Pixel Scroll 3/26/17 May You Dream Of Large Pixels

(1) WUT. WIRED has a bad feeling about this: “Only You Can Stop The Expanse From Becoming the Next Canceled Sci-Fi Classic”

Syfy’s epic space show The Expanse is a smash hit among science fiction fans, drawing praise from websites like io9 and Ars Technica and from celebrities like Adam Savage. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley also loves the show.

“This is my favorite show on TV,” Kirtley says in Episode 248 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “This is the most serious science fiction TV show—in terms of what hardcore science fiction fans would want in a TV show—that I’ve seen in a long time, possibly ever.”

But while the show is widely praised in many corners, it has yet to attract a wider audience. John J. Joex, who tracks the ratings of various shows over at Cancelled Sci Fi, says that The Expanse looks like a show headed for cancellation.

“The ratings started out decent and then really dropped off,” he says. “And I know this is an expensive series to produce, so I was really getting kind of nervous about it.”

(2) TECH PREDICTIONS. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in “Interactive! The Exhibition” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum through April 16:

Interactive! is a large-scale, hands-on examination of how popular culture in movies, books, TV, and the arts has influenced modern technology and changed the ways we live, work, move, connect and play. In addition to a wide variety of “hands-on” experiences, including Oculus Rift virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations and more, Reagan Library visitors will also get up close to some of science fiction’s most iconic characters, including a roving, interactive R2D2 from Star Wars, a T-800 endoskeleton from The Terminator, and a full-size Alien from the Alien films. The exhibit also showcases the creative inspiration behind legendary innovators such a Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Walt Disney.

  • Over a dozen immersive games await, including Virtual Reality Gaming by Oculus Rift, robotic arm interactives, 80’s gaming stations and more.
  • Create and compose your own musical masterpiece.
  • Seek out resources on Mars with a remote-control version of the rover from the hit film The Martian.
  • Get up close with the first ever 3D printed car, by Local Motors.
  • Examine communications from the landline rotary telephone and VCR to smartphones.
  • Check out jetpacks, Marty McFly’s hoverboard and even meet Baxter the robot!
  • And much more!

This exhibit is great for museum guests of all ages – from the young, to the young at heart!

(3) VISIONS OF BEAUTY. Jane Frank has remodeled her WOW-art (Worlds of Wonder) website.

She’s also offering Un-Hinged! A Fantastic Psychedelic Coloring Book with All Original Designs by Mike Hinge through Amazon.

(4) ONE THUMB UP. David Sims of The Atlantic finds “’Life’ Is a Fun, Joltingly Scary Creature Feature in Space”.

Daniel Espinosa’s new horror film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts fighting a hostile alien…

Any reasonable creature feature worth its bones should have, on balance, about half a dozen scenes where a character makes a patently illogical decision. Just discovered a new form of ancient alien life? Give it some zaps with a cattle prod, just to see what happens. Now you’re fighting an alien enemy in an enclosed space station? Break out the flamethrower! Running low on fuel? Definitely vent everything you have left in an effort to startle the creature, even when it doesn’t work the first three times. If the film is scary and chaotic enough, every bad choice will act as a link in a chain, building to a satisfying crescendo of mayhem that the audience has secretly been rooting for all along. Life isn’t perfect—you probably won’t remember it after three months—but it does exactly that.

Daniel Espinosa’s horror film is set in space and has some ostensible sci-fi trappings, as it’s centered around humans’ first encounter with prehistoric Martian life. But the movie might as well take place in an underground cavern or a fantasy dungeon, since its two-fold premise is fairly universal: The heroes are trapped in a gilded tomb from which they may not escape, and the monster they’ve awakened is stuck in there with them.

(5) WE HATES IT. At Locus Online, Gary Westfahl makes clear that Life does nothing to alter his dislike of horror movies generally – “Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life”.

Further, one might argue that when it comes to alien life forms, anything is possible, but the plausibility of this particular alien life form can be seriously questioned. Without going into detail about all of its antics, I find it extremely difficult to imagine, given what we know about the history of Mars, any series of events that would cause such a creature to emerge and thrive for hundreds of millions of years (which is what we are told happened). And Derry specifies that the alien is a carbon-based life form that in most ways closely resembles terrestrial life forms; and since all such organisms would die within a minute if exposed to the vacuum of space, the Martian would never be able to cavort about in a vacuum with undiminished energy and flexibility for an indefinite period of time. But this nonsense does provide the film with an exciting scene, and for the filmmakers, that was all that mattered. In sum, precautions will always be necessary in dealing with potential alien life, but no one should have any nightmares about slimy, lightning-fast starfish embarking upon campaigns to slaughter all humans in sight.

(6) BEAT THE CLOCK. James Van Pelt, in “Marketing Short Stories”, reviews lots of sales and rejection statistics derived from taking the Bradbury challenge.

First, the background. Two years ago I decided to try Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a story a week for a year….

CONCLUSIONS: – I was able to find places to submit all the stories pretty much all the time. If there are that many markets, then the short story marketplace is robust. The Submission Grinder lists 25 markets in science fiction that will pay six cents or more per word. There are many more, beautifully done, semi-pro magazines that I’m proud to submit to who pay less. – This is an old lesson, but if you are going to write short stories and submit them on spec, you have to be thick-skinned. I have been submitting stories seriously since the 80s. I’ve sold 145 stories, been a finalist for the Nebula, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. I’ve appeared in several Year’s Best collections. I think I’m doing okay, but I’m still rejected at an 8 to 1 ratio. Mike Resnick doesn’t suffer from this ratio, I’ll bet, but there’s only one Mike….

(7) SHARING THE FUN. The Los Angeles Times profiles “Frank Oz and the gang of ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ still pulling on their silly strings”.

The movie is the first documentary directed by Oz, who also made such comedies as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Bowfinger.” And of course he was the voice of Yoda in the “Star Wars” films.

It is just a few hours after their premiere and four of the Muppet originators — Oz, Brill, Barretta and Goelz — are sitting around a hotel conference table in Austin. (Nelson died in 2012, the same year the movie’s conversation was filmed.) The four of them have a rapport one might associate with a sketch comedy group, responding quickly to one another with a near-telepathic sense of connection.

With impish delight, Goelz noisily unwraps a candy over the microphone of an interviewer’s recording device a few beats longer than is necessary. Brill playfully spurts a sweet from between her fingers, sending it gracefully arcing through the air to the other side of the room.

It was that largely unseen affinity among them that was the initial impetus for the film. While they have all spoken separately about their characters and time working with Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, it was not until filming “Muppet Guys Talking” that they had ever done an interview together.

(8) FRANKLY SPEAKING. ScreenRant, on the other hand, says there are “15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets”.

How quickly people forget that the very first pilot episode of The Muppet Show was entitled, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence”. In fact, The Muppets and associated Henson characters were never completely immune to controversy, tragedy, or touchy topics, despite their family-friendly exterior. After all, muppets are essentially just a bunch of guys with their hands up the butts of various animal and human-like creations. What kind of dark secrets could we possibly uncover about them? Read on, all you puppet-loving weirdos and take a gander at 15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets

  1. Frank Oz never wanted to be a puppeteer

Amazing as it may seem, one of the most famous muppet voices, aside from Jim Henson himself, never wanted a career in puppetry. Frank Oz was the son of Belgian immigrants who were both puppeteers themselves. While his siblings never took much of an interest in it, Oz performed puppet shows to make extra money as a teenager, saving up for a trip to Europe. As he explained in an interview with IGN, “it was something that I latched on to because it was a way to please them (his parents) and it was a means of expression for a shy, self-effacing boy.”

Oz had actually planned to study journalism in college, but dropped out after a year when Jim Henson offered him a job….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Spinach Day

It’s not just Popeye who will be strong to the finish on Spinach Day, but everyone who chooses to celebrate the day by consuming some of this leafy green plant will get to join in the health benefits as well!

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1937 — Popeye statue unveiled during spinach festival, Crystal City, Texas. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

(11) TODAYS BIRTHDAY BOY

(12) INSIDE THE SHELL. The Guardian calls her “Scarlett Johansson, charismatic queen of science fiction”.

Hollywood quickly made room on its red carpets for the young Scarlett Johansson in 2003, when she first created a stir in Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation. It seemed clear that this blonde bombshell from New York, who was so ably sharing the screen with a dyspeptic Bill Murray, would go on to deliver popcorn buckets-full of mainstream audience appeal. Beautiful, mysterious and charismatic: she was already an aspirational trophy for any traditional leading man.

Yet, 14 years on, Johansson is established instead as a rather different sort of screen idol. Following a succession of high-octane blockbusters and off-beat critical hits, the actress is now enshrined as perhaps the leading sci-fi action star of her generation. Where once her sardonic smirks and sultry looks spoke of old-school movie glamour, she is now more likely to grab the limelight by kickboxing than by smouldering.

(13) IMAGINE SUPERMAN WITHOUT ONE OF THESE. “Last call for the phone booth?” was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Yes, there’s nothing like reaching out and touching someone from a phone booth. They used to be everywhere, but they are now rare coin-operated curiosities. Mo Rocca looks into the history of the once-ubiquitous phone booth, and of the wi-fi kiosks that are now replacing them in New York City.

(14) WWWWD? Another video on CBS Sunday Morning, “The immortal Wonder Woman”.

The real superpower of the comic book heroine, who just turned 75, is the power to inspire. Faith Salie explores the history of Wonder Woman, and talks with Lynda Carter, made immortal by playing the Amazonian on TV in the 1970s, and with Jill Lepore, author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

(15) A TALE AS OLD AS TIME. In NPR’s analysis of many versions of the basic story includes a discussion ofan upcoming Tanith Lee collection: “Tale As Old As Time: The Dark Appeal of ‘Beauty And The Beast’”.

The tales in [Maria] Tatar’s compilation swing from vicious to romantic, from comedy to horror. There are stories of a steadfast prince being loyal to his frog-wife, or a princess searching for her bear-husband “east of the sun and west of the moon” — here, love is proven in action and rewarded with happiness. But Beauty and the Beast stories are about power as much as about love. So sometimes the prince steals a maiden’s animal skin to force her to stay with him, or he puts his tortoise-wife on display against her wishes, or he ignores his devoted wife’s warnings and discovers she’s actually a crane. And these stories, where power is abused, differ sharply from the stories of proof and trust: Almost all of them end with her escape.

(16) A TALE AS OLD AS ME. And for us oldpharts: BBC provides video coverage of an opera based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The Opera de Montreal is taking the rock out of “rock opera” with its ambitious interpretation of Pink Floyd’s classic double album, The Wall.

Another Brick in the Wall: L’Opera tells the story of Pink, a rock star who retreats into his mind to cope with the alienation of fame.

Roger Waters’ lyrics provide the narrative backbone of the two-hour production but composer Julien Bilodeau has removed the album’s familiar rhythms and melodies in favour of timpani and a 50-person chorus.

(17) TUNES OF THRONES. An LA audience was treated to a more up-to-date musical experience this past week — “’Game of Thrones’ live experience transforms Forum into Westeros for the night”.

One of the many powers held by a historic music venue like the Forum in Inglewood — which has seen celebrated concerts by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Prince — is that of a time machine.

Capable of transporting an audience back to a summer when it first heard a favorite song or an aging band to its initial heyday, the Forum’s ability to slip the bounds of time was again in full view Thursday night with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a celebration of the blockbuster HBO series and its music, led by the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi.

This time-skipping quality could be felt on two fronts. With a mix of orchestral sweep, multiple screens and the occasional blast of fire and smoke, the show’s expected aim was to transport fans to the Middle Ages-adjacent universe of the tangled and very bloody machinations of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. However, the performance also offered a fleeting glimpse of the not too distant future when “Game of Thrones” is no longer something analyzed and anticipated — July 16 and the new season is coming, everyone! — and exists only as a memory. Indeed, having left such an imprint on pop culture, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this concert being toured and staged well after “Game of Thrones” is over and our watch is ended.

This sort of living tribute to a series nearing its finish gave the night a communal, Comic-Con-esque quality.

(18) WILSON. In “How sketching a dying father led Daniel Clowes to his quirky new film ‘Wilson’” the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Daniel Clowes, whose new film Wilson is based on his graphic novel.  Clowes makes comparisons between producing graphic novels and directing and discusses what happened when he took Charles Schulz’s challenge to come up with a gag for a comic strip every day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/17 It’s Always In The Last Pixel You Scroll

(1) VAMPIRE DIARIES GOES GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. As the series goes off the air, The Guardian asks “Better than Buffy? Spare a thought for the Vampire Diaries”.

The eight-season run of the Vampire Diaries ended quietly on Friday night, without a hint of the outsized media fanfare so liberally bestowed on series finales in television’s so-called golden age. The glossy adaptation of LJ Smith’s young-adult novel series, even before its latter-season decline in form and ratings, never did inspire the type of sophisticated critiques reserved for the major-network or cable darlings. But even amid a landscape that’s only been further crowded by the emergence of Netflix and Amazon, there is a place for the pure concentrated entertainment that was offered up for years by the CW’s deliciously pulpy supernatural soap opera. Television will be poorer – and a less fun place – without it.

(2) HUGO REMINDER. Worldcon 75 sent members an alert that the deadline to nominate for the Hugos is only days away.

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections as long as the nomination period continues. But we recommend that you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

You may make changes to your nominations until 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Greenwich Mean Time, 08:59 in Finland, all on 18 March), by using the following link to sign in again:

(3) FOLLOW THAT CAT. Timothy the Talking Cat has stolen the keys to Camestros Felapton’s blog and posted his own “appalling” Hugo slate

Remember that this year the rules have changed! The social justice witches have put their broomsticks together and decided that you can no longer just vote for Dune over and over again. But no fear! As a grandmaster of non-euclidean hyperbolic  7-dimensional chequers, I can adjust my plans accordingly. See below!

(4) DEEP POCKETS. The Deep Space: Nine Documentary by Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone and Adam Nimoy hit 420% of its Indiegogo goal. The extra money will be used to add 50% more latinum minutes to the video, and lots of bonus features. Space.com has the story — “’Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Doc Warps Way Beyond Crowdfunding Goal”.

 After nearly quadrupling their Indiegogo goal to produce a new documentary on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9), the creators are busy trying to figure out how to best deploy their newfound wealth.

Today (March 10) is the final day of the campaign to produce “What We Left Behind,” and backers on the crowdfunding site have raised more than $575,000 for the film. The show is co-led by DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, produced by David Zappone and directed by Adam Nimoy. Zappone and Nimoy are known for the 2016 documentary “For The Love of Spock,” and Zappone also produced the 2011 “Star Trek” documentary “The Captains.”

In an interview with Space.com, Behr and Nimoy, who is the son of the first “Star Trek” series’ actor Leonard Nimoy, said they are reconfiguring their plans for the now 90-minute documentary, which is 30 minutes longer than their original vision, because of the extraordinary response to the crowdfunding effort.

(5) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. Naked Security analyzes “How online gamers use malware to cheat”.

“We typically think of malware as something used to steal data from corporations or knock down websites in politically motivated attacks.  But if you’re a gamer, sometimes it’s simply a tool for winning. “SophosLabs threat researcher Tamás Boczán has been studying this trend, and recently gave a talk about it at BSides Budapest.  This article reviews his findings and offers us a chance to share some of his presentation slides.”

…As cases of cheating have risen, so have the examples of anti-cheat technology from various companies. As various sides have upped the ante, both sides have drawn in people of greater skill. He said:

Hacking an online game is not that easy any more. In the old days, script kiddies could to do it, but now hacking is a serious game that requires a skilled attacker. So why would a skilled attacker waste their time and skill on a video game?

He mapped out the sequence of events this way:

  • All this was originally about having fun.
  • Then the gaming industry grew.
  • The games went online.
  • People began to cheat for profit, just as hackers often do when targeting companies.
  • In response, an anti-cheating movement has sprouted up that mirrors security companies….

(6) FORGEHAM OBIT. John Forgeham (1941-2017): British actor, died Friday, aged 75. Best-known for a long-running role in the UK soap Crossroads, other screen appearances included The Avengers (one episode, 1965), The Stone Tape (1972), Sheena (1984), T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus (one episode, 1991).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is published

(8) LE GUIN’S NEXT BOOK. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection No Time to Spare comes out December 5.

Her next book, No Time to Spare, will be a collection of recent essays. It comes with an introduction from Karen Joy Fowler, who, like Le Guin, knows a thing or two about writing across genres.

As Fowler notes in her introduction to the collection, Le Guin is currently enjoying a moment of mainstream cultural appreciation: Filmmaker Arwen Curry recently raised funds on Kickstarter for a documentary on the author, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, and back in October, The New Yorker ran a profile on Le Guin and her enduring influence.

You can read an excerpt from Fowler’s introduction at the linked post.

(9) BURIAL IN SPACE. At Krypton Radio, Thaddeus Howze reviews the long history of Star Trek, then dares to ask: Is it time to retire the franchise?

My point of all of this review is this: Since Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the three Kelvin Timeline Star Treks, (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Beyond) we have stopped looking to the future. Star Trek has become as lame as the political rhetoric many of us despise in our real lives…

“Make America Great Again” is the rallying cry used to talk about the past as if it were some great thing to be reclaimed and returned to. When the truth of the matter is the past is never as good as it seems and to seek refuge in the past is to deny the present and refute the future altogether.

CBS’ latest television series Star Trek: Discovery also takes place in the past (presumably the original timeline past, not the Kelvin Universe past) some time after Archer but before (or maybe during Kirk’s Enterprise) period. What we do know is this is not a far future Star Trek.

It is not an extrapolation of all we can be. It is not a look at the future of Humanity at our best and our worst. It is a remix of Treks, mashing costumes, designs, ships, and probably stories.

(10) SHADOW CLARKE DOINGS. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest activity includes two reviews and a FAQ.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season casts a long shadow on the Clarke submissions list, having won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and having been shortlisted for almost everything else. Thousands of words have already been spent praising it, critiquing it, speculating about it online since it came out in the US in 2015 and I imagine few people reading this are encountering it for the first time. In spite of its pedigree I was sceptical going in. The only other book by Jemisin I’d read – The Killing Moon – wasn’t a highlight. I thought its excellent world-building came at the expense of almost everything else. Then there was the thorny issue of eligibility and whether or not The Fifth Season conforms to the Clarke requirement that books be science fiction rather than more broadly speculative. When I shortlisted it I did so partly because it offers an opportunity to wade into the eligibility question and partly as a test for myself, to see if I would admire it as much as everyone else. I almost hoped I wouldn’t because, let’s be honest, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t work in fiction than what does.  Also, dissent prompts debate and this project is all about that. But, sorry folks, I’m afraid I’m about to tell a familiar story. The Fifth Season is just as good as everyone said it was and the genre controversy is dead in the water. It’s perfectly eligible for the Clarke Award.

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

What is the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury?

An initiative developed by Nina Allan and hosted by the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in 2017, the Shadow Jury is a panel of talented, passionate members of the SF community who come up with their own personal shortlists and winners for a given year.

(11) CRITICAL MASS. Charles Payseur analyzes the nature of book reviewing and his own reasons for doing it.

Let me say that there’s a great many reasons why people review. Some want to become authorities on a particular form or genre. They want to be engaged in creating a canon or they want to help determine the boundaries of genres or any number of other things that essentially boil down to gatekeeping. They want to be able to say what is and what is not, what should and what should not be considered when talking about science fiction or literary fiction or horror. When they review they might refuse to look at certain works because they don’t cleave close enough to what they expect and enjoy. This is not the kind of reviewer I hope to be. And there are reviewers out there who just want to express their opinions as honestly as they can. They want to go onto Goodreads and Amazon and rank what they liked good and what they didn’t bad and concentrate mostly on their immediate reaction to a story or work. This is actually much closer to what I do but it’s not quite what I aim for….

(12) KONG KILLED AGAIN. Reader’s Digest version – Locus film reviewer Gary Westfahl says the new Kong movie sucks little black rocks – “Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not achieve – namely, a King Kong film that recaptures the charm and élan of Merian C. Cooper’s classic 1933 production. Unfortunately, the film devolves into an iterative, and increasingly unpleasant, series of variations on the two basic set pieces observed in all giant monster movies: humans vs. monster, and monster vs. monster; and the only suspense involves which character will next be dispatched to a gory demise….

 (13) RED PLANET RADIO. It’s Mars Season on BBC Radio 4, with fiction, interviews, documentaries, and quizzes.

William Shatner introduces the “We Are The Martians” series, which explores the Mars of imagination, science and history.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, and David K.M.Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/16 All My Kzins Remembered

(1) PHOTOS FROM THE LOCUS AWARDS.

File 770 was a Locus Award finalist in the magazine category and I did arm someone with an acceptance statement in case I unexpectedly won. It never occurred to me to dramatize my feelings about losing, however, I see First Novel nominee Sylvia Moreno-Garcia refused to admit defeat. (Or was that just her reaction to Nick Mamatas?)

My designated accepter, Suzle Tompkins, stands at the right of this photo.

(2) THUMB UP. Gary Westfahl delivers his verdict at Locus Online: “The Fogeys of July: A Review of Independence Day: Resurgence”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Since I was recently complimented at a conference for writing “honest” film reviews, I feel obliged to begin this one by conveying my honest reaction to Independence Day: Resurgence: although I was bored and appalled by the original Independence Day (1996), and utterly baffled by its tremendous popularity, I somehow found its belated sequel to be surprisingly engaging, even moving, despite some obvious issues in its logic and plausibility. Perhaps this indicates that I am finally becoming senile, unable to distinguish between worthwhile entertainment and reprehensible trash; perhaps this is a sign of the times, so that a film modeled on a film that stood out in 1996 for its risible inanity and clumsy manipulativeness now seems, amidst scores of similar films, merely typical, or even a bit superior to its lamentable competitors. Perhaps, though, it is simply a better film than its precursor, the theory that merits some extended exploration.

(3) ONLINE COMICS. David Brin is back with “A look at Science Fiction webcomics: Part 3”.

Crowded Void, by Mike West offers one of the more unusual concepts. Finding Earth too crowded and people rather distasteful, Vincent Foxwell thought he could find peace when he took a job on a cargo vessel, hauling junk in space, with only an AI for company. Space turns out to be more crowded than he imagined…. when his spacecraft is swallowed by a massive space worm, where there is already an intestinal civilization of over a million humans and aliens, jockeying for position in the worm’s digestive cycle. He must find a way to escape… before digestion is complete. But first he must deal with the The Joint Intestinal Monarchy, which controls the worm, harvesting parts from spaceships. No end of good material for humor… a new theory of wormholes? Start at the beginning here.

(4) BANDERSNATCH. Charles de Lint reviewed Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch in the July/August Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Yes, there is a wonderful font of information about the Inklings, but it also provides one of the better guides to the collaborative process, including a chapter with the end about how to get the most out of a group set up in a style similar to that of the Inklings.  I think one of the best  pieces of advice she gives is the difference between “I don’t personally like this’ and ‘This isn’t any good’ in critiquing a manuscript.

To writers setting up a writing group, I recommend Bandersnatch wholeheartedly,  That said, those who simply love to read–especially those who particularly appreciate the work of Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams–will find much to enjoy as well.

(6) EAU DE MIDCHLORIAN. When you wear Star Wars Perfumes, the Force is with you….

The trilogy of futuristic “must have” perfumes transfers the essence of the Star Wars universe skillfully into a fascinating world of fragrances, which represent the best-known elements and characters from the saga.

The products are presented in a luxurious and lavish flacon which draws upon the symbolism of probably the most emblematic element of the movie – the lightsaber.

There’s Amidala, for women, and Jedi, and Empire for men.

AMIDALA inspired this fragrance through her royal elegance as well as by her strong, indomitable will. The elegant and sensual notes of vanilla, musk and patchouli are complemented by a fruity top note of apple and tangerine and merges into a sovereign seductive aura for any situation by day and by night; a floral perfume with oriental and powdery notes, which makes its wearer irresistible.

Should you want to smell like Darth Vader, spritz yourself liberally with this stuff —

EMPIRE covers you with an aura of masculinity and power. A scent that captures the dark side of the Force; mystical, formidable and superior. It starts with a sparkle of fruity notes from lime and apple. Powerful chords of amber, patchouli and tonka-bean characterize the powerful heart and base note that refine the composition. The result is a distinctive, oriental, seductive fragrance – perfect for the night, made for men which one better does not get in the way.

I just love that The Mary Sue kicks off its post about these perfumes with a GIF from the first Star Wars movie showing our heroes in the garbage bin and Han Solo demanding, “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1951 — On this day in 1951, CBS aired the first commercial color television network broadcast. At the time, no color TV sets were owned by the public. The broadcast was seen on color TV sets in public buildings. (Emphasis on commercial – there were other network broadcasts in color the previous year, 1950.)
  • June 25, 1982 — John Carpenter’s The Thing, seen for the first time on this day.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, whom some remember from Lassie, while fans remember her from Lost in Space.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 25, 1903 – George Orwell

(10) MARK THIS DATE: Neil Gaiman will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers next Friday night, July 1.

(11) HARD TO WIN. Chuck Tingle had a good excuse for not getting a Locus Award.

(12) BREXIT DEBRIEFING. Camestros Felapton registered his disapproval of Brexit by refusing to art containing a notorious Leave supporter.

Not doing cat pictures because Timothy is still running around the house wearing a mop and pretending to be Boris Johnson whilst shouting “effinEurolosers” at squirrels.

(13) FREE SPEECH. The July Harper’s Magazine excerpted the brief the Language Creation Society filed in the Axanar lawsuit claiming that CBS and Paramount did not have copyright over the Klingon language.

Plaintiffs claim copyright over the entire Klingon language.  The notion is meqHutlh (‘lacking reason.’)  If this court commits this qab qech (“bad idea”), an entire body of thought will be extinguished.  Hoch jaghpu’Daj HoHbogh Suvwl’ ylvup-‘ (‘Pity the warrior who kills all his enemies.’)  By Plaintiffs’ account, everyone who translates something into Klingon, writes a poem in Klingon, gives a speech or presentation at a Klingon Language Institute meeting or Star Trek convention, or gives lessons on how to speak Klingon is a copyright infringer. Qam ghu’vam, loD!  (“This will not stand, man!”)  Plaintiffs’ argument that ‘a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate’ is an insulting assertion.  Many humans speak Klingon.  People get married in Klingon.  Linguist d’Armond Speers spent three years teaching his infant son how to speak Klingon. Speaking and writing in Klingon is not simply a matter of transposing words from a different language, either.  The Sesame Street theme-song lyric ‘Sunny day, chasing the clouds away’ translates into Klingon as jaj pen puQmo’, chaw’nIS je Jaj ‘ej Haw’raDchen, or ‘Day of the daytime star, the clouds are filled with dread and forced to flee.’  Klingon is not just a language, but a state of mind.

(14) TEMPLE GRANDIN. A Blank on Blank animation of an interview with Temple Grandin contains lots of food for thought for geeks and nerds. (Don’t be thrown off by the Squarespace ad about 4:30, because Grandin resume talking for another 90 seconds when it’s done.)

(15) RAINING ON A PARADE. Jesse Hudson, in a review of Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City for Speculiction, compares its execution unfavorably with an Iain Banks standby.

This is important to note given the bifurcated storyline, and its intended effect. Seemingly an emulation of the narrative structure of Iain Banks Use of Weapons, Reynolds’ adherence to plot above character does not allow the big reveals to be very big. I will not spoil the story for those unable to put one and one (not even two and two) together, but suffice to say the underlying reality of the situation is telegraphed in the least subtle ways the length of the novel, emphasized by the lack of complete coherence at the character level. Where Banks’ story resolves itself in surprising fashion upon the final chapter, a surprise that feeds logically back through the entire book, I have doubts Chasm City does the same for the majority of readers—this coming from a person who is terrible at predicting endings

I’m not implying any defect in Hudson’s opinion of Reynolds’ book, but I have to say I saw the ending of Use of Weapons coming from a long way off. To me, Banks’ success was in delivering the expected “surprise” in an elegant way.

(16) TOM REAMY. Joachim Boaz reminds readers about a strong award contender, now forgot, Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices (1978), at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations.

Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices (1978) was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and BFSA awards and came in second in Locus voting for best novel in 1979.  Posthumously released, Reamy died of a heart attack while writing in the fall of 1977 at 42.  His take on small town America transformed by the arrival of a traveling circus and its array of wonders will stay with you for years to come.  The science fiction elements (revealed more than halfway through the novel) interlace and add to the elegiac and constrained fantasy feel.  The specter of sexuality and violence spells cataclysm.

(17) OLD SCHOOL FAN. In a piece cleverly titled “Trexit”, Steve Davidson says “Get off Star Trek’s lawn!”

Alec Peters, you asked for it and you got it.  A set of fan work guidelines for the Star Trek universe that pretty much kills everything except maybe Lego animations. (Which are fine for what they are, but…)

I don’t personally do fanfic, fan films, fan art, etc., I’m sufficiently happy to stick with the originals, lament the lack of “more of the same”, and to spend some time dithering over whether or not I want to invest in the latest whatever released by the franchise holders.

But maybe that’s because I’m an old school fan with old school ideas about how one goes about engaging with someone else’s property….

(18) A LIZARD WITHOUT THUNDER. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is falling out of love with one of the major prozines: “[June 25, 1961] The Twilight Years (July 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Like Victorian ladies’ hats, the dinosaurs became increasingly baroque until they were too ungainly to survive.

I worry that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is heading in that direction.  I’m all for literary quality in my sf mags, but F&SF has been tilting so far in the purple direction that it is often all but unreadable.  I present Exhibit A: the July 1961 “All-Star” issue.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/16 Hell Is Other Pixels

(1) HE SIGNS AND WONDERS. From the Baltimore Sun: “’Game of Thrones’ author draws faithful crowd at Balticon 50”

The wildly popular HBO series has gone beyond the plot lines of Martin’s books, though more are in the works. In an afternoon interview with Mark Van Name, Martin said he never anticipated that the unfinished book series would end up as enormous as it has become. When he sold it in 1994 with 100 pages written, he pitched it as a trilogy. That quickly became a “four-book trilogy,” he said, then a five-, six- and seven-book series. The sixth and seventh books have not yet been published.

“It hit 800 pages and I wasn’t close to the end,” he said of writing the first book, “Game of Thrones,” the show’s namesake, which was part of a larger series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Then “Thrones” became “1,400 pages and there was no end in sight. At that point I kind of stopped and said, ‘This isn’t going to work.'”

Though Martin didn’t speak in detail about the books, he said the Vietnam War was part of what shaped his writing and the complexity of his characters.

“We have the capacity for great heroism. We have the capacity for great selfishness and cowardice, many horrible acts. And sometimes at the same time. The same people can do something heroic on Tuesday and something horrible on Wednesday,” he said. “Heroes commit atrocities. People who commit atrocities can be capable later of heroism. It’s the human condition, and I wanted to reflect all that in my work.”

Martin Morse Wooster emailed the story along with his own observations:

…Nearly all of the piece is about listening to George R.R. Martin or standing in line to get your Martin books and other stuff signed.  This morning I was standing in line for the elevator and heard that they were admitting the 1,070th person to the autograph line.

(2) TIPTREE AUCTION AT WISCON. I’d like to hear the rest of this story…

And I’d like to hear this, too.

(3) CAPTAIN AMERICA SPOILER WARNING. (In case there’s anybody who doesn’t already know it…)

Ed Green snarked in a Facebook comment:

I rather like the bonus factoid that they released this in time to help celebrate Memorial Day. Because nothing says ‘Thank you for your sacrifice!” like turning a WWII legend into a Nazi.

You rotten bastards.

Jessica Pluumer also criticized the choice in her post “On Steve Rogers #1, Antisemitism, and Publicity Stunts” at Panels.

You probably already knew that, but I’d invite you to think about it for a minute. In early 1941, a significant percentage of the American population was still staunchly isolationist. Yet more Americans were pro-Axis. The Nazi Party was not the unquestionably evil cartoon villains we’re familiar with today; coming out in strong opposition to them was not a given. It was a risky choice.

And Simon and Kirby—born Hymie Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg—were not making it lightly. Like most of the biggest names in the Golden Age of comics, they were Jewish. They had family and friends back in Europe who were losing their homes, their freedom, and eventually their lives to the Holocaust. The creation of Captain America was deeply personal and deeply political.

Ever since, Steve Rogers has stood in opposition to tyranny, prejudice, and genocide. While other characters have their backstories rolled up behind them as the decades march on to keep them young and relevant, Cap is never removed from his original context. He can’t be. To do so would empty the character of all meaning.

But yesterday, that’s what Marvel did.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know how comics work. He’s a Skrull, or a triple agent, or these are implanted memories, or it’s a time travel switcheroo, or, or, or. There’s a thousand ways Marvel can undo this reveal—and they will, of course, because they’re not about to just throw away a multi-billion dollar piece of IP. Steve Rogers is not going to stay Hydra any more than Superman stayed dead.

But Nazis (yes, yes, I know 616 Hydra doesn’t have the same 1:1 relationship with Nazism that MCU Hydra does) are not a wacky pretend bad guy, something I think geek media and pop culture too often forgets.

(4) BOUND FOR BLETCHLEY. The Guardian reports a discovery made by museum workers — “Device used in Nazi code machine found for sale on eBay”.

It was just such a coincidence that led to the museum getting its hands on their Lorenz teleprinter, after they spotted it for sale. “I think it was described as a telegram machine, but we recognised it as a Lorenz teleprinter,” Whetter said.

They rang the seller and drove to down to Essex to take a look for themselves. “The person took us down the garden to the shed and in the shed was the Lorenz teleprinter in its original carrying case,” Whetter said. They snapped it up for £9.50.

But the true value of their purchase was yet to become clear. It was only after cleaning the machine at Bletchley Park, where the museum is based, that they found it was a genuine military issue teleprinter, complete with swastika detailing and even a special key for the runic Waffen-SS insignia.

Is it a suspicious coincidence that this story came out the same month as Steve Rogers #1? You decide!

(5) WISCON CON SUITE. Tempting as it is, if I left now I still wouldn’t get there in time.

(6) FAREWELL FROM THE MASSES. The G has something to say “About that Castle finale…” at Nerds of a Feather.

I finally got around to watching the series finale of Castle last night, and feel the need to vent a bit.

First, let me admit that I’ve watched a lot of Castle over the years. But I didn’t watch it out of any conviction that it’s good. It wasn’t. Rather, I watched it because it was simple fun. At its best, the show took a familiar formula (the police procedural), approached it with an appealing balance of drama and comedy and then let its charismatic leads (Nathan Fillion and Stana Kati?) carry the show. All in all, that made for an enjoyable, if somewhat forgettable, hour long diversion.

Sure there was the ongoing story about an increasingly convoluted and opaque conspiracy, as well as the love story between Castle and Beckett, but at its heart Castle was an episodic show. And now that it’s gone, I realize how few watchable episodic dramas are left on TV.

Which brings me to the finale…

As soon as it was over, my wife turned to me and said “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.”

With a hook like that, how could I not read the rest, which is an explanation of the reference?

(7) DESPITE POPULAR DEMAND. There will be a movie based on the Tetris video game, in which massive blocks descend from the sky. Don’t be underneath when they fly by… oh, wait, that’s a different punchline.

Larry Kasanoff, producer of films based on the Mortal Kombat video games and Bruno Wu, CEO of China’s Sun Seven Stars Media Group announced that their new company Threshold Global Studios is set to produce the film Tetris The Movie.

 

(8) RECOMMENDATION: REREAD THE BOOK. Gary Westfahl’s analysis, “Alice the Great and Powerful: A Review of Alice Through the Looking Glass”, is posted at Locus Online.

The visual effects are regularly creative and engaging, and there are lines here and there that might make you laugh, but overall, anyone looking for 153 minutes of entertainment on this Memorial Day weekend would be best advised to read, or reread, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) instead of watching this film, which borrows its title but none of its unique wit and charm. The work that it most recalls, as my title suggests, is the film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013 – review here), another thumb-fisted effort to “improve” upon a classic children’s book by adding new characters, new back stories for old characters, and an action-packed, melodramatic story line….

(9) MEANWHILE, BACK AT WISCON. Yes, indeed.

(10) CARBONARA COPY. Kurt Busiek commented yesterday about cooking a meal for his future wife using a recipe in a comic book. I thought it might be a pleasant surprise if I could find that American Flagg spaghetti fritatta recipe online. It was there, but I found more than I bargained for in Cleo Coyle’s post at Mystery Lovers Kitchen.

When I first met my husband, he whipped up a fantastic spaghetti carbonara that has since become part of our menu. Because he’s part Italian, and because both his mother and father taught him how to cook, I assumed his recipe came from one of them. Not so. Marc informed me that he found the recipe in a 1980’s comic book.

The comic was Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, launched in 1983. Fans of this series include Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, who hailed Flagg as a precursor to the cyberpunk genre of science fiction.

Flagg is not for everyone. It presents a hard-boiled look at life in 2031—after nuclear war and an economic collapse leave things a tad chaotic in the USA. How bad do things get in Chaykin’s 2031? One example: The broken down piano player who inhabits the local lounge is Princess Diana’s oldest son.

As for today’s recipe, spaghetti carbonara happens to be the favorite dish of Rubin Flagg, the comic book’s hero. The recipe was published in the same issue that Rubin cooked it up. (Recipes included in fiction! Is that a good idea or what?)

Coyle says she’s married to somebody named Marc, so presumably this isn’t Kurt’s wife telling her side of the same anecdote. (I’m also sure Kurt knows his fritatta from his carbonara.) Just the same, it’s starting to sound like that American Flagg recipe is quite the love potion!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White author of The Once and Future King.

(12) SUITS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, takes you along —

While in London pitching series, Mr. Sci-Fi got a tour of the Propstore’s exclusive amazing collection of spacesuits from such films as Alien, Armageddon and Star Trek – The Motion Picture — plus he shows rare concept designs of Space Command’s spacesuit by Iain McCaig (designer of Darth Maul, Queen Amidala and The Force Awaken’s Rey). Not to be missed!

 

(13) WOLFE TALK. Spacefaring Kitten interviewed Marc Aramini who wrote Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 (Castalia House).

Is there a “right” answer to questions like “what has really happened between the protagonist and Suzanne Delage in ‘Suzanne Delage’” or “which one is the changeling in ‘The Changeling’”?

I’m asking this because I kind of enjoyed the ambiguous atmosphere and the weight of the unexplained in those stories, and while I was reading them I didn’t necessarily feel that there should be one comprehensive solution to be unearthed.

Yes, but you don’t have to get there to enjoy the story. I honestly believe there is a “right” answer from the author’s point of view, but that there are other authors who do not have this kind of rigid, disciplined mindset and write from a place of the subconscious or unconscious. I really do not feel that this is the case with Wolfe, and I have written about 700,000 words so far between the two volumes which argue that his mysteries have universal solutions. I think one of his tasks is using the tool-box of post-modern subjectivity and uncertainty to imply that there is still a universal structure behind the act of creation.

(14) HARDY. David Hardy has created a video tour of his famous astronomical art —

Voyage to the Outer Planets

To follow up my 50s compilation, ‘How Britain Conquered Space in the Fifties’, here is a video made from art of the outer Solar System which I produced 50 years later , for comparison. I like to think I have progressed a little! This is partly a short excerpt from my DVD ‘Space Music’ (available at www.astroart.org), which in turn was edited from German TV’s ‘Space Night’, shown in the early morning from 1994 (google it). They showed two programmes of my art, but for the DVD I added digital images from my 2004 book with Sir Patrick Moore, ‘Futures: 50 Years in Space’.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Spacefaring Kitten, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hal Winslow’s Old Buddy.]

Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

https://twitter.com/HEIROFSLYTHERlN/status/649915885704970240

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]