Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

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

2017 Phoenix and Rebel Awards

Winners of three traditional DeepSouthCon awards were announced in High Point, NC on July 15 during ConGregate 4, host of DSC 55.

The Phoenix Award is given to the professional (writer, editor or artist) who has done the most for Southern fandom. The two honorees are authors Simon Hawke and Aaron Allston.

The Rebel Award is awarded to the fan who has done the most for southern fandom. This year’s recipients were Bob Ellis and Mike Pederson.

The winner of the facetious Rubble Award, given to the individual who has done the most TO the Southern Fandom, was the Chattanooga Choo-choo Hotel, for closing down.

[Via Guy Lillian III and George Wells.]

Binker Hughes (1946-2016)

Elizabeth Mabel Binker Glock Hughes, Ph.D., died June 28 of cancer. The death of the long-time member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA) was just recently learned by her friends in fandom.

Guy H. Lillian III recalls, “Binker joined SFPA the same mailing as I did — #39, January 1971. She and her husband Steve were able Emergency Officers during a terrible crisis several years later and ran a fine DeepSouthCon in 1976.  She was always great company and a great friend. Rose-Marie and I send our best to her family, and I am saddened beyond description at her loss.”

Binker Hughes lived most of her life near Atlanta, GA, was married to Steve Hughes for 20 years and divorced in 1991. They ran two DeepSouthCons, in 1972 and 1976, the latter co-chaired with Ned Brooks.

Binker, Steve Hughes, and Ned Brooks at the 1976 DeepSouthCon.

Binker, Steve Hughes, and Ned Brooks at the 1976 DeepSouthCon.

The family obituary lists her many interests.

A freelance writer, she wrote for many commercial clients and online magazines; leaving a body of unpublished fiction work. She loved music, speleology, taekwondo, travel, science fiction and particularly St. James Anglican Church in Sandy Springs, GA.

[Thanks to Guy H. Lillian III for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/16 As Some Day It May Happen That A Pixel Must Be Found, I’ve Scrolled A Little List

(1) NOM DE GLOOM. Turns out nobody will ever voyage to Alpha Centauri – because the astronomical equivalent of the post office has given it a change of address – “Alpha Centauri Gets a New Moniker as 227 Star Names Are Clarified”.

Alpha Centauri” is getting the boot. The longstanding star name has been displaced by its ancient counterpart in a new International Astronomical Union (IAU) catalog that designates 227 official names for different stars in the sky.

The move was intended to reduce confusion, according to the IAU. For instance, a star like Fomalhaut has at least 30 different names, so it’s difficult to figure out what to call it — or even how to spell it. Variations over the years have included Fumalhaut, Fomalhut and even the unusual Fomal’gaut.

The IAU, which is the official arbiter of astronomical names, chose single names to refer to those stars that have historically had many. Some of the decisions may rattle longtime observers, however. For example, the binary star Alpha Centauri, which lies 4.35 light-years from the sun, is now known officially as “Rigil Kentaurus,” the ancient name for the system.

(2) WHELAN ART PROJECT. Michael Whelan has a Kickstarter going for a new book with Baby Tattoo. The book is being published to coincide with an exhibition of Michael’s art at the Riverside Art Museum in Southern California in February.

It’s actually done very well already – the target was $10,000, and $54,056 has been raised with 22 days to go.

whelan-beyond

(3) DON’T SPOON FEED THE AUDIENCE. Misha Burnett made a good point in a comment at Mad Genius Club.

I think that “overbackstorying” is one of the signature literary sins of our age. During the after-film discussion with my roommate after we had we had seen “Dr. Strange” the subject came up of filmmakers not trusting audiences to pick up on subtleties.

I can just imagine a remake of “Citizen Kane”.

“Come in now, young man–you can’t stay out there with your new sled, which is called ‘Rosebud’ all day!”

“But I love my new sled, which is called Rosebud! No matter what happens for the rest of my life, this will be the moment I’ll remember on my deathbed!”

(4) YOU CAN TALK TO THE HORSE, BUT NOT NECESSARILY OF COURSE. Fantasy Faction reposted Aaron Miles’ insightful article “A Question of Technology”.

How fantasy elements interact with technology is another aspect of worldbuilding to consider. Necessity is the mother of invention, the creation of a tool to aid in a task. But when you have characters that can make it rain at will, it seems pointless to dig ditches for irrigation. Does your world have magical solutions instead of technological ones, how prevalent is magic and its availability in solving daily problems? The opposite can be true as well, does your world have technological solutions to magical problems? Has a castle population built giant net launchers and long range crossbows to help defend themselves from dragon attacks? Perhaps they’ve developed fire resistant armour and building materials. This is an example of the necessity point in action, it’s human nature to try and counter a hostile force. In a world ruled by magic users, perhaps a resistance has created mechanical devices that negate their powers; maybe your heroes need them to complete a quest?

The level of technology in your work can influence the plot and what kind of solutions the writer can present to their characters. Is a character sick or injured? Is there a medical cure, it is easily available or a rarity? What about travel, does your world have domesticated horses, are there paved roads that allow them to make good time?

(5) WISHLIST OF A FAN’S DREAMS. Corrina Lawson made a list of “Fictional Presents We’d Love to Receive This Holiday Season” for B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Translation Microbe (Farscape) Lots of translation devices pop up in science fiction universes, including the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but you have to stick that leech-like thing in your ear. Ew. The Translation Microbe from Farscape also has to be sent into the body (via injection), rooting itself at the base of the brain. But it’s painless, aside from the initial injection, and there’s nothing living in your head. As for Star Trek‘s universal translator? That’s a machine that can be lost or destroyed, and you don’t want to be caught out as a stranger in a strange land.

(6) ATKINS OBIT. Lon Atkins (1942-2016) has died. Guy Lillian III sent this tribute about the legendary fan.

Lon Atkins, lost either yesterday or just this morning, was a titan in our Southern fannish world. His Rebel Award, his Fan GoHship at the DSC, were beautiful if finally inadequate reflections of his contribution to our early days as a regional fandom and our growth into the vibrant and important segment of SFdom we’ve become.  He was Official Editor of SFPA for four years and kept it going through its slimmest days.  His fabled battles at the Hearts table with his great frtiend Hank Reinhardt were not only legendary, but entertaining, helping to build the sense of community that marks the region and its game.  He did the best apazines — the best-written, the best-reproed, the most comprehensive — I have ever seen.  And he was a gentleman.

I am lost in regret.  Lon was a mentor and a model for how a good man conducts himself in science fiction fandom.  MELIKAPHKAZ forever!

(7) JIM C. HINES RESUMES FUNDRAISING AUCTIONS. He took a few days off for the holiday, but Jim C. Hines today is taking bids on an autographed, personalized series from Sherwood Smith.

Welcome back to the third of 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions.

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

Auction number three is for a personally autographed hardcover set of either the  INDA or DOBRENICA series, by author Sherwood Smith. Sherwood is also willing to personalize the books if the donor wishes — doodles, notes about something they’re interested in on the text, etc.

(8) FOR THOSE WHO COULD NOT MAKE IT IN PERSON. The exhibit ended its local run yesterday, and will be moving on to other cities. Steve Weintraub has done his best to show Collider readers what they missed — “Over 150 Pictures from the Cool & Unusual ‘Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters’ LACMA Exhibit”.

As you’ll see in the pictures below, not only will you notice things from his films like Cronos, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Crimson Peak, you’ll see the 1907 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, original Moebius artwork, original comic book pages from Alan Moore’s From Hell, concept art from films like Walt Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, James Cameron’s Aliens, Drew Struzan’s poster for Pan’s Labyrinth, his love of all things Dracula, Frankenstein, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and so much more.

Since most people will never be able to check out the At Home with Monsters exhibit, while walking around I took a ton of pictures. Even though I snapped over 150 high-resolution pics, trust me when I say I didn’t come close to capturing everything there and if you’re near the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Minneapolis Museum of Art when the exhibition opens in either city, I strongly suggest stopping by and seeing it for yourself.

(9) WORLD FANTASY PROGRAM. From Tor.com we learn that the 2017 World Fantasy Con is gathering program ideas. The convention’s theme is Secret Histories – The Use of History in Fantasy. Use their online form.

(10) THE MAGICIANS ON SYFY. This is no fantasy. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians returns for Season 2 on January 25.

(11) THE HOLE YOU SAY. Cards Against Humanity raised over $100,000 on Black Friday by broadcasting a video of a giant hole and asking its users to throw the money in!

This has raised a lot of questions in NPR’s newsroom, some of which Cards Against Humanity endeavored to answer on its site:

What’s happening here?

Cards Against Humanity is digging a holiday hole.

Is this real?

Unfortunately it is.

Where is the hole?

America. And in our hearts.

Is there some sort of deeper meaning or purpose to the hole?

No.

What do I get for contributing money to the hole?

A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?

Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

Is the hole bad for the environment?

No, this was just a bunch of empty land. Now there’s a hole there. That’s life.

How am I supposed to feel about this?

You’re supposed to think it’s funny. You might not get it for a while, but some time next year you’ll chuckle quietly to yourself and remember all this business about the hole.

How deep can you make this sucker?

Great question. As long as you keep spending, we’ll keep digging. We’ll find out together how deep this thing goes.

(12) JONATHAN LIVINGSTON YODA. CinemaBlend makes sure were there when a “Star Wars Bad Lip Reading Video Turns Empire Into Hilariously Funky Seagull Song”.

The folks at Bad Lip Reading have produced some stellar videos over the course of the last few years, but this one might actually be their magnum opus. Reimagining Luke Skywalker’s time with Yoda on Dagobah, the video follows the mismatched pair as the ancient Jedi master sings to a clearly annoyed Luke. Using the speech of the Yoda puppet as a template, the video features a voiceover that replaces the wise teachings of the alien warrior with utter nonsense about seagulls, logs giving birth to sticks, and getting hit in the neck with a hacky sack. It’s undoubtedly one of the weirdest Star Wars related videos that we have ever seen on the Internet, but it’s also that weirdness that makes it so utterly awesome.

 

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Guy H. Lillian III, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Peggy Ranson (1948-2016)

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson, a very popular fanartist in the 1990s, passed away March 16 from cancer. The family’s obituary is here.

She grew up in Memphis, and attended Memphis State University. While living in New Orleans she worked as a commercial artist for D.H. Holmes and the Times Picayune.

Ranson was employed as an ad illustrator when she volunteered to help with the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Guy H. Lillian III remembers, “She co-edited the Nolacon II program book with me, did scads of inimitable and exquisite fan art, and graced every moment we spent with her.” Lillian writes that this piece was her first fan art.

23ranson

She was an L. Ron Hubbard Illustrator of the Future contest finalist in 1990, and attended the awards ceremonies (see photo).

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Ranson was a Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee every year from 1991-1998, winning in 1993. Lillian liked to say she was only the second fan from Louisiana (adopted) to win a Hugo (the first was Camille Cazedessus, publisher of ERB-dom.)

Peggy Ranson with HugoShe did countless pieces of art for conventions, bids, and fanzines, and for charitable publications like the Charlie Card Fund’s 1991 Fantasy Art Calendar. Her work won Best in Show at the 1991 Worldcon art show (Chicon V).

There’s a small gallery of her black-and-white art at Fanac.org.

Ranson cover for Challenger

Ranson was a guest of honor at DeepSouthCon 34 in 1996, and Armadillocon 20 in 1998, and other small cons across the South.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 she fled to Memphis. Afterwards she wrote a long account of her escape and what it was like to return to the heavily damaged city in Challenger 23.

maureen_origAlthough she did some cover art for professional publications, she does not seem to have pursued that as a vocation, for many of her assignments were for books by writers or small press publisers she knew well. This includes her covers for The NESFA Index to Short Science Fiction for 1989 (1992), Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson: The Complete Stories (1993) a paperback of George Alec Effinger stories from Swan Press, Girls for the Slime God (1997) a collection of stories edited by Mike Resnick, and Birthright: The Book of Man (1997) by Mike Resnick. She also did interiors for magazines, including Algis Budrys’ Tomorrow Speculative Fiction.

Ranson is survived by a sister and two brothers (one of them her twin), and several nieces and nephews.

Patrick H. Adkins (1948-2015)

By Guy H. Lillian III: Patrick H. Adkins, New Orleans author and lifelong Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, has passed away.  His books included Lord of the Crooked Paths (1987), Master of the Fearful Depths (1989), Sons of the Titans (1990), and The Third Beast (2011), plus a volume of previously uncollected Edgar Rice Burroughs short stories collected by himself and John H. Guidry and a booklet of David H. Keller stories, The Last Magician.  He was once editor of the New Orleans SF Association’s genzine, Nolazine.  He is survived by wife Dixie, a son, a daughter, and friends without number, including me, all of whom are devastated by this horrible, horrible news.

Rosy and I send our love and best hopes to Dixie, their kids, and John, who had been friends with his fellow Burroughs-o-phile since 1964.  Modern New Orleans fandom dates from two events in that year: John’s meeting with Justin Winston at a French Quarter bookstore, and his first phone encounter with Pat, a four-hour conversation that really, had no end until this past Tuesday.

Pat was a gentleman, a scholar, and a fast friend.

Dennis Dolbear Passes Away

Dennis Dolbear at DeepSouthCon 50 in 2012. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Dennis Dolbear at DeepSouthCon 50 in 2012. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Louisiana fan Dennis Dolbear died June 17 from pneumonia and septicemia reports SF Site News.

Dolbear joined the New Orleans Science Fiction Association (NOSFA) as a young fan within a few years of its 1967 founding, and enthusiastically helped create its fannish mythos. Although the growing club was just a few years old, some of its charter members shortly began to feel overwhelmed by an influx of Star Trek fans. To console themselves, they gathered at the home of “Faruk von Turk” (Justin Winston) and established the “Sons of the Sand.” As Dolbear later explained:

The Sons of the Sand (and the affiliated Daughters of the Desert) is actually the parent group for a number of affiliated organizations such as the Cubist Poetry Society, the Damon Runyon Society of N.O., the Uptown Meerschaum Collectors, and the N.O. Double Contra Basso Jug Band, to name but a few. The only requirement for joining either the parent or subsidiary societies is that the applicant be of gentle (i.e. noble) birth. Validity of pedigree will be decided by the Admissions Committee. (Note: ersatz SCA titles are, of course, not acceptable.) The Caliph (or leader) of the organization is the member with the most distinguished ancestry. This post is presently held by Faruk von Turk, who has authenticated his lineage to Charlemagne and Charles Martel. The post is also claimed by Donald Walsh, Jr., who has adduced some evidence that he is descended from the Roman emperor Caligula. The Committee has not fully accepted his claim, although if validated it would of course preempt von Turk’s. 

Dennis Dolbear and Mike Macro when the world was young.

Dolbear was a long-time member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, active from 1971 to 1994. He regularly contributed NOSFAn, the clubzine he coedited with Peter Bezbak and, as the years passed, other zines with such colorful titles as Lapis Lazuli and Bouffant Jellyfish. For a time it became a SFPA tradition to list his name on the masthead among the officers under an ever-changing series of titles like “Official Provider of Life Support & Morale Boosts,” and “Bestest Buddy & Sweet Patootie.”

Dolbear was an attorney by profession. He and his colleague, Guy Lillian III, once thought to generate some business from the out-of-town football fans who came to New Orleans for bowl games and got into trouble in the French Quarter. The duo took out an ad in the Florida Flambeau, the FSU student paper, advertising their legal services. Their ad generated a lot of publicity, if not business. Sports Illustrated picked up the story (“Ill Legal Pitch”) and Dolbear gave an interview to the Orlando Sentinel:

Using unique entrepreneurial skills, Dolbear and Lillian have cast their lines into the water, looking to snag jail bait in a sea of N’awlins debauchery. The two civil attorneys from New Orleans took out an ad in the Florida Flambeau, the Florida State campus newspaper, offering their legal services to anyone suffering from the Bourbon Street Blues.

”If you get in trouble, we can help you out,” reads the ad. ”If you need a lawyer in New Orleans, call us.”

”It’s not so much that we’re ambulance chasers,” Dolbear said. ”Ambulance chasers are trying to cultivate a situation that might not otherwise exist. In our case, we are simply offering our services to people who get arrested. If you get in trouble and you don’t know who to call, we are here.”

Perhaps Dolbear’s most riveting piece of fanwriting was “Survivor” in Challenger 23, an account of how he and his 85-year-old mother clung to the side of their house to avoid drowning in the floodwaters released by Hurricane Katrina:

We then took the only refuge left. We went into the water – now over 9 feet high – and clung to the gutters above, in a 125 mile-per-hour wind and swift flood. (My mother is nothing if not tough.) After a short while, I moved to a tree outside, with flexible branches that I could crouch in. From this spot, I could relieve the stress on the gutter – already starting to bend – and be in a position to save my mother if she should let go – which she almost did, several times and did, once – I dived beneath the water and pulled her, with strength I got from who knows where. But she held, and I held, and we endured about two or maybe three hours in the full wrath of Katrina. I will never forget this, not as long as I live, and mere words seem inadequate to describe the storm’s power – and how small, how vulnerable it made you feel.

But after a few hours, the wind abated, and – could it be – the water actually started to drop. I checked again, mentally marking the water height against the bricks – yes, yes! it was dropping! We might not die after all! Our danger had passed.

No wonder Guy Lillian III ended his message about Dolbear’s passing — “[I] congratulate each and every one of us on having such a remarkable friend.”

Lookout Shreveport!

The only kind of “incoming” fanzine editor Guy Lillian III ordinarily watches for are letters of comment on Challenger. But the Shreveport resident might have a new worry, suggests Andrew Porter – North Korean missles! The Washington Post reports —  

The latest ridiculous North Korean propaganda video includes threats to launch … missiles at four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

The only problem is that the video, released by the state-run media organization Uriminzokkiri, misidentifies Colorado Springs’ location by about 1,000 miles. As the voice-over excitedly discusses North Korea’s plan to launch a missile at the home of a number of important military installations, as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy, a dot on a map meant to indicate the city actually appears somewhere over the deep south.

You can hear the narrator mention Colorado Springs at about 1 minute, 20 seconds into the video, as a scary-looking line is shown shooting out from North Korea and landing somewhere in the vicinity of Shreveport, La., a 900-mile drive southeast from the intended target.

Better keep watching the skies there, Guy.

The North Korean video had already alarmed another friend of mine who awoke to it playing on the news one morning. His company creates collections of synthesizer music for use in the film industry, and the video’s soundtrack is their composition.   

 

Nearly Gone With The Wind

Guy Lillian III says he had never seen a twister and regretted it. Then on October 29, while the latest in a series of terrible thunderstorms was marching across his section of Louisiana, Guy started driving home from work down the Old Benton Road and got caught in something much stronger and more dangerous than he expected:

A trashcan lid spun over my hood like a giant frisbee. The rain turned white. The white became opaque. I couldn’t see the road. I hit my emergency blinkers and pulled over, hoping I wouldn’t find a ditch… I remembered some of that twister [documentary]: the sudden white wind tearing hell out of the world. I said to myself, “Hell, I’m in the middle of it,” because I knew what was coming inside that depthless white pall. 

Now I was heading away from the action.  I floored Little Red and ran for it…. I turned back to Old Benton Road.  The tall sign of one of the car dealerships was twisted like a pipecleaner and leaning. That just happened, I said to myself…. 

Guy assures everyone that he came through “Unscathed, both me and car — except for a small crack in the windshield (the car, not me). Found out that the twister was a Force 2.  I’m not rattled about it, just … thoughtful.” A full write-up is coming in the next Challenger.