Pixel Scroll 4/10/17 The Phantom Scrollbooth

(1) OFF THE HOOK. Remember when she said she didn’t write sf? Now she is sf. Margaret Atwood makes a cameo in the game Zombies Run:

Hampus Eckerman adds, “I do recommend that game as a very good way of activating oneself for jogs or long walks. There is an additional game called Zombies, Run! 5k Training by the same creators for people who aren’t fit enough to jog as yet. It works as a prequel and lets you do basic exercises and gradually increased walk/runs for eight weeks to get fit enough to hit the main game. The main game works as a radio theatre, where your progress is checked by GPS and where (configurable) zombies sometimes attack you, forcing you to increase your pace.”

(2) MAYDAY. On Obscura Day, May 6, Atlas Obscura plans an international self-celebration.

Join us at an event.

We’re hosting over 170 events in 36 states and 25 countries.

A kayak exploration through the largest ship graveyard in the Western Hemisphere. A private tour of the world’s original nuclear power plant. A classical concert in an abandoned hilltop spy station outside Berlin. What discoveries await you?

There are a bunch of events in the LA area, including a walking tour of The Kitschy Culture of Los Feliz Village, not far from Forrest J Ackerman Square.

(3) AN UNORTHODOX MOVE. Michael A. Burstein helped his Facebook readers translate the Four Questions. But not the way you might assume….

Once again, for those of you celebrating Pesach (Passover) as it begins tonight, here are the Four Questions in Klingon:

(4) MORE ABOUT CHINESE SF. Another interview with the author of “Folding Beijing” — “Award-Winning Sci-Fi Writer Hao Jingfang Sets Her Sights Closer to Home”.

When you first posted Folding Beijing for free on a Tsinghua university server, was that also for pleasure?

Yes, when I was in school, I had lots of time.

I am very surprised that studying physics, especially quantum physics, gave you a lot of time?

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t become a scientist! I was a good student, but not one good enough to become a scientist. Probably 95% of the physics students entered other fields after graduation. Only 5% to 10% of the top students became real physicists.

Is sci-fi an effective tool for investigating social issues?

I think science fiction is perhaps the freest genre for me to set my characters and everything else according to my opinion. Because in pure literature, I need to make sure I have the whole background and the reality of the people. You cannot just change the reality, if you do that the readers will be like ‘oh no! Life isn’t like that’. In science fiction you’re free, you can set the stage and tell readers, life is this, and you can form other stories on that stage. In my longer novel, I created one society on Mars and another on Earth, and then I can compare different policies and methods in these two places. The two societies can mirror each other. This is the kind of freedom I cannot find anywhere else.

(5) COODE STREET ADDRESS. The April 2 edition of The Coode Street Podcast promotes “A New Theory of Science Fiction.” The podcast is looking at Robinson’s New York 2140 which Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan claim is more in keeping with the Heinlein thesis that capitalism can fix Big Problems without a change in political and social structures. And they believe it’s also critiquing the controversial usage of info dumps and the belief that they’re particular to SF.

They also cover the history of the Crawford Award, the ICFA and Gary’s new History of Science Fiction.

(6) FIRST ON THE LIST. Popsugar ranks this café as “The 1 Place in Scotland that All Harry Potter Fans Should Visit at Least Once”.

Scotland is a veritable mecca for Harry Potter fans, considering J.K. Rowling herself lives there and wrote a large majority of the series there. Everywhere you turn, you can see Rowling’s inspiration or something that could easily be found in one of the films. While our Harry Potter travel bucket list can take you all over the world, it’s important to make a stop at where it all began: the Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The cafe in the heart of Edinburgh touts itself as the birthplace of Harry Potter, because Rowling spent countless hours in this shop penning Harry Potter. She sat in the back of the restaurant, overlooking Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard, where a grave for a man named Tom Riddell can be found.

(7) BROWN OBIT. Chelsea Brown (1942-2017), best remembered as a cast member on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in the Sixties, passed away March 27 at the age of 74. She also had a genre credit — as Rosey Grier’s love interest in The Thing With Two Heads (1972). As the New York Times explains —

In that film, the head of an ailing bigot, played by Ray Milland, is grafted onto the body of a death-row inmate played by Mr. Grier, a former defensive lineman in the N.F.L. Car chases, gunfights and bickering ensue.

Mr. Grier and Mr. Milland eventually reach Ms. Brown. At first undaunted by Mr. Grier’s second head, she moves in for a kiss, then quickly withdraws and deadpans, “Honey, I know you don’t like to answer a lot of questions — but, but, how did that happen?”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1981 The Howling was released in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 10 – David Langford

(10) TIME’S A-WASTIN’! There’s less than a week left to vote in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards and Steve Vertlieb would like people to take a look at his nominated blog.

My blog, BETTER DAYS; BENNER NIGHTS, has been nominated for BEST BLOG OF 2016 in this year’s annual RONDO AWARDS competition. To vote for my series of articles, just send your selection (along with your name and E-Mail address) to David Colton whose voting address is taraco@aol.com prior to Sunday night, April 16th, 2017, at midnight.

Thanks sincerely for your consideration of my work. It’s an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces all over the world. Return with us now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when Zorro, Hopalong Cassidy, “Space Patrol,” Ming, The Merciless, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe lit the early days of television, and Saturday afternoon motion picture screens, with magical imagery and unforgettable excitement.

(11) LIADEN UNIVERSE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have posted their appearance calendar for the rest of the year.

We’ve had some queries about upcoming publications, and upcoming appearances, and, and — herewith an attempt to get them all in one place, for you, and for us.  Please note that the list is probably not complete; it’s only as complete as far as we know, as of Right Now.

(12) MAKE SCI-FI COME TRUE. GeekWire claims “NASA funds ideas from science fiction”. Well, if they’re smart they do.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC, has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for almost 20 years. It started out as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, modeled after the Pentagon’s DARPA think tank.

NIAC’s latest crop of 22 tech projects was announced this week, and they include a few concepts that were virtually ripped from the headlines of science fiction’s pulp magazines. Here are our favorite five:

Flying airships of Mars: The idea of sending airships floating through the Red Planet’s skies dates back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels of the early 20th century.

One big problem: Mars’ actual atmosphere is so thin that an airship would have to maintain a vacuum to become buoyant. That’s exactly what Georgia Tech’s John-Paul Clarke intends to do with an experimental double-shelled, reinforced vacuum airship….

(13) EVEN BETTER. The 2084 anthology of dystopian fiction hit its funding target and now is plowing through its stretch goals.

Stretch goals!

After an opening week like that there’s only one thing we can do… And what better way to make the anthology better than with more stories? We’ve got more great writers lined up – people who will bring a fresh angle to the theme, people whose writing we love – and they’re poised and ready to go, right now. The first target is nice and easy, as well…

£6,000 – we add another story – HIT!

£7,500 – we add a second bonus story – HIT!

£9,000 – we add a third extra story

(14) SOUND OF HUGOS. Camestros Felapton can’t believe his ears. (I really want to make this a Spock reference. I’m sure you do, too.) “Hugo 2017 Review: Splendor & Misery by Clipping”.

Experimental Hip Hop group, Clipping are not a stereotypical Hugo nominee but I’d be hard pressed to name an album that is so tightly linked to the Hugo tradition. Science fiction themes are not new to popular music from David Bowie to Janelle Monae but Splendor & Misery approaches science fiction from a different direction musically. Rather than reaching for the broader aesthetics of SF visuals, Splendor & Misery dives directly into science fiction as both a narrative and as a distinct historical genre.

(15) THOSE TRAD PUB JUNKIES. Claire Ryan (intentionally) revives the Sad Puppies favorite argument in “The Hugo Awards are irrelevant”.

I went to Amazon.com, and I took a look at the current bestsellers for sci-fi and fantasy in Kindle. I found a couple of self-published authors immediately. Let’s not hash out the same tired arguments that the indies are somehow less worthy or less talented, please. Clearly the readers don’t think so. Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking probably have more readers than all the current Hugo Best Novel finalists put together, and they’ve never even been nominated.

(16) LONDON CALLING. Shhh! Please remember, Jonathan McCalmont abhors attention.

(17) KAEDRIN BLOG. Mark Kaedrin says the novel category of the final Hugo ballot looks pretty good.

The novel ballot looks pretty good and indeed, I’ve already read three of the nominees, all of which were pretty good (and two of which were in my nominations). Ninefox Gambit is the clear front-runner for me, with its intricate worldbuilding and simple, pulpy plot. A Closed and Common Orbit ranks a distant second, but I liked its focus and positive attitude enough to throw it a nomination. All the Birds in the Sky has a great, whimsical tone to it, but of the novels I’ve read, it’s the one that could fall behind some of the things I haven’t read yet. Speaking of which, Cixin Liu returns to the ballot with Death’s End, the conclusion to the story begun in the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem and the one I’m most looking forward to catching up with (even if it requires me to read the second novel, which I never got to last year). Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning has been on my radar for a while, but I never pulled the trigger. It sounds like it has potential for me. N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate rounds out the nominees. A sequel to last year’s Hugo-winning The Fifth Season, a book that I have to admit that I did not enjoy at all. Well written and executed, but it felt a little too much like misery-porn for my liking, and thus I’m not particularly enthused about reading the sequel. I realize this puts me in the minority here, but it’s got me seriously considering not actually participating this year. I really don’t want to return to that gloomy world of suffering and despair, as well written as it may be…

He’s able to restrain his enthusiasm about some of the others.

(18) RED, WHITE AND BLUE. But somebody in their comments says they use Russian rockets – “Building on ULA’s Heritage, Setting the Pace for the Future of Space Launch.”

As a new era dawns, ULA continues to set the pace in space launch. Building on a heritage extending to the early days of American space launch, ULA is bringing future innovations to the table to support human launch from American soil and next-generation technology that will create transportation infrastructure to support a permanent human presence in space.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/16 Pon Far. Squa Tront.

(1) FOR LONG DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SHORT STORIES. Standback and Levana Taylor have launched the Short Story Squee & Snark website. It began as a Facebook group and all of the 50+ discussions from the existing group have been imported to the new site.

But it’s safe to assume the real action will be around the newest, most recent story selections. For our first few weeks, we’ve got story suggestions from Chinelo Onwualu, from Charles Payseur, and Abigail Nussbaum. Our first discussion begins tomorrow.

After that, we’ll be pressing on with selections from your humble hosts, Standback and Levana – and suggestions from you. You can follow us on RSS or on Twitter to join along.

(2) OCCASIONAL TIRADER. Julie Phillips profiles “The Fantastic Ursula Le Guin” ini The New Yorker.

To talk to Le Guin is to encounter alternatives. At her house, the writer is present, but so is Le Guin the mother of three, the faculty wife: the woman writing fantasy in tandem with her daily life. I asked her recently about a particularly violent story that she wrote in her early thirties, in two days, while organizing a fifth-birthday party for her elder daughter. “It’s funny how you can live on several planes, isn’t it?” she said. She resists attempts to separate her more mainstream work from her science fiction. She is a genre author who is also a literary author, not one or the other but indivisibly both.

Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication. Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.

(3) DEMON WITH A BRASS BAND. Omni’s Joshua Sky interviewed Jason Davis, editor of many Harlan Ellison collections, about the project to digitize and preserve all of Ellison’s writings, in “To Preserve A Demon”.

Writer/editor Jason Davis has a special ambition — to catalog, digitize, edit, correct, annotate and re-publish (or publish for the first time, in some cases) all of Harlan Ellison’s writings. Twenty-six four-foot-wide drawers of typescripts, over 100 feet of paper if stacked, the lifework of a man who is easily one of the most influential and cantankerous authors of the 20th century. Jason is spearheading the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, a grand undertaking “To create definitive versions of all Harlan Ellison’s writings, fiction and non-fiction, to preserve in print for posterity.”…

JS: How did this project come about?

JD: I took over HarlanEllisonBooks.com in 2012. For the most part, I’ve been limited to publishing the previously uncollected, and un-reprinted stuff. His other works were with other publishers. I could do a new collection, like Harlan 101, which contains stories that you’ll find spread across many other Ellison collections. I can do that as a unique volume, and it did very well.

Certain economic factors were built into the original business model before I took over, and — as previously noted — the rights to most of the iconic collections are tied up elsewhere, so because of the need to sell X copies of a given book to make a return, I’ve concentrated on material that wasn’t available in any form elsewhere, with a few exceptions — like Harlan 101 or 8 in 80 by Ellison — where there was some unique aspect to the book that made it worth releasing.

For the Preservation Project, I’m working at the story/essay level, so I’m not stepping on anyone else’s toes. The entirety of Harlan’s work will be digitized and corrected to make sure it’s as the author intends it. In the future, if a publisher comes to him and says, “I want to put out a new edition of Shatterday in hardback,” it will be a simple matter of pushing a button, and a complete text of that collection goes off to the publisher in electronic form after the contract is signed. As it currently stands, that publisher would receive a large box of photocopied typescripts which would have to be scanned or typed into a computer for publication, which leads to inputting errors and a lot of back-and-forth between the publisher’s employees and Harlan’s office via phone, fax and e-mail. One of the goals of this project is to make republishing Harlan’s writings more appealing to publishers — who have their own economic pressures to deal with — by front-loading a lot of the editorial work.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $78,375 of the $100,000 goal.

(4) THE CALCULUS OF ONLINE BOOK SHOPPING. After Max Florschutz sells you the book, he’ll try to sell you on reviewing that book on Amazon.

Now, there’s some truth to why we think this way, after all. I’m not saying that those that pass over a book with only three reviews are being subconsciously manipulated. Rather that the reasoning for such is so valid and ingrained that we as consumers tend to let it subconsciously spill into all sorts of areas.

So, getting back to that review number, it turns out that it’s really important, because people recognize that a higher number of reviews is a good thing. It means a wider variety of readers purchased the product and then left their opinion. And if the book was poor, even with a few outliers that enjoyed it immensely and gave it high reviews, the average rating would reflect that. In this manner, a book that has five stars at ten reviews is, to many, less trustworthy and less likely to be a truly good read than a book that has three stars but three hundred reviews.

And this compounds. The higher the number of reviews, the greater the variety among those leaving them, and the greater chance that the average rating is, the way a prospective reader sees it, accurate. Which therefore increases the chance that they will then seriously consider purchasing the book.

(5) NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE ALIKE. Camestros Felapton reviews the reviewer: “MetaReview: Dave Truesdale Reviews Diabolical Plots #21”.

That the reviewer frames his review around a comment by the author—the “unjust violent death of Michael Brown”—and then gives the reader of Truesdale review a totally different narrative that is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty. Truesdale’s review fails on literary grounds (the shift of focus from a fictional story about emotional pain in the face of perceived injustice and violence to Truesdale’s evaluation of whether the author is justified in feeling angry about a real-world event), and from an error in judgment by Truesdale in attempting to justify a judicial killing, which not only reveal the weakness in the review itself, but which highlights how the reviewer’s own strong prejudice in the matter clouded his thinking, and obstructed his capacity to give a professional review.

(6) TREVOR OBIT. Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer Sir William Trevor (1928-2016) died November 20 reports The Bookseller. He won the O. Henry Prize four times and the Whitbread Award three times; he was also nominated for the Booker Prize five times.

The Internet Science Fiction Database lists his genre work as:

Novels

The Children of Dynmouth (1976)

Shortfiction

Miss Smith (1967)
The Only Story (1971)
The Love of a Good Woman (1972)
George and Alice and Isabel (1973)
Visions of Hell (1974)
Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (1975)
The Death of Peggy Morrissey (1975)
Broken Homes (1977)
The Raising of Elvira Tremlett (1977)
Autumn Sunshine (1980)

(7) CLOWES OBIT. Jonathan Clowes, Doris Lessing’s agent, has died at the age of 86. The Bookseller published a tribute:

After founding Jonathan Clowes Ltd. in 1960, Clowes assembled a select and high-powered client list including international bestseller Len Deighton, novelist, poet and playwright Maureen Duffy, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, novelists Sir Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Brian Freemantle.

His clients also included television writers David Nobbs, Carla Lane and Dr David Bellamy.

Clowes took an unlikely path to become one of London’s most renowned and respected literary agents, having left grammar school aged 15 and worked in a number of different trades, from gardener to decorator, even going on to serve time in prison for his stance as a conscientious objector.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 21, 1942: “Tweety Bird” debuted

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien
  • Born November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis

(10) BEASTLY CAPITALISM. ScienceFiction.com has a question: “Weekend Box Office (11/18-11/20): ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Did Fantastically… But Fantastically Enough?”

It’s no surprise that ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ topped the box office charts this weekend, with $75M in the US and $218.3M globally.  This film kicks off a series of five projected movies– with the first sequel already scheduled to arrive on November 16, 2018– all penned by J.K. Rowling, the creator of ‘Harry Potter’, but did studio Warner Brothers bite off more than they could chew?  That’s what some insiders are wondering, as this movie’s opening is below that of other franchise players like ‘Doctor Strange’ ($85M opening weekend) and WB’s own ‘Suicide Squad’ ($133.6M… and that was considered a disappointment).

(11) ATTENTION BAKER STREET REGULARS. Sherlock Season 4 is almost upon us. Reportedly, for the first time shows in the UK and the US will be broadcast on the same dates.

Sherlock will return in “The Six Thatchers” on January 1, 2017 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

Coming in 2017, Sherlock will return with three brand-new episodes that promise laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary adventures.

Season four begins with the mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), back once more on British soil as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents.

(12) ANOTHER ITEM FOR THE WISH LIST. Dread Central is making a list and getting it wet.

Leave it to Mondo to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings just before Christmas. They’re releasing a vinyl version of the soundtrack to Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and the packaging literally changes when exposed to water and sunlight… just like the titular creatures.

gremlins_front%20cover_uv%20lightgremlins_sleeve%201gizmo_dry

(13) THREE STOOGES AT THE ALEX. Glendale’s Alex Theatre hosts the 19th Annual The Three Stooges® Big Screen Event this Saturday at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.. Order tix online here.

The LA Weekly has named The Affordable Curly Care Act: Poking Medicine in the Eye Since 1933 their “Pick of the Week.” What more can we say? How about, “Buy your tickets early to avoid the lines at the box office.”

A special surprise bonus will be shown in addition to this lineup of five classic Stooges shorts:

  • FROM NURSE TO WORSE (1940 – Jules White)
  • CASH & CARRY (1937 – Del Lord)
  • SOME MORE SAMOA (1941 – Del Lord)
  • SCRAMBLED BRAINS (1951 – Jules White)
  • ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941 – Del Lord)

(14) WHAT TOOLS THESE MORTALS BE. Mark-kitteh writes: “A performance of The Tempest with a live motion-capture Ariel on stage? I’m sure some will say the Bard will be spinning in his grave, but I suspect he’d just be updating his list of stage directions to include ‘exeunt stage upwards’,” — The Tempest review: Real-time digital avatar brews storm in a teacup” at ArsTechnica.

(15) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO. ScreenRant knows “Everything Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can’t”.

Supergirl is more than a chip off the ol’ Krypton block. While her younger cousin gets all the credit for bench-pressing the earth and saving the universe, Supergirl’s individual strengths have been sorely undervalued….

  1. She Can Shapeshift

Superman is dead. This is the reality of the post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Lex Luthor was a good guy who bet the ranch on recreating his long lost love, Lana Lang. Lex’s advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or just “Matrix” for short. Indeed, Luthor’s weird science led to the recreation of his lady love, now called Matrix– an unholy hodgepodge containing the memory of Lana with the Kryptonian specs of Superman (whom he knew about thanks to his otherworldly technology).

In addition to being almost as strong as Kal-El, this new creation had the powers of invisibility, telekinesis, and shapeshifting, which she took full advantage of by morphing into Supergirl 2.0. In a battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, Matrix/Supergirl held her own but ultimately had to call on the support of Superman to take down the triumvirate. Though the pair defeated the Krypton criminals, the pocket universe was basically destroyed, and the new shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainline DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.

(16) ANOTHER MILLION BRICKS IN THE WALL. How many LEGO bricks does it take to build these various science fictional structures?  This infographic from earlier in the year has the theoretical answers.

How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures
How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures Created By: Ebates

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/16 R.U.R. Or R.U.Ain’t (My Baby)

(1) PETALS TO THE METAL. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll is a little worried:

My hit rate for this series so far has been… somewhat lower than I hoped. It’s not that I am going out of my way to find older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people; it is just that I turn out to have a remarkable talent for finding older SF stories that do not consistently appeal to younger people.

So this time he pulled out one of the greatest short stories in the genre,  Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon”. Turns out his young audience wasn’t all that fired-up about it, either. Which reminds me of a favorite joke:

A dog food company once held a convention for its sales force. The president got up and said, “We have the greatest product in the world!” Everybody applauded. “We have the best sales people in the industry!” The cheered wildly. “So,” asked the president, “why aren’t we selling any dog food?” A little man in the back got up and shouted, “It’s the damn dogs, sir! They don’t like it!”

(2) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. The odds say that these things are supposed to crash in the ocean. Except when they don’t. “The Space Debris Problem: Dual Impact In Myanmar Shows What’s To Come”.

A mining facility in northern Myanmar became the crash site of a huge piece of space debris last Thursday. As the impact occurred, a smaller piece of debris with Chinese markings on it simultaneously destroyed the roof of a house in a nearby village. Fortunately, no one was injured in either incident.

The larger object is barrel-shaped and measures about 4.5 meters (15 ft) long, with a diameter barely over a meter. “The metal objects are assumed to be part of a satellite or the engine parts of a plane or missile,” a local news report said. The Chinese government is neither confirming nor denying whether both pieces of space junk came from the same object.

(3) FIGHT INTERNMENT. George Takei’s op-ed in the Washington Post reacts against talk about rounding up Muslims and reminds people of what happened when we interned the Japanese — “They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims”.

There is dangerous talk these days by those who have the ear of some at the highest levels of government. Earlier this week, Carl Higbie, an outspoken Trump surrogate and co-chair of Great America PAC, gave an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. They were discussing the notion of a national Muslim registry, a controversial part of the Trump administration’s national security plans, when Higbie dropped a bombshell: “We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will,” he said. Was he really citing the Japanese American internment, Kelly wanted to know, as grounds for treating Muslims the same way today? Higbie responded that he wasn’t saying we should return to putting people in camps. But then he added, “There is precedent for it.”

Stop and consider these words. The internment was a dark chapter of American history, in which 120,000 people, including me and my family, lost our homes, our livelihoods, and our freedoms because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Higbie speaks of the internment in the abstract, as a “precedent” or a policy, ignoring the true human tragedy that occurred….

(4) THE FRANCHISE THAT LIVED. The BBC renders a verdict — “Film review: Is Fantastic Beasts a Rowling triumph?” Chip Hitchcock says, “tl;dr version: way too many characters for one movie. Rowling says it’s the first of five; sounds a bit like the opening episode ST:TNG, which spent most of its time setting up the main players.”

As exhilarating as all the new sights and sounds are, though, it’s soon apparent that Rowling et al are enjoying their relocation a little too much. A major flaw of the later Harry Potter films was that they crammed in so many characters and incidents from the ever-longer novels that they were baffling to anyone who didn’t know the books by heart. What’s slightly disappointing about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is that, even though it isn’t adapted from a novel, it has a similar problem. Rowling’s superabundant imagination won’t let the story build up momentum: she keeps shoving minor characters and irrelevant details in its path.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 18, 1928— Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time, with Walt Disney doing the voice of his soon-to-be-famous creation, in “Steamboat Willie,” the first fully synchronized sound cartoon produced.
  • November 18, 1963 — Push-button telephones made their debut. John King Tarpinian was one of the early button-pushers:

I remember being at the County Fair and there was a display with kiosks.  You used a rotary phone to dial your number then using a push-button phone you dialed a random phone number.  The elapsed time was displayed and you saw how much faster the push-button phone was compared to the rotary.

  • November 18, 1990 — Stephen King’s It premieres on TV.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Actor Charles Bronson appeared in the 1953 horror classic House of Wax as Vincent Price’s assistant, Igor. Bronson is credited under his real name, Charles Buchinsky.

(7) ABOLISHING A EUPHEMISM. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “The Term ‘Graphic Novel’ Has Had A Good Run. We Don’t Need It Anymore”.

…And all the other, sillier, less meaningful stuff. Science fiction, or whatever.

Oy. OK. Lots to unpack here, and, to be fair, at lot of it’s our fault. Comics readers and creators, that is.

By the time the great cartoonist Will Eisner slapped the term “graphic novel” on his 1978 book, A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories, the term had been percolating around comics fandom for years. Eisner, however, was a tireless advocate, and wanted people to appreciated that comics are a medium, not a genre. A medium dominated, then as now, by superheroes, but nevertheless a storytelling medium that could be used to tell an infinite number of stories in vastly different ways.

Which is why—

Um, OK. It looks like you’re ramping up. I’m gonna … I’m just gonna grab a seat then.

Fine, go ahead.

The reason Eisner latched onto the term “graphic novel” and ran with it is because … well, it was 1978. He needed to. Comics were considered, if they were considered at all, junk culture. Kid stuff that was beneath serious notice, if not beneath contempt….

Chip Hitchcock comments: “They use Gaiman’s less-colorful metaphor; when he spoke in NYC a decade or so back, he said someone who insisted he did ‘graphic novels’ made him feel like a streetwalker being told she was a lady of the night.”

(8) CHESTNUTS ROASTING. Annalee Newitz lists “All the science fiction and fantasy novels you need to make it through the winter” at Ars Technica.

Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

2016 was a good year for alternate histories, and Shawl’s thought experiment about 19th century colonialism in Everfair is no exception. In this alternate reality, Fabian socialists in Britain manage to team up with African-American missionaries to buy part of the Belgian Congo from King Leopold II, establishing the free African nation of Everfair. Based on an actual historical plan that never came to fruition, the novel imagines how Everfair would develop, changing the history of other colonized African nations as its population swells with American former slaves and liberated peoples of the Congo. Though there is a strong Utopian core to the novel, Shawl does not shy away from depicting thorny, internecine battles between different groups who have opposing definitions of freedom. Plus, we get to see how Everfair develops breathtaking new technologies. Shawl has done incredible research on the history of the Congo, and it shows. This is steampunk done right, with all the tarnish, sweat, and blood visible on the gears of the world’s great industrial technologies.

(9) AH, THAT EXPLAINS IT. I wondered why Vox Day kept using this as a figure for Trump. James McConnaughy makes the connection in “#NotMyGodEmperor: Why Are There So Many Actual Fascists in the Warhammer 40K Fandom?” at The Mary Sue.

That’s ridiculous, I told myself. There’s absolutely no way they could be genuinely identifying with the Imperium of Man or its fascist power structure. After all, the Imperium of Man is a parody of fascism, and not a particularly subtle one at that, since the game constantly talks about how much life sucks and how the authoritarianism causes more problems than it solves. They’d have to be blind to not see that Warhammer 40k is… kid…ding.

Oh. Oh no.

Let’s stop for a moment and talk about satire, because I like hard shifts like that. The problem with satire (or, more directly, the problem with writing satire) is that it has a goal, beyond simply being funny. Satire is pointed, it has a purpose, it is, to use a phrase I often dislike, saying something. More specifically, satire is saying something by taking something it wishes to criticize and blowing it up to absurd proportions.

And therein lies the problem: Satire is always walking the razor’s edge. By using the words and concepts of the thing you are satirizing, you are often giving voice to those words and concepts, and someone out there is going to agree with those words, not the actual point of your satire. That’s the basis of Poe’s Law: Without a blatant display of comedy, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

(10) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. The Financial Times has a regular feature about the one thing people take with them when they travel.  Chris Hadfield explained in the November 12 issue why he always carries his guitar with him.

He explains that on his first trip to the Mir space station in 1995 he had a special guitar made by Wright Guitars where owner Rossco Wright “adapted one for me, cutting the neck in half and putting a locking piano hinge on it so it would fold and fit in the shuttle.  I had to get approval from Nasa:  from the highest level, the director of the space shuttle programme.”

“Just before the flight while I was in quarantine, I got  a call from the payloads people saying that although Nasa had approved it, the Russians weren’t gonna let me take the guitar on to Mir because it hadn’t passed all the electromagnetic and flammability tests.  So some people from Nasa came to my house, found my spare SoloEtte, did all the testing and passed the results to Russia.  We launched–still without permission from the Russians–and I assembled the guitar on Mir, but we weren’t allowed to plug it in.  Then,. as we were doing a press conference with Russian prime minister Victor Cheromydin, he said, ‘I understand you have a new guitar–play me a song.’  That sounded like permission, so we played a concert on Mir, and nothing caught fire or blew up.”

Hadfield says that the Larivee Parlour guitar Hadfield used to cover “Space Odyssey” in 2013 “was put there” in the International Space Station “for psychological support (along with books, movies, a harmonica and a couple of footballs” and has been in space since 2001.

(11) SPIGOT, RHYMES WITH… In October, Alexandra Erin created a satirical news feed on Medium called The Daily Spigot. She tells her Patreon supporters that she intended it to be daily, but that illness and the election interrupted her momentum; however, she has started writing new posts again. The latest is: “Trump Asking Every Business In Phone Book About Mexico Plans”

This reporter was allowed into Donald Trump’s private office to witness the real estate developer turned job saver in action.

“Hello, Triple A All-American Locksmiths?” he asked during a typical such call. “This is the President of the United States. That’s right,” he said, while an aide frantically mouthed the words “no, no, no” and another scrawled, “You have to stop saying that” on a piece of paper, which was then pushed across the desk to Trump, who frowned at it, signed it, then pushed it away.

“I’m just calling to see if you had any plans on moving your plant or any jobs to Mexico in, say, the next two months to four years? No? Great! Tremendous. Thanks a bunch. Make America great again!”

He then hung up the phone and said, “That’s another one for the Twitter.”

(12) GROWING UP GROOT. CinemaBlend poses some knotty questions in “How Groot Will Be Different In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, According To Vin Diesel”.

While plugging his new movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to Collider, Vin Diesel detoured into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 territory, and noted how in the sequel, Groot will have a significantly more naive mindset compared to how he was as an adult. While it was generally assumed that Baby Groot would behave like a juvenile, Diesel statement confirms that the alien basically be a child, albeit one with extraordinary abilities. However, that mentality doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t remember what he was like before he was destroyed and regrown. At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Baby Groot will retain his memories, although director James Gunn later told a fan that as far as Baby Groot being the original Groot or a “son,” that situation is “complicated.”.

(13) NOT YOUR AVERAGE OBLATE SPHEROID. Astronomers claim to have discovered the roundest object ever measured in nature. Write this on your hand.

Kepler 11145123 is a distant, slowly rotating star that’s more than twice the size of the Sun.

Researchers were able to show that the difference between its radius as measured to the equator and the radius measured to the poles was just 3km.

“This makes Kepler 11145123 the roundest natural object ever measured,” said lead author Prof Laurent Gizon.

He added that it was “even more round than the Sun”.

(14) INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY IN THE SKY. Elon Musk’s latest: satellite internet: “SpaceX aims to launch internet from space”.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, announced last year that the service would be “larger than anything that has been talked about to date” adding that it would take about $10bn (£8bn) to get it off the ground.

The latest documents did not include costs.

It suggested that the first 800 satellites would be used to expand internet access in the US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands.

Each satellite, about the size of an average car, not including solar panels, would weigh 850 pounds (386kg), the firm said.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/16 Scroll Ain’t Nothin’ But Pixel Misspelled

(1) ACKERMAN SQUARE DEDICATION. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city did name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor.

The official dedication is November 17.

Come join the ceremony to honor Uncle Forry with commemorative plaques installed on all 4 corners of Franklin and Vermont where he spent so many happy decades visiting with fans and friends. The public is invited to meet at Franklin and Vermont (where the signs will be installed), southwest side, near House of Pies at 9:30 AM, November 17, 2016

(2) SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH. Gail Z. Martin explains “Why #HoldOnToTheLight Matters” at Magical Words.

The 100+ authors who agreed to write for #HoldOnToTheLight run the fame gamut. But all of us have fans and readers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, people who hold us and our books in some regard. And to those people, however many they might be, our opinion matters. Our story matters.

We lost so many people in Southern fandom at the beginning of this year. I got tired to saying ‘good-bye’ and being invited to wakes. It made me mad, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Then in April I saw the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign in Supernatural fandom and how the show’s stars used their fame and their connection to fans to do something really good.

And I wondered—what would happen if the authors whose books create the genre spoke out with their own stories about the impact of mental health issues on them, their characters, and their books?

We might not have the reach or following TV stars have, but we have some following. And when people in the public eye speak out and own taboo issues, the stigma lessens. We could encourage fans and stand in solidarity with the ones who are struggling and let them know that they are not alone.

Most of the blog posts are up now, with a few more straggling in. Life gets in the way, even of good intentions. I’m gobsmacked by the honesty, the willingness to share without flinching, the vulnerability revealed in the posts. You can read them here, as well as new ones when they post.

(3) HANDS OFF THE BRAND. Beset by internet thieves. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson calls out for “Help!”

Working in conjunction with our licensee – Futures Past Editions (a division of Digital Parchment Services, one of the original ebook publishers), we have been steadily producing a number of different publications.

These include – The Amazing Stories Best Of The Year anthologies –

Special “Anniversary” reprints –

Amazing Stories Classics novels –

and Authorized Replicas of individual issues of the magazine …

But there’s a fly in the ointment: lots and lots of other people seem to think they can willy-nilly use the Amazing Stories name to produce their own versions of the same things.  Right now, the bulk of Experimenter’s budget is being spent on intellectual property attorneys.  We’re pleased with their findings so far (but these kinds of things take a lot of time), but in the meantime – if you purchase a facsimile edition of an Amazing Stories issue (or a poster reprinting one of its fantastic covers) from anyone other than Futures Past Editions or this website, not a dime will be going to help fund this project.  It will instead go to people who obviously do not respect the history of the magazine (or the law).

(4) THE FOUNDATIONS OF UTOPIA. In the November 4 Guardian, China Mieville writes about Sir Thomas More’s Utopia on its 500th anniversary, explaining why the utopian impulse is still important in our cynical age.

If you know from where to set sail, with a friendly pilot offering expertise, it should not take you too long to reach Utopia. Since the first woman or man first yearned for a better place, dreamers have dreamed them at the tops of mountains and cradled in hidden valleys, above clouds and deep under the earth – but above all they have imagined them on islands.

… We don’t know much of the society that Utopus and his armies destroyed – that’s the nature of such forced forgetting – but we know its name. It’s mentioned en swaggering colonial passant, a hapax legomenon pilfered from Gnosticism: “for Abraxa was its first name”. We know the history of such encounters, too; that every brutalised, genocided and enslaved people in history have, like the Abraxans, been “rude and uncivilised” in the tracts of their invaders.

A start for any habitable utopia must be to overturn the ideological bullshit of empire and, unsentimentally but respectfully, to revisit the traduced and defamed cultures on the bones of which some conqueror’s utopian dreams were piled up. “Utopia” is to the political imaginary of betterness as “Rhodesia” is to Zimbabwe, “Gold Coast” to Ghana.

(5) FIFTH! Always remember the 5th of November. Preferably more than once.

Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605. But their assassination attempt was foiled the night before when Fawkes was discovered lurking in a cellar below the House of Lords next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. Londoners immediately began lighting bonfires in celebration that the plot had failed, and a few months later Parliament declared November 5 a public day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, has been around in one form or another ever since. Though originally anti-Catholic in tone, in recent times it has served mainly as an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink mulled wine and burn Guy Fawkes effigies (along with the effigies of current politicians and celebrities).

(6) ALLEGRO NON TROOPER. Ryan Britt reacts to news that “‘Starship Troopers’ Reboot Will Give Rico His Real Name Back” at Inverse.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico’s name was actually “Juan” Rico, but the 1997 film turned him into a white guy. Now, a new reboot of Starship Troopers will stick closer to the novel, which probably means Rico will be Filipino again.

Though the Paul Verhoeven take on Starship Troopers is considered something of a kitsch classic among sci-fi movie fans, it’s tone and characters differ enough from the Heinlein text warrant a totally new film adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter producer Neal H. Moritz is gearing up to make a new Starship Troopers for Columbia Pictures. The continuity of this film will have nothing to do with the 1997 film nor any of the direct-to-video sequels. It “is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take.” This means that even the intelligent alien insects — the Arachnids of Klendathu — might be completely reimagined, too.

(7) BABBITT OBIT.  Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016) died October 31.

Natalie Babbitt, the children’s author and illustrator who explored immortality in her acclaimed book “Tuck Everlasting,” has died in her Connecticut home. She was 84.

Natalie Babbitt poses with the cast of “Tuck Everlasting” on Broadway in April.

Babbitt’s husband, Samuel Babbitt, confirmed she died on Monday in Hamden, Connecticut. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was under hospice care at home when she died.

Babbitt wrote or illustrated more than 20 books, but she is perhaps best known for tackling the complex subject of death in her novel “Tuck Everlasting.”

…In 1966, she collaborated with her husband on a children’s book called “The Forty-ninth Magician,” her first published work. While her husband, a university administrator, became too busy to continue writing, the book was only the beginning in Babbitt’s nearly 50-year career. Her last published work was “The Moon Over High Street” in 2012.

Babbitt received the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association’s Notable Book designations, and The New York Times’ Best Book designations, among other awards for her work.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY –- WELL, CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK

Cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, conceived of a day in fictitious Dogpatch, USA, when all unmarried ladies (including the character Sadie Hawkins) could pursue their men. If the men were caught, marriage was unavoidable. The idea took off in real life—and in November 1938, the first recorded “girls-ask-boys” Sadie Hawkins Day dance was held. Today, the observance is usually celebrated on a Saturday in early November.

(9) BULLISH ON TWINKIES. The official health food of sci-fi readers goes public: “Hostess Brands, Purveyor of Twinkies and Ho-Hos, Returning to Wall Street”.

Hostess Brands Inc. is expected to start trading as a public company on Monday, putting the snack business to its first broad test of investor appetite since it was bought out of liquidation almost four years ago.

The 86-year-old brand behind the famous Twinkies cakes is due to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market with the ticker symbol TWNK.

(10) MAKING OF A SELF-PROFESSED “NASTY WOMAN”. Melinda Snodgrass covers a lot of personal history to make a point in “What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says”.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

(11) CASH IN HAND. The Guardian previews the merchandise: “JK Rowling’s hand-drawn Tales of Beedle the Bard go up for auction”.

A handwritten copy of JK Rowling’s story collection The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which she made for the publisher who first accepted Harry Potter for publication, is set to fetch up to £500,000 when it is auctioned next month.

Rowling handwrote and illustrated six copies of her collection of fairytales set in the Harry Potter universe, giving them as presents to “those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books”. A seventh copy, which Rowling made to raise money for her charity Lumos, was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2007 for £1.95m.

(12) FOR A RAINY DAY. We may not have Damien Walter to kick around anymore, however, here’s one of his Guardian essays that appeared in August while I was out of action — “Bureaumancy: a genre for fantastic tales of the deeply ordinary”.

There’s nothing wrong with being a bureaucrat. So you’re a tiny cog in a machine made of abstract rules, paperwork, and the broken dreams of those who do not understand either. So what? You’re just misunderstood. Without you, nobody would know where to file their TPS reports. Nobody would even know what a TPS report is.

But writers understand. As species of personality go, the writer and the bureaucrat are closely related: they’re deskbound creatures who enjoy the comfortable certainties of Microsoft Office and dazzling us with wordcraft, be it small-print legalese or the impenetrable prose of literary fiction. Of course, Kafka understood the true power of the bureaucrat because he was one – and thus portrayed bureaucracy as a looming, all-powerful presence. The wonderful Douglas Adams imagined an entire planet faking the apocalypse just to get all its middle managers to evacuate in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, while in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, hell itself is one endless system of bureaucratic red tape, where doomed souls are made to sit through every last codicil and sub-paragraph of the rules pertaining to Health and Safety – all 40,000 volumes of them.

(13) KEVIN SMITH’S NEXT FLASH. He’s back — “The Flash: Kevin Smith’s ‘Killer Frost’ Episode Synopsis Revealed”.

Smith previously helmed the season 2 episode of The Flash, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ and is set to direct an episode of Supergirl’s second season as well. He has been teasing both episodes on social media; for The Flash, he promised more action than in ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’, revealed the ‘Killer Frost’ episode title, and confirmed the inclusion of Dr. Alchemy — who is proving to be a major antagonist in The Flash season 3. So, much of the ‘Killer Frost’ synopsis seems to confirm details we previously knew or could deduce.

As for Smith’s return behind the camera, since ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ was well received by critics and fans, it stands to reason ‘Killer Frost’ may be similarly received by viewers. Smith himself has earned plenty geek credit given his own status as a fan of comics, so it’s likely he brings a unique perspective to The Flash.

(14) UNBOUND WORLDS LAUNCHES. The Unbound Worlds SFF site is holding a book giveaway contest to attract readers’ attention.

“Unbound Worlds has officially launched, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re giving away a carefully curated library of TWENTY-THREE science fiction and fantasy titles! Enter below by November 18, 2016, at 11 PM EST for your chance to win.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano (who is not to blame for the dialect in the version used).]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/16 A Simple Pixeltory Scrollipic

(1) FREE CLIMATE CHANGE SF ANTHOLOGY. Twelve stories from the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest are collected in Everything Change, a new fiction anthology from Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF). Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the foreword, and there is also an interview with Pablo Bacigalupi.

In the midst of Earth’s hottest year on record, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever. But how do we come to grips with the consequences on the ground, for actual people in specific places? New York Times bestselling science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi believes the answer lies in fiction: “Fiction has this superpower of creating empathy in people for alien experiences. You can live inside of the skin of a person who is utterly unlike you.”

The anthology includes the grand prize winner of the Climate Fiction Short Story Contest, “Sunshine State,” a quasi-utopian disaster story set in the Florida Everglades. The story’s authors, Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson of Oakland, CA, will receive a $1000 prize, and four other prizewinners will receive book bundles signed by Bacigalupi. The contest received 743 submissions from 67 different countries and from more than half of the states in the U.S.

The title Everything Change is drawn from a quote by Margaret Atwood, the first Imagination and Climate Futures lecturer in 2014.

The book is free to download, read, and share in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats at the Imagination and Climate Futures website, and at the Apple iBooks store and the Kobo store.

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, “Sunshine State”
  • Kelly Cowley, “Shrinking Sinking Land”
  • Matthew S. Henry, “Victor and the Fish”
  • Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, “Acqua Alta”
  • Daniel Thron, “The Grandchild Paradox”
  • Kathryn Blume, “Wonder of the World”
  • Stirling Davenport, “Masks”
  • Diana Rose Harper, “Thirteenth Year”
  • Henrietta Hartl, “LOSD and Fount”
  • Shauna O’Meara, “On Darwin Tides”
  • Lindsay Redifer, “Standing Still”
  • Yakos Spiliotopoulos, “Into the Storm”
  • Ed Finn, “Praying for Rain: An Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi”

(2) THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’. The New York Times reports on another history-making moment in the career of this musician: “Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature”.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901. In choosing a popular musician for the literary world’s highest honor, the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.

(3) CALIFORNIA COLLECTIBLES LAW UPDATE. The American Booksellers Association says: “California Collectibles Bill Clarification Expected”.

At press time, Bookselling This Week learned that California Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang plans to submit a letter to the state legislature stipulating that a new law covering the sales of collectibles does not apply to either general bookstores or author signing events. Chang was the sponsor of the bill. The law requires sellers of signed books and artwork to provide the buyer with a certificate of authenticity (COA) for any item sold for $5 or more.

“While ABA’s reading of the bill matched that of Assemblywoman Chang’s intent in drafting the law — that the law was meant specifically for the collectibles industry to stave off fraud — we are grateful for how responsive Assemblywoman Chang and her staff were to the concerns of booksellers,” said David Grogan, senior public policy analyst for ABA. “It also clearly shows how much of an impact booksellers can have when they voice their concerns to their legislators. We are happy that a clarification is expected to be entered into the record.”

The clarification comes as a direct response to a blog post and subsequent letters from independent bookstores in California. Concerned that some might assume the law applied to general bookstores, Eureka Books in Eureka, Book Passage in Corte Madera, and others opposed the new law, fearing that it would have a negative financial impact on their businesses.

(4) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Here’s a clickbait-worthy headline: “Why Obama may have picked the wrong planet”.  And as a bonus, the article quotes SF writer and NASA scientists Geoffrey Landis.

On Tuesday, Obama published an op-ed at CNN laying out his vision (once again) for visiting Mars.

“We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” he wrote.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years. But Obama may be overlooking an easier target, if the arguments of one NASA researcher (and numerous supporters) are to be believed. While Mars may seem to be an attractive destination, we should consider sending people to Venus instead, these people argue….

You see, Mars is a challenging destination. It’s far away, the gravity is a fraction of Earth’s — posing additional health hazards beyond the lack of atmospheric radiation shielding — and you have to be suited up just to breathe outside.

By contrast, Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is. At their closest points, Venus is only 25 million miles away, compared with Mars’s 34 million miles. The shorter distance means you’d need less time and fuel to get there, reducing the cost. And although Venus’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug, the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable.

“At about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system,” wrote Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist, in a 2003 paper. Landis has spent much of his career dreaming up ways to make a human trip to Mars actually feasible, so he knows what he’s talking about.

At high altitude, Venusian temperatures are hot but not unbearable, and the barometric pressure drops to the equivalent of one Earth atmosphere. You’d have droplets of sulfuric acid to worry about, but only if your skin is directly exposed.

It helps that NASA has already taken steps to research a manned mission to Venus.

(5) RON MILLER ON SPACESHIPS. Smithsonian.com plugs artist Ron Miller’s new opus from Smithsonian Books in “How Artists, Mad Scientists and Speculative Fiction Writers Made Spaceflight Possible”.

The realization of human spaceflight has long stood as a testament to the power of human temerity, a triumph of will and intellect alike. Pioneers such as Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride have been immortalized in the annals of history. Their impact on terrestrial society is as indelible as the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts on the windless surface of the Moon.

Perhaps yet more wondrous than the Cold War-era achievement of extraterrestrial travel, however, is the long and meandering trail that we as a species blazed to arrive at that result. Such is the argument of author-illustrator Ron Miller, an inveterate spaceship junkie and one-time planetarium art director at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Miller’s just-published book, Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and the Imagined from Smithsonian Books, is a paean to the exploratory yearning of humankind across the centuries. The profusely illustrated volume tracks technological watersheds with diligence, but its principal focus is those starry-eyed visionaries, the dreamers….

(6) TOO TANGLED FOR TINGLE? I was wondering what the chances were of Chuck Tingle setting up his own SadPuppies.com site when it’s Hugo season again. But Huge Domains already has that registered and is asking $1,895 for the rights.

Well then, what about SadPuppies5.com? Nope, that’s registered, too, by a proxy that contains a reference to the real Sad Puppies site, SadPuppies.org – have they been thinking ahead?

Of course, if Tingle wanted  to make a File 770 reference, he could always start up SadPuppiesSecond5th – and that would be fine by me.

(7) VULICH OBIT. Special effects make-up artist John Vulich died October 13. Dread Central recalls:

Vulich worked on some of the horror genre’s most classic films and TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, The Dark Half, Castle Freak, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dolls, TerrorVision, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, The Lost Boys, Two Evil Eyes, “The X-Files,” “Angel,” and “Werewolf: The Series” and was one of the founders of Optic Nerve Studios.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 13, 1957 — Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files.”

(9) FIFTH NEWS IS BEASTLY. We’re always on the lookout for news items featuring the number five. I may run only about 10% of them, but Tor.com broke through with “J.K. Rowling Confirms There Will Be Five Fantastic Beasts Films”.

At Warner Bros’ global fan event for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today, the studio made a big announcement: There will be five Fantastic Beasts films total, instead of the trilogy, as originally thought.

(10) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. In “thoughts on the processing of words” at Text Patterns, a blog on The New Atlantis website, Baylor University English professor Alan Jacobs gives a long review of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, including the revelation that the first author to write a book on a word processor was not Gerrold, Pournelle, or Crichton, but historical novelist Gay Courter.

In any case, the who-was-first questions are not as interesting or as valuable as Kirschenbaum’s meticulous record of how various writers — Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Updike, David Foster Wallace — made, or did not quite make, the transition from handwritten or typewritten drafts to a full reliance on the personal computer as the site for literary writing. Wallace, for instance, always wrote in longhand and transcribed his drafts to the computer at some relatively late stage in the process. Also, when he had significantly altered a passage, he deleted earlier versions from his hard drive so he would not be tempted to revert to them.

(11) LACKING THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING. IGN’s’ video interview with the actor reveals “Why George Takei Doesn’t Like the New Star Trek Movies and the Old Animated Series”.

Mr. Sulu explains why he doesn’t like the Star Trek cartoon and reveals the magic ingredient he believes the new films are missing. The Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection Blu-ray Boxset is out now.

(12) WELLS MEETS SOLOMON. Richard Chwedyk’s “Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic” at the SFWA Blog tells about a fascinating exercise:

Here’s an assignment I give my students:

They receive a copy of the first chapter of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

It is roughly 2,250 words.

I tell the students that Mr. Wells has just received a note from his editor. “Great stuff, Herbie, but you go on too long here. Cut this first chapter in half.”

How to make 2,250 words into 1,125 words?

Mr. Wells, alas, has passed on. Fortunately for us, so has the novel’s copyright.

…Ask students to do this to their own stories and their faces turn ashen. Their babies? By half? What madness is this?

So by practicing at first on Wells, they can see what the process entails before going on to apply the knife to their own deathless prose. The exercise not only requires careful editorial skills, but an equally careful reading of the text. What’s important in the telling? What’s icing on the cake?

(13) DEEP READING. Connie Willis, in an article for Unbound Worlds, discusses her new book Crosstalk“Connie Willis Wants You to Think Twice About Telepathy”.

What led me to write Crosstalk?  Oh, lots of things.  For one, like everybody else, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of telepathy and have often thought how nice it would be to be able to tell what other people were thinking, to know if they were lying and how they really felt about you.  For another, I live in Colorado, home of the infamous Bridey Murphy, who started the whole channeling-past-lives thing back in the fifties by claiming she’d had a previous life in nineteenth-century Ireland.  Which turned out not to be true and which left me with a healthy skepticism of all things paranormal, from psychics to Dr. Rhine’s ESP experiments.

(14) WHAT’S WRONG WITH THINKING OUT LOUD. She also did an interview with The Verge“Novelist Connie Willis explains why telepathy is a terrible superpower”.

You’ve said many of your stories are about working through arguments with yourself, and working through different aspects of the idea you obsess over. Are you working through an argument in Crosstalk?

Well, looking at the society we’re living in right now, we’re bombarded with information. We have all these new ways of communicating. We can talk face-to-face to somebody in Asia, you can have a best friend who lives across the world. But our relationships don’t seem to be improving radically as a result of all this extra communication.

We’re always looking to technology, thinking it can solve our human problems. Usually it does, but with big side effects we hadn’t counted on. It’s an argument I don’t know how to solve. I’m not suggesting we go be Luddites. But occasionally I’m on panels with all these really gung-ho tech people, and they’re like, “Oh this new development will solve all our problems.” And I think “Anything that solves all our problems will create a whole mess of new problems that would have never occurred to us.” We need to start thinking more in terms of cost-benefit analysis. Maybe that would be more productive.

But mostly with Crosstalk, I just wanted to have fun with the idea of whether communication is a good idea, generally. Not tech communication, communication between people. Most people would say, “We all need more communication in our relationships.” But really, most relationships benefit from all the things we don’t say, all the things we keep to ourselves.

(15) MEMORIES. In a Rue Morgue interview, the actress looks back: “35 years of pleasant screams: an interview with Cassandra Peterson, aka ELVIRA”.

When it comes to the horror genre, there are many icons in the business but none more so than a woman who created a character that has permeated pop culture; her name is Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, wicked, and hilarious alter ego is Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark. For 35 years, the sexy, dark, and comedic valley girl/gothic goddess has appeared on television, film, pinball machines, comic book covers, record albums, and any other product you could imagine. She is one of the most beloved incarnations in history, and is still surging in popularity to this very day. Peterson herself is now in her mid-sixties but looks like she has discovered the fountain of youth, or made a deal with the devil, she is absolutely beautiful and timeless. Her comedic timing is unmatched, quick fire and quite daunting considering the jokes come straight from her mind like bullets, one of the funniest women alive, hands down. She is also one of the hardest working women in the business, an actress who became her own boss and made her own rules (and still does); truly an inspiration in regard to drive, conviction, and perseverance.

Rue Morgue spoke to Peterson about her 35th Anniversary and her new photo book, entitled ELVIRA MISTRESS OF THE DARK, which is a love letter to her fans, and a testament to her many years as a reigning queen in horror comedy….

(16) ACES AND BAIT. In addition to the news I missed while I was in the hospital, I also fell behind reading Adventures With Kuma. From August “Dodge City Bear”.

Bears wents to lots of places todays. Boys will writes abouts bigs holes in the grounds laters. Bears gots to plays a games in Dodges Citys withs a nices Doctors nameds Hollidays.

Bears saids, “Bears has fives fishes. Whats yous gots?”

 

Kuma Meets Doc Holliday

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Joseph Eschrich, Bartimaeus, Sean R. Kirk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing edtor of the day Cath.]

Pixel Scroll 10/6/16 Have Fun Storming The Pixels!

(1) MCCARTY REMEMBERS HARRISON. Dave McCarty pays tribute to his friend Howard Harrison, who passed away October 5, by retelling the experience of running the 1999 Capricon.

…I asked what if we weren’t actually throwing *Capricon*?  What if instead, we were holding the annual meeting of the International Order of Villains?  We treat the whole convention like it is some *other* event?  Tracy asked me why that would be and then I hit her with the nefarious money plan.  You see, if it’s a conference like that, when folks sign up, they would tell the convention organizers which kind of villain they were…be it henchmen, lackey, minion, mad scientist, Igor, etc.  We could badge each of those groups differently so you’d know who was who.  The kicker was that you could also choose to register as an Evil Overlord, but this would be a premium membership for which you would need to pay more money.  If you wanted to be an Evil Overlord, you had to pay.  We could work out getting them some tokens and souvenirs for it, but as long as we only spent a couple bucks on that, we were still helping the convention.  The idea excited me and it excited Tracy, so we shared it with a few other folks and it universally got folks excited and worked up….

From that point on we were in a world we’d never anticipated.  We got no small number of people to pay us extra money to be an Evil Overlord and boy howdy did that help us, but holy hell did it make for a convention that’s hard to forget.  See, quite a number of the Evil Overlords were going around the convention recruiting minions, henchmen, and lackeys to their cause.  Even more brilliantly, Howard Harrison was spending almost all of the time he wasn’t in the filk room going around and organizing the Union of Minions, Henchmen, and Lackeys Local 302.  When I asked him why, he told me (in his best Chicago Superfan imitation) “You see, I know that I am going to die in a fiery explosion, or be thrown into a volcano, or just act as fodder for my bosses escape.  I need to know what’s going to happen for my family!“.  These conversations and all the recruiting brought me to freaking tears.  Our whole convention was a LARP and almost everyone was playing and nobody was having a bad time or feeling pressured to participate.  Howard even invented the UMHL salute.  Take your right hand and make a tight thumbs-up, then flip it upside down (thumbs down).  Now, place  your knuckles against your temple in salute fashion.  There you go, union salute!  Howard then took his unionized brothers and sisters and started approaching the Evil Overlords to inquire about benefits and insurance and post-death family care to get his folks the best deal he could….

…At the time, I told him how brilliant he was…but over the years, his playfulness that weekend grew to mean a lot more to me and I don’t think I ever really got to tell him what that grew into for me.  I’m sad that I can’t do that with him now, but I *can* share this story with all of you so that you know what a special guy he was.

(2) MAGIC IN SNORE-TH AMERICA. If you bet against J.K. Rowling writing magical history that’s as dusty and dull as regular history is reputed to be – you lost. New at Pottermore, “The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA)”.

The Magical Congress of the United States of America, known to American witches and wizards by the abbreviation MACUSA (commonly pronounced as: Mah – cooz – ah) was created in 1693, following the introduction of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Wizards worldwide had reached a tipping point, suspecting that they could lead freer and happier lives if they built an underground community that offered its own support and had its own structures. This feeling was particularly strong in America, due to the recent Salem Witch Trials.

MACUSA was modeled on the Wizards’ Council of Great Britain, which predated the Ministry of Magic. Representatives from magical communities all over North America were elected to MACUSA to create laws that both policed and protected American wizardkind…

 

(3) SURVIVING HOSTILITY. Angelica Jade Bastién, in an article for New Republic, says “For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High”.

I’m open to criticism and discussing my writing with those who respectfully don’t agree with my opinion, but in covering comic properties, I’ve dealt with everything from people accusing me of not reading comics as if I had no idea what I was talking about to being told I was race baiting by acknowledging certain issues in the film. The worst were the very pointed attacks calling me an “idiot” or a “bitch” and far worse epithets from people I blocked. I won’t even go into the Reddit threads about my article that I was once tauntingly sent screenshots of. It’s something I’ve grown almost numb to as a critic. But what was more interesting to me was the level of hurt coming from these men and their routine way of doubting my comic knowledge—a dynamic other female journalists get time and time again.

I’ve watched all of the Star Trek series more times than I can count, and I often whip out Klingon when I’m nervous.

I have been reading comics obsessively since I was about ten years old. I can probably quote from John Ostrander’s original Suicide Squad run in my sleep, I’ve watched all of the Star Trek series more times than I can count, and I often whip out Klingon when I’m nervous. But I’ve found that the love and knowledge I have on these subjects never seems to be good enough for the people who grow furious at a black woman writing about these properties. White male fans often don’t want to face how their beloved properties often have troubling racial and gender politics.  (Just peruse the comments on my review of X-Men: Apocalypse for RogerEbert.com: “The author feels like the X-Men series in general has failed its female characters—ignoring the fact that Mystique is elevated to a leadership and relevance level well above the source material.” Many didn’t want to face a critique coming from a woman, and a fan, who knows them better than they do.) You can only delete emails and block people on Twitter for so long until you feel burnt out. The reason why we don’t see more black women writing about these subjects with such visibility isn’t because we haven’t been interested in them, it’s that publications rarely give us the opportunity, and when we do write, we often find ourselves facing personal scrutiny that has little to do with the actual writing. At times, I’ve been left to wonder, why do I love these stories so much when they rarely care about people who look like me?

(4) HOLD ON TO THE LIGHT. At Magical Words, “100+ Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors Blog About Suicide, Depression, PTSD—a #HoldOnToTheLight Update by Gail Z. Martin” includes links to the first 40 posts authors have written around the theme.

More than 100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

(5) MUSEUM OF SF KICKSTARTER FOR A WOMEN IN SF ANTHOLOGY. The Museum of Science Fiction has opened a Kickstarter appeal to fund Catalysts, Explorers & Secret Keepers, a “take-home exhibit” featuring short science fiction works by and about the women of the genre.

This anthology will showcase how they—as readers, as writers, and as characters—have engaged with and influenced science fiction for more than a century….

The cover of Catalysts, Explorers, & Secret Keepers will feature original artwork by the Hugo winning artist Julie Dillon. Award-winning authors Eleanor Arnason, Catherine Asaro, N.K. Jemisin, Nancy Kress, Naomi Kritzer, Karen Lord, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Pinsker, Kiini IburaSalaam, Carrie Vaughn, Jane Yolen, and Sarah Zettel have already agreed to contribute work to the exhibit.

Upon reaching the minimum funding target, the Museum will open submissions until December 1, 2016. The public will be able to submit original work that fits the take-home exhibit’s theme. Authors of original fiction published in Catalysts, Explorers, & Secret Keepers will receive the SFWA-standard pro-rate ofUS $0.06 per word, while authors of solicited reprints will receive US $0.03 per word. All authors featured in this exhibit will be invited to discuss their work as presenters and panelists in 2017 at Escape Velocity, the Museum of Science Fiction’s annual celebration of all things science fiction.

The appeal has raised $6,068 of its $8,500 goal with 26 days to go.

(6) TOR.COM REOPENING FOR NOVELLAS. Tor.com publishing will take unsolicited novella submissions for three months beginning October 12.

Lee Harris and Carl Engle-Laird will be reading and evaluating original novellas submitted by hopeful authors to http://submissions.tor.com/tornovellas/. You can find full guidelines here, and we highly recommend you read the guidelines before submitting. We will be open for three months, beginning on October 12th around 9:00 AM EDT (UTC-4:00) and ending on January 12th around 9:00 AM EST (UTC-5:00). We may extend this period depending on how many submissions we receive over the course of the open period.

(7) TAKE US TO YOUR CHIEF. From CBC Radio, “Drew Hayden Taylor on why we need Indigenous science fiction”.

Science fiction is meant to take us to places we’ve never been — this is what writer Drew Hayden Taylor is aiming to do with his new collection of short stories, Take Us to Your Chief.

Taylor’s new book filters famous sci-fi tropes such as aliens, time travel and government spying through the lens and perspective of Indigenous people. For him, he is simply taking these familiar stories and putting “some hot sauce on them.”   …

“I pictured myself as a 12-year-old kid back on the reserve, reading science fiction or reading books and not seeing our experiences in this book,” he explains. “I was just taking certain touchstones that we were all familiar with and then using them to take them out of the reserve environment into the larger sci-fi environment, and giving it that sort of resonance.”

(8) POSTSCRIPT TO NATIONAL FINISH-YOUR-BOOK DAY. Camestros Felapton reports there was  third sf novel finished yesterday – Timothy the Talking Cat’s The Confusing Walrus. According to Camestros,

I’ve read his ‘manuscript’ and it says “Copy whatever John Scalzi has written but use find/replace on the words ‘space’, ‘galaxy’, ‘star’ and ‘planet’ with the word ‘walrus’”

confusingwalrus-min

(9) INTERVIEW WITHOUT A VAMPIRE. Masters of Horror held a get-acquainted session with Horror Writers of America President Lisa Morton.

Interview With Lisa Morton By David Kempf

When did you first become interested in writing?

I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been reading – my first poem was published when I was 5! – but I didn’t seriously consider making a living out of it until I saw The Exorcist at the age of 15. Seeing the astonishing impact that film had on audiences during its initial release made me realize I wanted to do that, too.

How did you make this a full time job?

Well, it’s not my full time job now. I tried that for a while, back when I was making a fair amount of money as a screenwriter, and it didn’t work for me at all. I know most writers dream of being able to leave their day job and pursue writing all the time, but for me it was too isolating. Plus, I really love being a bookseller.

How did you become President of the Horror Writers Association?

By attrition, sadly. I was serving as Vice President when the President, Rocky Wood, passed away. Before that I’d held a variety of positions within the organization. I do find it satisfying to work with other writers and promote a genre that I love….

(10) NEXT BLADE RUNNER. The Verge reports “The Blade Runner sequel is officially titled Blade Runner 2049”.

(11) BROOKS ON WILDER AND FRANKENSTEIN. Mel Brooks got emotional before a screening last night.

Mel Brooks introduced one of the funniest movies ever made, Young Frankenstein, on Wednesday night. But the director couldn’t hold back tears.

Brooks paid homage to Gene Wilder, the star and co-writer of his 1974 classic comedy, before showing Young Frankenstein on the 20th Century Fox lot.

The live event was beamed to theaters around the country and turned into a tribute to Wilder, who died Aug. 29 at age 83. An encore presentation with Brooks’ introduction will screen in theaters Oct. 18.

“I get just a little overcome,” said Brooks, 90, from the stage, dabbing his eyes as he discussed Wilder. “I’ve had a few great memories in my life. But, honestly, I think making Young Frankenstein is my best year.”

(12) SWEET SWILL. ‘Tis the season for Deadworld Zombie Soda! (Turn the sound down when you click on this site.) The sodas come in 12 flavors, with label art created by comic book artists based on the characters and events that take place in Deadworld comic book universe.

  • ORANGE  – Orange Roamer
  • CHERRY COLA – Goon Biters
  • BLACK CHERRY – Royal Rotter
  • CREAM SODA – Brain Sap
  • COTTON CANDY – Zeek Cocktail
  • VANILLA CREAM SODA – Geek Juice
  • GRAPE – Grisly Swill
  • VANILLA ROOT BEER – Slow Decay
  • STRAWBERRY – Rot Berry
  • ROOT BEER – Twilight Shuffler
  • GREEN APPLE – Morbid Mix
  • GINGER ALE – Graveyard Delight

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Deadworld is the award winning, long running cult hit comic book series published by Caliber Comics that first exploded on the comic scene in 1986. With over 1 million copies in print and over 100 comics & graphic novels released to date, Deadworld is not your typical “zombie comic book or story”.

A supernatural plague has been unleashed on the world. The dead return to walk the earth…but this is no standard zombie story.  The dead are just foot soldiers for those who have crossed the ‘Gateway’ from another dimension. There are leader zombies who are intelligent, sadistic, and in addition to having a hankering for flesh, enjoy the tortuous ordeals they put the surviving humans through.

(13) EERIE OUTFITTER. Tim Burton’s costume designer Colleen Atwood interviewed by NPR (with comments on Miss Peregrine’s…):

From Hannibal Lecter’s mask to Edward Scissorhands’, well, scissor hands, Oscar-winning costumer Colleen Atwood has pretty much designed it all.

Working steadily since the 1980s, she’s dressed characters from the past and the future — the Middle Ages for Into the Woods, the Civil War for Little Women all the way to Gattaca and the 2001 Planet of the Apes. Her latest movie, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is her eleventh with Tim Burton. It travels back in time to Wales during World War II….

(14) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. The BBC sums up interstellar travel:

Science fiction writers and moviemakers have shown us countless visions of humanity spread out across the Universe, so you might be forgiven for thinking that we’ve already got this in the bag. Unfortunately, we still have more than a few technical limitations to overcome – like the laws of physics as we understand them – before we can start colonising new worlds beyond our Solar System and galaxy.

That said, several privately funded or volunteer initiatives such as the Tau Zero Foundation, Project Icarus and Breakthrough Starshot have emerged in recent years, each hoping to bring us a little bit closer to reaching across the cosmos. The discovery in August of an Earth-sized planet orbiting our nearest star has also raised fresh hopes about visiting an alien world.

Interstellar spacecraft will be one of the topics discussed at BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit in Sydney in November. Is travelling to other galaxies possible? And if so, what kinds of spacecraft might we need to achieve it? Read on to get up to (warp) speed: …

(15) TREK BEYOND BLOOPERS. CinemaBlend has the story and the video — “Chris Pine Does His Best Shatner Impression In Hysterical Star Trek Beyond Gag Reel”.

As professional as the actors all are on the set of a Star Trek movie, the final cut of the film adds effects and music to the experience which help transport you to the fictional world. Without that, you’re just a guy standing on a set spouting Star Trek gibberish. This becomes all the more clear when an actor trips over their lines, and suddenly everybody remembers that they’re acting again. The best part, though, is when Chris Pine calls for “Full impulse, Mr. Suliu” and John Cho stops to say that he sounds like he’s doing a William Shatner impression. Pine does add a bit of a classic Shatner pause to the line, so it does sound a bit like him to us. As much as we love William Shatner, we hope this doesn’t become a habit.

(16) THAT’S APPERTAINMENT. IanP unleashed this instant classic in a comment on File 770 today.

With apologies to Paul Weller

A pixeled car and a screaming siren
A shuggoth trail and ripped up books
A walrus wailing and stray pup howling
The place of fifths and tea drinking

That’s appertainment, that’s appertainment

A file of scrolls and a rumble of boots
A wretched hive and a bracket ‘head cloth
Ink splattered walls and the award of a rocket
Time machine appears and spews out pizza

That’s appertainment, that’s appertainment.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

(1) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. Dennis Mathis tells how he learned to understand “the reader” in “The Future Began on a Tuesday” at the SFWA Blog.

The future was twenty-five years old and not getting any younger when I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the legendary (even then) graduate program for writers. Kurt Vonnegut, who had taught there, said, “Picture Harvard Law School if only one out of ten graduates actually becomes a lawyer.” Dedicated to the principle that the last thing you’d want happening in a classroom is teaching, the Workshop strove to be the opposite of academic, and more or less succeeded. Zipping their lips about how writing should be done, the staff was restricted to role-modeling the lifestyle of a writer: mostly competitive drinking, womanizing, wrestling, and snorting at weaklings; the Viking concept of higher education. Despite being a weakling myself, I did the best writing of my life.

And then in my second year, a last-minute substitute on the Workshop staff. A guy named Frank Conroy, author of only one book, and it wasn’t even fiction — who writes a memoir in their twenties? — who’d taught creative writing only once before, at (get this) M.I.T.

He specified we were to read the worksheets (someone’s delicate work-in-progress cast into the lion’s den) pen-in-hand, poised to mark any point in the text where we felt a “bump,” no matter how vague. In class, we went through the worksheets sentence-by-sentence, hashing-out whether some reader’s bump was an idiosyncratic misreading or an actual problem. They always turned out to be problems. If a reader misreads, Conroy taught us, it’s always the writer’s fault…..

(2) CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard has the story: ”China’s Newly Launched Space Station Will Receive Its First Crew Next Month” .

China successfully launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit on Thursday at 10:04 AM EDT, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. It will soon be an orbiting home to two taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts).

The mission is regarded as a key stepping stone towards the nation’s larger spaceflight ambitions, which include sending taikonauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars….

This second generation spacecraft, whose name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will conduct some initial tests before boosting itself even higher to an altitude of 393 kilometers, roughly on par with the International Space Station (ISS).

If all goes according to plan, the tubular orbital laboratory will receive its first taikonauts in late October on a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11. Though the names of the two crew members have not been released, they are both men, and they are expected to spend 30 days aboard Tiangong-2, according to Xinhua News. If successful, it will be the longest manned Chinese space mission to date.

In terms of specs, the new station is almost identical to its precursor, Tiangong-1, which operated in space from September 2011 until March 2016, and is on track to deorbit and immolate in the atmosphere next year.

(3) COMIC ART EXPLORED. Superheroes have taken over the Huntsville Museum of Art in the Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama.

“My Hero: Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is the name of the show running through December 11.

For decades popular culture has been fascinated by superheroes — their superhuman capabilities, their desire for truth and justice, and their ability to save the day. Their storylines have captivated many, and their images have become contemporary idols throughout the world. My Hero presents a rich array of work by over 50 international artists, including painting, illustration, photography, sculpture, mixed media and video, that celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes.

(4) ROOTS OF THE GENRE. Atlas Obscura writes about Margaret Cavendish. “One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s by a Duchess”.

No one could get into philosophical argument with Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and walk away unchanged. Born in 1623, Cavendish was an outspoken aristocrat who traveled in circles of scientific thinkers, and broke ground on proto-feminism, natural philosophy (the 17th century term for science), and social politics.

In her lifetime, she published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction. In 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

In the story, a woman is kidnapped by a lovesick merchant sailor, and forced to join him at sea. After a windstorm sends the ship north and kills the men, the woman walks through a portal at the North Pole into a new world: one with stars so bright, midnight could be mistaken for midday. A parallel universe where creatures are sentient, and worm-men, ape-men, fish-men, bird-men and lice-men populate the planet. They speak one language, they worship one god, and they have no wars. She becomes their Empress, and with her otherworldly subjects, she explores natural wonders and questions their observations using science.

(5) MEMBERSHIP IN THE GUARDIAN. The Guardian is going through a financial squeeze.

According to the Huffington Post:

The Guardian is scaling back its U.S. operation through a staff reduction of 30 percent, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper and global news site, has struggled financially as print revenue and circulation collapsed throughout the industry. Earlier this year, The Guardian announced plans to cut costs by 20 percent over three years, and nearly 270 employees in the U.K. operation took buyouts in June.

Now the U.S. operation, which was launched in 2011, is grappling with what Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel described Thursday in a staff meeting as a “course correction.” Guardian US chief Eamonn Store informed staff the company was facing a $4.4 million budget shortfall, thereby necessitating major cuts.

(6) PRIDE OF STARFLEET. Nalo Hopkinson went to her first sf convention in 1978 outfitted as Lt. Uhura.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1966  — Fahrenheit 451 premiered in theaters.

(8) THE BEST WAY TO ATTEND THE WORLDCON. Mike Headley reports on his first Worldcon – “Hugo Awards – a (Belated) Retrospective”. Many things underscored his feeling of being an outside until —

Things changed when I volunteered; I ended up hauling ice and stocking drinks for the hospitality suite. I was only there for a couple hours, but I got to glimpse this community at its best. I saw MIMO crew helping set up plates of vegetables, people who brought their whole family to volunteer. People who talked about how this was there 10th, 20th, or more convention. They weren’t writers, or publishers, they were just sincere fans. On top of that the con staff were so grateful I helped out in a pinch, and there sincerity stunned me. It made me feel like I had made a difference, however small, and I like that I got to give back, even a tiny bit.

That’s when I saw this wasn’t a community of writers talking about writerly things. This was a community of fans, of people pitching in to make sure that this worked. They helped each other, and they did it to make the best experience they could for everyone.

The second major turning point was during the Hugo ceremony itself. At one point they did a retrospective of all the members who had died in the previous year. And as I watched this somber stream of names scrolling up, I noticed that yes there were several creators, screen-writers, and editors. There was also plenty of people listed as just “fan” or “volunteer.” The fact that the organization took time to recognize these people, some of whom were just and only fans, showed just how deeply some people cared about this community.

(9) TWEETER’S DIGEST. It’s a commonplace that not everything people want to say will fit in a 140-character tweet. And yet here’s someone who has summarized every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

(10) NOT ONLY A MESSAGE. Those who are allergic to political messages in sf may break out in hives by the time they’ve made it through “The G’s List of Mind-Bending/Expanding SF/F Novels” at Nerds of a Feather.

In my case I don’t have a political message to convey *with* my list, but rather have chosen a list of books that either have political messages or which made me think about the world in different terms. Even that was too big, so I decided to further limit myself to books that are either science fiction or transgress the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, horror and mimetic fiction. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means–I probably could have done one with 50 entries or more. But 21 is a snazzy number, isn’t it? 1. Aldiss, Brian. Non-Stop [Faber and Faber, 1958]

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries, which turn their universe upside-down… (GoodReads) The best #GenerationStarship novel I’ve ever read. Thought-provoking, with an ending that still manages to unsettle many years later. Also make rats utterly terrifying. (G)

(11) NERDCON APPROACHES. NerdCon: Stories will soon return, and several leading sf/f writers will be in the mix — Mary Robinette Kowal, Mikki Kendall, Wesley Chu, Patrick Rothfuss, Paolo Bacigaulpi, and Saladin Ahmed. (And who knows, maybe more if I’d kept scrolling…..)

(12) ORSINIA. The Paris Review has posted an excerpt from the introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Library of America editions — Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (Library of America, 2016).

LOA jacket template

Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.

At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me. I remember when this idea came: in our small co-op dorm at Radcliffe, Everett House, in the dining room, where you could study and typewrite late without disturbing sleepers. I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. (The Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1947–48 had been the first event to rouse the political spirit in me.) A land not too far from Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but let’s not worry about borders. Not one of the partly Islamized nations—more Western-oriented … Like Rumania, maybe, with a Slavic-influenced but Latin-descended language? Aha!

I begin to feel I’m coming close. I begin to hear the names. Orsenya—in Latin and English, Orsinia. I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Saint Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name … I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it.

And so I did.

(13) THIS JUST IN 17 YEARS AGO. J. K. Rowling sounds a little exasperated here.

(14) DINNER BELL. Scott Edelman has released Episode 18 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast where you are invited to  “Dig into a lobster roll with F. Brett Cox”.

fbrettcoxeatingthefantastic-768x768

Now it’s time to say farewell to Readercon with a visit to The Lobster Stop in Quincy, Massachusetts for (what else?) lobster rolls … and F. Brett Cox.

Brett co-edited (with former Eating the Fantastic guest Andy Duncan) Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (which featured a story about Randy Newman by yours truly!), and has had fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews appear in Eclipse Online, War Stories, Century, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and many other venues. He’s also hard at work on a book-length study of Roger Zelazny for the University of Illinois Press.

(15) MEMORABLE TV THEMES. Catherynne Valente asks:

I don’t know what she’d pick as the best theme for a dramatic series – for me it’s the theme from Hawaii 5-0. I’m also a fan of the Mission: Impossible theme, and have a real soft spot for the full rendition of The Virginian theme.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Stuckinhistory, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/16 O You Who Turn The Wheel And Look To Scrollward, Consider Pixel, Who Was Once Handsome And Tall As You

(1) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. My daughter went to the midnight Cursed Child book launch at her local store. She’d keep buying Potter novels if Rowling would keep writing them, but that is not in the works — “J.K. Rowling Says ‘Cursed Child’ Is the Last Harry Potter Story: ‘Harry Is Done Now’”.

The author, 51, spoke at the opening night of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play in London’s West End theatre district on Saturday, July 30, where she told fans that she’s finished with the series.

“[Harry] goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done,” Rowling told Reuters on Saturday night. “This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

(2) BEAM ME – OH, NEVER MIND. Steven Murphy of ScienceFiction.com canna stand the strain – of Star Trek’s inconsistent and underimaginative use of the transporter. He makes his case in “Star Trek and the Optimization of the Transporter”.

Does it bother anyone else that the characters of ‘Star Trek’ regularly overlook the obvious solution? They’re not stupid. I’d understand if they were stupid. They are among the smartest collection of people in fiction. They just have a huge blindspot: the power of teleportation.

In ‘Star Trek,’ transporters can dematerialize people or things in one location and rematerialize them elsewhere. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that the functionality of the technology maddening varies based on the requirements of the plot.

Murphy develops three main themes:

  • The Federation Should Weaponize Transporters
  • The Federation Should Use Transporters Defensively
  • Transporters Should Be Used As A Warp-Alternative

(3) POLITICAL SF/F. Ilya Somin recommends “7 Fantasy/Science Fiction Epics That Can Inform You about the Real-World-Political Scene” at Learn Liberty.

Battlestar Galactica

The original 1970s TV series was remade in the 2000s. Both versions focus on the survivors of twelve human colony worlds that have been devastated by an attack by the Cylons, and both feature many of the same characters. Yet the original series and the remake are otherwise fundamentally different.

The former reflects a conservative response to the Cold War: the humans fall victim to a Cylon surprise attack because they were influenced by gullible peaceniks; the survivors’ military leader, Commander Adama, is almost always far wiser than the feckless civilian politicians who question his judgment. Concerns about civil liberties and due process in wartime are raised, but usually dismissed as overblown.

By contrast, the new series reflects the left-wing reaction to the War on Terror: the Cylon attack is at least partly the result of “blowback” caused by the humans’ own wrongdoing. The series stresses the importance of democracy and civilian leadership, and condemns what it regards as dangerous demonization and mistreatment of the enemy—even one that commits genocide and mass murder.

Both the original series and the new one have many interesting political nuances, and both have blind spots characteristic of the ideologies they exemplify. The sharp contrast between the two makes them more interesting considered in combination than either might be alone. They effectively exemplify how widely divergent lessons can be drawn from the same basic story line.

(4) DEL TORO COLLECTION. The Los Angeles County Art Museum exhibit “Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters” opens August 1.

DelToroMain_0

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters Guillermo del Toro (b. 1964) is one of the most inventive filmmakers of his generation. Beginning with Cronos (1993) and continuing through The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015), among many other film, television, and book projects, del Toro has reinvented the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Working with a team of craftsmen, artists, and actors—and referencing a wide range of cinematic, pop-culture, and art-historical sources—del Toro recreates the lucid dreams he experienced as a child in Guadalajara, Mexico. He now works internationally, with a cherished home base he calls “Bleak House” in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Taking inspiration from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination, the exhibition reveals his creative process through his collection of paintings, drawings, maquettes, artifacts, and concept film art. Rather than a traditional chronology or filmography, the exhibition is organized thematically, beginning with visions of death and the afterlife; continuing through explorations of magic, occultism, horror, and monsters; and concluding with representations of innocence and redemption.

(5) SOMETHING MORE TO VOTE ON. Still on that adrenaline high after voting for the Hugos? You can help James Davis Nicoll – he’s looking for readers’ opinions about the books he should review. He explains, “That specific set of reviews is of books I read as a teen, so between 1974 and 1981.” Register your choices in a “non-binding” poll” at More Words, Deeper Hole.

(6) AN IMPONDERABLES REVIEW. Dave Feldman enjoyed playing Letter Tycoon.

Once you get started, game play is remarkably fast and hassle-free. Letter Tycoon is a combination word game and stock market game. You form words using your own letters combined with three “community cards.” The longer the words you form, the more assets (in the form of cash and stocks) you earn. If you accumulate enough cash, you can buy patents in the letter(s) you have used to form your words. These patents function like houses and hotels in Monopoly; you get paid every time another player forms a word using “your” patented letters. As you’d expect, it costs more to buy a patent on the most frequently-used letters, but some more obscure letters possess special powers that can make them valuable.

(7) TOOLS THAT CHANGE THE TOOL USER. Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Track Changes, asserts “Technology changes how authors write, but the big impact isn’t on their style”.

“Our writing instruments are also working on our thoughts.” Nietzsche wrote, or more precisely typed, this sentence on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a wondrous strange contraption that looks a little like a koosh ball cast in brass and studded with typewriter keys. Depressing a key plunged a lever with the typeface downward onto the paper clutched in the underbelly.

It’s well-known that Nietzsche acquired the Writing Ball to compensate for his failing eyesight. Working by touch, he used it to compose terse, aphoristic phrasings exactly like that oft-quoted pronouncement. Our writing instruments, he suggested, are not just conveniences or contrivances for the expression of ideas; they actively shape the limits and expanse of what we have to say. Not only do we write differently with a fountain pen than with a crayon because they each feel different in our hands, we write (and think) different kinds of things.

But what can writing tools and writing machines really tell us about writing? Having just published my book “Track Changes” on the literary history of word processing, I found such questions were much on my mind. Every interviewer I spoke with wanted to know how computers had changed literary style. Sometimes they meant style for an individual author; sometimes they seemed to want me to pronounce upon the literary establishment (whatever that is) in its entirety.

(8) LOCUS POLL COMMENTS. At Locus Online you can read voters’ Comments from the 2016 Locus Poll and Survey. For example:

I actually read a couple of first novels I liked, which surprised me! I don’t read those very often these days, but these were strongly urged on me and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been reading e-books for about a year now and they’re starting to form a large chunk of my “book” buying in general, though I still buy more genre in print form than e-book. I’m buying a lot of the old classics in e-book (i.e., Ye Olde Deade Whyte Guys, like Twain, Shakespeare, Mary Shelley (;)) and some of the older sf/f/h titles as well. The “Great Distemper of 2015” left me with a dull ache behind my eyes and reminded me why I ducked out of the fannish aspects of SF 20 years ago or so. I fervently hope it goes away soon. I read more and liked more of what I read last year. There must be something wrong with me! (innocentlookicon) I’m trying very hard to work up my inner “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” attitude about the state of SF, but I can’t.

(9) FINAL CHAPTER. A Los Angeles Daily News story about several LA-area bookstores facing closure.

Adryan Russ slips behind the counter at Bookfellows/Mystery & Imagination in Glendale to say goodbye to co-owner Christine Bell, who recently announced that her long-standing used bookstore will be closing at the end of August.

With a hug, the longtime customer wishes her well.

“To see this store have to follow the trends of today’s world, where we won’t be holding books much longer, you can see the sadness in her eyes about it,” says Russ, a musical theater lyricist based in Glendale. “It’s like a whole era is fading.”

The shuttering of Bookfellows comes as economic pressures from an increasingly competitive online marketplace, rising rents and dwindling walk-in traffic make it hard for some Southern California independent used booksellers to keep their large storefronts.

(10) ONE NY BOOKSTORE IS STICKING AROUND. The New York Times found a bookstore with an edge on the competition — “Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books? First, the Quiz”.

As Jennifer Lobaugh arrived at the Strand Book Store to apply for a job this spring, she remembered feeling jittery. It wasn’t only because she badly wanted a job at the fabled bookstore in Greenwich Village, her first in New York City, but also because at the end of the application, there was a quiz — a book quiz.

She rode the elevator to the third floor, sat down at a long table and scanned the quiz: a list of titles and a list of authors. She matched “The Second Sex” with Simone de Beauvoir right away. But then she had doubts. “I thought I would have no trouble,” said Ms. Lobaugh, 27, who has an M.F.A. in creative writing and a background in French and Russian literature. “But I got nervous.”

The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field. It moves 2.5 million books a year and has around 200 employees. While its competitors have closed by the dozens, it has survived on castaways — from publishers, reviewers, the public and even other booksellers.

For nearly a century, the huge downtown bookstore has symbolized not only inexpensive books, but something just as valuable: full-time work for those whose arcane knowledge outweighs their practical skills.

Can you pass the Strand’s literary quiz? Match each book with its author. Test Your Book Smarts.

With a score of 33/50, I probably won’t be working at Strand until they start hiring folks whose specialty is asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

It was the first time humans had experience driving on another world, and by all accounts, the LRV was awesome.

The LRV was used mainly to extend the astronauts’ travel range up to a few miles from the landing site (for Apollo 15, the LRV traveled more than 17 miles in total). This allowed the science-focused missions of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 far more reach than hoofing it around the moon’s surface.

Jerry Seinfeld also had something to say about driving on the moon:

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 31, 1965 – J. K. Rowling

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born July 31, 1980 — Harry Potter

(14) GIANT ROBOTS. Kevin Melrose of Comic Book Resources thinks “Glorious ‘Transformers’ fan film is better than any of Michael Bay’s”.

Called “Generation 1 Hero,” it’s directed by Lior Molcho and stars members of Arizona Autobots, a group of Transformers cosplayers who create their own costumes. “Y’know, it was a lot of fun having them punch each other,” Molcho said in a behind-the-scenes video. “It’s a boy’s dream come true, y’know: giant robots punching each other! This is pretty awesome!”

 

(15) AN EDITOR’S ADVICE. Amanda S. Green’s post “It is a business”, quoted here the other day, attracted comment from the publisher of Castalia House, Vox Day in “Submissions and so forth”. His counsel begins —

  1. Most of the stuff that is submitted isn’t anywhere near ready. Seriously, we’re talking “WTF were you thinking” territory. Don’t submit just to submit, practice, then file it away if it’s not genuinely on par with what the publisher publishes and move on to the next work.
  2. You have VERY little time to impress the slush reader, who is wading through large quantities of writing that ranges from barely literate to mediocre. Make it count.
  3. Keep the cover letter short and to the point. No one is going to be impressed by how BADLY you want to be published or HOW MUCH you want to work with the publishing house. What you want has nothing to do with how good your book is.

(16) LARPOLOGY. The thirtieth installment of Marie Brennan’s Dice Tales column for Book View Café has the irresistible headline: “Every Title I Can Think of for This Post Sounds Like Spam”.

When you introduce a new character to an ongoing campaign, narrative integration is only one of the problems you face. The longer the game has been underway, the more you need to think about mechanical balance.

(17) LAST DAY OF VOTING. Peter J. Enyeart makes a fascinating assessment of Neal Stephenson while explaining how he ranked the nominees in the Best Novel category, but here’s who he thought should win —

  1. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie In the closing novel of the trilogy, Breq faces ever greater challenges as she finds herself a high-value target in the Radchaai civil war. I feel a little bad about picking this one for the top spot, since it’s a sequel to a book that won two years ago, but it was definitely my favorite. It’s the only nominee I had read before the nominations were announced, and the only nominee that I actually nominated. I read the whole thing in about 24 hours, the week it came out. It even makes me feel more charitable towards the second installment in the series, which I liked less, because it serves as a nice set up for this satisfying conclusion. Breq is one of my favorite characters in fiction. So cold, aloof, detached, and calculating, and yet so empathetic, observant, devoted, and inspiring. It’s a tall order for a writer to pull off that combination, but she did it. Breq provides a model for leadership that seems like something a person like me could aspire to, and I’m very appreciative. (I like the Presger Translators a lot, too.) Well done, Ann Leckie.

(18) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. Charon Dunn, on the other hand, put Stephenson’s novel first on her 2016 Hugo Ballot.

Seveneves

Earnestly focusing on books as they linearly progress from beginning to end is for noobs and editors and people like that. Sometimes you just want to dive into a ballpit of words and mosh around. Seveneves is one of those, hard science flavored, where humanity reaches the mostly dead state before seven intrepid spacewomen start cranking out babies, thus founding seven distinct races, each one bioengineered per their founding mother’s will. Setting the scene for future highjinks.

Many of the reviews I have read make a pointed effort at informing readers that the bioengineering in Seveneves is hogwash. A lot of my generation feels the same way about bioengineering that the Victorians did about sex, which makes it a fun taboo to read and write about. Sure it’s hogwash, so are Death Stars, who cares. The science in Seveneves follows this soothing cycle of looming disaster; implement solution; new looming disaster. I’m a fan of this method of plot organization.

(19) A NEW LEAF. And if you assumed that someone writing for a blog called Books & Tea would pick the book by the tea-loving Leckie, then Christina Vasilevski will surprise you with her choice, in “What I’m Voting for in the 2016 Hugo Awards”.

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin — As I mentioned when I read and reviewed this book last yearThe Fifth Season blew me away. I’m so glad this one ended up on the ballot. Jemisin’s writing is lyrical and her willingness to put her politics front and centre in her stories is great.

(20) FAN ARTISTS. Doctor Science posted an overview of the Fan Artist nominees. Earlier, the Good Doctor covered Pro Artist.

(21) HOW DO YOU GET THIS OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Forbes’ infographic contrasts Star Trek’s warp drive with what scientists are working on today.

If you want to experience the thrill of travelling faster than the speed of light, all you need to do is hitch a ride on the Starship Enterprise and engage the ‘warp drive’. You’ll be able to enjoy a cup of hot Earl Grey while visiting countless worlds through interstellar travel, all thanks to the power of warp drive! Easy peasy.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Leckie.]

Pixel Scroll 7/23/16 I Tasted The Pixels In The Scroll Of The Universe, And I Was Not Offended

(1) TRAFFIC. How do you get more pageviews for your blog? Talk about politics. But, of course, these things must be done delicately. Notice the daft, er, deft touch in Camestros Felapton’s post “Well, He Kept That Quiet”.

The local newspaper reports:

In a surprising move, presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, has chosen local vermin catcher Timothy the Talking Cat as her Vice Presidential pick….

(2) SPACE, THE FASHION FRONTIER. Mayim Bialik of Big Bang Theory did a Star Trek-themed photo shoot. There are six pictures in the gallery, with Bialik costumed as a series of characters from classic Trek.

Mayim Bialik and fans everywhere geek out over Star Trek at 50. To celebrate, we boldy go where no man—or woman—has gone before, with a little help from this Trekkie pinup girl and The Big Bang Theory star. “I watched a lot of Star Trek when I was a kid, and being able to not only dress up like some of the most iconic characters from that universe,” Mayim Bialik said, “but be made up by some of the original innovators who created these looks, was personally so meaningful.”

trekkie1

She also appears in a two-minute “making of” video.

(3) LEGO SPACEWOMEN. LEGO has been asked to do a Women of NASA project about five female scientists and astronauts:

Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program, a.k.a. NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

This proposed set celebrates five notable NASA pioneers and provides an educational building experience to help young ones and adults alike learn about the history of women in STEM. The five Women of NASA are:

Women of NASA 2562129-o_1anriledce9i1qm5hpeki28vo1u-full

Margaret Hamilton, computer scientist: While working at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s, Hamilton developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo missions to the moon. She is known for popularizing the modern concept of software.

Katherine Johnson, mathematician and space scientist: A longtime NASA researcher, Johnson is best known for calculating and verifying trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs — including the Apollo 11 mission that first landed humans on the moon.

Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist, and educator: A physicist by training, Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. After retiring as a NASA astronaut, she founded an educational company focusing on encouraging children — especially girls — to pursue the sciences.

Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer: One of the first female executives at NASA, Roman is known to many as the “Mother of Hubble” for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope. She also developed NASA’s astronomy research program.

Mae Jemison, astronaut, physician, and entrepreneur: Trained as a medical doctor, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992. After retiring from NASA, Jemison established a company that develops new technologies and encourages students in the sciences.In addition to a desktop frame that displays these five minifigures and their names, the set includes vignettes depicting: a famous photo of the reams of code that landed astronauts on the moon in 1969; instruments used to calculate and verify trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions; a microscale Hubble Space Telescope and display; and a mini space shuttle, complete with external tank and solid rocket boosters.

The idea has gathered 2,513 supporters as of this writing – with 541 days left (that’s what it says). It needs 10,000 supporters to qualify for an official LEGO review.

(4) GHOSTBUSTER TOYS. Meanwhile, some toy shelves have become ghost towns due to strong sales  – “Mattel Reports ‘Ghostbusters’ Toy Sales Have ‘Exceeded Expectations’”.

Mattel is reporting strong early sales for its line of toys based on the female-led “Ghostbusters” — from both boys and girls.

In keeping with the tagline “Everybody wants to be a Ghostbuster,” Mattel’s retail strategy was to sell the female-led Ghostbusters action figures in the boys’ toy aisle. The sales figures at the top retailers in the country have exceeded expectations, the toymaker reported Friday.

(5) PULP STUDIES. James Madison University will host the 1st Annual Pulp Studies Symposium on October 7-8. One of the speakers is today’s Munsey Award winner, Laurie Powers.

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, James Madison University’s Special Collections hosts one of the finest publicly accessible collections of pulp magazines in the United States, including a recent acquisition of over eighty issues of Street and Smith’s romance pulp Love Story.

Speakers

David M. Earle

Associate Professor of Transatlantic Modernism and Print Culture at the University of West Florida

David M. Earle is Associate Professor of Transatlantic Modernism and Print Culture at the University of West Florida. He is author of Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form (2009) and All Man!: Hemingway, 1950s Men’s Magazines, and the Masculine Persona(2009). More recently, he has published on pulp magazines and modernism for The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Volume 2; the influence of pulps on William Faulkner for Fifty Years after Faulkner; and pulps and the modernist genre novel for The Cambridge History of the Modernist Novel (2016). His online projects include the Digital Newsstand, an online re-creation of a newsstand from 1925.

Laurie Powers

Laurie Powers, an Ada Comstock Scholar graduate of Smith College, developed her interest in pulp fiction in 1999 when she discovered that her paternal grandfather, Paul S. Powers, (1905–1971) had been a successful writer of stories that appeared in magazines such as Weird Tales, Wild West Weekly, Western Story Magazine, Real Detective Tales, Thrilling Western, and many more. Since then, Laurie has been very active in the community of pulp fiction historians, writers, and collectors. She wrote the prologue and epilogue that appear in her grandfather’s memoir, Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street (University of Nebraska Press, 2007), has published several collections of her grandfather’s stories, and has spoken to a variety of audiences on the history of pulp fiction. Laurie is now writing a biography of Daisy Bacon, editor of Love Story Magazine, and has written articles and book introductions about Bacon and the romance pulps

(6) ONE WRITER’S PROCESS.

(7) KISS ANOTHER HISTORIC HOUSE GOODBYE. According to Los Angeles Magazine, “The Home Where Walt Disney Founded His First Studio Is Set to be Demolished”.

New owners have requested a demolition permit for Walt Disney’s first home in California. The well-preserved 1914 Craftsman bungalow at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Los Feliz belonged to Walt’s aunt Charlotte and uncle Robert Disney, who in July of 1923 invited their young nephew to board in their home (at a rate of $5 per week) as he pursued his dream of becoming a film director. The 2-bedroom, 1458 square-foot home would stay in the Disney family for 30 years. Charlotte moved next door in 1955, spending five decades on Kingswell. When it was sold again in 1977 the owners described it as having “lots of wood trim, fireplace & cheery breakfast room.” The home exhibits tremendous architectural integrity, with the same porch, gables, shingles, windows, and beveled glass door that greeted 22-year-old Walt Disney.

According to the Los Angeles County Assessor the property was sold two months ago to Sang Ho and Krystal Yoo of Studio City, who submitted plans on Friday for a new 2-story, 1 or 2-family home they plan to build on the site. In November, the City of Los Angeles Survey L.A. program declared the property eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its role as Walt Disney’s first studio in California. The same city planning department is now considering issuing a permit for its destruction.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 23, 1982 — Actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed when a helicopter crashed on the movie set of The Twilight Zone.
  • July 23, 1999 — Disney’s Tarzan became the first all-digital film.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 23, 1989 – Daniel Radcliffe

(10) WISE CRACKS. Ethan Mills at Examined Worlds reviews “Tectonic Fantasy: Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin”.

N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is a difficult, complex, and engrossing tale.  Let me focus on the plot structure, the worldbuilding, and the major theme of living within unjust social structures….

Building a Volatile World The worldbuilding is amazing.  The Stillness (the sarcastically-named continent where it all takes place) is on a world of intense geological activity, which every few hundred years creates a “Fifth Season” that wipes out a lot of the life on the planet.  Worldbuilding aficionados will love the historical appendix that tells the history of each Fifth Season going back several thousand years.  There’s also a glossary for more general terms, which is helpful for forgetful readers like me (although most of the terms can be understood in context as you read the novel).  It’s obvious as you’re reading that this is the first book of a trilogy, so while I look forward to learning more about the characters, I’m most interested to learn more about the world.

(11) HUGO CHANGES. Steve Davidson gives “A 3SV Endorsement” at Amazing Stories.

3SV would insert an additional vote between nominations and final voting.  (Nominations > 3SV > Final Vote.) Up to the top 15 nominees in each category are presented to the voters, who in effect have an opportunity to preemptively vote No Award for each of the 15 nominees.  Based on the criteria of the proposal (here), nominees that receive above a certain threshold of “reject” votes during this round are removed from the list of 15 and the remaining top 5 nominees – based on the original nomination counts – are then placed on the final ballot.

Nominees of questionable origin, undeserving nominees and nominees gamed onto the ballot can be removed at this second stage, which will prevent bad actors from acquiring a “Hugo Award Finalist” designation;  voters will not have to choose to vote for something reprehensible or No Award the entire category;  the effectiveness of slate voting will be seriously reduced, if not eliminated.

The bar for rejection is high – 60% – so it is unlikely that anything but those works generally perceived as having arrived on the ballot through unfair means will be eliminated during the process.

(12) FANTASTIC BEASTS. There’s been an inundation of trailers tailored for showing at the San Diego Comic-Con. I’m including several in today’s Scroll.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Comic-Con Trailer

(13) JUSTICE LEAGUE. Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment showed footage of Zack Snyder’s Justice League in Hall H.

(14) KONG. SciFiNow has a good intro: “Kong Skull Island trailer crash-lands in modern day”.

The first trailer for Kong: Skull Island has come rampaging in…

Letting us know that this is brought to us by same folks who created Godzilla, this should have given us a hint of what to expect from Kong: Skull Island. We’ll be honest though: we weren’t prepared for this.

Leads Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson don’t get a single line of dialogue. Instead, co-stars Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman get their time to shine in this modern-day reimagining of the King Kong mythos.

 

(15) MARVEL AND NETFLIX AT SDCC.

San Diego Comic Con Sizzle presented by Marvel and Netflix

A look back at Daredevil and Jessica Jones as we get ready for Luke Cage. All episode of Daredevil and Jessica Jones now streaming on Netflix. Luke Cage premieres on September 30.

 

Marvel’s Iron Fist – SDCC – First Look – Netflix [HD]

Marvel’s The Defenders – SDCC Teaser – Netflix [HD]

Marvel’s Luke Cage – SDCC – Teaser – Netflix [HD]

(16) MARCHING DOWN THE AISLE. Elaborate cosplay at SDCC.

(17) SOME DARE CALL IT ACTING. Hello Giggles really likes Margot Robbie.

This brand new “Suicide Squad” trailer ONLY features Harley Quinn and thus, it is awesome

Is it too early to start an Oscar campaign for Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad? This is a very serious question. She shouldn’t just with an Oscar for her role in the upcoming DC movie, but maybe like, four. And also probably an Emmy, and a Tony, and let’s just give her a Pulitzer and a Nobel Peace Price, why not. All the awards for Robbie, who is about to make WAVES as Harley Quinn.

 

(18) EVERYBODY NEEDS A CRISIS. Time Magazine explains “Why Aliens Are So Important to Star Trek” – but are they right?

“Gene was very big on not wanting to create conflict among the characters on the show,” says Rick Berman, who led the Star Trek franchise after Roddenberry died in 1991 until 2005 and produced several series and feature films. “He felt that humans, especially Starfleet humans, had evolved to a point where he didn’t want to see conflict between them.”

Yet conflict is at the core of all great storytelling. So if the Enterprise crew couldn’t squabble with one another, Star Trek writers had to find friction elsewhere. Aliens came to the rescue. “Often we were telling stories of how humans had progressed, or not, in the far reaches of space,” says longtime Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana. “But sometimes the theme of the tale was better told by demonstrating how aliens approached or solved problems, or how they failed.”

(19) ROGUE ONE. JJ says, “They’ve done a great bit of spot-on casting for this character, whose original actress is now 83.” Movie Pilot has the story: “Mon Mothma Sure Has Changed Since We Last Saw Her”

While the original Mon Mothma, Caroline Blakiston, is now 83, and thus a little too old to play the Rebel leader in a prequel, it seems that Star Wars: Rogue One has still managed to find a way to go old school with its Mon Mothma-related casting.

Our new Mon Mothma is the same Mon Mothma we (kind of) saw in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Genevieve O’Reilly.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]