Pixel Scroll 8/23/17 Best Pixel Scroll Title Ever

(1) EVERYBODY NEEDS A HOBBY. They look like inanimate objects auditioning for parts in an N.K. Jemisin novel. What they really are is more easily explained: “How stone poses became a surreal project”.

“Sometimes people assume they must be Photoshopped, but that would be more of a technical challenge than what I actually do, which is throw the rock into the air – or ask a friend to throw it for me – and photograph it while it is up there.

“That way the light and shadow position themselves correctly on the rock without any further intervention.”

(2) GRAPHIC ARTS AND SCIENCE. In “What’s your science teacher doing in a comic book?”, the Washington Post’s Erin Blakemore discuses “S.T.E.A.M. Within The Panels:  Science Storytelling Through Comic Books, Comic Strips, and Graphic Novels”, currently on exhibit at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Space is massive, time is infinite, and the future is limitless. But, with comic books, the massive, the infinite, and the limitless are broken down into individual panels, discrete moments of time that readers ingest and process at their own pace. From the factual to the fantastic, comic books and graphic stories show the application of science in the modern world and well beyond, one panel at a time.

Since very early in their history, comics have been inspired by science, resulting in stories that range from hopeful to bleak, utopian to dystopian, and somewhere in between. In “S.T.E.A.M Within the Panels” we look at how science has been depicted in comics and narrative literature. Some of the pieces are explicitly connected to science, while others reflect reactions to science. Others still are, in the tradition of science fiction, springboards to speculation based on scientific ideas. In all, they show how comics project the complicated and often contradictory ways that the public perceives science.

Includes the work of the following artists and creators: Jordan Clark, Matt Dembiciki, Kata Kane, Sean Gorman, Jay Hosler, Vince Underwood, Paul Hoppe, Magret de Heer, Matteo Farinella, Katie McKisock, Rosemary Mosco, Damion Scott, James Harvey, Orion Zangara, Paul Sizer, Vasco Sobral, Roxanne Bee, D.M. Higgins, Kelly Phillips, Matthew R. McDaniel, and more!

(3) CHOWCAST. Scott Edelman invites you to Brunch on Eggs Benedict with A. Merc Rustad in Episode 45 of Eating the Fantastic.

A. Merc Rustad. Photoby Scott Edelman.

A. Merc Rustad has published fiction in Lightspeed, Uncanny, Shimmer, and other magazines, and their short story “How To Become A Robot In 12 Easy Steps” was included in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. They were on that weekend’s Nebula ballot in the short story category for “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” which is included in their debut short story collection So You Want to Be a Robot, described by Publishers Weekly as “unmissable.”

We discussed some terrible writing advice which messed with their head and the way they got over it, how the Redwall series by Brian Jacques turned them from a reader to a writer, why some fan fiction doesn’t get the fan fiction label while other fan fiction does, the reason the animated television series Beast Wars: Transformers was such a major influence both professionally and personally, why they almost destroyed their Nebula-nominated story “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” the secrets to assembling a short story collection, and more.

(4) A ROYAL WEDDING. TrekMovie.com found a funny video clip to run at the end of their news flash “Terry Farrell and Adam Nimoy To Wed”:

Congratulations are in order for two members of the Star Trek family. Over the weekend Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Terry Farrell confirmed that she was engaged to be married to Adam Nimoy, son of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy. The news first came via Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz and was confirmed by Terry via Twitter.

 

(5) CRAFT TIME. The weapon for the chosen one has been forged.

(6) DESTROYING SF IN PRINT. The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter reached the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction  PHYSICAL BOOK STRETCH GOAL.

Everybody who backs for just that or at $50 and above is getting a FANCY BOOK!

And in another update, they posted a new Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction personal essay:

Here is today’s new Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction personal essay (edited by Nicolette Barischoff). These essays, much like their counterparts in the previous Destroy Kickstarters, will feature disabled creators sharing what it is like being a disabled person in the science fiction community. Shine on, Space Unicorns.

“After the Last Chapter” by A.C. Buchanan

The Chrysalids was different. The edge of panic started to seize me when I read it. I knew it was saying something deeply personal to me; was too scared to contemplate what.

The novel is set in northern Canada, some years after a global nuclear war, in a society ruled by religious extremism which denounces any biological mutation or atypicality as the work of the devil. This is a world in which disabled people are either killed or sterilised, then banished from society. The book follows a group who are forced to conceal their telepathic abilities for fear of their lives. At the conclusion of the novel they are rescued by a woman from the island country of Sealand, where these telepathic abilities are both common and viewed as a positive stage in evolution.

In retrospect, it’s obvious why this work was so important to me. I was both autistic and queer, only partially aware of both, in a conservative country where neither was acceptable. I tried—and failed—to find a balance between the inevitable violence that would follow any expression or exploration of my reality, and the slower, but no less destructive, intense denial of any sense of self. I spent my teens careering between rebellion and obsessive rule following, between internalised self-hatred and burning anger, eventually determining that no matter what I did, the parts of my person I did not yet know to call autistic would always be suppressed whenever they dared to show themselves.

(7) VACUUM PACKED. The Verge has ranked “18 space suits from science fiction, from worst to best”. Here’s one they’re very fond of:

One of my absolute favorite space suits appeared long before real humans went into space: it’s in the 1950s Tintin comics (and later cartoons) Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon. These suits aren’t what we ended up using: they’re hard armor with a bubble helmet rather than lighter cloth, and seem cumbersome to wear and walk around in, not to mention specifically fitted to each person (and dog!)

But, they’re still a beautiful, iconic design that did draw on some real concepts. While they certainly predate the space age, and Hergé does depict the suits in use on the Moon, as well as a couple of points where they’re being constructed and fixed, which means that he did put some thought into how these theoretical space suits might have functioned.

(8) COMICS SECTION. Mike Kennedy appreciates the astrophysical humor in yesterday’s In The Bleachers.

(9) WHAT DO THE SIMPLE FOLK DO? Nancy Kress told her Facebook followers:

Working on draft three of a novel, an insanely complicated sort-of-space-opera-with-physics that STILL has too many inconsistencies in the timeline. I swear, my next book will be single-viewpoint, near-future, on-Earth, and short. Possibly a haiku.

(10) WIELDING THE HAMMER. A new take on Thor:

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! Today, Marvel release GENERATIONS: THE THUNDER written by Jason Aaron with art by Mahmud Asrar. In this new and exciting story, Jane Foster meet a version of Thor she’s never met before – one who has not yet picked up the hammer.

 

(11) HEALTHY SCRATCH. You won’t be seeing this actor in the Han Solo movie after all: “Michael Kenneth Williams’ Role Cut From ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Movie Amid Reshoots” reports Deadline.

“I felt great about what I created with the directors that I worked with,” said Williams, who was cast in the Han Solo origin story by original helming duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who exited in June. “It is what it is.”

“When Ron Howard got hired to finish out the film, there were some reshoot issues that needed to be done in regards to my character, in order for it to match the new direction which the producers wanted Ron to carry the film in,” Williams told Deadline. “And that would have required me on a plane a month ago to London, to Pinewood, to do reshoots. But I’m here, on location in Africa. It’s scheduling. I’m not going to be back on the market until the end of November after [his SundanceTV series] Hap and Leonard, and for them to wait that long for me, that would have pushed back the release date, which I believe is in May 2018. They wanted me now; I couldn’t go. So they had to clip-clip-clip.”

Plot and character details had been kept under wraps, but Williams said he played a half-human, half-animal in the film and that “we created a kick-ass character, in my opinion. I’m proud of it.”

(12) KRAZY PRICES. Twenty-four hours left to bid on these irresistible items being auctioned by Nate Sanders firm, like this George Herriman Krazy Kat Illustration (minimum bid $11,000).

Original ”Krazy Kat” hand-drawn and signed illustration by George Herriman, rendered in multi-color ink and watercolor. An extremely popular comic strip created by Herriman in 1913, Krazy Kat depicts the unlikely love triangle of a cat, a mouse and a dog: Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Officer Bull Pupp. Krazy Kat’s naive, unrequited love for Ignatz is consistently and unceremoniously rewarded by bricks hurled to the back of his head, thrown by the cantankerous mouse. Officer Bull Pupp does his best to protect Krazy Kat, whom he not so secretly loves, from Ignatz’ relentless brick attacks. In this hand-drawn illustration from the early 1930s, the three march along, holding up their respective offerings: a brick, bobby stick, and umbrella and flower. Signed by Herriman, ”Hey ‘Louie’ – Thine – Geo. Herriman”, drawn for Louis Staub, a New York printer. Krazy Kat ran for almost thirty years, from 1913-1944, a favorite of comic fans and such notables as E.E. Cummings, William Randolph Hearst, Jack Kerouac and Pablo Picasso. Illustration measures 9.5” by 6”. Three hole punches at top and light creasing to edges, otherwise near fine condition.

Other auction highlights:

  • Original Walt Disney Signed Bambi Cel
  • Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man! Cover Art
  • Charles Schulz 1961 Peanuts Strip

(13) POPULARIZING SCIENCE. Award-winner Nora Bourbia tells about “My academic poster at the Worldcon75 in Helsinki (Finland), August 2017”.

For the last two years the Worldcon has invited young scientists (PhD student and postdoc level) to present their work to the public audience via a poster and a five minute presentation. I couldn’t miss this great opportunity to do some public engagement and I was really happy to be accepted among 15 others for the academic poster presentation session. The title of my talk was: The tale of the neuroscientist who modifies DNA of mice with viruses.

…It was great to talk to a variety of people, from both scientists in my field to non-scientists. I was happy to see curiosity and have a range of discussions with the Worldcon75 attendees. On top of that I was surprised and very pleased to win the academic poster presentation judged by the panel of the Worldcon75 and sponsored by the BWAWA (Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association). It was really amazing, the panel judged the poster as well as the presentation. I am so happy about this award and to have been part of the Worldcon75.

(14) WHOO – IS TO BLAME? The BBC asks “Has Harry Potter cursed these owls?” There’s a video report at the link.

Since the runaway success of the Harry Potter series some Indonesians have started keeping owls as pets. More owls are being sold and conservationists are worried about the impact on the population in the wild.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Trailer for Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever with BriTANick” has the smart-alecks at Cracked trying to put every cliché they can into a three-minute video.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

(1) WHAT I READ. Mary Robinette Kowal sent several tweets prodding reviewers to do better assessments:

When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

(2) TOO MANY WORDS. But those reviews we’re complaining about above look like gems beside the work of The Literate Programmer at A Literate Programmer’s Blog who posted his “Hugo Awards – Best Novella” rankings with a confession –

…With the voting deadline for the Hugos coming up on the 15th, I decided that I wouldn’t have the time to read all the books in their entirety, and would instead just read far enough to get a feel for the style….

So I began once again working my way up to the novels, this time reading the novellas….

This Census-Taker by China Miéville was the first of the novellas I dug into. …However, the story definitely has a strange and slow start, so it was easy to move on….

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson sets up a nice inversion right from the beginning…. I didn’t finish it yet, but I expect it to take a rather darker turn eventually, tough not entirely too dark….

Then I picked up Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and didn’t put it back down until I was done. …

Victor LaValle wrote the other novella I finished in its entirety, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is another take on Lovecraft… Definitely something I will finish, as I want to know what happens to Vellit….

Last but not least comes Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like what I’ve read so far and it’s entertaining …

Someone else might have spent the time it took to write this post on, oh, I don’t know, reading the rest of these novellas before voting?

(3) BOOK JENGA. Walter Jon Williams describes the “Tower of Dreams”.

So the other night I dreamed I was in the Tower of Definitive Editions, a giant structure literally built from the definitive editions of every book ever written.  There was some kind of mechanism that would pluck the book that you wanted from the structure without either damaging the book or destabilizing the tower.  (Maybe it stuffed the hole with John Grisham novels or something.)

(4) DON’T LET THE DOOR BANG YOUR BUTT. Tony B. Kim at Crazy4ComiCon does not sympathize with what he calls “Mile High Comics breakup letter to San Diego Comic-Con” by owner Chuck Rozanski. Kim devotes several paragraphs mocking him as a “dinosaur” in “Comic-Con has changed and it sucks…”.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. Will this work? “Nasa to send asteroid away from Earth by firing a bullet at it in attempt to save the Earth from future strikes”.

The agency has laid out the plans for its DART mission – where it will send a space capsule the size of a fridge towards an asteroid to shoot it off course. For now, the mission is just a test, but in the future it could be used to save Earth from what scientists say is an underappreciated threat from asteroids.

The mission has now been approved by Nasa and will move into the preliminary design phase, getting ready for testing in a few years.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

DART’s target is an asteroid that will pass by Earth in 2022, and come back two years later. More specifically, it’s actually two asteroids: a binary system called Didymos B made up of a larger and a smaller rock.

It’s the smaller one that Nasa will try and knock off course. But by using a binary system, scientists will be able to check with more accuracy how well their test has worked.

(6) KEEPING THE STEAM IN SELF-ESTEEM. Jon Del Arroz says 80% of the people responding to his survey recommended he not join SFWA. So our genre’s leading concern troll has worked up a list of what needs to be fixed. With SFWA, that is.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Twilight Zone episode, “A Penny for your Thoughts,” written by George Clayton Johnson was shopped around as a series where each episode would have a different cast experiencing the ability to read minds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 9, 1982 TRON premiered on this day.

(9) CLASSIC ROCHE. Next year’s Worldcon chair Kevin Roche makes a fashion statement in this (public) photo on Facebook.

(10) SOLO ACT. ScreenRant evaluates Ron Howard’s latest news-free tweet.

While Howard’s tweet is amusing, it’s realistic to think that at some point Star Wars fans will grow tired of non-news “news” from the Han Solo set. Since Howard is relatively new to the project, perhaps he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing anything from a film that he hasn’t really taken ownership of yet, his presumably strict NDA aside. Hopefully, that time will come once he not only completes principal photography but the five weeks of reshoots which were previously budgeted into production. Only then will Howard be able to help shape the tone and vision that Han Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally intended.

(11) DRAGON QUEEN. TIME Magazine’s Daniel D’Addario, in “Emilia Clarke on Why Dragons Are Daenerys’ True Love on Game of Thrones”, has a lengthy interview with Emilia Clarke where she says “I’m five-foot nothing, I’m a little girl” and adds that she thought she would be sacked from Game of Thrones because it was her first job out of drama school and she felt insecure.

(12) FIGHTING WORDS. Jonathan Cook, in “Wonder Woman is a hero only the military-industrial complex could create” on Mondoweiss, says the heroine is “carefully purposed propaganda designed to force-feed aggressive Western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism, to unsuspecting audiences.”

My reticence to review the film has lifted after reading the latest investigations of Tom Secker and Matthew Alford into the manifold ways the U.S. military and security services interfere in Hollywood, based on a release of 4,000 pages of documents under Freedom of Information requests.

In their new book “National Security Cinema,” the pair argue that the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency have meddled in the production of at least 800 major Hollywood movies and 1,000 TV titles. That is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as they concede:

“It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld.”

(13) BIG PACIFIER THEORY. Baby’s first quantum-mechanics book: “Something New For Baby To Chew On: Rocket Science And Quantum Physics”.

The books introduce subjects like rocket science, quantum physics and general relativity — with bright colors, simple shapes and thick board pages perfect for teething toddlers. The books make up the Baby University series — and each one begins with the same sentence and picture — This is a ball — and then expands on the titular concept.

In the case of general relativity: This ball has mass.

But some of the topics Ferrie covers are tough for even grown-ups to comprehend. (I mean, quantum physics? Come on.)

(14) SLOW DEATH. A Ghost Story may be too slow for some: “Grief Hangs Around At Home In ‘A Ghost Story'”.

I should mention that the film is virtually without plot, so it requires some patience. Major stars and that title notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is not a Saturday-night date movie. More a provocative art film in the European sense. Though barely 87 minutes, it unfolds in long, static shots, most of them without faces to hang onto. It’s almost a film without genre, and by the end it’s become a story untethered from time itself.

(15) A SERIOUS HARRY HABIT. The 100,000 UKP Potter habit: “Harry Potter fan from Cardiff spends £100K on memorabilia”.

Her collection features posters, scarves in the house colours, broomsticks and the official Harry Potter magazines – with the memorabilia costing more than £40,000.

The rest has been spent travelling to Orlando in Florida to the film studios and more recently to Harry Potter World in both London and America.

(16) AVAST ME HEARTIES. Davidoff of Geneva is sold out of the pen and letter opener set shown here, but they have plenty of other golden loot they would love to sell you.

(17) ANOTHER AMAZON PRODUCT. Brazil gets into horror: “The Blair Witches of Brazil”.

Their titles practically shriek at you: Night of the Chupacabras, When I Was Alive, The Necropolis Symphony. Right away you can guess that these are films you might need to watch through your fingers, tales of horror to quicken the heart. But you might not know where they’re from. Step aside Carmen Miranda and The Girl from Ipanema, these frightfests are from Brazil.

(18) NOT GOING APE OVER THIS ONE. The BBC is disappointed by War for the Planet of the Apes.

The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.

(19) GOOD NIGHT. Next year’s CONvergence GoH Elizabeth Bear signs off from this year’s con:

(20) LAST WORD. John Hertz is never impressed when I use idioms as I please.

(21) DARTH HOMER. Here’s a selection of YouTube videos in which Darth Vader is voiced variously by Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King Tarpinian declares the Homer Simpson version to be the funniest.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/17 One Click, My Bonny Pixel, I’m After A Scroll Tonight

(1) MORE, PLEASE. Here’s a provocative (in a good way) question:

(2) NOMINEE REVIEWING. Marco Zennaro is making progress in his Hugo reading, adding reviews as he goes along. Here’s the latest addition to “The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novels”.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu Death’s End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.

I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.

I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.

The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent…

Hugo worthy? Yes! It was one of the books I nominated.

Was it part of a slate? No

Zennaro has also written about the nominated Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories.

(3) COMPELLED. In a review for Strange Horizons, Alexandra Pierce works hard to explain the complex world of Jo Walton’s novel Necessity.

On the philosophical side, the interactions of Apollo and Hermes demonstrate how gods are themselves constrained by higher powers: both by Zeus, father of all the gods, and Necessity. As the title suggests, the compulsion of Necessity is an important aspect of the novel. It’s a force that not even gods can avoid, and it can even be used to avoid the potentially damaging aspects of time travel, of getting stuck in difficult situations: if Necessity says you must do something later in your timeline, you can’t be stuck somewhere else. Complementing this is a strong focus on the free choices of humans to undertake either stupid or worthy actions, in politics and personal relationships and everything else—and the contention that this is a noble part of the human condition.

(4) BRONZE PLATE SPECIAL. The other day I Scrolled about the “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era” – never suspecting my friend, archeologist Louise Hitchcock, has personally worn a replica.

After you’ve looked at the picture, check out Minoan Architecture and Urbanism: New Perspectives on an Ancient Built Environment edited by Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett, which includes the co-authored article “Lost in Translation: Settlement Organization in Postpalatial Crete – A View from the East” by Louise A. Hitchcock and Aren M. Maier. The book is available for pre-order, with a release date of September 23.

(5) IMMORTAL CATS. No one can forget them once she’s told their story — “Mog author Judith Kerr, 94, to publish new book Katinka’s Tail”.

Almost 50 years after the appearance of one of the most famous felines in children’s books, Mog creator Judith Kerr is to publish a book inspired by her latest pet cat, Katinka. The much-loved author and illustrator, who celebrated her 94th birthday last week, is to publish Katinka’s Tail in the autumn.

The story of a “perfectly ordinary cat with a not-so-ordinary tail” was inspired by Kerr’s observations of her cat, the ninth in an inspirational line. “She is a ridiculous-looking white cat with a tabby tail that looks as though it belonged to somebody else,” she said. It was watching the “bizarre” behaviour of her first family pet, Mog – which included licking her sleeping daughter’s hair – that inspired the eponymous stories beloved by generations of children.

(6) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. The Last Knight, an unimpressive number one at U.S. box offices this weekend, did better overseas — “No. 1 ‘Transformers’ hits new low with $69-million domestic debut, but is saved by global box office “.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise from Michael Bay, may have topped the weekend, but all the robot-smashing has gotten a bit rusty at the box office.

The Paramount film, which opened Wednesday, took in $45 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, placing it in the No. 1 spot ahead of returning titles “Cars 3” and “Wonder Woman.” When factored into its five-day debut, “The Last Knight” grossed a franchise low of $69 million.

….The latest installment, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins and features a new mythology involving King Arthur and Stonehenge, cost $217 million to make. And however squeaky “The Last Knight’s” debut may have been domestically, the film took in an Optimus Prime-sized number overseas. It earned $196 million from its first 40 markets — with $123 million of that haul coming from China.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“I’m Batman.”

Anyway, he was – Olan Soule (1909-1994).

Soule’s voice work on television included his 15-year role (1968-1983) as Batman on several animated series that were either devoted to or involved the fictional “Dark Knight” superhero

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster began stalking movie theatres.
  • June 25, 1982 The Omen arrives to terrify movie audiences.
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner was shown on some theater screens.
  • June 25, 1982 – Meanwhile, other screens played John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DYSTOPIAN

(10) LINE DIRECTOR. While being interviewed about his new assignment directing the Han Solo movie, Ron Howard reminisced that right after he and his wife saw Star Wars they loved it so much they got right back in line and waited to see it again.

As news of the 1977 film Star Wars began to unfold, Howard said he became “so curious.” He and his wife went to see it on the first day of release and were “so moved by the movie. It was all the things you dream you’re going to experience in the movies.”

Although they had stood in line for two hours to see it, when Howard and Cheryl came out, they threw each other a look and decided to see it again immediately — standing in line for another 90 minutes.

Which made me wonder — how did Ron Howard not see this movie at a free pre-release screening? After all, I did — along with many other LASFSians.

(11) WHY IT HAPPENED. Carl Slaughter recommends, “For those in shock or scratching their heads over the Han Solo project shakeup, Mr. Sunday Movie offers an explanation that seems to make sense.”

(12) EQUIVALENCIES. Jesse Hudson makes clear there are some usages of alternate history that have worn on him, in his “Review of Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore” at Speculiction.

Its Jonbar point the American Civil War, Bring the Jubilee looks into the idea ‘what if the South won’?  The story of Hodge Backmaker, son of a poor farmer in what’s left of the United States of America (essentially the Union), the young man breaks free of his rural home at an early age and heads to New York City—an impoverished metro compared to the grand, lavish cities of the Confederate States of America.  Getting lucky and finding work with a book printer, Hodge spends the next few years of his life learning the trade.  And he learns much more.  The book printer’s essentially a front, namely that of printing propaganda and counterfeiting money, Hodge learns of ongoing secret operations to build a Grand Army and restore the United States to its former glory.

While many readers might expect such an early effort of alternate history to go the black and white route of vilifying the South by portraying them as tyrannical victors while glorifying the North as honorable victims, instead, the South is not portrayed as a slave-loving region which stamps the poor further into the ground, rather simply an economically and politically aggressive government bent on empire.  In other words, Moore spins the tables… to look something like the North.  This is all a convoluted manner of saying Bring the Jubilee is more interested in finding common ground between reality and the alternate reality, than it is putting the 8 millionth nail in the coffin of ‘slavery is bad’.

(13) EUROCON REPORT. Alqua shares the many highlights of “Eurocon 2017 (U-con) in Dortmund” at Fandom Rover.

The evening concert on Friday was called A night to remember. I was a little bit sceptical if it would be really a night I will remember for long, but I was wrong. There were few artists presenting their pieces. We were able to hear people playing guitar and theremin, reciting poetry or “interpreting alien poetry”. But the best pieces of this evening were songs played by Dimitra Fleissner on her harp and the ATS show by Gata. Music and dance were quite different but they both left me astonished and I will be looking forward for another possibility to see one of these artists performing.

(14) DISSENTING VOICE. Brad R. Torgersen deems “cultural appropriation” of no concern in his Mad Genius Club post titled: “If you’re not appropriating culture, you’re not paying attention”.

Clearly, nobody owns culture. So why do we worry about appropriating it?

(Cough, when I say “we,” I mean American progressives and Social Justice Zealots who clearly have too much time on their hands, cough.)

My take: If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, you have more to say on this topic than anyone. Because you’re extrapolating futures, presents, and pasts. Alternative histories. Possible horizons. The “What if?” that makes SF/F so much fun in the first place. There are no rules which you aren’t automatically authorized to break. The entire cosmos is your paint box. Nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Are we really going to be dumb enough to pretend that SF/F authors of demographics X, Y, or Z, cannot postulate “What if?” for demographics A, B, and C?

We’re not even talking about homework — which is a good idea, simply because some of your best syntheses will occur when you take Chocolate Culture and Peanut Butter Culture — kitbash them together — and come up with the inhabitants of a frontier planet for your thousand-year-future interstellar empire.

We’re talking about authors voluntarily yoking their creative spirits to somebody else’s pet political and cultural hobbyhorses. A game of rhetorical, “Mother, may I?”

(15) WEIRD TECH. Labeling produce with lasers instead of paper: “M&S says labelling avocados with lasers is more sustainable”.

M&S will sell avocados bearing what look like pale tattoos, showing a best-before date and origin.

Peeling away the traditional labelling will save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year, says M&S.

More of its fruit and vegetables may be laser-branded in future, the retailer says.

“The laser just takes off one layer of skin and instead of inking it or burning it, the skin retracts and leaves a mark,” says Charlie Curtis, senior produce agronomist at Marks and Spencer.

“What we’re putting onto the fruit is country of origin, best before date and there’s a short code so you can put it through quickly at the [checkout] till.”

(16) JUST WEIRD. The new Canadian Toonie glows in the dark.

Canadians may now have a slight advantage when it comes to digging for lost change in sofa cushions and car seats; the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled what it described as the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation.

The specially designed two-dollar coin, or toonie, as it’s known in Canada, features two people paddling in a canoe as the northern lights – vivid in green and blue – dance high above them. When the coin is put in the dark, the aurora borealis glows softly, thanks to a new ink formulation that contains luminescent material.

The coin, part of a collection created to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, also ranks as the world’s first coloured bimetallic coin, said a mint spokesperson. “Only the core of the $2 coin is coloured and the glow effect makes the aurora borealis part of the design look lifelike,” said Alex Reeves.

(17) UNABOMBER INVESTIGATION. Polygon’s article “The FBI kept a list of D&D players as part of its hunt for the Unabomber”.

It appears that in 1995 the FBI made a sincere effort to investigate a group of D&D players. It suspected them of having a connection with the Unabomber, a terrorist named Theodore Kaczynski who spent the better part of two decades mailing people explosives.

Step one was to dig back into the past of TSR and the role-playing hobby as a whole. In so doing, the FBI put together a pretty decent three-page history, if I do say so myself. It also came up with a list of armed and dangerous individuals who were “known members of the Dungeons & Dragons” that it pulled from TSR’s own computer system.

David Klaus sent the link along with his comments:

The fishing expedition into TSR as a cocaine front would appear to be sparked by cultural bigotry.  Unable to find real crime, to justify his existence, local FBI agent investigates legitimate business run by “weirdos” playing a game Pat Robertson says is Satanic.  (This would be in keeping with the Secret Service act of stupidity against Steve Jackson Games at about the same time.) Again, having no evidence of crime, just prejudiced opinion, the personal histories of all corporate officers are gathered, civil rights being violated, the company computers are invaded and lists of game purchasers are kept on file. And that Gary Gygax!  He answers his mail!  He ‘s a Libertarian Party member!  He had a difficult divorce!  He’s eccentric!  Somebody whose credibility can’t be judged says he’s “frightening”! His business makes money!  He spends his own money as he pleases!  The file included allegations he breaks drug and gun laws.  (If there were evidence, why didn’t they make an arrest?  Perhaps because there wasn’t?) We’re incompetent to find the Unabomber, and this guy uses a computer.  It might be him, yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s drop some hints among his friends and watch them get paranoid about each other!  Since we couldn’t find evidence, let’s see if one of them will manufacture some out of fear!  Scare ’em enough, and they’ll say anything. These Flatfeet Keystone Cops are supposed to protect us from foreign terrorism.  Right.

(19) THE WAKING LAND. Strange Horizons reviewer Mark Granger finds much to like in The Waking Land by Callie Bates.

Callie Bates’s strength lies in how quickly and succinctly she lays down the plot without making it complicated, a great feat when you consider the story is told in the first person; Elanna’s view point restricts us to what she is seeing and hearing, but never distracts from the bigger picture—and Bates manages to cleverly insert plot points along the way without them appearing to be shoe-horned in. I was immediately sympathetic to Elanna’s plight, her confused and conflicted state: the fact that everything she has been taught—from history to basic morals—is falling down around her makes her someone you want to side with. In a lesser writer’s hands Elanna’s character could have easily become whiny, but Bates makes her a strong, opinionated woman, yet one who is forced to have her mind opened to something beyond herself.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and Louise Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 6/22/17 I’ve Scrolled As Many As Six Impossible Pixels Before Breakfast

(1) MORE CORE. Some might wonder if James Davis Nicoll has hit peak trollage with his latest list, “Twenty Core Problematic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Some might thank him for listing their favorite book.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Problematic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field 1 and in this case, the likelihood of encountering their avid fans. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider or the only twenty books whose fans may some day corner you so they can expound at length on the virtues of these books.

Here are the first three on his list of 20 —

  • The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  • Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey

(2) YOUNG PERSON WATCHES OLD SF. Echo Ishii’s next excursion into old sf TV series has a William Shatner connection – “SF Obscure: TekWar”.

Tek War is based on William Shatner’s TekWar books, ghostwritten by Ron Goulart. There are about nine books in the series. The show started as a series of two-hour TV movies and then a proper second season, from what I can figure out. Open to corrections.

(3) THE SOUND OF WHO. Some of the more, ahem, “experimental” Dr Who soundtracks. “12 ‘Doctor Who’ Jazz Funk Greats” at We Are Cult.

The Sea Devils (1972)

A relentless barrage of white noise that was the result of a life or death struggle between sonic terrorist Malcolm Clarke and the Radiophonic Workshop’s massive EMS Synthi 100, otherwise known as the ‘Delaware’. Anticipates, at various points, Throbbing Gristle, Metal Machine Music, Frank Zappa’s Jazz From Hell and – in its calmer moments – Eno & Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. A BDSM specialist’s shag tape.

(4) DON’T RUN, WALKAWAY. The Reason interview with Cory Doctorow, “Cory Doctorow on Cyber Warfare, Lawbreaking, and His New Novel ‘Walkaway'”, is also is available on YouTube.

Katherine Mangu-Ward: Do you think that the underlying conditions of free speech as it is associated with dubious technologies, are they getting better or worse?

Cory Doctorow: There is the—there is a pure free speech argument and there’s a scientific argument that just says you know it’s not science if it’s not published. You have to let people who disagree with you—and who dislike you—read your work and find the dumb mistakes you’ve made and call you an idiot for having made them otherwise you just end up hitting yourself and then you know your h-bomb blows up in your face, right?

And atomic knowledge was the first category of knowledge that scientists weren’t allowed to freely talk about—as opposed to like trade secrets—but, like, scientific knowledge. That knowing it was a crime. And so it’s the kind of original sin of science. But there’s a difference between an atomic secret and a framework for keeping that a secret and a secret about a vulnerability in a computer system. And they’re often lumped together….

 

(5) DID YOU KNOW? Complaints Choirs took their inspiration from a conversation in Helsinki.

It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.

In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression “Valituskuoro”. It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously.  Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real choir in which people sing about their complaints?”

As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after Springhill Institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality.

And here’s a detailed plan for starting a complaints choir in your town.

STEP 1 – Invite People to Complain
Invite people from your city to join the complaints choir. Distribute flyers, spread posters and write a press release. Everybody can join, no singing skills required! The more diverse the participants the better. From pensioner to teenager, everybody has something to complain about. The people that sign up for the choir send in their complain before the first meeting….

(6) RECOMMENDED. Professional filker Miracle of Sound has a released a Wonder Woman song.

I walk a wild new world
The strangest sights surround me
I grow into
This sense of wonder that I’ve found

There is pain
There is joy
There is so much they destroy
Every soul here is a two way battleground

 

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Octavia Butler Day

Here are links to the first five of a dozen posts BookRiot has published in honor of the day.

(8)  TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 22, 1960 The House of Usher starred Vincent Price, screenplay by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and directed by Roger Corman. The film was the first of eight Edgar Allen Poe based feature films that Corman directed.
  • June 22, 1979 Alien premiered.

(9) FROM SOMEBODY’S MOUTH TO GOD’S EAR. Yesterday it was (supposedly) speculation. Today’s it’s a done deal. The Hollywood Reporter says “Ron Howard to Direct Han Solo Movie”.

“I’m beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars Universe after being a fan since 5/25/77,” Howard tweeted Thursday afternoon. “I hope to honor the great work already done & help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film.”

Howard, who directed 1995’s Apollo 13 and won an Oscar for helming 2002’s A Beautiful Mind, comes to the Han Solo film with several connections to George Lucas and the worlds of Lucasfilm. He appeared in Lucas’ 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and helmed Lucas’ 1988 pet fantasy project Willow. Howard also revealed on a podcast in 2015 that Lucas had approached him to direct the 1999 Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace.

(10) GONE IN SIXTY DIGITS. Another unexpected side-effect of tech: “‘How I could have stolen my old car using my smartphone'”.

Charles Henderson loved his “awesome” convertible, particularly the fact that he could start, lock and unlock it remotely via his mobile phone.

It was one of the first connected cars that synchronise wirelessly with smartphones for entertainment and work purposes.

But after he sold the vehicle, he was astonished to discover that he could still control it using the associated smartphone app.

“I could have found out where the car was, unlocked it remotely, started it and driven off with it,” he tells the BBC.

Mr Henderson, from Austin, Texas, is global head of X-Force Red, IBM’s offensive security group, so he knows a thing or two about security. He tests companies’ defences, both physical and digital.

(11) NEXTGEN ST. BERNARD. (Video) “The soft 3D-printed robot that could come to the rescue”.

Engineers at the University of California are working on a soft legged robot that can navigate difficult terrain. Its complex design has been achieved through 3D printing.

One possible use for the robot would be to help in search and rescue operations – perhaps in a collapsed building. Its legs can alternate between walking, crawling and climbing.

(12) TIME MACHINE OUT OF ORDER? Tech failure: “California earthquake alarm sounded – 92 years late”.

A computer error caused the US Geological Survey (USGS) to issue the false alarm about the magnitude 6.8 quake.

The quake actually took place in 1925 when it laid waste to the city of Santa Barbara and caused 13 deaths.

In a statement, the USGS said its computers had “misinterpreted” data causing the alarm to be wrongly issued.

Substantial collapse

News organisations across the US received the emailed alert about the quake which, if it had been real, would have been one of the largest ever recorded in California.

Few organisations reacted directly to the news because it was dated 29 June 2025 – exactly 100 years after the actual event took place.

The LA Times, which uses AI-based software to automatically write up the USGS alerts, did issue a news story based on the alarm notice.

(13) PLANETEXIT. The UK gets ambitious: “Queen’s Speech: Plan aims to secure space sector”.

The stated purpose of the new Bill is to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial space – including launches from British soil.

(14) DEAR DIARY. Aaron Pound reviews Carrie Fisher’s Hugo-nominated The Princess Diarist at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Short review: Carrie Fisher found some old diaries she wrote when she was filming Star Wars and having an affair with Harrison Ford. She used them as the basis for a book.

Haiku
When filming Star Wars
Fisher had a fling with Ford
Now she remembers

(15) HAPPPY NOMINEES. Fangirl Happy Hour is a Hugo-nominated fancast where Ana of The Book Smugglers and Renay of Lady Business team up to discuss books, comics, TV and movies, fandom and pop culture.

One great feature is the episode transcripts. Their transcriber has caught up to the episode that discusses the nominees for the “2017 Hugo Awards” – of which they are two.

Renay: Yeah, I remember telling everybody, “Hey, Bridget’s doing great work, why don’t we nominate her, ” and apparently everybody was already planning to because here she is. I was super excited. And then next category is Best Semiprozine which has you in it! Yay!

Ana: Yay!

Renay: It’s Ana! I’m so excited, The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James. Look at you guys. Look at you on the ballot. so cute!

Ana: I’m very pleased about that. There is a lot of work that goes into the Book Smugglers as you know. I’m happy to be here. There are other amazing nominees in this category and I am like, “Oh fuck.” [laughter]

Renay: Would you have your feelings hurt if I voted for Strange Horizons first and then you second?

Ana: I would, but I would also understand.

Renay: Well I’m gonna put you first, and Strange Horizon second. I was just feeling it out.

Ana: I was very conflicted, because I love Strange Horizons and I think Niall Harrison has done such amazing work for the past few years. And he announced that he’s stepping down from being editor in chief of Strange Horizons and I’m like FUCK so this means that this is the last year that he’s eligible for the Hugos. And I’m like, I think he deserves one? But I also want one!

(16) ANTIQUE VERBIAGE. Brenda Clough takes us on a visit to “The Language Attic” at Book View Café.

Our language is a treasure house. Some of its glories are well-used and well-polished, taken out and set on the table every day. But up in the attic we’ve got some thrilling long-lost terms. This is a series devoted to dragging some of the quainter antiquities out, and dusting them off for you to see.

And today’s fun word is fistiana. Oh, you have a dirty mind. I can see what you’re thinking. No, no — it had nothing whatever to do with X-rated matters. We have pure minds around here, at least at this moment. Maybe later in this series we’ll get some really colorful words. This word’s close relative is boxiana, and both words refer to boxing — pummeling people with your fists.

(17) FOUND IN SPACE. Kyle Hill of Nerdist calls on everyone to “Join Us on the Bizarre Pop Culture Quest that is THE S.P.A.A.C.E. PROGRAM”

As Nerdist‘s resident sci-fientist (TM), there are never enough collisions between science and pop culture. I truly believe that exploring our nerdy passions with science helps appreciate both even more. I’ve tried my best to do this for the last few years with Because Science, but something was missing…oh, right, I wasn’t in sppppppaaaaacccccceeeee!

Starting today, you can watch the first episode of my new Alpha show The S.P.A.A.C.E. Program. It takes all the geeky analysis that I do on Because Science and combines it with a real set, actual production value, and a snarky artificial intelligence. It’s like if Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a weird, long-haired baby. Check out a promo below:

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Chip Hitchcock, Jay Byrd, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 6/21/17 Pay No Attention To That Scroll Behind The Pixel

Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…

(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.

…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.

And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.

But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?

Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….

(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.

Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.

Hey, we can all dream.

The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.

My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:

Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)

Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.

(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.

(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.

Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.

Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.

(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.

We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.

(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.

(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.

So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:

  1. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…

(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson”  at Warbler Books.

A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.

(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:

First, the site is a mess. It’s like a weird cross between Goodreads and MySpace. I know there’s a lot of people who love Goodreads, but sorry, that site is almost impossible to navigate. Way too much clutter, with the option you’re looking for hidden in some tiny link that doesn’t actually look like a link. Unless you’re a frequent user, you constantly feel like you’re lost. That’s Facebook now. It’s very unfriendly for new users, which I know is like me and ten people living in Yurts in Mongolia, but still. In terms of user-friendliness, it’s going the way of MySpace.

Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?

He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.

But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.

(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.

It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.

The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.

Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.

Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.

French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.

(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”

The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….

(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.

Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.

(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”

(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.

This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.

(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/25/17 Not Really Very Specific

(1) CASHING IN. Naked Security has discovered “Spock will unlock Kirk ransomware – after you beam up a bunch of Monero”.

Star Trek fans might remember an episode from the original series where our heroes were transported to a mirror universe where their counterparts served an evil version of the Federation. At the end of “Mirror Mirror“, it is the alternate universe’s Spock who begins to set things right.

One has to wonder if the creators of the recently discovered Kirk ransomware had that episode in mind. SophosLabs threat researcher Dorka Palotay told Naked Security that this new specimen appeared a few days ago….

Monero is the new (or old) latinum

Unlike the ransomware families SophosLabs has seen so far, this family uses Monero for ransom payment, which is a cryptocurrency similar to bitcoin. Monero has already been popular among cyber-criminals. You could say it’s the new latinum – the favored currency of the Ferengi. Or, you could say it’s the old one. (These temporal paradoxes give us a headache.)

(2) SPOOK FANAC. Naked Security also disclosed that the CIA named one of its hacking tools after a famous science fictional gadget – “Latest Wikileaks dump shows CIA targeting Apple earlier than others”.

Here’s a breakdown of the tools documented and their purpose:

Sonic Screwdriver: Fans of Doctor Who know that the Sonic Screwdriver is the Doctor’s trusty device for analysis and defense. In the CIA’s world, it’s a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting,” allowing attackers to “boot its attack software even when a firmware password is enabled”. The CIA’s Sonic Screwdriver infector is stored on the modified firmware of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. The documentation for this was released internally at CIA headquarters November 29 2012….

(3) IRON FIST. While my Facebook friends have leveled plenty of criticism, Comicbook.com declares “Iron Fist Is The Second Biggest Marvel Netflix Premiere”.

Marvel’s Iron Fist may not have gone over well with critics, but fans can’t seem to get enough.

According to a report by Parrot Analytics, Marvel’s Iron Fist is the second-biggest debut for a Marvel series on Netflix so far, performing better than both Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Jessica Jones in the first week it was available to stream. Iron Fist falls just short of Marvel’s Luke Cage, which was Marvel’s best debut to date.

It should be noted that Parrot Analytics is a third party industry analyst and that these metrics are not endorsed by Netflix. Netflix does not share its viewership numbers publically.

(4) DO’S AND DON’TS. Here are the first two of “Ray Bradbury’s 12 Rules For Writers” at Tripwire.

  • Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  • You may love ’em, but you can’t be ’em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle and L. Frank Baum.

(5) BY YOUR ROYAL LEAVES. Standback guested on Jonah Sutton-Morse’s Cabbages and Kings podcast. (I’m not trying to blow his cover, he sent the link indicating it should be a “scroll item for Standback.”)

This episode I am joined by Ziv Wities (@QuiteVague), host of the SFSqueeAndSnark short story discussion site, to discuss Jo Walton’s The Just City.  We covered our different reactions to the story, the elevation of Plato’s Republic to a holy text, and the problems of privilege and how it is portrayed in The Just City.  In addition, Brandon O’Brien returns for the second installment of Black Star Cruises, a review of Maurice Broaddus’ forthcoming novella Buffalo Soldier.

There’s a transcript of the podcast available at the site, too.

Z – So, this is the only book in my entire life that I have ever bought based on a book ad. There was a print ad for the Just City in Fantasy & Science Fiction and I saw it and I read it and I said that sounds really really really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted that way to a print ad before.It’s just, it’s just a cool high-concept idea, and one of the things that really grabbed me about it was the idea that it’s not only a recreation of The Republic but specifically that it is done with the support of a goddess.  With Athene, Athene?

JSM – Yes

Z – With Athene supporting and bankrolling and magicing together the entire thing.

(6) DON’T BLAME WEIR. The Wrap reveals “More Hollywood Whitewashing: CBS Pilot Casts 2 White Actors in Lead Roles Written for Minorities”.

Andy Weir’s sci-fi drama “Mission Control” was written with a bilingual Latina and African-American man — now played by Poppy Montgomery and David Giuntoli…

According to an individual familiar with the project, producers initially did reach out to and offer the roles to non-white actors, but they passed. The production ultimately moved on as the script evolved, leading to the casting of Montgomery and Giuntoli. Montgomery’s character will no longer speak Spanish in the final version of the pilot.

The pilot, which the individual described as an “ensemble drama,” does feature nonwhite actors in other roles, including “Desperate Housewives” alum Ricardo Chavira as the director of the Johnson Space Center and Nigerian-born actress Wunmi Mosaku as Rayna, the mission’s public affairs officer….

(7) A NUMBER OF BUGS. Find the answer to “What Kind of Bug Eats Books” here. There are five main types, a number that suits the Scroll perfectly.

Bugs that eat books aren’t injurious to humans, but they can destroy your library. Book-eating insects inhabit books in their larval stage, eating collagen glues, cotton, leather, linen and paper. These insects can be difficult to spot because of their small sizes and hiding instincts. Use a magnifying glass to inspect volumes for intruders. There are five types of bugs that commonly infest books.

(8) SOMETIMES IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Future Nobel laureate for literature Dr. Chuck Tingle weighs in on Castalia House’s latest antics at The Rabid Puppies.

in recent days man name of JOM SCALZI put out a big time book name of THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE. bad dogs blues said they could copy it and do better, so to keep bad dogs blues honest this is now website to show current sales rank between BAD DOGS BLUES fake book and JOM SCALZI real book. this is good way to determine wether or not being a devil is a WINNING WAY. please enjoy.

JOM RANK #235

BAD DOGS BLUES RANK #1671

(9) MAKING PROGRESS. Christine Valada gave this update about Len Wein’s health:

Len is doing better but still not on social media. It’s boring when he’s not actually working and he’s at war with the restrictions on his diet. What a surprise, right? The amputated toe is considered healed (yay), but the doctor needs to do some clean-up work on his second toe which had been delayed because of the neck surgery. He’s a captive patient in rehab, so that will get done on Monday evening.

(10) SAD TRIVIA. Today’s Livestream of the Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher public memorial had over 63,000 views. Right now, the link is just showing a short slide-show of the pair at various ages.

Their celebration of life was in the same auditorium that Sammy Davis, Jr.’s was held.

The BBC had a few brief quotes from before and during the memorial.

Earlier Mr Fisher said the public was invited to the memorial “because that’s how my mother would want it”.

He added that she was “very connected to her fans and felt they were a part of her”.

James Blunt was friends with Carrie Fisher and recorded part of his debut album in her bathroom. His tribute song will be accompanied by a montage of photographs of the pair.

Todd Fisher called it a “beautiful song to Carrie”, adding that “it might rip your heart out”.

 

Princess Leia from Star Wars reel shown at SDCC 2015.

(11) NO CGI FOR FISHER. Gene Maddaus of Variety, in “Bob Iger Reveals ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff Details, Talks Plans After ‘Episode IX’”, reports on a talk that the Disney CEO gave at USC.  Iger says that Carrie Fisher’s performance in Episode 8 is complete and does not have to be digitally enhanced and the forthcoming moving about young Han Solo will reveal how Chewbacca got his name.

At the conference, where he also confirmed that he’s “definitely” leaving in 2019, he said he has seen Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” and addressed how the company is handling the death of Carrie Fisher, who appears extensively in the film.

“We are not changing ‘8’ to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it was in ‘8,’” he said. “In ‘Rogue One’, we created digitally a few characters… We’re not doing that with Carrie.”

…Iger was otherwise tight-lipped about Episode 8, saying that he sometimes reviews dailies “in my laptop in bed under the covers” to keep the project secret from his own teenage boys.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

TOLKIEN READING DAY

The Tolkien Society started Tolkien Reading Day in 2003 after a journalist from New York enquired as to whether or not there was such an event. March 25 was selected because that is the date of the Downfall of Sauron.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 25, 1957 — United States Customs confiscated 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, printed in England, on grounds of obscenity.

(14) BY THE LITRE. “Discovery enables ‘mass produced blood’” – the BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock says, “The kicker is that it’s so expensive it’s only useful for types so rare that they’re in very short supply — e.g. Heinlein’s AB-.”

(15) HOT PILOT. You can listen to the recording of Harrison Ford excusing his Han Solo moment at this link: “’I’m the schmuck that landed on the taxiway’”.

A recording has emerged of Harrison Ford explaining to air traffic control why he flew directly over a waiting passenger jet and landed on a taxiway at John Wayne Airport in southern California in February.

(16) CURRENT READING. Rosemary Benton visits a newsstand 55 years ago at Galactic Journey — “[March 25,1962] A Double Hit (A.Bertram Chandler’s The Rim of Space and John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra)”.

I turned to Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was reading a novella that pitted the characters of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series against the American agents of The Time Traders. In almost exact contrast to the universe of Chandler’s piece, Brunner’s protagonists are agents of the Corps Galactica – a economic and security force powerhouse for Earth’s galaxy-wide territories. When a remote and technologically backward world called Planet 14 is penetrated by off-worlders looking to take advantage of the natural resources of the isolated human society, it is up to agents of the Corps to infiltrate the population without notice and take down the exploitative evil doers.

(17) FREE DELANY. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to read this unpublished novel excerpt by Samuel R. Delany:

Here’s the coda to a not yet published novel, whose manuscript ran more than 700 pages in 2006: Shoat Rumblin: His Sensations and Ideas.

Samuel Delany

(18) FURTHER DELIBERATIONS. Here are the newest reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury.

Tidhar’s novel is both subtle and quotidian, bolshie and wildly inventive.  In common with some of its characters, it is a cyborg patchwork; a novel about a bold future that has its feet firmly planted in the past.

The book started life as a series of short stories, reworked and ordered here within a narrative frame to form a novel.  It’s complex and wily, structured around three points in time: a present, a future and a far future. The author introduces themselves quietly in a first-person Prologue, a writer sitting down in a shebeen in Tel-Aviv – perhaps in our present, perhaps not – to tell a science fiction story.  They sip cheap beer while the rain falls outside and put pen to paper: ‘Once the world was young,’ they begin, ‘The Exodus ships had only begun to leave the solar system then…’ (2)  Our writer in the present addresses us as if were a knowing audience in a far distant future, ‘sojourners’ amongst the stars who tell ‘old stories across the aeons.’  These stories – of ‘our’ past but the author’s fictional future – make up the meat and substance of the book that follows.  It sounds like rather a baroque set-up and it’s barely gestured at but it is thematically fundamental.  Central Station is a book about how the future remembers, about the future’s past. It’s a historical novel as much as a science fiction novel.

Good Morning, Midnight is a bit of a shortlist risk, as shadow jury conversations have proved. Ranging in complaints about too much lyrical sciencing to complaints about too much overt preciousness, overall, the general jury criticism toward the book has been along the lines of “too much too much.” And yet, the novel has been blurbed as a blend of Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson– two supreme yet entirely different approaches to SF, flawed in their own “too much” ways (the first, a well-written, but literary carpet bagging of superficial SF tropes, the other, an over-lingering on most things, including the sublimation of ice). With comparisons like these, Good Morning, Midnight might be just the kind of “too much too much” I, and other Clarke readers, would relish. Besides, it has stars on the cover, a spaceship in the story, and is free of the usual, predictable pew-pew hijinks that tends to come with spaceship stories, so, for those reasons, it seems like something worth discussing within the context of possible Clarke contenders.

If the blurring of the ‘human/animal’ distinction gives Geen’s book its substance, the thriller plot gives it its shape—and here the novel comes a little unstuck. With two plot strands unfolding over the length of the novel, the reader is geared up to expect two conclusions: first, the revelation of whatever it was that caused Kit to flee ShenCorp; and second, the final reckoning. ‘Uncanny Shift’ builds the intrigue, as Kit is invited (not compelled, no, not at all) to work on the development of a new income stream: consciousness tourism. She’s not sure about the ethics of this, as she tells one character:

When discussing Steph Swainston’s fiction within the context of the Clarke Award, it is never long before the question arises: but is it even science fiction? I have heard it said that Swainston’s debut, The Year of Our War, should not have been eligible for the Clarke Award by reason of it being a work of fantasy rather than SF. No doubt similar objections were voiced in respect of the volumes that followed. The old dragons versus spaceships dichotomy, in other words, complicated only by the fact that there are no dragons in Swainston’s Fourlands novels, and there is a strong argument to be made that the multi-generational, FTL space craft so beloved of much heartland science fiction is as much a fantasy as any mythical leviathan and possibly more so.

(19) POWER GRAB. Prosthetic limbs with built-in power cells could be self-charging.

A synthetic skin for prosthetics limbs that can generate its own energy from solar power has been developed by engineers from Glasgow University.

Researchers had already created an ‘electronic skin’ for prosthetic hands made with new super-material graphene.

The new skin was much more sensitive to touch but needed a power source to operate its sensors.

Previously this required a battery but the latest breakthrough has integrated photo-voltaic cells in to the skin.

(20) IN THE END, GOODNESS PREVAILS. NPR says Power Rangers is fun in the end: “In The Agreeably Schlocky ‘Power Rangers,’ ‘Transformers’ Meets ‘The Breakfast Club’”.

Power Rangers cost a little over $100 million to make and looks about half as expensive, unless catering services were provided by Eric Ripert. The five Power Rangers are appealing but bland, as if skimmed from a CW casting call, and Israelite stages the action sequences in a chaotic mass of swish-pans and rapid-fire edits, perhaps to hide the daytime special effects. And yet the film grows steadily more disarming as it approaches the grand finale, in part because it believes so earnestly in the unity necessary for good to defeat evil and in part because everyone appears to be having a ball.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Matthew Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Meredith.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling, Keep Those Pixels Scrolling, File-wide….

(1) ON THE MARCH.

(2) GRAPHIC NOVEL WINS DIVERSE BOOKS AWARD. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles says that Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin have won the Walter Dean Myers Award (or “Walter”) for Outstanding Children’s Literature for March: Book Three.  The award is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, which promises to buy 2,000 copies of the graphic novel and donate them to libraries.

Responding to the news that he had won the Walter, Lewis said via email: “I am deeply moved for our book to receive this award. It is my hope that it will inspire more people to read and to use their pen to inspire another generation to speak up and speak out.”

(3) BREAKTHROUGHS. Barnes & Noble SF/F blog has listed “20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice”.

From the Time Machine to Kirk and Uhura‘s unprecedented kiss, speculative fiction has often concerned itself with breaking barriers and exploring issues of race, inequality, and injustice. The fantastical elements of genre, from alien beings to magical ones, allow writers to confront controversial issues in metaphor, granting them a subversive power that often goes unheralded. On this, the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider 20 novels that incorporate themes of social justice into stories that still deliver the goods—compelling plots, characters you’ll fall in love with, ideas that will expand your mind. Let’s imagine a day when the utopian ideals of Star Trek are more than just the stuff of science fiction.

(4) SEER. Nature profiles Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his 100th birthday (last month).

In 1945, Clarke inadvertently launched a career as a futurologist with his outline for a geostationary communications satellite. In a letter (‘V2 for ionosphere research?’) published in February’s issue of Wireless World and inspired by the German V2 rockets then landing on London, he made a revolutionary proposal:

An ‘artificial satellite’ at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.

Clarke realistically concluded: “I’m afraid this isn’t going to be of the slightest use to our postwar planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.” He followed up with a more detailed piece in Wireless World that October, envisioning “space-stations” that relied on thermionic valves serviced by an onboard crew supplied by atomic-powered rockets.

(5) SCIENCE THE SH!T OUT OF THIS. Is dome living worse than dorm living? Six simulated Hawaiian Martians will find out — “Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome”.

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods — with a rare treat of Spam — and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The simulated stay on Mars with a carefully selected crew of researchers embarked on a mission Thursday to gain insight into the psychological toll a similar real-life voyage would have on astronauts. It’s part of a NASA-funded human-behavior experiment that could help the space agency send humans to the red planet in the next 20 years.

The man-made dome that the four men and two women call home is outfitted with futuristic white walls and an elevated sleeping platform on the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii. The vinyl-covered shelter spans 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom house.

A video released by the group shows the six scientists in matching red polo shirts arriving and entering the dome to farewell handshakes from program associates

(6) THE WORST. AlienExpoDallas forwards its picks as the “Top 5 Villains of Sci-Fi”.  Did they get it right?

Just like the clothes make the man, the villain makes the hero! (Unless you’re Batman — then you make the villains… in any case, I digress.) Today we live in a world where the villain gets his due — specifically villains of the sci-fi variety. Villains in sci-fi have a special gravitas where no matter how evil the scheme or horrid their actions, you somehow find yourself rooting for them. So with that, here are our top 5 villains of sci-fi!

Number 5 is Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

(7) VISITED BY THE MUSE. Amanda Palmer posted this photo on Instagram yesterday.

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

 

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

A post shared by Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) on

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 — First American novel, The Power of Sympathy, published in Boston

(9) PEER REVIEWED. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, co-authored a paper on AI/machine learning, based on a short film she directed.

The Twilight actress recently made her directorial debut with the short film Come Swim, and in it used a machine learning technique known as “style transfer” (where the aesthetics of one image or video is applied to another) to create an impressionistic visual style. Along with special effects engineer Bhautik J Joshi and producer David Shapiro, Stewart has co-authored a paper on this work in the film, publishing it in the popular online repository for non-peer reviewed work, arXiv.

(10) FIFTH OF KONG. There’s a new series of TV spots for Kong: Skull Island. In keeping with Scroll tradition, I picked #5.

(11) F.U.D. People are getting pretty good at recognizing fake news. Like Brian Niemeier’s insinuation about this year’s Worldcon supporting membership rate.

Worldcon 75’s supporting membership rate was fixed when the four rival bids for 2017 set the cost of a site selection voting membership in the summer before the 2015 Worldcon. It’s not a recent decision.

And have a look at the supporting membership rates for the five most recent Worldcons.

  • LoneStarCon 3 (2013) supporting membership: $60
  • LonCon 3 (2014) supporting membership: $40
  • Sasquan (2015) supporting membership: $40
  • MidAmeriCon II (2016) supporting membership: $50
  • Worldcon 75 (2017) supporting membership: $40

A $40 rate is a typical rate, not a cut rate.

(12) DEE GOOTS. In Andi Gutierrez’ The Star Wars Show episode “Rogue One Secrets Explained”, she interviews Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, delving into Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs, production details, and much more.

(13) THE COOLEST PROJECT. Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator! Do you want one badly enough to make it yourself?

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that’s not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the Star Wars replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

 

(14) INSTANT CLASSIC. Camestros Felapton wove together several recent memes as replacement lyrics for an Otis Redding tune.

Oh the Gorn may be weary?
Them Gorns they do get weary
Wearing those same old metallic shorts, yeah yeah?
But when the Gorn gets weary
Try a little pixelness….

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Rob Thornton, Gregory Benford, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/17 Pixelcrantz And Guildenscroll Are Dead

(1) WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILING. Graeme Cameron has a great installment of “The Clubhouse” about the legendary Walt Willis at Amazing Stories.

In 1952 Walt was the recipient of the first Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) which paid his way to attend the Chicon II Worldcon in Chicago that year. To give you an idea of his inventiveness, he immediately wrote WILLIS DISCOVERS AMERICA (OR WHY MAGELLAN SAILED COMPLETELY AROUND IT), a report on his TAFF trip, BEFORE he made the trip. He crammed into its pages his impressions of America derived from all the American fanzines and correspondence he’d read to date.

“A Roscoeite!” exclaims the Chief Immigration Officer in horror. “By Ghu, this is a purple-letter day for us. We’ll show you how we treat vile infidels here. Men! Seize Ellis and transport him to Willis Island. His confederate too.”

“The South shall rise!” shouts Shelby defiantly as the Ghuist hordes close in on him. “Yeast is Yeast and …”

…Next, Willis and Shelby concoct a fiendish plan. They overpower a guard and a nurse, intending to put on their uniforms and walk out the door….

Willis and Shelby prepare to escape, but the unexpected happens.

“Now,” says Willis, “All we have to do is walk quietly out.”

He unlocks the door with the guard’s keys and is opening it slowly and noiselessly when there is the sound of rushing feet in the corridor and several men in prison guard uniform burst into the cell. Before Vick and Willis can utter a word they are gagged and bound by six of the strangers while the rest carry out the unconscious guard and nurse. The leader pauses dramatically on the threshold. “If anyone asks you who rescued Willis and Vick,” he says proudly, “tell them it was Harlan Ellison and the Cleveland Science Fantasy League. That’ll show Ken Beale. It’s not every fan group who would have thought of overpowering some of the guards and taking their uniforms.”

But every fan group does. Six in all, in fact, in sequence. Each offering Willis an opportunity to poke fun at them. Needless to say, no one escapes.

(2) GETTING AN AGENT FOR TV WRITING. Joshua Sky taps into his experience when offering his “Advice on Landing a Genre TV Lit Agent” at the SFWA Blog.

The first thing a writer will need are two killer television scripts, in the same format and in their target genre. This may sound obvious, but is nevertheless true. The hardest part isn’t just writing your script, it’s getting someone to read it, which is why it has to be excellent because second chances with a script reader are rare. The reason the writer will need at least two samples is because the agent wants proof that the scribe can do it more than once.

The writer will need to be very specific about exactly what kind of scribe they are gunning to be. A Hollywood agent won’t want someone who is open to any genre. For example: someone who blithely says that they’ll write anything, or enjoys both comedy and drama. So be precise. For our intents and purposes, we are targeting the science fiction / genre market. The samples that got me my second TV agent were two science fiction pilots. I pitched myself as the kind of writer who understood high-concept genre fare and yearned to write one-hour dramas. Shows like Man in the High Castle, Westworld and The Expanse.

After you have the requisite samples, and only then, you can begin submitting and querying agents. But to be honest, referrals work best. In my ten years in the industry, I have never met any writers who have been able to obtain a reputable TV agent via email query. I’ve heard tales of that happening, but they are very rare, like people who sell scripts that don’t live in LA, it’s more the exception than the rule.

(3) TWO OCTAVIA BUTLER ARTICLES. Salon interviews Junot Diaz — “Remembering Octavia Butler: ‘This country views people like Butler and like Oscar as aliens and treats people like us like we’re from another planet”.

But the readers and writers who admire Butler and dig her work are everywhere. One of them is Junot Díaz, author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and “This Is How You Lose Her” and a lifelong science-fiction fan. Díaz, who teaches at MIT and lives outside Boston, corresponded with Salon about Butler and her work.

Let’s start with her achievement as a writer. How “significant” substantial. original, inventive, etc. was Octavia Butler?

Butler is a foundational figure and in my option one of the most significant literary artist of the 20th century. One cannot exaggerate the impact she has had across canons — as creators, readers, critics, we’re still wrestling with her extraordinary work. I teach her every single year without fail. To me she is that important.

Sheila Liming tells about “My Neighbor Octavia” at Public Books.

For years, I knew Octavia E. Butler, the famed African American science fiction and fantasy writer, by her first name only. That was the way she introduced herself when I first met her back in the fall of 1999. Butler had just purchased the house across the street from my parents’ and joined the ranks of our rather conventional suburban community in Lake Forest Park, WA, located just north of Seattle. A spate of rumors had attended her arrival on the block: “Octavia” wrote novels (about aliens!); “Octavia” had one of those “genius” grants; “Octavia” lived alone and was a reclusive artist type.

Andrew Porter sent these links together with this never-before-published photo of Butler.

Octavia Butler. Photo by and © Andrew I. Porter; all rights reserved.

Octavia Butler. Photo by and © Andrew I. Porter; all rights reserved.

(4) BECOMING A WINNER. 2016 Tiptree fellowship winner likhain’s application statement has been posted online. (likhain appears to be the desired name, but they have also used M. Sereno, Mia S., or Mia Sereno, per this post by Rose Lemberg).

I want to share with you the personal statement I submitted as part of my application, answering the question of how I work with speculative narrative to expand or explore our understanding of gender. I wrote this at the eleventh hour before submissions for the Fellowship application closed; I was quite sure I wouldn’t get the fellowship anyway, but I felt I had to speak, to say why I was doing my work — even if it came out broken and incoherent and raw.

I’m glad the selection committee saw something in my words that resonated. I’m glad they felt my work deserved supporting — that there is something in it that bears developing, some form of brightness to be seen. I’m so honored to be a Tiptree Fellow.

How do I work with speculative narrative to expand or explore our understanding of gender?

Through my art, I explore the weight of my heritage as a queer Filipina, heir to a history of struggle and revolution, colonization and war; descendant of women who spoke and fought, built and taught, and were as unflinching in their pursuit of their goals as they were wholehearted in their love. My understanding of being a woman is different from the dominant narratives I see in the white West: from childhood, we were always the brave ones, the bright ones, the ones who gave the impossible because we were strong enough to shoulder unbearable cost, the ones who did what was needful when it was too difficult for men, the ones who stood as the last line of defense against annihilation and the dark.

(5) A NEW RECORD. Foz Meadows posted a screencap on Tumblr with this endorsement:

Dear internets, please enjoy the single most batshit ridiculous comment ever left on my blog.

It was left on her blog post “Westworld: (De)Humanising the Other”, but it was inspired by a slam against her and Steve Davidson by Vox Day.

(6) STAR WARRIOR. An actor who has had many memorable roles since becoming famous on Cheers adds his iconic mug to a new franchise — “Woody Harrelson officially joins young Han Solo film”.

Harrelson will join Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke, who also has an unspecified role, as well as Atlanta star Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.

Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) has the lead part of the galactic smuggler, and he was recently photographed by a fan having lunch with Harrison Ford. We have yet to learn what words of wisdom the original Han Solo had for the new guy, although the bearded Ehrenreich appeared to have Ford beat in the “scruffy nerf-herder” department.

(7) BLATTY OBIT. William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, has died at the age of 89. The New York Times obituary says —

“The Exorcist,” the story of a 12-year-old girl possessed by the Devil, was published in 1971 and sold more than 13 million copies. The 1973 movie version, starring Linda Blair and directed by William Friedkin, was a runaway hit, breaking box-office records at many theaters and becoming the Warner Bros. studio’s highest-grossing film to date. It earned Mr. Blatty, who wrote the screenplay, an Academy Award. (It was also the first horror movie nominated for the best-picture Oscar.)

“The Exorcist” marked a radical shift in Mr. Blatty’s career, which was already well established in another genre: He was one of Hollywood’s leading comedy writers.

Mr. Blatty collaborated with the director Blake Edwards on the screenplays for four films, beginning in 1964 with “A Shot in the Dark,” the second movie (after “The Pink Panther”) starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and, in some critics’ view, the best. His other Edwards films were the comedy “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?” (1966); the musical comedy-drama “Darling Lili” (1970); and “Gunn” (1967), based on the television detective series “Peter Gunn.” He also wrote the scripts for comedies starring Danny Kaye, Warren Beatty and Zero Mostel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first Frisbee.
  • January 13, 1972 A Clockwork Orange has its first showing in the UK.

(9) A FORETASTE OF HORROR. American Horror Story will return for a seventh season and has been renewed for two more beyond that.

The first details about the seventh edition of American Horror Story are being revealed.

The next edition of the hit horror anthology is adding two very familiar names: Emmy-winning actress Sarah Paulson and her fellow AHS franchise veteran Evan Peters are both on board, executive producer Ryan Murphy told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Pasadena, California after a panel for the upcoming limited series Feud.

The next cycle will also be set in modern times, he said.

The revelations came after Murphy was asked if the upcoming season will keep its subject matter a mystery — like FX did with last year’s Roanoke.

(10) BIZARRE COLLECTABLES. Having a bunch of these around the house, sure, that will cheer you right up (rolls eyes) – Dangerous Minds tells about collectable Hieronymus Bosch figurines.

I’m not a big knickknack person. I like to keep my home sparse in the “tiny objects” departament. But I must admit I really do dig these Hieronymus Bosch figurines. They’re kinda cool-looking in their own obviously weird way. I especially like the ones from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

They’re also not too expensive. The figurines start at around $45, depending on quality, size and detail. I’ve posted a range of different figurines and where to purchase below each image if you’re interested.

tree-man-hybrid-creature-statue-adaptation-by-hieronymus-bosch-5h-jb01-1_1024x1024_465_623_int

(11) RICHARD MATHESON FLASHBACK. From Time Magazine’s 2013 obituary:

Fear lives forever. If as kids we are scared witless by some moment in a story, movie or TV show, it goes into a bank of memories we can tap and withdraw, with a shudder or a smile, for the rest of our lives. In popular culture of the past 60 years, few writers deposited more images of dread in the cultural consciousness than Richard Matheson, who died Sunday June 23 at his Calabasas, Cal., home at the age of 87. Here are a few of the images he implanted:

A man notices he is losing wright — no, he’s getting smaller (The Incredible Shrinking Man). An airline passenger sees a gremlin cavorting maliciously on an airplane wing (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” on The Twilight Zone). A driver on a lonesome highway is menaced by a killer truck (“Duel,” made into a 1971 TV movie by Steven Spielberg). A child disappears into the fourth dimension, her cries still audible to her father (“Little Girl Lost,” The Twilight Zone). A plague of vampires roams the Earth (the novel I Am Legend). A man discovers he has psychic powers that make him hear the thoughts of his neighbors, and of the restless dead (A Stir of Echoes). A young couple is visited by a stranger who tells them they’ll be rich if they just push a button that will instantly kill someone they don’t know (“Button, Button,” The Twilight Zone). A woman buys a Zuni fetish doll as a joke gift, then is attacked and assaulted when the doll comes to life (“Prey,” later a segment in the TV movie Trilogy of Terror).

(12) WATCH THE SYMPOSIUM. Tiptree Winner Eugene Fischer links to eight 2016 Tiptree Symposium videos.

In December I traveled to Eugene, Oregon to attend the 2016 Tiptree Symposium, a two-day academic conference on the work of Ursula K. Le Guin. I got to see some old friends, made some new ones, briefly met Le Guin herself, and heard many thoughtful panels and lectures. If that sounds like something you’re sad to have missed, you’re in luck: the University of Oregon has put videos of the presentations online.

I’m planning to rewatch several of these, starting with the incredible panel Alexis Lothian put together on “Speculative Gender and The Left Hand of Darkness,” featuring Aren Aizura, micha cárdenas, and Tuesday Smillie presenting three trans perspectives on the novel. I took five pages of notes on this panel alone, and came away feeling I hadn’t been able to jot down everything I wanted to think more about.

(13) HARD TRUTHS. Selections from Chuck Tingle’s visit to “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit.

  • well the timelines get HARDER as they go deeper and deeper into the tingleverse and techincally the hardest timeline is THE TINGULARITY i have never gone that far down as I am worried I would not make it back. the farthest i have visited is the timeline where all language is the word butt and there channing tatum makes up most of reality
  • well it is easy to see that love is real when you think about the way the sun shines or the way CHANNING TATUM looks handsome with his new haircut. so you can think on these things and consider that there are other timelines where channing tatum does not exhist or even one where he is a large frog. but it is also important to remember that IT IS OKAY TO BE SAD and IT IS OKAY TO BE WORRIED this is a normal part of being a buckaroo, then we consider this am move forward togeather as courageous bucks
  • when i sit down to write a tingler I think about the basic way of the story (this is through meditation on the deck) and then I think WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THIS PROVE LOVE. sometimes a story is good and fun or maybe spooky but it does not prove love and this is the most important part. so i think the key as a true buckaroo is to think HOW CAN THIS MAKE ME PROVE LOVE? how can this make a reader feel hot-to-trot after like they want to prance and maybe kiss a handsome plane or a handsome meatball or even maybe a handsome concept of playoff odds

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/16 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

(1) LE GUIN HEALTH NEWS. Ursula K. Le Guin, who was hospitalized for a few days this summer with heart problems, gave a health update in a comment at Book View Café on October 22.

The kindness of these messages is wonderful.  I wish I could thank you each. I can only thank you all with all my heart.

Health update: My daily bouquet of medicines with weird names is definitely doing its job.   Am quite recovered from the bad time, and get along fine if I don’t push it. My model of behavior is the Sloth.  Can’t hang from branches yet, but am real good at moving slo o o w w l y . . .

Best wishes to all my well-wishers.

(2) STARSHIPS IN OUR LIFETIME. Starship Engineer Workshops are being offered in London on November 12-13.

For further information or to book contact the team at: info@i4is.org  for more details.  For the full promotional flyer: http://i4is.org/app/webroot/uploads/files/SE_A4_Nov2016%20(AM)%20Vers%202.pdf

The Initiative for Interstellar Studies in collaboration with the British Interplanetary Society will deliver an updated Starship Engineer workshop course. Two one day courses, either attend one or both, each will be different and important in their own way.

12th November: Starship Engineer.  Aims to give a grounding in interstellar studies. It starts from considering the essential requirements to giving you an overview of different spacecraft systems, then takes you on a journey through several actual starship design studies. We use examples from the literature, but focus on two specific case studies, that of fusion and beamed-sail propulsion, as plausible ways by which we may someday reach the  stars.

13th November: Science Fiction Starships.  The works of science fiction literature have fascinating starship concepts, but how realistic are they? In this day course we will examine and evaluate the laser-sails in “The Mote in Gods Eye (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), Torch Ships in “Time for the Stars” (Robert Heinlein), Quantum Ramjets in “The Songs of Distant Earth” (Arthur C Clarke) and other inspirational examples of interstellar vessels….

Principal Lecturers: Kelvin F. Longis a physicist and aerospace engineer, until recently Chief Editor Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, author of the book “Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to the Stars” and is the Executive Director i4is and a member of the Breakthrough Starshot advisory committee.

Rob Swinney is a former RAF Squadron Leader aerosystems engineer and is a Deputy Director of i4is. He, and Long, have both been involved in the creation and running of the only two modern starship design projects, Project Icarus (fusion) and Project Dragonfly (laser-sails).

(3) IN TRAINING. Kevin Standlee writes a lyrical post about taking the California Zephyr through the Sierras.

Speaking of the nice parts: the eastbound Zephyr includes some views through the Sierra Nevada that you don’t get on the westbound trip. For example, shortly after Colfax the train goes around “Cape Horn” with some spectacular views of the American River Canyon. Some of the trees have finally been cut back as well; for a while, they’d grown so thick that they cut off the vista, which was unfortunate. Eastbound you miss this because the normal eastbound track goes through a tunnel that custs off this corner with its precipitous view. I’m composing most of them while snaking our way up the mountain, but I can’t post it because on this stretch there is no cell phone signal. We’re on the opposite side of the mountains from the I-80 corridor where the cell phone towers are. Not that I mind. I’m mostly looking out the window. As a touch-typist, I don’t need to stare at the keyboard to write.

(4) NOT A TYPICAL ANALOG WRITER. Galactic Journey says Harry Harrison has finally registered on their radar screen –

Author Harry Harrison has been around for a long time, starting his science fiction writing career at the beginning of the last decade (1951).  Yet, it was not until this decade that I (and probably many others) discovered him.  He came into my view with the stellar Deathworld, a novel that was a strong contender for last year’s Hugo.  Then I found his popular Stainless Steel Rat stories, which were recently anthologized.  The fellow is definitely making a name for himself.

Harrison actually occupies a liberal spot in generally conservative Analog magazine’s stable of authors.  While Harry tends to stick with typical Analog tropes (psionics, humano-centric stories, interstellar hijinx), there are themes in his work which are quite progressive – even subversive, at least for the medium in which they appear.

For instance, there is a strong pro-ecological message in Deathworld.  I also detect threads of pacifism in Harrison’s works, not to mention rather unorthodox portrayal of women and sexual mores.  Harry isn’t Ted Sturgeon or anything, but he is definitely an outlier for Analog, and refreshing for the genre as a whole.

(5) ALMOST YOUR BIGGEST FAN. The Twitter user formerly known as Jim Henley knows how to pay a compliment.

(6) DILLON OBIT. Comics artist Steve Dillion died October 22 reports the BBC.

Steve Dillon, the legendary British comic book artist, known for his work on Preacher, Punisher, and 2000AD’s Judge Dredd has died aged 54.

His brother Glyn confirmed the death on Twitter, saying his “big brother and hero” had died in New York City.

Dillon was a prolific artist who began professional work at age 16, drawing for Marvel UK’s Hulk magazine.

He was best known for his US collaborations with writer Garth Ennis, creating classic cult comic titles.

In his Twitter profile, Dillon, originally from Luton, describes himself as: “A comic book bloke. Co-creator/Artist of Preacher. Co-founder/Editor of Deadline magazine. Artist on Punisher, Judge Dredd and many others.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 23, 1942  — Michael Crichton.

(8) YOUR EPIC IMAGINATION. James Davis Nicoll says it’s “Good news!” Dorothy J. Heydt’s The Interior Life (published under penname Katherine Blake) available again as a free ebook.

Go here for the download.

(9) DO YOU LIKE WHAT SMART PEOPLE LIKE? Ann Leckie keeps hitting them out of the park. Today’s topic: “On Guilty Pleasures”.

Or Romance. Romance isn’t one of my things, right, but let’s be honest, a crappy detective novel or a crappy SF or Extruded Fantasy Product is just as bad as a crappy Romance. When it’s SF we’ll protest that no, that’s just a bad one, the whole genre’s not like that, but Romance? Romance is just stupid, man.

Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that poor people like–or tend to buy or use because it’s cheap. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that teenage girls like, or women. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things we liked when we were kids.

I’m not saying that nothing can be criticized–there are surely bad Romance novels. Taylor Swift is a pretty good songwriter who has done some very admirable things, but she’s also had her less than admirable public moments. Velveeta doesn’t come out well in a comparison with really good cheese (unless its a competition for what will make the easiest mac & cheese, given only three minutes and a microwave to work with), and it’s probably not very good for you. I’m perfectly willing to criticize things I like, or consider criticism of those things, and still like them.

No, I’m talking about that weird, moral dimension to likes and dislikes. You like pumpkin spice anything? You should be ashamed. You should feel guilty, because you’re not supposed to like that, smart people don’t like that, people who like that have something wrong with them.

So much of what we like or dislike–what we’re publicly supposed to like or dislike–is functioning as in-group identifiers.

(10) HAN SOLO MOVIE CASTING. Donald Glover will play young Lando Calrissian, and YES he will wear a cape reports the Los Angeles Times.

Donald Glover is officially your new Lando Calrissian. Lucasfilm has announced that Glover will play the younger version of “Star Wars’” Cloud City administrator turned Rebel Alliance general in the upcoming standalone Han Solo film.

Glover will join Alden Ehrenreich, who was confirmed to play the young Solo during Star Wars Celebration in July.

According to the press release, the upcoming film will depict “Lando in his formative years as a scoundrel on the rise in the galaxy’s underworld — years before the events involving Han, Leia, and Darth Vader in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and his rise to Rebel hero in ‘Return of the Jedi.’”

(11) ACCELERATING HUMAN IMAGINATION IN ENGLAND. Did somebody think it wasn’t fast enough?

On November 24 and 25th on the campus of the University of Liverpool, London, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the University of Liverpool, London will host a workshop called Accelerating Human Imagination, bringing together a number of US and European experts in the study of imagination. They will be presenting and discussing new research on questions such as: What is “imagination?” Is there a singular basis of imagination that develops into a number of different phenomena, or do we use the word imagination to group together a number of aspects of behavior and cognition into a common category? If we can better understand imagination, we might be able to find ways of directly engaging it in order to accelerate its operation. What use might we put this accelerated imagination to?

(12) RAW SCIENCE FILM FESTIVAL. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is a  partner of the Raw Science Film Festival, which honors films on science and technology from around the world. The screening and award ceremony will take place on December 10, 2016, on the Fox Studio lot inside the historic Zanuck Theater. Sheldon Brown will be on hand to present the inaugural Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination Prize in Speculative Media. The deadline for festival submissions is November 9.

(13) INDIE SHRINKS. At Mad Genius Club, Fynbospress makes insightful speculations about the new author earnings report.

Interesting times, interesting results. After two and half years of constant growth, this time we see the first contraction for indie market share. Trad Pub’s big five showed a very slight gain in unit sales, but most of the market share went to Amazon’s own publishing arm, and a smaller amount to uncategorized single-author publishers (mostly indies).

On gross revenues, most of the lost market share went to small and medium publishers, with a smaller amount to amazon Pub.

Having the what, we’re left to speculate on the why, and how. Causes may include, but are not limited to: Amazon’s Kindle first program, pushing their own new releases; Bookbub’s increasing percentage of big and medium press slots as opposed to indies (and increased price raising the barrier to the fewer slots left); Amazon’s new promoted/sponsored search ads; consolidation of indies into small pubs; the stars being in the right configuration for C’thulu to rise from dead R’lyeh; other factors unknown at this time.

(14) SAY AHHHHH. Research shows “Migraine Sufferers Have More Nitrate-Reducing Microbes in their Mouths”.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that the mouths of migraine sufferers harbor significantly more microbes with the ability to modify nitrates than people who do not get migraine headaches. The study is published October 18 by mSystems.

“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines — chocolate, wine and especially foods containing nitrates,” said first author Antonio Gonzalez, a programmer analyst in the laboratory of Rob Knight, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego and senior author on the study. “We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”

Many of the 38 million Americans who suffer from migraines report an association between consuming nitrates and their severe headaches. Nitrates, found in foods such as processed meats and green leafy vegetables and in certain medicines, can be reduced to nitrites by bacteria found in the mouth. When circulating in the blood, these nitrites can then be converted to nitric oxide under certain conditions. Nitric oxide can aid cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. However, roughly four in five cardiac patients who take nitrate-containing drugs for chest pain or congestive heart failure report severe headaches as a side effect.

(15) SQUINTING. Kevin Marks discusses “How the Web Became Unreadable”. Surprisingly, he’s not talking about all the political posts.

It’s been getting harder for me to read things on my phone and my laptop. I’ve caught myself squinting and holding the screen closer to my face. I’ve worried that my eyesight is starting to go.

These hurdles have made me grumpier over time, but what pushed me over the edge was when Google’s App Engine console—a page that, as a developer, I use daily—changed its text from legible to illegible. Text that was once crisp and dark was suddenly lightened to a pallid gray. Though age has indeed taken its toll on my eyesight, it turns out that I was suffering from a design trend.

There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.

(16) HAGIOGRAPHY. Leonard Maltin interviews Stan Lee for Parade.

DINNER WITH DOCTOR STRANGE

When asked which three of his superheroes he would like to have dinner with, he takes a moment to think the question through. “I’d probably enjoy talking to Iron Man,” he says. “I’d like to talk to Doctor Strange. I like the Silver Surfer. Iron Man is sort of a classier Donald Trump, if you can imagine that sort of thing. The Silver Surfer is always philosophical; he comments about the world and man’s position in the universe, why we don’t enjoy living on this wonderful planet and why we don’t help each other.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, JJ and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]