Pixel Scroll 4/12/18 But By God, Elliot, It Was A Pixel Scroll From Life!

(1) KINGFISHER. James Davis Nicoll turned the Young  People Read Old SFF panel loose on “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher.

Young People Read Old SFF has circled back to a modern work for the final time in the phase of the project. This time the modern author is Ursula Vernon, who also publishes as T. Kingfisher. To quote her Wikipedia entry,

Digger won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012 and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2013. She won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the WSFA Small Press Award for Jackalope Wives in 2015. Her story “The Tomato Thief” won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I’ve read a number of Vernon’s works but not, as it happens, any of those. I have read “Toad Words”, however, and it seemed an apt choice for a modern work given what the Young People have liked in the past. But I’ve been wrong before…

(2) DEADPOOL CHOW. Adweek describes how “Deadpool’s Newest Product Pitch Takes Us Inside His Dreams, Which Center on … Frozen Food?”

Brand partnerships with superhero movies are inevitable—let’s face it, most movies are superhero movies these days—but so many of them seem like an unnatural fit. Or a lazy one, at best. There’s a car chase in the movie? Let’s use that in a car commercial! Genius!

That might initially seem like the case with Deadpool’s Devour partnership. Why would Deadpool care about frozen food? Well, he doesn’t—and that’s what makes the new 30-second spot work.

 

(3) POTTER RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster watched “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” last night on the CW:

This was a BBC documentary tied to an exhibit that is currently at the British Library and will be coming to the New-York Historical Society this fall, although what I gather from the Pottermore website is that there will be two exhibits with some overlap between the British and American versions.

The special, narrated by Imelda Staunton, had several parts.  One was when actors from the movies (including Warwick Davis, Miriam Margoyles, and David Thewlis) read excerpts from the novels.  A second thread consisted of curators from the British Library showing off their magical treasures of books and stuff from their collections.  In addition, we saw some witches and eccentrics who had things to donate to the exhibit, including two gentlemen named Dusty Miller XIII and Dusty Miller XIV who said they had created 7,500 magic-filled wands from sticks they collected in the woods.  Finally, J.K. Rowling was extensively interviewed and got to look at a lot of the stuff the curators had unearhed.

Oh, and there was a lot of Harry Potter cosplay.

Rowling had done a lot of research in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as a seventeenth-century herbal written by the great botanist Nicholas Culpeper.  She said that she invented everything to do with wands.  She also named two sources that inspired her.  One was C.S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and if there are references to portals and libraries in that book those are the parts she found inspiring.  A second source came from an illustration Rowling made in1990 of Professor Sprout.  Rowling said that that night she was watching The Man Who Would Be King, a film with many Masonic symbols.  A simplified version of one masonic symbol was the source for the three-part symbol that denotes the Deathly Hallows in the novels.

Finally Rowling said, “I tied to steer clear of hallucinogenic drugs in Hogwarts.”  So if you’re writing fan fiction where Harry and the gang settle in for good times with some mushrooms, you should know that such scenes are NOT canonical.

(4) AUSTRALIAN CON SURVEY. Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor and Galactic Suburbia cohost Alisa Krasnostein tweeted

If you’ve attended an SF con or event in Australia in the last 5 years, please consider taking this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCGQB82

…The purpose of this survey is to investigate the degree of harassment being experienced at our SF conventions and events.

(5) WOTF. Vajra Chandrasekera discourages participation in the Writers of the Future Contest. His thread starts here —

(6) NEW PERSPECTIVES. Bogi Takacs has started writing a column for Tor.com about “QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics”.

…In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion.

…On the other hand, I also don’t want to pigeonhole QUILTBAG+ writers and only show interest in their work if it is about their specific marginalization. I want to see minority writers write whatever they want. If they (we) want to write about cephalopods in space, I am all for that! Therefore I opted to include work either by QUILTBAG+ authors (where this is known) or with QUILTBAG+ themes. Often these two coincide, but not necessarily so.

A specific difficulty is whether to include people with non-Western, culturally specific gender, sex or sexuality IDs. Often these people also use at least some Western terms to self-identify, but sometimes they don’t—especially Indigenous people. If someone has expressed a desire not to be included in Western terms, both umbrella or specific terms, I will of course respect that. But in the absence of explicitly opting out, and also if the authors use Western terms, I decided on the side of inclusion. One of my motivations in this is somewhat self-serving: I also have a culturally specific gender / sex (though I am not Indigenous, specifically) and I am interested in other people who do too!

I aim to discuss a new book every two weeks. I will begin next week with The Gilda Stories, the queer Black / Indigenous vampire classic by Jewelle Gomez, and then follow with The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, possibly the first SFF novel by an intersex author—which also draws a parallel between being intersex and sharing a mind with a giant whale.

(7) TRUTHINESS. Hear about “’That High Truth’: Lewis, Williams, Chesterton, and Ray Bradbury,” in this video of a lecture given at the Wade Center by Jonathan R. Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on April 9, 2018.

(8) PROGRAM IDEA. Amal El-Mohtar has a fresh angle for a panel discussion. Start the thread here:

(9) BECKETT OBIT. Alex Beckett (1982-2018): Welsh actor, death announced April 12, aged 35. His genre appearances include Spark Ark (2014), and The Aliens (two episodes, 2016).

(10) HEAR STAN LEE’S DENIAL. Io9 reports “In a New Video, Stan Lee Threatens to Sue Anyone Reporting on Claims of Alleged Elder Abuse”.

The Marvel mainstay came down with pneumonia in February and so his frequent convention appearances were understandably cut back. During this time, multiple reports emerged detailing how hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literal blood, were allegedly stolen from him. In a video sent to TMZ this week that’s copyrighted to Keya Morgan (Lee’s handler, who is currently in control of all of his communications), Lee says he’s prepared to take legal action against any and all media outlets that have reported on the claims that he’s being taken advantage of:

“Hi this is Stan Lee and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now, you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others. Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off when I get a chance.

You have been accusing me and my friends of doing things that are so unrealistic and unbelievable that I don’t know what to say. It’s as though you suddenly have a personal vendetta against me and against the people I work with. Well I want you to know I’m going to spend every penny I have to put a stop to this and to make you sorry that you’ve suddenly gone on a one man campaign against somebody with no proof, no evidence, no anything but you’ve decided that people were mistreating me and therefore you are going to publish those articles.

I’m going to get the best and most expensive lawyers I can and I want you to know if you don’t stop these articles and publish retractions, I am going to sue your ass off.”

The subject video was reportedly sent to TMZ and is marked on their website as being copyrighted by Keya Morgan. The linked TMZ article is headlined: “STAN LEE DENIES ELDER ABUSE … Leave Me and My Friends Alone!!!” This copy is on YouTube, though who knows for how long?

(11) HUGOS AT ECBATAN. Rich Horton check off another nominated book in “Hugo Ballot Review: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee”.

The novel is interesting reading throughout, with plenty of action (and some pretty cool battle scenes), some rather ghastly (in a good sense) comic bits, and lots of pain and angst. There is a continuing revelation of just how awful the Hexarchate is, with the only defense offered even by its supporters being “anything else would be worse”. There is genocide, lots of murders, lots of collateral damage. The resolution is well-planned and integral to the nature of this universe, with a good twist or two to boot. It’s a good strong novel that I enjoyed a lot.

(12) SERVICE TO SFF. Congratulations to 2018 Chandler Award winner Edwina Harvey! The award recognizes members of the Australian speculative fiction community, both professionals and fans.

Edwina Harvey is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

She was one of the founding members of Astrex, the Star Trek fan club of NSW, and regularly contributed fiction to the associated fanzine Beyond Antares as well as other SF fanzines from the mid 1970s onwards. She was also an active member of The Hitchers Club of Australia (Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fanclub) from approximately 1984 onwards contributing to the newsletter Australian Playbeing through articles and comments and assisting with the copying and distribution of some issues of the newsletter.  Known locally as the Fund Raising Queens, Edwina has worked with Karen Auhl on organising fundraiser events for Medtrek 4, Huttcon 90 and two Sydney Worldcon bids. (Late 1980s – mid 1990s)  Edwina has been a contributing member of FOLCC (the Friends of Linda Cox Chan) which was an informal group donating monies raised to Diabetes Charities in Australia.  Linda Cox Chan was a Sydney-based SF fan artist and writer who passed away in 1991. From 2012 to the present time, Edwina has also run a lucky-dip at Australian SF conventions to raise money for FFANZ.

(13) EUROVISION IN SPACE. Learn about the author’s new novel Space Opera at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente”.

My agent refers to it as the fastest deal in publishing. It was done and I was committed before I could catch a breath. As I was signing the contract, my fiance asked: “Does it really just say ‘Eurovision in space’? Do you actually have any idea how you’re gonna pull that off?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “And no, I don’t.”

And I didn’t. Part of me was terrified. How the hell do you even begin to write that? I mean, you can’t play it straight. It’s too absurd. It’s obviously a comedy. Ah, but if you try to write science fiction comedy, the ghost of Douglas Adams appears and asks you with a stern expression if that’s really necessary. And even if it was a comedy, the core of Eurovision is that political darkness and artistic light. You can’t play it totally camp, either. And given the politics all around me, I wasn’t sure I was actually up to singing it out just this minute. What had I agreed to?

But the deadline approached. And I sat down at a blank screen. I laughed nervously.

And then I stopped trying to worry about whether I could do this thing at all and wrote some shit about Enrico Fermi and I was off, and off at breakneck speed.

(14) I’M HOME! Glen Weldon creates a mythic dialogue. Jump on the thread here:

(15) DIRECT FROM INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Here is Amazon Prime’s trailer advertising new episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. [Via io9.]

The world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a comedy about two goofball friends who end up in harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. As their silly ambitions dovetail with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, they are set on a collision course with his notorious super spies Boris and Natasha.

 

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Errolwi, James Davis Nicoll, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWwombat.]

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Official Teaser Trailer

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is due in theaters November 16.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second of five all new adventures in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World™.

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

The film features an ensemble cast led by Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, with Jude Law and Johnny Depp. The cast also includes, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo, and Poppy Corby-Tuech.

 

Pixel Scroll 3/10/18 Great Scroll Title

(1) WIKIPEDIA. What an amazing coincidence (or not)! Amazing Stories is Wikipedia’s Featured Article today. I hope it gives Steve Davidson’s Kickstarter a boost.

(2) WISCON. The WisCon Member Assistance Fund is rising money through sales of t-shirts etc. with this design:

You’ve always been able to support the WMAF via our Donate page, during the Registration process, or by using our direct Paypal link.

But now you can take care of your own need for clothing and benefit the WMAF at the same time! Sam Haney Press has designed artwork based on an idea from Nicasio Andres Reed (inspired by Woodie Guthrie) and we’re making it available on t-shirts! (And on a tote bag, which you will probably need to…carry the multiple t-shirts you are going to want to buy.)

Buy shirts at this link.

(3) UNRECOGNIZED. Scott Bradfield explains why pop culture fame eludes Clark Ashton Smith in “The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley” for LA Review of Books.

WHEN IT COMES to being underrated, Clark Ashton Smith has long been a quadruple-threat. For more than a century, Smith has been unfairly disregarded as a poet, a short story writer, a painter, and even a sculptor; had he perhaps enjoyed just a little professional good fortune during his lifetime, he might have gone on to spend his twilight years being unfairly disregarded in numerous additional endeavors: prose poetry, novel writing, drama, screenwriting, you name it. Instead, he spent those last decades as a gardener and handy-man, never achieving the recognition of his friends and fellow Weird Tales contributors, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Almost unforgivably, no proper biography has yet been published about Smith — only a scattering of bibliographies and essays from small (but resolute) specialty presses.

In many ways, this ponderous, multi-generational neglect of Smith isn’t hard to understand. Unlike Howard (the stylish creator of Conan and Solomon Kane), Smith never wrote filmable series characters that could be played by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel….

(4) BOFFO B.O. Looper tells “Why Black Panther Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office.”

(5) AS SANDS THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. “Dune reboot will span two movies, take at least two years, says Denis Villeneuve” reports SyFy Wire.

We’ve known for a while that Denis Villeneuve is working on a reboot for Dune, Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel famously adapted for the big screen by David Lynch all the way back in 1984. But now we’re learning that Villeneuve has no plans to try to cram everything from the sprawling source material into just one movie.

Via The Playlist, Villeneuve recently told a crowd gathered for a Montreal film event that his adaptation of the 1965 novel “will probably take two years to make,” with a goal of making “two films; maybe more.” That bomb drop reaffirms Villeneuve’s long-haul commitment to what’s long been a passion project.

(6) WIKIMYSTERY. A scholarly paper posits the automatic generation of adventure games from open data such as Wikipedia articles, OpenStreetMap, and images from Wikimedia Commons: “Who Killed Albert Einstein? From Open Data to Murder Mystery Games”.

Every WikiMystery game revolves around the murder of a person with a Wikipedia article and populates the game with suspects who must be arrested by the player if guilty of the murder or absolved if innocent. Starting from only one person as the victim, an extensive generative pipeline finds suspects, their alibis, and paths connecting them from open data, transforms open data into cities, buildings, non-player characters, locks and keys and dialog options. The paper describes in detail each generative step, provides a specific playthrough of one WikiMystery where Albert Einstein is murdered, and evaluates the outcomes of games generated for the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

(7) CARTOON NETWORK. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers: “Cartoon Network Unveils Largest-Ever Slate of Content for 2018-19”.

Among the new shows is Diego Molano’s Victor and Valentino, a supernatural comedy about a pair of half-brothers who spend the summer with their grandmother in a mysterious town where Latin American folklore comes to life, and Owen Dennis’ Infinity Train, which has already developed a passionate following through the network’s Artist Program, about a girl who tries to find her way home from a train full of infinite worlds. Victor and Valentino is slated to release this year, while Infinity Train will reach viewers in 2019.

Other new Cartoon Network shows include buddy-comedy Apple & Onion, set in a world of anthropomorphic food; the surrealist animal adventure Summer Camp Island; and adventure comedy Craig of the Creek, which follows the expeditions of a group of best friends across a neighborhood creek.

And that’s not all!

(8) THE DORKEST HOUR. There’s something you don’t see every day — “Winston Churchill dancing like James Brown, played by Gary Oldman.”

(9) SHARKE WATCH. Shadow Clarke jury convenor Dr. Helen Marshall provides “A Means of Escape: A Round-Up of Our Posts So Far”.

As we eagerly await the end of the snows and the release of the submissions list, which will launch the first major phase of the Arthur C. Clarke jury’s deliberations, I thought it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the major threads introduced by our jury members so far. In assembling the jury, Maureen and I wanted to draw together reviewers from different backgrounds and with different ideas of what criticism might mean and what it ought to do. I’ve been delighted to see the range of approaches offered so far as well as the questions they open up. What follows then are my own impressions of some of the major threads that connect these approaches.

(10) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA CREATOR. Here’s the text of Peter Douglas Nicholls’ death notice that appeared in The Age of Melbourne on March 9.

Science fiction critic, encyclopedist, bon vivant, and pontificator. Died on 6th March 2018, aged 78, surrounded by family. Inspired adoration and exasperation in equal measure. Remembered with enormous love by his sister, Meg; children, Sophie, Saul, Tom, Jack, and Luke; grandchildren, Pia, Cassia and Uma; and his wife, Clare Coney.

My brain tells stories to itself
While I’m asleep. Last night
I smoked and talked, the dead replied
A party in my dreams.
What fun!

– Peter Nicholls

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premiered
  • March 10, 1997 — The Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(12) ELLISON. Damien Walters posted his 2013 interview with Harlan Ellison last October, and linked to it on Facebook today.

DW: You famously described sci-fi fandom as an “extended family of wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.” But don’t the geeks kind of run the world now?

HE: I am a steadfastly 20th-century guy. I’ve always been pathologically au courant. Even today I can tell you the length of Justin Bieber’s hair. But it has now reduced society to such a trivial, crippled form, that it is beyond my notice. I look at things like Twitter and Facebook, and “reality TV”?—?which is one of the great frauds of our time, an oxymoron like “giant shrimp”?—?and I look at it all, and I say, these people do not really know what the good life is. I look at the parched lives that so many people live, the desperation that underlies their every action, and I say, this has all been brought about by the electronic media. And I do not envy them. I do not wish to partake of it, and I am steadfastly in the 20th century. I do not own a handheld device. Mine is an old dial-up laptop computer, which I barely can use?—?barely. I still write on a manual typewriter. Not even an electronic typewriter, but a manual. My books keep coming out. I have over 100 books published now, and I’ve reached as close to posterity as a poor broken vessel such as I am entitled to reach.

(13) PETS WHO SLEEP NEAR WRITERS. Mark-kitteh made sure we didn’t miss “13 Of The Most Adorable Pets Owned By Famous Writers” at Buzzfeed.

  1. J.K. Rowling’s endearing West Highland terrier named Bronte:

(14) DO THE LOCOMOTION. A BBC video shows a “Rollerskating robot to the rescue” (video)

Researchers in Zurich are teaching a robot how to balance on wheels attached to its four legs.

The goal is to help it complete search and rescue missions and other tasks in less time.

(15) BOOM, JAMES BOOM. The volcano used in You Only Live Twice is throwing off ash, lava and rocks – but no rocket launch parts: “Mount Shinmoedake: Warning over Japan’s James Bond volcano”.

(16) PURPLE HAZE? When they’re done, they have an educated guess: “Alien atmospheres recreated on Earth”.

“Clouds and hazes determine the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and also how deep we can look into a planet’s atmosphere,” explained Dr Helling.

“Exoplanet clouds can be made of sparkling minerals, in addition to the photochemical hazes just produced in the lab.”

While clouds form from the continuous cycling of material, much like the hydrological cycle on Earth, the process of producing hazes is “more of a one way trip” according to Dr Hörst.

The solid particles then remain in the planet’s atmosphere, where they can scatter light and affect the surface temperature, or travel to the surface via precipitation.

(17) ROBOTS BEHAVING BADLY. CNN Money gives a video demonstration: “Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware”.

Ransomware is not only a threat on phones or computers. It’s coming for robots, too. Researchers at security firm IOActive successfully conducted a ransomware attack on a SoftBank Robotics robot

(18) MOVIE THEOLOGY. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein finds Coco opens the way for a decreasingly religious America to discuss the idea of an afterlife for loved ones: “How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death”.

There is little solid data on the wide range of beliefs Americans have about post-death existence and how those views are changing. Much of what there is has to do with the words “heaven” and “hell” — amorphous for many. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, and 58 percent in hell — numbers very slightly down since about a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

People who work with the dying say these beliefs are fluid.

“Death opens you up,” said Aram Haroutunian, a longtime hospital and hospice chaplain in Denver. “And death is the great unknown. People are more open. And especially at the very end, they are very open.”

Haroutunian said he doesn’t think hammering out theology around the afterlife is a particularly common priority for the dying. However, he said, a common experience among hospice workers is hearing people who are dying start to speak of the deceased — long-dead family or friends — in the present tense, “like they’ve been talking with them.” Metaphors about travel are extremely common, he said: I’m getting on a train, taking a bus ride, packing my bags. “It’s uncanny,” he added.

(19) PRODIGY. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy, to be released March 13, is available for pre-order at iTunes.

Prodigy follows Dr. Fonda, a psychologist with a mysterious new patient. After being searched and issued warnings, he is taken to a cell where he finds Ellie, a young girl strapped in a straitjacket. Ellie immediately begins dissecting Fonda, revealing her genius-level intellect. Fonda holds fast, only faltering when Ellie claims to have killed her own mother. The team observing this interaction suggest Ellie is more dangerous than Fonda knows. She possesses “gifts” they wish to analyze — a process which will result in Ellie’s death. With the execution scheduled for the next day, Fonda must alter his strategy. He engages Ellie in a battle of wits, which results in Ellie’s telekinetic “gifts” revealing themselves. Objects hover, furniture topples, the foundation of the building quakes, but Fonda continues chipping away at Ellie’s tough facade. His methods begin to win over the experts, but he will need drastic results to prove the monster they see is actually a child worth saving.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce Gillespie, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/18 Your Majesty Is Like A Scroll With Pixels On Top

(1) BOOK SMUGGLERS AT 10. Happy birthday to The Book Smugglers. They celebrated their tenth anniversary today:

Welcome to Smugglivus 2017: A Year In Review. Today, January 7, 2017, is our bloggoversary–and it’s a big one. Today we officially turn ten years old. To celebrate, we’re looking back at 2017 to document our year, as well as our top 10 moments since starting The Book Smugglers a decade ago.

A lot of interesting achievements and reminiscences in this post.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Myke Cole and Joseph Helmreich on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, New York).

Myke Cole

Myke Cole is the author of the military fantasy Shadow Ops series and its prequel trilogy, the Reawakening series, both from Ace/Roc. His Sacred Throne series is forthcoming from Tor.com in February. His first nonfiction (military history) book, will be out from Osprey in the fall. Myke appeared on CBS’ hit TV show Hunted, as part of a team of elite investigators tracking fugitives across the southeastern United States.

Joseph Helmreich

Joseph Helmreich has contributed writing to NewsweekNY Daily News, and Tor.com, and is author of the recent sf thriller, The Return (St. Martin’s Press, March 2017) about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship on live TV.  When not writing, Joe is a ventriloquist, illustrator, voice-over actor and member of alternative folk duo, Honeybrick. He lives in New York City and works in film distribution.

(3) SALAM AWARD. The 2018 jury for the Salam Award will be Elizabeth Hand , E. Lily Yu and Anil Menon. The award promotes imaginative fiction in Pakistan.

Last year’s winner was Firuza Pastakia for her story The Universe is a Conscientious Gardener.

(4) FANTASY MINIATURES. Dangerous Minds showcases some cute miniature models of Fauns, Jackalopes, Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, and Unicorns. Here’s Exhibit A:

Warning: Cuteness overload ahead

Silvia Minucelli is an engineer and freelance artisan who creates itsy-bitsy, ickle figurines using polymer clay and a toothpick—can you imagine how painstaking and difficult that must be? Minucelli produces and sells her delightful models under the name Mijbil Creatures—named after the famous otter in Gavin Maxwell’s book Ring of Bright Water.

(5) PKD ON TV. The New York Times’ Jonathan Ringer tells how “With ‘Electric Dreams,’ Philip K. Dick Gets the TV Anthology Treatment”.

…The actors attracted to the series included Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” (also one of the show’s executive producers), Steve Buscemi, Maura Tierney and the avant-R&B singer Janelle Monáe. And “Electric Dreams” attracted writers and directors like Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), Peter Horton (“American Odyssey,” “Thirtysomething”) and Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones”).

Dick’s daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, whose production company Electric Shepherd oversees adaptations of her father’s work, reached out in 2012 to Mr. Dinner, executive producer of FX’s “Justified,” and invited him to look at the short stories. “Michael really had the idea to do it as anthology,” said Mr. Moore, a friend of Mr. Dinner’s who was brought on soon after.

Mr. Dinner, who had a deal with Sony, also recruited Mr. Cranston, who, like the others, is a major Philip K. Dick fan. All four brought in people they’d worked with as well as reaching out to talent they admired. “I sent Janelle Monáe a letter and asked her if she’d want to be a part of it,” Ms. Hackett said. “I knew that she was a big fan of my dad’s.”

David Klaus sent these comments with the link:

There’s an irony in that Star Trek was sold as the first s.f. t.v. series unlike previous s.f. series which had all been anthology shows, to have continuing characters and standing sets, to reduce production costs.

It could also be said another of Robert Heinlein’s great gifts to science fiction was the typewriter he bought and gave to PKD so that he could earn his way out of being so broke he couldn’t pay a library overdue fine.

(6) BLATHER. The New York Times interviewed an expert about “How To Speak Gibberish”. And it wasn’t even a member of Congress.

… In 2014, Sara Maria Forsberg was a recent high-school graduate in Finland when she posted “What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners,” a video* of herself speaking gibberish versions of 15 languages and dialects. Incorporate actual phonology to make a realistic-sounding gibberish. “Expose yourself to lots of different languages,” says Forsberg, now 23, who grew up speaking Finnish, Swedish and English.

Assemble your raw linguistic materials. Shortly after her YouTube video went viral — it has since been watched more than 19 million times — Lucasfilm contacted Forsberg and asked her to make up a language for one of the alien fighter groups in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The actors were Indonesian, so Forsberg studied online videos in various Austronesian languages including Bahasa Indonesia and Sundanese, a language spoken in western Java. “Listen for repeated syllables,” she says. Write them down phonetically. Note the rhythm of the language. Look at the way a speaker’s lips and tongue give shape to his or her words. You don’t need to be a linguist to get an impression of real syntactic rules, which you can borrow. It helps to love listening to the singsong quality of people talking. For Forsberg, “it’s like music.”…

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

A friend was watching Queen of Outer Space with Zsa Zsa Gabor and noticed the title stuff did not appear until 17 minutes into the flick.

He then recalled that George Lucas was fined by the Directors Guild for not having the opening credits.  George paid the half million dollar fine and quit the Guild — see “How famous Star Wars title sequence survived imperial assaults” at The Conversation.

Star Wars creator George Lucas had to fight to maintain his vision of going straight into the story through the use of his rolling text sequence. He thought that opening credits were nothing to do with making a movie, seeing them as an example of the old-school posturing that he and his new Hollywood contemporaries had spurned. In this he could well have been inspired by George Mélies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), which is regarded as the first sci-fi film and avoided using any credits because the visual narrative was so strong.

Lucas did end up having to put the studio and Lucasfilm idents at the start of the reel, but he put his own directing and producing credits at the end of the film. He argued that credits would destroy the impact of the opening, and put them at the end of the film instead.

Lucas did the same thing for Empire Strikes Back in 1980, which was directed not by himself but by Irving Kershner. This time the Directors Guild of America objected, even though Kershner didn’t mind. The guild wanted the movie withdrawn from theatres, the opening re-titled with Kershner’s directing credit at a cost of US$500,000 (£1.4m today), and that Lucas pay a $25,000 fine.

Lucas was incensed and took the guild to court. When it countersued, he decided to pay the fine to avoid entangling Kershner in the dispute. It was a pyrrhic victory for the guild, however. Lucas resigned from both the writers’ and directors’ guilds and all future Star Wars opening titles were untouched and consistent with the original.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1929 — The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D. comic strip debuted. (The character’s first appearance was in a story published by Amazing Stories in 1928.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • January 7, 1934 – Flash Gordon. This has been long regarded as his “birthdate” because that was the day Alex Raymond’s strip was first published.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WOMBAT ON THE AIR. Information wants to be free —

(12) REMEMBERING THE GREAT RAY BRADBURY. Steve Vertlieb hopes you will read his piece for AmericanMusicPreservation.com, “A Ray Bradbury Remembrance (Film Music Review 14th Anniversary Special)”.

Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years. More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced hundreds of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years. Here, once more, is my loving remembrance of the life and world of Ray Bradbury, “I SING BRADBURY ELECTRIC.”

Steve’s article begins —

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction.

(13) KARMA. The house directly to the left of what was Ray Bradbury’s is listed on Air BnB and other sites as a party rental  You can even search for it by name, Cheviot Wonderland.

The large floor plan with gorgeous floor to ceiling windows overlooking the breathtaking pool area makes entertaining a breeze. With a state of the art chef’s kitchen and dining room that seats 10, tastefully dazzle your guests with a perfect setting for your dinner parties.

Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne razed Bradbury’s longtime Cheviot Hills home and built a place of his own design, which was finished in 2017.

(14) SIMULTANEITY PRINCIPLE. Andrew Porter points out there will be two conventions a few miles apart, same town, same weekend, July 27-29. Confluence is at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. And Pulpfest is at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. He says —

They’re about 8 miles apart, NW of downtown Pittsburgh. You’d think both conventions could do some sort of deal together. Maybe a shuttle between the two. I bet both sets of dealers would be happy with the exposure.

Also, judging from people’s Facebook posts, Confluence will be gaining some writers who have been trimmed from ReaderCon programming (another July convention).

(15) ANOTHER ADDICTIVE GAME. They say literally anybody can play: “China’s Most Popular Mobile Game Charges Into American Market”.

Chinese tech giant Tencent is trying to do something that’s never been done before: take the biggest online mobile game in China global.

Kings Of Glory, sometimes also translated as Honor Of Kings, boasts over 200 million monthly players worldwide. In China, it’s been reported that tens of millions play daily. The game is so popular that Tencent had to implement a daily time restriction for young players to “ensure children’s healthy development.”

(16) JUST IN TIME. The doctor will see you – right after he levels up. “Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO”.

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition “gaming disorder”.

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue….

(17) MORE TRIVIA. Mad Genius Club has 10 times more people who want to read JDA’s blog than we have here. At least. Didn’t we know that already?

(18) ROWLING SITES. The Washington Post’s Tom Shroder tells how to go about “Discovering the magic of Edinburgh” in a travel piece about his visit to the places where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in longhand, and a trip to Greyfriars Graveyard, whose tombs include Thomas Riddle (the real name of Lord Voldemort).

It was the first of what I came to think of as our Edinburgh Harry Potter moments — when the ordinary Muggle reality suddenly parted to reveal something magical. As it turned out, this wasn’t entirely fanciful thinking on my part. I only discovered later that J.K. Rowling herself said, in a 2008 speech accepting the Edinburgh Award, “Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafes.”

The city’s remarkably consistent buildings of mottled brown stone blocks, the most spectacular of them with sharply peaked roofs and ostentatious turrets, are clear inspiration for the architecture of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry. The tombstones in the fabulously gloomy Greyfriars Kirkyard in the oldest part of the city bear the names of some key Potter characters — McGonagall, Moodie and, most notably, Thomas Riddle, the birth name of Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Tourists flock to the cafes where the then-impoverished author wrote out her stories in longhand: the Elephant House, Nicholson’s (now called Spoon), the baroquely gorgeous Balmoral Hotel.

(19) ADDRESSER UNKNOWN. An anonymous piece at write.as summarizes Jon Del Arroz’ track record and concludes —

The most mind-boggling thing of all about Jon is, he insults and harasses people, then wonders why folks don’t want him around. If you call SFWA terrorists, insult women in science fiction related podcasts, insult people in the comic industry, call folks running fandom sites bigots, then openly admit you’re going to break a convention’s rules, why would you be surprised when people start banning you? You are your own worst enemy, Jon Del Arroz. I don’t believe you anymore.

(20) WHAT THOSE TINY HANDS ARE FOR. Thanks to ScienceFiction.com I discovered this artistic triumph — “Colorado Symphony Performs ‘Jurassic Park’ Theme Led By A T-Rex”.

Last March, Colorado Symphony conductor Christopher Dragon donned a T-rex costume to lead the ensemble in a performance of John Williams’ beloved ‘Jurassic Park’ theme song. The hilarious musical moment is getting its 15 minutes of fame after a video from the concert was posted to social media.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Steve Vertlieb, Chris Garcia, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/17 Pixel, It’s Scrolled Outside

(1) SOCIETY PAGE. Cat Valente and Heath Miller shared their news on Twitter. Jump onto the thread about the romantic proposal here —

Part of the announcement:

(2) A GOOD COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN. Deadline started with an Exclusive story, but now we all know — “Netflix Grabs Hold Of John Scalzi’s Sci-Fi Novel ‘Old Man’s War’ For Jon Shestack, Madhouse”.

Netflix has acquired John Scalzi’s modern sci-fi classic Old Man’s War to develop as an original film. The novel is the first in a bestselling six-book series and is considered to be one of the best of the genre over the past two decades, nominated for a Hugo Award. Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.

John Scalzi goes into a little more detail in his FAQ about the news: “Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix”.

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

(3) GODSTALKER. James Davis Nicoll brings you his list of “Twenty Core Works of Religious Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. Here are four examples –

  • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

(4) ROWLING CHALLENGED ON SUPPORT OF DEPP. Amy Zimmerman of The Daily Beast calls it “J.K. Rowling’s Cowardly Defense of Alleged Abuser Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”.

… In May 2016, actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, declaring at the time, “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me…I endured excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” In the wake of these explosive allegations, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote a piece titled “Amber Heard Says Johnny Depp Beat Her. It Will Ruin His Career. Just Kidding!”, in which he argued that Depp, like so many accused A-listers before him, was destined to emerge from this scandal professionally unscathed.

…On the one hand, Rowling has inarguably found herself in a difficult position, and it’s hard to watch as female creators are asked to answer for the alleged misconduct and immorality of their male collaborators. In her statement, Rowling acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Depp, and appears to have taken the pressure to potentially recast seriously. But, make no mistake: she is supporting and defending Johnny Depp. And, in doing so, she is calling his accuser’s testimony into question.

The most damning sentence here is when Rowling cites “our understanding of the circumstances” to justify the fact that she is “genuinely happy” with Depp’s starring role; it sounds like she’s implying that, if we knew what she knew, we would feel comfortable dismissing Heard’s story too. Rowling is, finally, saying “I believe you”—but the person she’s acknowledging in this scenario is Johnny Depp, not Amber Heard

Here is J.K. Rowling’s complete statement on “Grindelwald casting”:

When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.

The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.  Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’. I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.

(5) QUICK SIP SHORT FIC RECS. I think I missed Charles Payseur’s “Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List”, posted last month.

This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It’s the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There’s a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews.

(6) BLACK SF HONORED. The Root has named “The 16 Best Books of the Year by Black Authors”. Three of these books are of genre interest.

  • #1 — Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, which Amazon currently lists as the top-selling book in Magical Realism.
  • #4 — Akata Warrior by World Fantasy/Hugo/Nebula Award winner Nnedi Okorafor.
  • #9 — What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a debut short-story collection from an award-winning Nigerian-American writer whose short stories hit fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, and horror.

(7) THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD EQUATIONS. RedWombat mashes up a classic poem with a Hall of Fame story. The first tweet in response by Tim Chase is brilliant, too,

(8) JOIN THE VAMPIRE LODGE. An io9 exclusive! “Vampire Veronica Descends on Riverdale in a New Archie Horror Series”.

Between Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the recent addition of Jughead: The Hunger, Archie Comics’ horror imprint is flying higher than Sabrina’s broomstick ever thought possible. But there’s already another series coming to Archie Horror, and it’s got a bit of a bite to it….

Veronica Lodge, Riverdale’s socialite encounters a centuries-old creature of the night, who transforms her into a bloodthirsty vampire. Now she must descend on her unsuspecting hometown to quench her newfound hunger. Veronica now has to contend with this new transformation However, she is still the Veronica we all know and love.

(9) GULP FICTION. Fainting cloths have been in much demand since news broke that “Quentin Tarantino Might Direct a Star Trek Movie”io9 has the story.

Apparently Tarantino recently pitched an idea for a Trek movie to producer J.J. Abrams, who loved it, and they’ll soon begin to assembling a writer’s room to flesh it out. If everything falls into place, Tarantino could be interested in directing with Abrams producing.

This isn’t something that’ll be happening soon, though. Next up for the iconic director is his still-untitled 1969-set movie, which Sony Pictures just picked up. That already has a release date of August 9, 2019, so there’s no doubt that’s next for him. That leaves almost two years of time for a script to get written that could woo Tarantino into doing several things he’s never done before.

He’s never directed a feature he didn’t write. He’s never done a scifi film. He’s never done a major franchise film.

(10) EARLY BIRDS. Worldcon 76 and Dublin 2019 announced their Retro Hugo plans a few days ago and the Hugo Awards Book Club wasted no time coming up with the first set of recommendations: “Retro Hugos 1943: Novels”

It was with no small degree of excitement that we greeted the news that there would be Retro Hugo awards presented at next summer’s Worldcon. Just on principle, we love Retro Hugos, and will take any opportunity to do a deep dive into the science fiction published in a particular year. The Hugo year of 1943 (which would cover works published in 1942) has some excellent novels to choose from. We will explore other fiction categories for these awards in later posts.

Legendary science fiction pioneer Olaf Stapledon has never been nominated for a Hugo

Award in any category. The author of Last and First Men, Star Maker, and Odd John had published most of his major works prior to the first Worldcon, so even with Retro Hugos, there hasn’t been much opportunity to honour his works with the genre’s top award. Although Darkness And The Light is not one of his most well-remembered works, and although it has some flaws, it is still one that should be considered for the award.

(11) CRIDER IN HOSPICE. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” has entered hospice care. He signed off from his blog saying –

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog. I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care. A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left. The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block’ fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins’ latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and “The Last Stand,” the last thing that Spillane completed. It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.*

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1972 — The crew of Apollo 17, while on their way to the Moon, took a photo of Earth from about 28,000 miles.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 7, 1915 — Leigh Brackett, well-known sf author and screenwriter. George Lucas hired Brackett to write the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which she completed shortly before she died in March of 1978.

(14) ALL BRADBURY. Courtesy of Cora Buhlert, here’s a brief clip from a German cultural TV program  presenting a new illustrated German edition of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. (Video.)

(15) THE GOLD RUSH IS OVER. In “Business Musings: Sustainability”, Kristine Katherine Rusch argues that the market for independently published books has “matured” and that authors should expect much slower growth and lower incomes from here on.

I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

What does that mean, exactly?

In business, markets respond to things in similar ways, whether we’re talking markets for shoes or markets for books.

When something is new, everyone wants it. When something is new, the growth is usually exponential. We see that in all kinds of new markets over the years, from desktop computers twenty-five years ago to smart phones ten years ago. There’s always something cool, and consumers flock to it, sometimes in very large numbers.

In publishing, we went through a shift, from traditional only to anyone-can-do-it indie, because of the rise of the neat-o ereader, the Kindle, from Amazon, which gave that ereader a platform and an ecosystem.

Year to year, the number of people who joined the new ecosystem was huge. Other players created viable ereaders and ebook ecosystems. You didn’t just have to use Amazon to publish a book. You could do it on other platforms.

(16) SEVENTIES SF RARITY. The British Film Institute tells “How lost British TV sci-fi Thwum was rediscovered”.

On 16 December 2017, BFI Southbank is offering the first opportunity for over 40 years to see Thwum, a sci-fi-themed 1970s rarity that had long been thought lost forever – and Pete Postlethwaite’s first TV appearance with it.

At the time of Thwum’s broadcast in 1975, it was still common practice for TV companies to wipe much of their output, meaning that many television programmes from the era are now sadly missing. Since 1993, it’s been the mission of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative to track down and screen material long AWOL from the official TV archives. Finds over the years have included material from television programmes such as The Avengers, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad’s Army, Armchair Theatre and Top of the Pops.

The case of Thwum provides an interesting example of how missing UK TV material can be recovered….

(17) THE KING IS DEAD. Google’s general-purpose AI beats chess specialist: “Google’s ‘superhuman’ DeepMind AI claims chess crown”. It won or drew 100 games 4 hours after being given the rules of chess.

Even so, one human chess grandmaster was still hugely impressed by DeepMind’s victory.

“I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they played chess,” Peter Heine Nielsen told the BBC.

“Now I know.”

(18) WHERE YOUR PIZZA DELIVERS ITSELF. There are limits: “San Francisco to restrict goods delivery robots”.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children.

Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban.

A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods.

They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes.

(19) ON A HOLE FAR AWAY. BBC tells where “Farthest monster black hole found”.

The matter-munching sinkhole is a whopping 13 billion light-years away, so far that we see it as it was a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang.

But at about 800 million times the mass of our Sun, it managed to grow to a surprisingly large size in just a short time after the origin of the Universe.

The find is described in the journal Nature.

The newly discovered black hole is busily devouring material at the centre of a galaxy – marking it out as a so-called quasar.

(20) PETRIFEYED. They say it may not be possible to find one any earlier: “Researchers find ‘oldest ever eye’ in fossil”.

An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

(21) FTFY. They’re not riotously funny, though some are clever or wonderfully bitter: “These Parody Book Covers Of Famous Classics Will Make Any True Literary Nerd Laugh Out Loud”. Here’s a sample:

(22) SHOULD THAT BE PETREON? Another Patreon critic heard from.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Paul Weimer, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Greg Hullender, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, Chip Hitchccock, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

AudioFile’s Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks of 2017

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2017 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks. They are listed here with links to the AudioFile reviews and, for some, a sample sound clip. (To see the winners in all the other categories, page through the AudioFile 2017 Best Audiobooks ezine.)

2017 Best of SCI-FI, FANTASY & HORROR Audiobooks

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden, read by Kathleen Gati

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM by J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander, read by Eddie Redmayne

GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX by Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, read by Maggie Siff

IT DEVOURS! by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, read by Cecil Baldwin

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King, Owen King, read by Marin Ireland

THE STONE SKY by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles

STRANGE WEATHER by Joe Hill, read by Wil Wheaton, Dennis Boutsikaris, Kate Mulgrew, Stephen Lang

MARVEL: THANOS by Stuart Moore, read by Richard Rohan and a Full Cast

UNIVERSAL HARVESTER by John Darnielle, read by John Darnielle

Exclusive Narrator Video

  • Robin Miles, narrator of THE STONE SKY

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/17 A Long Scroll To A Small Angry Pixel

(1) ASKING FOR A MULLIGAN. The Hugo Award Book Club casts aspersions on a 2001 winner in “Harry Potter and the Undeserved Hugo”.

If Hugo Award voters had the prescience to have recognized (via award or nomination) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1998, perhaps it would be more forgivable. But looking at the situation with 15 years of hindsight, it feels like the Hugos were just bandwagon jumping on an established series that was already extraordinarily popular.

It seems to me that honouring the book with a Hugo Award did nothing to help it find new readers, and this feels like an abdication of what the award should be about.

(2) SOUND THE HORN. Since being chastised for misspelling Froot Loops, John King Tarpinian has been doing penitential research about the cereal. Those of you who were saying you can’t get unicorn burgers may want to know you can get unicorn breakfast cereal, for a limited time — “Unicorn Froot Loops Are Now Enchanting Store Shelves”.

Kellogg’s is giving early mornings a major dose of magic. According to Delish, the cereal giant is remixing its fan-favorite Froot Loops with a very 2017 makeover: unicorn.

Almost unrecognizable without Toucan Sam, eagle-eyed shoppers are sure to get pulled in by the rainbows, stars, and a very cute unicorn. The limited-edition cereal comes with new packaging that features the as-yet-unnamed animated unicorn complete with a requisite rainbow mane, but the real magic is inside the box.

While standard Froot Loops are already a Technicolor addition to any breakfast, the unicorn version is a little more subdued, but ups the ante when it comes to trendy hues.

(3) SPEAKING UP. Neil Gaiman voiced a character on The Simpsons on Sunday – a Coraline parody was part of the latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

A.V. Club reviewed the overall effort: “The Simpsons walks us through a visually ambitious but forgettable Treehouse Of Horror”.

The 28th “Treehouse Of Horror” carries on the venerable Simpsons institution by, as ever, tossing a whole lot of stuff at the screen and seeing what sticks. To that end, this year’s outing gives us: An Exorcist parody, a Coraline parody, Homer eating human flesh (just his own, but still), stop-motion segments, horror and fantasy-specific guest stars, a little light Fox standards-pushing (Homer does, as stated, eat human flesh), and the usual string of hit-or-miss gags. That last part isn’t really a criticism in itself. Freed up from the need to calibrate the heart-yucks equation, a “Treehouse Of Horror” rises or falls on the strength of its jokes, although the annual Halloween anthology provides its own unique degree of difficulty.

(4) ON THE CANVAS. Walter Jon Williams does a draft cover reveal for the next book in the Praxis Series. He has been making a heroic effort to complete it but  the book isn’t cooperating, as he says in “Punch Drunk”.

I haven’t been posting for several days, because I’ve been trying to finish  The Accidental War, which (according to the publisher) is Book IV of the Praxis series, but which (according to me alone, apparently) is Book VI, because I count Impersonations and Investments, and they don’t.

See?  It even has a cover!  Though this may not be the actual cover when it’s released, at the moment it’s just sort of a cover suggestion the art department is playing with.

Wow!  Sure looks like MilSF, doesn’t it?

(5) PENRIC. And at Goodreads, Lois McMaster Bujold has shared “The Prisoner of Limnos cover sneak peek” with art by Ron Miller.

So, as promised, here is the e-cover of the new Penric & Desdemona novella. It will be #6 in the current internal chronology (and publishing order.)

The vendor-page copy will read:

“In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.

“Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.”

(6) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Adweek tells how “A Baby Dragon Brings the Heat for Doritos on Twitter”.

You don’t have to be a Targaryen to know the value of a baby dragon.

When Doritos U.K. released a limited edition of extra-hot tortilla chips called Heatburst this past spring, it became part of the conversation on Twitter by creating its own “celebrity”—a comical, fire-breathing baby dragon—to represent the new flavor.

As described in the video below, the Heatburst campaign, with the hashtags #HeatWillCome and #BabyDragon, centered on the dragon character. It launched with a series of quirky videos where the baby dragon innocently ignited virtually everything around him. As awareness for the product grew, the baby dragon became a Twitter character in his own right, inserting himself into pop-culture moments and current events to keep the brand top of mind. Doritos U.K. did this using a full-range of Twitter formats, including branded emojis, GIFs, and conversational videos.

(7) CONTINUED WEINSTEIN AFTERMATH. The Hollywood Reporter says female animators sent a letter to executives at major animation studios insisting on an end of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Among the 217 women and gender-nonconforming people who signed the letter are Netflix’s head of kids programming Jenna Boyd, Bob’s Burgers producer and writer Wendy Molyneax, Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and Danger & Eggs co-creator Shadi Petosky, as well as animators of BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls.

The full text of the letter is at The Wrap (“Women Animators Pen Open Letter on Sexual Harassment: ‘This Abuse Has Got to Stop’”.) The demands include:

  1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
  2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
  3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

(8) MAKING LIGHT. Overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis is Galactic Journey’s review of the November 1962 Fantastic.

It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors.  We laugh to keep from screaming.  As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors….

It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.

(9) YESTERDAY’S DAY

(10) THE MALL’S OUR DESTINATION. At Pornokitsch, Jared takes us shopping: “Malls, Mallrats and Browsing”.

Doug Stephens wrote a powerful piece on how ‘to save retail, let it die’. In it, he lists all the ways in which retail is doomed (hi, Amazon!) on his way to a, more-or-less, familiar conclusion: retail spaces need to become experiences.

Stephens posits that the future retail spaces aren’t about buying products at all, but about:

  1. gathering data
  2. selling experiences that involve the products

Imagine, I suppose, the LEGO store, but solely with the build-your-own minifig display. And lots of covert measurement over which pieces everyone uses… (Ok, this must happen already, but still. Imagine!)

Then, presumably, we all go home and receive Snapchats telling us that a new set of our favourite LEGO can be purchased, right now. Just wink acceptance, and your facial recognition purchasing programme will do the rest. Then, when you lose a piece, you shout at Alexa, and the replacement follows. Whatever. That sort of thing. All beside the point.

(11) LOU ANDERS. Variety includes Lou Anders’ good news in “‘Dark Matter’ EP Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne”.

Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.

(12) INDIE FOCUS. The inaugural issue IndiePicks Magazine is now on the street.  You can read an electronic copy via their website.  Subscriptions to the electronic and paper versions are also available.

Their sff reviewers appear to be Alan Keep and Megan McArdle.  Their horror reviewer is Becky Spratford.  And their YA reviewer is Magan Szwarek.

(13) EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC. NPR on the creator of the Doctor Who theme: “Forebears: Delia Derbyshire, Electronic Music’s Forgotten Pioneer”.

All that changed in 1960 when she went to work at the BBC as a studio manager. She soon became enamored of the Radiophonic Workshop, a division of the media conglomerate dedicated to electronic experimentation. The invention of tape recording in the 1950s allowed sounds to be manipulated in entirely new ways; in a time when radio dramas ruled popular entertainment, the Workshop was a creative — and coveted — place of employment. In 1962, Derbyshire was assigned a position at the workshop, where she’d work for over a decade, becoming a sound specialist and a leading voice in musical counterculture: The weirder her soundscapes became, the more wondrous they felt. She created music for the world’s first fashion show with an electronic soundtrack (and considering the commonality of techno/dance music on the runway, she left a legacy in that field, too). She organized robotic noise in a way that felt truly alien, shocking sounds whole decades ahead of this music’s time.

(14) GUARD YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM. Max Florschutz issues a warning in “Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir” at Unusual Things.

They adjust the story that they’re telling so that it is no longer aimed at the general audience, but at those who already buy into it. And that means changing the presentation.

For example, say someone writes a story that is going to preach to the choir with regards to one of the US’s political parties (which happens a lot, unsurprisingly). Writing a story that appeals to the group already supporting that party is going to result in a different story than one written to a general audience. A story that was written for a general audience on the topic would need to, for starters, approach all of its topics from a neutral starting point, as it would need to assume that those approaching the work didn’t share or even know of the authors ideas and views. It would then need to examine the ideals it wanted to present from a variety of points, answering the reader’s questions and concerns—which could be fairly vast—as it attempted to explain the stance of the author. It would also need to do so while maintaining a level voice and giving the various viewpoints a fair shake.

But if we compare that to a title written for an audience that wants to be preached too, most of that will disappear. For example, that audience does not want to start from a neutral point. They’ve already left that ground. They want a position already ensconced in their stance. Nor do they want to examine their own beliefs from a variety of angles—that can raise uncomfortable questions and truths that they’d rather not deal with—so each angle approached must be designed to reinforce that safe space they’ve already built for themselves by making sure that all other ideas, themes, etc, are wrong. It also can’t have a level voice nor give equal treatment to other views; after all, those views are wrong. Lastly, to preach to the choir, the work needs to reinforce the idea that the audience is safe where it is, that they have made the right or smart decision by believing what they believe.

And the truth is, creating this kind of work is extraordinarily popular. Everywhere. Because there’s a guaranteed audience as long as the “choir” exists. Michael Moore films, for example? One-hundred percent preaching to the choir. Baptist-ploitation films like God’s Not Dead? Also preaching to the choir. And many, many others—crud, you readers along could probably fill the comments with thousands of works from all sides of any spectrum or idea that preach to the choir. It works because it appeals to a set audience that wants to be told that they’re right, to be reinforced without thinking critically (or in some cases, by being giving a thought that sounds critical, but actually isn’t). And that audience? They eat this kind of pandering up.

… So, with that said—specifically the bit about a quick buck—why wouldn’t you want to preach to the choir? Why not go for it?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Once you do, it’s hard to go back. Once you’ve started writing stories that support that little “safe zone,” you’ve effectively shackled yourself to it and to that audience. That audience is going to want more of the same, and if you don’t deliver it, they will become unhappy.

(15) I’M NOT OKAY, YOU’RE NOT OKAY. Douglas Smith spends the first four paragraphs of “On Writing of a Different Culture” at the SFWA Blog apologizing for world history before getting to the point:

So, yes, I was a tad paranoid of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Let me first explain why I was drawn to Cree and Ojibwe culture for The Wolf at the End of the World.

If you think you’re doing something wrong, wouldn’t it be better to not do it? If you haven’t done something wrong, why are you apologizing?

(16) JOE HILL. Lisa Taylor reviews “Strange Weather by Joe Hill” for The Speculative Herald.

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied.

(17) PERSONAL BEST. Here’s a record that will appear with an asterix next to it.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/17 As You From Scrolls Would Pixel’d Be, Let Your Fandom Bring Forth Glee

(1) SUPPORT WANTED. Jim Barker, Rotsler Award-winning fanartist (and 1979 Hugo nominee), is looking for financial support while he deals with health problems. He hasn’t set up a crowdfunding appeal, but you can reach out to him at the email address shown in the illustration below.

My apologies for the continued absence of the Monday Cartoon. As I said last time, I am Not Well. I have had a problem with my liver for a couple of years now and it’s finally got to the point that I need a liver transplant and I need to go into hospital for tests at the beginning of November, just to find out how suitable I am.

The Problem is that it’s been a very slow couple of months and I simply can’t afford to be out of action for the five days needed for the tests. So while I hate the idea of going round with a begging bowl,I’m asking if you could possibly help out financially. Please contact me if you feel you can. Thank you.

(2) DEEP THOUGHT. The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Nicas reports “How Google’s Quantum Computer Could Change the World”. [Behind a paywall.]

Hartmut Neven believes in parallel universes. On a recent morning outside Google’s Los Angeles office, the 53-year-old computer scientist was lecturing me on how quantum mechanics—the physics of atoms and particles—backs the theory of a so-called multiverse. Neven points to the tape recorder between us. What we’re seeing is only one of the device’s “classical configurations,” he says. “But somewhere, not perceived by us right now, there are other versions.”

David Klaus sent the link with a note:

This much computational ability will finally give us fusion power, F-T-L travel, and the stars. I knew about the idea of parallel universes in 1963 when I was 8, because of The Flash.  Heinlein wrote about them (first?), Niven wrote about them, Robert Anton Wilson wrote about them, but there should be statues of Gardner Fox and Jerome Bixby, because if Fox hadn’t created the DC Multiverse and Bixby hadn’t written “Mirror, Mirror” to soak the idea into the popular culture and triggered the minds of the best and the brightest to pursue this, it wouldn’t have happened. In this universe, anyway.

(3) FOR EXAMPLE. Learning from scratch: “Computer Learns To Play Go At Superhuman Levels ‘Without Human Knowledge'”, defeats program that beat world champion:

“In a short space of time, AlphaGo Zero has understood all of the Go knowledge that has been accumulated by humans over thousands of years of playing,” lead researcher David Silver of Google’s DeepMind lab said in remarks on YouTube. “Sometimes it’s actually chosen to go beyond that and discovered something that the humans hadn’t even discovered in this time period.”

(4) NEW AWARD FOR WHITEHEAD. The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown reports “‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead wins 2017 Hurston/Wright award for fiction”, an award given by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Literary Foundation for significant books by African-Americans.

His award was among those presented Friday by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which was founded in Washington in 1990 with a mission to ensure the survival of black writers and their literature.

Whitehead’s attention to the pain of slavery and “the current state of race in this country is unprecedented,” the judges said. The novel, which was a New York Times bestseller, “confirms Whitehead’s place in the African American canon” of great authors.

The Washington Plaza hotel in Northwest Washington was bustling Friday with literary stars, publishing icons, writers, poets, editors and essayists. More than 200 people attended the annual gala, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who won the Ella Baker Award that honors writers and arts activists who advance social justice. Lewis said he was honored to receive the award named after Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist who helped organize the Freedom Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

(5) BORDERLANDS SEEKS PERMANENT HOME. Shelf Awareness reports that the bookstore that needed a crowdfunded incentive to stay in business is now thinking long-term: “Borderlands Seeks $1.9 Million to Buy Building”.

Borderlands, the San Francisco, Calif., science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore that nearly closed two and a half years ago, has made an offer to buy a building and has launched a campaign to raise $1.9 million in loans from customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. After eight days, Borderlands has raised $500,000 and another $300,000 “is pending.”

In 2015, owner Alan Beatts had planned to close the store, but after customers rallied in support, Borderlands created a sponsorship program; the $100 annual membership includes a range of benefits. The store has a minimum of 300 sponsors.

There is no rush to move: Borderlands still has three years left on its current bookstore lease and eight years on its café lease.

In a blog post last week, Beatts wrote in part, “The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business. Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died. But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession….”

(6) MYSTERY SOLVED. “Not broccoli,” says that sleuth of sustenance, John King Tarpinian, who can tell you what these really taste like:

I bought a mystery box for a friend who likes Oreos.  We all tasted one and it was a generally agreed, they tasted like stale Fruit Loops.  And I have never eaten Fruit Loops.

We even offered one to the waiter.  He had already had one on his own and without our prodding came up with Fruit Loops as his answer.

(7) FROM ROWLING TO REALITY. “Secretly wish you could be invisible? Science is getting close”Quartz discusses five methods for turning invisible, ranked by the inventor of a real-life invisibility cloak.

  1. Cloaking

The idea of making something invisible by bending light is so captivating that, despite the obstacles, scientists continue their attempts to create the effect. And that includes me.

Our group at Duke University, in collaboration with theoretical physicist Sir John Pendry, suggested and later demonstrated one method using a special type of material called a “metamaterial.” Metamaterials are human-made materials with little circuit-like elements—conducting rings and wires, for example—that mimic the properties of atoms and molecules of conventional materials.

Rather than physically warping space, we can use the idea of warping space to find a recipe for a material that will have the same effect. In this way, we can design an invisibility cloak just by picturing the way we would like waves to circulate around the cloaked object. This is a technique called “transformation optics.”

Light—or, in the case of our experiment, microwaves—are redirected in a metamaterial cloak, appearing to bend or flow around the cloaked object. They are then restored on the other side as if they had passed through empty space. The metamaterial cloak is a real device that forces light to flow exactly as it might around a cloaked Romulan ship, which means this type of invisibility device is plausible.

(8) INTRODUCTION TO A NIGHTMARE. Parade’s Samuel R. Murrian, in “Netflix’s Stranger Things Serves Up Thrills and Chills in Season Two “, tells how co-creator Matt Duffer was told the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street by his babysitter when he was four.

“My babysitter in preschool told me the story of Freddy Krueger,” says Matt. “I was 4 years old! From then on, I just knew I had to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. When we were young, we knew we weren’t supposed to be watching horror movies. That made the appeal of them so strong.

“It’s like forbidden fruit. You just want to taste it. I remember wandering into the horror section of the video store and just staring at the covers of these movies, feeling desperate to know what it was.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 22, 2134 B.C. – The earliest recorded solar eclipse took China by surprise:

In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

  • October 22, 2006 Torchwood premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 22, 1938 – Christopher “Dr. Emmet Brown” Lloyd
  • Born October 22, 1952 – Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in Buckaroo Banzai, Jurassic Park and The Fly.

(11) COMICS SECTION

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. Meantime, let the New York Post tell you where the skeletons are buried in Gotham: “The most infamous times Marvel and DC ripped each other off”.

Wonder Man vs. Wonder Woman In a 1964 issue of “The Avengers,” Marvel introduced Wonder Man. DC was not amused, feeling that the new hero sounded too much like its own Wonder Woman. So Marvel honcho Stan Lee agreed to kill him off.

Twelve years later, DC debuted a new female superhero named Power Girl — despite Marvel having introduced Power Man in 1972. Lee felt that DC was perpetrating a double standard and, in a payback bid, decided to resurrect Wonder Man. The hero joined the Avengers in 1977 and is still a major part of the Marvel print universe to this day. Although he’s never appeared in an Avengers film, actor Nathan Fillion did film a cameo as Wonder Man for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” that got cut in the end.

(13) DEADLY PLAZA. This will be handy for me – I’ll head in the other direction: “The Most Haunted Places in Los Angeles”. (Well, I say that, but for five years I worked a block away from the first place on their list….)

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Supernatural spirits abound where the city of L.A. started: at El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its immediate surrounding area. Because this area was essentially the original town square before moving a few blocks west, it was also the town gallows and the site of public hangings and their hanging trees. Some of them occurred directly in front of City Hall, which seems bedeviled by a ghost or two. Security cameras often pick up an image of someone walking around locked offices at night, but when guards go to investigate, they find nothing. When they return to their night shift station, they frequently hear footsteps following them.

Los Angeles was once a dangerous, violent place to live, filled with gunfire and murder. The lawless and the pious were forced to coexist in the establishment of a new sprawling metropolis. At El Pueblo, early adobes were torn down, and the remains of more than 100 people were improperly excavated and relocated from the first cemetery at El Pueblo, next to La Placita church. The area where Union Station now stands, and directly adjacent to it, was not only the site of Old Chinatown but also the infamous and horrific Chinese Massacre of 1871, the largest mass lynching in American history. For a more lighthearted encounter, take your French Dip to one of the upstairs dining rooms at Philippe The Original, where the ladies of the former bordello are said to linger.

(14) HELP ME HONDA. The co-creator of Godzilla unjustly labored in obscurity. The SyFy Wire tries to remedy that in ”7 revelations about the co-creator of Godzilla”.

Despite his status as one of the most commercially successful Japanese film directors of his day, Ishiro Honda has been somewhat neglected when it comes to discussion within critical circles. His science-fiction classics — which include Godzilla (1954), Rodan (1956), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and The War of the Gargantuas (1966) — have reached and dazzled audiences all over the world; and yet his name has only on occasion appeared in serious film studies. But now, from noted kaiju eiga historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski comes the biography Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa.

(15) IRISH EYES. Marcin Klak of Fandom Rover chronicles his adventures at “Octocon 2017 – the Irish National SF convention”.

Golden Blasters – the Octocon’s short film festival

There were four “major” events happening during Octocon. The first and the last ones were very modest opening and closing ceremonies, which lasted for a short time. They were serving a rather informative purpose and didn’t include any performances. On Saturday night there was an Octocon’s Monster Ball. I was able to stay only at the beginning, but it started with some music and dancing. I am not sure how long it lasted. The last one of the major events I participated in was the Golden Blasters film festival.

(16) FUSE LIGHTER. WIRED touches base with Ellison biographer Nat Segaloff in “Harlan Ellison Is Sci-Fi’s Most Controversial Figure”.

Harlan Ellison is the enormously talented author of many classic stories, essays, and scripts that helped transform science fiction, but his long history of inappropriate behavior has also made him one of the field’s most controversial figures. Author Nat Segaloff tried to capture both sides of Ellison in his new biography A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

“Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t like Harlan,” Segaloff says in Episode 278 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “and I wanted to try to get to as many of those people as possible to make a rounded interview.”

(17) LIGO LEVERAGE. NPR tells how “A New Era For Astronomy Has Begun”.

With this kind of precision, astrophysicists will learn more about the size, mass, spin, and internal properties of neutron stars, one of the most exotic forms of matter in the universe. They will also find out whether the final product of the merger is a big neutron star or a black hole, and gain a better idea of how many of such pairs (binaries) exist out there. As a bonus, they will be able to test the properties of gravity at extreme events, and measure different properties of the universe, including how fast it is expanding.

But the truly remarkable discovery, confirming what astrophysicists had predicted years back, is that such violent impacts, which eject something close to 2 percent of the stars’ mass at high speeds, produce loads of chemical elements heavier than iron, including gold, platinum, and heavy radioactive atoms. The collision creates a dense disk of protons and neutrons that circle the remains of the stars; the particles quickly combine into heavy atoms as the cloud grows and cools.

In a million years, the cloud will spread across the whole galaxy, seeding stars and their solar systems with heavy elements. Quite possibly, the gold in your ring or inside your cell phone came from such collisions in the distant past.

(Follow-up to “Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars”.)

(18) LESS SPLAT PER SCAT. ‘Windshield index’ falls: “Alarm over decline in flying insects”.

It’s known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

And the causes are unknown.

(19) AWWWW. See Mauricio Abril‘s sweet painting of Carrie Fisher in character as Princess Leia on Facebook.

I started this piece back in January after learning of Carrie Fisher’s passing but never got around to finishing it until recently. In honor of her birthday today here’s my tribute to the unforgettable woman who’ll continue to inspire generation after generation of little Leias.

(20) ROWLING PAPERS ON DISPLAY. The Guardian says, “Swearing, scrapped characters, editors’ notes – JK Rowling’s exhibits are a treasure trove for fans of Hogwarts.” — “Wizard! The magic of Harry Potter at the British Library”.

While some authors would baulk at showing anyone, let alone hundreds of thousands of museum visitors, their “process”, Rowling is entirely unafraid of sharing even her ropiest Potter ideas in public. She does so at talks, on Twitter and on a website, Pottermore, where she publishes all her unexplored, unfinished plots for a starry-eyed audience. Dumbledore is gay! Harry’s grandfather made hair products! Lupin and Tonks got married in a pub in Scotland! Even for a fan, it is easy to feel suspicious of this seemingly endless post-Potter expansion. There is no hidden significance or justifying quality in Rowling’s titbits that explains their publication. No, we now know Harry’s transfiguration teacher Professor McGonagall had two brothers and a husband who died because Rowling and her publishers believe our appetite for Potter is insatiable – and on that, they’re probably right. What luck then, that Rowling has always written with pen on paper and has produced such a treasure trove, and how lucky too that revealing her failed or abandoned ideas is not an embarrassment to her, even when cushioned by such success.

…Harry Potter, a Journey Through the History of Magic, is at the British Library, London NW1, until 28 February, and the New York Historical Society from October 2018. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on BBC2, on 28 October.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/26/17 I’ve Been To Arrakis On A Sandworm With Two Names Twice

(1) NO, IT AIN’T COOL. Indiewire reports “Harry Knowles Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Austin Woman Two Decades Ago, and Drafthouse Owners Didn’t Take Action”.

An Austin-area woman said Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles sexually assaulted her at an Alamo Drafthouse event — but the reason she’s speaking out now is she believes change is coming.

“Harry Knowles groped me, opportunistically, on more than one occasion,” said Jasmine Baker. “I cannot just stay silent. I am not interested in remaining silent.”

The specifics are described at the link. Knowles denied the accusations.

Alamo Drafthouse has severed ties with Harry Knowles, who had a business relationship with the owners, and had cofounded a convention with them.

As a result of the charges, several Ain’t It Cool News staffers have left — Eric “Quint” Vespe, Steve “Capone” Prokopy, and “Horrorella.”

(2) WRITING ABOUT HEINLEIN. Farah Mendlesohn answers some pointed questions about her forthcoming Heinlein book in “Q&A with Ken MacLeod”.

KMM: Heinlein is a hero to and an influence on the ‘right’ of the SF field. I remember many years ago being surprised to hear you being enthusiastic about Heinlein, and I probably asked you something like this: As a feminist of the left, why do you find Heinlein so intriguing?

FJM: Heinlein has always been a hero to parts of the left as well, particularly to the anarcho-left of which I am, loosely, a part both as a feminist and because I’m a Quaker (Quakers invented anarchist decision practice, and it’s interesting that anti-pacifist Heinlein has a soft spot for them). But to return to the question: at the age of 12-20 it was because he was pretty much the only male sf writer writing women who had jobs, adventures, access to engineering jobs, and who got to be spies and ornery grandmas, and be liked by men who weren’t as smart as they. Believe me, when you are a smart girl in school, that’s pretty reassuring. In my late teens and twenties I started to get annoyed with the requirement to be “sexy” but attracted to the arguments about consent; frustrated with the performativity of the romances, and irritated by everyone wanting babies but attracted to the arguments about the different ways to construct families. This time round I’ve been fascinated by the way it’s clear that Heinlein knows what his women are up against; I’ve ended up with very different readings of Podkayne, Friday and Maureen (To Sail Beyond the Sunset) in which all three of them become resisters of other people’s narrative of them.

The crowdfunding appeal has reached 80% of its goal as of today.

(3) HEINLEIN COLLECTIBLES. Keith Kato, President of The Heinlein Society, announces: “Ensign’s Prize Offer now open to Non-Members!” Keith explains —

The “Ensign’s Prize” are multiple titles of pirated Heinlein works that Ginny Heinlein won in a lawsuit.  She donated them to The Heinlein Society for fund-raising.  Until now we have limited sales only to THS members, but as you can see in the link, purchases are now open to anyone while supplies last.  There are different numbers of remaining copies of the various titles, and being a pirated version, the quality is what it is (though surprisingly not bad).

More info at the Society website:

There are some rare editions here to add to your collection. A prime example is the only known hardcover edition of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long with lettering by D.F. Vassallo.

The numbers of available individual copies varies by book with no individual copies of Methuselah’s Children. Only a handful of individual copies of Stranger in a Strange Land (5) are available. All individual copies will be offered for a suggested donation of $60 each except for The Notebooks of Lazarus Long which is offered for a suggested donation of $75 each with shipping & insurance on single books at $6.00 in the US. Overseas shipping will be determined at time of donation.

These books/sets are used as a fundraiser to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to paying it forward. Proceeds from these books/sets will be used to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society such as the scholarship program and Heinlein For Heroes.

This link will take you to a page where you can read a description of the books being offered and then click the “Details” link at the bottom of the page to be directed to the ordering site.

(4) BONES OF THE EARTH. “’Biggest Dinosaur Ever’ Discovered in Argentina”GeologyIn has the story.

New Species of Dinosaur Is the Largest Land Animal to Ever Walk the Earth

One hundred million years ago, a colossal creature the size of a 737 thundered through the forests of South America, picking trees clean with its head extended five stories in the air and sending ferocious T. rex-like therapods scattering like mice below its trunk-sized legs. It’s the largest dinosaur ever found — a titanosaur so huge that its skeleton can’t even fit into a single room in its home at the American Museum of Natural History. Scientists this week unveiled their first study on the ancient beast alongside its new, official name, ­Patagotitan mayorum, or, The Giant from Patagonia. Astoundingly, the Big Apple’s biggest resident wasn’t even fully grown when it died (scientists don’t know if it was male or female) — and an even more whopping cousin could be waiting to be uncovered, experts said Wednesday. “This animal [hadn’t] stopped growing at the time of death,” said Diego Pol, an Argentina paleontologist who helped dig it up.

…The scientists reproduced the skeleton in 3-D models, but the specimen was too large to fit in any local museum, Pol said, so they sent a fiberglass cast to New York last year. It has been welcoming visitors to the museum’s dinosaur floor ever since — literally, because its massive skull extends all the way out into the elevator bay. “[It’s] probably one of the world’s great selfie spots,” said John Flynn, the museum’s curator of fossil mammals.

(5) A VACUUM CLOSER THAN SPACE. “Australia commits to establish space agency with no budget, plan, name, deadline …” says The Register.

Mission plan: retrieve lost votes from deep within black hole of democratic disillusionment…

Cash’s statement says the agency “will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement”, but there’s no detail on the agency’s name, budget, start date or anything else that would tell us what it will actually do. The fact that its future existence was first revealed to media in the city of Adelaide suggests one mission: help revive the city’s economy, which has struggled since auto-makers left in recent years (along with many votes for the governing Liberal Party).

(6) MAKE YOURSELF A GIBSON. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I finished Conversations With William Gibson and learned about this story, which was new to me.  This is from an episode of the Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley, who interviewed William Gibson in 2012.  This probably took place in the early 1990s.

GEEK’S GUIDE:  So when I first started going to science fiction conventions, I heard this funny story about you, and I’ve never been sure if it was true or if it happened the way I heard it, and I was wondering if you knew what I was talking about.  It was this story where you go into a hotel to check in, and you say, ‘Hi, I’m Mr. Gibson,’ and everyone acts all shocked at the hotel.”

GIBSON:  It was the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I don’t know, somebody had checked me in.It was when I had started doing some contact screenplay work after the ALIEN 3 script. So I got there, and it was like, you know, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  The desk people looked gobsmacked and really unhappy.   So the bellman takes me up to this very fancy suite, and in this suite there’s a table lavishly arrayed with very expensive wines and liquors and expensive floral displays, and a bit thing that says, ‘The Beverly Hills Hotel welcomes Mel Gibson.'”

And so I looked at the bellman, and I said, ‘No, no, I’m not him.  Take this stuff away.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, you can keep it.’ And I said, ‘What am I supposed to do with it?”  He said, ‘Call some friends, have a party.'”

(7) NAMING CALLS. While the writer’s mostly interested in Republican shenanigans, “8 Notable Attempts to Hack the New York Times Bestseller List” ends with a shout-out to a science fiction immortal.

…[DJ Jean] Shepherd decided that he wanted to get a book on the bestseller list—an imaginary book. “What do you say tomorrow morning each one of us walk into a bookstore, and ask for a book that we know does not exist?” he asked his listeners. The book they decided to ask for was I, Libertine, its author, Frederick R. Ewing, published by Excelsior Press, an imprint of Cambridge University Press. And ask they did…

…What is true, though, is that this book became real through sheer force of will. After only a few months, the story broke: I, Libertine was a hoax. But then it was un-hoaxed: Theodore Sturgeon, a friend of Shepherd’s, actually wrote the book, and Ballantine Books published it.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Batman Day

The purpose of Batman Day is to celebrate the anniversary of the character’s first ever appearance, which was in Detective Comics #27 way back in May 1939. Since those early comic book appearances, Batman has grown into one of the world’s best-loved and most recognizable fictional characters, and is the focal point of television shows, animated cartoons, video games and Hollywood blockbusters.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 26, 1937 – The first episode of The Shadow was broadcast.
  • September 26, 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian suspects there is something missing after reading The Wizard of Id.

(11) BIT PARTS. After reporting a leak about the forthcoming Star Wars movie, CheatSheet also tells about some of the more interesting appearances in earlier films of the franchise: “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: A Few Major Celebrities Will Make a Surprising Cameo”.

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi still upcoming, John Boyega let confirmation of a few major cameos — specifically, Princes William and Harry — slip out in an interview on BBC Radio (via Screen Rant). As he stated:

I’ve had enough with those secrets. They came on set. They were there. I’m sick of hiding it. I think it was leaked, anyway. There were images. Every time I get asked, I have to dodge it. I’m tired of dodging it. They were there. Tom Hardy was there too.

Hardy is certainly a major cameo. But he’s actually just one of many big names to show up in a film from the Star Wars franchise.

As fans look forward to the surprise appearances that are set to come in The Last Jedi, we take a look back at the history of celebrity cameos in the Star Wars franchise — including some you may not have noticed or heard about.

(12) FAN FEUDS. I was struck by David Gerrold’s observation about fan feuds, from a long post mainly about something else, although I’ve kept the first line for context. What he says about fan feuds is spot on.

Yes, I did ask Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza to back off on the Axanar stuff — not just because of my respect for Alec Peters, but also because of my equal respect for Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza, both of whom I have worked with. Fan-feuding helps no one. It hurts everyone. It destroys possibilities. It destroys opportunities. (I know of two entities who decided not to engage with Jody and Carlos because of their efforts in the anti-Axanar movement.) I speak from a half-century of direct experience on this.

But yeah, my bad. I should know better than to ask fans to disengage from a feud. Especially this one. I should have known better because internecine warfare is always more important than mutual support and partnership in any endeavor. It’s much more fun to have enemies — war is the most profitable human product, because it gives you not only the illusion of power and authority, it creates the opportunity to control how others think and act…

(13) YOUR SECOND-BEST SUIT. Electric Literature thought today is a good time to revisit “The 5 Weirdest Lawsuits About Authors Stealing Ideas”.

Claim: J.K. Rowling stole the word “muggle”

J.K. Rowling has been accused of idea theft, and vice versa, so many times that there’s a whole Wikipedia page for “legal disputes over the Harry Potter series.” The earliest was American writer Nancy Kathleen Stouffer, who sued Rowling for infringement in 1999, when only three of the books had been published (although it was already clear that the series was turning a handsome profit). Stouffer claimed that she’d invented the word “muggle” in her vanity-press book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, and that another of her works featured a character named Larry Potter. This is thin enough—but the court didn’t just rule that the similarities were too vague to amount to much. It actually found that even Stouffer’s weak evidence may have been fabricated.

Two other cases involve Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and Cassandra Clare’s Darkhunter series.

(14) ON OR OFF THE SHELF? The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Banned Books Week: Why are illustrated books being challenged more than ever?”, notes that the top two books in the American Library Association’s list of banned books for 2017 were graphic novels.  He then looks at graphic novels that censors fund particularly irritating.

Some industry observers say that the spike in challenges to illustrated books can be attributed to the recent rise in the literary form’s popularity and accessibility on bookshelves, as well as the subject matter.

“Graphic novels are more popular and widely read than ever,” said Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy organization. “Their authors are speaking directly to the real concerns of their audiences in an accessible way.”

Brownstein noted, too, that the illustrated form can attract challenges that other books might not.

“There are many other factors to weigh, including the medium’s reliance on the power of the static image,” he said. “Graphic novels are frequently reduced to a single image or sequence of images that can be removed from the larger context of the work, and used to justify censorship. Comics’ use of images and words give the stories added power that resonates with audiences, and makes works like ‘This One Summer’ and ‘Drama’ even more compelling. These works must be considered as a whole to be fully appreciated. When that happens, the complexity, nuance and sophistication of the stories can be fully appreciated.”

The CBLDF director pointed, as well, to how comics are perceived by many parents and officials. “In many cases, comics are still regarded as lesser reading,” he said. “Some people don’t expect comics to have the kind of complexity or depth that earned ‘This One Summer’ the Caldecott honor and ‘Drama’ a Stonewall honor. We’ve seen cases where comics are challenged because the conversations that they raise were unexpected.”

(15) ALL WRAPPED UP. The Bangor Daily News makes a new novel sound tantalizing: “Kings of fiction: Father and son combine for ‘Sleeping Beauties’”.

In this year of all things King, with nearly two dozen movies, TV shows or miniseries based on Bangor’s own horror-meister in production or on screens, it makes perfect sense to add another Stephen King-thing to what has become a total-immersion experience.

Enter “Sleeping Beauties,” a novel that’s a team effort by Stephen King and his son, Owen. Published by Scribner, it goes on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 25 ($32.50 hardcover).

The duo’s first tandem effort on a novel, “Sleeping Beauties” is an ambitious work that combines some age-old Stephen King themes — the potential end of the world, the battle between good and … well … not so good, if not evil — with a distinctly sci-fi premise.

Simply put: Women around the world are falling asleep, and being covered in wispy cocoons. They may never wake up (and in true Stephen King fashion, those who try to rouse the females from their slumber quickly learn that doing so was a big, bad, bloody mistake).

Is the human race’s demise insured? Will a world with no women become a reality (for a time)? Or is there another option that we just can’t see on this side of the story? Good questions, all

(16) UNDER THE HAMMER. The Daryl Litchfield Collection of Arkham House & H.P. Lovecraft goes on the auction block October 5. So do a great many volumes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and other sff authors.

More than 300 lots of fine literature, from the 18th through the 21st centuries, are included in this exciting auction. Headlining the sale is the Daryl Litchfield collection of Arkham House and H.P. Lovecraft. The collection includes the earliest work by Lovecraft and a near complete collection of Arkham House publications. Many other science fiction and fantasy first editions are also offered, including nearly fifty lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, many in the rare original dust jackets. Also featured are more than fifty lots of Black Sparrow press limited editions of the writings of Charles Bukowski, many signed by the author. Other rare literary works from the last 300 years are also offered, including titles by Dickens, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Stowe, Twain, Wilde, and many others.

See the online version of the catalogue at www.pbagalleries.com

Direct link to the online catalogue: http://www.pbagalleries.com/view-auctions/info/id/434/

To view as ebook: http://pbagalleries.com/content/ecat/626/index.html

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In an Entertainment Weekly video “The Walking Dead cast explains 100 episodes in 30 seconds”.

(18) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. In March 1971, General Mills introduced the chocolate-flavored Count Chocula and the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry.

[Thanks to Keith Kato, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Wendy Gale, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who inquires “Not having read all the Dune books (by Frank Herbert, and then the non-FH prequels), and not remembering all of those I did read… did any of the individual sandworms have names (i.e., not ‘Shai Halud’ (sp?), which was the general name). E.g. ‘Big Fella,’ ‘Spot,’ ‘Masterful Mighty Wriggler of Doom,’ ‘Fluffy’?”]