Pixel Scroll 2/4/18 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.

Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.

If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.

For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.

(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”

Their names are Legion, for they are many.

According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.

I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.

So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….

(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.

The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.

From the FAQ —

What is the resolution mechanic in the game?

You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.

Example:
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.

Key features (no pun intended):

  • The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
  • It features a procedural adventure building system
  • A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
  • Five sets of generic maps
  • Mission cards
  • Location cards
  • Obstacle cards
  • Reward cards
  • Motivation cards
  • Character sheets

They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.

(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:

We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.

His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2.

The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net.

In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.

(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:

Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • February 4, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
  • February 4, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered.
  • February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.

(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….

(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.

The top candidates for my ballot are:

  1. Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….

(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.

The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.

(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”

On writing her first male hero

I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.

(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.

…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….

(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)

A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.

Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).

… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.

(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.

Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.

 

(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….

And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/18 Pixel Squared Plus Scroll Squared Equals File770 Squared

(1) THAT LITTLE VOICE. Publishers Weekly’s Antonia Saxon does a “Q & A with Diane Dillon” about her new children’s book. Diane and the late Leo Dillon had a long history as sff cover artists.

How hard was it to tackle the project on your own?

That was one of the fears in doing this book. Even if we had done something separately, we always signed everything Leo and Diane. Now Leo is gone and that little voice in my head says, “What if they say this is not up to our standard?” It was hard getting started. I kept thinking, “I’m going to be judged separately now.” It was uncomfortable.

So you have a little voice, too. What does it say?

The voice just says the same things over and over. But you don’t have to listen to it! The story is autobigraphical, that’s for sure.

Having Leo to bounce something off of, an extra pair of eyes to see something, that worked very well. A lot of people asked, “How can you work with someone else? Don’t you think, ‘This is your work, this is his work?’ ” But early on we realized we needed to join forces. We said, “We are one artist. We do something that neither one of us can do individually.”

It sounds as if you took your own doubts and made them into a book.

Yeah! I think it’s important that children know that that little voice can be stilled if you ask it questions. They can have courage to be anything they want to be. When I started this, it was before the Women’s March, and this new awareness of women’s self-image and strength, and the #MeToo movement—it was serendipitous that it’s come out at this time. I hope it has a long life.

(2) “WAITING TO WORSHIP A RAT.” February 2 — “Groundhog Day 2018: Punxsutawney Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter”.

They reported that Phil communicated in “groundhogese” that he had cast a shadow.  According to legend, that means the weather will be wintry for the next six weeks.

That’s his typical prediction: It has happened more than 100 other times in the 132-year history of the tradition.

Even so, there’s some good news: Phil is usually wrong.

…Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 103 times, to forecast a longer winter, and not seen it 18 times, to predict an early spring. (There is no record of the prediction for 10 times in the late 19th century.)

(3) BASKERVILLE. Europa SF reports the winner of the 2017 Guillermo de Baskerville Award in the anthology category is Dark Fantasies, edited by Mariano Villarreal.

The award is named for the protagonist in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and is given for the best indie books of the year that has been reviewed on the Spanish-language Libros Prohibidos (Prohibited Books) website. (The other categories were won by non-genre works.)

A jury composed of the writer, bookseller and blogger, David Pierre, the writers Sonia Rico, Javier Font and Diego Marcapáginas chose Dark Fantasies., from Sportula, a Spanish science-fiction and fantasy publishing house.

(4) IT’LL HOLD YOU TO YOUR DEADLINE. I haven’t seen one of these before! “1938 Underwood 14″ Tentacle Typewriter”:

(5) CASE IN POINT. The Traveler from Galactic Journey tells us what he thinks about the opening episodes of The Twilight Zone’s fourth season: “[February 2, 1963] Whither the Prodigal Son?  (Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 1-4)”.

In His Image, by Charles Beaumont

A young man is plagued by blackouts and half-memories of murder.  When he takes his fiancee (who has known for all of four days) back to his home town that he left just a week before, he finds twenty years appear to have elapsed — and his family has no trace of existence at all.  Who is this man?  Where did he come from?  And what is the cause of his manic episodes?

George Grizzard gives a fine turn as the afflicted protagonist in a story that has more than one reveal.  While the pacing is a little slow, the course of the characters and the nuanced storytelling keeps it going for the expanded length of the show.  Four stars.

(6) YOU, TOO, CAN VISIT 1963. Some sort of time dialation will allow San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy bookstore to host “Galactic Journey: Interview with a Time Traveler (1963 edition)” on February 17 at 2 p.m. (Full details at the link.)

Blast back to February 1963, three years before the Five Year Mission, nine months before the blue Police Box, when the Fantastic Four were on issue eleven — that “Mad Men” time that set the stage for everything that came after.

Hugo Nominee-Runner up and Serling Award-winning Galactic Journey, portal to 55 years ago, presents a window on sci-fi and the Space Race, comics and pop culture, in that fascinating, tumultuous era of change. Visit galacticjourney.org to see what we’re all about — we are a time-shifted blog living the fan’s life, 55 years in the past, day-by-day. This panel is the blog’s road show: always new, always different. Completely free of charge.

…Come to Mysterious Galaxy for a most unique engagement: a question-driven panel presented by a host of entertaining time travelers. YOU, the audience, determine the course of the event as they take you on a literary tour of the early 60s. Prizes will be given out for the best questions: See if YOU can stump the Traveler team!

…So don your skinny tie and/or cocktail dress, strap your slide-rule to your belt, and come see the event that has electrified congoers across the Western United States!

(7) STAN LEE IN, OUT OF HOSPITAL. The comics icon intends to be at a con in St. Louis this weekend: “STAN LEE Released From Hospital Early, Plans To Keep Weekend Convention Plans”.

Stan Lee has been released from the hospital following an overnight stay, and the 95-year-old writer plans on making his weekend convention plans. In an interview with Los Angeles’ KABC, Lee said was “feeling good” and appreciated the public outpouring of concern.

“All I really want to do is tell you that I’m feeling great,” Lee said. “I figured a little check-up wouldn’t be bad for me. And in fact it turned out to be pretty good, it got me a lot of publicity. I’m feeling good now and I can’t wait to get in there and tangle with all the competition.”

Lee was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening after experiencing shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. At that time, a spokesperson for Lee said the writer would remain hospitalized “for a few days for some check-ups as a safety precaution.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds puberty hit this monster hard, in Bliss.
  • John also passed on a horrible horror pun in Brevity.

(9) NOW IT CAN BE DONE. BYU only just announced this–the Princess Leia Projector. Ultra-kewl!

(10) SO LET’S CELEBRATE. New from Palette-Swap Ninja: “Leia Organa,” their latest Star Wars/Beatles parody.

(11) PURE TOMATOES. The Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock in “Rotten Tomatoes Denounces Group Taking Aim at Black Panther Audience Score”, says that Rotten Tomatoes has denounced a Facebook group called “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises And Their Fanboys,” which says that it is going to flood Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews of Black Panther as retaliation for what it claims is a Disney attempt to push bad reviews of DC franchises.

Not long after Rotten Tomatoes issued its statement, the group’s Facebook page was no longer available and appeared to have been deactivated. Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment. After the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in summer 2017, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to curb hate speech on his social media platform.

(12) LIDAR DISCOVERIES. A new application of technology is revolutionizing Mayan archeology: “Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle”.

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested.

The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see the Maya civilisation.

(13) ARCHEOLOGICAL FINDS TAKEN. The Guardian reports: “Thieves steal hundreds of priceless artefacts from Canterbury charity”.

Priceless artefacts including 850 Anglo-Saxon beads have been stolen from an archaeological charity in Canterbury during a series of break-ins.

Thieves broke into the store of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, which undertakes excavations and research and educates the public about archaeology, twice last week and once over the weekend.

As well as the beads, large quantities of coins and metal artefacts, and an assortment of bone objects have been stolen.

The charity has put on an appeal asking the public to look out for the historical items being offered for sale.

A very large photo gallery of missing items has been posted by the group on Facebook.

(14) HONOR TO THOMAS. SF Site News reports Lynne M. Thomas will be named to a University of Illinois endowed professorship.

Hugo Award winner Lynne M. Thomas will be named Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book & Manuscript Professor on April 6 at the University of Illinois…. Thomas is also one of the co-editors and publishers of Uncanny.

(15) REWRITING HISTORY. Another thing everybody knows that’s wrong — ” What’s The Real Story About The Milkmaid And The Smallpox Vaccine?”

The Trend: Inoculate Yourself

To understand what really happened, Boylston, whose research interest is the history of smallpox inoculation, explored letters, medical notes and research papers, going back to about 1720. He has self-published a book about it, Defying Providence: Smallpox and the Forgotten 18th Century Medical Revolution. At that time, he says, doctors were attempting to prevent smallpox through a process called variolation, in which oozing matter was taken directly from the smallpox sores of sick people and scratched onto the skin of healthy people “There are records of women inoculating their own children with smallpox,” says Boylston. “People got a mild case of smallpox, but then they were immune.”

They were immune, that is, if they survived. Using actual smallpox virus to induce the disease in healthy people was risky. If people naturally caught smallpox during an epidemic, the chance of dying from the disease was 1 in 5 or 6. When they got smallpox after being inoculated, they generally developed a mild form of the disease, and the risk of dying dropped to about 1 in 50, Boylston says. Whether they got the disease naturally or from deliberate inoculation with the smallpox virus, survivors were immune for the rest of their lives. Historical records show that many people were willing to take the risk by exposing themselves — even their children — to smallpox.

But then Jenner showed that people could become immune to smallpox by being vaccinated with cowpox. It was safer because cowpox rarely kills.

But was the milkmaid really Jenner’s muse? Boylston thinks not.

(16) LOVE IT TO DEATH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins has mixed feelings about Before We Vanish: “Before The Invasion, A Crash Course In Sensitivity Training: ‘Before We Vanish'”.

What is love?

That query proves even more complicated than usual in Before We Vanish, Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s engaging if messy, and overstuffed, 20th feature. It’s a riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers that meanders from action to satire to romantic affirmation.

The man who poses the question is Shinji (Ryuhei Matsuda) — or, rather, the alien who just seized control of Shinji’s form. This new but physically unchanged man is suddenly clinical, inquisitive, and physically wobbly, so his bewildered wife takes him to a doctor. Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) doesn’t especially want her old husband back. Their marriage has rotted, and as Shinji learns more about being human, Narumi begins to like the new model more than the previous one.

Shinji is one of three advance scouts for the extraterrestrials’ conquest of mankind, a “run-of-the-mill species.” Introduced first is Akira (Yuri Tsunematsu), the most violent of the contingent. After an initial miscalculation, Akira grabs the body of schoolgirl and commits a brutal crime. This opening sequence, which invokes Kurosawa’s past as a horror-flick director, is a gory bit of misdirection.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, JJ, Robin Reid, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., ULTRAGOTHA, Francis Hamit, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/18 Vaster Than Pixels And More Scroll

(1) GOOD NEWS FOR A CLARION WEST STUDENT. George R.R. Martin is funding another scholarship at a writing workshop, as he explains in “Worldbuilding in Seattle”.

Every great story requires interesting characters, an engrossing plot, evocative prose, an important theme… but epic fantasy also requires a memorable setting. A “secondary universe,” as J.R.R. Tolkien termed it, a world both like and unlike our own, with its own rich history and geography and customs, its own beauties and terrors….

These days, the world is more need of wonder than ever before. To that end, I am pleased to announce that I am sponsoring a new annual scholarship at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. https://www.clarionwest.org/ An intensive six-week course for aspiring authors of science fiction and fantasy, Clarion West is one of the longest-running and most successful workshops in the world. Its instructors and graduates make up an honor roll of the best and the brightest in science fiction and fantasy. This summer the instructors will be Daniel Abraham, Ken MacLeod, Karen Lord, Yoon Ha Lee, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ellen Datlow. The deadline for applying is March 1.

Our new WORLDBUILDER SCHOLARSHIP will cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student each year. The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes. For further details, query Clarion West at info@clarionwest.org

(2) DWINDLING. Larque Press has compiled the “2017 Total Paid Distribution” statistics from the publisher’s statement of ownership for Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF, among others. Print circulation diminished slightly over the past year, except for F&SF. See the numbers at the link.

Dell and F&SF sell far more issues via subscriptions than newsstands. For the most part, combining the two gives you the total paid circulation. However, it’s important to note these numbers don’t include digital sales, which are likely on the rise. Below is the “total paid distribution” from Jan/Feb 2017 and 2018 of the print editions…

…Except for F&SF, the year-over-year numbers show declines of ~500–1000. Is this due to thicker, less frequent issues, general magazine publishing trends, distribution challenges, or something else?

(3) EVERMORE. If you want to see a fantastic sculpture being created for Evermore Park in Utah, click this Facebook link:

Here’s Cory Clawson sculpting while our shop dog, Woody, supervises. Have a little sneak peek at some of the talent behind Evermore’s Creative Studio.

(4) ADD TWO. John Picacio says Christopher Brown has contributed two Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx creators/fans.

UPDATE!!! VERY GOOD NEWS: Our sponsorship team is GROWING. John and I are now officially joined by ace photographer Ctein (hooray for you, man!!) who is sponsoring two more Worldcon memberships for Mexicanx. We are also now joined by Ty Franck — one-half of the James S.A. Corey writing juggernaut. He’s sponsoring one Worldcon membership for a deserving Mexicanx. Right on, Ty!! And this just in — Christopher Brown, author of TROPIC OF KANSAS, is sponsoring two more Mexicanx for attending Worldcon memberships. Too good. And this crazy train is going to keep rolling because I’m confirming more sponsorships right now, to be announced soon. This has become A THING. ‘Keep you posted.

(5) EUROCON UPDATE. The committee for Eurocon Nemo 2018, to be held in Amiens, France, has had to arrange another meeting place in the city after finding its planned facilities aren’t ready. The committee has updated its website to show the new location, and posted an explanation on Facebook. The con takes place July 19-22.

Hello everyone
It was a real commotion for the Nemo 2018 team for the past ten days. So, we had to play radio silence. We must apologise.
Indeed, last week, the news suddenly fell that, finally, because of various delays on the building site, we could not have the visa of the committee of security to organize as planned the convention on the site of the Citadel.
It was therefore urgent to find a plan B. It is now done, thanks to the University of Amiens, and in particular to its cultural service and library. Thanks to Anne-Sophie, Justin and Jennifer.
The Convention will take place as planned, with an unchanged program, but it will be at the Pôle Universitaire Cathedral, in the center of Amiens, at the foot of the cathedral, in the middle of a lively district, filled with restaurants, cafes , with exhibition halls, meeting rooms, amphitheatres, a cafeteria, theaters and cinemas all around!
And as a bonus, we will still have the right to visit the site Citadel, to admire the architectural creation of the cabinet Renzo Piano.
Finally, here is a setback that results in even more facilities and animations …

(6) FROM MOLTEN GLASS. “One Meredith goblet coming up,” says Hampus.

(7) PETER S. BEAGLE ON LE GUIN. SFWA’s newest Grandmaster says farewell to another: “In memoriam, Ursula K. LeGuin” at Support Peter S. Beagle.

…I didn’t know her well. She lived in Portland, and I’ve been all over northern California in the last half-century, with six years out for the Seattle area. We hadn’t yet met when I followed her by a week into the Clarion West workshop (1972, was it?), to be greeted by a note saying, “Welcome, Unicorn! Make the little kobolds work their tails off!) Mostly we ran into each other at various conventions, grabbing coffee where we could. I do like to recall a serious conversation, initiated by me in increasing alarm at having become known more and more, in the intervening years, as the Unicorn Guy. Meanwhile, Ursula’s recently-published Earthsea novels had, as far as I was concerned, put paid to dragons as literary figures: I felt – and still feel – that dragons should be off-limits to all other writers, no matter how gifted or inventive they might be. But I was younger then, and had the chutzpah to offer to trade my unicorns even-up for her dragons. “Unicorns are really easy to housebreak. They always ask to go outside.” I remember that I was even willing to throw in a utility infielder, if she insisted.

Ursula’s response: “Do you know how impossible it is to keep dragons off the curtains? And they’re absolute hell on carpets!” We never did make the deal, but not for my lack of trying. As I say, I was younger then….

(8) MORE ON LE GUIN.

A few years later, I entered an MFA program populated by folks whose idea of engaging with speculative fiction was trying to comprehend Harry Potter. I was also newly married, and my husband had six or seven of Le Guin’s books. Discouraged, again, about writing science fiction and fantasy, I started reading The Left Hand of Darkness, which shattered what I thought a science fiction novel could be, how gender could be portrayed, how an invented world could shape my worldview. More importantly, it changed how I encountered gender on a daily basis—one of the most empathy-producing moments in my life to date. As I closed the covers and promptly fell into a book hangover, I couldn’t understand why none of my professors had taught Le Guin or pushed one of her books into my hands. Yes, folks had suggested her, but one book deep into her work, and I’d found a complex thinker, writer, reader, teacher all rolled into one.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

(9) PLAUDITS. Book View Café proudly reports Le Guin’s  No Time to Spare Is Finalist for Essay Prize”.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s 2017 collection of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, is one of the five finalists for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

This prize, one of the PEN America Literary Awards, is “[f]or a book of essays published in 2017 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.”

Many of the essays in this collection began as blog posts, some of which were published here on the Book View Cafe blog.

Winners will be announced at a February 20 ceremony in New York.

(10) HONOR ROLL. Steven H Silver’s “2017 In Memoriam” list is posted at Amazing Stories.

(Editor’s Note: Every year, Steven H Silver compiles the obituaries of those we have lost.  This information is published in various locales and is incorporated into the honor roll displayed during the Hugo Awards presentations.

It’s an unenviable task, though a necessary one.  Our community and our genres are built upon a foundation of people and it is fitting that we remember them.)

(11) IHINGER OBIT. Minneapolis fan Rob Ihinger (1955-2018) died of leukemia on January 27 his wife, Peg Kerr, announced at CaringBridge (more medical details at the link).

We waited for his mother and other family members who flew in from around the country, and family and friends gathered in his ICU room, sharing laughter, telling stories, and giving Rob his last tastes of Coca Cola Classic and ice cream. Rob was able to recognize and greet with pleasure the visitors who came to say goodbye. Then around midnight, we withdrew the tubes and monitors and simply stopped the medication which was keeping his blood pressure stable. Shortly thereafter, Rob slipped into sleep.

My beloved husband Rob Ihinger passed away peacefully this morning at 9:15 a.m. in the presence of his family.

(12) WALKER OBIT. Cartoonist Mort Walker (1923-2018), creator of Beetle Bailey and other strips, died January 27.

The character that was to become Beetle Bailey made his debut as Spider in Walker’s cartoons published by the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Walker changed Spider’s name and launched “Beetle Bailey” as a college humor strip in 1950.

At first the strip failed to attract readers and King Features Syndicate considered dropping it after just six months, Walker said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press. The syndicate suggested Beetle join the Army after the start of the Korean War, Walker said.

“I was kind of against it because after World War II, Bill Mauldin and Sad Sack were fading away,” he said. But his misgivings were overcome and Beetle “enlisted” in 1951.

Walker attributed the success of the strip to Beetle’s indolence and reluctance to follow authority.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found the Star Wars translation for a contemporary faux pas in Off the Mark.
  • Will R. enjoyed the Laugh out Loud Cats sending up the title of a popular movie.

(14) A PORG TWEETS. David Gerrold knows how he feels….

(15) STOKERCON 2018 NEWS. At the StokerCon 2018 Website you can find the complete program for The Second Annual Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference

The Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference is part of the Horror Writers Association’s Outreach Program. Membership to the Horror Writers Association is not required to submit or present, however registration to StokerCon 2018 is required to present.

And the full program for Librarians’ Day

Join Stoker Con for a special day-long program of panels and presentations for librarians! Becky Spratford, author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd edition (ALA, Editions) and horror reviewer for Booklist and IndiePicks Magazine and Kristi Chadwick, Consultant, Massachusetts Library System and Library Journal’s Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror columnist are coordinating the event.

(16) GRAMMAR POSSE. The latest Horror Writers Association newsletter includes Anthony Ambrogio’s feature, “The Grumpy Grammarian: Ms. Speaking Speaks about Misspeaking (and Gives Me a Chance to Wax Pedantic)”.

Poet and HWA Proofer Supreme Marge Simon offered a couple of additions to those frequently misspoken phrases I talked about in my January column. I hope I do justice to her comments here.

“Hope your cold is better now.”

Marge writes, “Everyone says it that way, but, in truth, if your cold is better, then it is doing well—flourishing—and you are not! … So, to be correct, one should say, ‘I hope your cold has gone away/is over/has let up, etc., and you are feeling better now.’” However, she concedes, “That one is beyond reasonable criticism.” Doesn’t hurt to point it out, though.

(17) MONTH OF JOY. Where have I been? I just found out about the Skiify and Fanty “Month of Joy.” The latest installment is “Cooking and a Recipe by Cora Buhlert”. Learn how to make “Grandma Buhlert’s Herring Salad.”

During the trashfire of a year that was 2017, I’ve found that no matter how upset I am, sitting down in the kitchen to prepare a meal inevitably makes me feel better. To me, there is something incredibly soothing about assembling ingredients and spices, chopping vegetables, meat or fish and finally stirring the pot or pan, waiting for it all to come together.

So what sort of food do I make? For starters – and I know that may surprise some – very little traditional German food. German cuisine is too greasy and too meat and salt heavy for my tastes. And here in North Germany, traditional food quite often means “throw everything into a big pot and boil it, until it turns to mush”. There are some German dishes I like and make on occasion – herring salad, North Sea shrimp salad, pea soup, venison stew with red cabbage, sailor’s curry (which is a North German take on South/South East Asian food), apple puree, several cakes and cookies. And I suspect I could make most of the traditional dishes of my region, if necessary.

(18) THE LID IS OFF. Civilization-wide mind control is here!  Bloomberg video: “Tristan Harris Says Tech Companies Have Opened Pandora’s Box”. Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist, discusses changing Silicon Valley’s culture and the fight against online extremism with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.” Says Harris:

[These social media companies] have unleashed this civilization-scale mind-control machine, and they don’t even know what thoughts it’s pushing into 2 billion people’s minds…. Two billion people use Facebook; that’s more than the number of followers of Christianity. One-point-five billion people use YouTube; that’s more than the number of followers of Islam. These products have that much daily influence over people’s thoughts.

(19) DOWN THE TUBES. The Mother Nature Network asks “Is this housing solution just a pipe dream?”

As Hong Kong continues to grapple with an affordable housing crisis of epic proportions, no potential solution, no matter how unconventional or quixotic, is overlooked. And this includes single-occupancy dwellings fashioned out of concrete water pipes.

 

(20) SHARP GUESSES. Author of the bestselling Outlander time-travel novels Diana Gabaldon says: “Note that this is NOT a confirmation–but it’s a pretty good bit of speculation.” — “Outlander Seasons 5 and 6 Are Almost Definitely Happening”.

”There are ten books, and we are having very productive conversations about the future of the show.

“We have joined the legions of fans of Outlander around the world. Our biggest concern is making sure that we don’t kill Caitriona [Balfe] and Sam [Heughan] along the way,” [Starz CEO Chris] Albrecht [said], noting how incredibly hard both stars work on the show.'”

(21) POTTERDIVERSE. Emeraldbirdcollector authored a delightful short fanfic on what would have happened “If Harry had gotten a less conventional, but more loving adoptive family”

Dear Minerva,

Thank you so much for your kind letter of the 17th. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I do appreciate your waiving the rules about familiars to allow Wednesday to bring little Homer – she dotes on that spider, and I don’t think she could consider Hogwarts home without his company.

We were delighted but completely unsurprised by the children’s Sorting. Of course Wednesday is a Ravenclaw – she has always had a brilliant mind, and it is rather traditional for the women in our family….

(22) TIME PASSAGES. In 1963, Galactic Journey has received the very latest issue of New Worlds: “[February. 03, 1963] The Freeze Continues (New Worlds, February 1963)”

I Like It Here, by Mr. James White

This month’s guest editorial is from a New Worlds regular, who I know you will recognise in the US for his Sector General stories. With characteristic humour he adeptly summarises the contradiction in the current argument in s-f, between writers who don’t care what they write (as long as it sells) and writers who do not produce the sort of s-f that readers want. In typically droll manner, the many trials and tribulations of the modern writer is recognised in this editorial, determined to amuse. For a slightly less amusing consequence of this we also have Mr. John Carnell’s ‘View from the Hill’ at the end of this issue, of which more later….

(23) ARISTOTLE. Always three movements ahead!

Novice jughead?

(24) A POSITED FUTURE. Via the Welcome to you’re “DOOM!”  site.

https://welcometoyouredoom.tumblr.com/post/160735741191

(25) STAND BY TO FIRE HEADCANON. Scott Lynch fills in some missing pieces of Star Wars. Jump on the thread here —

[Thanks to Dave Doering, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Laura Resnick, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Lenore Jones, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/18 It’s Pixels All the Way Down!

(1) ADAPTING L’ENGLE. “Realizing A Wrinkle in Time” behind-the-scenes featurette. Opens in theatres on March 9.

From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.

 

(2) TITANCON GOH. TitanCon 2018, to be held August 24-26 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has announced its first guest of honour – Kit Cox.

Memberships will be on sale soon! If you’d like to find out more about the venue, dates and Guest of Honour, please click the link below to our website.

Kit Cox is known to most as the author of the Union-verse novels but this move to the written word came after many years of working in illustration, concept design and fine art.

A regular cartoonist for national papers; as well as a prolific illustrator in many RPGs, magazines and periodicals, Kit is one of the many creative names who goes silently hand in hand with more public figures. Always happy to place pencil to paper and try new things, Kit’s love of horror movies led him to the film industry working on many concepts for screen monsters and makeup designs; aided by a long academic study of casualty simulation and anatomy for that added realism.

(3) HAYDEN PLANETARIUM. Upcoming programs at New York’s Hayden Planetarium include —

January 22 – Spend an evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson as he reviews headline stories in the Universe, drawn from breaking news in 2017.

February 5 – Join astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker as she discusses the structures and features of exoplanets, and their potential for harboring life.

(4) WISH UPON A STAR. Paul Gilster discusses interstellar travel without getting lost in “Pulsar Navigation: Mining Our Datasets” at Centauri Dreams.

Visualizing a Pulsar Navigation Network

Using millisecond X-ray pulsars (MSPs) for galaxy-spanning navigation raises more than a few questions, especially when we try to predict what an artificial pulsar navigation system might look like to outside observers. If we are willing to posit for a moment a Kardashev II-level civilization moving between stars at relativistic velocities, then we would make as one of our predictions that such a system would be suitable for navigation at such speeds. In following the predictive model of Vidal’s paper, we would then check through our voluminous pulsar data to see how such a prediction fares. The answer, in other words, is in our datasets, and demands analyzing the viability of pulsar navigation at high fractions of c.

To my knowledge, no one has yet done this, making Vidal’s paper a spur to such research. The key here is to make predictions to see which can be falsified. But a quick recap for those just coming in on the discussion. What Vidal (Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) offers is an examination of millisecond X-ray pulsars as navigational aids, of the sort we’re already beginning to exploit through experiments via NASA, Chinese efforts and studies at the European Space Agency.

(5) AN UNASSUMING AWARD. Mark Hepworth calls the judges of the Subjective Chaos (Kind of) Awards, “A group of book bloggers with an entirely trophy-free award but looks kinda fun anyway. I particularly like the ‘blurring the boundaries’ award.”

The writer of Bethan May Books introduces these sff awards with the admission, “Not really an award. There is no prize. Or a ceremony. I will be drinking though.”

Once upon a time, there was a book blogger, struggling to work out instagram and keep up with threads on twitter.

‘Just like me’ you may be thinking, ‘Who is Chuck Wendig anyway?’ right?

One day this hapless book blogger found herself invited to take part in an adventure of alarmingly increasing proportion.

The Wise Sage from The Middle Shelf declared ‘Come! Join us on our quest to discover the Best Books Released in 2017! There will be nominating, there will be shortlists, there will be endless twitter notifications the likes of which you’ve never seen before. But there will also be companionship, reknown, and most importantly; new books to read!’

And so our brave book blogger ventured forth into this new, daring fellowship. What perils await them as they forge through C’s categories? Will they conquer the towering mountains of books? And will their bonds prove strong enough to reach an agreement in the end?

These are The Subjective Chaos (Kind Of) Awards*

Do you dare follow the adventure?

Follow the link to their shortlist – your Mount TBR may grow!

(6) KEEPS ON TICKING. It’s awfully hard to get rid of them you know — “Amazon’s ‘The Tick’ Renewed for Second Season”.

The new season of 10 more episodes of the half-hour superhero series will premiere in 2019.

Amazon Studios has handed out a renewal to The Tick for a second season.

The new season of 10 more episodes of the half-hour superhero series will begin production in 2018 and is set to bow in 2019 exclusively on Prime Video in over 200 countries. The Tick is based on the acclaimed comic about an accountant who realizes his city is owned by a global supervillain long thought to be dead. He falls in with a strange blue superhero as he uncovers the conspiracy.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.
  • January 18, 2008Cloverfield premiered. An Easter egg in the movie is a picture of the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in a side view mirror of a car.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY POOH-FLINGER

  • Born January 18, 1882 — A.A. Milne

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) COMMUNITY BUILDING. Chuck Wendig calls these “Assorted Thoughts On Impostor Syndrome, Gathered In A Bouquet”.

…When I got there, arriving a bit early for the event, I went into the green room and I was alone.

Except for Neil Gaiman.

Neil Fucking Gaiman. Good Omens! Sandman! The Ocean at the End of the Lane! Stardust and Coraline and American Gods and Neverwhere and…

(C’mon. Dark poet, elegantly mussed hair, you know him, you love him.)

And I stood there for a moment, utterly frozen. He was, if I recall, looking at his phone.

And I said: “I can go.”

Because I thought, I should leave him alone! I don’t belong here. THIS IS RARE AIR AND I DO NOT DESERVE TO BREATHE IT.

And then he Tasered me and called security.

*checks notes*

Wait, no.

He smiled warmly and invited me in and was friendly and delightful and made me feel like I belonged. The other authors welcomed me too and it was awesome, even if I (even now!) still feel like a stowaway on that boat.

As writers we so often have the feeling like we are a Scooby-Doo monster about to be unmasked. I don’t think you ever really lose that.

BUT — and here is a vital part of the lesson — you can help diminish that feeling in other writers by making them feel welcome and a part of the tribe.

Recognize other writers feel like impostors too — and you can combat the feeling in yourself by helping them combat it when you welcome them. In this, community blooms.

You’ll never lose it. But you can help others feel like they belong. And when community grows you feel less alone

(11) THE JOY OF PULP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler wishes Betty White a happy 41st birthday (for no particular reason at all) before taking up the latest F&SF — “[January 17, 1963] Things of Beauty (February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

One entity that has not stopped aging, and whose aging I have whinged upon quite frequently, is Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine now in its 14th year and third editor.  Editor Avram Davidson has given me a decent issue this time around, for which I am grateful.  See if you enjoy the February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction as much as I did…

Counter Security, by James White

Ah, now this is what I read sf for.  This largely autobiographical piece features a young, underemployed night watchman in a British department store who must solve the mystery of (what appears to be) a spiteful, peppermint chewing, floor-spitting, Black-hating skulker before the staff quit en masse from worry and fear.  I finished this novelette in one sitting on the beach at Waimea as the sun rose, and I’m not sure a more perfect half hour was ever spent.  Five stars.

(12) SAY CHEESE. Pictures of “DNA in action”: “Chemistry ‘Van Gogh’ could help with cancer”.

Human DNA contains the genetic instructions for building and running the human body.

It is RNA polymerase III’s job to come along and read the genetic instruction manual.

The team at the Institute of Cancer Research used a technique called cryo-electron microscopy, which won the 2017 Nobel Prize for chemistry for revolutionising biochemistry.

They purified RNA polymerase III, immersed it in water and then rapidly froze it.

This preserves the microscopic structure of objects and even captures them mid-movement.

A beam of electrons is then used to take images from lots of angles, which are then built up into a detailed 3D image.

Dr Alessandro Vannini, who published the findings in the journal Nature, told the BBC: “You don’t get the structure all at once, you just see individual strokes and it takes a while to see the big picture.

“It was definitely a Van Gogh.”

The researchers caught the molecular machinery binding to DNA, unzipping it and reading the information in the genetic code.

(13) FIRST SCAN. Neither snow, nor ice, nor gloom of night will keep these satellites from their appointed rounds — “ICEYE’s ‘suitcase space radar’ returns first image”. Works through clouds and at night, and is cheap enough that they could put up large numbers of satellites, allowing the same area to be photographed several times a day.

Finnish start-up ICEYE has released a “first light” image from its novel radar satellite, which was launched to orbit last Friday.

The picture depicts a region of Alaska incorporating Noatak National Preserve.

ICEYE is taking a radical new approach to satellite radar, shrinking the size of what have traditionally been big, power-hungry spacecraft into a volume similar to that of a suitcase.

The Helsinki-based firm plans to launch a large network of these platforms.

This will enable multiple radar images a day to be acquired over the same location on Earth – a service that has not previously been available.

(14) QUEASINE. And you thought crottled greeps sounded strange—the BBC reports “In Iceland, food is a challenge, not a meal”. Warning for graphic food descriptions!

Bringing people up-close to the source of their food is admirably rational, but that rotten fish seemed anything but. And as I ate my way down to and across capital city Reykjavik, eating more rotten, sour and dung-smoked foods, it occurred to me that Icelandic food culture was not only odd, but possibly unique. Though eating cheaper and often less-obviously appetizing parts of animals and plants is common, every other national cuisine I’d tried took pride in how good they were able to make their calf stomach (Bulgarian shkembe), sheep’s brain (Moroccan mokh mchermel) or cows’ tails (Jamaican oxtail stew). But Icelanders like Gísli, it seems, revel in how bad their traditional food is.

(15) IMPERVIOUS DIGESTIONS. New Tiptree Fellow Ineke Chen-Meyer is noted for nonfiction pieces like this one from 2016 — “Which Secret Superpower Do All Historical Fantasy Heroes Have?”

Nope, the most freakish physical attribute of the historical fantasy protagonist isn’t their catlike vertical leap or ability to absorb multiple blows to the head without CTE. It’s their immunity to death by diarrhoea. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly okay with trading historicity for a compelling story. It’s just that… well, if you specialise in killing off vast numbers of named characters, I’m surprised none of them have ever suddenly died of a communicable disease, throwing a spanner into the works of whatever elaborately engineered plan the rest of their faction had come up with. I know, it’s not as dramatic as a stabbing. But it’s also a rich, mostly-untapped source of dramatic irony: you can be the best in every aspect it’s possible for a person to control—the perfect warrior, the cleverest sage—and still get undone in the most unglamorous, most human of ways.

(16) PLUTOCRAT’S PICKS. From CNBC: “Bitcoin backer Cameron Winklevoss shares his 2 favorite science fiction books”. Not these two —

When a Reddit user asked if Winklevoss has read two other science fiction novels, “Cryptonomicon” or “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, Winklevoss responded he’s checked those off of his list too.

(17) SUIT UP. Marvel says you’re invited to the Wedding of the Century – X-Men Gold.

(18) TOMB RAIDER. MGM has released Tomb Raider – Official Trailer #2.

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared. From Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Tomb Raider is the story that will set a young and resolute Lara Croft on a path toward becoming a global hero. The film stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl) in the lead role, under the direction of Roar Uthaug (The Wave), with Oscar-winner Graham King (The Departed) producing under his GK Films banner. The film¹s production begins on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the wildly popular videogame franchise from Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/18 Scroll Down, You File Too Fast, You Got To Make The Pixels Last

(1) KURT ERICHSEN’S RETIREMENT MAKES THE NEWS. The Toledo Blade has published a superb article about fanartist Kurt Erichsen, who is retiring from his day job as vice president of water quality planning for Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments after a 34-year career. I learned all kinds of things I never knew about his work on getting the Ottawa river cleaned up, and was pleased to see they also covered some of the fannish things I did know about the 2002 Rotsler Award winner —

Mr. Erichsen’s passion for environmental planning wasn’t his first calling in life, though. He was fascinated with drawing since he was young. He might have pursued a career as an illustrator if his parents hadn’t convinced him otherwise, but he never gave up his passion for drawing.

From 1980 to 2008, he produced a comic strip called “Murphy’s Manor.” It focused on the lives of gay men living in the fictional town of Black Swamp, Ohio. That series and others he produced, including “The Sparkle Spinsters” and “GLIB Talk,” appeared in as many as 70 publications marketed to homosexuals, resulting in awards from the Gay/?Lesbian Press Association.

“I was trying to be entertaining while making a point,” Mr. Erichsen said.

Mr. Erichsen also has produced artwork for fans of science fiction fanzines and conventions.

(2) COMES THE MILLENNIUM. Congratulations to James Davis Nicoll, who sent a link to his review of Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong – captioned “And Rain Keeps Falling Like Helpless Tears” – with the note that it is his 1000th review.

Elizabeth Hand’s 1990 debut novel Winterlong is the first volume in her Winterlong Trilogy.

Nuclear war and germ warfare have left Washington a shadow of its once glorious past. A handful of administrators, descended from self-appointed curators, control the relics of America’s lost past, defending the remnants from the diseased, mutated, and simply unlucky inhabitants of the surrounding sea of ruins….

(3) VERSE AS SWORD AND SHIELD. Middle-Earth Reflections’ new post “On the songs of power” discusses how they work in The Silmarillion.

Among many powerful notions in the world of Arda few are more potent than music and language. Music is the essential element of Arda, its heart and soul, as the world was created and shaped by the majestic Music of the Ainur. And it was the word of Ilúvatar — Eä! — that brought the created vision to life.

The power of words in Middle-earth cannot be overestimated. If used masterfully, with subtlety and skill they can inspire others to do incredible things. It is especially prominent when words are put into verse: songs can become something a lot more potent than mere poetic recitals. I have already spoken about the songs of challenge in The Silmarillion: sung in the situations of dire need and despair, they bring hope and salvation against all the odds. A special place in the story is occupied by the songs of power. They are very effective verses able to create or destroy, be used as a weapon or for defence.

It is by means of a song that Yavanna brings to life the Two Trees of Valinor and, later, the last fruit and flower from them used for creating the Sun and the Moon after the Trees’ destruction. Finrod duels with Sauron on the songs of power. Lúthien sings an equally powerful song to make Tol-in-Gaurhoth tremble and be heard by Beren trapped in Sauron’s dungeons.

(4) HANDMAID’S TALE. Hulu previews the second season.

Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 returns April 25.

 

(5) ATWOOD’S FEMINISM. Margaret Atwood answers her own question, “Am I a bad feminist?”, in an op-ed at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

So let us suppose that my Good Feminist accusers, and the Bad Feminist that is me, agree on the above points. Where do we diverge? And how did I get into such hot water with the Good Feminists?

In November of 2016, I signed – as a matter of principle, as I have signed many petitions – an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case. Specifically, several years ago, the university went public in national media before there was an inquiry, and even before the accused was allowed to know the details of the accusation. Before he could find them out, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.

But then, after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge’s report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC’s flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being.

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won’t be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

(6) VENUS IF YOU WILL. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler reports on the wealth of information collected by the latest (in 1963) Venus probe — “[January 15, 1963] Venus’ true face (Scientific Results of Mariner 2)”.

Getting there is half the fun

Before I talk about Mariner’s encounter with Venus, it’s important to discuss what the spacecraft discovered on the way there.  After all, it was a 185 million mile trip, most of it in interplanetary space charted but once before by Pioneer 5.  And boy, did Mariner learn a lot!

For instance, it has finally been confirmed that the sun does blow a steady stream of charged particles in a gale known as the “Solar Wind.”  The particles get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and cause, among other things, our beautiful aurorae.

Mariner also measured the interplanetary magnetic field, which is really the sun’s magnetic field.  It varies with the 27-day solar rotation, and if we had more data, I suspect the overall map of the field would look like a spiral.

Why is all this important?  Well, aside from giving us an idea of the kind of “space weather” future probes and astronauts will have to deal with, these observations of the sun’s effect on space give us a window as to what’s going on inside the sun to generate these effects.

One last bit: along the way, Mariner measured the density of “cosmic dust,” little physical particles in space.  It appears that there’s a lot of it around the Earth, perhaps trapped by our magnetic field, and not a lot in space.  It may be that the solar wind sweeps the realm between the planets clean….

(7) LAST JEDI DOES NOT IMPRESS CHINESE. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “China Box Office: ‘Jumanji’ Clobbers Competition With $40M, ‘Last Jedi’ Crashes and Burns”.

Dwane Johnson’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle roared into China over the weekend, racking up a strong $40 million.

The Sony tentpole finally toppled runaway Chinese hit The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes, which earned $25.3 million in its third frame, bringing its local total to $272 million. Globally, Jumanji, also starring Kevin Hart, has earned $667 million.

Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, meanwhile, didn’t even put up a fight. Only in its second weekend on Chinese screens, The Last Jedi pulled in a paltry $2.4 million — a 92 percent decline from its disappointing $28.7 million debut, according to data from EntGroup.

The Star Wars franchise, never popular in China, appears to be on a precipitous decline in the Middle Kingdom, the world’s second-largest film territory.

…The global picture is far better, of course: As of Sunday, Last Jedi had a worldwide haul of $1.264 billion, making it the biggest film of 2017.

Looper attempts to explain the disappointing numbers –

(8) BINTI ARC CONCLUDES. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog points out how Binti: The Night Masquerade Is the Epic Climax to a Deeply Personal Saga”.

Each of the previous two books in Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s coming-of-age story saw Binti faced with tremendous change and exposed her to new truths that widened her world, and made it smaller. She’s taken on attributes of the (sometimes) murderous and very alien Meduse, and come to understand there’s more to the seemingly uncivilized desert people of her homeland than she’d ever imagined. The Night Masquerade is the conclusion of her journey, and the title refers to a spectre of change that appears to significant people at times of great crisis. It’s wonderfully evocative of the climactic nature of the story, and Binti will face a great deal more turmoil before hers is done.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 – Robert Silverberg

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Pearls Before Swine showed him an excellent reason (or three) to keep the closet closed
  • John King Tarpinian discovered the consequences of making a Flintstones reference in B.C.
  • Mike Kennedy learned news happens whether you know it or not in this installment of Nonsequitur.
  • The Flying McCoys explore what would happen to Batman if a certain supervillain lived up to his name.

(11) WHAT GOES UP. The BBC talks to “The astronaut fighting to save our home in space”:

The International Space Station (ISS) is humanity’s most expensive structure – and in just six years’ time, it may vanish, plunging into the Pacific Ocean. BBC Future meets the man trying to save it.

… “I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky,” he says, laughing. “Most astronauts are very jealous of me, which is probably why I won’t get to fly in space again!”

Most famously, Foale was on board Mir in June 1997 when an un-crewed Progress supply ship ploughed into the station, smashing a solar panel and breaching the hull. With the master alarm sounding, air leaking, power failing and the station spinning, Foale worked with his two Russian crewmates to prepare their Soyuz escape capsule and close off the damaged module.

By holding his thumb to a station window and examining the movement of stars, Foale used his physics training to estimate the spin rate of the station, so mission control could fire thrusters to bring it back under control.

(12) MUST COME DOWN. Someone hit the center divider on the road, went airborne and crashed into the SECOND floor of a dental business —

Which inspired this Harry Potter reference from “Typical Girl” —

(13) MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. In “Bruce Lee Lightsabers Scene Recreation,” Patrick Nan asks, “What if Bruce Lee fought with lightsabers?”

(14) COMMITMENT. Laura Resnick continues a series about her volunteer work — “Cat Rescue, Part 3: Return to Sender”.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

(15) CLASSIC WEIRD. Jared pays tribute to “Jane Gaskell, First Lady of the Weird” in a compelling review article at Pornokitsch. Here’s an excerpt:

The Atlan Series: The Serpent (1963), Atlan (1965), The City (1966), Some Summer Lands (1977)

Note: To keep things complicated, later printings split The Serpent into two volumes (The Serpent and The Dragon)

This series – Gaskell’s epic fantasy saga – is batshit crazy.

It follows Princess Cija, as she meddles in the politics of Atlantis. She goes from princess to prisoner to conqueror to spy to Chosen One to fugitive to back again… It is bonkers, risque and occasionally befuddling.

In a way, the Atlan saga is an even more extreme version of Strange Evil, exacerbated, perhaps, due to its epic length. Cija, like Judith, lacks agency. She is notable because she is desired, rather than possessing any strong desires of her own. She’s passed from hand to hand (to paw), partner to partner. Her bloodline is important, her presence is ‘destined’, but, again, we find in Cjia a distressing subversion of a Chosen One. She is one that has been Chosen, rather than having any control over her fate. This is the Epic Fantasy with the princess-in-the-tower as the first person protagonist, and it can make for harrowing reading: to be the prize and not the hero is, unsurprisingly, kind of dark.

Atlan also has an utterly ridiculous setting – packed with ‘SPACE AGE’ SF, mad science, dragons, monsters, death rays, lizard people, whatever. It feels almost deliberately pulpy, in a way that makes its sneaky-dark message all the more sinister.

Michael Moorcock included the series in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988), and admires – slightly sarcastically – the over-the-top pulpy elements. He refers to the series’ “bewildering status changes” and “breathless peregrinations”, and his summary gleefully points out how silly the whole thing is. But he eventually concludes “Too much? Never! Stirring stuff, all of it.”

Others also (mostly) approve – John Clute describes it with lukewarm praise: “In genre terms the series – sometimes uneasily, but at points with real panache – marries sf and the popular romance; it is full of vigorous and exuberant invention and occasionally overheated prose.” (It is worth noting that late 1960s ‘popular romance’ was pretty bleak stuff – this isn’t a sappy love story, but a harrowing tale of self-actualisation [or… semi-reluctant acceptance].)

(16) ROBOTS V. FAIRIES. SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney isn’t high on this new collection — “Book Review: Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe”.

Robots vs. Fairies is my first reading disappointment of 2018. I loved Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s first anthology, 2016’s The Starlit Wood, so I was very hyped for this one when it was announced. Unfortunately, Robots vs. Fairies is a bit of a sophomore slump for the editing pair, with a theme that feels more questionable the farther one reads into the collection, stories that largely feel a little too written to spec, and not enough that’s new and interesting to recommend it on those scores. It might work as sort of comfort reading for those who find its table of contents—filled with some of the hottest short fiction writers currently working in SFF—appealing, but if you’re looking for exciting, fresh, innovative work, there’s not much of that here.

(17) JDA TODAY. Jon Del Arroz tries to defend against the Jim C. Hines compilation without mentioning the author by name in “The Ever-Changing Narrative And Double Standards Show They’re Disingenuous” (link to the Internet Archive).

In the past couple days, with that Narrative being such bad publicity for the convention because of the double standard they applied over political affiliation, it’s shifted to “he’s mean on the internet!”  NYT Bestsellers have been swearing about me on their twitter, lower-selling midlist authors are cheering and congratulating each other over spreading rumors and gossip like this is a high school clique rather than professionals. This strategy is going to backfire as well, because first, being mean on the internet is not a crime. No one has been banned from conventions over being mean on the internet before. And it applies to these folk in a massive double standard way. I don’t go around being nearly as mean or cruel as they are.

(18) MEDIC, I’M HIT! I was bitterly disappointed that Jim C. Hines showed in comments today that he reviewed the evidence with JDA about his doctored “Goodbye Jon” email conversation with me (which actually happened in this order) only to conclude —

The summary: We have several possibilities here.

  1. Jon is faking his screenshots.
  2. Mike is lying.
  3. Jon’s Sent Mail shows a different Sent Time than the email(s) Mike received from him.

(19) CHOPPAGE. At Pedestrian, Ben McLeay reports the latest antics of men’s rights activists – erasing women from The Last Jedi — “MRAs Make 46-Minute Cut Of ‘The Last Jedi’ That Edits Out All The Women”.

It is utterly tragic that MRAs aren’t given the respect they deserve. It’s truly galling that just because their entire worldview was formed around a profound sense of entitlement induced by watching thousands of hours of harem anime, no one takes them seriously. It’s heartbreaking to think that people dismiss them out of hand just because – instead of addressing actual issues like the rates of suicide and depression among men – they focus on dumb shit like editing out all the parts of The Last Jedi that aren’t centred around men.

If that last thing sounded too ridiculous to be true, you have clearly forgotten which time it is that we live in and the corresponding fact that pretty much nothing now is too ridiculous to be true. We live in the most aggressively ridiculous timeline. Accordingly, the self-described “chauvinist cut” of TLJ is very, very real, and exactly as dumb as it sounds.

Uploaded to The Pirate Bay yesterday by an anonymous user, the “The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fanedit” is, according to their own description “basically The Last Jedi minus Girlz Powah and other silly stuff“.

(20) HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM. WIRED delivers a less-than-stunning revelation: “Cantina Talk: The Last Jedi’s Shirtless Kylo Is Proving a Problem for Cosplayers”.

So, About Kylo’s High-Waisted Tights…

Source: The Wall Street Journal, of all places

Probability of Accuracy: They did get a high quality still of shirtless Kylo, so there’s no denying that they know what they’re doing.

The Real Deal: Perhaps the most surprising Last Jedi story to appear in recent weeks is this Wall Street Journal piece about the high-waisted tights Kylo wore in that one super-uncomfortable scene of him Force-communicating with Rey. (Don’t pretend like you know know exactly which one we’re talking about.) For one, it was surprising because it was in the Journal, but also because it focused on how hard Shirtless Buff Kylo Ren was to pull off for cosplayers. The piece even quotes Last Jedi costume designer Michael Kaplan, who said, “The world of Star Wars is not our world… Kylo Ren is not some hipster in hip-hugging jeans. Think Errol Flynn swashbuckling coolness as a point of departure. Hide that navel!” So, now you know. (Also, let’s be honest: Kylo Ren most definitely is some hipster in hip-hugging jeans, even if his wardrobe doesn’t reflect it.)

(21) BLACK PANTHER. Ruth Carter “‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Ruth Carter has created costumes for some epic films, Amistad, Malcolm X and Selma among them, but nothing prepared her for the size and scope of Black Panther. For the super-stylish superhero film opening Feb. 12, she imagined a new African diaspora with 700 costumes fusing futurism, indigenous dress and high fashion, using research that spanned from the Rose Bowl Flea Market to textile dealers in Accra, Ghana.

The Ryan Coogler-directed film brings to the big screen Marvel Comics’ first black superhero, reinventing the circa 1966 character for today. Black Panther is depicted as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who rules over the fantastical African country of Wakanda, rich with vibranium, a mythic metal that is woven into the superhero’s sleek black, repeating triangle-pattern suit (designed by Marvel’s Ryan Meinerding), and has allowed the population to make technological advances nearly a century ahead of the rest of the world. The fight for vibranium is at the heart of the story, with T’Challa defending the kingdom against Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger.

Carter worked with five illustrators, 14 designers, mold makers, fabric dyers, jewelry makers and more. “It was an army,” the costume designer says. On her mood boards were images of African dress from the Maasai, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka peoples (including a men’s glass bead, animal skin and cowry shell corset from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), as well as piercings and body art, and more abstract examples of drapery and beading. She also examined fashion by avant-garde pleating master Issey Miyake, African-style vintage pieces by Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan.

(22) STARTS TOMORROW. CW released a clip from Black Lightning — The Resurrection Scene 2 – a show that premieres January 16.

About BLACK LIGHTNING: Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life and his family on the line, he left his Super Hero days behind. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, James Davis Nicoll, Dann, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/17 The Hoboken Pixel Emergency

(1) #MAPPINGFANTASY. Alex Acks and Paul Weimer taught their “Mapping Fantasy” online class today. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights – jump onto the thread here:

(2) PURINA ALIEN CHOW. Food & Wine investigates “How Hollywood’s Sci-Fi Food Stylists Create Futuristic Meals”.

For Janice Poon, one of TV’s most popular food stylists and a frequent collaborator with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), food styling for the future is as much about taking cues from the script or the world around you as it is about pushing your imaginary limits—within production capability, of course.

Poon refers to the script, pulling the tone and character motivations from a food scene, before brainstorming alongside her showrunner (and sometimes even a cinematographer) on how a spread will look. However, Poon says that “because it is sci-fi, you can do just about anything really.” To do just about anything, Poon uses conventional tools like wet wipes and syringes, but also “an ability to problem solve” and a four and a half inch white ceramic santoku knife that enables Poon to work in the darkness of a set

(3) STRAHAN CALLING. Even as Jonathan Strahan’s 2017 best of the year collection is being readied for publication, he’s looking ahead to 2018 — Call for stories: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 13.

I edit The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series for Solaris Books. The twelfth volume in the series will be published in April 2018, and the thirteenth volume will appear in March 2019.

I am currently reading for the 2018 volume, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to cyberpunk, fairy tales to the slipstream, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, please send it.

Eligibility

This is a reprint anthology. Stories must have been published for the first time between 1 January and 31 December 2018 to be considered.

Deadline

The submission deadline for this year’s book is:

1 November 2018

Anything sent after this deadline will reach me too late, as I  deliver the final book to the publisher in late December. If a magazine, anthology, or collection you are in or you edit is coming out before 31 December 2018 please send galleys or manuscripts so that I can consider the stories in time.

(4) GALACTIC STARS. Meanwhile, The Traveler recognizes the best sff of 1962 in See the Stars at Galactic Journey.

Best Novelette

The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

The second time an Instrumentality tale has gotten a Star… and this one is better.

(5) CENTENARY PROJECT. The Clarke Award’s’ Kickstarter to fund “2001: An Odyssey in Words” has started. In this original anthology honoring Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary year every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is famous for its annual redefinition of that elusive term ‘science fiction,’ and Sir Arthur was always adamant that while the award may be named for him, it shouldn’t be styled on his work.

We wanted to make sure that the scope of the anthology was as broad as the fluid definition of science fiction for which the Clarke Award is renowned, while still retaining a direct acknowledgement of Sir Arthur’s own work.

The solution? A collection where every story has all the scope and freedom to imagine that an author might possibly want, but where the word count had to be precisely 2001 words (and we had rules about authors playing clever games with super-long story titles, just to make sure).

(5) CLARKE CENTENARY IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Here are tweets from some of the groups celebrating the day.

  • And I applaud Gideon Marcus for staying in character –

(6) RIVALRY. From 2015, Adam Rowe at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog fondly remembers “The Decades-Long Flame War Between Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov”.

While introducing his Asimov at an event in London, Clarke had plenty of time to prepare his choicest insults.

“Well, Isaac, I’ve lost my bet. There are more than five people here,” he opened. “I’m not going to waste any time introducing Isaac Asimov. That would be as pointless as introducing the equator, which indeed, he’s coming to resemble more and more closely.”

(7) SUPERBOOTS ON THE GROUND. Andrew Liptak combed through all sci-fi media and came up with a list of “18 suits of power armor from science fiction you don’t want to meet on the battlefield” in The Verge. Here’s one of them:

Goliath Mk ? Powersuit, James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse

In The Expanse, Mars possesses the most advanced military force in the solar system, and its elite Marines are trained to operate in deep space, onboard spaceships, and planetary surfaces. They come decked out in a powerful suit of armor called the Goliath Powersuit. This armor completely protects its wearer, providing life support and armor, as well as a heads up display to help soldiers with targeting. They also come equipped with guns mounted directly into their arms, and carry a small rack of missiles on their backs.

These suits will resist small arms fire, and are small enough that they can be used inside the narrow corridors of a spaceship. But they’re not invincible, as Bobbie Draper’s Marines discovered on Ganymede during the television show’s second season.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) came up with the name Mickey Mouse.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 16, 1901 — Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published
  • December 16, 1981 Beach Babes from Beyond premiered.
  • December 16, 2016Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 16, 1775 — Jane Austen
  • Born December 16, 1917 — Arthur C. Clarke
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Randall Garrett
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Peter Dickinson
  • Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick
  • Born December 16, 1957 — Lenore Jean Jones
  • Born December 16, 1981 — Krysten Ritter (aka Jessica Jones)

(11) SWORD OF LIGHT. In honor of the release of The Last Jedi, Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent along this quote from Kaldar, World of Antares written by Edmond Hamilton and originally published in 1933:

With the tunic went a belt in which were a sword and a tube such as he had noticed. Merrick examined these weapons of the Corlans carefully. The sword seemed at first glance a simple long rapier of metal. But he found that when his grip tightened on the hilt it pressed a catch which released a terrific force stored in the hilt into the blade, making it shine with light. When anything was touched by this shining blade, he found, the force of the blade annihilated it instantly. He learned that the weapon was called a light-sword, due to the shining of the blade when charged, and saw that it was truly a deadly weapon, its touch alone meaning annihilation to any living thing.

(12) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. The price is unbelievable! “Check out an original ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber valued at $450,000”.

Starting Saturday, and just in time for the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” visitors to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Hollywood, California, will be able to see the iconic prop in person.

Ripley’s purchased the saber hilt for a whopping $450,000 at an auction last June held by Profiles in History. The auction house specializes in Hollywood memorabilia and acquired the prop from the collection of Gary Kurtz, a producer on “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s the first time the prop has been put on public display.

(13) LYRICAL MIRACLE. This thread started in 2013 but gets rediscovered every time a new Star Wars movie comes out – begins here:

(14) HURLEY. BEWARE SPOILERS in Kameron Hurley’s review “The Last Jedi: Promises, Pitfalls, and What Sticks With You”. (No spoilers in this excerpt.)

I came out of watching The Last Jedi, and was like, “Well, that was good, but I’m not blown away.” It had a lot of threads; it felt like three movies in one, and cramming all that story into one movie made it feel a little bloated. The story beats weren’t that clockwork structure that The Force Awakens and the original trilogy stuck to. There were a couple of massive emotional moments that needed to be paid off more than we got.

And yet.

And yet this morning I find that I can’t stop thinking about it. Stories are, at their heart, about characters. If I’m invested in the characters and their struggles, you can fall down on plot and no one cares….

(15) I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS A SPOILER. If it is, don’t read it.

(16) MODERATE PRAISE. The Hugo Award Book Club concluded “The Stone Sky is the echo of a great book”, but they’d still like to give it an award:

The first book in the series, The Fifth Season, was innovative and unique. It offered a refreshing take on science fiction and fantasy that unquestionably deserved the Hugo Award. But The Stone Sky does not stand on its own. It is good, but mostly because it is an echo of a truly great book.

It might be more appropriate to honour N.K. Jemisin with a Best Series Hugo this year, rather than another Best Novel, because that would recognize how The Stone Sky works as part of a larger whole.

(17) SUMMATION. John Crowley’s Ka is a book-length historical fantasy about a crow. The author has been profiled by an area paper: “Conway author’s handwritten ode to birdwatching”.

The book was written while “looking out at Baptist Hill and watching people mow their lawns, and watching crows fly around.” Crowley explained in a recent interview about what went into the makings of “Ka” and how his living in Conway for nearly the last 35 years influenced his work.

The narrator of the novel, “feels like he is living in a country different from where he grew up,” after moving back home, he explained.

Crowley himself grew up in Brattleboro, Vt., moved to Indiana for college, and then New York City for some professional years, where he wrote his critically acclaimed, “Little, Big.” He eventually returned to New England.

Crowley said the narrator of the novel “says to himself that he is surprised by seeing kinds of birds that he doesn’t remember seeing when he was a child … the Canada geese use to fly overhead and still do, but they’re not going south anymore.”

Things like climate change, but also other elements that just sometimes change with generations, have thrown off this narrator.

“Things like that have changed his feelings about the world and saddened him … If I’m going to leave the world, it’s not the world I began in,” Crowley said about the protagonist.

(18) UNIDENTIFIED FLYING TRAILER. Avengers: Infinity War Reality Stone Trailer (2018). Is this a fan trailer or official?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/17 The Greatest Scroll On Earth

(1) LAST JEDI REVEW. Craig Miller attended the official world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

No Spoilers Review: A pretty amazing achievement. More emotion than most Star Wars films. And more humor (though not a gag fest like, Thor Ragnarok). Some surprises. Including a “surprise” I thought was likely yet still surprised me when it happened by the way they did it. I haven’t quite processed where I think it should go in my pantheon of Best Star Wars Movies but it’s certainly up near the top of the list. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back still hold the top honors but this is getting near it.

His post includes a couple of sweet photos of Kelly Marie Tran (who plays Rose) seeing a fan dressed as her character for the first time.

(2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Mashable collected a bunch of tweets sent by people who saw the movie: “‘The Last Jedi’ first premiere reactions are here and – you guessed it – the Force is strong”.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi held its star-studded world premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and the credits had barely finished rolling before attendees hit Twitter to share their first reactions to Rian Johnson’s take on the Skywalker saga.

While spoilers and plot details are under strict embargo until Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. PT, that didn’t stop fans from weighing in on the tone of the movie…

(3) IMPEDIMENT TO FAKE REVIEWS. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green brings news of “Amazon Review Policy Change & More”.

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy….

(4) AND HEEERE’S PHILIP! Kim Huett asks, “Do you ever have those moments when you discover a different side to an author? Well of course you do. We all do. I did just the other day in regards to Philip K. Dick:” See “Straight Talking With Philip K. Dick” at Doctor Strangemind.

It’s in Lighthouse #14 (October 1966) that Carr published a Philip K. Dick article called Will the Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, and If So, What Becomes of Robert Heinlein? This piece doesn’t read like a fully formed article in my opinion. It’s a series of unconnected paragraphs that feels more like a transcript of Dick’s responses to a series of questions that had been posed by a talk show host (Conan O’Brien most probably, I can’t imagine who else would enjoy interviewing Phil Dick). Take this line:

‘I have written and sold twenty-three novels, and all are terrible except one. But I am not sure which one.

That so feels like the sort of thing a talk show guest might say to set the tone of the interview. Watch out audience, I’m quirky and don’t take anything too seriously.

Mostly though Dick expresses the sort of blunt and sweeping opinions I never thought he was likely to come out with….

(5) MAKE IT SNOW. Let SyFy Wire help with your holiday shopping — “2017 Gift Guide: Beam up these great Star Trek gifts”. My favorite —

U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

If you love Star Trek AND sushi then this awesome sushi set will hit the sweet spot. The set includes a shiny Enterprise NCC-1701 in mid-warp and propped on a wooden base, which is actually… a sushi plate. If you remove the top of the saucer section, you even get a small dish for soy sauce. Slide out the warp effects of the nacelles and voila, you have your own pair of chopsticks.

Get it for $34.99 at Star Trek Shop

(6) NO PRIZE. In the Paris Review, Ursula K. Le Guin makes a meta suggestion: “The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes”.

I refused a prize once. My reasons were mingier than Sartre’s, though not entirely unrelated. It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette The Diary of the Rose was awarded the Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. At about the same time, the same organization deprived the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem of his honorary membership. There was a sizable contingent of Cold Warrior members who felt that a man who lived behind the iron curtain and was rude about American science fiction must be a Commie rat who had no business in the SFWA. They invoked a technicality to deprive him of his membership and insisted on applying it. Lem was a difficult, arrogant, sometimes insufferable man, but a courageous one and a first-rate author, writing with more independence of mind than would seem possible in Poland under the Soviet regime. I was very angry at the injustice of the crass and petty insult offered him by the SFWA. I dropped my membership and, feeling it would be shameless to accept an award for a story about political intolerance from a group that had just displayed political intolerance, took my entry out of the Nebula competition shortly before the winners were to be announced. The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So—with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground—my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.

(7) TOLKIEN CANONIZATON CONFERENCE CANCELLED. The hosts of a December 18 conference in Rome to popularize the idea of canonizing J.R.R. Tolkien, an initiative of the SUPR (Student Association of Roman pontifical universities) and sponsored by the CRUPR (conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities), say they have had to cancel the event in the face of unspecified opposition. You can see they didn’t go quietly.

(8) IMAGINING A PAST, AND A BETTER PRESENT. French novelist Jean d’Ormesson died December 6 at the age of 92 reports the New York Times.

It was only in 1971 that “La Gloire de l’Empire” — translated into English as “A Novel. A History” — secured a lasting place for him in 20th-century French literature.

The book, a fictional compendium of imagined history, won the academy’s coveted Grand Prix.

“This has to be one of the most engrossing histories ever written — yet not a word of it is true,” William Beauchamp, a French literature scholar, wrote in The New York Times Book Review when the book was published in English in the United States in 1975.

He added: “Jean d’Ormesson’s empire is pure invention; his book, fictional history. If numerous details suggest the real empires of Rome, Persia, Byzantium, of Alexander or Charlemagne, they are devices designed to achieve verisimilitude — the illusion of reality.”

When Mr. d’Ormesson entered the academy in 1973, at the age of 48, he was the youngest of its 40 members, all of them committed to maintaining the purity of the French language and to promoting French literary merit.

All were also men; the body had barred women since its founding in 1635. But that changed in 1981, when Mr. d’Ormesson sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, a writer and classical scholar, to join the academy. Though he incurred much criticism and not a few misogynistic jibes for his championing her, she was accepted….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LIBRARIAN

  • Born December 10, 1851 – Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. As a young adult he advocated spelling reform; he changed his name from the usual “Melville” to “Melvil”, without redundant letters, and for a time changed his surname to “Dui”.

(11) DOWNSIZING. Parade’s Amy Spencer, in “Sunday With…Matt Damon”, asks the star of Downsizing such novel softball questions as “What’s a situation where, in real life, you felt really small?” and “What is something small that means a great deal to you?” At least he didn’t have to answer any questions about potatoes.

(12) BEARLY THERE. Framestore animation director Pablo Grillo goes into Paddington 2: “Paddington 2: The challenges of making the film”. (Video at the link.)

(13) BEATING THE BUSHES. Botanical exploits: “How British plant hunters served science”.

Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) was one of four 20th Century botanists who made expeditions to then remote parts of China to discover and bring back plants.

He and his contemporaries – George Forrest (1873-1932), William Purdom (1880-1921) and Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) – are remembered in a new exhibition at the RHS Lindley library in London.

…Frank Kingdon-Ward, son of a botany professor, was perhaps the most prolific of the four plant collectors.

“He carried out over 20 expeditions in total – not all in China; he travelled all over, in India as well and Assam Himalayas, and really his first love was exploration,” says Sarah McDonald.

Kingdon-Ward frequently cheated death on his travels. Once, lost in the jungle, he survived by sucking the nectar from flowers. Another time, a tree fell on his tent during a storm, but he crawled out unscathed. And he survived falling over a precipice only by gripping a tree long enough to be pulled to safety.

In a letter to his sister, he wrote: “If I survive another month without going dotty or white-haired it will be a miracle; if my firm get any seeds at all this year it will be another.”

(14) MARTIAN BOG. If only Heinlein could make The Traveler happy – a magazine review at Galactic Journey. “[December 9, 1962] (January 1963, IF Science Fiction)”.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 2 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

Part II of Heinlein’s new juvenile(?) about Miss Poddy Fries and her space jaunt from Mars is a bit more readable than the last one, but it’s still overwritten and gets bogged in detail.  This is the spiritual successor to The Menace from Earth I’d hoped to share with my daughter, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough.  Three stars for this installment.

(15) CASTING FOR PIKACHU. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie reports “Ryan Reynolds Has Been Cast as ‘Detective Pikachu’ Because Why the Hell Not”.

So one of the weirdest projects out there for a while has been Legendary’s live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s a live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. No one was really expecting it to happen, and now the latest news is that it has a rather unexpected star: Ryan Reynolds.

That’s right, Ryan Reynolds is going to play Detective Pikachu in the Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s not bad casting – Reynolds is a talented actor – but it’s definitely weird casting. I mean, he’s a funny guy (remember, unlike most Pokemon, Detective Pikachu can talk), but it’s not a direction most people thought casting would go.

(16) DIAGNOSIS. Definitely sorry for his health problems, but how many cold sufferers inspire such a colorful description?

(17) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR. Jason, at Featured Futures, has posted his picks for the Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories). His “virtual anthology” is a table of contents of selected links to 70,000 words of the best science fiction published online in 2017.

Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny.

(18) EDGED WEAPONS. Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams at Locus Online.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of antique weaponry is formidable, as well as his command of archaic military and naval terminol­ogy: the tale is packed with enough chebeks, dirks, calivers, pollaxes, and demiculverins to win a dozen Scrabble or trivia games, not to mention such neologisms as “gastrologist,” “logomania,” “poetastical,” “credent,” and others which, as Quillifer and others proudly announce, they “just made up.” As should be evident, there’s a good deal of infectious playfulness involved here, and the question that quickly arises is whether this is going to be infectious enough, or Quillifer himself ingratiating enough, to power us through what promises to be at least three hefty volumes of episodic adventures.

(19) CAT TALES AND OTHERS. In the LA Times’ Jacket Copy section, “Michelle Dean loves Ursula K. Le Guin’s cat stories. Which is a good start”:

Here we get some thoughts on publishing too, or rather, as the book calls it, “The Lit Biz.” Posts on this theme include a lament about how often people ask her “why” she writes — she calls this question “highly metaphysical.” It also includes Le Guin’s frustration with the notion that someone, somewhere has written the Great American Novel. But that argument gradually morphs into a paean to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novel Le Guin evidently feels might be closest to a Great American novel. And then also segues, in a pleasingly bloggy way, into an anecdote about how Le Guin actually knew Steinbeck in her youth and hid with him in the bushes at a terrible wedding with racist guests. “We need to get away from boring people and drink in peace,” she records Steinbeck saying on this occasion. Amen, Great American Writer.

(20) LETTERS TO SANTA. The Guardian found the North Pole in an unexpected place: “Santa Claus, Indiana gets 20,000 letters a year – and ‘elves’ reply to all of them”.

The letters, sometimes addressed to Santa Claus, Indiana, sometimes to just “Santa Claus”, come from all over the US, and even from outside the country. They’re processed by a team of 300 “elves” who write personal replies – penning up to 2,000 notes a day.

“It’s an amazing thing making children happy,” said Pat Koch, the town’s Chief Elf. Koch, 86, is in charge of the mammoth effort. She’s been handling Santa’s correspondence since she was 11 years old.

“We just sit in there and laugh and cry,” Koch said.

“We get letters from children that say: ‘We learned to use the potty’ – well, their mother writes for them – ‘So we hope Santa will come’.

“Or they stopped sucking their thumb. Or some children write very sad letters: ‘I’m living with my grandma and I want to be with my daddy.’”

The elves also receive mail from older people who are lonely and want a letter from Santa, Koch said. Sometimes inmates write to Santa Claus, asking him to send a letter to their children. Post arrives from as far away as Japan, China and Malaysia. Each is read and responded to.

(21) WRATH OF KHAN REVISITED. Orange Band gives old movies the trailers they deserve.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/17 Pixels Came Naturally From Paris, For Scrolls She Couldn’t Care Less

(1) MANIFESTO. Charles Payseur’s thought-provoking tweets about reviewing begin here —

Some of the points he makes include —

(2) THIS IS HORROR AWARDS. Public nominations are now open for the seventh annual This Is Horror Awards.  Click on the link for eligibility and other information: “This Is Horror Awards 2017: Public Nominations Are Open”. Here are the categories:

  • Novel of the Year
  • Novella of the Year
  • Short Story Collection of the Year
  • Anthology of the Year
  • Fiction Magazine of the Year
  • Publisher of the Year
  • Fiction Podcast of the Year
  • Nonfiction Podcast of the Year

Public nominations close at 12:01 a.m. PST on 22 December 2017. 

(3) DUFF. Yesterday’s announcement that they’re looking for Down Under Fan Fund candidates included a statement that the delegate will go to the Worldcon “or another major convention in North America in 2018.” I asked Paul Weimer, is that a change? Paul replied —

The intention for this is two fold–one to provide, in future years for situations in years where Worldcon is not in North America (if the 2020 NZ bid wins, for example, this will be an issue), and also to provide for the possibility that the winning delegate wants to focus on, say, Cancon, or another major SF con in the United States.

We expect that its almost certain that any winning delegate will want to go to Worldcon, but this provides flexibility in that regard.

(4) GREAT FANZINE. Australian faned Bruce Gillespie has released a new 90,000-word issue of SF Commentary. Download from eFanzines:

Cover by Ditmar (Dick Jenssen).

Major articles by John Litchen (the second part of ‘Fascinating Mars’) and Colin Steele (his usual book round up ‘The Field’), as well as articles by Tim Train and Yvonne Rousseau.

Major tribute to 2017 Chandler Award-winning Bill Wright by LynC and Dick Jenssen, and memories of Brian Aldiss, David J. Lake, Jack Wodhams, Randy Byers, Joyce Katz, among others.

Lots of lively conversations featuring such SFC correspondents as Michael Bishop, Leigh Edmonds, Robert Day, Patrick McGuire, Matthew Davis, Doug Barbour, Ray Wood, Larry Bigman, and many others.

(5) REZONING. The Twilight Zone is coming back. At The Verge, Andrew Liptak reports “Jordan Peele will resurrect The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access”.

The granddaddy of surreal, science fiction television anthologies is returning. CBS announced today that it has issued a series order for a revival of The Twilight Zone from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and Simon Kinberg’s Genre Films for its All Access streaming service.

Peele and Kinberg, along with Marco Ramirez (Marvel’s The Defenders), will serve as executive producers on the show and will “collaborate on the premiere episode.” CBS has yet to announce a release date, casting, or any other writers attached to the project. Like Star Trek: Discovery, however, the show is destined as exclusive content for the network’s paid streaming service, CBS All Access.

(6) ON BOARD. How appropriate that The Traveler at Galactic Journey has found a way to kill time! “[December 6, 1962] How to Kill Friends and Influence People (The game, Diplomacy)”.

Ah, but here’s the tricky bit.  Turns are divided into two segments.  The latter is the one just described, where players write their marching orders.  The former is a 15-minute diplomacy segment.  This is the period in which players discuss their plans, try to hatch alliances, attempt to deceive about intentions.  It is virtually impossible to win the game without help on the way up; it is completely impossible to win without eventually turning on your allies.  Backstabbery is common, even necessary.  Honesty is a vice.

Diplomacy is, thus, not a nice game.  In fact, I suspect this game will strike rifts between even the best chums.  So why play at all?  Why suffer 4-12 hours of agony, especially when you might well be eliminated within the first few turns, left to watch the rest of your companions pick over your bones?

Well, it’s kind of fun.

(7) TREACHERY IN THE PRESENT. Meanwhile, here in 2017, holiday gift shoppers might want to pick up the “CLUE®: Game of Thrones™ Exclusive Expansion”.

Add more treachery and betrayal and create an all-new game play experience while solving the mysteries in Game of Thrones Clue with this  special exclusive expansion that includes two additional character suspects and power cards as well as beautifully gold-finished weapons.

Really, though, for a genuine Game of Thrones experience it would have to be possible for all the suspects to be murdered in the same game.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 6, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COUNTRY

  • Born December 6, 1917 — Finland

(10) COMICS SECTION. Brian Kesinger, a veteran visual artist for Disney and Marvel, has created Watterson-style mashups that merge The Force Awakens characters with Calvin and Hobbes. “Disney Illustrator Combines Star Wars And Calvin & Hobbes, And The Result Is Adorable” at Bored Panda.

(11) HAIR TODAY. Interesting how movie marketing works now. A trailer for the new Jurassic World sequel will be out Thursday, heralded by a 16-second teaser, and this behind-the-scenes featurette. SciFiNow.uk claims, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette has loads of new footage and freaking out”.

Ahead of the trailer release tomorrow, a new featurette has arrived for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which features lots of new footage and plenty of the cast and crew freaking out about how awesome the film is going to be. And Jeff Goldblum’s got a beard.

 

(12) GARY FISHER IN LAST JEDI, TOO. The cat is out of the bag, and so is the dog: “Carrie Fisher’s Beloved Dog, Gary, Will Appear in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi'”.

During the press tour for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Carrie Fisher’s therapy dog, Gary, became an internet sensation as the late actress took him everywhere for interviews and red carpets. Now, an eagle-eyed fan discovered that Gary will be making an Easter egg cameo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which director Rian Johnson has confirmed.

Twitter user Clair Henry found a promotion still for the movie in which Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) face off at a galactic casino. On the left side of the screen, you can see a strange brown creature looking directly at the camera. That’s Gary, touched up with CGI to look like an alien pet.

(13) HELLO . A special wine collection is back in time for the season: “‘Hello Kitty’ Wine Returns In Time For The Holidays”.  The five-bottle collection goes for around $150, but you can also buy individual bottles.

The Hello Kitty wines by Torti “L’Eleganza del Vino” returns to the U.S. with new supercute designs and two new blends. Now including an award-winning Pinot Noir, a “Sweet Pink” blend, Sparkling Rosé, Pinot Nero Vinified in White, as well as a special edition Sparkling Rosé with limited edition packaging.

 

(14) CAN’T FACE IT. Forget Sad Puppies: “Sad poop emoji gets flushed after row”.

Plans to introduce a “frowning pile of poo” emoji have been flushed from the latest proposals by the group in charge of creating the symbols.

The symbol was floated as one of many to be introduced in 2018, but it angered typographers who said it was “embarrassing” to the group.

The Unicode Consortium pushes out a central list of emoji so that they show up properly on different devices.

It said changes to the “pile of poo” emoji had not been totally dumped.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “IME, the Unicode Consortium can be very random; around the time I started working with character storage, their principles sniffily declared that they were encoding only live characters, and would therefore not do Glagolitic (the alphabet that Cyril’s students developed into Cyrillic) — but they already had Tolkien’s Elvish alphabet(s?). They later relented, don’t ask me why.”

(15) ALL THEY’RE CRACKED UP TO BE. The BBC answers the question, “Why clowns paint their faces on eggs”. Pratchett fans may remember this was a plot point in at least one of his books.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Faint’s collection, though, are the eggs. Each one is different, and represents the unique face design of its subject. Eggs like these are kept in only a handful of collections around the world, representing a kind of informal copyright – and much more.

(16) TREE SLEEPER. Older human: “Little Foot skeleton unveiled in South Africa”. 500,000 years older than Lucy — same species, different genus.

One of the oldest and most complete skeletons of humankind’s ancestors has been unveiled in South Africa.

A team spent more than 20 years excavating, cleaning and putting together the skeleton of Little Foot.

Its exact age is debated, but South African scientists say the remains are 3.67 million years old.

(17) BLACK MIRROR. Netflix has released a full trailer for Black Mirror Season 4. The release date is December 29.

(18) LE GUIN. At Electric Literature, “Ursula K. Le Guin Explains How to Build a New Kind of Utopia”:

…Good citizens of utopia consider the wilderness dangerous, hostile, unlivable; to an adventurous or rebellious dystopian it represents change and freedom. In this I see examples of the intermutability of the yang and yin: the dark mysterious wilderness surrounding a bright, safe place, the Bad Places?—?which then become the Good Place, the bright, open future surrounding a
dark, closed prison . . . Or vice versa.

In the last half century this pattern has been repeated perhaps to exhaustion, variations on the theme becoming more and more predictable, or merely arbitrary.

(19) SPACE COMMAND. Four days left in the Space Command: Redemption Kickstarter. Congratulations to Marc Zicree — they made their goal, and two stretch goals. To celebrate —

A scene from Space Command: Redemption in which Yusef (Robert Picardo) repairs a broken synthetic named For (Doug Jones). For more information about this new sci-fi series, follow this link:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/17 Pixels Scrolling In An Open File

(1) PETER JACKSON MUSEUM PROJECT AT RISK. The New Zealand Herald says the Wellington City Council got a long grumpygram from the famed director: “Peter Jackson threatening to pull plug on Wellington’s movie museum”. There are 55 things he’s unhappy about.

The Wellington City Council is refusing to comment on reports Sir Peter Jackson is threatening to pull the plug on the capital’s $150 million Movie Museum.

The famous director has been working with the council to create the new attraction i but a report this morning claims that relationship could be on rocky ground after Sir Peter sent an angry letter to the council.

Councillors have described it as a “divorce letter”, according to Fairfax.

Fairfax reports Jackson sent the letter out of anger over how the council has been managing the museum plans.

(2) MIRRY CHRISTMUS. Adweek tells how “Air New Zealand’s Christmas Ad Takes the Piss Out of Its Own Country’s Accent”.

Deck the halls! It’s yet another ad in which the fictional inner workings of Santa’s workshop are imagined in elaborate detail. This time around, Santa is a kind of corporate virtuoso, seated behind a desk, where he takes direct calls from kids and manages linguistic switching with finesse while a fawning elf takes notes on a tablet.

Chinese? No sweat.

Then the New Zealanders start dialing in. What kind of kid asks for a new beard, a biscuit ball or an ear plane?

 

(3) MARKET DAY. The “SFWA Market Report For December” begins with —

NEW MARKETS

Factor Four Magazine
If This Goes On
Kferrin.com
Ogrezine

(4) DON’T GET ‘LOST IN SPACE’. “This Spacesuit Comes with a “Take Me Home” Button” — a patent has been filed.

The system can operate the jet pack autonomously or give the astronaut directions with a combination of visual, auditory and sensory cues through a web of sensors and a helmet visor display. If something were to happen during a spacewalk (also known as an Extravehicular Activity, or EVA) the self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut, a space station crewmember or mission control.

Draper’s “take me home” system features options. According to the patent, the spacesuit’s sensors can be configured to monitor movement, acceleration and relative position of the crewmember to a fixed object, such as an accompanying orbiting spacecraft. The navigation, guidance and control modules can also accommodate various scenarios. For instance, the navigation module can be configured using GPS, vision-aided navigation or a star-tracker system. To improve the astronaut’s positioning and orientation, Draper has developed software that fuses data from vision-based and inertial navigation systems and benefits from the advantages of both sensing approaches.

(5) NPR PICKS. The 374 books in “NPR’s Book Concierge, Our Guide To 2017’s Great Reads” include 54 in the science fiction and fantasy category.

(6) WINTER JACKETS. Six SFF wrappers made a Bookish list of “The Best Book Covers of 2017”.

People say you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but here at Bookish we’re not just readers—we’re cover-judging-rebels. As 2017 draws to a close, we wanted to pay homage to the incredible designs that stood out on bookstore shelves like works of art. Are you a rebel too? Let us know what your favorite covers of 2017 were!

But where are the covers from McEdifice Returns, I ask you?

(7) DID YOU HEAR THAT? As John Brunner said in The Shockwave Rider, “The Future arrived too soon and in the wrong order.” Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes argues “Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo”.

Let me make this point dreadfully clear, though: Your family members do not need an Amazon Echo or a Google Home or an Apple HomePod or whatever that one smart speaker that uses Cortana is called. And you don’t either. You only want one because every single gadget-slinger on the planet is marketing them to you as an all-new, life-changing device that could turn your kitchen into a futuristic voice-controlled paradise. You probably think that having an always-on microphone in your home is fine, and furthermore, tech companies only record and store snippets of your most intimate conversations. No big deal, you tell yourself.

Actually, it is a big deal. The newfound privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you’re saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things. By buying a smart speaker, you’re effectively paying money to let a huge tech company surveil you. And I don’t mean to sound overly cynical about this, either. Amazon, Google, Apple, and others say that their devices aren’t spying on unsuspecting families. The only problem is that these gadgets are both hackable and prone to bugs.

(8) DARK INSIDE, Find out more about the new Netflix Dark series, including spoilers, in Camestros Felapton’s Dark Debrief”.

I’ve finished watching the German Netflix show Dark and it was indeed Dark. I also bought and ate a Twix today without thinking. Spoilers below as this post is for me to take stock and make notes of the twisty turns – particularly if there is a second season as the ending implies.

A fold and then don’t continue unless you like spoilers or have watched it all already.

To make life easier, characters get a year after their name so you know who is when. If I’ve got names wrong please correct me!

(9) TODAY’S STAR WARS CLICKBAIT. According to CheatSheet, “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ New Trailer May Have Answered This 1 Lingering Question”.

Fans will recall that in the main trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker says, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” This comes after a scene in which Rey cracks the ground while training on Ahch-To, so it communicates the idea that Luke is actually scared of Rey because she is so powerful and does not want to train her.

But when Luke makes reference to seeing raw strength “once before,” who is he talking about, exactly? In the trailer itself, he doesn’t specify, and this is something fans have been in disagreement about.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 5, 1980 Flash Gordon was released

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 5, 1890 – Fritz Lang
  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walter Elias Disney

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SIR PAT. Brent Lang of Variety, in “Patrick Stewart on ‘Logan,’ Harvey Weinstein and Returning to ‘Star Trek’”, learned that Sir Pat Stew was very proud of his work on Logan but “I cannot think of another chance” to play Jean-Luc Picard.

How did you prepare to play an aged Charles Xavier in “Logan”?

I lost 20 pounds. I’ve always been blessed by being able to lose weight easily, and I spread this out over the span of a few months so that it was easier to take. When I lose weight, it tends to be most noticeable in the face, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to look sick and undernourished and stressed and frail and vulnerable. Hugh had to carry me in the movie, and I assured him that I would do my damnedest to make sure I was carry-able.

Is this your last “X-Men” movie?

Oh, yes. Hugh had been on record that this would be his last time before “Logan” even started shooting. I hadn’t given it a thought until I saw the film for the first time with an audience at the Berlin Film Festival. It was Hugh and James Mangold and myself, and when it got to the last 10 minutes of the movie, it was emotional and intense, and I could feel myself getting choked up. Then I looked over at Hugh and he was wiping his eyes, and I thought if Wolverine can weep at a movie, Charles Xavier can do the same thing. Then Hugh reached over and grabbed my hand and we held hands for the rest of the movie.

(14) DYSTOPIC CHOW. An author and a chef imagine how we’ll eat if bees and fish vanish in “A Dinner at the End of Our World” at Atlas Obscura.

…The results were unfamiliar. Moss-green spirulina ice cubes kept diners’ drinks cool. Spirulina is super-nutritious microalgae that grows quickly, perfect for a food-scarce world. A soup of mussels and seaweed came with a lump of shrimp paste and encouragement to stir it in. This was intended to be a hopeful dish, symbolizing shrimp farms in small ponds that might be a vibrant future food source…

(15) PUPPY POWER. Milo Yiannopoulos is turning John C. Wright into the Hieronymous Bosch of the op-ed page at his new site Dangerous, in a biweekly feature titled Wright On What’s Wrong. The first 2,000-word opus, “This Christmas, Give Thanks or Get Stuffed”, asks —

Last week, did you notice Thanksgiving is dying?

I challenge you to find a line of thought which leads from that beginning to this sentence later in the essay: “His anus is turned inward.”

(16) EDIFICE COMPLEX. The BBC visits “The awe-inspiring buildings created as temples of tech”:

Each year, more than 100,000 visitors trek through and around a cluster of solemn, hauntingly impressive late-18th Century buildings on the hem of England’s Peak District National Park. This is Cromford Mill, Derbyshire, founded in 1771 by the entrepreneurial inventor Richard Arkwright. Here, long before Henry Ford was born, mass production began.

In these buildings – their floors free of partitions and with windows on all sides – water-mills powered looms that spun reams of cotton, 24 hours a day, the chattering machinery attended by children as young as seven, working 12-hour shifts. Cotton ceased spinning here in the 1840s as the great mills in and around Manchester took on the challenge of making and shipping cotton to the world. The massively ambitious Houldsworth Mill in Reddish, designed by Abraham Stott, was one of the mightiest temples yet devoted to industrial technology when it opened in 1865.

(17) SLOW VERNE. Galactic Journey’s Lorelei Marcus says your time machine can skip this first run movie: “[December 4, 1962] Like Five Weeks in a Theater (Five Weeks in Balloon)”

Everything before the balloon’s take off (the first 20 minutes or so) was funny, clever, and fast paced. The first scene, in which the professor and his inventor friend take reluctant investors on a demonstration flight, and then the next bit in which the professor prepares for the expedition and collects funds and crew, was quite fun to watch!

But once he’d picked up the American reporter, and the balloon took to the skies, the movie ground to a sudden halt. Unfortunately it never seemed to pick back up again either. The entire movie was: the balloon flies around, lands someplace; the crew gets out and gets into trouble, they run back to the balloon and fly away. There were no real conflicts, because they could always just retreat to the balloon and escape danger. Moreover, many of these scenes went on for ‘way too long. There was never any real tension through the whole movie, and without tight pacing of events, the movie felt like it was really dragging on for five weeks!

(18) DID IT HIMSELF. Move over, MIT: “Bored teen in Kentucky builds his own rollercoaster”. (Video.)

Logan Moore, 16, surprised family and neighbours when he quickly built a wooden structure in his backyard.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I’m forgetting whether you ran the story about the MIT dorm that built a rollercoaster as part of freshman welcoming. Theirs was just a straight shot, even simpler than the one this guy built — but there are pictures of people riding the MIT coaster.”

(19) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. App calls on citizen scientists for Australia’s frog count.

Croaks and chirps. Even whistles and barks.

These are some of the sounds that Australian frogs make, and local biologists are hoping members of the public will help record them on a new app called FrogID.

It is part of a conservation effort to better track 240 frog species around Australia.

Scientists also believe the crowd-sourced mapping could lead to the detection of new species.

Australians are encouraged to record and upload the sounds of frogs they hear anywhere, from their suburban backyard to the outback.

(20)TODAY’S 10,000. Google pledges 10,000 staff to tackle extremist content.

Google will dedicate more than 10,000 staff to rooting out violent extremist content on YouTube in 2018, the video sharing website’s chief has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Susan Wojcicki said some users were exploiting YouTube to “mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm”.

She said the website, owned by Google, had used “computer-learning” technology that could find extremist videos.

More than 150,000 of these videos have been removed since June, she said.

(21) WOLVERINE DRAMA PODCAST COMING. Marvel New Media and top podcast listening service Stitcher today announced “Wolverine: The Long Night” , the first-ever Marvel scripted podcast, launching in spring 2018.

The 10-episode series will be available exclusively on Stitcher Premium until fall 2018, when it will see a wide release across all podcast platforms….

The show’s cast includes notable actors Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”), Scott Adsit (“30 Rock”), Bob Balaban (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Mr. Robot”).

The “Wolverine: The Long Night” story is a captivating hybrid of mystery and the larger-scale fantasy of the Marvel Universe. It follows agents Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh) as they arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders and quickly discover the town lives in fear of a serial killer. The agents team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Richard Armitage). Their search leads them on a fox hunt through the mysterious and corrupt town….

Also cast in the series are actors Zoe Chao, Chaske Spencer, Jordan Bridges, David Call, Michael J. Burg and Lannon Killia. Chris Gethard, host of the popular “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” podcast, also will make a cameo appearance.

(22) RENAISSANCE FARE. Zero emissions will soon be the new standard: “Electric black cabs hit London’s roads”

The cab costs £55,599 up from £45,000 for the newest petrol equivalent.

Chris Gubbey, boss of manufacturer the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) insists the cab will “play a major role in helping to improve air quality”.

The launch comes weeks ahead of rules requiring new cabs in the capital to be capable of emitting zero emissions.

More than 9,000 such taxis, roughly half the current black cab fleet, are expected on London’s roads by 2021.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Did you know that the late Peter Weston’s firm (where the Hugos are made) makes the hand bars that make getting into and out of these cabs easier?”

(23) LETTER MAN. BBC meets the designer of “The typeface that helps dyslexics read”.

Dyslexie is a font that aims to overcome some of the problems that people with dyslexia can have when reading. Due to the way their brains process visual information, they will often subconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters, making it harder to recognise the characters.

It is thought that their brains start treating two-dimensional letters as three-dimensional objects that can be freely manipulated.

When this happens, the letter “b” can look like a “d”… or a “p” or a “q”. It is easy to see why this can quickly become confusing.

“Traditionally in typeface design, there are ‘rules’ that say it is best to make the letters as uniform as possible,” says Boer, now 36. “If you make the arch of an “h” the same as an “n”, it produces a typeface that is clean and quiet for ordinary readers. For me, these letters become three dimensional so you can turn them around and they begin to look alike. What I wanted to do was to slap these 3D letters flat.”

(24) JURASSIC APPETIZER. Here’s the teaser for the full trailer coming on Thursday –

(25) MORE PLAUDITS FOR MARLOWE. Francis Hamit takes another prize — “Christopher Marlowe Screenplay Wins Grand Jury Award At Sherman Oaks Film Festival”.

Francis Hamit’s “based on a true story” screenplay for the forthcoming feature film CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE has won the prestigious Grand Jury Award at the Second Annual Sherman Oaks Film Festival held in November.  This is the fourth major award for this unproduced screenplay.  Previous wins were at the GO Independent International Film Festival in Washington DC, The New Renaissance Film Festival in London, England and the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival.

The well-researched script about the Elizabethan-ere poet, playwright and secret agent for the Crown is a classic tragedy about a brilliant man undone by his own fatal flaws in the form of a spy thriller.

 

Festival director Jeff Howard and Francis Hamit.

(26) TRAVELER FROM AN ANTIC LAND.  Another testimony to TSA screening!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock (who really has something in today’s Scroll), Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]