Robert Hardy (1925-2017)

Cornelius Fudge and Dumbledore

By Steve Green: Robert Hardy (1925-2017): British actor, died August 3, aged 91, best known to fans as Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies.

Genre appearances include The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (one episode, 1957), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Mystery and Imagination (one episode, 1966), Demons of the Mind (1972), Dark PlacesGawain and the Green Knight (both 1973), Supernatural (one episode, 1977), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (one episode, 1979), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1981, narrator), Shades of Darkness (one episode, 1986), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), Testament: The Bible in Animation, (one episode, 1996, voice), Gulliver’s Travels (both episodes of miniseries, 1996), The 10th Kingdom (seven episodes, 2000), The Lost World (2001), Thunderpants (2002), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Joseph’s Reel (2015).

Pixel Scroll 8/2/17 What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Tick-Boxed At Last, Scrolls Towards Bethlehem To Be Born?

(1) SOUNDS LEGIT. Newsweek’s Hannah Osborn reports “Nasa Is Hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to Save Earth from Aliens”. If you want to protect earth from space aliens and have the qualifications, NASA is hiring, on a three-year contract with pay from $124,000 to $187,000.

The headline is a little grandiose – here’s what the job is really about:

The role involves stopping astronauts and robots from getting contaminated with any organic and biological material during space travel.

“NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration” the job advert reads. “This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.”

Still want to apply? The USAJOBS listing is here.

(2) STATS. A snapshot of Worldcon 75 membership, with the convention a week away:

(3) HARVEST OF STORIES. Cora Buhlert went into overdrive last month: “The July Short Story Challenge 2017 – 32 Short Stories in 31 Days” . And this is the third consecutive year she’s written a story a day in July!

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation. In one case, googling a research question for one story, namely whether there it’s actually legal to shoot looters after a massive disaster (it’s not, though there have been cases where law enforcement personnel was given carte blanche, with predictably terrible results) led me to the story of a man who bragged that he had shot more than thirty alleged looters after Hurricane Katrina (thankfully, it seems he was lying or at least massively exaggerating) and who amazingly was not arrested as a serial killer. This made me actively angry, so I wrote a post-apocalyptic story where a shooter of looters gets his comeuppance.

(4) CRIME BLOTTER. Alison Flood and Sian Cain of The Guardian, in “Beatrix Potter-pinching and Žižekian swipes: the strange world of book thefts”, look at who is stealing books from British bookstores. The sf connection is that at Blackwell’s in Oxford, Tolkien, Pratchett, Jordan, and Martin are among the top authors stolen, Also, “an 80-year-old woman with a Zimmer frame” heisted Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind from Drake the Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees.

Paul Sweetman of City Books in Hove believes shoplifters appear to have dumbed down over the years. “In the 1980s, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac were the most likely to go missing, The Bell Jar and On the Road competing for being the least profitable books in the shop. We are now forced to keep Asterix, Tintin, Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss behind the counter.”

(5) ALEX, I’LL TAKE LA ARCHITECTURE FOR $100. The answer is: Ray Bradbury. The question is: “Why Does Los Angeles Have a Mall Based on the Babylon Set From the 1916 Film Intolerance?”.

If you’ve been to the Hollywood & Highland Center and have a working knowledge of silent film history, you may have noticed that the hulking mall’s design has been lifted with mixed success from the Babylon set in DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance. (An influential and ruinously expensive feat of filmmaking in which Griffith calls out critics of his previous film, The Birth of a Nation, as the real racists; it interweaves tales of intolerance from ancient Babylon, the life of Christ, Renaissance France, and then-modern America). That’s pretty weird, right? What kind of mind came up with that? In a posthumous essay just published at the Paris Review, late science fiction author Ray Bradbury says it was his idea….

Intolerance flopped. There was no money left to dismantle the set, and for a few years it became an actual ruin in the middle of Los Angeles. It was finally torn down in 1919….

In his essay at the Paris Review, Bradbury—who led a campaign in the early 1960s to build a monorail system in Los Angeles—writes about his career as an “accidental architect,” influencing designs for the 1964 World’s Fair, EPCOT, and, strangely enough, the Glendale Galleria…..

Eventually, a group came to him “looking at ways to rebuilt Hollywood”:

I told them that somewhere in the city, they had to build the set from the 1916 film Intolerance by D. W. Griffith. The set, with its massive, wonderful pillars and beautiful white elephants on top, now stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland avenues. People from all over the world come to visit, all because I told them to build it. I hope at some time in the future, they will call it the Bradbury Pavilion.

The Hollywood & Highland Center opened in late 2001, at the beginning of what has become a wildly successful rebirth for Hollywood. EE&K designed the complex, with a grand stairway leading up to a “Babylon Court” with a replica Intolerance gate (which frames the Hollywood Sign in the distance) and, of course, a few elephants…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 2, 1971 — Zombies in sunglasses: The Omega Man (Charlton Heston’s version) premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 2, 1939 — Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven born.

(8) POTTER CAST TRANSPLANTS. Variety’s Gordon Cox, in “Meet the Wizards of Broadway’s ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, reports seven members of the London cast are going to be in the Broadway production, scheduled to open in April.

Seven members of the West End company of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will open the Broadway production in the spring, including Olivier winners Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle.

That trio and four other British actors will lead the cast of one of the most hotly anticipated productions of the Broadway season. The newest chapter in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” saga wowed both audiences and critics when it opened last summer, and went on to win a record nine Oliviers, including the trophies for Parker (as a grown-up Harry), Dumezwani (as Hermione) and Boyle, who plays Scorpius, the son of Harry’s old nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

On Broadway, Sam Clemmett will reprise his role as Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, alongside Paul Thornley (Ron), Poppy Miller (Ginny), and Alex Price (Draco). Byron Jennings, Kathryn Meisle and David Abeles are among the new actors joining the hefty cast of 28.

(9) X NEXT. Yahoo! says “There’s A Reason You Should Care About The Next X-Men Movie, And That Reason Is Jessica Chastain”.

On her Instagram page, the actress shared an image of her and James McAvoy – who plays Professor Charles Xavier in the films – and writes that she’s off to join the cast in Montreal.

Hey @jamesmcavoyrealdeal you ready for me up in Montreal? Im gonna make you cry so hard 😈 #xmen @simondavidkinberg

A post shared by Jessica Chastain (@jessicachastain) on

The actress also captioned the photo “I’m gonna make you cry so hard”, which could give us a hint as to who she’s playing.

Rumours have stated that the filmmakers were looking to cast Chastain as Princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, and while she hasn’t confirmed this, it’s looking likely.

In the comics (and nineties animated series) Charles and Lilandra are in love, but their duties and very long distance gets in the way of their relationship – hence her comment about making Charles cry.

(10) COMPILATION. Lela E. Buis announces her “Review Project: Greater Inclusion of SFF Worldviews”.

During a recent discussion here at the blog, I was asked to provide examples of underrepresented minority views. I’m now starting a project to review works like this from 2017. I have several candidates lined up, but I’d also be happy to have suggestions on likely candidates. I’m especially looking for Native American and LatinX worldviews, as this group has been pretty scarce in the recent SFF awards cycles, even though Native American and LatinX persons make up about 1/5 of the US population. I’m also interested in other underrepresented worldviews within the SFF community, and I may ask a few people to do guest reviews or articles as the project goes along.

I should probably define what I mean by “worldview.” I’m not looking for just diversity of race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or national origin in the authors here; I’m looking for authors writing from within their own authentic worldview instead of just replaying Western stereotypes.

(11) ART CORNUCOPIA. Digital Arts Online tells where to find the motherlode: “The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download”.

The British Library’s collection of images on Flickr are taken from books it has its collection from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century – so well out of copyright – and are vaguely arranged by theme: such as book covers, cycling, illustrated lettering, comic art, ships or children’s book illustration. There’s also a collection of ‘Highlights‘ that’s a good place to start if you just want a general browse.

(12) I’M MELTING! Riffing on a fannish enthusiasm: is vanilla ice cream on its way out? “Is time up for plain vanilla flavour ice creams?”

But for many years, flavours from the big international brands remained stubbornly conservative, dominated by chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Now though, thanks to migration, long-haul travel, and the internet, consumers are becoming more adventurous and manufacturers are taking note.

Parlours have sprung up across the US offering Persian-style saffron, orange blossom, and rosewater ice cream, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey; and Indian-inspired flavours such as masala chai, pineapple, and kulfi.

(13) NOT EXACTLY WESTWORLD. Film fans recreated the final set of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (technically not sf-related, but this is a story of fan-level enthusiasm): “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly location reborn in Spain”.

But in 2014, a group of local people decided to restore the site to its former glory. They called themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association and after locating the exact cemetery spot, with the help of photographs from the film’s final scene, in 2015 they set about the painstaking process of excavating the site.

“At the start it seemed like it was going to be impossible, but bit by bit people from other provinces of Spain, other towns, and even other countries, came to help us rebuild the cemetery and it snowballed,” says David Alba, the 35-year-old president of the association. Aficionados could help finance the project by paying €15 (£13; $18) to have their name painted onto one of the wooden crosses.

Mr Alba remembers a key moment early in the excavation.

“We were digging in the ground and we saw that underneath the earth were the original stones of the central circle of the site, the place where all the actors, the director and all the technicians had walked across during the filming,” he says. “It was like digging in the ground and finding treasure.”

(14) THE BUZZER. Fun for conspiracy theorists: “The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run” (and several other strange radio stations)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

(15) ANOTHER HACKING OPPORTUNITY. More on implantable microchips: one has already been used to infect the system that read it.

Hacking and security concerns, however, are less easily hand-waved away. RFID chips can only carry a minuscule 1 kilobyte or so of data, but one researcher at Reading University’s School of Systems Engineering, Mark Gasson, demonstrated that they are vulnerable to malware.

Gasson had an RFID tag implanted in his left hand in 2009, and tweaked it a year later so that it would pass on a computer virus. The experiment uploaded a web address to the computer connected to the reader, which would cause it to download some malware if it was online.

“It was actually a surprisingly violating experience,” says Gasson. “I became a danger to the building’s systems.”

(16) DEPT. OF WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? A “Chicago Library Seeks Help Transcribing Magical Manuscripts”  —

The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period, a time of sweeping social, political, and cultural change spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would have scandalized the religious establishment. These texts deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits—and the Newberry is asking for help translating and transcribing them.

As Tatiana Walk-Morris reports for Atlas Obscura, digital scans of three magical manuscripts are accessible through Transcribing Faith, an online portal that functions much like Wikipedia. Anyone with a working knowledge of Latin or English is invited to peruse the documents and contribute translations, transcriptions, and corrections to other users’ work.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/17 On The Fifth Day She Scrolled Five Tidbits About Ray Bradbury

(1) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? CNN’s Brian Lowry is not impressed: “‘Valerian’ turns French comic into epic mess”.

A feast for the eyes and positively numbing on the brain, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” makes an early bid for worst movie of the year — or at least, the most ostentatious waste of money, given the lavish trappings of this comic-book adaptation from French writer-director Luc Besson.

Visually sumptuous, Besson has approximated the scale of a “Star Wars” epic, albeit one wholly populated by versions of Jar-Jar Binks….

(2) GUARANTEED INCOME. Fast Company considers “Could Hawaii Be The First State To Offer A Basic Income?” Shades of Mack Reynolds!

With trials already underway in Kenya, Finland, and Oakland, and several others planned elsewhere, basic income is starting to get a thorough testing. The idea of direct cash transfers to meet basic human needs has been getting a lot of attention in the media, from Silicon Valley leaders, and among academics and think tanks. It can’t be long before a city or state in the United States experiments with basic income for itself (Oakland’s pilot is run by Y Combinator, a startup incubator)….

(3) SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM. And what will Hawaiians buy with their guaranteed money? Well… “‘It’s flavourful as hell’: Welcome to Hawaii’s annual Spam festival”

Not even the drizzle can deter the crowds unspooling along Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach. As late April showers fall upon Kalakaua Avenue, the roads are lined three-deep with sunburned tourists, surfer bros and silver-haired pensioners. Their colourful T-shirts, flower garlands and fancy dress costumes are soaked by rain, but eagerly they wait. Suddenly, a chorus of tiny ukuleles starts to play. The procession begins. Are they waiting to pay homage to a visiting dignitary or religious leader? No. They’re here to celebrate Hawaii’s favourite food: the immortal luncheon meat called Spam.

I join snaking queues for seemingly endless food stalls, each dish more absurd than the last: Spam pizza, Spam fried rice, Spam crackers, Spam pho, deep-fried mac and cheese bites (with Spam) and, of course, Spam fritters. I spot some Spam-infused macadamia nuts, and a slab of grilled Spam atop sticky rice, doused in soy and bound with seaweed: Spam sushi. There’s even Spam dipped in chocolate.

(4) CELEBRATING AFRICAN SF. The University of Manchester’s The Manchester Review has published a special issue on African SF: “Manchester showcases African sci-fi writers, including the author of an ‘African Game of Thrones’”.

This edition of the review is edited by the multi-award winning Geoff Ryman, a Senior Creative Writing Lecturer at The University of Manchester. His own work has won the Arthur C Clarke Award, the Philip K Dick Award and the British Science Fiction Award, and his passion for African science fiction has led him towrite a series interviewing 100 writers from the continent.

Ryman says:

The number of African science fiction stories being published is now too great to do anything other than list. Right now, this wave of creativity reminds me of Elizabethan England at the time of Shakespeare – the power is rising, and the literature with it.

(5) CHAOS DENIED. A spokesperson for former Doctor Who Peter Davison complains the actor’s comments on the new Doctor were quoted out of context:

Since there’s been a flurry of out of context and editorialized articles from various tabloids today (they do love to create chaos), here’s a transcript of Peter’s actual comments from a press interview at #SDCC2017 (the “breaks” were apparently pauses for questions which were edited out):

I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her and I think that it will be hard for some fans to adjust to it. As I said before, it’s difficult to adjust to any new Doctor, but I think the important thing is that those are uncertain fellows, those who are uncertain should be encouraged to watch it with an open mind. I don’t know, I feel… I think the time for discussion about that is past. They’ve made the announcement. Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor and that’s great!

[break]

I feel.. if I feel any doubts about it, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you’ve got to open it up, so that’s absolutely fair enough. So she has my best wishes and full confidence. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job.

[break]

As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy, but then maybe I’m an old fashioned dinosaur. Who knows? But I think that’s irrelevant now. The time for discussion is over. We have a new Doctor. And let’s give her our full support.

[break]

I would encourage them to watch. I think there’s too much… you know on the internet… there’s too much bile coming from both sides. And too many people are being horribly sexist about it, and too many people are saying, ‘Well, we don’t care about you. You’re old fashioned. Go away and watch something else.’ I think fans who are doubtful, who are uncertain should be encouraged and welcomed. And just approach it with an open mind.

[break]

Oh yeah, of course. I mean, she’s a terrific actress. And you can absolutely understand it. Look, someone rings you up… I know this feeling… someone rings you up one night. You’re sitting at home and they say ‘how would you feel about being the next Doctor Who?’ It’s a fantastic opportunity, so of course, she grabs it with both hands. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job!”

 

(6) THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. This is the last weekend LA’s Harry Potter-themed store Whimsic Alley will be open — “Miracle Mile’s Whimsic Alley Closing”. It says something about social media – don’t ask me what – that a store with over 18,000 Facebook “likes” has bit the dust.

Both a shop and a popular party and entertainment venue, with a castle-like Great Hall event space and a retail area resembling a Dickensian streetscape, the business has been catering to fans of the Harry Potter books and movies — as well as fans of other popular entertainments such as Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, Outlander and even Downton Abbey — in its current location since 2008 (and it was located in Santa Monica for five years before that).  It sells books, costumes, toys, magic wands and other character-related accessories, and has hosted hundreds of birthday parties, tea parties, costume balls, murder mystery dinners, fantasy-themed craft fairs, day camps and even weddings.  For many years before Potter-themed attractions opened at Universal Studios, fans from all over the world would trek to Whimsic Alley for its one-of-a-kind items and atmosphere.

“New multi-million dollar theme parks and exhibitions are awe-inspiring,” owner Stan Goldin said in the closing statement, “But for many years, Whimsic Alley filled a void that no one else seemed interested in filling. Our staff enjoyed serving our clientele as much as they hopefully enjoyed their experiences. As a result, we developed close friendships along the way which we hope will continue for many years to come.”

But Goldin told the Buzz that those new theme park attractions, along with other factors such as the rise of online shopping, and perhaps also traffic and parking disruptions from local subway construction, may be what finally sealed the fate of the beloved store. Business has fallen off dramatically in the last year or so, he said, and “we can only speculate why.”

(7) HALF OF SIXTEEN TONS AND WHAT DO YOU GET? Yahoo! Celebrity’s piece “Comic Book Superfan’s Collection Weighs More Than 8 Tons” tells about Bob Bretell, an LA guy who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having 103,000 comic books, including Amazing Fantasy 15.

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a comment: “I remember there was a discussion in File 770 back in the day about fans who were moving their collections and discussing how many tons of books they had.  I remember some fans had more than one ton, but I don’t think anybody had two.  Well, this guy has eight tons of comics!”

(8) CONVERSATIONS WITH CREATORS. Thieved from John Scalzi’s Twitter feed.

(9) WUT? Camestros Felapton has scored another technological breakthrough, the sound-free podcast. It’s guaranteed to be as pleasing to the deaf as it is to the dumb: “The Book Club Roundtable Discussion Club Non-Audio Podcast Club”. Features Camestros, Timothy the Talking Cat and a radiant guest star —

[Camestros] Well, I’m glad you asked. Coming all the way from the distant past and the far future is Susan the triceratops! A big round of applause for Susan!

[Susan the Triceratops enters from the wings] Hi.

[Camestros] Hi Susan. Now for the viewers at home can you tell us more about yourself?

[Susan] Viewers? Isn’t this a podcast?

[Timothy] The government is always watching us Susan. They fear my outspoken commitment to freedom and privatising healthcare.

[Susan] Thank you for the clarification small mammal predator. Well, as you know, I’m originally from the distant past but due to a time-travel accident I ended up in the far future where I now live in Fungus Town, home to the post-apocalyptic Fungus civilisation. In my spare time I defend the city in my superhero identity: Triceracopter.

(10) SHUFFLE UP. Bibliophilopolis tells how fans can “deal themselves in” to “An All-Bradbury #24in48 Readathon!”

From the readathon’s home page, here are some details: “If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like.”

What am I Reading?

Now “the rest of the story” is that most participants don’t actually read 24 entire hours, but rather have that as a goal.  In the past, I’ve participated by reading 24 short stories, which is harder than you think.  This year, though, to up the ante, I’m going to try to read 52 stories, all by the master storyteller, Ray Bradbury.  Why? Many reasons, not the least of which being I really enjoy reading his stories. He also doesn’t write many “long-ish” stories, so they might average a short enough length for me to complete 52 in a weekend. The most important reason, though, is that I am hoping to “raise awareness” about a local (for me) literary treasure, The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Pay them a visit at the link, and also check out their Facebook page. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Center on a couple occasions and it is chock-full of Bradbury artifacts and documents, and a re-creation of his office space. Including his seat of choice, a director’s chair (see photo below).

(11) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY. From John King Tarpinian’s 2009 Comic-Con photos:

Here is a picture I took, my friend Robert is in the middle.  The other two are Jerry Robinson & Ray Bradbury.  If you don’t know who Jerry was then you do not deserve to be in San Diego this weekend.

(12) FIVE YEARS AGO. And in 2012, John photographed George Clayton Johnson’s image on the screen at Comc-Con’s Bradbury eulogy session.

George Clayton Johnson

(13) COMIC SECTION. John  King Tarpinian got a laugh from today’s Off the Mark.

(14) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE, SOMEWHERE. One good book cover deserves another. And another.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Feburary 2014)

John Glenn: America’s Astronaut (April 2014)

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space (June 2014)

Scott Parazynski: The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed (August 2017)

(15) FAN MAIL FROM SOME FLOUNDER. The Daily Beast’s Erica Wagner remembers the family business: “Inside the Secret World of ‘The Muppet Show’”.

“Dear Kermit the Frog,” begins the letter from a young fan, framed on the wall of the new Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. “How is show business? When are you and Miss Piggy getting married? Tell Miss Piggy I saw a bride dress.”

I’d guess from the handwriting that the scribe was 6 or 7 years old. But at the top of the page is handwriting that I recognize—my mom’s, making a careful note of just how many letters like this there were the pile of mail requiring her attention. Because when I was growing up, my parents’ job was answering all the fan mail the Muppets received.

(16) VIEW FROM A PUPPY. In what Dr. Mauser says will probably be his last Sad Puppies blog post, he presents his version of recent history: “The Claw!”

….Now if the goal of the Sad Puppies were to probe how deep the fix was in in the Hugo electorate, the goal of the Rabid Puppies was to Win. The organizer has a bit of a beef with the SF community, to put it mildly, and taking one of their awards would be a coup. The first attempt was no real master stroke. Having seen how effective Larry’s fanbase had been in getting nominees on the ballot in SP2, the easiest, no effort way to get in was to hijack the list, add himself and a few of his house’s authors to the list at the top, knock off the bottom items to fill out a slate, and mobilize his fanbase as well. With so much commonality to the lists, it would be impossible to sort out whose supporters were whose. Which as a tactic to make his influence appear larger than it was, was successful. SP and RP got conflated and slammed in the social media, and the real media, by design. Some people still can’t tell them apart. But good Tactics sometimes make bad Strategy, and the backlash the organizer engendered resulted, as I said, in one of the most toxic Hugo ceremonies ever, as well as in rules changes designed to make the Hugo nomination process even more opaque than the final vote process.

It wasn’t much better the next year, when his spitefulness towards the fandom made him pollute the nominations with crude gay porn titles. If he couldn’t win, he was going to ruin the whole thing. It merely cemented the backlash, but it didn’t require the overkill numbers unleashed the year before to shut him out, thus those excess no-award voter accounts were released.

Skipping ahead to this year. It becomes really simple to see why he sent an acolyte to announce he was commandeering the helm of SP5. Clearly he believed that the Sad Puppies had an army of followers and if he could co-opt them to his cause, he could finally win, or at least do real damage.[1] The Kickers, on the other hand, had rigged the game even more, making it harder for any small group to dominate the nominations, but a sufficiently large one, like say, tor.com fans, with properly distributed votes, could capture a large number of nominations, and they did. And in the coming years, another fix is going in that will allow any sufficiently large cabal to de-nominate anything they don’t like[2] (They call it 3 Stage Voting, or 3SV, but it’s NOTHING like what I proposed).

I don’t think though that this is going to stop him from shoving more and more quarters into the damned machine, trying to grab that Trophy. The Sad Puppies have proven their point, and are off to chase more good fiction. The Hugos don’t interest them any more. The Rabids though, they’re out to win, no matter how much the game is rigged, and how destructive the results end up being. That’s a feature to them, not a bug.

(17) CONFEDERATE. Vulture’s Josef Adalian in “The Producers of HBO’s Confederate Respond to the Backlash and Explain Why They Wanted to Tell This Story” has an extended interview with showrunners Benioff and Weiss, including why they brought in two African-Americans, Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman to be co-showrunners.

So Malcolm and Nichelle, take me back to how David and D.B. first came to you with this. How did you decide to get involved?

MS: They first called me and said they wanted to take us to lunch and talk about a project they had. They took me and Nichelle out to a restaurant and told us the history of it: They had this script, the movie version, but they felt taking it to TV would be better. And they knew they needed black voices on it. There was already a comfort level between all of us. I feel like me and Nichelle, both separately, have a great pedigree — her particularly — and so it made sense.

For me and Nichelle, it’s deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history. We deal with it directly and have for our entire lives. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we’re dealing with friends and family members. And I think Nichelle and I both felt a sense of urgency in trying to find a way to support a discussion that is percolating but isn’t happening enough. As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion.

Nichelle Tramble Spellman: When we initially sat down, we made the joke, “Oh, this is going to be a black Game of Thrones spin-off! This is gonna be awesome.” And then [Benioff and Weiss] got into what the story was about, and I just remember being so excited — and absolutely terrified at the same time. I can’t remember the last time I approached any story like that. So Malcolm and I left the lunch and couldn’t stop talking about it the entire way home. And immediately that night, this chain of emails just started. Like, “Have you read this? Have you read that? What about this piece of history? How can we bring this all into a present-day story line.”

And immediately what the conversation turned into is how we could draw parallels between what has been described as America’s original sin to a present-day conversation.

(18) NOT EVERYONE’S A BELIEVER. It’s easy to be cynical in Hollywood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/17 Humor Is A Thing With Feathers, Or Maybe Pixels

(1) HEATING UP AND COOLING OFF. The current edition of WNYC’s On the Media talks extensively on SF and climate change:

Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

  1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogyand Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.
  2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevayetalks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest.
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there’s hope.
  4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlaneon new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!

(2) ECONOMIC IMPACT. Some businessman are paying attention: “How climate change will transform business and the workforce”.

Right now, the top 10 most-desired skills for getting hired, according to LinkedIn’s data analysis, all have to do with tech: think cloud computing, SEO marketing and web architecture. In the same way tech has transformed today’s workforce, some say that climate change could transform tomorrow’s.

One industry that already shows some of that evolution is energy. According to data provided by job listings search engine Indeed, in the first quarter of 2014 in the UK, job postings in the renewable energy sector – made up of bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind – accounted for a third (32.9%) of all energy-sector job postings in the first quarter of 2014. In 2017, that had risen to over half of all energy sector job postings, or 51.5%.

(3) MORE ON BUTLER MUSEUM EXHIBIT. In “Octavia Butler: Writing Herself Into The Story”, NPR goes behind the scenes of the Butler exhibit at the Huntington.

“Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” is an exhibit currently at the Huntington Library, in the Pasadena suburb of San Marino, Calif. Curator Natalie Russell went through some “8,000 manuscripts, letters and photographs, and an additional 80 boxes of ephemera” to create an exhibition that shows, in chronological order, how Butler’s career was born and evolved, and what influenced her.

Large glass cases hold early notebooks and drawings, report cards from her days at Pasadena City College and notes to herself about character development. Early copies of her first editions are here. So is the one-page letter from the MacArthur Foundation notifying Butler she’d been chosen as a fellow in 1995.

…She often made them up while sitting on the porch at her grandmother’s chicken farm, in the High Desert town of Victorville, Calif., where she dreamed about animals. The drawings of horses that illustrated one of her early stories are on the walls at the Huntington. After Devil Girl, though, Butler switched to science fiction, determined to make that her career.

Creating her own path

That was astonishing, because the world was not full of well-paid science fiction writers, and with very few exceptions, all of those were male and white. No one like Butler existed in the genre. And that didn’t seem to hold Butler back one bit. “I don’t recall every having wanted desperately to be a black woman fiction writer,” she told Rose. “I wanted to be a writer.”

(4) SHUFFLING INTO HISTORY. Here’s what Magic fans can look forward to at San Diego Comic-Con: “Magic the Gathering Reveal Their SDCC Exclusive”.

  • “Magic: The Gathering 2017 Planeswalker Pack”  – $180.00

Includes a 24” x 36” screen print of Nicol Bolas illustrated by Brandon Holt. Produced in collaboration with Mondo. Printed by D&L on Magic: The Gathering card stock. Nicol Bolas is an iconic Magic character who first made an appearance in the game in 1994 and has been a powerful fan favorite since.

  • 6 Planeswalker cards with exclusive artwork by illustrator, Vincent Proce

Characters include Gideon Jura™, Jace Beleren®, Liliana Vess®, Chandra Nalaar®, Nissa Revane™ & Nicol Bolas™

 

(5) FUTURAMA GAME. SyFy beats everyone to the story: “Neat! Futurama returns as a game and we’ve got the scoop”.

It’s been a painfully long four years since the last original Futurama episode graced our screens (insert Kif shudder), but good news everyone, the Planet Express-less universe is no more with the launch of the Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow game available now on iOS and Android.

 

(6) WANTING MORE. At The Book Smugglers, Thea James advises readers “Where to Start with the Star Wars Expanded Universe”.

Star Wars inspires passion. Everyone has a different experience with the franchise, especially when it comes to opinions regarding touchy subjects like the prequel era, and the subsequent novels and shows to come out of said era.

My experience with Star Wars is probably very similar to many others of my generation: I grew up watching the original trilogy, which I loved very dearly. I watched the prequels when they were released in theaters starting with The Phantom Menace when I was fifteen, and… I enjoyed them. Sure, the writing was horrible and the acting not much better, but I ate it all up because it was more Star Wars. I bought into the prequel era, even as I felt it was falwed and lacking the emotional gravitas I so desperately wanted. I collected Pepsi bottles featuring different members of the galactic senate and other key characters, I obsessively played Rogue Squadron and, yes, Episode I: Racer, among others.

I bought into all of this because I was hungry for more of the universe I loved, and I wanted answers. I wanted to learn more about Dooku’s fall from grace and the rise of the Sith. I wanted to understand the corruption in the Senate beyond a cursory few scenes across three movies; I wanted to feel the cameraderie between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and understand how the Jedi could have been so blind to Palpatine’s machinations.

(7) ON TOP OF THE PILE. Nerds of a Feather finds out what the author is reading in “6 Books with Yoon Ha Lee”.

Yoon Ha Lee’s first novel NINEFOX GAMBIT was shortlisted for the Nebula, Hugo, and Clarke awards. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.   Today he shares his 6 books with us…

What book are you currently reading? 

I’m rereading John Wick’s PLAY DIRTY 2, which is by a game designer and features a collection of tips for tabletop roleplaying and game masters. I find a lot of the narrative tricks and discussions really useful for thinking about how to construct a narrative even in a non-game format. I don’t always agree with Wick, but he’s thought-provoking, intelligent, and interesting.

(8) BEASTLY TV. Echo Ishii excavates another ancient TV series in “SF/Horror Obscure: Beasts”.

Beasts is a short run anthology horror show by Nigel Kneale, the creator of Qatermass.

(If you don’t know Qatermass it was one of the first serious SF TV serials and inspired Doctor Who among other things.) Nigel Kneale has a long and distinguished career in SF and horror.

Beasts originally ran in 1976 on ITV, as six episodes (50min). They are connected by a loose them of strange creatures and horrific circumstances, but the real power lies in the often unsympathetic but completely compelling characters. There are many recognizable actors in the series including Martin Shaw (Inspector George Gently!!!) and Micheal Kitchen (Inspector Foyle!!). I’m a huge fan of British TV mysteries-I’ve watched more of Midsomer Murders than is healthy.

(9) J.K. ROWLING’S LOST MANUSCRIPT. In an interview with CNN, Rowling revealed that she has written yet another fairy tale — but this one may never be published.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I read that you were considering writing a political book for children, young people?

J.K. ROWLING: Oh, that was a fairy tale …

But I — I will tell you this. On my 50th — the theme of my 50th birthday, which I held at Halloween, even though that’s not really my birthday, was come as your own private nightmare. And I went as a lost manuscript. And I wrote over a dress most of that book. So that book, I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but it’s actually hanging in a wardrobe currently.

(10) MORE REVELATIONS. In “The Potter Family” on Pottermore J.K. Rowling looks at the history of the Potter family going back to the 12th century and reveals that Harry Potter is actually the second person in his family named “Harry Potter” since his great-grandfather also had the same name.

Potter is a not uncommon Muggle surname, and the family did not make the so-called ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’ for this reason; the anonymous compiler of that supposedly definitive list of pure-bloods suspected that they had sprung from what he considered to be tainted blood. The wizarding Potter family had illustrious beginnings, however, some of which was hinted at in Deathly Hallows.

In the Muggle world ‘Potter’ is an occupational surname, meaning a man who creates pottery. The wizarding family of Potters descends from the twelfth-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, ‘the Potterer’, became corrupted in time to ‘Potter’. Linfred was a vague and absent-minded fellow whose Muggle neighbours often called upon his medicinal services. None of them realised that Linfred’s wonderful cures for pox and ague were magical; they all thought him a harmless and lovable old chap, pottering about in his garden with all his funny plants.

(11) MAGIC IS TURNING MUGGLES INTO MONEY. Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Emma Jacobs has a lot more info about Rowling’s business activities.  The news includes:

  • If you try to find Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, you won’t find the Hogwarts Express, but there is a Potter gift shop and Potter fans from around the world
  • One of the rules Rowling has imposed is that there are to be no Harry Potter tie ins with fast food.
  • “The challenge is to stretch the franchise without breaking it.”  Jacobs spoke to children’s marketing consultant Gary Pope, who says the Toklien movies–particularly the three Hobbit films– was a franchise “that got too complicated and grown up, and you can’t sell merchandising to adults.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1981 — John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered.
  • July 10, 1985 Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome opened in theatres.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr., of The Twilight Zone (“You Drive”) and The Waltons.
  • Born July 10, 1926 — Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster).
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson

(14) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends Brevity’s “cool” Star Wars joke.

(15) SCALZI COLLECTION. Subterranean Press has announced a new collection of John Scalzi’s nonfiction, Don’t Live For Your Obituary.

Between 2008 and 2017, author John Scalzi wrote fifteen books, became a New York Times bestselling author, and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, the Locus and the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio. He also had book deals crater, lost more awards than he won, worried about his mortgage and health insurance, flubbed a few deadlines, tried to be a decent parent and husband, and got into some arguments on the Internet, because, after all, that’s what the Internet is for.

Scalzi wrote about it all—the highs and lows in the life of a working writer—and gave his readers, and other writers, a glimpse of the day-to-day business of navigating a writing life in today’s world. Sometimes these essays offered advice. Sometimes they commented on the practical business of publishing and selling books. Sometimes they focused on the writing issues, arguments and personalities of the day. And sometimes, Scalzi reflected on his own writing life and career, and what both meant in the larger scheme of things….

(16) CONVERGENCE PLAUDITS. Here’s a couple of highly complimentary threads about the just completed CONvergence:

As Standback says, “It’s really nice to see people highlighting a convention that knocks it out of the park.”

(17) THE FELAPTON FILE. Here’s Camestros Felapton’s take on the Hugo-nominated novellas:

  1. Every Heart a Doorway: Weird – I didn’t think this would be my number one when I read it. It has sort of got the spot by default. The novellas were a struggle between the familiar and the experimental and sometimes a struggle with making the experimental familiar or making the familiar experimental. None of them quite manged the achievements of the others but Every Heart came closest.

(18) HUGO REVIEWS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has reached the short stuff: “Hugos 2017 — Short Stories”.  They say Wong and Wright are at the bottom of their ballot.

The most perplexing nominee — A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong — is a frenetic time-hopping story about a girl and her sister who have magical (electrical?) powers. The story may be about suicide, or it may be about the end of the world. There’s very little overall narrative thread to hold onto. In portions of the text, it feels like Wong is stringing words together into paragraphs without the traditional intermediary step of sentences. We can appreciate the artfulness of this style of writing, but it is not to our tastes…..

An Unimaginable Light is probably the best John C. Wright story that we’ve read — in no small part because it’s based around a couple of interesting notions about the ability of robots to interpret Asimov’s Three Laws in ways that their creators never intended. Although the ‘twist’ ending seems to come out of nowhere, that ending is at least built around an interesting idea concerning what it means to be human.

That being said, Wright’s slightly didactic prose and aggressive thesaurus use isn’t to our taste, nor is the way he seems to delight in the sexual degradation of one of the characters. This won’t be at the top of our ballot, but we can understand why some fans chose to nominate it.

(19) SPINE OUT OF ALIGNMENT. I wonder how often this happens? The collaboration by Larry Correia and John Ringo titled Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge came out this month, unfortunately, on the spine it read: “Larry Correia – Monster Hunter Nemesis.” B&N College HQ distributed a warning: “Simon & Schuster has issued a “return in place” for the following book due to a production error – the spine has a different title listed than the front cover of the book. Ooops! Please destroy all inventory as soon as possible.”

Correia also blogged about it: “Monster Hunter Grunge came out while I was away. Apparently the cover and interior are fine, but they had the spine of Monster Hunter Nemesis. Publishing screw ups happen, so this print run is being destroyed and replaced.”

(20) CORREIA RECUSAL. The same post also reminded people to vote for the Dragon Awards, with this request:

So please, participate, go an nominate whatever you think was awesome. Except don’t nominate me for anything. I won one last year, so I’m recusing myself from now on. Share the love!

(21) GRACE HOPPER COLLEGE GETS SUITABLE ARMS. Following up the Scroll item some months ago about one of Yale’s colleges replacing John C. Calhoun’s name with a modern one: “Grace Hopper coat of arms”.

The Grace Hopper College coat of arms became official on July 1, 2017.

Grace Murray Hopper’s accomplishments and qualities of character offer rich opportunities for visualization, and for representing the College’s transformation. The blue of the shield reflects the colors of Yale and of the U.S. Navy, where Hopper rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. The dolphin – thought of in the early days of heraldry as the ‘sovereign’ and ‘guiding light of the sea’ – represents Hopper’s exemplary personal and professional record of leadership. The ‘semé’ of white circles and vertical rectangles – evoking zeros and ones in this case – recognizes her contributions to mathematics and computer science. The scalloped bar at the top of the design gestures at waves or horizon, and links the College’s visual history to the patterns and colors of a new time.

(22) STORMS AHEAD. BBC News has been highlighting the images the Juno probe has been taking of Jupiter. The images of the polar regions showing a multitude of storms, each larger than Earth, all pressed up against each other are spectacular.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival 2017 Trailer previews, in two minutes, 19 animated films that will be shown at the SIGGRAPH convention in Los Angeles later this month.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Bill Burns, Dann Todd, Harold Osler, IanP, Michael J. Walsh, Chip Hitchcock, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day lauowolf.]

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 7/2/17 Pixeldimethylaminotickaldescroll

(1) PREMIO MINOTAURO. Nieve en Marte (Snow on Mars), a science fiction novel written by Pablo Tébar, is the winner of the 2017 Minotauro Award, Spain’s literary award for the best unpublished SF, fantasy or horror novel. The prize is worth 6,000 Euros.

The novel earned the unanimous vote of the Minotauro Award Jury, this year composed of writers Javier Sierra and Manel Loureiro, the Director of the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, Ángel Sala, movie producer Adrián Guerra and the editor in chief of Ediciones Minotauro publishing house, Marcela Serras.

This is the fourteenth year that the International Fantastic and Science Fiction Literature Award has been presented by Ediciones Minotauro. (Hat tip to Europa SF.)

(2) AT THE LANGUAGE FOUNDRY. Editor Joe Stech says from now on he’s calling what his magazine publishes “Plausible Science Fiction”.

I was at convention yesterday and heard a panel discussion about the old “hard vs. soft” science fiction debate. I realized while listening that there is a huge amount of baggage that people associate with the term “hard science fiction,” and that by using it when I describe the focus of Compelling Science Fiction I may be conveying something different than intended. Because of this, I’m going to start using a different term when talking about what sub-genre Compelling Science Fiction focuses on: “plausible science fiction.” The word “plausible” is still ambiguous, but I believe it doesn’t have all the semantic cruft that has built up over the decades around “hard.” We will no longer reference “hard science fiction” when describing our magazine, even though what we look for in stories is not changing.

“Plausible science fiction,” in this context, means “science fiction that tries not to disrupt suspension of disbelief for people that have knowledge of science and engineering.” This can mean not blatantly contradicting our current knowledge of the universe, and it can also mean not blatantly ignoring how humans generally behave. It also means internal self-consistency….

(3) STORY TIME. LeVar Burton reads to you — in the intro he says he’ll pick short stories from a lot of genres, including his favorite, science fiction — on the Levar Burton podcast.

LeVar Burton is an Actor, Director, Educator & Cofounder of the award-winning Skybrary App, host and Executive Producer of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and lifelong children’s literacy advocate.

(4) COMPLETELY MAD,  I TELL YOU. Dorothy Grant at Mad Genius Club lets a “friend” explain the best strategies for not selling books in  “How to Successfully not Market your Book: Or Doing it All Wrong (Almost) By Alma Boykin”

Alma Boykin here. I have been successfully getting in my own way and not marketing (fiction) books since December 2012. In the process, I’ve managed to make pretty much every mistake you can do as an indie author, bar one. Dorothy Grant, Cedar Sanderson, and others have written a lot about how to market your books and stories. So here’s a quick guide on how to successfully not market your book, thus ensuring that only the most selective, discriminating, or lucky readers will ever find it. …

  1. No social media presence ever. I did give in and start a blog, Cat Rotator’s Quarterly,(Alma! I added the blog name and link! You should promote it! -Ed.) in February 2014, but I have no Twitter, Facebook, G+, LiveJournal, Snapchat, Pinterest, or whatever other social media platforms are out there. This is another great way not to tell people about your books. What they don’t know about, then can’t find. HOWEVER! If used properly, social media can help not-sell your work. Some of the best ways are to overload anyone who follows you with near-daily announcements about “Only three years, two months, and a day and a half until the release of [book]!” or “Hey, boy my book! Buy my book!” The more often you remind people to buy your work, the more they will drop your feed and flee the company of your works. Think of it as the electronic version of the whiney 5-year-old in the back seat asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I gotta go. Are we there yet?”

(5) SUMMER READING. The Verge says “Here are 16 books coming out this month that you should also check out”, beginning with —

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

Greg Egan is known for some spectacular science fiction novels in recent years, and his latest looks pretty out there. It’s set in a strange universe where light can’t travel in every direction. Its inhabitants can only face and travel in one direction: east. Otherwise, they’ll get distorted across the landscape. A surveyor named Seth joins an expedition to the edge of inhabitable space, where they discover an unimaginable fissure in the world — one that will stop the ongoing migration of its inhabitants. The only way forward is down, to try and find a way to save everyone.

(6) THE WORST FORM OF GOVERNMENT, AFTER ALL THE REST. David Langford has made a belated addition to the July Ansible – a copy of “the tasty General Election campaign flyer from a candidate in our area.” Well worth a look.

(7) COME TO THE FAIR. Also thieved from Ansible, this item about Ken McLeod’s slate of events at the Edinburgh International Book Fair.

  • On Tuesday 15 August at 6:30 I’ll be talking with Stephen Baxter about his new novel The Massacre of Mankind,
  • On Wednesday 16 August 2017 at 7.15pm I’ll be chairing a discussion with Charles Stross and Jo Walton on ‘End Times, Crazy Years’, to ask: what happens when reality outdoes dystopia, let alone satire?
  • My own work comes up for discussion on Thursday 17 August at 2.30 pm, when I’m on with Charlie Fletcher, who, like me, has just completed a trilogy.
  • I’ve long been a proponent of the argument, which I first encountered in the work of Gary Westfahl, that informed and engaged criticism by active readers has shaped the SF genre perhaps more than any other, from the letter columns of Amazing Stories onward. Who better to test this contention with than two outstanding critics who are also outstanding writers? That’s what’s on offer on Thursday 17 August at 5.30 pm, when I chair a discussion between Adam Roberts and Jo Walton.
  • For this final event in the strand, Rockets to Utopia? on Friday 18 August at 6.30 pm, we have two truly exceptional writers. Nalo Hopkinson is a Guest of Honour at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, …Ada Palmer is a historian, who burst on the SF scene only last year with her acclaimed, complex novel Too Like the Lighting …Nalo and Ada are joined by me and Charlie, and we’re chaired by Pippa Goldschmidt. Pippa writes close to the edge of SF, has previously featured at the Book Festival, and in an earlier life held the Civil Service title ‘Chair of Outer Space’, so should have no difficulty chairing a panel.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

  • History of World UFO Day

World UFO Day was organized by WorldUFODay.com in 2001, and was put together to bring together enthusiasts of UFO’s and the evidence they’ve all gathered to support their existence. …Many of them believe they already have arrived, and anyone who knows anything about UFO’s is aware of the stories of abductions and what is seen as the seminal event in UFO history, the crash at Roswell. While they believe that the governments of the world are presently hiding this information from the populace, this in no way discourages believers from continuing to search for the truth they’re certain is out there.

(9) TALKING FOR DOLLARS. The truth may be out there, but the number of people looking for it seems to be declining. Consider this report from The Register, cleaning up after the latest mess: “Shock: NASA denies secret child sex slave cannibal colony on Mars”.

NASA has not enslaved a colony of children on Mars nor is it using them for vile orgies on the Red Planet nor feasting on them to harvest their precious bone marrow, officials have told The Register….

On Thursday, one of President Trump’s favorite talking heads, Alex Jones, interviewed ex-CIA officer Robert David Steele during his radio show. Steele made some astonishing – think nuttier than squirrel crap – allegations of NASA covering up that humankind already has an outpost on the Mars. And that the alien world was red not just with oxidized iron dust but with the spilled blood of innocent youngsters snatched off the street and shipped into outer space.

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony,” Steele claimed. How exactly they are still children after 20 years of space travel wasn’t, funnily enough, explained.

…”There are no humans on Mars yet,” NASA spokesman Guy Webster told El Reg last night, presumably restraining himself from adding” “I can’t believe I have to answer this kind of stuff.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 2, 1959 – Premiered on this date, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
  • July 2, 1992 — Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking breaks British publishing records on this day. His book A Brief History of Time has been on the nonfiction bestseller list for three and a half years, selling more than 3 million copies in 22 languages.

(11) SAVE THE BOOKS. History will be rewritten – if it’s not destroyed first. See The Guardian’s book review, “The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English review – how precious manuscripts were saved”.

For African historians, the realisation during the late 1990s of the full scale of Timbuktu’s intellectual heritage was the equivalent of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for scholars of Judaism in the 1950s. When the African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr visited Timbuktu in 1997 he actually burst into tears at the discovery of the extraordinary literary riches. He had always taught his Harvard students that “there was no written history in Africa, that it was all oral. Now that he had seen these manuscripts, everything had changed.”

Yet with the coming of al-Qaida, there was now a widespread fear that this huge treasure trove, the study of which had only just begun, could go the way of the Baghdad, Kabul or Palmyra museums, or the Bamiyan Buddhas. Before long, efforts began to smuggle the most important of the manuscripts out of Timbuktu and to somehow get them to safety in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The story of how this was done forms the narrative backbone of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu, which consequently reads like a sort of Schindler’s list for medieval African manuscripts, “a modern day folk tale that proved irresistible, with such resonant, universal themes of good versus evil, books versus guns, fanatics versus moderates”.

(12) JUST THE FACTS. How well will you do on the Guardian’s twentieth anniversary “Harry Potter quiz: 20 years, 20 questions”?

It’s exactly two decades since the first of JK Rowling’s books was published. Try our Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test to see how much you have learned since then.

I got 8/20, which is better than I usually do on internet quizzes.

(13) NO JUSTICE. There’s a reason CBS never greenlighted its Justice League series, even if it did include the Green Lantern. ScreenRant says, actually, there are fifteen reaons why…. “15 Things The Unseen Justice League TV Pilot Got Wrong”.

You’d be hard pressed to find a comics or cinema fan not aware of the highly anticipated Justice League film due this November. What many of these fans might not know is that this is actually the second attempt at adapting DC Comics premiere super team – with the feature-length pilot for a CBS Justice League of America TV series pre-dating it by a whole decade!

The reason why most people are oblivious when it comes to the Justice League pilot is simple: it never aired in the United States (although it did see the light of day on some international networks). The rationale behind the CBS executives’ decision to bury the pilot is even simpler: it’s… uh, not very good (like, at all).

The worst of all was its –

  1. Mockumentary-style Interviews

Another “surprisingly ahead of its time” aspect of the Justice League pilot gone horribly wrong is its inclusion of mockumentary-style, to-camera interviews intercut through the episode.

Ever since The Office popularized the mockumentary format in TV comedy, there have been plenty of imitators with little interest in accurately simulating its “real-world” mechanics (looking at you, Modern Family). But way before any of these – heck, before The Office itself! – the Justice League pilot was completely throwing any sense of verisimilitude out the window entirely!

Think about it: who is filming these interviews? How come they know our heroes secret identities? Why isn’t the rest of the show shot like a documentary? These questions and more immediately come to mind as soon as the first interview cut-away rolls around, but those looking for answers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

(14) EVERY VOTE A SURPRISE. Tpi’s Reading Diary shares “My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas” and says Seanan McGuire’s story is in first place on his ballot.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die – gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure. A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard – badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

(15) WHATEVER. Two tweets make a post – is that a metric thing? John Scalzi and Dan Wells make merry on the last day of a con — “In Which I Trespass Against Dan Wells at Denver Comic Con, and He Exacts His Fitting Revenge, a Tale Told in Two Tweets”.

(16) BAD TO THE BONE. BBC Trending gleefully explains “Why coders are battling to be the… worst”

Why have computer programmers on Reddit been battling it out to make volume control as bad as possible?

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cheryl S., John King Tarpinian, Joe Stech, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 6/30/17 There’s A Million Ways To Scroll, Ev’ry One’s A Pixel

(1) AND ALL THAT ROT. Omnivorcious interviews “Mira Grant” and M.R. Carey in “The Scientific Case for Zombies”.

It turns out the idea of living dead—depending how you define both “living” and “dead”—may not be as far-fetched as it might seem. Some science fiction writers have found inspiration—and trepidation—in real-life parasites. We talked to two of them, Mira Grant and M.R. Carey, about their newest books and the concept of scientific zombies.

…Carey searched for a pathogen that met his criteria for the cause of the hungry epidemic, and realized that Cordyceps fit perfectly. It was also a unique choice. “At the time nobody had ever used a fungus as the vector for a zombie plague,” he says, though the creators of a console game called The Last of Us came up with the same idea independently, around the same time.

… Besides reading, Grant also “spent a lot of time on the phone with the CDC, which was an incredible amount of fun.” Grant savored the information she gleaned that way, but her friends “had to make new rules about what I was allowed to discuss over food,” so they didn’t lose their appetites.

(2) MITHER TONGUE. I don’t suppose the Scots laugh when they read this, do they, but my God… “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone finally arrives in Scots translation”.

Though still working on the translation, Fitt and his publisher released the opening paragraph, which reads: “Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

In his first adventure, Harry leaves the cruel Dursley family to attend Hogwarts wizarding school, which has long been understood to be based somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, where Scots speakers exist in their highest numbers.

(3) WU CAMPAIGN. Candidate for Congress Brianna Wu’s fundraising email says Our national tech policy is failing:

Something has to change. Our elections are being targeted by Russia, our shipping system was hijacked this week and congress continues to try to spy on you with your smartphone.  It doesn’t have to be this way. I have a plan

Just 15 people in the US House determine our nation’s tech policy on the Science and Technology Subcommittee.

Meaning just 8 votes control our policy on privacy, encryption, and net neutrality. The giant telecoms have a voice. Shouldn’t you?

Please contribute, so we can get Brianna Wu elected to US Congress in 2018, representing Massachusetts District 8!  Help fight for a braver, bolder Democratic party!

(4) DECLINE AND FALL OF THE GALACTIC EMPIRE. Will they succeed where others have failed? “Skydance Trying Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ As TV Series; David Goyer, Josh Friedman To Adapt”.

Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy Foundation heavily informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series, but for decades it has confounded Hollywood attempts at a straight adaptation. I’m hearing that Skydance, David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman are going to try to crack it. Skydance Television is closing a deal with the Asimov estate to try turning Foundation into a sprawling TV series.

… The biggest creative quandary, I’ve heard from those who tried to adapt Foundation, is that so many of Asimov’s themes found their way into George Lucas’s Star Wars that the challenge is to not appear to be ripping off one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, even though Asimov wrote his books 75 years ago. Considering that Lucasfilm continues to borrow from that mythology with myriad Star Wars sequels and spinoff films, perhaps a TV series is the best bet.

(5) QUALIFYING MARKET. Joe Stech, publisher/editor of Compelling Science Fiction, is delighted to report —

Compelling Science Fiction is now one of the few magazines worldwide that is considered a professional “Qualifying Market” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Short fiction Qualifying Markets

SFWA is a wonderful organization that supports authors in a huge number of ways (our own publishing contract is adapted from SFWA’s model magazine contract). SFWA also hosts the annual Nebula Awards. While we have always paid professional rates, this recognition means that our published authors will find it much easier to use their publication in our magazine to meet SFWA membership requirements, because we have already been vetted.

(6) NOT JUST FOR COMPULSIVE READERS: Jason’s Featured Futures is back with another selection of stories (with links and comments) in the “Summation of Online Fiction June 2017”.

The twelve prozines of June produced thirty-eight stories and I read thirty-five of them at about 165K words. (Tor.com should have posted a fourth story on the 28th but didn’t. If it comes out today or tomorrow, I’ll update this post accordingly.) The random flukes of this month were a large number of honorable mentions (with not so many recommendations) which were mostly SF, half of which came from almost the entire issue of Compelling Science Fiction. Given that, I’ll basically do a mini-review of the whole issue after the lists.

(7) DEATH FROM ABOVE. Scientists have found what appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater near the Falkland Islands. Is it ground zero for Earth’s largest-ever extinction event? “Did a Planetary Society citizen scientist help find one of Earth’s biggest impact craters?”

About 66 million years ago, a 10-kilometer-wide hunk of rock smashed into Earth near what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The impact created a global dust cloud that snuffed out the sunlight, leading to the demise of 80 percent of Earth’s plants and animals—including most of the dinosaurs. A 200-kilometer-wide crater buried near the city of Chicxulub is all that’s left. It’s ground zero for one of the world’s most notable extinction events.

But throughout Earth’s history, there have actually been five major extinction events. The largest of these occurred about 250 million years ago, when a whopping 96 percent of life on Earth died. Scientists aren’t sure what caused the event, known as “the Great Dying.” If it was a Chicxulub-sized impact; no one has ever found the crater.

Until possibly now.

A trio of scientists—one of whom is funded by The Planetary Society—thinks they may have found it. Off the coast of South America, near the Falkland Islands, there appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater buried under ocean sediment. An upcoming paper in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal Terra Nova suggests it was formed by a massive asteroid or comet bigger than the one that hit Chicxulub.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Asteroid Day

A global awareness event where people from around the world come together to learn about what we can do to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. Did you know that, as you’re reading this, there are likely one million near-Earth asteroids large enough to do severe damage if they hit Earth? We don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs. Learn more about what we can do to reduce the threat:

 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released.
  • June 30, 1972 — The fourth film in the series — Conquest of the Planet of the Apes — premiered theatrically.

(10) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian calls your attention to Bizarro for June 30.

(11) DISNEYLAND. When the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is updated the bride auction scene will be going away. However, the iconic redhead will still be around – as a pirate helping to rob the townspeople. According to the Orange County Register:

The pirates will no longer be saying “We wants the Redhead” in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland after the auction scene undergoes a modification in 2018.

The Walt Disney Company plans to make changes to the auction scene in the classic attraction at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in the coming year, according to Suzi Brown, spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

While the scene has long been a favorite of many Disney fans, it has occasionally been the brunt of criticism for what some believed to be a “sexist” approach to women. Years ago, the scene that comes after the auction scene, which used to have pirates chasing women, was changed to pirates chasing women for food, and one where a woman was chasing a pirate.

When asked about the sexism Brown said, in a statement, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”

In the auction scene, the Redhead will become a pirate, helping the Auctioneer gather valuables from the townspeople to auction off to the pirates.

The first version of the attraction to receive the new scene will be at Disneyland Paris next month, with the two domestic parks receiving it within the next year or so.

There was nothing amusing or cute about what real-life pirates did when they sacked a town, so in the midst of a musical horror fantasy about such an event it’s interesting where they think they need to redraw the line in 2017 to keep people from being reminded of that.

(12) URB APPEAL. Andrew Porter noticed you can now buy a condo in Detroit where the 1959 Worldcon (Detention) was held. If that idea appeals to you.

When the Fort Shelby became a Doubletree Hotel in 2008 on the first ten floors, the developers used tax credits to turn the 56 units above into apartments. Now that the time has passed for the credits, the apartments can be turned into condos, and a few of them have already listed.

They start at $280,000 for a one-bedroom and go up to $570,000 for a three-bedroom on a higher level. Six penthouses will also be available on the 21st floor, and those will run from $350,000 to $815,000.

According to the Loft Warehouse, the listing firm, four are ready now and another 19 are in the pipeline for the year as apartment leases run out.

(13) FRED AND WILMA SELL THEIR HOUSE. After dropping a million from the asking price, “‘Flintstones’-style house in California sells for $2.8M”.

A California house designed to resemble a home from the Flintstones cartoon sold for nearly $3 million after multiple price drops.

Judy Meuschke of Alain Pinel Realtors said the unique property sold for $2.8 million in May after arriving on the market for a price of $4.2 million in 2015.

The property features a rounded, stone-like exterior with grey and orange walls, closely resembling the cavelike homes in the Flinstones’ home of Bedrock City.

 

(14) ONE MILLION BC. More information about the forthcoming Marvel Legacy.

It all starts with MARVEL LEGACY #1.

Journey to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC – when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Starbrand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1 on sale this September in comic shops everywhere!

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries, secrets, and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock, and adventure as possible!”

(15) PULLMAN’S MATERIALS. Entertainment Weekly interviews the author: “Golden Compass’ Philip Pullman on returning to His Dark Materials”.

Golden Compass author Philip Pullman surprised millions of fans late last year when he announced that he would be returning to the world of the immensely popular His Dark Materials trilogy.

His three new books — the first set 10 years before the original trilogy and the next two coming after the events in those books — will once again transport readers to Lyra’s Oxford. The first volume in the companion Book of Dust trilogy is La Belle Sauvage (for which you can exclusively see the cover below), which centers on Malcolm Polstead and is in fact named for his canoe, which will become a central part of the story. But fans needn’t worry, as not only will Lord Asriel (and his daemon Stelmaria) definitely make an appearance in the book along with baby Lyra Belacqua (the main protagonist of the best-selling books), but careful readers of the previous books may remember that Malcolm himself had had a brief appearance in them….

This new trilogy has an interesting timeline. What inspired you to make the first book in this companion trilogy more of a prequel to the original trilogy, as opposed to a sequel like the two proceeding books?

The story I found myself telling had a beginning that closely involved Lyra, but it happened when she was about six months old. Then came an interval, during which some of the consequences of the first part were worked out in the story of His Dark Materials, when she was about 11 or 12. But other things were still lying in the ground, waiting to germinate. About 10 years after the events in His Dark Materials, the first shoots of those other things begin to emerge from the ground. But because they’re not really a consequence of His Dark Materials, I don’t want to call them a sequel; and because I don’t like the word “prequel,” I didn’t want to call the first book by that word. So I call The Book of Dust an “equel.”

(16) RESERVATIONS MADE. There is no end in sight for superhero movies. SyFy has the story: “Fox schedules 6 more Marvel movies from 2019-2021”.

If you thought Fox was slowing down on movies based on Marvel Comics properties, the 2018 slate, featuring New Mutants on April 13, 2018, Deadpool 2 on June 1, 2018, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2, 2018, probably put that thought to bed. If even that plan didn’t show you their dedication to the franchise, well, this should: 20th Century Fox has reserved release dates for 2019, 2020, and spring 2021 marking six Marvel movie releases in just 21 months.

New Fox/Marvel movies will hit theaters on June 7, 2019, November 22, 2019, March 13, 2020, June 26 2020, October 2, 2020, and March 5, 2021. The production house has not indicated at all whether those will be X-Men or Fantastic Four films, the two properties they currently own film rights to from Marvel Entertainment. This is a common practice in the blockbuster release category nowadays;

(17) FLYING CLOUD. “This enormous Chinese blimp could replace satellites”. The link leads to a BBC video.

There’s a new type of airship called the Cloud, and it has a silver lining. (It’s also a giant, floating communications hub.) Finn Aberdein goes to watch a nerve-wracking flight with its maker KuangChi Science.

(18) THE WONDER WOMAN WHO MARRIED A MAN. It’s cosplay. In “The ultimate fantasy wedding: Wonder Woman weds Deadpool at Awesome Con”, the Washington Post’s Megan McDonough talks about how Megan Mattingly and Adam Merica got married at Awesome Con, and how her Wonder Woman gown was stitched together by three female cosplayers in 48 hours.

They decided right away that a full cosplay wedding, right down to the dress, would suit them best. By that point, Megan had accumulated a following in the cosplay community (she has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram) and founded the local group DC CosGeeks. She also didn’t want a repeat of her first wedding, which was much more conventional.

(19) LIFE CYCLES. Artis Lives on Vimeo is a fun cartoon promoting the Amsterdam Royal Zoo.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Jason, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/24/17 The Love of Pixels Is The Root Of All Scrolls

(1) SIXTY MINUTES. Here’s video of what happened during “Seanan McGuire’s Continuum 13 Guest of Honour Hour.”

On Sunday 11th June, 2017, Seanan McGuire hosted a Guest of Honour hour in which she answered questions at Continuum 13. Unfortunately, not every person waited for a microphone to ask their question. Seanan’s answers are still amazing and you can get the context from the answer. Continuum 13 was the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

 

(2) MORE CONTINUUM 13 GOODNESS. There was a special cake at the launch party for Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but since the Wayward Children series it’s part of is not a zombie series, the cake imagery was probably a callout to her Newsflesh series.

(3) OVERHEARD ON THE INTERNET. More McGuire advice.

(4) WORKSHOP HUMOR. Walter Jon Williams posted a photo of the Taos Toolbox participants and speakers posed “Beneath the Sign of the Bear”.

I realized too late that I should have got a photo of us all lying dead at George [R.R. Martin]’s feet, and titled it “The Red Workshop.”

He also quoted Nancy Kress’ notes from the critiques, specifically the funny parts. Here are a few examples:

* “She got off too easy for eating the child.”

* “This could be cool, if I knew what was going on.”

* “If she had proper self-control, she wouldn’t be blue.” (Color, not mood)

* “We’ve got prehistoric parasites living in people’s brains, and volunteers are going ‘Yes!’?”

* How does dodging bullets qualify you as a good bride?”

* “I admired the multi-purposing of the rabbits.”‘

* “If editors are trolls, are publishers dragons?”

(5) EXPANSE AUTHORS AMA. Here’s the link to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything with Expanse writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

“Can you name a story element that NEEDED to change for TV in order for the show to work?”

Miller had to become much more active in the show. Losing the internal monologue of prose always means finding ways to make the same points in a way that a camera can see them.

“An unforeseen change?”

I hadn’t realized how important it was going to be to pull Drummer forward, or how much that was going to pay off.

“A change that met the most resistance from yourselves or the TV writers?”

There’s a moment in the book when Muss explains to Miller that he’s a joke to the other cops. It’s a gut-punch in the books, and we all fought to find a place for it in the show, but it just didn’t fir anywhere.

“A change that you wish had been made in the books if you had the chance to go back?”

Nope. The books are the books and the show is the show. There are some places in the book where I’d make things a little clearer than I think we left them. Why Ashford acts the way he does, what exactly the timeline of Julie Mao was. It’s all in the books, but sometimes I think I’ve made things clear that are still a little smokey.

(6) REVIVAL. If they weren’t about to bring it back, I might never have heard of it: “‘The League of Gentlemen’ is officially returning”.

Cult TV show ‘The League of Gentlemen’ is set to officially return after writer Reece Shearsmith announced that he was working on a script for the warped sitcom’s revival.

The show, which follows the lives of residents in the bizarre village of Royston Vasey, originally aired on BBC 2 between 1999 and 2002, before a full-length film was released in 2005.

Now, the show’s revival has been confirmed, after talk emerged of an anniversary special earlier this year.

(7) TAXONOMY TIME. In “Municipal Fantasy”, Danny Sichel advocates for a subgenre distinct from urban fantasy,

There’s urban, and there’s fantasy… and there’s the space between them. An enforced separation between the modern world – the urban environment – and the magic.*  They’ve developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.

But what if this weren’t so?

If we undo those justifications… if we assume their opposite… we get fantasy where magic has openly come back into the modern world, or been revealed to the general public to have been here all along. Or, alternately, magic has openly been around long enough that an equivalent to our modern technological society has developed. And, perhaps most importantly, that magic is an issue of public policy.

I propose that this subgenre be called: “MUNICIPAL FANTASY”.

“What’s the difference between ‘municipal’ and ‘urban’?”, you might be wondering. “Don’t they mean essentially the same thing?” And in a way, they do, but synonyms are never exact. They both refer to cities… but ‘urban’ is a general feeling, an environment, a mood. ‘Municipal’, conversely, implies more of a system, with regulations and public services. ‘Urban wildlife’ is raccoons eating your garbage and ‘urban legends’ are just stories you heard about a friend of a friend of a friend, but “municipal wildlife” feels like the raccoons are only eating the garbage because it’s their job, and “municipal legends” feels the story won’t be told outside city limits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie premiered theatrically.
  • June 24, 1987 Spaceballs opened in theatres.
  • June 24, 1997 — U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

(9) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. The four-minute mile. The twelve-minute spacewalk. Records are made to be broken — “600 students dress as Harry Potter to celebrate 20th anniversary of ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone'”

A group of more than 600 students gathered in one place and dressed as Harry Potter to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first book in the series.

England book publishers Bloomsbury Books shared a photo of the hundreds of students as they set the Guinness World Record for most people dressed as Harry Potter in one gathering in celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

(10) COLD FACTS. Space.com’s article “Pew Pew Pew! Why Scientists Are Fired Up About Futuristic Space Lasers” is most excited about the peaceful use of lasers in satellites to monitor vast areas of the Earth.

Another NASA mission using lasers to peer at Earth is named Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2). Scheduled to launch in 2018, ICESat-2 will use an array of six lasers — three paired beams — to track ice-sheet thickness and changes across Greenland and Antarctica, so that scientists can better estimate the risks posed by melting ice due to climate change, panel member Brooke Medley, a research associate with Earth Sciences Remote Sensing at the Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Future Con audience. ICESat-2 is continuing the work started by an earlier mission, ICESat-1, which was the first satellite to deploy lasers from space to measure surface elevation in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, according to NASA. The amount of ice cover in those two regions is enormous: Greenland’s area is about three times the size of Texas, while Antarctica is roughly twice the size of the contiguous United States — far too big to accurately measure elevation changes from the ground or by airplane, Medley said. ICESat-2 will conduct multiple passes overhead at an altitude of 299 miles (481 kilometers), and its lasers will gather data that will enable researchers to calculate ice volume and track changes over time.

(11) SHORT SUBJECTS. Doris V. Sutherland offers insights and intriguing comments in “2017 Hugo Reviews: Short Stories” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Amal El-Mohtar’s award-nominated story.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” shows both a knowledgeable and playful attitude towards fairy tale conventions. In the world of the story, magic operates on a numeric basis, a reference to fairy tales’ fondness for certain numbers, the three little pigs, the seven dwarfs, and so forth. While Amira is granted a constant stream of golden apples that materialise from nowhere, she is allowed only one at a time: she must eat her present apple before the next one will appear. But once Tabitha arrives, and Amira begins sharing the apples with her, this changes: Tabitha is allowed seven apples at a time.

“I think it’s the magic on me,” she says. “I’m bound in sevens—you’re bound in ones.” On a more symbolic level, the story opens with Tabitha musing about the significance of shoes in fairy tales, from Cinderella’s glass slippers to the red-hot iron shoes worn by Snow White’s stepmother. To Tabitha, shoes represent marriage, although they are not her first choice of symbol. “I dreamt of marriage as a golden thread between hearts—a ribbon binding one to the other, warm as a day in summer,” she says. “I did not dream a chain of iron shoes.”

The story is not as revolutionary as it seems to think it is. After all, revisionist fairy tales form a longstanding tradition in feminist circles, one that has been practiced by authors from Andrea Dworkin to Angela Carter. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” adds a queer-positive angle, but in an era with entire anthologies devoted to LGBT SF/F, this is not particularly groundbreaking. When Tabitha and Amira get together at the end, it seems as inevitable as Sleeping Beauty being awoken with a kiss or Cinderella finding her Prince. But then, perhaps that is a sign that the revisionism has worked.

(12) BURRITO-ING FOR DOLLARS. Dan Sandler suggested charity might benefit from an audio collaboration between John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton:

(13) REALLY A WONDER. The Hollywood Reporter has been watching the box office: “‘Wonder Woman’ Set to Become Top-Grossing Live-Action Film Directed by a Woman”.

Patty Jenkins’ movie will achieve the milestone shortly after topping the $600 million mark on Wednesday.

Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman continues to make history in its box-office run.

Sometime Thursday or Friday, the Warner Bros. and DC superhero tentpole will eclipse the $609.8 million earned worldwide by Phyllida Lloyd’s Mamma Mia! (2008) to become the top-grossing live-action film of all time from a female director, not accounting for inflation.

Wonder Woman also has a strong shot of passing up Kung Fu Panda 2‘s $665.7 million to become the top-grossing film of all time from a female filmmaker with solo directing duties. Jennifer Yuh Nelson helmed the 2011 animated sequel.

Starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman passed the $600 million mark at the worldwide box office on Wednesday, finishing the day with a cume of $601.6 million, including $289.2 million domestically and $312.4 million internationally.

(14) CULTURAL CONCUSSION. As ScreenRant sees it — “Wonder Woman: 15 Movie Moments That CRUSH Sexism”.

There’s no denying it: the arrival of Wonder Woman has dealt a massive blow to Hollywood sexism, after years of male superheroes dominating the spotlight in any and all blockbuster franchises. Judging by Wonder Woman‘s opening weekend sales, the idea that ‘women don’t sell’ in superhero shared universes may be permanently vanquished (for DC’s universe, at least). But given how well Diana takes on sexism in the movie itself, it only seems fair that the real-world result should be as big a victory for the feminist ideals of equality, punching the patriarchy squarely in the nose (in front of and behind the camera).

Their list begins:

15. The Amazons Crush The Bechdel Test

…But when Queen Hippolyta and Antiope discuss the Amazons’ duty, the conversation between Diana’s two mother figures is most certainly about her, and not the absent God of War looming somewhere on the planet. For Hippolyta, her mother, all motivation is based in keeping Diana safe, even selfishly turning her back on the Amazons’ duty for her own blood. For Antiope, she wishes to train Diana not because it is required to kill Ares, but because it is Diana’s destiny, and in service to the realization of her potential.

And the first time viewers realize they’re watching two accomplished actresses over the age of 50 discussing their daughter’s future in a superhero blockbuster… well, it becomes clear how rare such a scene really is.

(15) MORE WW BACKGROUND. Well before the movie came Tom Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound:  The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (2014).

This close look at Wonder Woman’s history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman with a golden lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In the 1950s, Wonder Woman begrudgingly continued her superheroic mission, wishing she could settle down with her boyfriend instead, all while continually hinting at hidden lesbian leanings. While other female characters stepped forward as women’s lib took off in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman fell backwards, losing her superpowers and flitting from man to man. Ms. magazine and Lynda Carter restored Wonder Woman’s feminist strength in the 1970s, turning her into a powerful symbol as her checkered past was quickly forgotten. Exploring this lost history adds new dimensions to the world’s most beloved female character, and Wonder Woman Unbound delves into her comic book and its spin-offs as well as the myriad motivations of her creators to showcase the peculiar journey that led to Wonder Woman’s iconic status.

(16) HORROR’S KING. The Guardian asks and answers: “Misery loves company: why Stephen King remains Hollywood’s favorite author”

As a source of adaptation fodder, King is a studio executive’s godsend, because his work is trend-proof. Scan the long, long list of King adaptations and the standout quality will be the steadfastness of it all; ebb and flow as the cultural tides may, King’s work has never lost its luster or lucre. And its eclecticism is the key to King’s perennial popularity; his style never falls out of fashion because King has never defined it to mean one thing in particular.

(17) LITRPG. The English version of Survival Quest, the first in Russian LitRPG Vasily Mahanenko’s The Way of the Shaman, was met with 236 mostly 4 and 5 star Amazon reviews, says Carl Slaughter.  The latest in the series, The Karmadont Chess Set, came out in April 2017.

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