Pixel Scroll 6/28/17 Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul, I Really Love That Pixel Scroll

(1) MINIONS GETTING PAID. The Seattle law firm Rekhi & Wolk, P.S. sends word they have settled the class action they were litigating against Emerald City Comicon (See Scroll for 5/18/16, item #13).

Former volunteer Jerry Brooks alleged Emerald City Comicon violated Washington State law by failing to pay people classified as volunteers – which they called “minions” — the minimum wages they were owed under Washington laws for performing services at the 2014 and/or 2015 Emerald City Comicons in Seattle.

The defendant denied the claim, reported Seattlish, emphasizing that “…The volunteers not only willingly enter into an agreement stating that they’ll work for free, but the culture of the convention fosters a competitiveness for the volunteer positions.”

According to the FAQ about the class action settlement, Emerald City Comicon will pay $493,227.84 to resolve all claims, some of which will go to attorneys, the plaintiff, and the settlement administrator, with the remaining approximately $348,397.33 to be distributed to Class Members who submit Claim Forms by July 31. (Click on the FAQ for additional information.)

Remembering this was at bottom a complaint about unpaid wages, it’s only fair that payroll taxes will be levied on the distributions:

One-half (50%) of each award to a Class Member will be treated as wages and subject to normal payroll tax withholdings and payments. The other one-half (50%) of each award to a Class Member will be treated as non-wages on which there will be no tax withholding.

(2) BARNUM. The Verge introduces the new trailer: “Watch the first trailer for Hugh Jackman’s movie musical The Greatest Showman”

The first trailer for 20th Century Fox’s P.T. Barnum biopic and original musical The Greatest Showman is here. Hugh Jackman plays Barnum, a charming, down-on-his-luck guy in a top hat, hanging out in Connecticut in the early 1800s. From what we can see, he’s going to be smooching Michelle Williams, teaming up with Zac Efron, and eventually inventing the circus as we know it. “Every one of us is special, and nobody is like anyone else. That’s the point of my show,” he tells a child. Sure! I’m buying it.

 

(3) YOUNG KING. Once upon a time Stephen King came to hang out at sf conventions. Someone with a camera was present when he spoke at the 1983 DeepSouthCon. Next best thing to a time machine.

Raw photojournalist footage of a panel discussion from a SF/Horror convention held in Knoxville in 1983. Participants include Stephen King, Peter Straub, Karl Edward Wagner, Charles Grant, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Whitley Streiber, Dennis Etchison, and others.

 

(4) BROSNAN ZINES SOUGHT. Twenty-two years after his death, John Brosnan has inspired a devoted Australian fan to want to read all his stuff, even his Sixties fanzines. “John Brosnan’s 1960s pre-internet fanzines sought by new fan at National Library”.

The work of an almost forgotten Australian writer has been unearthed and made available to a new audience following the chance discovery of a 1960s fanzine in a comic collection at the National Library of Australia (NLA).

Perth-born John Brosnan (1947-2005) specialised in science-fiction….

His sci-fi fanzine Big Scab was a joint winner of the 1974 UK Nova Award.

NLA cataloguer Alison Carriage became fascinated with Brosnan’s work after stumbling across an issue of his 1960s fanzine Why Bother? in the library’s John Ryan comic collection.

She was struck by the “wonderfully entertaining” way he wrote and the insight the fanzine provided into the pre-internet era.

Brosnan’s accounts of everyday life include getting mugged, looking for a job and being bitten by a tick.

“I kind of compare it to Seinfeld — the episodes were about nothing, but they were nothings you could relate to and therefore you found them really funny,” Ms Carriage said.

“His work’s still relatable and still really important.”

(5) AMAZONIAN LOVE. Hope Nicholson and Karen K. Burrows tell SciFiNow readers “Let’s be Straight: Wonder Woman is into Women”.

Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Mystique, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy are names that even non-comic book fans can identify, thanks to their films.

Aside from being leading ladies of comics (Catwoman, the oldest at 77 years old, our pal Harley Quinn a millennial baby at just 24 years old), each of these characters have another thing in common: they’re bisexual in the pages of (some) of their comics, but not yet identified as such in their movie counterparts.

Despite increased representation in the source comics, more recognizable queer characters rarely cross that barrier to film. Representation matters in every form – but blockbuster films have a greater reach than comics. Confirming in worldwide media that characters who have been part of the popular consciousness for decades can also be queer would be a true step forward!

Let’s take a closer look at the queer history of these characters and think about what might have been – and what still could!

(6) THE FILMING LAMP IS LIT. An update on item #15 from the May 16 Scroll: George R.R. Martin announced progress on the TV adaptation of another of his stories:

The SyFy Channel has just greenlit the pilot for a proposed NIGHTFLYERS series, based on my 1980 Hugo-losing novella, one of my SF/ horror hybrids.

(7) SUPPORT DIVERSE GRANTS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is raising money at Generosity.com to fund their Diverse Worlds & Diverse Writers Grants.

The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds and Diverse Writers Grants were launched in 2013 after an initial fundraiser covered the grants for three years. Help us keep both grants going for five more years!

The $500 Diverse Writers grant is intended to support new and emerging writers from underrepresented and underprivileged groups, such as writers of color, women, queer writers, disabled writers, working-class writers, etc. — those whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing / publishing process.

The $500 Diverse Worlds grant is intended for work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer’s background.

So far they have raised $695 towards the $5,000 goal.

(8) BOND OBIT. Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond died June 27 at the age of 91.

Bond published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, in 1958.

The character, a marmalade-loving bear from “deepest, darkest Peru” who comes to live in London, went on to inspire a series of books, an animated TV series and a successful 2014 film.

Born in Newbury in 1926, Bond began his career at the BBC and later worked on Blue Peter as a cameraman.

He served with the RAF and the army during World War II and began writing in 1945 while stationed in Cairo.

More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide. The most recent, Paddington’s Finest Hour, was published in April.

(9) THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS REMAIN AS TIME GOES BY. The Filer who sent the link said they were surprised that Steven Johnson’s article for the New York Times, “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)”, doesn’t mention The Three-Body Problem.

In Nov. 16, 1974, a few hundred astronomers, government officials and other dignitaries gathered in the tropical forests of Puerto Rico’s northwest interior, a four-hour drive from San Juan. The occasion was a rechristening of the Arecibo Observatory, at the time the largest radio telescope in the world. The mammoth structure — an immense concrete-and-aluminum saucer as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall, planted implausibly inside a limestone sinkhole in the middle of a mountainous jungle — had been upgraded to ensure its ability to survive the volatile hurricane season and to increase its precision tenfold.

To celebrate the reopening, the astronomers who maintained the observatory decided to take the most sensitive device yet constructed for listening to the cosmos and transform it, briefly, into a machine for talking back. After a series of speeches, the assembled crowd sat in silence at the edge of the telescope while the public-address system blasted nearly three minutes of two-tone noise through the muggy afternoon heat. To the listeners, the pattern was indecipherable, but somehow the experience of hearing those two notes oscillating in the air moved many in the crowd to tears.

That 168 seconds of noise, now known as the Arecibo message, was the brainchild of the astronomer Frank Drake, then the director of the organization that oversaw the Arecibo facility. The broadcast marked the first time a human being had intentionally transmitted a message targeting another solar system. The engineers had translated the missive into sound, so that the assembled group would have something to experience during the transmission. But its true medium was the silent, invisible pulse of radio waves, traveling at the speed of light.

It seemed to most of the onlookers to be a hopeful act, if a largely symbolic one: a message in a bottle tossed into the sea of deep space. But within days, the Royal Astronomer of England, Martin Ryle, released a thunderous condemnation of Drake’s stunt. By alerting the cosmos of our existence, Ryle wrote, we were risking catastrophe. Arguing that ‘‘any creatures out there [might be] malevolent or hungry,’’ Ryle demanded that the International Astronomical Union denounce Drake’s message and explicitly forbid any further communications. It was irresponsible, Ryle fumed, to tinker with interstellar outreach when such gestures, however noble their intentions, might lead to the destruction of all life on earth….

But in the 40 years since Drake transmitted the message, just over a dozen intentional messages have been sent to the stars, most of them stunts of one fashion or another, including one broadcast of the Beatles’ ‘‘Across the Universe’’ to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that song’s recording. (We can only hope the aliens, if they exist, receive that message before they find the Hitler footage.)…

Now this taciturn phase may be coming to an end, if a growing multidisciplinary group of scientists and amateur space enthusiasts have their way. A newly formed group known as METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), led by the former SETI scientist Douglas Vakoch, is planning an ongoing series of messages to begin in 2018. And Milner’s Breakthrough Listen endeavor has also promised to support a ‘‘Breakthrough Message’’ companion project, including an open competition to design the messages that we will transmit to the stars. But as messaging schemes proliferate, they have been met with resistance. The intellectual descendants of Martin Ryle include luminaries like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, and they caution that an assumption of interstellar friendship is the wrong way to approach the question of extraterrestrial life. They argue that an advanced alien civilization might well respond to our interstellar greetings with the same graciousness that Cortés showed the Aztecs, making silence the more prudent option.

If you believe that these broadcasts have a plausible chance of making contact with an alien intelligence, the choice to send them must rank as one of the most important decisions we will ever make as a species. Are we going to be galactic introverts, huddled behind the door and merely listening for signs of life outside? Or are we going to be extroverts, conversation-starters? And if it’s the latter, what should we say?

(10) CARNEGIE MEDAL. Colson Whitehead accepted the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24. The award was announced in January.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500.

Michael Chabon’s non-sf novel Moonglow was one of the fiction runner-ups.

(11) UNACQUIRED TASTES. Joe Sherry tackles the Hugo-nominated novels at Nerds of a Feather. Too Like the Lightning landed below No Award on his ballot, Death’s End just above. Jemisin’s novel ranks first.

Too Like the Lightning: I tried, folks.  I tried. Except for Death’s End, this was the finalist I was more concerned about reading. Something about the futuristic utopia written with stylistic flourishes harkening back to the 1800’s (despite being set in the 2400’s) just didn’t work for me. I know I gave up on the book too soon, but three chapters / 40 pages seemed to be enough to know that I didn’t care enough to even to the central mystery / conceit / story of Too Like the Lightning. Reading other reviews suggest that there is richness to be found, if only I take the time to push through. Perhaps I will try again in the future (after all, my reading of This-Census Taker changed on a second go-round), especially if this happens to win the Hugo Award. Though, given how other awards have shaken out so far this year, this seems somewhat unlikely. I do subscribe to the idea that sometimes we come to a book at the wrong time to appreciate or enjoy the work and coming to it again at a different time results in a different and stronger appreciation. Hopefully that’ll happen here, otherwise this is just a miss for me.

(12) MÍEVILLE. Camestros Felapton is also posting about his award reading: “Review: This Census Taker – Hugo2017 Novella”

China Miéville’s novella This Census Taker is not a roman à clef although it does feature keys but it has the aesthetics of an unsolvable puzzle. The story points at things as if they are clues but those elements (the deep hole into which things are thrown, the father’s affectless violence, the boy/narrator’s inconsistent recollections) don’t ever come together as a finished puzzle. The novella is like a painting of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle – the edges artfully done but with the looming chasm of the centre incomplete.

(13) DOG YEARS. Felapton has worked up a new diagram tracing how the Puppy movements are playing out, “Rise of the Scrappy Doos”.

In terms of existing movements they are closest to the Superversive movement and the Pulp Revolutions movement. Those two movements* can be seen as offshoots of the Rabid Puppies but this can be misleading. The Rabids had a core of straight Alt-Right griefers willing to do exactly what Vox Day told them to do for the lulz. Superversive began independently of the Rabids but has attached itself to Castalia for promotion and is focused on literary works (although of a right leaning nature). Pulp Revolution arose from the Castalia House blog and hence is more closely connected to Rabid Puppies but again is not the same as the griefing group.

[eta – paragraph went astray] Whereas the Rabids collectively were not particularly interested in the field of SFF, the Scrappy-Doos have more in common with the Sad Puppies in so far as they tend to be actively involved in writing, publishing and books. In this sense they are more like other groupings in fandom. However, where significant voices in Sad Puppies (Correia, Torgersen, Hoyt, Freer) had had some success in trad-publishing (mainly centred around Baen Books), the Scrappy Doos are involved with small publishing groups or self-published.

(14) SPUD ON WHEELS. Marek Baczynski told his YouTube followers:

I made a self driving potato. And then named him “Pontus” and adopted him as a pet. This went well. By popular demand, I wrote a detailed list of parts, you can find it in this reddit comment: https://www.reddit.com/r/shittyrobots…

One commenter summed up the experience:

I’m not quite sure of what I just saw but it was highly emotional to me and I loved it.

 

(15) TAPPING OUT. The step after psychometric ID? “This man had the chip from his travel card implanted under his skin”.

This Australian can now tap in and out at train stations with a travel card chip implanted in his left hand.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow (yes, that’s his legal name) says he had it put under his skin by a professional piercer….

“If someone stole my wallet I could still get home,” he told ABC News.

It’s not the best super power in the world, but it’s better than nothing.

(16) CELEBRATE THE 42ND ANNIVERSARY OF JAWS. “We’re gonna need a bigger beer can,” says Andrew Porter. So popular they’re now on backorder — “Honor the Man Jaws Poster”.

Jaws fans have seen this poster in liquor stores and begged the clerks to buy them… They’ve sent emails and called our contact line in search of this awesome poster too. Maybe you’ve even bargained with us at promotions to no avail… Well, here at Narragansett Beer, we’re all about making dreams come true which is why we’ve printed large 27″x40″ limited edition wall posters just for you!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dawn Sabados, Lis Carey, elusis, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]

Pixel Scroll 5/27/17 She’s A Pixel Queen, Dynamite With A Laser Beam, Guaranteed To Scroll Your Mind

(1) SLATOFF’S NEW COMMISSION. Christopher Slatoff, the sculptor who did the Ray Bradbury-themed Father Electrico statue, will see his war hero memorial unveiled in Pasadena on Memorial Day.

(2) THIRD FIFTH FOR DOCTOR WHO? The BBC dropped a hint: “Doctor Who: new info suggests plans stretch to series 15”.

Essentially, BBC Worldwide has put out a press release to announce a new deal with a Chinese media company, and one paragraph of the press bumf seems to suggest that the Beeb is planning for Doctor Who – in its current, post-relaunch state – to run until at least its fifteenth series.

The MOU comes on the back of a content deal that BBC Worldwide also signed with SMG Pictures yesterday evening. The deal will see the entire catalogue of Doctor Who including spin-offs, Torchwood and Class available on popular TV channels and on-demand platforms all over China.

The deal not only covers Showrunners Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat’s Series 1- 10, but also incoming Showrunner Chris Chibnall’s yet-to-film Series 11, as well as a first look for Series 12-15. [Emphasis added.]

(3) CRITICAL OMISSION. The Wachowskis probably thought they were breaking barriers, but they’re exhibit A in Riki Wilkins commentary for the Advocate, “Today’s Sci-Fi Oddly Adheres to Strict Gender Norms”.

The Wachowski sisters’ remarkable Netflix series, Sense8, is now in its second season. It is an elaborate envisioning of another race of humanoids, homo sensorium, who communicate telepathically and live among us.

These come in “clusters” that are scattered around the world, and from its opening credits, Sense8 is careful to present the viewer with the enormously diverse quilt that is humanity itself. The opening credits roll over a stunning montage of multicolored crowds, couples, celebrations, and rituals from around the globe (yes, the show has a break-the-piggybank travel budget).

The cluster of eight we follow is diversity itself — a Kenyan, a German, an Indian, an Icelander, people of color, a Brazilian gay man, and a Bay Area transgender woman. In nearly every episode, a cluster character denounces humanity’s unfortunate propensity to fear and oppress those we see as different, as the “Other.”

And yet…

Not a single genderqueer person anywhere. Not in this cluster. Not in the others. Not in any character they interact with. Even the crazy underground computer hacker named Bug is, like everyone else, quite gender-normative.

Apparently gender difference is the Other that must not speak its name. And this is from a team where not one but both siblings have bravely and publicly transitioned to be trans women. Et tu, Lana and Lilly?

Moreover, all of this occurs in science fiction, a genre invented to let creative imaginations run wild with possibility. Apparently veering from the gender binary is not among the possible. And in this, Sense8 is hardly alone….

…It is sadly to be expected that cisgender people cannot imagine us. But it is beyond sad that even when we are behind the camera and behind the typewriter, as with Sense8, we cannot imagine us either….

(4) PHOENIX COMICON UPDATE. Yahoo! News tells who the guman’s target was and quotes a statement from the actor —

Original ‘Power Rangers’ star Jason David Frank has had a bit of a close shave, as a lone gunman headed to Phoenix Comic Con with the intention of killing him.

A heavily-armed man — identified as 31-year-old Matthew Sterling — arrived at the convention on Thursday claiming to be ‘The Punisher’ with a plan to kill numerous ‘bad’ cops as well as the original Green Ranger, who was appearing at the comic con…

But why did he want to kill the Green Ranger?

It’s unclear why Sterling took umbrage against Jason David Frank, despite his claims that he previously stabbed the Green Ranger in a separate altercation.

Those claims seem to be entirely fabricated.

“I don’t know this individual, but I will pray for him,” said Frank in an interview with Fox News, adding that the alleged stabbing never took place. “I think if you mention ‘stabbed’, and I haven’t been stabbed, the story speaks for itself.”

According to Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Ed Leiter, the man was also planning to attack a number of other individuals, whose identities have not been released.
“He exhibited a dramatic threat to the community beyond police officers, beyond Jason David Frank,” he explained. “A number of other people were referenced as possible targets or people he wanted to kill….

 

(5) DENOUEMENT. Yesterday, after N.K. Jemisin publicly posted that she had asked Felicity Harley not to post the results of Harley’s interview with her, host site The Writing Cooperative took down the post and apologized.

(6) TO TWEET OR NOT TO TWEET. Lots of fans are tweeting about things they’re hearing on convention panels this weekend. But here’s a bit of social media etiquette I haven’t seen before —

(7) WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. However, it seems a shame to have missed this one —

(8) COMING TO AMERICA. Oft discussed in File 770 comments, Kinder Eggs will soon be available in the United States.

Kinder Eggs are coming to the U.S. — legally. The hollow chocolate egg with the toy surprise inside has not been allowed in the states due to a 1930s law banning candy with non-food objects inside, though fans of the European treat have previously smuggled them in.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 27, 1988 Killer Klowns From Outer Space opens in theaters.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • May 27, 1911 — Vincent Price
  • May 27, 1922 — Christopher Lee
  • May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison, Noted Futurist.

(12) GOLLANCZ FESTIVAL. Gollancz Festival 2017 takes place November 4-5 in London.

The Gollancz Festival is back! Join us on the 4th November 2017 for a day long celebration of genre authors, fiction and fans. Book your tickets now.

This year we are thrilled to continue our partnership with Foyles for a day of readers’ events at Foyles Charing Cross Road. Meet your favourite authors, enjoy a day of panel events, interviews, Q&As and signings. To find out more about our readers’ events and book your tickets click here.

We will also be running our very popular Writers’ Festival with panel events, speed dating style pitching, advice from authors and editors at the Phoenix Artists’ Club. To find out more about our Writers’ Festival and book tickets click here.

Authors in attendance include: Ben Aaronovitch, Mark Alder, James Barclay, Stephen Baxter, AK Benedict, Pat Cadigan, Ed Cox, Jaine Fenn, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Antonia Honeywell, Simon Ings, Tom Lloyd, Suzanne McLeod, Elizabeth May, Paul McAuley, Ed McDonald, Simon Morden, Richard Morgan, Sam Peters, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, Justina Robson, Adam Roberts, Al Robertson, Gavin Smith, Tricia Sullivan, Tom Toner, Jon Wallace, Catriona Ward and Chris Wooding.

(13) STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE! Andrew Porter announces you can now find his old fanzine, SF Weekly, online at Fanac.org.

Well, most of them. The issues #185 to #228, from 1967 to 1968, anyway.

All the news that fit, back in the day…

Not to be confused with any other SF WEEKLY, including ones published decades later. Nor with anything to do with San Francisco, or Suomi Finland.

Scanned in by a bunch of people, especially Mark Olson!

(14) PUPPY REDUX. People keep sending me links to Chris Chan’s day-late and several-dollars-short “‘No Award’: The Hugo Awards, Sad Puppies, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Literature”. It might be a cure for low blood pressure. If you’re not suffering from that I recommend skipping it, or Chan will have you suffering from something else.

(15) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. According to the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, “Graphic Novels Are Trending in English Departments, and That’s a Problem”.

Many English departments are now beginning to offer courses on graphic novels, which integrate text and visual imagery. Graphic novels are increasingly studied alongside traditional literature, in some cases supplanting more standard text-based curricula.

For example, one course at UNC Chapel Hill titled “The Visual and Graphic Narrative”can be taken to satisfy the literary appreciation part of a student’s general education requirements. (Students are only required to take one literary appreciation class.) The university also offers a course titled “Comics as Literature”as a first-year seminar.

Given these courses’ rising popularity among students, administrators and instructors may view them in terms of their ability to renew student interest in the humanities. But while graphic novels do have artistic merit, and are of aesthetic interest, the rise of undergraduate courses on graphic novels is problematic.

One reason is that the majority of graphic novels tend to advance political agendas. The graphic novels found on course syllabi and on reading lists often deal with controversial political issues such as social justice, immigration, gay rights, etc. This is part of a larger trend in the humanities, where focus often is on oppression and identity politics.

For example, Ursinus College assigns the widely acclaimed and controversial Fun Home by Allison Bechdel in undergraduate literature courses. Bechdel’s graphic novel is written as memoir, and discusses her experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family. The reader follows Bechdel as she learns about her father’s homosexuality and her lesbianism.

Another graphic novel, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, also is a popular choice on university syllabi and has been described as an “intersectionally feminist text.”The book is about “a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords….

(16) LOGAN. From last March, the stars of Logan appeared on the BUILD series.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart come to BUILD to dish on the anticipated film, “Logan.” The film tells the tale of a weary Logan taking care of an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. Although Logan attempts to remain hidden from the world, a young mutant soon changes what he had planned. Join us when they take the stage

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, JJ, Camestros Felapton, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/17 Illudium Q-36 Explosive File Moderator

(1) SOUL SURVIVOR. Peter Jones testifies: “Westboro Wannabees Picket Norwescon”

So, I’m in my hotel room at Norwescon. I don’t have a dealer table, and my panel appearances are kinda limited, so I’m making the best of it by getting a much done on Black Powder Goddess as I can. I’m deep into revisionland when all of a sudden a load, distorted voice from a megaphone starts shouting at me to repent my sins.

Now, understand something; I am on the tenth floor of the hotel. So this megaphone is putting out some serious decibels, if not clarity. I step out onto my balcony, and see that there are people with massive signs bouncing them up and down in front of the con hotel as megaphone-preacher predicts a future of eternal fire for me.

I admit, my first thoughts were of irritation. After all, I’m just trying to get some work done, here. Now I’ve got to listen to this moron shouting at me while I try to fix this little bit of dialogue, or that paragraph structure.

But other people begin to emerge onto their own balconies as well, and now we’re looking at each other. Occasionally, someone shouts something rude back at the preacher. One dude starts up a chant of “Live in sin” over and over again. There are catcalls, people fly the horns, etc. But even that starts to die down in the face of what appears to be a never-ending barrage of scripture.

And I’m thinking to myself; what the hell good can they possibly imagine this is doing?

I mean, is anyone going to say “Whelp, I was going to hit up a room party, drink like Bacchus, and compare various forms of magic and demons to one another, but now that someone I don’t know has yelled Bible verses at me through a megaphone I think I’m going to church instead?” No. That is a phrase said by nobody, ever.

Video of the protestors here.

(2) TRICORDER DESIGN WINS X-PRIZE. The Harris brothers — mentioned here a couple of weeks ago — beat nine other finalists, including some heavily-funded competition. IFL Science has the story — “Star Trek’s Tricorder Now Officially Exists Thanks To A Global Competition”.

Star Trek’s all-purpose medical device, the Tricorder, has also inspired a fair few people to recreate its near-magical ability to instantly diagnose a patient. As it happens, the non-profit X-Prize Foundation were so keen to get one invented that they started a global competition to see if any mavericks would succeed.

Rather remarkably, one team has emerged victorious in their endeavor. A family-led team from Pennsylvania, appropriately named Final Frontier Medical Devices, have bagged themselves a sum of $2.5 million, with a second-place prize of $1 million going to the Taiwan-based Dynamical Biomarkers Group.

The objective of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition was to create a lightweight, non-invasive, handheld device that can identify 13 health conditions (12 diseases, and the very absence of disease) in 90 minutes to 24 hours with no additional help or counsel from medical professionals. Five vital health metrics, like heartbeat and respiratory function, were also required to be constantly monitored.

Beginning in 2012, 10 teams originally made the cut from an original starting point of 312 groups from 38 countries. Two finalists were announced last December, and six total were honored at the prize-giving ceremony in Los Angeles.

The team behind the winning design was headed by brothers Dr Basil Harris, an emergency physician, and George Harris, a network engineer. They came up with “DxtER,” a device infused with artificial intelligence, entire funded by themselves and two other siblings of theirs.

Concluding that one device alone was not sufficient to accurately and quickly diagnose various medical conditions in a patient, the team realized that they needed to link it up to a wealth of medical data….

(3) MORE POTTERCABULARY ON COURSE FOR THE DICTIONARY. Priya Joshi, in an International Business Times piece called “’Quidditch’ and ‘Potterhead’ could make their way into the Oxford English Dictionary”, says that the OED is considering these terms as well as “wrock,” which is short for “wizard rock.”  However, “muggle” was added to the OED years ago.

“Potterhead”, which is a term used to describe a Harry Potter super-fan, is in the running, as is “Wrock” [short for Wizard Rock] a genre of music favoured by the pupils of Hogwarts. “Bellatrix” the name of one of Rowling’s characters, may also make it into the OED.

While it is rare for made-up words to find their way into the Oxford dictionary, they have to be in circulation for 10 years to be considered for this authoritative record of the English language.

(4) TODAY’S 3000. In the opinion of The Verge’s Megan Farokhmanesh, “Mystery Science Theater 3000 perfectly dunks on Stranger Things.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back, and the first thing on its hit list is Stranger Things. Netflix has released a short MST3K crossover teaser that features the cast of the revival version of the show taking a break from their movie-centric entertainment to riff on the opening of Netflix’s breakout science-fiction thriller. Although the actual show is focused on questionable movies rather than viral-hit TV, the clip is still a brilliant bit of marketing.

 

(5) CROSSED SIGNALS. But wait, another writer for The Verge, Noel Murray, says the first episode is a sendup of the movie Reptilicus. Which The Verge also likes.

But Netflix’s revival version grasps something that most of the copycats miss: Mystery Science Theater was never just about sneering. The new Jonah Ray version of the series recaptures the original version’s handmade, “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” charm. The sets and effects look fussed-over and intricately detailed, but also inexpensive enough that any diligent, gifted community-theater tech could’ve pulled them off. During the first break in Reptilicus, Ray and the ’bots launch into a Hamilton-esque rap (penned by nerdcore songwriting duo Paul Sabourin and Storm DiCostanzo) about giant monsters around the world. In that song, Ray, Yount, and Vaughn hit every tricky, rapid-fire aural cue, but also knock over props and sing like spirited amateurs. The presentation throughout the first new episode is smart and energetic, but not always slick.

The main thing the Netflix MST3K gets right is the original’s giddy media deconstruction. During Reptilicus, there are jokes about the movie’s slow pace (“Feel free to begin the scene any time, guys”), and about the stock characters and casual sexism (“Brigadier General Military Industrial Complex, this is Miss Doctor Woman”). Ray and the ’bots have some fun with the poor quality of the source material itself (“Either this print is in really bad shape, or it’s raining tar”), and the movie’s distinctly Danish setting (“Protect the parfumerie!”).

(6) THAT OTHER TURING TEST. Emilio Lizardo never met the renowned codebreaker, but somehow Turing got interested in this saurian puzzler — “Color-shifting lizard’s skin morphs just as Alan Turing predicted”.

At least, when you take John von Neumann’s math into account…

There’s a particular type of lizard that changes the color of its spots as it ages — and researchers have just discovered the mathematical rules that govern this peculiar metamorphosis.

Meet the ocellated lizard, a 30-to-35 inch reptile that lives Europe. These lizards are born with unimpressive brown and white polka dots. But as they grow, they develop this beautiful, labyrinthine green and black pattern across their bodies. We don’t know exactly why this happens, but now, we know a little more about how. The lizard scales might be changing according to a particular mathematical model, reports a study published this week in Nature. The weird thing is, this model is somewhat different from the one that scientists have long believed to determine how animals get dots and stripes.

In fact, one overarching theory of how biological patterns form comes from an unlikely place: codebreaker Alan Turing. About 65 years ago, he proposed that stripes, spots, and even appendages like fingers may emerge from a series of chemical interactions between two hypothetical substances: an activator and an inhibitor. As both substances spread across a canvas like an animal’s skin at different paces, they compete with one another to give rise to patterns….

(7) TAYLOR OBIT. Robert Taylor, a pioneer of modern computing and the internet, died April 13 at the age of 85.

In the 1960s, Taylor was a researcher at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, where his frustration with what he saw as inefficient communication led him to envision an interconnected computer network.

At ARPA, Taylor had three separate computer terminals in his office to communicate with his colleagues across Berkeley, MIT, UCLA and Stanford. Each terminal connected to a different computer in a different part of the country, he told Raz.

“To get in touch with someone in Santa Monica through the computer, I’d sit in front of one terminal, but to do the same thing with someone in Massachusetts, I would have to get up and move over to another terminal,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to look at this very long to realize this is silly. This is stupid. So I decided, OK, I want to build a network that connects all of these.”

That shared network, ARPANET, evolved into what would become the internet. To build it, Taylor assembled a group of smart people, like Bill Duvall at Stanford, Len Kleinrock at UCLA and the 21-year-old programmer Charley Kline.

(8) EFFECTS.Ghost in the Shell Reel” on Vimeo is a demonstration of work by Ash Thorp about work he did for the 2017 movie.

(9) COUNTING EXERCISE. Lettie Prell and a white-hot adding machine tell about “Women Writers Winning Hugo Awards: A History”.

In sum, this analysis documents the large increase in Hugos going to women writers, from zero to a sweep of all four major fiction categories in 2016. I could have selected another award, or gathered other data, and documented the same upward trajectory, because what we’re really documenting here is the achievement of the broader women’s movement, which has been just one of the groups who’ve been working for a more inclusive culture. As for me, I’ve come to expect diverse voices, and I hunger for them as another dimension of the mind-expanding fare I’ve craved since high school.

(10) RATING YOUR UBER DRIVER. Buzzfeed fears that the Uber driver rating system gets people unjustly canned.

In a San Francisco Lyft car, there’s a chart taped to the back of the front passenger seat: “The Rating System Explained.” It details — in exaggerated terms — what Lyft’s one- to five-star rating scale really means to drivers.

Beginning at five stars — “got me where I needed to go” — the explanations quickly descend into parodic paranoia. Four stars: “This driver sucks, fire him slowly … Too many of these and I may end up homeless.” Three stars: “This driver sucks so bad I never want to see him again.” Two stars: “maybe the car had something dangerously wrong with it or he was doing 120 in a 40 mile zone.”

One star? “Threats or acts of violence possibly made, perhaps a callous disregard for his own safety.”

Though tongue-in-cheek, this rating system explainer touches on an essential truth of the gig economy: When companies like Lyft, Uber, and Postmates penalize workers who have low ratings, anything less than five stars feels like a rebuke….

(11) I GET AROUND. No beach for these boys, but plenty of sand — “’Star Wars’ Exclusive Sneak Peek: Hasbro’s Deluxe Luke Skywalker-Landspeeder Set”.

Luke Skywalker is all set to head down to Tosche Station for a rendezvous with Biggs, Windy, Deak, and Fixer in this exclusive first look at the latest addition to Hasbro’s premium Black Series line. The young moisture farmer can cruise the dunes of the twin-sunned planet, from Anchorhead to Mos Eisley, in his X-34 landspeeder.

(12) POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT. Blastr brings the good word — “Story by legendary sci-fi author Robert Silverberg being made into film”.

One of sci-fi’s greatest living legends is finally getting some love from Hollywood.

According to Deadline, John Ridley is set to write and direct a film for Miramax called Needle in a Timestack, based on a short story by Robert Silverberg. The story focuses on a man who sets out to save his marriage after it is destroyed by a rival using time travel to alter the course of history.

The involvement of Ridley, whose credits include writing and directing the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, as well as creating the acclaimed TV series American Crime and a new Showtime project called Guerrilla (he’s also still attached to write a mystery Marvel TV project), means it’s more likely to move forward than get stuck in development hell.

(13) SLEEPWALKING TO THE BANK. According to Looper’s Time Karan, “Upcoming Stephen King novel Sleeping Beauties already being developed for TV”.

It’s a scary great time to be Stephen King.

According to Empire, his upcoming novel Sleeping Beauties–which he wrote with his son Owen King–is already being developed into a TV series. The book is slated to arrive in September from Scribner. The TV series will be produced by The OA’s Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta.

The novel is reportedly set in the relatively near future at a women’s prison in an Appalachian town. Here’s the official synopsis: “Something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep, they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain?”

(14) HUGH JACKMAN SINGS THE MUSIC MAN. David K.M. Klaus supplies the introduction to this 2012 Tonight Show clip:

He still had it memorized from when he was 14, doing eight voices in rapid succession, the opening scene on a train.  It’s a hoot! It shows that you can’t just walk in from somewhere and do superhero films — this is part of why he could master a role like Wolverine, through training as an actor and dancer. The opposite illustration of this would be Shaquille O’Neil playing Steel, from the Superman comics, and being an awkward disaster.

 

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