Pixel Scroll 10/12/17 O, Brave New Scroll, That Has Such Pixels In ‘t!

(1) SECOND BITE OF THE APPLE. Steve Davidson left a comment telling File 770 readers about a turnaround in Amazing Stories’ situation with NBC since yesterday’s social media offensive:

Folks, I am officially “in discussions for a resolution” with NBC.

This was a DIRECT result of the tweeting and commenting that took place all of yesterday:

Specifically, NBC’s attorney requested that my attorney ask me to “stop tweeting” because certain people and certain giant corporations were “very upset”.

I had my doubts that my yelling about a toe stepped on would bring results, but in fact it took less than 12 hours for the story to get picked up and, while I have complied with the request (seeing as how we are talking again), the ripples are still going, so people on the west coast are going to continue to experience upset for a bit longer.

We’re very close to an agreement…very close..but not quite there yet.

I’m hoping we will finalize things today – 10-12.

I’m sure that an association with “Spielberg” and “Apple Inc” gave this story traction, but it would not have gone anywhere if fans didn’t pick it up and run with it. I think we can count this as a minor example of the “Star Trek” effect.

(2)THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Jo Walton has updated her “Revisiting the Hugo Awards” at Tor.com with a post on the newly-discovered 1956 Finalists: “Revisiting the Recently Rediscovered 1956 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

When I wrote my post in 2010 about the Hugos of 1956, the nominees for that year were lost in the mists of time. Last month they were found again, by Olav Rokne in an old Progress Report, which is very exciting, because it gives me the chance to compare what I thought they might be to what they really were. It’s great to be wrong, and goodness me I was wrong!…

(3) THE YOUNG AND THE RUTHLESS. For the newest installment of Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashed his panel on “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.

The story was not a hit with Jamie –

This was weird and slow and racist. Also sexist. The whole thing was uninteresting in general, the pacing was glacial, and the main character was a maddeningly horrible person who can seemingly only thnk about sex and whose first thought upon meeting aliens was to attack them and steal their stuff.

(4) REDDIT AMA. Two genre figures participated in Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions today.

G. WILLOW WILSON: Oh my God. It took Sana and I NINE MONTHS to settle on this power set. It was by far the most difficult part of the planning phase. Marvel came to me with a total tabula rasa–they wanted to do an all-ages series about an American Muslim girl (the idea was inspired by Sana’s own stories about her childhood) but this character had no name, no background, no power set, no nothing. I didn’t want her to have pretty powers–no sparkling, no floating in the air, no “I have a headache” telepathy. So that ruled some things out. And giving her violent powers–your laser beams, your plasma bolts–would be read as a political statement. (This is a whole ‘nother AMA.) So we had to get very creative. It had to be something useful and adaptive and fun to look at on the page. Getting to this specific variety of polymorphism took quite awhile.

GARDNER DOZOIS: For writing short fiction, my advice would be to immediately start with an interesting character in an interesting situation faced with a problem, rather than starting with landscape descriptions or details about how the society works. It’s hardwired in us to want to know what happens to that character NEXT, once you’ve involved us with them.

No real horror stories about fans sending me things, although I did once open a slush manuscript and had a big cardboard finger sprong up out of it, giving me the bird. A writer so certain his story was going to be rejected that he was taking his revenge in advance.

(5) COME CELEBRATE. Here’s a video of Pulphouse mascot Stomper doing a cartwheel to celebrate hitting their Kickstarter’s $15,000 stretch goal:

(6) BRADBURY RE-EULOGIZED. Paris Review ran Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” in August.

This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles.

… What Sam and I were discussing was the launch of the collection, which was to be published by HarperCollins, and was to be called Shadow Show—from the 1962 Bradbury novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray himself had written an introduction, and it was hoped that he could be present at the grand celebration that was to take place at Comic-Con—the vast gathering of graphic artists, comics writers, and their fans, plus related enterprises and genres—that was slated for San Diego in mid-July. Five of us were going to do a Bradbury panel there: Sam, Mort Castle, Joe Hill, me, and Ray himself.

But Ray had been feeling a little frail, said Sam; it was possible he might not make it. In that case, the four of us would do the panel, and Sam and I would visit Ray in his home, webcast him to the world, connect him with his fans, and ask him to sign some covers of the book for them on the Fanado.com website I’d been involved in developing. Ray was keen to do it, said Sam, despite his qualified distrust of the Internet. His enthusiasm for his many devoted readers and his fellow writers never waned, and if using the questionable Internet was the method of last resort, then that is what he would do.

I was greatly looking forward to meeting a writer who had been ?so much a part of my own early reading, especially the delicious, clandestine reading done avidly in lieu of homework, and the compulsive reading done at night with a flashlight when I ought to have been sleeping. Stories read with such enthusiasm at such a young age are not so much read as inhaled. They sink all the way in and all the way down, and they stay with you.

But then Ray Bradbury died. He was ninety-one, but still….

(7) RIGHTS OF FAN. The Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor covered Steve Davidson’s side of the trademark dispute on Wednesday — “‘Amazing Stories’ trademark owner says Spielberg, Apple proposal ignored him”.

…Davidson said he’d always had dreams of doing more with the name, and he said he signed a contract with NBC in 2015 giving the company rights to option the “Amazing Stories” name.

His plan was to use the money to expand the online magazine, which he said now has “upward of about 4,000 unique views a day,” paying for one piece of new fiction every week, then bundling it all at the end of each quarter into print-on-demand and electronic editions.

However, he said Wednesday that NBC never paid him, leading him to file a notice of breach of contract and termination of the contract in May. He said he and NBC have recently reopened discussions, but Tuesday’s news changed his opinion.

“I don’t want to have anything to do with NBC,” he said. “I want the notice of breach and termination to be put into effect – they have no rights – so I can go out and do what I need to do.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 12, 1968 – Hugh Jackman, an actor whose roles include Wolverine.

(9) KEEPING THE PUN IN PUNCHEON. Crave interviews the author of a stfnal bartending guide — “New Book Unites Cocktail Drinkers and Sci-Fi Fans”.

Alcohol and sci-fi movies are two of Andy Heidel’s favorite things. In his new book The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy, the owner of Brooklyn bar The Way Station brings both his passions together in over 100 out-of-this-world cocktails. Pop culture touchstones like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Game of Thrones become imbibe-able through his pun-derful recipes. Heidel makes it easy to play mixologist at home with just a few ingredients, minimal accouterments, and easy instructions. He also slips in a few “Heidel Hints” so booze-drinking rookies don’t embarrass themselves at the bar. Comic illustrations throughout make this a visually intoxicating read as well.

(10) WHERE’S YOUR TOWEL? SF Site News carried a report that a sixth series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be broadcast next year, using a combination of the original radio and the television casts. According to the Telegraph, the new series will air in on BBC Radio 4 in 2018.

The series is to be based on Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer’s spin-off novel And Another Thing…, but will also include previously unpublished material by original writer Douglas Adams, who died in 2001.

Simon Jones is to reprise his starring role as Arthur Dent, the mild-mannered Englishman who finds himself dragged across the universe, after the Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass.

Other returning cast members include Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, a travel writer for the titular guide, Mark Wing-Davey as two-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Sandra Dickinson as astrophysicist Trillian. Jane Horrocks is to guest-star as Arthur’s love-interest, Fenchurch.

(11) UNMANNED FOOD TRUCK. Subtler bodega-killers? BBC’s The Disruptors covers potential changes to shopping in ”How May I Help You?”

Imagine you’re in a crowd pouring out of a late night concert. Tired and hungry, you remember the cupboards at home are bare. Do not despair.

In the brave new world of retail this won’t necessitate a trek out to the nearest late night supermarket. Instead the shop can come to you.

With the touch of an app button, you hail a low-slung electric vehicle, like a glass-sided motorhome, which quietly glides into a parking space near you.

You enter the shop by swiping your mobile phone at the door, pick up your wares and swipe out again. There’s no cashier or sales assistant, and no-one to clean up if you drop a carton of milk on your toe.

(12) A WAY TO MAKE A BUCK-BUCK. What an eggs-ellent idea — “How chicken feathers could warm our homes”.

Where there are people, there are chickens. Pretty much every country on Earth has poultry or their eggs on the menu.

So, from Norway to New Zealand, and Cuba to Cambodia, chickens root around even the most isolated settlements, and fill giant farms in their thousands.

One result of a huge chicken population is a huge amount of chicken feathers, which are normally burned or taken to landfill, polluting the environment.

Ryan Robinson, a biology graduate from Imperial College London, is one of a duo that believes it might have come up with a different solution for this feathery waste.

Along with designer Elena Dieckmann, Robinson has discovered a way to turn feathers into an insulating material for buildings or a packing material for food or medicine.

(13) VERDANT VERTICALS. Not the Jetsons’ future: “Why Milan is covering its skyscrapers in plants” – there’s a gallery at the link.

(14) DIRTY BIRDS. After dendrochronology, ornithochronology? “‘Sooty birds’ reveal hidden US air pollution”.

…Cities were soon coated in sooty air thanks to the unregulated burning of coal in homes and factories.

While the huge impact of black carbon on the health of people living in urban centres has been recognised for decades, it is only in recent years that scientists have understood the role it plays climate change.

When it is suspended in the air, the substance absorbs sunlight and increases warming in the atmosphere.

When it hits the ground it increases melting of snow and ice, and has been linked to the loss of ice in the Arctic region.

US researchers have struggled to find accurate records of the amount of black carbon that was emitted in the manufacturing belt of the US, around Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh at the end of the 19th century.

This new study takes an unusual approach to working out the scale of soot coming from this part of the US over the last 100 years.

The scientists trawled through natural history collections in museums in the region and measured evidence of black carbon, trapped in the feathers and wings of songbirds as they flew through the smoky air….

(15) A VR PR DISASTER. Is that Facebook or Facepalm? “Virtual Zuck fails to connect”.

It must have seemed like a good idea. As a taster for a big announcement about Oculus VR on Wednesday, send Mark Zuckerberg on a little virtual reality trip, including a stop in Puerto Rico.

But the reviews are in – and they are not good.

The sight of Mr Zuckerberg using VR to survey the devastation of an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria may have been meant to convey Facebook’s empathy with the victims.

The fact that he was there in the form of a cartoon seemed to many the perfect visual metaphor for the gulf in understanding between Silicon Valley and the real world.

Sure, he was talking about all the activities which his company had initiated to help the island, from helping people tell their families they were ok using Safety Check to sending Facebook employees to help restore connectivity.

But cartoon Zuck showing us a 360 degree view of a flooded street before zipping back to a virtual California just seemed a little, well, crass. Is Facebook really concerned about the plight of Puerto Rico, or is it merely a handy backdrop to promote Oculus, whose sales have so far proved disappointing?

(16) HE’S GOT IT COVERED. From the “news to me” archives, a Doctor Who fan performing a rather formidable challenge on British TV game show You Bet!

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/17 Ruler of the Pixelgram

(1) SUCCESSFUL CHARITY EVENT. Tom Edwards, one of the best cover designers in science fiction, teamed up with Parkinson’s UK and Keystroke Medium to raise money for Parkinson’s research. Three premade covers by Edwards, as well, as an editing package by Ellen Campbell, went to auction on April 8 and brought in almost 4000 pounds / $5000 US.

Sample cover

(2) FAKE NEWS PIONEER. His role was created to encourage U.S. support for Britain prior to America’s entry into WWII — “Louis deWohl: The Astrologer Who Helped Foil Hitler”.

Then, in June 1941, one of de Wohl’s more detailed predictions seemed to come true. “A strong collaborator of Hitler who is neither German nor a Nazi will go violently insane,” he foretold. “He will be in South or Central America, probably near the Caribbean Sea.” Three days later, U.S. newswires proclaimed that the Vichy High Commissioner of the French West Indies, Admiral Georges Robert, had gone insane and had to be restrained by staff. The New York Post reported that newspaper editors across America “besieged de Wohl with requests for exclusive stories.” The astrologer possessed a mysterious ability to know the unknowable, and millions of Americans wanted to know more.

The way it worked behind the facade was masterful. The British spy agency first fed information to de Wohl, which he would write up in his column. In turn, MI5 would then feed the bogus information to the U.S. press. Unable to fact-check details with the Third Reich, the American press would report the news as real, which it was not. For example, the Vichy High Commissioner of the French West Indies never went insane.

(3) TINGLE TIME AGAIN. Almost a year ago, UrsulaV wrote a series of tweets in the style of Dr. Seuss after Chuck Tingle played Vox Day, who had slated him onto the Hugo ballot. File 770’s unofficial motto is “It’s always news to somebody” – usually me – and besides, this news is practically fresh again, with Tingle renominated and pranking the porn author who replaced him on Vox’s slate.

(4) NESFA STORY CONTEST. The New England Science Fiction Association is looking for entries in its annual story contest.

Do you like to write science fiction or fantasy stories? Are you an aspiring writer, but not sure if you’re ready for the big time? Then you’re just the kind of writer we’re looking for! The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA for short) is running a writing contest. Prizes include free books, and a grand prize of a free membership to Boskone. More important though is that we offer free critiques of your work. Our goal is to help young & aspiring writers to improve their writing, so you can become our new favorite writer! Check out our website for details:

http://www.nesfa.org/awards/storycon.html

We welcome submissions from everyone, in every country in the world (as long as it’s written in English, please!). Women, people of color, LGBTQ writers, and members of other underrepresented groups are encouraged to enter the contest.

(5) AH ROMANCE. The shortlist for the Romance Writers of America’s 2017 RITA and Golden Heart Awards was announced March 21. Here are the finalists of genre interest.

The RITA Award – “the highest award of distinction in romance fiction” — recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas.

Paranormal Romance

  • Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert Harlequin, Nocturne Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor
  • The Beast by J R Ward New American Library Kara Welsh, editor
  • The Champion of Barésh by Susan Grant Self-published Mary Moran, editor
  • Enchanted Warrior by Sharon Ashwood Harlequin, Nocturne Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor
  • Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella Montlake Publishing Alison Dasho, editor
  • The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre Self-published Sasha Knight, editor
  • The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy Kensington Publishing Corp. Peter Senftleben, editor
  • Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper Pocket Books Abby Zidle, editor

The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts.

Paranormal Romance

  • “Beryl Blue, Time Cop” by Janet Halpin
  • “Bless Your Heart and Other Southern Curses” by Heather Leonard
  • “Constant Craving” by Kari W. Cole
  • “Fire’s Rising” by Grace Adams
  • “The Mer Chronicles: Love’s Diplomatic Act” by Kate Ramirez
  • “Soul Affinity” by A. Y. Chao

Award winners will be announced on July 27 at the 2017 RWA Conference in Orlando, Florida.

(6) MESSAGE FICTION. Bleeding Cool reports “Marvel Artist Ardian Syaf Hid Anti-Christian And Jewish Messages In This Week’s X-Men Comic”. The political background to the references is:

In Indonesia, 212 is the number used to denote a specific mass protest from 2nd December last year. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims marched against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok,, over allegations of blasphemy regarding his use of the Qu’ran in campaigning against opponents. The march was organised, in part, with the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa. It was pretty hardline conservative and the protest demanded the government prosecute and jail Ahok based on the council’s fatwa, declaring him to be a blasphemer. This year, a 212 2.0 march with similar aims was held on the 21st of February.

(You can see the artwork at the link.)

The information comes from sources including this public Facebook post by an Indonesian comics reader:

Dear Marvel Comics My name is Haykal, I am from Jakarta, Indonesia And I would like to inform you something about your recent comics, X-Men Gold.

…I found out that on X-Men Gold comic, there’s a subliminal message of hatred towards minorities It was done by this person, a Muslim penciller from Indonesia https://www.facebook.com/ArdianSyafComicArt/

And he’s using your comics to spread hatred against non muslim minorities in Indonesia.

The “QS 5:51” on Colossus shirt refers to the Quran verse used by Muslim extremists to discriminate against the current governor which is also one of the governor candidates in the current election in Jakarta, Indonesia. https://quran.com/5/51

Bleeding Cool has since reported that Ardian Syaf was unwilling to discuss the issue with them.

Meanwhile, Marvel has made a statetment via Comicbook.com.

“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken.”

Comicbook.com notes –

No further details were provided concerning how exactly Marvel will discipline Syaf. Preview art suggests that Syaf has already completed work on X-Men Gold #2, which releases on April 19. Syaf is also one of three announced rotating artists on X-Men Gold, along with RB Silva and Ken Lashley, so it may be some time before fans know for certain if he will returning to X-Men Gold.

And if you want to take a deep dive into this, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson has a post up — Here is What Quran 5:51 Actually Says.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Unicorn Day

What mythological creature has been more beloved over the centuries than the unicorn? Symbols of purity and enchantment, unicorns are loved by both children and adults alike and are integral parts of many fairy tales and legends. For all the roles they’ve played in literature, cinematography, and art as a whole, unicorns more than deserve their own day!

Unicorns were mentioned as far back as antiquity—ancient Greek writers believed they lived in the faraway and exotic country of India, which was then largely unknown to Europeans. However, the unicorn was then thought to be a powerful, fierce animal that was not to be meddled with. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn’s image was based greatly on Bible passages that were thought to speak of these animals, and unicorns slowly came to be seen as a symbol of strength, the purest kind of love, and the pets of virgin women. In fact, there is even a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding a unicorn on her lap and patting it in Warsaw’s National Museum. Thus, unicorns have been appearing in works of literature for thousands of years. The most prominent more modern examples include Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and The Last Battle by S.C. Lewis. The whole immensely popular My Little Pony franchise is also based on unicorns.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1959 — NASA introduced the first seven astronauts to the press.

(9) BIG FINISH. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan interviews director Nacho Vigilando, whose film Colossal is a fusion of kaihu eige and romantic comedy that will be released this Friday.

Q: In that film [7:35 in the Morning], you critique the cliches of the movie musical by staging a song-and-dance number in a diner with seemingly ordinary people. “Extraterrestrial” plays with the tropes of the alien invasion movie. In “Colossal,” you do something similar with the genre of the monster movie. What’s so fascinating about genre cinema?

A: The moment in “Colossal” that sums up what you’re talking about is when Gloria calls her ex-boyfriend, because she wants to talk about this monster that is invading South Korea. And he responds by asking, “Why are you calling so late? That happened early this morning.” He thinks that means she has spent the whole day just sleeping. I’m really attracted to the idea of playing inside these sandboxes, in which everybody in the audience knows the rules. Our expectations of these films become part of the show somehow. I admire Superman, but am I a kind person all the time, the way Superman is? How can I relate to a character who has an “S” on his chest, since there are moments in my life when I behave like an a—— to other people?

(10) COUNTING THE PUPPIES. Greg Hullender has written up his analysis of the 2017 Puppy vote at Rocket Stack Rank“Slating Analysis: 2017”. He says, “I get a slightly higher number than you did: 88-118. I make up for that with some cool graphs.”

Now that the 2017 Hugo Awards Finalists lists have come out, we can estimate how many slate voters there were. By our calculations, there were between 88 and 118 of them. This is just slightly higher than Mike Glyer’s estimate of  “80 to 90”. When the detailed statistics are available in August, we’ll make a more precise estimate, using the methods we used in our article Slate Voting Analysis Using EPH Data: 2014-2016

(11) A THREE BLACK HOLE RATING. The Guardian shares Jay Rayner’s brutal review of Le Cinq, Paris, a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

Other things are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says. Spherifications of various kinds – bursting, popping, deflating, always ill-advised – turn up on many dishes. It’s their trick, their shtick, their big idea. It’s all they have. Another canapé, tuile enclosing scallop mush, introduces us to the kitchen’s love of acidity. Not bright, light aromatic acidity of the sort provided by, say, yuzu. This is blunt acidity of the sort that polishes up dulled brass coins.

Do you think we could get a Kickstarter funded if he turned his jaded eye in the direction of the Puppies Forbidden Thoughts anthology?

(12) CRETACEOUS TASTINESS. When you hear a bell, think of tacos — TriceraTACOs, that is.

(13) THE PLANE TRUTH. John Scalzi does not get enough credit for his restraint.

(14) IN MEDEA RACE. “The Ballad of Maui Hair” is practically a companion piece to “The Anthem Sprinters.” These tweets just begin to set the scene:

(15) SONG AND DANCE MAN. In 1993, Christopher Walken appeared on Saturday Zoo with Jonathan Ross (who later got uninvited as toastmaster of the 2014 Worldcon in historic record time.) Walken gave an inimitable reading of “The Three Little Pigs.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Rev. Bob for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

(1) MARKET FOR DIVERSITY? ICv2’s interview with Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel spawned a controversial discussion about retailer or customer resistance to female characters (As you can see from the following excerpt, Gabriel has subsequently tried to walk back some of his comments.)

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

(2) RISE OF YA COMICS. Discussion about the Gabriel interview led Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson to do a wide-ranging commentary on the contemporary comics market, “So About That Whole Thing”. This excerpt is the last half:

STUFF THAT IS ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE:

  1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
  2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
  3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
  4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
  5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s *particularity.* This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.

AND FINALLY

On a practical level, this is not really a story about “diversity” at all. It’s a story about the rise of YA comics. If you look at it that way, the things that sell and don’t sell (AND THE MARKETS THEY SELL IN VS THE MARKETS THEY DON’T SELL IN) start to make a different kind of sense.

(3) BOMB HATCHES. Variety’s weekend box office report says “’Boss Baby’ Tops ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Bombs”.

The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a box office juggernaut that’s dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. “Beauty and the Beast” added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend’s other new release, Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.

(4) GOFUNDME SIGNAL BOOST. “The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

The GoFundMe link is — “LachlanB’s Recovery Fund”

We are the friends of Lachlan, a 17 year old Australian student and aspiring speculative fiction writer who has been struck by cancer. Lachlan is a compassionate, creative, bright young man who embraces life to the fullest.  A few weeks ago, he was enjoying his first week of university, planning a 3rd anniversary surprise for his girlfriend Sarah, organising his Dungeons and Dragons mates for their bi-monthly weekend session, and starting edits on the first draft of his YA fantasy novel. Cancer has interrupted his short and long-term plans. His first two weeks of university were spent undergoing a series of medical tests and consultations. Fifteen minutes into his 3rd anniversary date, he became unwell and had to go to Emergency.  He has now been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (an aggressive, painful bone cancer), and been forced to defer his university studies in order to receive the treatment he urgently needs.

The fundraiser has incentives, such as books from Grimdark magazine or John Joseph Adams’ Seeds of Change anthology, as well as print editions of Alliterate magazine.

(5) A CONVIVIAL EPISODE. Scott Edelman interviews Sunny Moraine at Washington DC’s Convivial restaurant in Episode 33 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sunny Moraine

We discussed the best writing advice she’s heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with her mind, her favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of her all-time favorite stories period), why she writes Walking Dead fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how she decided her trilogies were meant to be trilogies, and more. (She refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus—I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!

Edelman recently launched a Patreon in the hope that he’ll someday be able to afford to do episodes more frequently. He says, “Biweekly will never be enough to capture all the amazing creators out there!”

(6) PLEASE SAY THAT AGAIN. Astronomers have discovered three more Fast Radio Bursts:

FRBs have baffled scientists ever since the first one was discovered in archived data in 2007. The longstanding mystery of their origin, which is further compounded by the fact that only about two dozen such events have ever been detected, has spawned a plethora of scientific (and some that sound not so scientific) theories, including the occasional speculation that aliens are responsible for them.

For some reason, FRBs never seem to repeat, and, as a result, most theories about the origin of these mysterious pulses involve invoking cataclysmic incidents that destroy their source, for instance, a star exploding in a supernova, or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.

This changed in 2012 when the first and only known repeating burst, named FRB 121102, was discovered by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And, in January, over four years and several recurring bursts of this FRB later, astronomers were able to directly trace the mysterious burst to its point of origin, a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years from Earth.

So far, this is the only FRB whose source has been pinpointed — although even that hasn’t brought scientists any closer to understanding what birthed it.

(7) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. In a BBC video, Disney animators explain why characters have only three fingers.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “The answer’s obvious but there are some interesting bits about drawing animation scattered through the clip.”

(8) SINGLE-CELL. If E.T. phones anyone, Neil deGrasse Tyson doubts the call will be for him: “The Future of Science: What Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks About Aliens, Elon Musk and Traveling”

Neil deGrasse Tyson has no plans to meet advanced life on Earth or other planets anytime soon. The famous astrophysicist told fans this weekend he won’t be traveling to Mars via private space exploration and he doubts humans will make contact with complex organisms—that is, alien life— within his lifetime.

Tyson’s remarks came up during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday where he promised to divulge his views on “life, the universe and everything.” Asked by one commentator whether “we will ever make contact with complex organisms within the next 50yrs?”, Tyson was not encouraging.

“I think they (we) might all be too far away from one another in space and possibly time. By complex, I’m presuming you mean life other than single-celled organisms. Life with legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It’s all about our capacity to travel interstellar distances. And that’s surely not happening in the next 50 years. Not the rate things are going today,” he wrote back.

(9) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Making the rounds of film festivals, Fight for Space recalls, “In the 1960s and 70s, the Space Race inspired a generation to pursue careers in science and technology, and then it all ended. Fight for Space looks at why.”

“FIGHT FOR SPACE” is a documentary film that asks, why haven’t we gone back to the Moon, or sent humans to Mars? Weren’t we supposed to be there in the 80s? What lead to the decline of NASA’s budget and why is it stuck in low earth orbit?

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.

 

(10) APRIL 1 LEFTOVERS. Never realized that you’d need firmer biceps when your jetpack finally arrives. “Real-life ‘Iron Man’ flying suit built by British inventor” says a British Marine has invented and flown a turbine powered suit.

A British inventor has built his very own jet-propelled ‘Iron Man’ suit, which he says can carry him at several hundred miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air.

The suit, designed by entrepreneur Richard Browning, allows the pilot to vertically take off and fly using the human body to control flight. Browning has recently founded Gravity, a technology start-up, which has filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could re-imagine manned flight.

 

(11) LAST TO KNOW. Dave Freer tells a painful story about the announced mass market paperback edition that never happened.

I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.

If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.

Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.

Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else.  The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly….

(12) WRIGHT ON RELIGION IN SFF. Angelo Stagnaro interviews John C. Wright for the National Catholic Register. The views will be familiar to readers of his blog.

  1. What do you think is the place of such elements in science fiction?

Hmm. Good question. Science fiction is by and large based on a naturalistic view of the universe. When penning adventures about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by space marines, religion does not come up, except as local background and local color, in which case, the role of religion is to provide the radioactive altar to the Snake God of Mars to which our shapely by half-clad space princess is chained, that our stalwart hero can fight the monster.

Now, any story of any form can be used as a parable or as an example of a religious truth: indeed, my latest six-book trilogy is actually about faith, although it is portrayed in figures as being about a man’s love for his bride.

Fantasy stories, on the other hand, once any element of magic or the supernatural is introduced either declare for the Church or declare for witchcraft, depending on whether or not occultism is glamorized.

Note that I speak of occultism, not magic itself. Merlin the magician is a figure from King Arthur tales, of which no more obviously Christian stories can be found, outside of Dante and Milton, but no portrayal in olden days of Merlin glamorized the occult. Again, the way characters like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Coriakin in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or Harry Potter, even those they are called wizards, are clearly portrayed either as commanding a divine power, or, in Potter’s case, controlling what is basically an alternate technology or psychic force. There is no bargaining with unclean spirits, no rituals, not even a pack of tarot cards. These are like the witches in Halloween decorations, who fly brooms and wave magic wands, and nothing like the real practices of real wiccans, neopagans or other fools who call themselves witches.

Fools, because, as I did when I challenged God, they meddle with forces of which they have no understanding. I meddled with bright forces, and was spared. They meddle with dark, and they think they can escape the price….

Fantasy stories generally are hostile to Christianity, some intentionally and some negligently. The negligent hostility springs from the commonplace American desire for syncretism, that is, for all religions to be equal. Even some fairly Christian-themed fantasy stories yield weakmindedly to this temptation, as in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, where the forces of light are portrayed as ones where Christ is merely one teacher among many, each equally as bright and good, but makes no special nor exclusive claim. Or tales where the crucifix will drive back a vampire, but so will any other sign or symbol of any religion, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, because all religions are equal, dontchaknow.

(13) ANCIENT VIDEOGAME HISTORY. It may be a long way for some but, for Nigel, Tipperary was once a short commute.

(14) WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE TICK. Carl Slaughter explains:

Like superheroes in the “The Spirit” movie and the “Ax Cop” animated series, The Tick is a superhero that requires a special appreciation.  Amazon is bringing “The Tick” to the small screen again in 2017.  Unlike Netflix, which greenlights an entire series, Amazon commissions a pilot, posts it for a month, and gives the thumbs up/down based on fan reaction and news coverage.  The pilot for the Amazon reboot was released in 2016.  Here is a documentary on the history of The Tick.

 

(15) BLASTS FROM THE PAST. Secret Screening also asks if you remember Eerie Indiana?  Remember Goosebumps?

(16) NOT A CAREER MOVE. Is it true? Why Dick Grayson Doesn’t Want to Become Batman, and Why Bruce Wayne Agrees.

[Thanks to Nigel, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Nick Tchan, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]