Pixel Scroll 12/23/17 Pixels Sold Separately. Some Scrolling Required

(1) POPULAR SF ART INSPIRES FILM, Simon Stålenhags’ art book is becoming a movie reports Swedish news source Boktugg. Thanks to Hampus Eckerman for the translation:

The right to film Simon Stålenhag’s latest art book The Electric State has been sold to Russo Brothers Studio. The sale was preceded by a bidding where several studios showed their interest.

Simon says that it feels very exciting.

–        This has never been a goal, but I have loved movies since I was a kid, so it is a little bit of a dream actually. An unexpected dream!

The Passage (in English The Electric State) was released in December 2017 by the publisher Fria Ligan (The Free League). The release was preceded by a kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017, which attracted over 3 million Swedish crowns. It is Simon Stålenhag’s third art book, his first two titles Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood have made him a world-famous visual storyteller.

Russo Brothers Studio is run by the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo who directed several Marvel films. The film director is expected to become Andy Muschietti (who made the new film based on Stephens Kings It).

What do you think about them winning the bidding?

– They felt very good in our conversations. But above all, I’m very happy to have Barbara and Andy Muschietti with me, I loved It and they are absolutely amazing people. We just had the same picture of what is important in the book, and in movies in general, says Simon.

Simon Stålenhag himself will be an executive producer for the film, which means that he will be involved in all important decisions, such as role crew, scriptwriting and selection of managerial positions.

Will the story work as it is in the movie format or does it need to be adapted?

–        I suspect we will want to get a little more drama to fit the long-film format. With emphasis on “a little”, everyone in the team really agrees that the characters and the journey they make in the book is what we’re going to make a film about, says Simon Stålenhag.

(2) CHRISTMAS IN THE COLONIES. Cora Buhlert’s holiday fare includes a work in English: “Two new releases just in time for the holidays: Christmas on Iago Prime and Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen”

Let’s start with the English language story. Back during the first July short story challenge in 2015, I wrote a little story called Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime, in which a couple attempts to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a new settled space colony.

I’d assumed that this was the first and last time I’d ever visit the colony of Iago Prime. However, I try to write a holiday story every year. And when I searched for ideas for a holiday story for this year, I suddenly thought “Why not write a science fictional holiday story about Christmas in a space station or interplanetary colony?” And then I thought, “Why not reuse the Iago Prime setting?”

The result is Christmas on Iago Prime. The protagonist this time around is Libby, a little girl whose scientist parents are due to spend a whole year on Iago Prime, including Christmas. Libby is not at all thrilled about this, at least at first. Kai and Maisie from Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime also appear and they have big news to share.

Available on Amazon and plenty of other ebook sellers for .99 USD/GBP/EUR.

(3) THE LONG RUN. A New York college made a video showing off its science fiction collection:

The City Tech Science Fiction Collection is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Atrium Building, A543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201).

This large collection comes to City Tech from an anonymous donor. It includes nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010, and an almost comprehensive collection of science fiction until 2010. There is also a significant amount of science fiction criticism, and selections of fringe texts, including horror and the supernatural.

 

(4) SFPA LEADERSHIP. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the selection of two officers, F.J. Bergmann as Vice-President and Renee Ya as Secretary.

F.J. Bergmann (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) has been a member of SFPA since 2007, its webmaster since 2010 and recently stepped down from 5 years as Star*Line editor…

Renee Ya (Bay Area, California, USA) is a Hmong American writer, photographer, and space shamen who has been volunteering at SFPA for the last three years with varying capacity from keeper of the voting forms to periodic updates to the website.

(5) PARADIGM SHIFT. A revolutionary interpretation: “Physicists negate century-old assumption regarding neurons and brain activity”.

Neurons are the basic computational building blocks that compose our brain. Their number is approximately one Tera (trillion), similar to Tera-bits in midsize hard discs. According to the neuronal computational scheme, which has been used for over a century, each neuron functions as a centralized excitable element. The neuron accumulates its incoming electrical signals from connecting neurons through several terminals, and generates a short electrical pulse, known as a spike, when its threshold is reached.

Using new types of experiments on neuronal cultures, a group of scientists, led by Prof. Ido Kanter, of the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, has demonstrated that this century-old assumption regarding brain activity is mistaken.

In an article published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers go against conventional wisdom to show that each neuron functions as a collection of excitable elements, where each excitable element is sensitive to the directionality of the origin of the input signal. Two weak inputs from different directions (e.g., “left” and “right”) will not sum up to generate a spike, while a strong input from “left” will generate a different spike waveform than that from the “right”.

“We reached this conclusion using a new experimental setup, but in principle these results could have been discovered using technology that has existed since the 1980s. The belief that has been rooted in the scientific world for 100 years resulted in this delay of several decades,” said Prof. Kanter and his team of researchers, including Shira Sardi, Roni Vardi, Anton Sheinin, and Amir Goldental.

(6) BACK FROM BOSTON. Marcin Klak’s conreport — “Smofcon 35 or what do you do when you are not organizing a con”.

Handling Feedback panel was not related to programming only, but the programme feedback is important for the development of the convention. There were some discussions concerning the methodology of collecting feedback, but one thing that got stuck with me the most was how to determine whether we should resign from inviting a panellist for the next year. It is obvious what to do when we receive negative feedback about the panellist’s skills. It is more complicated if we have a good panellist who is not behaving properly or who makes racist or homophobic comments during the panel. Nchanter’s solution of checking the negative feedback with co-panellists and finally basing our decision on the reaction of the person in question is a really good and fair approach. It makes sure that we verify the situation and it allows us to predict whether the same situation is likely to happen again in the future.

(7) HELL ON WHEELS. RedWombat saw a reference to “Jane Austen’s Fury Road” and started riffing….

(8) IT’S A WONDERFUL TRIVIA

Sheldon and Leonard of The Big Bang Theory were named after the actor/producer Sheldon Leonard.  He played Nick the Bartender in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Also, producer of The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy.

The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, were also named after two characters from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Bert the policeman and Ernie the cab driver.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823 A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast hit theaters
  • December 23, 1952 – The original The Day The Earth Stood Still premiered in Spain.
  • December 23, 1958 — Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered in theatres.
  • December 23, 1960 — Art Carney starred in a Christmas-themed episode of The Twilight Zone.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FULL KIT WANKER. For the three of you who haven’t seen this yet –

(12) BY YNGVI. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind knows it’s the time of year to send up a traditional favorite: “‘Twas Night Before Christmas”.

…At one point Harold Shea and the Norse god Heimdall are imprisoned by Frost Giants after losing a fight with them. While there they encountered a fellow prisoner who comes to the front of his cell every hour on the hour to yell, “Yngvi is a LOUSE!”

Thus began a debate which fascinated science fiction fandom for decades. Was this Yngvi indeed a louse or had his good name been falsely besmirched? At the Denvention, the 1941 worldcon, Milton Rothman (who went on to become a nuclear physicist and science fiction author) put forward a motion at the business meeting to the effect that Yngvi was not a louse only for it to be defeated. A subsequent motion was then passed stating that Rothman himself was a louse….

…So I sat back in my chair to wait for my guest
To reveal himself fully and the why of his quest

It took a few moments of squirming and kicking
Before he appeared rather than sticking

It was Yngvi of course, I could tell by his dress
An amazingly scrofulous, glorious mess…

(13) FUNGUS AMONG US. “When this old world starts getting me down….”: “‘Remarkable’ truffle discovery on Paris rooftop raises hopes of more”.

There was celebration among French foodies after a wild truffle was discovered on a Paris rooftop.

The discovery, at the base of a hornbeam tree in a hotel roof garden near the Eiffel Tower, is thought to be a first for the city.

Truffles usually grow further south, in more Mediterranean climes, and are dug up by specially-trained pigs or dogs.

Prices for the aromatic fungi have recently doubled to more than 5,000 euros ($6,000) a kilo.

(14) LAST JEDI. Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) offers the opinion of a “Star Trek Writer on The Last Jedi.”

(15) THE MALL’S MY DESTINATION. I don’t doubt it. Mine could be up there somewhere.

(16) SAVING HUMANITY. If anything can … “H.G. Wells and Orwell on Whether Science Can Save Humanity”.

…Wells foresaw many of the landmarks of 20th-century scientific progress, including airplanes, space travel, and the atomic bomb. In “The Discovery of the Future,” he lamented “the blinding power of the past upon our minds,” and argued that educators should replace the classics with science, producing leaders who could foretell history as they predict the phases of the moon.

Wells’ enthusiasm for science had political implications. Having contemplated in his novels the self-destruction of mankind, Wells believed that humanity’s best hope lay in the creation of a single world government overseen by scientists and engineers. Human beings, he argued, need to set aside religion and nationalism and put their faith in the power of scientifically trained, rational experts….

…Orwell was not bashful about criticizing the scientific and political views of his friend Wells. In “What is Science?” he described Wells’ enthusiasm for scientific education as misplaced, in part because it rested on the assumption that the young should be taught more about radioactivity or the stars, rather than how to “think more exactly.”

(17) THE SHAPE OF BEER. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Guillermo del Toro on Seeing a UFO, Hearing Ghosts and Shaping ‘Water'”.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s taste for sci-fi and fantasy doesn’t come from nowhere. When he was younger, the acclaimed director recalls, “I saw a UFO.”

“I know this is horrible,” del Toro continues. “You sound like a complete lunatic, but I saw a UFO. I didn’t want to see a UFO. It was horribly designed. I was with a friend. We bought a six-pack. We didn’t consume it, and there was a place called Cerro del Cuatro, “Mountain of the Four,” on the periphery of Guadalajara. We said, ‘Let’s go to the highway.’ We sit down to watch the stars and have the beer and talk. We were the only guys by the freeway. And we saw a light on the horizon going super-fast, not linear. And I said, ‘Honk and flash the lights.’ And we started honking.”

The UFO, says del Toro, “Went from 1,000 meters away [to much closer] in less than a second — and it was so crappy. It was a flying saucer, so clichéd, with lights [blinking]. It’s so sad: I wish I could reveal they’re not what you think they are. They are what you think they are. And the fear we felt was so primal. I have never been that scared in my life. We jumped in the car, drove really fast. It was following us, and then I looked back and it was gone.”

(18) ALTERNATE SOLOS. Will Lerner, in “Harrison Who? Here’s The Actor Who Almost Played Han Solo” for Yahoo! Entertainment. profiles Glynn Turman, who came This Close to being Han Solo, which would have meant that Han Solo would have been played by an African-American actor.

Before Star Wars started filming in 1976, director George Lucas auditioned dozens of actors for the first episode of his space saga, since rechristened as A New Hope. Over the years we’ve learned that Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Kurt Russell all read for the part of Han Solo before the role went to Harrison Ford. But there was a lesser-known candidate who almost scored the gig: Glynn Turman.

Turman, 70, started his career on Broadway, when he was cast as a 13-year-old in the original production of A Raisin in the Sun alongside legends Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Steadily picking up more and more screen roles through the ’70s, Turman finally got his chance to shine in 1975 as the lead of Cooley High. In the slice-of-life feature, Turman played a proxy of sorts for screenwriter and Good Times creator Eric Monte — a gifted young writer who aspires to a life beyond his housing project. Cooley High showcased Turman’s ability to play a scoundrel capable of great achievements. It’s no big surprise that performance captured the attention of Lucas.

(19) WALLY WOOD SANG? The comics artist seems to have branched out. It’s collectible, if not very listenable.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/9/17 All Pixels Great And Small

(1) EVERYBODY’S TALKIN’. Fleen continues its epic roundups about the Patreon controversy and lists the alternatives:

The logic of the decision is, if not in my opinion sound, at least defensible, but Patreon didn’t trust its users enough to defend it. The (best reading) incompetent or (worst reading) dishonest way they treated their user base is a mark that will persist. Kickstarter is smart enough to keep to their plans for Drip, maybe speed things up by 10%, but they won’t rush to open the gates to all; they know that as the invites go ever wider (and when they’re ready, invites are no longer needed), creators that don’t trust Patreon any more will be waiting to shift. Ko-Fi, Venmo, Paypal, Tippeee, Flattr, Google Wallet, and other means of cash transfer are suddenly burning up the search engines.

(2) BOTTOM LINE. Three-time Hugo-winning professional artist Julie Dillon tweeted daggers at Patreon management. Jump onto the thread here:

(3) WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. Rose Lemberg compares the Patreon fee rollout with another fiasco:

(4) WHO VIEW. Here’s the newest Doctor Who Christmas Special trailer.

(5) BRAVE NEW WORDS AWARD CREATED. “Starburst Launches Brave New Words Book Prize”. Nominations are being accepted through the end of the year. Submission guidelines at the link.

STARBURST Magazine, the world’s premier platform for new and exciting genre media, is pleased to announce that it will now have a prize for genre-related writing. The award ceremony will be part of The STARBURST Media City Festival.

The Brave New Words award is for someone who produces break-out literature that is new and bold. We are looking to highlight exciting work that breaks new ground in the field of Cult Entertainment.  Editors, writers, publishers, and bloggers can be nominated. We are looking for works produced in 2017. A shortlist will be announced early 2018 and the winner will be announced at The STARBURST Media City Festival, at Salford Media City 16th – 18th March 2018.

The panel of judges will be announced soon.

(6) ECLECTIC WORKS. The Economist has posted a wide-ranging list of the “Books of the Year 2017” – two fiction titles are of genre interest.

Fiction

Lincoln in the Bardo. By George Saunders. Random House; 368 pages; $28. Bloomsbury; £18.99
Abraham Lincoln’s son dies young and enters a multi-chorus Buddhistic underworld. One of the year’s most original and electrifying novels.

Austral. By Paul McAuley. Gollancz; 288 pages; £14.99
A chase thriller set in late 21st-century Antarctica that combines elements of Jack London, J.G. Ballard and William Gibson. A significant contribution to writing about the anthropocene.

(7) MORE ON COMIC CON LITIGATION. Rob Salkowitz gives Forbes readers a pro-San-Diego spin on the verdict in “Jury Decides For San Diego Comic-Con In Trademark Suit”.

‘David vs. Goliath?’ Farr and Brandenburg also saw advantages in taking their case public, rallying fans to the idea that “comic con” belongs to everyone, not one particular institution. They ran a coordinated campaign on social media including promoted Facebook posts, marshalling an online army of supporters to comment, upvote and retweet their position and paint themselves as altruistic “Davids” standing up to the “Goliath” of SDCC, which is seen by some as the embodiment of commercialism and Hollywood hype.

It was disclosed in court proceedings that the two organizers voted themselves bonuses of $225,000 each as they were mounting a crowdfunding campaign to get fans to pony up for their legal defense. However, the comment threads on SLCC’s posted content indicated that the tactics were effective in mobilizing fan anger.

“Comic-Con is a Brand.” CCI, meanwhile, saved its best lines for the court. They asserted that Comic-Con was a brand recognized to apply exclusively to the San Diego show, and offered in evidence a survey showing that more than 70% of respondents agreed. The validity of the survey was called into question by SLCC attorneys during the trial but the jury appeared to accept it as proof.

“This is a brand that we must protect from these defendants and anyone else who seeks to exploit or hijack it,” Bjurstrom said.

SDCC’s lawyers also asserted the defendants knew this to be the case when they launched their own event, an assertion the jury apparently rejected in their deliberations regarding damages. In filings seeking summary judgment, Comic-Con produced emails and public statements by Farr and Brandenburg boasting of how they sought to “hijack” the media notoriety of SDCC to boost their own event, and settled on the name “comic con” expressly to leverage fan enthusiasm around the festival that draws upwards of 140,000 to San Diego each July and generates billions of media impressions and coverage during its 4-day run.

(8) PAUL WEIMER. Book Smugglers continue their own unique holiday season with “50th Anniversary of The Prisoner – Paul Weimer’s Smugglivus Celebration”.

The Prisoner is the story of an nameless British secret service agent, played by Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan was no stranger to playing spies and secret agents. McGoohan had previously played a British secret service agent, John Drake, in Danger Man. Patrick McGoohan, based on the strength of his performance in that show, had been offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No, but had turned it down. That would have been a rather strange thing if he had accepted, because the no-nonsense John Drake is erudite, thoughtful, not much of a lady chaser and quite different than James Bond in other aspects as well. Whilst filming The Prisoner, McGoohan would also get the role of a British secret agent in the Cold War spy thriller Ice Station Zebra. He also would be asked again, and to turn down again, James Bond, for Live and Let Die.

(9) MOSAIC AUTOBIOGRAPHY. The University of Oregon Libraries’ magazine Building Knowledge has compiled a first-person Ursula K. Le Guin biography [page 20, PDF file] “illustrated with her personal keepsakes, told (mostly) in her own, inimitable words” all drawn from the collections of the UO Libraries.

“If I can draw on the springs of ‘magic,’ it’s because I grew up in a good place, in a good time even though it was the Depression, with parents and siblings who didn’t put me down, who encouraged me to drink from the springs. I was encouraged by my father, by my mother. I was encouraged to be a woman, to be a writer, to be any damn thing I wanted to be.”

Jeffrey Smith sent a note with the link:

It’s a snowy day here in the east, so I’ve been going through the week’s mail. I just received the Fall 2017 issue of the University of Oregon Libraries’ magazine Building Knowledge, and started flipping through it before throwing it out, and found myself reading quite a bit of it. After enjoying the article on the book about Oregon’s marine invertebrates, I continued paging through and was surprised to see an article on Ursula Le Guin (page 20), with some great old family photos (many of which I had seen the last time I was out at UO) — there’s also one on the inside back cover. Then I turned the page and saw my own picture (bottom of page 24).

Guess I won’t be tossing this out after all.

(10) IAN WATSON. An Ian Watson interview at The Bloghole: “Space Marine! And an Interview with a Legend”.

Firstly, Space Marine, and the Inquisition trilogy which started with Draco, were the first “proper” novels set in the Warhammer 40k universe. I know it was a little while ago, but was there much input from Games Workshop at the time, or were you left to your own devices in terms of how you chose to interpret the setting?

[IAN WATSON] Go back quarter of a century and Mr Big was Bryan Ansell, Managing Director/Owner of GW who wanted to read “real” novels by “real” novelists set in his beloved Warhammer domains. As intermediary Bryan hired David Pringle, editor of Britain’s leading SF magazine Interzone, operating from Brighton as GW books. David had already recruited half a dozen authors who regularly contributed stories to Interzone, but no one would touch Warhammer 40K with a bargepole. So it fell to me to read Rogue Trader and many other encyclopedic publications which Nottingham HQ proceeded to send me, including printouts of nonfiction work-in-progress such as the manual of Necromunda, and much else. Bryan Ansell did send me quite a long letter lovingly detailing the sounds which 40K weaponry should make, so that I should be geared up sensually to describe combat. As far as I’m aware (though beware of false memory!) I was given no instructions at all regarding plot or characters and I simply made up the story, within the constraints of what I knew about the 40K universe. I toured the 40K universe, and after a few years the GW games designers decided that they disapproved of a broad approach, compared with single-action novels set on single worlds. (Those are more compatible with games, of course.)

(11) NEW LEADERSHIP FOR WADE CENTER. The Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College, Illinois is a major research collection of materials by and about seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. The college has announced who the new directors of the Center will be: “Introducing Newly Named Wade Co-Directors Crystal and David C. Downing”.

Dr. Crystal Downing is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at Messiah College, PA. She has published on a variety of topics, with much of her recent scholarship focused on the relationship between cultural theory and religious faith. Her first book, Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers (Palgrave Macmillan 2004) received an international award from the Dorothy L. Sayers Society in Cambridge, England in 2009. The thought of Sayers and C.S. Lewis is evident in Crystal’s next two books, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (IVP Academic 2006) and Changing Signs of Truth (IVP Academic 2012). The success of her fourth book, Salvation from Cinema (Routledge 2016) has led to her current book project, The Wages of Cinema: Looking through the Lens of Dorothy L. Sayers. Crystal has received a number of teaching awards and was the recipient of the Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant for 2001 from the Wade Center.

Dr. David Downing currently serves as the R.W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College, PA. He has published widely on C.S. Lewis, including Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy (UMass 1992), The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis’s Journey to Faith (IVP 2002), which was awarded the Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant for 2000, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis (IVP 2005), and Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles (Jossey-Bass 2005)….

They follow Wade founder and first director Clyde S. Kilby (1965–1980), director Lyle W. Dorsett (1983–1990), and director Christopher W. Mitchell (1994–2013).

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 9, 1983  — John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine premieres.

(13) MAKE THE KESSEL RUN IN 13 STEPS. You could make this. Disney Family has the recipe: “Nothing Says the Holidays Like a Millennium Falcon Gingerbread Starship”. The final step is —

Attach the cockpit (piece #3). Then start decorating the Millennium Falcon! Use frosting to outline the ship, add details, and attach cookies, chocolate wafers, peppermints, chocolates, and candies.

(14) THE GAME IS SLOW AFOOT. The Hollywood Reporter knows “Why ‘Game of Thrones’ Won’t Return Until 2019”.

At least one more full winter will pass until the winter of Westeros arrives one last time, as the final season of Thrones will not arrive until 2019. Production on the eighth and final season began in October and will reportedly run through August 2018 — a full year following the season seven finale, all but dashing any prospects for Thrones‘ arrival in the next calendar year.

“Our production people are trying to figure out a timeline for the shoot and how much time the special effects take,” HBO programming president Casey Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter over the summer about the long wait between seasons of Thrones. “The shooting is complicated enough — on different continents, with all the technical aspects — and the special effects are a whole other production period that we’re trying to figure out. That is a big factor in all of this.”

(15) VERSE ON THE WEB. Here’s the teaser trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask. Watch the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse trailer now, in theaters next Christmas

 

(16) DEL TORO DEL MAR. Now that it’s officially out, NPR’s Chris Klimek says  The Shape of Water is An Elegant Fable Of Starfish-Crossed Lubbers”.

The Shape of Water, the latest R-rated fairy tale from Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro, offers a sense of what might spawn if those two Rimbaldi feature-creatures were to mate. The Spielbergian gentleness wins out, by a lot, making for a hybrid that’s just a little too cuddly to rate with The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro’s twin masterpieces. I wish his new film had spent at least a little time being frightening before it phased into aching and swooning; with its lush evocation of longing amid gleaming midcentury diners and cinemas and Cadillacs, SoW sometimes feels like The Carol of the Black Lagoon. But it’s a transporting, lovingly made specimen of escapism — if it’s possible for a movie that depicts a powerful creep blithely abusing women in the workplace to count as escapism — and easily the strongest of del Toro’s seven English-language features, though it spin-kicks less vampire butt than Blade II did. To place yourself in GDT’s hands, as he tells the type of story he tells better than anyone else, is a rich pleasure.

(17) BOUNCING MATILDA. Can you hear this GIF? BBC explores “Why some people can hear this silent gif”. “An optical illusion for the ears” –apparently not new, but it’s news again.

Dr DeBruine received more then 245,000 responses from people claiming to hear a sound accompanying the animation, with 70 per cent of respondents saying they could hear a thudding sound.

(18) DISSECTING ANOTHER HOLIDAY. Having vented about Thanksgiving in the first, John C. Wright’s second Dangeous column is: “It’s Not Just the Décor. Why the Left Truly Hates Christmas”.

In the culture of life, life is a gift from the hand of the Creator. It is not ours to decide to keep or to destroy. In the culture of life, your life is not your own.

This means your unborn daughter or your grandmother in the terminal ward can live, despite any pragmatic, dead-eyed, empty-hearted, cost-cutting reason to murder her.

That is the end goal of all of this. The end goal is a black mass where innocent life is sacrificed. Nothing is sacred but the whim of Caesar. No one prospers, but Moloch feeds.

Yes, strange as it sounds, that is what is at stake.

The War on Christmas is a war by the unhuman against the human.

(19) END GAME. Bob Byrne tells “the story of how TSR destroyed one of the greatest wargaming companies in history” in “Simulations Publications Inc: The TSR Incursion” at Black Gate.

The death blow came in 1982 and it would be delivered by Brian Blume, who initially looked like a white knight. Well, at least a moderately gray one. Wagner and SPI secured a $425,000 loan from TSR, secured by its assets and intellectual properties (uh oh!).

The majority of the loan was used to repay the venture capitalists, which eliminated that problem, but it was the modern day equivalent of getting an advance on your credit card to pay down the existing balance on another credit card. You still have to pay off that second credit card advance.

Only two weeks later, TSR called in the loan, which SPI had absolutely zero ability to pay back. TSR announced in March that it had “initiated a legal and economic chain of events” to buy SPI. Once it realized the company’s debt situation, it backed off of that and stated that TSR had acquired the company’s assets, but not its debts. I’m still not sure how TSR got away with that.

WOW! How can you look at it in any other light than that TSR lent the money so it could immediately foreclose on SPI and acquire all its games? I mean, yeesh.

(20) NEW ART EXHIBIT. Tove Jansson is profiled by Dominic Green in The New Criterion. “Adventures in Moominland”. “Tove Jansson” opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, on October 25, 2017 and remains on view through January 28, 2018.

It was a Swedish actress, Greta Garbo, who said she wanted to be alone, and a Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, who documented what it felt like. It was, however, Tove Jansson (1914–2001), a Swedish-speaking Finn, who may have produced the most truthful record of the inner life of postwar Scandinavia. Best known in the English-speaking world as the illustrator of the Moomintroll comic strips, Jansson was also a painter, cartoonist, and writer of stories for children and adults. In Scandinavia, the breadth of her work is common knowledge. The Helsinki Art Museum contains a permanent Jansson gallery, and sends visitors out on a “Life Path of Tove” sculpture trail around her hometown. There is even a Moomin Museum in nearby Tampere, featuring the Moominhouse, a five-story doll’s house that Jansson built. And posthumously, the Moominlegend has incorporated Jansson’s complex and often unhappy private life.

“Tove Jansson,” now at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, is a comprehensive survey, and the first Jansson exhibition designed for a foreign audience

(21) LATE NIGHT LAST NIGHT. Lost ‘Star Wars’ Footage Of Luke Skywalker At The Cantina.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Diana Glyer, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ed Fortune, Jeff Smith, Chip Hitchcock, Stephen Burridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Smofcon, the con for conrunners has convened in Boston.

  • John Scalzi is there to share what pros expect from conventions.

  • Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories is on hand, too.

The convention is well attended for Smofcons, registration and hospitality were working efficiently the last time I passed through and many interesting conversations have been heard and overheard.

  • An issue of Journey Planet with a con programming theme has been released in time for Smofcon.

  • Jeeze, I played the inaugural version of this game in 1987.

  • Richard Gadsden’s additions to the “Fannish Inquisition” questionnaire are inspired by the virtual wall of TSA.

(2) JUMP IN. Charles Payseur shares his experience and advice to encourage the growth of a deeper and more diverse field of sff short fiction reviewers. “So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What’s more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It’s a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It’s often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it’s also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it’s to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but I’ve left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let’s get started!

(3) GOOD TO GO. NASA will be able to keep the mission going awhile longer: “Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years”.

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

…Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy….

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

(4) MAKE IT SO. Food & Wine reports “New ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Holiday-Themed Beer Getting National Release”.

Courtesy of New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company comes Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Ale – Captain’s Holiday. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but this beer is trying to cover a lot of bases. Not only is this tropically-tinged beer brewed with natural citrus flavors intended as a holiday release, this “Collector’s Edition” product is also meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation which first aired back in 1987. As such, the name “Captain’s Holiday” actually comes from the title of an episode of that series in which “the crew convinces Captain Picard to take a much-needed vacation on the pleasure planet Risa” (of course).

(5) MYTHLORE AT 50. Help the Mythopoeic Society pick what belongs in the collection — “Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years”.

IN 2018 WE CELEBRATE THE FOUNDING OF MYTHLORE, the scholarly journal of the Mythopoeic Society, which published its first issue in January 1969. Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years will collect and reprint the very best articles, artwork, reviews, letters, and creative work, all nominated by readers, along with commentary about the journal’s founding and history, and will be published in time for Mythcon 49.

(6) A GRATEFUL WILLIS. In Connie Willis’ “Thanks on Thanksgiving” post she remembers three people who had a big influence on her.

  1. My eighth-grade teacher, whose name I do remember.

Mrs. Werner was my home-room teacher, and every day after lunch she read aloud to us, one of which was Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS.  This is NOT a children’s book, even though its heroine, Lovejoy, was ten years old.  She was also a thief.  She lived in post-war London, and when she decided she wanted to build a garden in the rubble of a bombed-out church, she not only shoplifted seeds and a trowel, but recruited other kids to steal for her.  She was also thoroughly unpleasant.  Not without reason.  She had a slutty mother with an assortment of nasty boyfriends and was often left with strangers for months at a time.  As I say, not a book for junior-high-schoolers.

I have no idea what anybody else in the class thought about the book, but I loved it AND Lovejoy.  It was my first introduction to Rumer Godden, who I fell in love with, especially her novel about grief, IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE.  It was also my first introduction  to how you can take a classic and update it (AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is actually Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN retold.)

And it was my first introduction to the Blitz, planting a seed which blossomed when I went to St. Paul’s years later and fell in love with the fire watch and the history of London during the war–which had a HUGE impact on my life.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek appeared in the funny papers with a daily comic strip.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston – your choice, My Favorite Martian, or the Devil in Damn Yankees.

(9) CLASSIC MACHADO. Jane Dykema, in “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch’” at Electric Lit, says, “The first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ brings up big questions about who we believe and why.”

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

(10) ELEMENTARY. “The Serial-Killer Detector” in The New Yorker tells how A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010, when he was a reporter for the now defunct Scripps Howard news service. The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex. It also considers whether the rate of unsolved murders in a city is notable, since an uncaught serial killer upends a police department’s percentages. Statistically, a town with a serial killer in its midst looks lawless….

(11) HEAD ‘EM OFF AT THE PASS. Sounds like a Kage Baker story. The Pharaoh’s city from The Ten Commandments is still under the sand south of San Francisco: “Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history”.

The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

 

(12) BABELFISH.  The BBC tells about “The translator that sits in your ear”.
So how does the Pilot earpiece work? It uses a sophisticated microphone array along with noise-cancelling algorithms to listen to spoken words from and around the user.

“Those words are passed to the cloud where it is processed through speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis, before it is sent back to the user and anyone else whose Pilot earpiece is synced into the conversation,” explains Ochoa. “This happens within minimal delay, usually in milliseconds.”

There are a number of competitors hot on the heels of the Pilot, including Clik, Skype, and Google, which last month launched its Pixel Buds, complete with the ability to translate in real time between 40 languages. The Pilor earpiece currently works with 15 languages, but can be ugraded to translate more. But with its head start, and now its prestigious nomination, the Pilot may be a step ahead.

(13) FAKE GUARDIAN. Someone’s trying to act like the actor: “Chris Pratt alerts fans to ‘pervy imposter'”.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt has taken to social media to alert his fans to a “pervy dude” who has been allegedly impersonating him online.

“Somebody is trying to pretend to be me on Facebook,” he wrote on Instagram.

The US actor claimed the “imposter” had been “apparently hitting on a lot of different female fans, trying to get their numbers and who knows what else.”

“I find this behaviour reprehensible,” he continued. “If I find out who it is I’ll have their account shut down.”

(14) MEGAFAME. I read both authors, but it felt surreal to see Lee Child and N.K. Jemisin sharing the marquee in the same article.

(15) A WARNING TO PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.

(16) GREAT COLLECTION. John O’Neill is “Remembering Frank M. Robinson’s Legendary Pulp Collection” at Black Gate.

A complete collection of Weird Tales is a towering achievement. Weird Tales, which had chronically poor circulation, is one of the most sought-after pulps on the market, as it was the most important home of the most significant pulp writers of early fantasy, including H.P Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others. Copies in good condition typically go for several hundred dollars each, and early issues for significantly more than that….

The 1970s might have been the last time it was possible to compile a collection like this, at least for any kind of reasonable sum. His entire collection was auctioned off while Frank was still alive by John Gunnison at Adventure House, and netted a total well north of a million dollars.

(17) ALL WET. Den of Geek goes “Diving Into The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon”, an actor who will also be in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.

Den of Geek: Have you and Guillermo ever talked about working together before?

Michael Shannon: No, this was totally out of the blue. I didn’t know Guillermo. I was out here doing something silly, I don’t know. Maybe I was out for the indie film Spirit Awards or something and my agent said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to have lunch with you while you’re in town this weekend.” I said okay. So he came to my hotel and we sat at this table out back, and he just laid it all out. Said, “I’ve been writing this movie for a long time. I’ve been writing it with particular people in mind, and you’re one of those people. Are you interested?” And I said okay. That was it. It’s an astonishingly simple and concise story.

He said he wrote Strickland with your voice in his head. So when you got to read the character, what struck you about the character?

I thought it was funny. I thought it was a funny character. I saw a lot of humor in it. I liked the opportunity to play some uptight, confused government agent guy. I mean he’s kind of a train wreck inside, but he’s presenting this exterior of authority and competency, which is a total fabrication at the end of the day.

(18) DON’T BE SHY. In 1962 some authors didn’t want to be known for writing sf. Not much different from 2017, eh? Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf gives a rundown on the situation of half a century ago: “[DECEMBER 2, 1962] THEY CAME FROM THE MAINSTREAM (SF BOOKS NOT PUBLISHED AS SF)”.

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabakov, best known for his controversial novel Lolita (toned down somewhat in this year’s film adaptation), creates a very unusual structure in his new book, Pale Fire.  It consists of a poem of 999 lines by an imaginary poet, followed by footnotes written by an equally fictional critic.  Read together, the poem and footnotes come together to form a plot of impersonation, exile, and murder.  What makes this a work of science fiction is the fact that it takes place in a world different from our own.  The story deals with the deposed king of the European nation of Zembla.  It takes place in an alternate version of the USA, which contains the states of Appalachia and Utana.

(19) CUISINE OF THE FUTURE. Sometimes that future doesn’t seem very far away.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/17 HiphoPixeltamus Vs. RhymenoScrollos

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Famed comics writer Marv Wolfman joins Scott Edelman for gelato in Episode 54 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Marv Wolfman

As I prepared to lunch with this episode’s guest, I was startled to realize I’d last interviewed him in 1974—43 years ago! Back then, I was an assistant editor in the Marvel Bullpen, while Marv Wolfman was (among many other things) scripting Tomb of Dracula and editing Crazy magazine, not yet having ascended to the role of Editor-in-Chief. And it was my job to report on his doings for the readers of F.O.O.M., Marvel’s official fan magazine.

Over the course of his career, Marv did a whole lot more than what I talked with him about back then. He went on to script the adventures of many legacy characters for both Marvel and DC, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, and Green Lantern, and during that time he also co-created the characters of Blade, Bullseye, Destiny, Nova, and many others. He wrote the Teen Titans comic for 16 years. There’s even more to Marv than that, of course, as you’ll find out when you give this episode a listen….

We discussed his horrifying early job as a DC Comics intern destroying (and in some cases rescuing) original art, why he loves the science fiction writer Alfred Bester, how his writing back when he started out was a blend of John Broome and Stan Lee, what he learned from binge-reading 181 issues of Spider-Man before starting to script it himself, what it was like returning to DC after his years at Marvel, why he felt he could write Tomb of Dracula even though when he was handed the assignment he’d never read the Bram Stoker novel or seen any of the movies, his secret to making the Teen Titans seem like actual teens, why he owes his career to Gene Colan, and much, more.

(2) JOSHI DEFENDS HIMSELF. S.T. Joshi tees off on Brian Keene once more in his November 15 blog post.

Let us consider his assertion that I have gone out of my way to attack certain individuals who have criticised Lovecraft only because they are women (Ellen Datlow), persons of colour (Daniel José Older), persons in the LGBTQ community (S. J. Bagley [although his membership in this community is news to me]), and self-styled “‘white trash’ Appalachians” such as himself. If anything could reveal Mr. Keene’s nincompoopery—not to mention identity politics run amok—this must be it. Mr. Keene ignores the fact that I have also addressed other individuals—unimpeachably Caucasian and undeniably male—such as China Miéville (see my blog of August 23, 2014), Charles Baxter (blog of December 3, 2014), Robert Dunbar (blog of February 27, 2015), and others. Then there’s Niels Hobbs, about as chalk-white a Nordic as one could ask for. But more significantly, Mr. Keene is blithely unaware of how his assertion can be flipped around and made to bite him in the posterior. By his own reasoning (if it can be called that), anyone who criticises me for any reason must be an anti-Asian racist. For it cannot be news to Mr. Keene that I was born in India and am an immigrant to this country (but a U.S. citizen of long standing). Is Mr. Keene therefore prepared to admit that he is a racist? How about it, Mr. Nicolay? What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Lockhart?

But of course this is absurd. I have never accused any of my antagonists of prejudice (only of stupidity, hypocrisy, and suchlike faults that are widely shared by all races and genders), and I trust I may be granted the same courtesy, especially in the absence of evidence (and of course there is none) that I myself have ever exhibited racial or gender prejudice. I confess to an irremediable prejudice against illiterate morons like Mr. Keene (in part because this “revolt of the stupid” inflicted upon us our current “president”), but beyond that, my record is clean.

Mr. Keene also asserts, preposterously, that I do not want Lovecraft’s racism discussed. I myself have discussed this issue—in my biography and elsewhere—more comprehensively and with a greater understanding of the historical, philosophical, social, and cultural issues involved than any other commentator. Where Mr. Keene got the idea that I threatened to boycott the 2017 NecronomiCon if there was a panel on this subject, I cannot begin to imagine. In fact, Niels Hobbs and I, long before our falling out, had already agreed that there need not be any such panel at the 2017 event, since we had had panels on the subject at the two previous conventions—and I was a member of the panel in 2013. My boycott threat was tied specifically to the presence of known and unrepentant Lovecraft-haters on the program—and I was under the impression that Mr. Hobbs had acceded to my request to keep them off the program…

Joshi’s love for abusing people in lush terms inspires me to ask who would win if he and John C, Wright were paired in a literary cage match?

(3) LEFTOVER STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz has posted the “Happy Frogs OFFICIAL 2017 Nebula Awards Slate Recommendations”. Whether such a slate can be effective remains to be seen, since only SFWA members can nominate. If the real goal is to court controversy and gain publicity, well, it’s working already.

The Happy Frogs are back!  It’s already getting close to award season, as nominations are opening for the 2017 Nebula Awards. Our Board of Trustees  has scoured  the best of the best of Science Fiction and Fantasy to come up with recommendations for YOUR SFWA Nebula Award ballots. These stories are tremendous. Believe me. You’ll want to jump to fill in your Nebula ballots with these choices immediately.

Many categories had very difficult choices with so much great fiction available, and we did our best to bring about the five best of the year in each category.  The TOP BALLOT was given a little extra love, so we can ensure SFWA members give proper focus if they only wanted to choose one Happy Frogs nominee.

Jon’s work, some Superversive and Castalia House authors, and other Scrappy-Doos comprise most of the list, but a Tor book is recommended for Best Novel – go figure.

Top Ballot: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis (Tor Books) – Hands down the most epic fun book of 2017. It has fantasy, it has steampunk, it has incredibly well detailed battles that rival David Weber. It’s got one of the coolest main characters in Josette, and is so well written, we at the Happy Frogs could read it over and over again. Incredible work.

(4) CALL FOR PAPERS,. “Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations” has put out a call for papers on the theme of “Escaping Escapism in Fantasy and the Fantastic.” The event takes place April 26-27, 2018.

What is the role of fantasy and the fantastic? Why—and perhaps more crucially, how—does the genre matter? Fantasy theorists frequently define the genre in opposition to what is possible and real: Kathryn Hume, for instance, sums it up in Fantasy and Mimesis as “departures from consensus reality”. Critics often scrutinize this departure as a negative, and disparage representations of the fantastic either due to their failure to depict real world issues or their presumed attempts at “escapism.” This perceived link between fantasy and escapism is so strong that dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary define escapism as “engaging in fantasy”.

… This two-day conference seeks to examine and honour the relationship between escapism and the fantastic. We welcome proposals for papers on this theme from researchers and practitioners working in the field of fantasy and the fantastic across all media, whether within the academy or beyond it. We are particularly interested in submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 1, 1932 — The big screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Island Of Lost Souls premieres in the U.S.

(6) HONOR IN GOTHAM. Welcome2TheBronx says a street will be given the name of Batman’s co-creator: “Recognition At Last! Bronx Street to be Renamed After Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger”.

On December 8th, late Bronxite and DeWitt Clinton alumni Bill Finger and co-creator of Batman will have justice with a Bronx street renamed after him.

For years, many only knew Bob Kane as the creator of Batman but it was actually Bill Finger who gave Bob Kane not only the idea of how Batman should look but also created his origin story and wrote many of the stories during the beginning of the rise of the Dark Knight.

Born Milton Finger in Denver, Colorado on February 8, 1914, eventually he and his family moved to The Bronx where he was raised and went to DeWitt Clinton High School (where Bob Kane went as well).

Kane was trying to come up with a character to compete with the craze created by Superman but was stuck in a rut when he asked Bill Finger for some advice. The two would meet up at Poe Park on the Grand Concourse to come up with ideas and it was Finger who told him to change his costume into what became the Batman we know today.

(7) THE SEASON. The Book Smugglers decreed: “Smugglivus is HERE – A Primer”.

Smugglivus is our month-long (technically about five weeks long) end of the year celebration. Back in our first year of The Book Smugglers in 2008, we wanted to do something special at the end of the year leading up to our blog anniversary in early January. So, we came up with the idea to host a holiday bonanza to celebrate our favorite books, authors, and bloggers of the year. Thus, inspired by Seinfeld’s infamous Festivus, Smugglivus was born.

Each year, Smugglivus begins on December 1 and features guest posts from our favorite people across the interwebs (with a healthy serving of our regular reviews and giveaways, of course). The event ends with a bang on January 7, our very own blogiversary. And this year? We will be celebrating our biggest milestone to date: our tenth anniversary!

…This year, our all-star author lineup includes, among many others, Aliette de Bodard, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, N.K. Jemisin and more. Of course, we’ll also have plenty of awesome bloggers/reviewers/vloggers over to play too!

(8) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Camestros Felapton is a great fan of book cover art (something we know because he’s already done 22 covers for McEdifice Returns and may not be done). In that line, he has gathered some of the year’s most admired artwork in his post “The Book Cover Thing 2017: The Longlist”.

Thanks for all the suggestions I didn’t include them all (looks specifically at Doris for a moment). I also went hunting for some extra names and interesting covers of books I haven’t heard of. Obvious note: appearance on the list is not any kind of endorsement of the content of the books or their authors and in some cases I know nothing about the books at all – but at least one was intentionally deplorable.

(9) ENDEAVOUR AWARD. Although the winners of the 2017 Endeavour Award, Patricia McKillip and Matt Ruff, weren’t at OryCon to pick up their awards, two other finalists were on hand to receive commemorative certificates, Curtis Chen and David D. Levine. Thanks to Jim Fiscus for the photos:

The two head shots were taken when the authors were reading from their books, Arabella of Mars for David D. Levine and Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen.

Curtis Chen

David D. Levine

(10) VIRAL CAT. Social media has another feline star: “Meet Max, the cat who lost the library but won the Internet”.

This story, printed and taped onto a university library door in St. Paul, Minn., might have ended there. But as seen above, it got tweeted. It also got Tumblr-ed. And Reddit-ed. And because the Internet loves cat characters — and has a special fondness for those known as library cats — the story of 3-year-old Max exploded Wednesday. (In some online corners, anyway; it was a heavy news day.)

Having been shooed away from the Macalester College library, Max sprinted straight toward Internet fame.

The people wanted a children’s book. Someone dashed off text in rhyme:

Get into the thread here —

(11) ELASTIC CURRENCY. Nerd & Tie reports “Checks Are Bouncing For Guests Who Appeared at Waxacon”.

About six hundred people turned up for the first ever Waxacon in Waxahachie, TX on November 18th and 19th. Attendees got to meet guests like Corin Nemec, Olivia Hack, Kevin Duhaney, Jeff Parazzo, Christina Masterson, Philip Andrew, Jack Guzman, Philip Jeanmarie and Chuck Huber. With so few attendees present, it must have been a fun, intimate experience for fans. But here’s the thing, as far as we can tell none of those guests have been paid yet.

We’ve spoken to representation for multiple guests who appeared at Waxacon, and those who were supposed to see payment arrive via Paypal haven’t received what’s due to them. What’s worse is that we’ve confirmed that guests who were handed checks by the convention organizer Alex Betsill have seen them bounce….

(12) ANOTHER STRANGER. Netflix has greenlighted a third season of Stranger Things. [H/T Nerd & Tie.]

(13) REJECTED. This video from the Bradbury Center tells how the scripts and films of Something Wicked This Way Comes were rewritten, reshot, and re-edited before the popular Disney movie was released.

(14) BEER REVIEW Nickpheas writes, “We had the underwhelming Dark Vader a couple of weeks ago.” He found its lack of taste…disturbing. But if you’re in the neighborhood —

The pub just next to my place of work (and any filer visiting the area can always hit on me for a pint) has turned up two more genre themed ales.

 

(15) SPECULATING ABOUT PLANET NINE. Maybe the Lectroids’ home? “Planet Nine: Theories About the Hypothetical Planet”.

A massive ice giant may be traveling through the outer solar system. Dubbed “Planet Nine,” the hypothetical world was proposed to exist after scientists noticed that a handful of objects beyond Pluto had been shaken up in unusual orbits. Search parties have formed to find the unseen planet, with optimistic hopes of spotting it within a year.

“It’s not crazy; this is the kind of stuff people are finding all the time,” co-discoverer Mike Brown, at the California Institute of Technology, told Space.com earlier this year. Brown and lead author Konstantin Batygin, also at CalTech, published a paper in January 2016 suggesting that a massive planet could be stirring up the icy bodies of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of material at the edge of the solar system.

(16) POWER UP. Tesla makes goal: “World’s Largest Battery Is Turned On In Australia As Tesla Ties Into Power Grid” — 37 days ahead of schedule.

The power grid in South Australia now includes a huge Tesla battery tied to a wind farm, allowing the system to supply electricity around the clock. The battery was installed well before Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s 100-day guarantee lapsed — and just in time for the start of summer.

“This is history in the making,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said of the battery system, which sits next to wind turbines at the Horndale Power Reserve.

(17) DEL TORO FILM REVIEWED. Close but no cigar: NPR’s Justin Chang finds that “Gorgeous And Lyrical ‘Shape of Water’ Doesn’t Quite Hit Its Mark”.

“The Shape Of Water” is such a lyrical and imaginative piece of storytelling that I’m genuinely disappointed that I didn’t love it more. There’s no doubting the visionary credentials of the director, Guillermo del Toro, though his richly atmospheric fantasies are often more inspired in concept than they are in the moment-to-moment unfolding. The great exception is his Oscar-winning 2006 film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a masterpiece of historical fantasy in which he held a brutal Spanish war story and a transporting fairy tale in exquisite balance.

(18) PTEROSAUR EDEN. NPR reports “Hundreds Of Eggs From Ancient Flying Reptile Are Found In China”.

A cache of hundreds of eggs discovered in China sheds new light on the development and nesting behavior of prehistoric, winged reptiles called pterosaurs.

Pterosaurs were fearsome-looking creatures that flew during the Lower Cretaceous period alongside dinosaurs. This particular species was believed to have a massive wingspan of up to 13 feet, and likely ate fish with their large teeth-filled jaws.

Researchers working in the Turpan-Hami Basin in northwestern China collected the eggs over a 10-year span from 2006 to 2016.

A single sandstone block held at least 215 well-preserved eggs that have mostly kept their shape. Sixteen of those eggs have embryonic remains of the pterosaur species Hamipterus tianshanensis, the researchers said in findings released today in Science.

(19) A DISCOURAGING WORD. The BBC tells how they do it — “From disguises to bad manners: How celebs avoid being pestered in public”.

[Mark] Hamill recently tweeted how he hopped into a wheelchair at an airport to “avoid autograph $alesmen/Dealer$ who constantly badger me (and my family) to increase value of their items”.

Hunger Games star Lawrence, who refuses selfies with fans, said: “I just, generally, once I enter a public place, I become incredibly rude – that’s kind of like my only way of defending myself.”

Mark Hamill tries “the old wheelchair trick”, Daniel Radcliffe wore a Spider-Man suit (plus rucksack and American accent) to Comic-Con, …

(20) THE BADDEST PART OF THE FILE. For some strange reason a Jim Croce filk festival broke out in comments. Here is microtherion’s contribution:

If I could save time in a shoggoth
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to sleep in R’lyeh
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend strange aeons with you

(21) HOW IT TOOK SHAPE. Marc Scott Zicree, who worked on a book with Guillermo Del Toro, tells the vision behind The Shape of Water.

Mr. Sci-Fi Marc Zicree shares insider info on his friend and co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s wonderful new film The Shape of Water.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jim Fiscus, JJ, Nickpheas, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs ti File 770 contributing editoe of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30/17 Go Not To The Filers For Counsel, For They Will Say Both Scroll And Pixel

(1) IT GETS WORSE. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted about her horrendous experience at the hands of TSA while trying to enter the U.S. to attend a retreat. Begins here —

She missed her flight, needed to get rebooked, had to go through Customs a second time (another bad experience), and spent long hours at the airport waiting for the next flight. Here are a couple of the tweets from that thread:

There was an outpouring of sympathy, support, and indignation, for example:

(2) BEWARE. David Gerrold shared this warning on Facebook:

A friend has sent me a cautionary note not to do business with Atomic Network. (I wouldn’t anyway, I’m currently involved in a much more promising effort.) But the advice is appreciated. I won’t repeat the long explanatory message here, the language is a little blunt and might cross a couple lines, but the evidence presented is damning enough on its own merits. The point is that SF content creators and investors would probably not be happy with the track record of the CEO and his previous ventures. Consider this a Writer Beware warning.

I believe this is the website for Atomic Network.

(3) MORE CON TRADEMARK LITIGATION. Two Boston anime conventions are going to court: “Anime Boston sues to block similarly named event in Hanover”.

The New England Anime Society of Somerville, which puts on the annual Anime Boston show at the Hynes, this week sued two of its former volunteers, who are using the phrase “Boston Anime Fest” to promote their own show at the Hanover Mall, which is somewhere south of Boston.

In addition to trying to stop the organizers from associating themselves with the show that’s actually in Boston, in a trademark lawsuit filed in US District Court, New England Anime has filed a request for a temporary restraining order to try to block the Hanover show, schedule for Dec. 8 and 9.

Although the main name of the Hanover show is the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, its Web site, with a URL of www.bostonanimefest.com, prominently features a Boston Anime Fest logo.

New England Anime says the branding is likely to confuse anime fans into thinking it has something to do with the Hanover show, which it does not. That the new show’s organizers, Fantastic Gatherings, Inc. – founded by the two former Anime Boston volunteers – and Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment, initially linked their social-media accounts to Boston Anime, is also an issue.

(4) BOOKSELLERS LOVE IT. Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage has been named the Waterstones book of the yearThe Guardian has the story.

Pullman pronounced himself delighted to have won an award chosen by booksellers, which he called “the most important channel between the publishers and the public”.

“Writers are at one end of a complicated network that includes editors, reviewers, designers, printers, and many other real people – as well as phantoms such as the writer the readers imagine and the readers the book seems to expect,” he said. “Part of this great living network or ecology of the book world is the ancient and distinguished profession of bookselling, which I respect and value very much.”

(5) BEST SFF OF 2017. And The Guardian thinks it none too soon for Adam Roberts to tell his picks for “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2017”.

A year ago, Amitav Ghosh usefully stirred things up with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change? Well, it turns out that the answer is science fiction. Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s three best novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. Kim Stanley Robinson is the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his prodigious New York 2140 (Orbit), a multilayered novel set in a flooded Big Apple, is by any standard an enormous achievement. It is as much a reflection on how we might fit climate change into fiction as it is a detailed, scientifically literate representation of its possible consequences.

Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near?future Antarctica transformed by global warming. Jeff VanderMeer’s vividly weird Borne (4th Estate) takes a different, neo-surrealist approach to the topic. You won’t soon forget its star turn, a flying bear as big as a cathedral rampaging through wastelands….

(6) NABORS OBIT. Actor and singer Jim Nabors (1930-2017), best known for playing Gomer Pyle on two TV series, died November 30. I didn’t know he had any genre-related connections beyond his character’s tendency to say “Shazam!” in place of an expletive, however, SF Site News notes that his credits include

…the Saturday morning children’s show The Lost Saucer with Ruth Buzzi. He also made appearances in an episode of Knight Rider and provided voicework for Off to See the Wizard.

 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Ridley Scott
  • Born November 30, 1985 — Kaley Cuoco

(8) CAPTAINS OUTRAGEOUS. You’ll all be thrilled to know — “William Shatner ends Star Trek feud, unblocks Jason Isaacs on Twitter”.  According to Entertainment Weekly:

Shatner never publicly said why he blocked the Star Trek: Discovery star in the first place, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with an interview that arguably mischaracterized Isaacs as saying he would never want Shatner to be a guest star on the new series

(9) SIR JULIUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) declares that nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are open.

Nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are now being accepted. The nomination period will close at 8.00 pm on 2 February 2018.  The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2017 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! To make a nomination, go to http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwards.shtml  and fill out the web-based nomination form.

Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. We have a list of New Zealand works that may be eligible for nomination here.

(10) LE GUIN. Arwen Curry, who’s making a Kickstarter-funded documentary about the writer, worried that Ursula K. Le Guin’s home might have been threatened by the recent Northern California fires. All is well, writes Curry: “In Thanks for Houses”.

We were also worried for Kish, Ursula K. Le Guin’s family ranch in the Napa Valley. Thankfully, it was spared. After the air cleared, we drove up to capture some of our film’s final images, of the land where she spent the long summers of her childhood, and the setting for her 1985 masterwork, Always Coming Home. We filmed the buzzards circling, the wild oaks, the river beginning to swell, the sunset-colored vineyards, “the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right.”

(11) LIVE-ACTION MULAN MOVIE. The Guardian tells how Disney has avoided controversy with a Mulan casting decision: “Liu Yifei gets starring role in Mulan, as tide turns against ‘whitewashing'”.

A Chinese actor will play the title role in a live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan, a move seen as a victory for Asian actors in Hollywood after repeated controversies over “whitewashing”.

Liu Yifei, who also uses the name Crystal Liu, was picked to star in the film after a worldwide search that screened nearly 1,000 candidates. The 30-year-old actor has appeared in more than a dozen films in China and began her career in television.

The decision to cast a Chinese actress was widely praised on social media after a series of controversies over whitewashing and follows Beyoncé’s casting in the upcoming Lion King remake.

Hollywood has attracted widespread criticism for casting white actors to play Asian characters. Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone have all played characters who were Asian in the source material.

(12) SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. The Los Angeles Times speculates whether The Shape of Water will earn Guillermo del Toro an Academy Award. Video at the link.

Is this the year that Guillermo del Toro — close friends with Cuarón and Iñárritu since the ’90s and, like them, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed and successful filmmakers — wins his Oscar?

Del Toro stands as a strong contender for directing “The Shape of Water,” a lavish, deeply felt love story involving a pair of outsiders — a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) and an Amazonian water creature (frequent Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones).

(13) CAN I GET A WITNESS? NPR reports “Arkansas Prosecutors Drop Murder Case That Hinged On Evidence From Amazon Echo”.

Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.

The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.

The move marks a curious end to a still more curious case, which had revolved around the role played by a personal assistant device that’s supposed to begin recording as soon as someone says its wake word — “Alexa,” in this case — in its presence.

… At the time of Victor Collins’ death, the Echo had been out on the market in the U.S. for only several months, and the search warrant issued for the device’s recordings prompted some fears that the new technology was opening another battlefield over personal privacy protections.

(14) FETCH! From NPR — “Scientists Train Bacteria To Build Unnatural Proteins”:

One feature of this new system is that these germs need to be fed the precursors for the X and Y components, as well as synthetic amino acids, which are the building blocks for the artificial proteins.

“There’s actually an advantage of having to do it this way,” he says, and that’s safety.

“I think synthetic biology by its very nature scares a lot of people, because you’re sort of playing with life and trying to optimize it to do new things. And people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute — that could be dangerous. What if they escape into nature?’ And I think that’s a significant concern. I think people should be worried about that kind of thing.”

But because his organisms need to be fed man-made starting materials, they can’t survive outside the lab, he says.

(15) CROWDSOURCED SCIENCE. Sometimes you do need a weatherman…. The BBC tells about the “Huge weather rescue project under way”.

It is shaping up to be a mammoth citizen science project.

Volunteers are wanted to digitise early 20th Century weather records covering the UK and other parts of Europe.

The temperature, pressure, rainfall and wind observations are in handwritten tables and need to be converted to a form that computers can analyse.

The data comes from the Met Office’s “Daily Weather Reports”, which were started by Robert FitzRoy shortly after the agency was founded in 1854.

If this old information is recovered, it can then be used to reconstruct past conditions.

That will put more context around some of the changes now occurring in our atmosphere, says Prof Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Reading University.

“Whenever we have big weather events today we need to ask ourselves, have we seen them before? And if we go further and further back in time and don’t recognise such big storms or such heavy rainfall, then we can be more confident that the changes we’re seeing today really are the result of shifts in the climate system,” he told BBC News.

(16) DIAGNOSING NARRATIVE DISORDER. Malka Older’s Null States, sequel to Infomocracy, inspires a discussion of the writer’s imagined society: “’Patchwork Futures’: Sci-fi meets the political thriller” in Harvard Magazine.

In the future imagined by Malka Older ’99, author of Infomocracy and its new sequel, Null States, the inability to distinguish narrative from reality has become a medical diagnosis, officially codified as “narrative disorder.” Older describes the condition as a rewiring of the mind in a world shaped by shared narratives. “On the one hand, there’s an addiction to narrative content, to wanting to distract ourselves with stories,” she says. “But this is also changing how our brains work. We’re changing our expectations of what’s going to happen and the way people act and the kinds of characters we’re likely to meet, and by changing those expectations we end up changing reality, because people act on those expectations.”

(17) THE VILLAIN’S RIDE. “Epic Star Wars Build Test: Colin Furze x X Robots” comes courtesy of British eBay, and features Colin Furze who decided to build a full-size fighter of the sort Kylo Ren uses, and then tested it in front of some kids from the Peterborough Star Wars Club.  The kids are happy and there are lots of fireworks.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Steven H Silver, David K.M .Klaus, Darnell Coleman, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, NickPheas, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/17 And That’s What Pixelmas Is All About, Charlie Scroll

(1) BY WAY OF MELBOURNE. Playbill says King Kong will open on Broadway next year. (Just keep those biplanes grounded!) “King Kong Sets Broadway Opening Night; Tickets Now on Sale”. This musical premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and was originally supposed to come to Broadway when Spiderman folded in 2014. But it didn’t.

The anticipated stage musical adaptation of King Kong—written by Jack Thorne with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect—will officially open November 8, 2018, at the Broadway Theatre. Previews are set to begin October 5.

The production, which features a one-ton, six-meter-tall silverback gorilla puppet as its star, arrives on Broadway following a 2013 Melbourne world premiere.

An all-new creative team has been assembled to bring King Kong to Broadway, including Olivier Award-winning book writer Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Let the Right One In), Olivier Award-winning director-choreographer Drew McOnie (Strictly Ballroom, In the Heights), and Australian songwriter Perfect, who is also adapting Beetlejuice for Broadway. Perfect joins the show’s original composer and arranger de Vries (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet).

(2) TWO FINS UP. Craig Miller comments on a screening of The Shape of Water.

The film was pretty great. It’s set in the early 1960s but it has a sort of timeless quality about it. Set at some sort of secret, military-run laboratory, it’s about a lonely, mute cleaning woman (Hawkins) who works there and what happens when a new “asset” is brought in for investigation and experimentation. Her performance, and that of Doug Jones, are remarkable. More so in that neither character is capable of speaking but you understand them both perfectly.

(3) MINORITY REPORT. The National Review’s Armond White says “Justice League Is the Epic We Deserve” – and means it in a good sense.

Zack Snyder’s audacity in creating a comic-book movie renaissance (which began with the complex, ambitious Watchmen) has inspired philistine resentment from reviewers and fanboys who don’t want cinema. They’ve been desensitized to the form’s vitality and richness. (Like civics, art is no longer being taught in schools.) The schoolyard game of lambasting Snyder’s magnificent Man of Steel and the even more intricate Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice almost directly parallels the unsubtle breakdown of our political process. And this year’s post-election delusional praise for the utterly mediocre Wonder Woman is a symptom of our current political paralysis. By coordinating DC Comics’ superhero characters into the fight against Steppenwolf, Snyder attempts to extend his saga from Dawn of Justice. Studio interference (Warner Bros. envy of the lucrative Marvel franchise) and personal tragedy have prevented Snyder from completing his vision on a scale commensurate with the ever-astonishing Watchmen. But as Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join Batman (Ben Affleck) in the most-intense-yet fight for human life, what remains of Snyder’s handiwork — after the studio imposed The Avengers dullard Joss Whedon on the final product — is still a triumph.

(4) COCO. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna talks to the stars and producers of COCO and looks at how Pixar is coming out with a Mexican-themed film for the first time: “‘Coco’ forced Pixar to dive deep into a real-world culture — and add some diversity”.

PIXAR STUDIOS, for all its renown for creating highly detailed worlds, has rarely had to worry too much about cultural authenticity. Even after all their fabled research for movies such as “Brave” and “Ratatouille,” the filmmakers have been free to use their imaginations, without real fear of offending toymakers, automakers or entomologists.

The Bay Area studio knew, however, that centering “Coco,” which opens Nov. 22, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday would enter an entirely different realm, because it would include not only depictions of traditions, but also a significant increase in casting diversity.

(5) THE SCIENTISTS IN SF. Tor.com nominates “Our Favorite Fictionalized Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors in SFF”.

Benoit Mandelbrot (Mandelbrot the Magnificent)

Where the rest of us see fractals spinning off into infinity, Benoit Mandelbrot saw minute pockets into parallel universes. Liz Ziemska’s magical pseudo-biography reimagines the mathematician’s childhood during Hitler’s rise to power: in an era where people like Mandelbrot’s family were fleeing their homes to escape the growing evil, young Benoit discovers secret dimensions in which to hide, all unlocked by math. Talk of Kepler’s ellipses transports Benoit; archetypal math problems about approaching infinity provide him with glimpses into mirror worlds in which he can hunt monsters. But as the monsters in his world abandon all pretense of peace, Mandelbrot must harness his gifts to hide his family, or else he’ll have sealed their fates. It’s a lovely example of using fantasy as a way to gild the edges of inspiring true stories, linking math with magic for non-mathematicians. —Natalie

(6) GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP. In another piece, Michael Cavna gives his picks for “The 10 best graphic novels of 2017”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

By Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

This debut graphic novel from a 55-year-old Chicago artist is a revelation: a deeply textured tale of dark histories framed as a girl’s diary and told through riveting art that is an homage to midcentury horror comics and film. A dark-horse winner that came out of nowhere.

(7) NIGEL’S NEXT. Nigel Quinlan did a cover reveal of his new book, The Cloak of Feathers, an MG fantasy coming in the UK and Ireland from Hachette Children’s in January 2018.

It’s about an awful summer festival held every year in a small village in Ireland. Once every hundred years the Fair Folk visit, and it becomes a Great Festival, full of magic and wonder. Except everything has gone horribly wrong. The lake is polluted, there’s a ghost estate built on the shore, and their beloved Princess has vanished. Our heroes, the reluctant members of the Junior Knockmealldown Festival Committee (Cow-Fetching Sub-Group) must perform four Feats to win the Cloak of Feathers and rescue the Princess before the whole village is punished.

(8) SUPER SJW CREDENTIALS. Quirk Books makes its selection of the “10 Best Cats in Comics”.

Chewie – Captain Marvel

Supergirl and Power Girl are not the only big name superheroes to have pet cats. Captain Marvel has her own feline companion, Chewie. Initially, Carol believed that Chewie was just a normal cat that could keep her company on her adventures, but when she met Rocket Raccoon, he claimed that Chewie was, in fact, a Flerken. Captain Marvel refused to believe that her furry friend was secretly a tentacle-mouthed, egg-laying alien with pocket dimensions in her body…but when Chewie laid 117 eggs on board the ship, she was forced to admit it was true. Although the 117 Flerken kittens were left at a rescue, Chewie herself teleported back on board the ship, and Carol decided to keep her, Flerken or not.

(9) REBOUND. The Traveler pilloried the November 1962 issue of F&SF in a post at Galactic Journey. What a difference a month (and 55 years) makes! — “[November 19, 1962] Reverse Course (December 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

I’ve complained bitterly in this column on the meanderings of my favorite science fiction magazines.  Galaxy has gotten too tame.  Analog has gotten too staid.  F&SF has gotten too literary.  In fact, just last month, I was lamenting the streak of purple fluffiness that had corrupted that last mag.  Story after story of unreadable droll nothings, or at best, fantastic horrors without any hard sf.

The December 1962 issue did not promise to be any better.  It has the same line-up of authors, the same subject matter of stories.  There are even 11000…er.. 24 pages devoted to the concept of binary numbers.  Has F&SF lost its mind?!

So imagine my surprise to find that I actually enjoyed this month’s issue, entirely due to the well-written nature of its material.  These are not the kind of stories I prefer, but this experience just goes to show that high quality trumps subject matter.  See if you agree…

(10) ANDY WEIR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has an extra installment of its Into the Imagination podcast: “Bonus: Andy Weir (author of The Martian and Artemis)”.

We have a mid-month bonus episode with Andy Weir, author of the novel The Martian, so memorably adapted in the film starring Matt Damon, and the new book Artemis, which launches today! We talk about lunar colonization, his approach to world- and character-building, and what he would do if he was in charge of the future of space exploration. Andy will be speaking at the Clarke Center on December 7th.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

(11) BEST AND THE REST OF AUGUST. Rich Horton reviews short fiction at Locus Online, covering Lightspeed 8/17, 9/17, Tor.com 8/17, Apex 7/17, Interzone 7-8/17, and McSweeney’s #49.

There’s a good set of stories in the August Lightspeed. Ashok Banker‘s “Tongue” is an uncomfortable and rather over-the-top satire on the horrors of a traditional Indian mar­riage, set on an asteroid. The over-the-top elements are part and parcel of satire, though I also thought the portrayal of Indian culture seemed a wincing cliché, as did the corporate menace target; still, it shocks and scares.

(12) ANALOG (NOT THE MAGAZINE). An op-ed writer for the New York Times claims “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over”.

This surprising reversal of fortune for these apparently “obsolete” analog technologies is too often written off as nostalgia for a predigital time. But younger consumers who never owned a turntable and have few memories of life before the internet drive most of the current interest in analog, and often include those who work in Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Analog, although more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalents, provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen. People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning, and even the subtle taste of the ink on your fingertips. A book can be bought and sold, given and received, and displayed on a shelf for anyone to see. It can start conversations and cultivate romances.

The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital. Though a page of paper is limited by its physical size and the permanence of the ink that marks it, there is a powerful efficiency in that simplicity. The person holding the pen above that notebook page is free to write, doodle or scribble her idea however she wishes between those borders, without the restrictions or distractions imposed by software.

(13) VERDICT ON NEW TURTLEDOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club contends The Hot War is Turtledove at his best”.

Of particular interest in this alternate history is the tragic — and believable — story of Harry Truman. Turtledove’s research into historical figures is always impeccable, and many of Truman’s decisions in these novels are based on courses of action that he considered in real life. Turtledove paints a portrait of an alternate failed presidency that hinges on one bad decision after another.

The consequences of Truman’s mistakes keep compounding. The way in which this weighs on him in the novels is effectively conveyed, and this may be one of the best character arcs Turtledove has ever written. Turtledove seems to be arguing that even a well-intentioned president might invite calamity through brinksmanship.

This cast may be one of the most memorable groups that Turtledove has written since Worldwar: In The Balance back in the 1990s. However, it’s still clear that Turtledove has difficulty writing characters from outside his cultural background — none of the important Korean or Chinese characters are given point-of-view sections.

(14) BE OUR GUEST. Her Universe is ready to fill your need to own the “Star Wars BB-8 Tea Set”.

Being stranded on Jakku might be a downer, but it’s no excuse to avoid quality tea time. This BB-8 themed teapot and cup set from Star Wars is happy to roll up with a hot beverage. Set includes a 650 ml teapot & lid with two 220 ml cups and two 5 1/2″ saucers.

(15) MILLENNIUM PLUS FORTY. Entertainment Weekly was there: “Luke comes home: Mark Hamill’s heartbreaking return to the Millennium Falcon in The Last Jedi”.

Luke Skywalker quietly walks aboard the Millennium Falcon, alone. His old friends are gone. His old life is gone. He is ghostlike himself.

The old Luke Skywalker is gone, too.

That’s a scene from the latest trailer for The Last Jedi (see it here), but in real life, visiting the set of the old Corellian freighter was a similarly haunting experience for Mark Hamill.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had,” the 66-year-old actor tells EW. “I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon. I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, ‘Sure.’”

(16) BLABBING ABOUT CAMEOS. The Hollywood Reporter learned “Princes Harry and William Play Stormtroopers in New ‘Star Wars’ Film”.

The royals — along with Tom Hardy and singer Gary Barlow — were rumored to make an appearance in Stormtrooper outfits in the film releasing Dec. 15.

In August, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star John Boyega spilled the beans that not only did Prince William and Prince Harry film scenes when they visited Pinewood Studios in April 2016, but Tom Hardy also was milling around the set at the same time. By then, Take That singer Gary Barlow had already revealed that he had shot a scene in March.

(17) KEEPING A FINGER IN THE PIE. According to SyFy Wire, “Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies to write new Doctor Who adaptations”.

Steven Moffat may be leaving his gig as Doctor Who showrunner following this year’s upcoming Christmas special titled “Twice Upon a Time” to make way for Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), but it looks like he isn’t done with the Whoniverse-at-large just yet.

According to Radio Times, Moffat will team up with former showrunner Russell T Davies and novelist Jenny T. Colgan for a series of Doctor Who novels that will adapt several episodes from the Davies and Moffat eras of the BBC series.

Published by BBC Books and Penguin Randomhouse, the new “Target Collection” is based on the old Target novelizations that strived to adapt classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s, with the episodes’ original scriptwriters penning the adaptations whenever possible from the original scripts.

(18) SOME TIME LATER. I will never be the same now that I have seen this tweet.

Here’s the link to his post.

(19) MIGHTY MUMBLING. How It Should Have Ended does a comedy overdub of Batman v Superman and Dawn of Justice. It’s a toss-up whether these animated mouths remind me more of Clutch Cargo or Wallace and Gromit.

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

The Shape of Water – Final Trailer

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water comes to theaters December 8.

An other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.

 

Pixel Scroll 10/30/17 Cast Your Scrolls upon the Pixels, And They Will Return Tenfold

(1) THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. Always a big part of my spirituality — the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar.

Open a door of this super-fun advent calendar each day in December to discover a LEGO® Star Wars themed minifigure, starship, vehicle or other collectible. There’s even a foldout playmat featuring images from Jakku, Starkiller Base and deep space for epic Star Wars encounters. This holiday gift is perfect for rebels, Sith Lords, Scavengers and any other life form, and includes 7 minifigures and a BB-8 figure.

  • Vehicles include The Ghost, The Phantom, Stormtrooper transport, Rey’s speeder, Millennium Falcon, Snowspeeder, Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle, Y-wing, TIE Striker, Hovertank, AT-ST, blaster cannon, snow blower and a sled with boosters!
  • Weapons include 3 blaster pistols and 2 blasters

(2) HANS DUO. He was in The Shootist. Now he’s the Reshootist. ScreenRant reports “Ron Howard Reshot ‘Nearly All’ Of Solo For ‘Twice The Budget’”.

During his time filming, Howard served as the damage control department by posting fun pictures from behind-the-scenes, offering his social media followers a small taste of what was going on. While these were successful in changing the conversation to the content of the film itself (rather than the drama surrounding it), some couldn’t help but realize Howard wasn’t simply finishing what Lord and Miller started. As filming went on for a while, it became apparent there was considerable retooling going on. Now, any issues about who will receive director credit are a thing of the past.

(3) CAT LOVER. From Unbound, Farah Mendlesohn on romance in Robert A. Heinlein — “Q&A with Julie Bozza”.

  1. How important were the romance subplots in Heinlein’s novels and stories?

In Heinlein’s Juveniles romantic subplots are notable mostly by their absence. If there is a lesson in them for smart girls and boys it’s that romance is to be avoided at all cost when you are young because it will restrict your ambitions. Heinlein of course had made this mistake himself with what we’d now call a “starter marriage” in the early 1930s, but in those days it was the only legitimate way for a nice boy to get sex. There is a hint of it in Starman Jones, but it doesn’t work out, in Between Planets the hero doesn’t notice he is being romanced, and in The Star Beast, both female protagonists have it all worked out, but the hero hasn’t noticed yet.

By the 1960s his boys approach girls with awe: Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers likes having women in charge of the space ships because it’s a reminder what he’s fighting for, but there is not a whisper of sex, which is one reason I suggest in the book that we really do need to see this one as a juvenile.

But from Stranger in a Strange Land onwards, it’s not that romance is a subplot so much as that one of the things Heinlein clearly wants to think seriously about is what love is. Stranger is all about how you love someone, how you love without jealousy, and how true love should be expansive, encompassing and generous. Glory Road is this magnificent medieval Romance, intensely performative and playful and a bit silly, but by the end separating the game of romance from the real thing. And of course the Lazarus Long sequence, particularly the tellingly titled Time Enough for Love, and the last novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset are all about what love means and what we will do for love. But the true masterpiece of Heinlein’s romances is The Door Into Summer which for all the sub plot about Dan’s relationship with Ricky, is truly about a man and his love for his cat.

(4) TERRORWEEN. Yes, this is precisely what we groundlings are always looking for — “McEdifice Returns: Goosebumpy Halloween Special”.

Welcome boils and ghouls to this, your McEdifice Returns Halloween Special. I am your host Tyranny The Torturing Cat-O-Nine-Tails and this is my hideous assistance Straw ‘Wicker man’ Puppy.

We submit for your consideration the strange case of one Chiseled McEdifice. A lowly photocopy repairman or so he says. But what is this? His attempts to prevent paper supplies going missing has brought him to the SPOOKIEST part of any office building!

And there, amid the dust, and the spiders, and the rat-droppings and the incessant drip-drip-drip of leaking pipes, he discovered that all along, the paper was being stolen by…

A HUMANOID ALIEN INFLUENCED PHOTOCOPY MACHINE MAN TRYING TO COPY HIS OWN BUTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmmm, you think that’s NOT scary?…

(5) BACK TO THE STARGATE. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak invites readers to “Watch the first behind-the-scenes glimpse for MGM’s digital-only Stargate prequel”.

At Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con, the studio teased our first look at the upcoming show.

Stargate Origins will be a prequel to the original film and followup television franchise. This two-minute featurette shows off the first week of production, with a small tent city and offices for a young Catherine Langford (played by Ellie Gall).

 

(6) CHUCK TINGLE IN LA. A certain someone else was also at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con, or as he calls it…

Since Chuck attended with his head in a bag, the mystery lingers on….

(7) PLAN AHEAD. Taos Toolbox (June 17-30) is a two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin, and special lecturers Carrie Vaughn and E.M. Tippets. Applications for the 2018 workshop will be accepted beginning December 1, 2017.

Taos Toolbox is a workshop designed to bring your science fiction and fantasy writing to the next level. If you’ve sold a few stories and then stalled out, or if you’ve been to Clarion or Odyssey and want to re-connect with the workshop community, this is the workshop for you!

Taos Toolbox has only been in existence for ten years, and already graduates have been nominated for eight Hugo awards.

 

(8) FICTION BROUGHT TO LIFE. Amazing Stories goes “Behind the Scenes with a Voice Actor” in an interview with Brad Wills.

  1. How do you determine what kind of voice to use for different characters? Do you impersonate different actors that you’ve seen? I’m really curious as to the process. Can you explain it?

Usually I’ll apply one of my stock voices to a character based on their personality traits. For instance in the character breakdown of An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody, you had described Gerald as a bit of a prudish dandy, and a total failure as a vampire. So I used a more nasal, reedy, affected tone to portray those characteristics. It’s a voice I typically use for grousers and malcontents. So with an added bit of cheekiness and fey pomposity, it seemed to suit Gerald well. As for the character of Gainsworthy, yes I did pay a calculated tribute to a certain actor/director and a notorious character he once played. To tell people why would spoil the mystery of the book, though! I’ve also taken inspiration from numerous old character actors from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Turner Classic Movies has been invaluable.

(9) ROYAL MANTICORAN NAVAL MANUVER. Fans of the Honorverse will be interested to know about SphinxCon 2018. I’m a little curious whether David Gerrold fits into the theme somehow, or is simply a good idea as a GoH people want to see,

(10) CHECK YOUR CLOSETS. Definition remembers “20 Older Toys With Insane Value”. Note: This is a click-through article.

  1. Vinyl Caped Jawa

This version specifically will get you at least $5,000. When this version of Caped Jawa was released in 1978, its cape was made of vinyl, before Kenner Company felt the cape looked too cheap and changed the vinyl to cloth. The vinyl caped Jawa is incredibly rare, very valuable, and worth a minimum of $5,000.

(11) SOLON OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of longtime Chicago fan Ben Solon.

Chicago Fan Ben Solon (b.c.1950) died on October 26. In addition to attending Chicago area conventions, Solon published the fanzine Nyarlathotep.

(12) LUPPI OBIT. Federico Luppi, an Argentine actor who gained fame in the dark fantasy films of Guillermo del Toro, died October 20 at the age of 83. The New York Times obituary adds:

Mr. Luppi’s career, which began in the mid-1960s, included dozens of film and television roles, often in Argentine productions. Slim and stately with a shock of white hair, he endowed his characters with a sense of gravity.

One of those characters was Jesus Gris, the protagonist of the Mexican horror film “Cronos” (1993), Mr. del Toro’s directorial debut. In that film, which also starred Ron Perlman, Gris, an antiques dealer, finds a clockwork device that turns him into a vampire.

Mr. Luppi played the monstrous Gris with touches of weakness — at one point in the film he sinks to a bathroom floor to lap up a spot of blood.

Mr. Luppi appeared in two more of Mr. del Toro’s films, both set in Franco’s Spain. He was a leftist sympathizer who ran a haunted orphanage in “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001), and the monarch of a fairy kingdom in “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), which won three Academy Awards in 2007.

After Mr. Luppi’s death was reported, Mr. del Toro, writing in Spanish on Twitter, called him “Our Olivier, our Day Lewis, our genius, my dear friend.”

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 30, 1938 The War of the Worlds radio play scared a lot of people.

(14) LISTEN IN. Recordings of the play are available at the Internet Archive, including “War Of The Worlds 1938 Radio Broadcast with Orson Welles”.

The War of the Worlds is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over theColumbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells‘s novel The War of the Worlds (1898).

(15) COMICS SECTION

(16) POTTERMANIA, The Washington Post’s Karla Adam says “London is going all butterbeer over 20th anniversary of Harry Potter”. Her survey of news about the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone includes a British Library exhibit and various fan activities that are taking place all over London.

Not that it takes much to motivate Potter enthusiasts. Last month, for instance, thousands of Muggles descended on Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station to mark the day that Harry Potter’s son Albus left for Hogwarts. For those truly potty about Potter, there is the “Making of Harry Potter” studio tour, next to the film studios where all eight films were made, which in the lead-up to Halloween is hosting feasts in the “Great Hall” with pumpkins and cauldrons full of lollipops.

(17) SOFTWARE. The New York Times Magazine tackles the question, “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” After taking an ax to Benjamin Lee Whorf, the author moves into ancillary matters…

SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisine; Nachbar or Nachbarin. These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.

(18) PLUTO’S REPLACEMENT. The Planetary Society’s vlog does a seasonal installment: “It Came From Planet 9 – The Planetary Post with Robert Picardo”.

Picardo is the Phantom of the Orbit in this terrifying episode of The Planetary Post. Enjoy a special guest visit from Dr. Konstantin Batygin, one of the members of the team which has theorized a big, ninth planet way out beyond Neptune.

Watch the extended interview footage here

 

(19) LEST YOU DISCOVER TOO MUCH. Camestros Felapton warns that spoilers abound in his “Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 7”.

Aaarrrrgghhhh what a frustrating show this thing is! It can get so much right and then fall flat on its face. Spoilers abound below the fold.

But that’s good for those of us who haven’t subscribed to CBS All Access yet.

(20) BEWARE MORE SPOILERS. Whereas Standback’s retrospective of the first several episodes is on Medium: “ST:Discovery, Five Weeks Deep: Burnham and Lorca”.

Alas. We deserve more. True story: for a brief 24 hours, I was really hoping “Lethe” would be the perfect name for an episode where due to [TECHNOBABBLE], everybody mysteriously forgets Burnham’s mutiny, and she suddenly needs to live amongst a crew who thinks she never did anything wrong. (Sorry, y’all, I don’t watch teasers 😛 ) It could have been glorious. Straight talk: I would x100 rather see Burnham try to go to a book club meeting, then pull off another Daring Impossible Foolhardy Mission. She’s got the chops; what she doesn’t have is the writing.

(21) KEEPING THE WOW IN BOW WOW. Save space on your Hugo ballot for this editor.

(22) ALT MONEY. Is comics such a rich field? Vox Day’s new right-wing comics series, Alt*Hero, intended to “wage cultural war on the social justice-converged comic duopoly of Marvel and DC Comics,” finished among the most lucrative crowdfunding campaigns ever.

Alt*Hero features unconventional villains such as Captain Europa of the Global Justice Initiative and controversial heroes such as Michael Martel, a vigilante who drops off criminal undocumented immigrants at the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, and Rebel, an Southern girl whose superhero outfit incorporates the Confederate battle flag.

Vox Day looked over Kickstarter’s records of Comics – Most Funded campaigns and determined:

There have been 10,552 comics-related campaigns. The #21 most-funded Anatomy of Melancholy: The Best of A Softer World came in at $251,062 with 3,923 backers. We will probably pass that up when all is said and done later today since backers are apparently still emailing and adding a few things on, but we come in right behind them at $245,825 at present. Probably won’t be enough to get to the $260,942 required to catch #20, though.

So, it’s definitely the 22nd most-funded of the 10,553 comics-related crowdfunding campaigns, which is not bad. Also, if you look at the other 21, you can see that all of them were established comics prior to the kickstarter. So, we are also the #1 most-funded new comics series.

(23) THE SILENCERS. Not genre, but too strange to ignore: “A weird solution for noodle slurpers in Japan”. A BBC video about a noise-canceling fork — and other strange utensils.

A Japanese noodle maker Nissin Foods is trying to reinvent the way we eat ramen by creating a noise cancelling fork that covers up slurping.

It’s the latest in string of bizarre cutlery inventions. Is it insanely clever or just insanity?

(24) SOUND ADVICE. And it’s also a good time of year to remind people about the availability of X Minus One radio episodes at the Internet Archive:

X Minus One aired on NBC from 24 April 55 until 9 January 58 for a total of 124 episodes with one pilot or audition story. There was a revival of the series in 1973 when radio was attempting to bring back radio drama and it lasted until 1975. The show occupied numerous time slots through out its run in the 50’s and thus was never able to generate a large following. X Minus One was an extension of Dimension X which aired on NBC from 1950-51. The first fifteen scripts used for X Minus One were scripts used in the airing of Dimension X; however, it soon found its own little niche. The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy. Adaptations of these stories were performed by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts. They even wrote a few original stories of their own. The writers of the magazine stories were not well known then but now are the giants of today. These stories came from the minds of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Poul Anderson to name a few. This series has survived from its original airing in high quality to be enjoyed today.

(25) ASGARDIAN SNEAK PEEK. Two minutes from Thor: Ragnarok.

(26) PUMPKINS IN CHORUS. Here’s a Halloween light show sure to bring down the house.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/17 Like Pixels Through A Monitor, These Are The Scrolls Of Our Hive

(1) A FANTASY MAP THAT WORKS. Literature Map, The Tourist Map of Literature is a lot of fun. Seems accurate, too. Plug in a name and give it a whirl.

The Literature-Map is part of Gnod, the Global Network of Discovery. It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system. The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map.

(2) NEW HELMSMAN FOR STARLINE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association announced a change in editorship for its official poetry publication — “Introducing StarLine’s new editor, Vince Gotera”

With the upcoming 40.4 issue of Star*Line we welcome its new editor Vince Gotera, and thank F.J. Bergmann for her exemplary service and vision in what a journal of speculative poetry can be. We look forward to the approach Vince Gotera will take in the years ahead, especially with the arrival of the 40th anniversary of the SFPA in 2018.

Vince Gotera is an award-winning member of the international Science Fiction  and Fantasy Poetry Association, and he has been nominated for Rhysling Awards.

Vince was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Philippines for part of his childhood. He completed undergraduate studies at City College of San Francisco and Stanford University, where he earned a BA. He earned an MA at San Francisco University and both an MFA and a PhD at Indiana University.  He is the author of the poetry collections Dragonfly (1994) , Ghost Wars (2003) and Fighting Kite (2007) and the critical volume Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (1994).  His upcoming volume of poetry is Pacific Crossings. 

He is also a former editor of North American Review and was the poetry editor of the journal Asian America.

(3) ELECTRIC SHEEP DREAMER. The argument continues: NPR’s Adam Frank asks, “Is Harrison Ford An Android In ‘Blade Runner’?”

But it has gotta be the last director’s cut.

That is where you get to see exactly why director Ridley Scott’s movie is considered so important and so influential. His vision of a future Los Angeles that is all torrential rain, steam and blue searchlights piercing through ruin is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

But it’s also in this final cut that Scott reinserts two scenes the studio removed. They hold the key to Deckard’s status. Near the end of the film, Deckard has a dream about a unicorn. Later, he is escaping with Rachael — the beautiful next-generation replicant whom he has fallen for. Just as they walk out the door of his apartment, he finds an origami figure in the shape of a unicorn that was left by his former police partner Gaff. This signals that Gaff (who has a major origami habit) knows about Deckard’s dream because it’s not really Deckard’s. It’s an implant. Every replicant’s memories and dreams are fake. They are implanted to give a “back story” needed to stabilize the replicant’s artificial personality.

So the unicorn dream is central to the “Deckard as replicant” argument….

(4) AMBISCAREDSTROUS. The Los Angeles Times interviews “Horror master Guillermo del Toro on how scaring people is different on TV and in the movies”.

“There is a big difference when the mediums are different,” Del Toro says during a recent interview on the phone from Toronto, where he lives part time and also where “At Home With Monsters,” the traveling museum exhibition of his memorabilia, artwork and ephemera, recently opened.

In explaining the distinctions between the different methods of storytelling, be it movies, television, books or graphic novels, Del Toro also points out the ways in which they interrelate.

“TV now you have to plan it, you structure it for binge watching,” he says. “Meaning, you structure the whole season like a three-act play. You have a first act, the first third of the season, second act is the middle third and you structure it like that. Whereas a movie you’re dealing with a continuous experience that’s going to last around two hours, so it’s more traditional.

“The other mediums, like video games or books, may follow different sets of rules,” he continues. “But what I find really interesting as a storyteller is that each of those mediums informs the other. You find yourself applying tricks that you learned developing a video game in telling a movie. Little tricks that you learn structurally working in TV, you apply them to a movie and so forth.”

(5) PUMPKINSTEIN. Here’s what was scaring people in 2014 — this price for a pumpkin: “Pumpkinstein Is The Only Halloween Pumpkin You’ll Ever Need”.

People never believe it’s real the first time they see it; they all want to touch it to make sure,” Tony Dighera of Cinagro Farms in Fillmore, Calif., told The New York Times.

Dighera told the Tri-Valley Dispatch that it took four years and $500,000 to develop the technique and find the perfect pumpkin for the job.

“When you try something for four years of your life, people really start to think you’re wacko,” he told the Times.

What some people may find “wacko,” however, is the price. Dighera is selling Pumpkinsteins for about $75 wholesale, with retailers marking them up to $100 and even $125.

For a pumpkin. A very cool pumpkin that looks like Frankenstein, but still a pumpkin.

(6) THE BEST. Now available, The Best of Richard Matheson, edited by Victor LaValle from Penguin.

Where Matheson shines is in his depictions of ordinary horror, the way strange goings-on affect everyday people, and his ambiguous endings leave plenty of room for further thought. As a bonus, editor LaValle offers an enlightening introduction that discusses Matheson’s influence on his own work and even offers up the story behind what he calls his “Matheson moment,” giving more heft to the stories that follow.

(7) DON’T BE KNOCKIN’. Victor LaValle pays homage to the horror master with a real-life story from his own past — “My Favorite Richard Matheson Story Is the One I Lived Through” at Electric Lit.

Anyway, I’m standing there and Tasha and Lianne are coming through the doorway and then I heard it, a sound in the kitchen. Knocking. Not all that loud, but I was close to the kitchen and getting closer. By that I mean that Tasha and Lianne were taking off their coats and I ran away. Later I told Cedric I went to “get them water,” but there’s no other way to say it: I fled.

As soon as I entered the kitchen the knocking stopped. I figured it might be their boiler kicking in. It was winter after all. I knew I’d run away though so I came up with the water idea and went scrounging for cups. This led me on a chase through the cupboards as, in the other room, Cedric called for me. And then I reached their pantry door. This style of one-family home had a separate little pantry, about the size of a small walk-in closet. I found the door there and, still hunting for glasses, I tried the handle and found it locked. Then Cedric walked into the kitchen.

“Cheese,” he said. “You making me look bad.”

(8) TAINT BY NUMBERS. Junot Diaz’ introduction to Global Dystopias, “To Map, to Warn, to Hope”, from the Boston Review.

William Gibson has famously declared, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Gibson’s words have been much on my mind of late. How could they not be? The president is a white nationalist sympathizer who casually threatens countries with genocide and who can’t wait to build a great wall across the neck of the continent to keep out all the “bad hombres.” After a hurricane nearly took out Houston, the country’s most visible scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, stated that the effects of climate change may have grown so severe that he doubts the nation will be able to withstand the consequences.

For me, literature, and those formations that sustain it, have ever been a eutopic enclave against a darkening dystopian world.

Then, as if on cue, Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony almost completely bankrupt by neoliberal malfeasance, was struck by Hurricane Maria with such apocalyptic force that it more or less knocked the island into pre-modernity. Earlier today a former student informed me that more skin bleaching is consumed in India than Coca-Cola, and on the edge of my computer a new site is announcing that the Chinese government has made it nearly impossible for its 730 million Internet users to express opinions online anonymously. Plus this little cheery gem from the Federal Reserve: the top 1 percent of the U.S. population controls 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, an inequality chasm that makes the Middle Ages look egalitarian. Whether we’re talking about our cannibal economics or the rising tide of xenophobia or the perennial threat of nuclear annihilation, it seems that the future has already arrived.

(9) GONE VIRAL. These hitchhikers are along for the evolutionary ride: “Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA”, in the New York Times.

In July, scientists reported that a strange protein courses through the veins of pregnant women. No one is sure what it’s there for.

What makes this protein, called Hemo, so unusual is that it’s not made by the mother. Instead, it is made in her fetus and in the placenta, by a gene that originally came from a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.

Hemo is not the only protein with such an alien origin: Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome. And scientists are only starting to figure out what this viral DNA is doing to us.

(10) HISTORY IS BUNK. Once again, an appealing theory is murdered by a few lousy facts: “Sinister ‘Secrets’ of Easter Island’s Doomed Civilization Begin to Unravel With Rapa Nui Genetic Discovery”.

Recently, Rapa Nui has become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. In the “ecocide” hypothesis popularised by the geographer Jared Diamond, Rapa Nui is used as a demonstration of how society is doomed to collapse if we do not sit up and take note. But more than 60 years of archaeological research actually paints a very different picture—and now new genetic data sheds further light on the island’s fate. It is time to demystify Rapa Nui.

The ‘ecocide’ narrative doesn’t stand up

The ecocide hypothesis centres on two major claims. First, that the island’s population was reduced from several tens of thousands in its heyday, to a diminutive 1,500-3,000 when Europeans first arrived in the early 18th century.

Second, that the palm trees that once covered the island were callously cut down by the Rapa Nui population to move statues. With no trees to anchor the soil, fertile land eroded away resulting in poor crop yields, while a lack of wood meant islanders couldn’t build canoes to access fish or move statues. This led to internecine warfare and, ultimately, cannibalism….

…Perhaps, then, the takeaway from Rapa Nui should not be a story of ecocide and a Malthusian population collapse. Instead, it should be a lesson in how sparse evidence, a fixation with “mysteries,” and a collective amnesia for historic atrocities caused a sustainable and surprisingly well-adapted population to be falsely blamed for their own demise.

(11) WE HATES IT. How much does the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis dislike Goodbye Christopher Robin? This much:

As predictable as mermaid frocks at the Oscars, Hollywood greets the end of the year by suddenly noticing that roughly a third of moviegoers (and three-quarters of art-house audiences) are over 50, most of them women. This annual phenomenon can lead to theaters clogged with old-lady bait, which usually means something British and upper-crusty, preferably with literary roots. A dollop of war, a death or two, and it’s off to the awards races. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” checks all the boxes. Drenched in dappled light and Carter Burwell’s honeyed score, Simon Curtis’s glowing picture dangles the story of how the author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) created the Winnie-the-Pooh tales using the stuffed animals of his son, Christopher Robin (beautifully played by little Will Tilston). What we’re really watching, though, is no less than a stiffly depressing portrait of toffee-nosed child abuse….

(12) WEIN’S LAST SWAMP THING. Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly we know “New Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 to feature posthumous story from co-creator Len Wein”.

Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, who died in September at the age of 69, was one of the most influential comic book writers and editors ever, leaving his mark on the DC and Marvel Universes. At the time of his death, he was hard at work on a new story about the iconic DC Comics character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing, the avatar of the Green.

Before he died, Wein had completed the script for the first issue of a new series about the vegetation-covered monstrosity formerly known as Alec Holland, which would be illustrated by his 2016 Swamp Thing  miniseries partner Kelley Jones. While we won’t ever see this series come to fruition, EW can exclusively reveal that fans will get a chance to read the first issue of the planned series in 2018 when DC Comics releases Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (on sale Jan. 31), which will present the story in both its original script form with art by Jones.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 15, 2003 — China launched its first manned space mission becoming the third country in history to send a person into orbit.

(14) SEXUAL COURSE CORRECTION. Trae Dorn, at Nerd & Tie, reports “On ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ TV’s Constantine Will Finally Be Allowed to Smoke, Be Into Dudes”.

When Matt Ryan first played the title role on NBC’s Constantine, the peacock network was a little nervous about acknowledging two things about the character: his bisexuality and his chain smoking. And while they let John Constantine occasionally hold a cigarette, his being into guys was kind of a sore spot steadfastly avoided by the show. Ryan has since reprised the part on The CW’s Arrow, which merged the continuities. With the addition of a forthcoming CW Seed animated series, many fans of the comics’ version of the character have hoped his sexuality would be finally addressed.

And we’re happy to say, it will be.

It’s been announced that Matt Ryan’s Constantine will guest star on a Legends of Tomorrow two parter this season, and when he does his bisexuality will be directly acknowledged….

(15) BRANCH OFFICES. If the government did this for employees, it would be a scandal. A private company did it, so it’s a nice feature article, “Microsoft built tree houses for its employees”. The Verge has the story.

The tree houses are a part of Microsoft’s “outdoor districts” which are connected to buildings around its Redmond campus. They feature weatherproof benches, hatches that hide electricity sockets, rustproof rocking chairs, a fireplace, wood canopies, and an outdoor Wi-Fi network. There are ramps built in for those who need them. If you get hungry, there’s also an indoor cafeteria that’s extended outside and a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container.

Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.

(16) SHORTCHANGED. SF Bluestocking says — “Star Trek: Discovery – A long, poetic episode title is no substitute for real depth”:

After a strong two-part premiere and a decent transitional episode last week, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a bit of a disappointment. After cramming a ton of set-up and plot into its first three episodes, what the show needs now is to establish a new normal and give the characters a reprieve from the constant barrage of Events! Happening! so the audience can get to know these people we’re supposed to care about. This is a needle that was successfully threaded in “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars,” where we were given a nice prologue and several flashbacks to establish Burnham’s character and her friendship with Captain Georgiou, and this gave weight to the events at the end of the second episode, setting up Burnham for a redemption arc over the rest of the series. Last week’s episode contrived to get Burnham onto the Discovery and introduced a new cast of characters, so the next logical step would be to show us more of how these characters interact with each other, what makes them tick, or even just how Burnham settles in to the normal rhythm of life on the ship. Instead, this episode features another crisis, but it struggles throughout to convey why any of these events should matter to the viewer….

Warning: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

(17) IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU’RE YOUNG AT HEART. Now Creation Entertainment is running a cycle of Once Upon A Time conventions. The next is in Burbank, CA in November.

Every once in a blue moon a television series captures the hearts of viewers who become passionate about their love of the storyline, the look and feel of the show, and the actors that breathe life into the characters we come to cherish. ABC’s Once Upon A Time certainly fills that rare bill as fans worldwide have made this show one that is the talk of the Internet and eagerly followed by viewers, much in the tradition of other series that Creation Entertainment has been involved with in its 45-year history.

 

(18) WENDIG BOOK IN DEVELOPMENT FOR TV. Yesterday, Chuck Wendig called the internet to attention:

*ahem*

I have an announcement to make.

*opens mouth*

*ants pour out*

*ants collectively spell a message*

FBI Drama From Jerry Bruckheimer TV & ‘MacGyver’ EP David Slack Set At CBS

*ants return to mouth*

*maw snaps shut*

So, if you click that link, you’ll see a couple notable paragraphs:

CBS has put in development Unthinkable, an FBI crime drama from Jerry Bruckheimer Television and MacGyver executive producer David Slack. CBS Television Studios, where both JBTV and Slack are based, is the studio.

Written and executive produced by Slack, Unthinkable, based on Chuck Wendig’s 2016 novel Invasive, is about a brilliant futurist, trained to see danger around every corner, who’s recruited by an uncharacteristically optimistic FBI Agent to identify the threats only she can see coming – and stop them before it’s too late.

(19) NOT JUST A COMIC CON. Japanese pop culture will be celebrated at Youmacon2017 in Detroit from November 2-5.

Downtown Detroit is filled with people in costumes, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Thousands of Japanese pop culture fans have come from all over the country to Youmacon…

Youmacon is a popular culture event similar to most “Comic Cons”, however instead of focusing on comic books, Youmacon is a celebration of Japanese popular culture and its influence on our own culture over the past few decades. Common themes throughout the event are Anime (Japanese animation), Video Games, Japanese style artwork and comics, and the rising internet culture influenced by all of the above.

Youmacon brings a unique all-ages mix of interactive events, celebrity guest panels, and live musical performances to Downtown Detroit. One of its most popular events, “Live Action Mario Party”, emulates the video game experience – often filling the room to fire code capacity. Players participate in gameshow-like mini-games to help their teams advance and win.

Wearing costumes, or “Cosplay” as it’s known at conventions, is very popular with attendees of Youmacon.

(20) FRIGHTFULLY TASTY. He was a terror on the screen but a sweetheart in the kitchen, and his recipes are making a comeback: “Dish up some scary-good eats with new expanded Vincent Price cookbook”.

Vincent Price might have been the Merchant of Menace in classic fright films like House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and House of Wax, but he was also quite the Renaissance man. Besides being a familiar face in horror films, Price was renowned for his impressive collection of fine art (even selling tasteful paintings for Sears!) and his wizardry in the kitchen as a master chef.

One of Price’s best-selling cookbooks is getting an expanded makeover by Dover’s Calla Editions and being re-released in a deluxe volume, which includes additional material, memories, and comments by his daughter, Victoria, and son, V.B.

(21) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. Here’s s link to Archive.org’s recording of Patrick Magee reading Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman originally aired by the BBC in 1997. One reviewer said:

This is a unique work by Flann O’Brien – funny, oblique,odd, beguiling, and horrific by turns. It’s got a peculiar, pastoral, otherworldly quality, yet at the same time you can believe that it really is taking place in some deranged Irish backwater town. To give you an example something that made me howl with laughter, the central character falls foul of the law, and is sentenced to be hanged, on a trumped up charge, so they build a gallows in the police station yard, but the chippie is scarcely competent, so he prevails on the narrator to give him a hand….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lace, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Nigellicus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]