’s kind of a Twilight Zone vibe with George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic during the intros. (It’s as bizarre in the way only George Clinton can be.)

(20) TREK MEDICINE TODAY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination hosts “Star Trek, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE & the Future of Medicine” on June 2, with Qualcomm XPRIZE Tricorder Prize winner Basil Harris, Robert Picardo (actor, Emergency Medical Hologram, Star Trek: Voyager), and Dr. Rusty Kallenberg, Chairman of Family Medicine and Director of the UCSD XPRIZE Test Program.

June 2, 2018
5:00-7:00pm
Liebow Auditorium
UC San Diego

Artificial intelligence is already impacting healthcare is numerous ways. Are we far from the future portrayed in Star Trek: Voyager, of an AI holographic doctor with encyclopedic medical knowledge? What are the pathways that will yield the most profound results for AI in medicine? And what are the ethical and regulatory issues we need to consider as we develop these technologies?

Hosted by Erik Viirre, associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, The Future of Medicine is an exploration of these questions and more, as they impact the UC San Diego innovation ecosystem and beyond. Our master of ceremonies is Robert Picardo, actor and star of Star Trek: Voyager, where he left a cultural impact as the face of AI medicine as the Emergency Medical Hologram, known as “The Doctor.” Basil Harris, founder of Basil Leaf Technologies and winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to develop a real-world Tricorder-like medical device, will share his experience developing DextER, an autonomous medical diagnostic device, and the future of this pathway for innovation. And leaders from UC San Diego will join a panel on artificial agents in medical technology development.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/18 They Had Many Books For Their Kindles And Nooks And Hardcovers Kept In A Pile

(1) AWARD REVOKED. While I haven’t located any related protests in social media that would explain the decision, evidently the Romance Writers of America received enough complaints after making their award to the Washington Romance Writers to change their minds: “Update on 2018 Chapter Excellence Award”.

On May 1, 2018, RWA’s board voted to rescind the 2018 Chapter Excellence Award granted to Washington Romance Writers. This decision was made after extensive review and deliberation, because the board found it impossible to hold Washington Romance Writers up as an example of excellence due to a number of complaints received after the board voted to grant the award.

Incidents reported to RWA were submitted by WRW members as well as meeting and retreat attendees who were made to feel unwelcome, disrespected, and embarrassed by members of Washington Romance Writers. Such incidents potentially violate RWA’s Code of Ethics for Members, RWA’s By-Laws, Chapter By-Laws, and are clearly in violation of the Chapter Code of Conduct recently adopted by RWA and required to be included in all chapters’ governing documents by March 2019.

RWA’s board is dedicated to ensuring that all members feel respected, and we will no longer tolerate insensitive or biased behavior. We hope and expect that WRW is willing to take steps to ensure its future success as an RWA chapter. Only by working together can we make RWA stronger.

(2) COCKY OR NOT TO COCKY, THAT IS THE QUESTION. You may have already read news stories about Faleena Hopkins’ effort to trademark the word “cocky” for a series of romance books (her works include Cocky Romantic and Cocky Cowboy) and reports that she warned off some other writers who use the adjective in the titles of their books (see “Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry” in The Guardian.)

(3) THE CASE OF THE MISSING COCKY. Now there have been claims that Amazon, a primary sales channel, has been culling other authors’ titles based upon her claim.

What’s more, there have been claims that Amazon has removed some customer reviews using the word “cocky,” and delayed the posting of others (which their makers tried to post either in protest or to test Amazon’s policy.)

You can see this one’s gone:

Original URL: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3A3NXV2FH4Q4A

Google cache copy of page with review: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:zxJaTw9kaAcJ:https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Hard-New-Adult-Anthology/dp/098614150X

However, there are both titles and reviews still on Amazon with “cocky” in them which are not by the author claiming the trademark. There’s no way to tell whether any of those were zapped, then restored, by Amazon.

JJ ran a search of customer reviews containing the word “cocky” and got only 3 hits, which seemed rather low:

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&biw=1234&bih=656&q=%22cocky%22+romance+site%3Aamazon.com%2Freview

I don’t know. It does seem like a very small search return; they’re almost all “trending” results rather than individual review results, which would indicate that they are quite recent reviews.

Heidi Cullinan did a thread on the topic:

If Amazon is deleting things — what’s with their legal staff? Do they really think they have exposure from this?

The Romance Writers of America have gotten involved:

(4) GILLIAM STROKE. And it was just the other day we were reporting his luck had finally changed for the better: “Terry Gilliam Suffers Minor Stroke Days Before Verdict on Cannes Closer ‘Don Quixote'”.

Terry Gilliam suffered a minor stroke over the weekend, days before a final verdict on whether his long-gestating passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be screened as the closing film at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Gilliam, 77, had a minor stroke but is fine now and recuperating at his home in England, awaiting the outcome of a court ruling regarding the screening of Don Quixote on the last night of the festival May 19. French newspaper Nice-Matin first reported the news.

(5) FIRST LOOK. The Daily Beast tells about “The Secret Photographs of Stanley Kubrick”.

According to Michael Benson’s authoritative Space Odyssey, Kubrick shot setups with the Polaroid then, based on the results, he and cameraman John Alcott adjusted lighting and the placement of his Super Panavision 70mm cameras.

“I think he saw things differently that way than he did looking through a camera,” Alcott told Benson. “When Kubrick looked at this Polaroid still, he would see a two-dimensional image — it was all one surface and closer to what he was going to see on the screen.”

It’s estimated Kubrick shot some 10,000 insta-images on 2001, and if you only know Kubrick as a reclusive eccentric that reliance on the Polaroid might seem a characteristic quirk.

But in fact it was an extension of the creative sensibility he developed as a teenager working for Look. From 1945 to 1950, Kubrick was a photographer for the picture magazine, evocatively and empathically documenting ordinary New Yorkers, celebrities, athletes, and post-war playgrounds like the amusement park.

He shot more than 135 assignments for Look while honing the skills, relationships, and chutzpah that led him to filmmaking.

Yet this vital strand of Kubrick’s artistic DNA has been criminally underexplored. The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibition Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, on view through October 28, aims to change that….

(6) HIRED HELP. BuzzFeed takes you “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”. Given the ongoing debate on deleted reviews on Amazon, it may be interesting that a ReviewMeta algorithmic analysis (per CEO Tommy Noonan) of 58.5 million reviews on Amazon found 9.1% of them (5.3 million) to be “unnatural” and possibly fake. Unsurprisingly, Amazon disagrees claiming that <1% are “inauthentic.” Note that this article is concerned with paid reviews (both positive and negative), not tit-for-tat reviews as have been discussed in File 770.

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

…In October 2016, Amazon banned free items or steep discounts in exchange for reviews facilitated by third parties. But Tommy Noonan, CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “unnatural reviews” — that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake — have returned to the platform. In June 2017, Noonan noticed an uptick in unnatural reviews along with an increase in the average rating of products, and the rate of growth hasn’t slowed since.

Amazon’s ban didn’t stop sellers from recruiting reviewers. It only drove the practice underground. Reviewers are no longer simply incentivized with free stuff — they’re commissioned specifically for a five-star rating in exchange for cash. The bad reviews are harder to spot, too: They don’t contain any disclosures (because incentivized reviews are banned, and a disclosure would indicate that the review violates Amazon’s terms). Paid reviewers also typically pay for products with their own credit cards on their own Amazon accounts, with which they have spent at least $50, all to meet the criteria for a “verified purchase,” so their reviews are marked as such.

(7) CYBER TAKEDOWN. Equifax has been in no hurry for the complete damages to be made public. The Register has the latest totals: “Equifax reveals full horror of that monstrous cyber-heist of its servers”.

Late last week, the company gave the numbers in letters to the various US congressional committees investigating the network infiltration, and on Monday, it submitted a letter to the SEC, corporate America’s financial watchdog.

As well as the – take a breath – 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million address information and 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date) exposed, the company said there were also 38,000 American drivers’ licenses and 3,200 passport details lifted, too.

(8) LOOKING FOR CIVILIZATION THAT PREDATES HUMANITY. Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA, published a recent paper about what could be left in the geological record that could identify a pre-human technologically advanced civilization.

The drier scientific discussion is here: “The Silurian hypothesis: would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?”

Abstract

If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? We summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. We then propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event.

Impressively, he has also written a short story about the impact of making such a discovery: “Under the Sun” at Motherboard.

(9) CRAIG OBIT. Noble Craig, U.S. actor, died April 26, 2018. Severely injured during wartime service in Vietnam, he used his disabilities to forge an acting career, taking roles those with four limbs were unable to fill, beginning with Sssssss (1973). Also appeared in Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Big Trouble in Little China (both 1986), The Blob (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Bride of Re-Animator (both 1989).

(10) STAR TOY. Have you fiddled with this yet? — ESASky is an application that allows you to visualize and download public astronomical data from space-based missions. Mlex sent this sample:

(11) 1984. Fanac.org has posted another Hugo ceremony video: “L.A.con II (1984) Worldcon – Hugos and Special Tributes – Robert Bloch, MC.”

Hey, there’s R. A. MacAvoy at 13:00. And guess who at 22:16 and 23:45.

L.A.con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Anaheim, CA in 1984. Toastmaster Robert Bloch’s introductory remarks are tantamount to standup comedy, and the video also includes several special and moving tributes along with the Hugos. The first tribute is presented by Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison to fan and editor Larry Shaw (who died within the next year) and the second to Robert Bloch himself. There’s also some fun with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle on stage having to do with a rocket shaped object. Thanks to the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) for this recording.

 

(12) PLANETARY AWARDS. The 2017 winners of the Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards have been announced.

  • Best Shorter Story: “The First American” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Cirsova).
  • Best Novel: Legionnaire (Galaxy’s Edge) by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole.

(13) FREE CELL. A better model? “Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells”

A new application of artificial intelligence could help researchers solve medical mysteries ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

It’s a 3D model of a living human cell that lets scientists study the interior structures of a cell even when they can only see the exterior and the nucleus — the largest structure in a cell. The model was unveiled to the public Wednesday by the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle.

The technology is freely available, and Roger Brent, an investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who was not involved in the tool’s development, has been using it for several months. He’s a big fan.

“This lets you see things with a simple microscope that are going to be helpful to researchers all over the world — including in less affluent places,” Brent says.

(14) VACUUM POWER. BBC video: “The amazing power of the world’s largest vacuum” — is used for testing spaceworthiness; also tests noise resistance, and was used in first Avengers movie.

(15) DOUBLE STAR. Michael B. Jordan was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about his recent and his upcoming star turns in sff epics.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ star Michael B. Jordan approaches every role by journaling the character’s backstory, including his portrayal of Erik Killmonger in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther.’

 

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rob Day, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributingh editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/18 Alas, Dear Scrollick, I Knew Him, Horatio. A Fileow Of Tsundoku Unaddressed

(1) LEVAR BURTON. The “LeVar Burton Reads” Bay Area tour stop features in “LIVE! in San Francisco: ‘As Good as New’ by Charlie Jane Anders”.

 A young woman unexpectedly finds herself with the fate of the world in her hands. Recorded on the LeVar Burton Reads LIVE! tour. With accompaniment by Astronauts, etc. keyboardist Anthony Ferraro, and featuring a conversation with Charlie Jane Anders. This story appears in Anders’ collection SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS, FIVE OTHERS.

Tor.com also has transcribed some of Burton and Anders’ conversation about his reading.

(2) NOW WITH ADDED PRIX. Here are two more awards that were announced this weekend at Congrès Boréal.

Prix des Horizons imaginaires 2018

A jury of 80 Quebec college students named François Blais as laureate of the Prix des Horizons imaginaires for his novel Les Rivières suivi de Les montagnes, published by éditions de L’instant même . In addition to a trophy designed by the artist Karl Dupéré-Richer, the author will receive a C$300 scholarship from Marianopolis College.

The other finalists were:

  • La chambre verte, de Martine Desjardins (Éditions Alto)
  • Et si le diable le permet, de Cédric Ferrand (Éditions Les moutons électriques)
  • Les Cendres de Sedna, d’Ariane Gélinas (Éditions Alire)
  • Rénovation, de Renaud Jean (Éditions du Boréal)

Prix Solaris 2018

Luc Dagenais’ novel La Déferlante des mères won the Prix Solaris 2018.

(3) MIGHTY MANGA. Let the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog convince you: “Why Fullmetal Alchemist Is Essential Reading for Every Fantasy Fan”.

With the release of its first hardcover deluxe edition this week, the manga Fullmetal Alchemist has now been blessed with not one, not two, but three English releases, and it’s hard to think of a series more deserving.

Since it began serialization 17 years ago, Hiromu Arakawa’s blockbuster shonen fantasy has inspired not only readers, but also fantasy authors and artists the likes of Brian McClellan and Faith Erin Hicks. On the surface, it sounds like a typical adventure series, following two brothers, skilled young alchemist Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse (reduced to a spirit encased in a hollow suit of armor in the wake of a magical experiment went horribly wrong), seek the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled object they hope to use to enhance Ed’s power and hopefully restore Al’s humanity. But there’s a lot going on below the surface—fascinating philosophical questions, tricky moral quandaries, and complex character interactions.

(4) BUT WHAT ABOUT MY NEXT JOB. Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon guest “Michael Shannon Is Into Those Internet James Bond Villain Rumors”. Funny stuff, including cat humor – and they did eventually remember to promote HBO’s Fahrenheit 451, his reason for being on the show.

(5) THE PUPPY BUBBLE. John Scalzi, in the middle of Reader Request Week, comments about attacks on his political leanings: “Reader Request Week 2018 #4: Far-Left(?) Scalzi”.

The reason there’s a cottage industry in attacking me as “far left” is rather more simple and rather a bit more sad than that, which is that there was a small(ish) clutch of writers and fans whose politics ranged from stock conservative to reactionary to white nationalist and who, for various reasons, disliked me and the fact I have a successful writing career. So they went out of their way to try to insult and diminish me in ways that carry weight to others of their sort. So along with questioning my masculinity and/or my sexuality and/or my sales and/or the validity of my awards and/or my writing talents and/or blog visits and/or [insert whatever here], they called me “far left” because in their universe being far left is one of the worst things you can possibly be. Me just being moderately left wouldn’t do, mind you. Everything has to be extreme for these boys. So far left I am. It’s me and Stalin, bear hugging.

(6) ALL HAT, NO CATTLE. Airing Wednesday, “Rick Moranis Reviving Spaceballs’ Dark Helmet For The Goldbergs”.

For the first time since way back in 1986, Moranis will once again play Dark Helmet. As reported by USA Today, Moranis will reprise his famed Spaceballs character on this week’s episode of the sitcom The Goldbergs. This marks Moranis’ first on-screen appearance since he retired from movies after 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. As series creator Adam F. Goldberg explained, he hopes Moranis’ unexpected return will kickstart a possible Spaceballs sequel:

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1936 — First Catholic mass in an airship (Hindenburg) over ocean.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DIRECTOR

  • Born May 8, 1942 — Douglas Trumbull, special effects master

(9) AN ARTICLE THAT MAKES FOLKS IRATE. Lila Shapiro’s article for Vulture, “The Story Behind FanCon’s Controversial Collapse”, quotes one of the con’s organizers —

In recent weeks, the team behind the event has been grappling with how it all fell apart. According to their accounts, they were simply well-intentioned idealists who took on a project that proved too big for them to handle, and failed to call it off until it was too late. “It was hubris,” said Butler, in his only interview discussing the implosion. Hubris — and, as he went on to suggest, a surprising lack of enthusiasm for diversity among fans. If more fans had bought tickets, he said, the whole debacle could have been avoided. “Unfortunately, they just didn’t,” he said. “I should have known better. But I let my belief in this nonexistent community blind me.”

ULTRAGOTHA (signing as “the Indignant”) sent the link with a comment:

Nonexistent community??! The guy raised $52,000 from fans on a Kickstarter and the pop-up con had 1000 attendees and he says the community is nonexistent?  Fuck that noise.

Twitter’s Clarkisha Kent has fundamental objections to Lila Shapiro’s piece itself (jump on the thread at the link), levying criticisms like —

  1. Being not lazy & actually read what me and @jazmine_joyner/@womenoncomics ALREADY wrote about #FanCon so you don’t look like an asswho doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

(10) OVERSERVED. From the BBC: “World of Warcraft attacker jailed in US”. He tried to get an edge by DDoSing servers so competitors couldn’t get in.

A World of Warcraft gamer has been sentenced to jail in the US for carrying out a cyber-attack that interfered with the service in Europe.

Calin Mateias had been accused of flooding Blizzard Entertainment’s computer servers with traffic between February and September 2010.

He was said to have carried out the distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault to prevent rivals logging in.

Thousands of players were caught up in the resulting disruption.

The Romanian citizen – who had been extradited to Los Angeles to face the charges – pleaded guilty in February to one count of causing damage to a protected computer.

He has also paid $29,987 (£22,176) to Blizzard to cover the costs it racked up trying to repel the data deluge.

(11) BOLO. Second variety? “Russia to showcase robot tank in WW2 victory parade”.

Gazeta.ru reports that the Uran-9 can locate a target itself but the decision to fire is taken by a commander sitting in an armoured truck up to 3km (1.8 miles) away.

The Uran-6 robot-sapper was used to clear mines in the Syrian hotspots of Palmyra, Aleppo and Deir al-Zour. Its controller steers it from a distance of up to 1km.

(12) FOUND IN LA MANCHA. “Terry Gilliam’s ‘cursed’ Quixote is finally here”. He’s been trying to make an adaptation of Cervantes’ novel for over 20 years.

…But as beguiling as its combination of showbiz glamour, fairy-tale enchantment and workaday practicalities may be, the most thrilling aspect of this tableau is what’s missing. There are no meteorites, hurricanes or bolts of lighting. There are no ravenous tigers or cholera outbreaks. There isn’t an ambulance or a fire engine in sight. Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a film which is synonymous with sustained and calamitous misfortune, is finally going without a hitch after nearly 30 years of blood, sweat, toil and tears.

(13) CHINA’S SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM. Did you know? According to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “Everyone In China Is Getting A ‘Social Credit Score’.” Didn’t Orville and Black Mirror have episodes with social point systems as a dystopian premise?

(14) CREDIT DENIED. In the May 2 Financial Times, Gabriel Wildau reports that Chinese censors have banned short videos of British animated character Peppa Pig (which have been viewed on the China Central television website 30 billion times since 2015) because users used stills from the show to “create memes with vulgar or sardonic captions” with some netizens referring to Peppa Pig as -shehuiren- or “gangster.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Britain’s Hardknott Brewery closed in April, but before they folded they made “intergalactic Space Hopper” on Vimeo, which explains what happens when you make a spacey beer that claims it “set hops to stun.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/25/18 The Unscrollable Molly Pixel

(1) BOX OFFICE KING UNSEATED. Black Panther set records: “Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Becomes Top-Grossing Superhero Film of All Time in U.S.”.

The Disney and Marvel release achieved the milestone on Saturday after passing fellow Marvel title The Avengers, which grossed $623.4 million in 2012. To boot, Black Panther is only one of seven films to ever earn $600 million or more domestically, finishing Sunday with $630.9 million to put it at No. 5 on the all-time list.

But it finally has been bumped from the top of the weekly pyramid: “Weekend Box Office: ‘Pacific Rim 2’ Beating ‘Black Panther’ With Muted $25M-Plus”

Legendary and Universal’s big-budget release Pacific Rim: Uprising may have the distinction of being the film to finally unseat blockbuster Black Panther atop the box office, but the big-budget tentpole may not open to much more than $26 million in its domestic debut, according to early Friday returns. The first Pacific Rim, released in summer 2013, opened to $37 million in Nrth America.

Stomping into 2,850 theaters, Pacific Rim 2 grossed $10.4 million on Friday, including $2.4 million in Thursday previews.

(2) GUARD THOSE FOOTPRINTS. The White House (the Office of Science and Technology Policy) has issued a document proposing standards for “Protecting & Preserving Apollo Program Lunar Landing Sites & Artifacts” – Popular Mechanics has the story: “The U.S. Doesn’t Want Anyone Messing With the Apollo Landing Sites”.

Nations, space companies, and even private citizens have big plans to colonize the Moon. But this reinvigorated focus on our nearest celestial neighbor have some worried that this mad dash could destroy historical lunar landmarks.

Yesterday, The White House issued a report calling for ways to protect Apollo-era landing sites, calling them “rich in scientific and historical significance.” Congress mandated the report in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. Damage from exhaust blasts of nearby spacecraft, biological contamination, and the obliteration of tracks in the regolith are all concerns.

“Three Apollo sites remain scientifically active and all the landing sites provide the opportunity to learn about the changes associated with long-term exposure of human-created systems in the harsh lunar environment,” the report says. “Currently, very little data exists that describe what effect temperature extremes, lunar dust, micrometeoroids, solar radiation, etc. have on such man-made material.”

(3) FOWLERS. LitHub presents “Shannon Leone Fowler on Traveling After Her Fiancé’s Death, In Conversation with her mother, Karen Joy Fowler”.

KJF: So you wrote Traveling with Ghosts while raising your kids. And you’re still interested in animals—the book has a lot of marine biology, and of course Sean’s death from a box jellyfish. This is a grief memoir, and you’ve gotten a lot of response to the grief part, but it’s also a travel memoir, and my impression is that there’s been less response to the travel part.

SLF: Yes, the vast majority of personal messages from readers as well as the media have been about Sean’s death, and I wasn’t entirely anticipating that. Because although the book is very much centered around Sean’s death, the bulk of the story is the journey after and the travel that I did following. I think the lessons I learned that were the most surprising and profound were the lessons I learned traveling. So I wasn’t entirely prepared for the focus on Sean’s death, although I guess I should have been because it’s so shocking. But it was difficult at the beginning because I was thinking I was going to have conversations about these amazing Israeli girls or the resilience of Bosnia, and instead I kept finding myself back on the beach in Thailand.

(4) 451. The Verge has the schedule: “HBO will air its film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 on May 19th”.

HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 finally has a release date: May 19th, 2018, according to Variety. The network announced the project last year, which stars Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan and The Shape of Water’s Michael Shannon. Ramin Bahrani (99 Houses) directed and co-wrote the film.

(5) NEW MEXICO TIME. Walter Jon Williams linked to video of him being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.

So here I am any the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.  Right at the start he says I’m an important guy, so I must be.

 

(6) SILVERBERG-INSPIRED OPERA. “To See The Invisible”, an opera based on a Robert Silverberg story, will be performed at the 2018 Aldeburgh Festival, UK, June 8-11.

The opening performance of To See The Invisible will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s “Hear and Now”.

Tickets from £5.00 to £25.00

…Condemned for a ‘crime of coldness’ by an authoritarian regime, The Invisible is cast adrift from society. All human interaction is outlawed. This life of isolation leads to strange, vicarious thrills and painful inner torment. Yet, as the lonely exile draws to a close, it is not coldness but perilous empathy with a fellow Invisible that risks the cycle of exclusion beginning all over again…

Emily Howard’s new opera, based on a short story by renowned American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg, is a claustrophobic study of isolation; a dark satire on social conventions; and a stark reminder of our cruelty to outsiders. Howard’s music embraces extremes – the eerie beauty of The Invisible’s secluded psychological spaces set against the perpetual motion of the World of Warmth.

 

(7) FAITH AND FICTION. In “Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle”, the Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviews Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle biographer Sarah Arthur and King’s College English professor Alissa Wilkinson about how Madeleine L’Engle’s deep Episcopalian faith was reflected in her fiction.

It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of them who disliked her book for faith reasons.

(8) DIETRICH OBIT. Erwin C. Dietrich (1930-2018): Swiss film producer, aged 87. Specialised in sexploitation cinema, but genre releases include Jesus Franco’s Jack the Ripper (1976) and the horror-comedy Killer Condom (1996).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY TREKKER

  • Born March 25, 1939 – D.C. Fontana

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says either the world is doomed, or ready for a feast: Non Sequitur.

(11) AKIRA AND AKITA. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan interviews Wes Anderson, who says Isle of Dogs is a homage to Akira Kurosawa and that here are also references to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II: “Why ‘Isle of Dogs’ may be Wes Anderson’s most timely film yet”

But if this is Anderson’s most timely film, why use animated dogs, not actors, to make his point?

Anderson says there was something hard to explain about the germ of the idea — a society of outcast and abandoned dogs living on a trash-strewn island — that fired up his imagination. “When Roman and Jason and I were first discussing this story, they said, ‘What do you see here? What is it that you are so interested in?’ I don’t know why, but I just had this idea that there’s a movie in that world and about this group of dogs. What are they going through? Why are they there? And the next thing you ask is, ‘What happens?’ The story just came out of our subconsciousness as much as anything else.”

(12) I CAN’T IMAGINE. What novels would you expect to find in JDA’s “man-bundle”? Maybe Monty Python’s Short History of Men Named Bruce?

(13) HOPKINSON TO WRITE COMICS. ComicsBeat boosted the signal: “WonderCon 2018: DC Announced New Justice League Titles”

Last month, Vertigo shocked readers when they announced the return to the Dreaming in a Neil Gaiman-curated THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE imprint this August. Today, Vertigo and DC Black Label Executive Editor Mark Doyle, along with guest Nalo Hopkinson who will pen the HOUSE OF WHISPERS title, gave fans a first look at Bilquis Evely’s interiors for THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1. Hopkinson shared her excitement for the transition from novelist to comic book writer, and shared some first insights into the mysterious new house and its proprietor. THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 is available August 8, 2018.

(14) TO THINE OWN SELF. Neither an ape nor an alien be…: “Origin of ‘six-inch mummy’ confirmed”.

In addition to its exceptionally small height, the skeleton had several unusual physical features, such as fewer than expected ribs and a cone-shaped head.

The remains were initially discovered in a pouch in the abandoned nitrate mining town of La Noria. From there, they found their way into a private collection in Spain.

Some wondered whether the remains, dubbed Ata after the Atacama region where they were discovered, could in fact be the remains of a non-human primate. A documentary, called Sirius, even suggested it could be evidence of alien visitations.

Genetic investigation

The new research puts those ideas to rest.

A scientific team analysed the individual’s genome – the genetic blueprint for a human, contained in the nucleus of cells.

They had already used this to confirm that the individual was human. Now, the team has presented evidence that Ata was a female newborn with multiple mutations in genes associated with dwarfism, scoliosis and abnormalities in the muscles and skeleton.

(15) BETTER MOUSETRAP. Predator introduced by colonists eliminated from World Heritage sites: “Global implications for NZ ‘Million Dollar Mouse’ success”.

Million Dollar Mouse, part-funded by a public crowd-funding campaign, aimed to continue the work of other eradication projects around New Zealand, and involved a team setting up camp on the islands, air drops of pesticides from three helicopters, culminating in a month-long search involving trained dogs for any remaining pests, Radio NZ says.

According to a Stuff.nz feature on the islands, the mice likely arrived on ships belonging to sealers, and drove at least two local species to extinction. If the project hadn’t tackled the rodents they “would have spelled doom for many of the species there,” the feature said.

“The project was done to benefit the whole ecosystem there,” Mr Horn told Stuff, “These islands are high value, they’re World Heritage sites”. Animal life on the Antipodes Islands include bird species not found anywhere else.

(16) BOUNCEHENGE REDUX. Nickpheas says:

If you’re going to discover the inflatable Stonehenge then you really need the response song by musical comedian and sometime science fiction writer Mitch Benn (Terra, Terra’s World).

When Mitch does a live show he asks the audience for typical suggestions and tries to write a song during the interval. Generally they’re forgotten. This one, which I was there to hear it’s first performance had more legs.

 

[Thanks to Steve Green, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,  John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Nickpheas, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Official Teaser

Today HBO dropped the teaser trailer for its production of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 415.

Fahrenheit 451 is based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel. In a future where the media is an opiate, history is rewritten and “firemen” burn books, Jordan plays Guy Montag, a young fireman who struggles with his role as law enforcer and with his “mentor”, played by Shannon. Premieres Spring 2018 on HBO.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/18 If You’ll Be My Pixel, I Can Be Your Long Lost Scroll

(1) TERRAN AWARD. George R.R. Martin, in “Aliens In Taos”, announces he has created a scholarship to bring an sf writer from a non-English speaking country to Taos Toolbox.

When astronauts look down on Earth from orbit, they don’t see borders, national boundaries, or linguistic groups; they see one world, a gorgeous blue globe spinning in space, streaked with clouds. I don’t know if humanity will ever reach the stars (though I hope we will), but if we do, it won’t be Americans who get there. It won’t be the Chinese or the Russians or the British or the French or the Brazilians or the Kiwis or the South Africans or the Indians or the folk of any other nation state either. It will be humanity; in the language of the SF of my youth, it will be Terrans or Earthlings or Earthmen. The future belongs to all the peoples of the world.

With that in mind, I want to announce that I am sponsoring a new scholarship, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress run every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The TERRAN AWARD, as I am calling it, will be given annually, and will cover all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (travel and meals not covered, alas). Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language. Walter Jon and Nancy and the Toolbox staff will select the winner. For more information on applying for the workshop, and the scholarship, contact WJW at wjw@taostoolbox.com

(2) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for January” for the SFWA Blog,

(3) VISIT QO’NOS. The first Klingon tourist center has opened in Sweden.

Humans! tlhlngan maH [we are Klingons]

The Klingon Institute of Cultural Exchange demand your presence at our Terra-Friendly© presentation of Klingon culture and customs at Turteatern on Terra, Alpha Quadrant.

You will get the possibility to try cuisine, listen to opera, and a chance to acquire useful lifesaving tips in your everyday interaction with Klingons and Klingon customs, so that you may plan your holiday to our great empire and the First City on the planet Qo’noS without risking any discomfort and/or premature death.

This live-act presentation is brought to you by Visit Qo’noS, the tourist department of the Klingon high council.”

(4) OPINION RECONSIDERED. Teresa Jusino goes in an unexpected direction at The Mary Sue with “Internalized Sexism and Star Wars: My Long-Overdue Apology to Luke Skywalker”.

It would be tempting to “blame” all this on the prequels adding in new information after the fact, but as the video essay goes to great lengths to point out, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda teach Luke the same lessons about burying his feelings in the original trilogy. The difference between Anakin and Luke?

Luke consistently bucks his Jedi training in favor of giving in to his emotions and saving people.

Luke cares about others, even if they’ve “fallen to the Dark Side,” and so whether it’s to save his sister and his friends or to try to redeem Darth Vader, he follows his emotions in spite of the warnings he gets from his mentors, and he’s heroic because of it. This is why, to me, the Luke we meet in The Last Jedi is Peak Luke. He’s at his most emotional, his most vulnerable … and ultimately, at his most heroic

(5) WHEATON. Think Tank tells about supernovas in “When Stars Go Boom.”

Why do some stars end their lives in a supernova explosion? And how does that lead to forming planets and life like us? A science expert (Jerrika Hinton) explains by hooking her hapless assistant (Wil Wheaton) up to a Thought Visualizer, a machine that allows anyone to see his thoughts. With Ed Wasser.

 

(6) MORE VIDEO ARCHEOLOGY. Fanac.org has posted the restored video of the “Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon Panel” from MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. This excerpt from the discussion held at the Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon features (L-R) Poul Anderson, Charles Grant, Ted White, Kirby McCauley (mod), Tom Reamy and Stuart Schiff talking about ghost stories, fairy tales, and why they are attracted to the genre. There are some spots where the film is damaged. Video and video restoration provided by David Dyer-Bennet and the Video Archeology Project.

 

(7) FLAME ON. HBO dropped a teaser trailer for Fahrenheit 451.

HBO Films presents Fahrenheit 451. In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young girl…and begins to rebel against society. Starring Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Shannon.

 

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share flash-fried cauliflower with Sheila Williams in episode 57 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sheila Williams

Sheila has worked for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine since 1982, became its editor in 2004, and went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. She also co-edited A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women with Connie Willis, as well as numerous other anthologies.

We chatted about her first day on the job more than a third of a century ago, meeting Isaac Asimov at an early Star Trek convention when she was only 16, which writer intimidated her the most when she first got into the business, what she learned from working with previous Asimov’s editors Shawna McCarthy and Gardner Dozois, the most common problems she sees in the more than 7,000 stories that cross her desk each year, the identities of the only writers she’s never rejected, what goes through her mind in that moment she reads a manuscript and arrives at “yes,” and much more.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 12, 1933:  Dr. Moreau adaptation Island of Lost Souls opens in New York City.
  • January 12, 1940:  Universal’s Invisible Man returns in The Invisible Man Returns! The Department of Redundancy Department approves.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EYEBALL

  • Born January 12, 1992 or 1997 – HAL 9000. In the film 2001, HAL became operational on this date in 1992. The Wikipedia says the activation year was 1991 in earlier screenplays and changed to 1997 in Clarke’s novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MASSIVE EFFORT. Pornokitsch reviews all ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017 finalists in a single glorious post – “SPFBO2017: The Finalists Reviewed (All of ’em!)”.

But, for now, here are this year’s ten finalists, in no particular order, with my – somewhat arbitrary – scores. Thanks again for all the writers, readers, judges and administrator (singular!) for participating, and please check out the other judges for other perspectives!

(13) CON OR BUST. Kate Nepveu’s Con or Bust newsletter lists many opportunities for fans of color/nonwhite fans to get memberships and other assistance to attend upcoming sf events. For example —

The following cons have recently donated assistance or memberships to Con or Bust:

  • JoCo Cruise 2018, February 18-25, 2018, departing from San Diego, CA, USA. JoCo Cruise has donated at least five cabins, which accommodate two to four people, and which come with lodging, meals and drinks (except not alcohol or soft drinks), and access to all programming. Please see the blog post for important details.
  • The 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference, May 17-20, 2018, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The SFWA Givers Fund has awarded $4,000 to Con or Bust to enable people of color/non-white people attend SFWA Nebula Conference; funds can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Beach City Con, October 12 – 14, 2018, Virginia Beach, VA, USA (@beachcitycon). Beach City Con is a Steven Universe fan convention; it donated four weekend passes, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Scintillation, October 5-7, 2018, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Scintillation is a small literary focused SF convention with program by Jo Walton; details at its Kickstarter page. It donated three memberships and $100, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018

(14) LAST JEDI ANALYZED. Under some circumstances, Foz Meadows might like to take a red pen to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. BEWARE SPOILERS, if you still need to.

Based on this, it seems clear that The Last Jedi is intended to parallel The Empire Strikes Back, both structurally and thematically. All the same elements are in play, albeit recontextualised by their place in a new story; but where Empire is a tight, sleek film, The Last Jedi is middle-heavy. The major difference between the two is Poe’s tension-and-mutiny arc, which doesn’t map to anything in Empire.

And this is the part where things get prickly. As stated, I really love Rose Tico, not only because she’s a brilliant, engaging character superbly acted by Kelly Marie Tran, but because she represents another crucial foray into diverse representation, both in Star Wars and on the big screen generally. There’s a lot to recommend Vice-Admiral Holdo, too, especially her touching final scene with Leia: I still want to know more about their relationship. I am not for a moment saying that either character – that either woman – doesn’t belong in the film, or in Star Wars, or that their roles were miscast or badly acted or anything like that. But there is, I suspect, a truly maddening reason why they were paired onscreen with Finn and Poe, and that this logic in turn adversely affected both the deeper plot implications and the film’s overall structure.

(15) NO EMISSION CONTROL. NPR says “Researchers Spot Massive Black Hole In Double ‘Burp'”.

A giant black hole located at the center of a galaxy 800 million light-years from Earth has been caught on camera letting out not one, but two massive “burps” of highly charged particles.

It is the first time astronomers have viewed the phenomenon twice in the same black hole.

Images released Thursday and credited to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory were presented at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in National Harbor, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

“Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don’t have very good table manners,” Julie Comerford, an astronomer at the University of Colorado Boulder, said during a news conference Thursday, according to Space.com. “We know a lot of examples of black holes with single burps emanating out, but we discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole that has not one, but two burps.”

(16) PADDINGTON 2 VERDICT. NPR’s Andrew Lapin sees “‘Paddington 2’: A Story That Bears Repeating”.

If only all of us could see the world the way Paddington sees London. The furry little bear in a raincoat looks around his adopted home and finds, in the smiling faces of his neighbors, nothing but joyful spirits and good intentions. There are no “no-go zones”; even a prison full of roughnecks can be a chance to help people in need. Forget the fact that he’s a talking bear from Darkest Peru. It’s Paddington’s impenetrable spirit, his striving to do right by the world, to “always see the good in people,” even those who wish him harm, that is the biggest wish-fulfillment of 2018.

(17) SHE GETS MAIL. Ursula Vernon cannot comfort the youth of America —

(18) MORE EYES IN THE SKY. BBC reports on a UK satellite, launched by India, to make movies from space, (first of a planned cluster, like ICEYE satellites sent yesterday).

A British satellite has gone into orbit on an Indian rocket to acquire full-colour, high-definition video of the surface of the Earth.

The demonstrator is expected to pave the way for a series of at least 15 such spacecraft, which will be operated by the Guildford-based company Earth-i.

The small, low-cost UK mission was one of 31 payloads riding on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It lifted off from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

(19) BLACK WIDOW APPROACHING. According to Variety, “Marvel’s Standalone ‘Black Widow’ Movie Gains Momentum With Jac Schaeffer Writing”.

Marvel is finally pushing ahead with the highly anticipated “Black Widow” standalone movie starring Scarlett Johansson, with Jac Schaeffer penning the script.

Sources say this is still very early development, as the film has no greenlight, but naming a writer is the closest the studio has come to moving forward on a standalone pic. Marvel President Kevin Feige met with several candidates before tapping Schaeffer, and Marvel execs met with Johansson to discuss what they wanted from a “Black Widow” writer.

In case you need a reminder, watch this scene from Iron Man 2 of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in action.

(20) BLUE MAN CULTIST. Here’s the official trailer for Cold Skin.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/18 Agent 770, With A License To Scroll

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll asked the crew at Young People Read Old SFF their response to Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. Two of the four readers said it was their first experience with the author. (The others didn’t say one way or the other.)

Octavia E. Butler was one of a small handful of African American SF authors back in the 1970s, an era when SF was often whiter than a crowd of naked albinos holding loaves of Wonder Bread in a snowstorm. Butler’s stories often focused on people doing their best from a position of profound weakness, striving despite slavery, apocalypse or worse. This example of her work won the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Young People Read Old SFF also recently tackled “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw. Some liked it, but Mikayla did not disappoint….

Bob Shaw was born in Northern Ireland. Over the course of the three decades of his career, he won three BSFA awards and was nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the Campbell, and the Clarke.

The Light of Other Days is an atypical Shaw. It is a classic idea story, a story in which an author tries to show unexpected implications of some new development. Slow glass, a material in which the speed of light is so slow it takes decades for light to pass from one side to the other of a thin sheet, was one of the rare examples of an idea veteran editor John W. Campbell considered actually original at the time of publication. It was shortlisted for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Of course, just because professionals and fans liked a story half a century ago is no guarantee modern readers will. Let’s see what they thought….

(2) HUNGARIAN BLOGGER. Bence Pintér recommends the new English-language blog of Balázs Farkas, a Hungarian author; especially his post on Black Mirror.

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all…

Also recommended, his thoughts on the comedy in Get Out

Last year Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Many consider Get Out one of the best horror films of 2017. I was intrigued for months, but I rarely watch movies nowadays, but I decided to see Get Out for myself and see whether it’s a comedy or a horror. Well, I found out it’s neither, but can be interpreted as both, and it’s really fascinating to see why.

And on the short fiction of Aleister Crowley.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

(3) INSIDE THE SHELL. In The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne tells why “A Storm Trooper Reconsiders His Support for Snoke”.

…Except things started changing when Snoke passed that big tax bill. The very next day, we’re told our pensions are getting cut—which hardly matters, because Storm Troopers have a seventy-five-per-cent fatal occupational-injury rate. (Some from combat, but mostly guys falling into chasms off narrow ship walkways that for some reason don’t have guardrails.)

Sure, the galaxy’s health insurance wasn’t perfect, but at least I got a little subsidy from Vadercare. Snoke repeals the individual mandate and all these Storm Troopers, fresh out of the academy, thinking they’re invincible, go, “Awesome—I’m young and healthy, Han Solo’s dead, screw it.” My premiums suddenly shoot through the roof, so I’m going without it this year and hoping I don’t run into a freaking Jedi Knight. But how am I gonna pay for the infirmary visit when a trespassing Resistance fighter conks me on the head to steal my uniform and gain access to a ship’s inner sanctum, which now seems to happen every other year? And if my arm’s sliced off with a lightsabre, you think my Storm Trooper’s comp will cover the robotic prosthetic?

(4) A FAITHFUL 451. The Hollywood Reporter interviews co-writer, exec producer and director Ramin Bahrani, who assures them “HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Will Stay True to Ray Bradbury’s Central Themes”.

Bahrani, who co-wrote the telepic alongside Amir Naderi and reteams with Shannon after he starred in their feature 99 Homes, confessed that he told his agent at one point that he should call HBO and refund the network’s money because he felt that he couldn’t finish the script. He spoke at length about the parallels between Bradbury’s 1953 work and what’s happening in the world today.

“I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he’s just an exaggeration of it now,” he said. “I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we’re electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now.”

Bahrani said he never had the opportunity to meet with Bradbury before his death but did an extensive amount of research, watching and reading multiple interviews and more. “Bradbury’s novel was set in the future where he was predicting having screens on the wall that you could interact with. Social media and supercomputers like my phone are real now. [The film] is not set in the distant future like Bradbury’s novel but an alternate tomorrow where technology is here right now — like Amazon’s Alexa,” he said. “One of the things in the film is storing knowledge, books in DNA. This exists now. All your drives could be stored 100-fold in DNA. There was no reason to put it in the future; it’s just [set in] a strange tomorrow.”

(5) THE TOLL. Kameron Hurley, who I admire for her unflinchingly transparent posts about her life as a writer, tells a heartbreaking story about her experiences in 2017 — “The Year I Drowned My Emotions”.

Depression is a complex state of being. I know we want to try and pretend it’s easy. Just pop a pill, increase your meds, try new meds, find something that works! But there’s also depression caused by external forces, and that’s the sort of depression that you can paint over with pills, sure, but the root of it is still there, like painting over a crack in your wall.

I was already feeling overwhelmed and deflated in the months leading up to the election. I was struggling with the reality that I’d produced three books in a year but still had to function at a day job, and the relentless treadmill of publishing was still going, without the sort of reward I needed in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve talked before about how writing all those books and then promoting books and having a weird dude-bro day job (at the time) conspired to murder me. What we don’t acknowledge is that when you experience that kind of breakdown followed by grief and disappointment, you can’t just… get back up like nothing happened.

(6) HADLEY OBIT. At ComicMix, Glen Hauman reports “Cinamon Hadley, The Girl Who Was Death, Has Died”.

Cinamon Hadley, whose appearance inspired the look of Death in the Sandman comic series, passed away today according to Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman.

The body-piercer and goth icon whose portrait was immortalized as the second eldest in a family of anthropomorphized forces called the Endless, Hadley was described as extremely tall, extraordinarily thin, with bone-white skin, impeccable make-up and thin, black hair.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 11, 1937 — Felix Anthony Silla, known for his role as the costumed character of “Cousin Itt” on television’s The Addams Family.

(8) ADVENTURE OR COOKBOOK? Having seen the movie, this one has me a little worried – Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Chewie and the Porgs:

From Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Shinick comes a lovable tale of Chewbacca the Wookiee and the pesky porgs of Ahch-To Island. Featuring adorable illustrations by artist Fiona Hsieh.

(9) WATCHWORTHY. In “Consumption: 2017”, John Harden makes “a list of everything I watched in 2017 plus my very excellent and totally correct opinions on same.”

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.

I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.

(10) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. How fast is the universe expanding? “‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics”.

To calculate the Hubble Constant, Prof Riess and others use the “cosmic ladder” approach, which relies on known quantities – so-called “standard candles” – such as the brightness of certain types of supernova to calibrate distances across space.

However, a different approach uses a combination of the afterglow of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as measured by the Planck spacecraft and a cosmological model known as Lambda-CDM.

The Hubble Constant obtained using these data is 66.9 kilometres per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years, so it follows that cosmic expansion increases by 66.9km/second for every 3.26 million light-years we look further out into space).

The gap between the two is now at a confidence level of about 3.4 sigma. The sigma level describes the probability that a particular finding is not down to chance. For example, three sigma is often described as the equivalent of repeatedly tossing a coin and getting nine heads in a row.

A level of five sigma is usually considered the threshold for claiming a discovery.

However, Prof Riess said that at the three sigma level “this starts to get pretty serious I would say”.

(11) EYES IN THE SKY. “Finnish start-up ICEYE’s radical space radar solution” — swarms of small cheap satellites for continuous coverage.

Big things sometimes come in small packages. That’s the hope of Finnish start-up ICEYE, who are about to see their first satellite go into orbit.

The young company are making waves because they’re attempting what no-one has dared try before; indeed, what many people had previously said was impossible.

ICEYE aim to launch a constellation of sub-100kg radar micro-satellites that will circle the Earth, returning multiple pictures daily of any spot on the globe, whether it’s dark or light, good weather or bad.

The special capability of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites to sense the planet’s surface whatever the conditions is loved by government and the military, obviously – and they make sure they always have access to this kind of imagery.

But here’s the rub: the spacecraft that gather this sort of data have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts.

(12) ANCIENT WINGS. BBC invites you to “Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago”. They evolved nectar-suckers before there were flowers.

Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years.

Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups.

… “These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises – with a tongue – by about 70 million years,” said Dr van de Schootbrugge.

“Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older.”

(13) REEL STINKERS. ComicMix’s Arthur Martinez-Tebbel looks back on the worst of the year in “Box Office Democracy: Bottom 6 Movies of 2017”. At the very bottom is —

  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list.  There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson.  Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever.  It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection.  I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on.  Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.

(14) BURROWER DOWN UNDER. Introducing Vulcanops jennyworthyae – “Giant bat: Remains of extinct burrowing bat found in New Zealand”

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found on the country’s South Island.

The teeth and bones of the extinct bat were found to be three times the size of an average modern bat.

The bat, which weighed around 40g (1.41oz), not only flew but also scurried about on all fours looking for food.

The remains were recovered from ancient sediments near the town of St Bathans.

(15) ALTERED CARBON. Netflix has released Altered Carbon Official Trailer # 3.

In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. Altered Carbon debuts exclusively on Netflix February 2nd, 2018.

 

(16) SCORCHED EARTH. The Official Trailer –

The planet has suffered an environmental collapse; the air became dangerous to breathe, the water became toxic, and billions of people died. Generations later, mankind has finally re-established a rudimentary society, in an attempt to pick up the pieces that continue to blister in the sun. Attica Gage (Gina Carano) is a bounty hunter with a chance at the bounty of a lifetime: to bring down the ruthless outlaw, Elijah Jackson. Gage infiltrates Jackson’s gang, and everything is going to plan until she meets a slave girl who reminds her of her dead sister. With her loyalty to only herself now tested, Gage learns that there might be more to life than just survival.

 

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