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.

Prettiest cereal EVER🤗🦄🌈🌸💕#unicornfrootloops

A post shared by 🌸S a r a h🌸 (@sarahlw88) on

(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’?”]

Pixel Scroll 9/24/17 The Hodor Into Summer

(1) DEDICATION. Since the movie Hidden Figures came out a lot of people know this name: “NASA Langley’s Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility Officially Opens”.

When she heard that NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, would name its newest building after her, Katherine Johnson responded the only way she could – with surprise.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,” the 99-year-old Johnson, of “Hidden Figures” fame, said with a laugh.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, or CRF, was dedicated Sept. 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by family and friends of Johnson and her fellow “human computers,” students from Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and special guests from across Virginia.

“You have been a trailblazer,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

 

(2) SAYING YOU CARE. Monica Valentinelli delivers an important reminder for us to value the people who create things we love.

Hey, if you could do ONE THING for me this weekend, reach out to an author, artist, editor, game designer/dev, etc. and send them fan mail. (Excluding me.) There’s another uptick of harassers and trolls attacking some great people out there, and the ONLY thing that counteracts that is love. That love can come from anywhere: self, friends, family, etc. But, telling someone their work matters to you? It means an incredible amount. Right now, creatives need you. The news is terrifying. Many uncertainties politically, financially, etc. Help motivate artists. Show you care. Please, don’t wait to reach out when someone’s in crisis or needs help. What you say now is fuel for the darker times. And, you never know. Not everyone can speak up and say how they’re doing. Telling someone something good can be fuel to help them finish that next thing that you’ll love and treasure. Peace out.

(3) WRITERS WHO WON’T READ. Jason Sanford makes two points in “The Submissions Men Don’t See”. The first is:

Lots of screaming in the SF/F genre lately about “data” suggesting far more women are being published in genre magazines than men. The problem with that analysis, though, was it only looked at a small group of magazines. Add in all the other professional SF magazines out there and the numbers change, making the controversy choke on a big mouthful of nothing pie.

Don’t believe me? Check out this excellent examination of gender submission and publication statistics in the SF/F short fiction field, which Susan E. Connolly published in Clarkesworld in 2014. Her examination spanned multiple articles and is incredibly detailed with a strong data set. Her conclusion? “Authors who are women are less well represented in terms of submissions and publications than authors who are men.”

Then he documents a second point, that men are more likely than women to disregard a magazine’s submission guidelines.

(4) THE DIGITAL ART OF SELF-DEFENSE. Alex Acks tells you “How to win an argument on the internet (without losing your mind)” in five steps. The first is:

  1. Assume until proven otherwise that the other person is arguing in bad faith.

…This is the foundation you need to start on. This isn’t a call to be rude or insulting out of hand – unless this addresses your ultimate goal, more on that later – but you need approach from word one with the understanding that the other person is not actually interested in having a debate, discussion, or argument. They’re interested in pissing you off. Sure, be open to the possibility that they’re the rare sort of unicorn that does want to understand, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

And what this frees you to do is take a step back from what’s in front of you and address it as a performance rather than an honest communication.

(5) ARRESTED PROGRESS. Professor Gerry Canavan’s “No, Speed Limit: John Scalzi’s “The Collapsing Empire” in the LA Review of Books uses a gravity assist from Donald A. Wollheim’s outline of Golden Age SF to launch readers into his analysis, which includes this outline of Scalzi’s varied approaches to faster-than-light travel.

John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire — whose title alone seems like an appallingly on-the-nose allegory for the state of the United States at this moment — is one of the most important revisionist hyperspace narratives to come along in some time. Scalzi, a master of science fictional parody and pastiche, has played with this problem before, unsettling the easy assumptions about hyperspace that characterized Golden Age science fiction. In Old Man’s War, his riff on Heinlein, hyperspace is indeed easy but carries with it a weird psychological cost: ships don’t actually move faster than light, they simply leap out of their original universe into a parallel one (which, the scientists assure everyone, is probably completely identical, more or less). In his Redshirts, a revisionist Star Trek, ships move at the speed of Narrative rather than according to any rational principle of physics; in his somber and understated The God Engines, the violation of physical principles we call hyperspace is made possible by flogging and torturing gods that our heroes have captured and enslaved.

(6) GIVE MY REGARDS TO HOGWARTS. Today on CBS Sunday Morning, “The magic of Harry Potter returns, on stage”. Video at the link.

Mark Phillips talks with Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne about the sensation of the London stage, coming soon to Broadway: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a story of the now-grown wizard and the burden passed down to his family.

And a counterpart article here — “Harry Potter brings his magic to the stage”.

Seven books, eight movies and about a billion dollars to the good later for its creator, J.K. Rowling, that was supposed to be the end of it.

“I genuinely, I didn’t want Harry to go onstage,” Rowling said. “I felt that I was done.”

So what happened? “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” happened … a theatrical collaboration with director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne.

It’s been the theater event of the year in London. It won a record nine Olivier Awards (Britain’s version of the Tonys). And it’s about to go to Broadway. Tickets for the New York production, which opens next year, go on sale next month.

(7) MARKETING. So is this a local store’s attempt to emulate Amazon’s “People Who Bought This” feature?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 24, 1957 — The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field.
  • September 24, 1964 The Munsters premiered on television.
  • September 24, 1995 Space: Above and Beyond debuted on TV this day.
  • September 24, 1996 — Stephen King releases two new novels at once. The first, Desperation, was released under King’s name, while the second, The Regulators, was published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
  • September 24, 2001 — An obscure something titled It Came From Outer Space II premiered theatrically (in Russia).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson (TV producer, creator of Muppets)

(10) RICK AND MORTY. Rachel Withers reports at BrowBeat, “Rick and Morty Creator Dan Harmon “Loathes” the Show’s Sexist Viewers”.

Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon has blasted his show’s sexist fans in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, calling their behavior “disgusting.”

It seems a number of the animated comedy’s biggest fans are fragile of masculinity: Incensed by the show’s recent decision to employ a gender-balanced writing team, these trolls have taken it upon themselves to harass, threaten, and dox its female writers for daring to encroach upon their white-male-nerd territory.

Harmon is livid that they think they are acting on his show’s behalf. “These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own—and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender.” Harmon, who is white and male himself, says he finds the fans offensive, members of “a testosterone-based subculture patting themselves on the back.”

Rick and Morty’s sexist following is no secret. Vox critic Todd VanDerWerff tweeted that these toxic fans are part of why he doesn’t write about the show more often, even though he loves it.

(11) YODA HELPS FOUND THE UN.  I ran this item in yesterday’s scroll, before someone kindly sent me a copy of the photo.

A Saudi artist says he created this montage as an homage to King Faisal and a beloved “Star Wars” character. The setting is the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945. The artist’s work somehow ended up in a high school social studies textbook.

(12) PAPERBACKS. Here’s something else I touched on inferentially that Atlas Obscura devoted a whole article to this week: “How Books Designed for Soldiers’ Pockets Changed Publishing Forever”.

In early June 1944, tens of thousands of American troops prepared to storm the beaches of Normandy, France. As they lined up to board the invasion barges, each was issued something less practical than a weapon, but equally precious: a slim, postcard sized, softcover book.

These were Armed Services Editions, or ASEs – paperbacks specifically designed to fit in a solder’s pockets and travel with them wherever they went. Between 1943 and 1947, the United States military sent 123 million copies of over 1,000 titles to troops serving overseas. These books improved soldiers’ lives, offering them entertainment and comfort during long deployments. By the time the war ended, they’d also transformed the publishing industry, turning the cheap, lowly paperback into an all-American symbol of democracy and practicality.

(13) UNREAL ESTATE. A home inspired by the cottage from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on sale in Washington.

The four-bedroom and five-bathroom home in Olalla, Wash., featuring a design ripped directly from the 1937 animated film is listed on Top Ten Real Estate Deals for $775,000.

Hope there aren’t any apple trees on the grounds….

(14) PETER RABBIT. Discover the rabbit behind the legend.

(15) WEEDING THE GARDEN. When you put it on TV, is it doxxing or a public service? — “‘Troll Hunter’ exposes Sweden’s anonymous Internet haters”.

Enter “Troll Hunter.”

The Swedish reality TV show, hosted by journalist Robert Aschberg, tracks down the country’s most vicious anonymous commenters and confronts them about their hate speech face to face. America Tonight visited the Troll Hunter at his home in the Stockholm archipelago and spoke with him about taking down the most repugnant citizens of the Web. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. Be advised: Some foul language is used.

How did this idea come to you?

Robert Aschberg: It just struck me one day. But the strange thing is that nobody had the idea many years ago. I did some research and saw that this was an issue in the United States 10, 15 years ago, and then suddenly there was no discussion.

What are you looking for? Who are the people? What do they do?

We mainly look for people who are anonymous. What they do is everything from death threats to just harassment of all kinds — giving people hell. And many of these people who are victims, they don’t even know who it is.

Tell me about some of the trolls that you’ve unmasked.

It’s everything from people who should be locked up in psychiatric wards to people who give the illusion of being very, very normal. We’ve confronted old ladies, for example, who have been harassing other women for, I don’t know, some strange personal reason.

If we are now living in a society where, because of social media, you can be removed from the person you target, you can see them as completely devoid of humanity and feeling, how do you reinstill civility?

I’m an optimist. It’s fairly new in human history, the social media, the Net, everything. It’s one of the biggest inventions since the wheel, with an enormous impact that we haven’t even seen. A lot is going to happen. I think that people, when you get used to it, people will start to act differently. But you have to discuss it. You have to punish some of the criminals and so forth, but people will get used to it. In the Stone Age, people [from] different tribes met, they started warring, but then sooner or later, they made peace, and that gave them prosperity.

(16) SECOND JUMANJI 2 TRAILER. For two decades it went untouched. But the game always finds a way.

(17) BRANDING. Here’s another product no user can do without…. As a commenter says, “Your high ground is out of date and needs updating. Every. Single. Day.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bonnie McDaniel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/17 Is This A File Which I See Before Me, The Pixel Toward My Hand?

(1) THE YOUTH ARE BACK. James Davis Nicoll kicks off Phase II of Young People Review Old SFF with a 1909 tale.

In the hope of selecting more accessible works, I crowd-sourced my selections and now provide my readers with more (well, any) background information on the pieces.

The first Phase II story comes from an author not generally thought of as an SFF author. E. M. Forster is perhaps best known for mainstream works like Howard’s End, A Passage to India and A Room with a View. Forster did write fantastic fiction, however. 1909’s “The Machine Stops” is the one Sfnal work of his many who rarely venture outside SF have read, thanks to all the genre anthologies that featured it. Set in a wired world not too dissimilar to our own, it hides its age well. Or so it seems to me.

(2) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. The band Clppng, whose album Splendor & Misery is a Best Dramatic: Short Form Hugo nominee, will perform in Helsinki at Worldcon 75.

(3) INSIDE LOOK. Dominic Parisien tells Black Gate readers “The Strategy Behind Disabled Stories: The What, Why, and How (but Mostly How) of Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction”.

When I started writing this article my face was spotted with burst blood cells. Earlier in the day I’d had one of my violent convulsive episodes. I was exhausted and aching but I meant to write, because it felt appropriate, topical. I’m here, after all, to write about Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.

But I couldn’t muster the energy for more than a few lines. I lacked the spoons.

The project description goes like this: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a continuation of the Destroy series in which we, disabled members of the science fiction community, will put ourselves where we belong: at the center of the story. Often, disabled people are an afterthought, a punchline, or simply forgotten in the face of new horizons, scientific discovery, or magical invention. We intend to destroy ableism and bring forth voices, narratives, and truths most important to disabled writers, editors, and creators with this special issue.

My colleagues will have guest posts and blog posts going up across a number of venues, and many of them will focus on the importance of representation, of disabled people placing ourselves at the centre of the narrative, of telling our own stories. For my part, I want to discuss the creative process for our project.

(4) ONGOING ACCESS PROBLEMS. Nicola Griffith has issued “An open letter to all writing programmes, workshops, and retreats”.

Everything you do—classes, retreats, workshops—should be accessible. Many of you are not.

I’ve heard all your excuses: But we love the quaint/rustic/boho vibe, and that will be ruined if we have to change! But we can’t have our woods/private chef/coziness if we move to an accessible space! But it’s important we give the students an inexpensive experience, and access costs money!

I have no sympathy for your excuses. To disabled writers like me it does not matter how beautiful/cosy/inexpensive your traditional/sorority/in-the-woods space is because we can’t access it. If we can’t visit, to teach or write, then it’s not beautiful or welcoming or inexpensive, it is a fenced enclosure with a huge red sign on the gate saying CRIPPLES KEEP OUT.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. Ann Hornaday’s story in the Washington Post, “Are movie reviews just more ‘fake news’? Some studios want you to think so.”, covers about Sony’s effort to suppress reviews for The Emoji Movie, which only got a score of 8 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is sinking at the box office.  She notes that efforts by studios to produce “critic-proof” films have led to John Carter, The Mummy, Battleship, and other “high-profile bombs.”

“What other wide release with a [Tomatometer] score under 8 percent has opened north of $20 million? I don’t think there is one,” said Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony, when McClintock interviewed him. He sounded as proud as a farmer who had just sold a poke full of pigs to an unsuspecting butcher.

Greenstein may not have taken into full account the hair-tearing desperation of parents eager to distract kids whose last PG-rated animated movie was “Despicable Me 3” in late June. And he might find that his enthusiasm has dropped just as vertiginously as “The Emoji Movie’s” box office numbers, which by Monday had already plunged by more than 50 percent, indicating cataclysmic word of mouth. No matter: Sony’s following a similar playbook this week with another late-screener, “The Dark Tower,” hoping to beat discouraging reviews to the punch with the brand names of Stephen King, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. (As of this writing, with 20 critics reporting, the sci-fi fantasy had earned a 20 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, along with a prominent green splat.)

(6) DOES ALL MEAN ‘ALL’? Variety’s Gene Maddaus, in “Judge Allows Lawsuit Claiming James Bond Box Set Was Incomplete”, says a judge in the state of Washington has ruled that Mary L. Johnson’s lawsuit against MGM can proceed to a jury trial.  Johnson said MGM violated the state of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act because she ordered a “Complete James Bond” boxed set from Amazon for $106 and didn’t get the 1967 Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again.

In his opinion, Martinez declined to dismiss the claim at this stage, and said a jury would have to decide whether the term was misleading.

“A jury must determine whether a reasonable person would expect ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’ to be included in a complete set of James Bond films,” Martinez wrote. “From the Defendants’ perspective, this claim will have to ‘Die Another Day.’”

(7) THE BIG BUCKS. Forbes has updated their annual guesstimates about what the top authors earned for the 12 months ending May 31, 2017. With new books, a play and more movies, J.K. Rowling returns to the top of their list –

  1. JK Rowling $95 million
  2. James Patterson $87 million
  3. Jeff Kinney $21 million
  4. Dan Brown $20 million
  5. Stephen King $15 million
  6. John Grisham $14 million
  7. Nora Roberts $14 million
  8. Paula Hawkins $13 million
  9. EL James $11.5 million
  10. Danielle Steel $11 million
  11. Rick Riordan $11million

(8) GOODREADS. It’s the heart of the awards season, so no wonder the Goodreads Blog has decided to celebrate this as “Science Fiction & Fantasy Week”.

  • Readers’ Top 50 Sci-Fi Novels From Ender to the hapless Arthur Dent, to returning to beloved worlds created by Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, and many more.

The bar needed to be high. Every book on our list has at least a 4.0 average rating from Goodreads members. Unfortunately, this means that dinosaur king himself Michael Crichton failed to make the cut, along with other big names in the genre like Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, and H.G. Wells. But while some classics may be missing, recent favorites from Emily St. John Mandel, Nnedi Okorafor, and Pierce Brown round out the list.

  • Readers’ Top 50 Fantasy Novels Go there and back again with novels full of legends, heroes, myths, and magic. From J. R. R. Tolkien to George R.R. Martin, these epic fantasies await readers.

These titles were chosen based on reader reviews, so every single book had to meet at least a 4.0 average rating from the Goodreads community. Then, for good measure, we looked at how many ratings each book has received. We also decided to select the first book in a series (although it’s worth noting that the entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings as well as George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire have the rare distinction of being above a 4.0 rating).

Our hunt for the best YA sci-fi books on Goodreads reflects this partiality to the post-apocalypse. We set the bar high, only including books with at least a 4.0 average rating. The result? A sometimes grim, always thrilling peek into the future—where young women and men have the power to change their fates.

As we searched for the best YA fantasy on Goodreads, we stuck to books with at least a 4.0 average rating. This meant that popular titles with big film adaptations like Twilight, Eragon, and The Golden Compass missed the cut. While The Boy Who Lived made it in, surprising no one, the list is dominated by powerful girls with no time for evil royals or rampaging monsters.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 4, 1932 — Victor Halperin’s White Zombie is released theatrically.

(10) THE COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock calls it “today’s cultural acknowledgment” – Pooch Cafe.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to “Share shawarma with Brooke Bolander in Episode 44 of Eating the Fantastic”.

Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander was on Nebula ballot that weekend in the short story category for “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” and is also on the current Hugo Awards ballot for that same story, one of the most talked-about tales of 2016. Her fiction, which has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Uncanny, and other venues, has been honored by nominations for the Locus and the Theodore Sturgeon awards as well. The Only Harmless Great Thing will be published by Tor in 2018.

We discussed how she ended up as a writer rather than a paleontologist, why the videogame Ecco the Dolphin terrified her but taught her to love science fiction, her early days writing fan fiction, how anger over the electrocution of Topsy the elephant and the deaths of the “radium girls” inspired her newest novella, why she avoids rereading her own writing, what broke the writers block that had gripped her for several years, and more.

(12) V’GER. “As the Voyager mission is winding down, so, too, are the careers of the aging explorers who expanded our sense of home in the galaxy.” The New York Times has the story: “The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe”. (May be behind a payroll, though I didn’t have any trouble gaining access, by feeding the URL through a Google search.)

A fleet of JPL trucks made the trip under armored guard to the same destination. Their cargo was unwrapped inside the hangar high bay, a gleaming silo stocked with tool racks and ladder trucks. Engineers began to assemble the various pieces. Gradually, two identical spacecraft took shape. They were dubbed Voyager I and II, and their mission was to make the first color photographs and close-up measurements of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons. Then, if all went well, they might press onward — into uncharted territory.

It took six months, working in shifts around the clock, for the NASA crew to reassemble and test the spacecraft. As the first launch date, Aug. 20, drew near, they folded the camera and instrument boom down against the spacecraft’s spindly body like a bird’s wing; gingerly they pushed it, satellite dish first, up inside a metal capsule hanging from the high bay ceiling. Once ‘‘mated,’’ the capsule and its cargo — a probe no bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle that, along with its twin, had nevertheless taken 1,500 engineers five years and more than $200 million to build — were towed to the launchpad.

(13) KING/KELLEY. Reason.com’s Glenn Garvin, in “Mr. Mercedes and Comrade Detective Breathe Life into Cop Genre Shows”, reviews Mr. Mercedes, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel available on DirecTV.  He says seeing Kelley “work with the characters devised by King is a religious experience, even if the church is Out Lady of Psychos and Degenerates.”

Even the bit players in Mr. Mercedes cannot be left unwatched for a moment; you never know when something querulous quirky or malificently malign is about to erupt.

But Kelley and his director Jack Bender (who worked on Lost as well as another King television adaptation, Under the Dome) are equally adept at the action sequences. The staging of the parking lot mayhem is a marvel of underlit suggestion and squishy sound effects that leverages a Grand Guignol impression from gore that’s actually rather petit. That’s the only thing small about Mr. Mercedes; this is big-time entertainment.

(14) ADAPTIVE LIFEFORM. PJ Media picked “The 5 Best Stephen King Book Adaptations”. Dann Todd notes, “As always, these things are pretty subjective.  This author leaves out The Green Mile.  Relative to the rest of the list I think it could supplant It as a film adaptation.”

(15) ARMENIA’S BESTSELLERS. What are the best-selling books in Yerevan, Armenia? Once a week Armenpress publishes the top 10. Would you believe that Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is #7, and Dandelion Wine is #10?

(16) THE LAMPREY STRATEGY. Brian Niemeier celebrates his Dragon Award nomination the way every true culture warrior does – by spending half his wordage insulting John Scalzi — “2017 Dragon Award FInalist The Secret Kings”. Because when your award-nominated novel has been out for eight months and has accumulated only 12 Goodreads ratings, trying to pick a fight with somebody people have heard of makes a certain nutty kind of sense.

(17) THE RIGHT WAY TO HACK. In “Why can’t films and TV accurately portray hackers?”, Mr. Robot’s Kor Adana explains how the show does it, and why others get it wrong.

Why does Hollywood get hacking so wrong?

There’s an easy explanation for this trend. Most writers, directors, and producers believe that it’s impossible to portray real hacking on screen and still have it be entertaining. (That’s why you see the cheesy game-like graphics, skulls, and expository messages on screen.) I couldn’t disagree more with this mindset.

If a scene needs flashy or inaccurate graphics on a computer in order to increase the drama or explain a plot point, there’s an issue with the writing. On Mr Robot, we work hard to ensure that the stakes of the scene and the character motivations are clear even if you have no idea how the technology works. If you do understand the technology, you have the added bonus of recognising real vulnerabilities, real desktop environments, and authentic dialogue that fits the context of the hack.

Back in the Eighties, the TV detective show Riptide used to make me laugh, as their hacker character regularly broke into IRS systems to get information that, in real life, they didn’t maintain.

(18) GENRE BENDING. Martha Wells wrote an article on eight works that blend science and magic minus typical fantasy tropes for the Barnes and Noble SF/F blog — “8 Books That Blend Science and Magic, Minus the Fantasy Tropes”. Her list includes novels (or novellas) from N.K. Jemisin, Sharon Shinn, J.Y. Yang, Kate Elliott, J. Kathleen Cheney, Emily Foster, Aliette de Bodard, and Kai Ashante Wilson.

Fantasy tropes can be great—that’s why they become tropes. But sometimes you want to read something you feel like you’ve never read before. I love secondary world fantasy books in which standard and well-known tropes are either in short supply, or have been transformed into something new and special by wildly original worldbuilding. I’ve always loved books that combine SF-nal technology and magic (I’ve done it in my own Books of the Raksura, in which technology is usually both biological and magical, and in the Ile Rien series, in which the magic often has mechanical components), and the one thing the eight books below have in common is that each uses different forms of technology combined with magic to build a fresh, fabulous fantasy world.

The Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin These are probably the first recent books that come to mind when someone mentions magical manipulation of science—it’s a key part of this brilliantly original setting. The Orogenes have a hereditary ability to manipulate energy in a world that has been destroyed over and over again. The main character deals with devastating losses as she explores the extent of her abilities and tries to uncover the deliberately erased history that may explain why all this is happening.

(19) NOT ENOUGH SPOONS. Milky Shot by Roy Kafri on Vimeo is a strange film about what happens when a giant alien spoon comes to Earth and tries to steal the world’s spoons!

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Darrah Chavey, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day GSLamb.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating her own path

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What book are you currently reading? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/17 The Land Of The Pixel, And The Home Of The Scroll

(1) HAIL TO THE CHIEF. This would not be a typical way of celebrating Independence Day anywhere but fandom. ScienceFiction.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 Supervillains Who Have Taken Over America”. At number nine —

  1. Doctor Doom

Doom conquered the United States in 2099, made himself President and did what you’d expect Doom to do in that position. It’s worth noting that he also became a God of his own universe in 2015’s ‘Secret Wars’, so this President thing isn’t that impressive.

(2) LOWERING THE BOOM. It’s not only the blowing up part that’s dangerous for humans. The wastes are, too. The Verge explains “How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks”.

Another ingredient in fireworks, called perchlorate, helps the fuel combust and makes the colors shine more brightly. But it’s also thought to be toxic, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates how much of the stuff can seep into drinking water.

As with air pollution, it’s not completely clear the extent to which fireworks displays contaminate water systems with perchlorate. But a 2007 study conducted by EPA scientists found that perchlorate levels in Oklahoma surface waters increased by between 24 to over 1,000 times baseline levels after an Independence Day display — and it took from 20 to 80 days to go back down.

Scientists with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) are trying find a cheap, effective replacement for perchlorate. For the military, which uses pyrotechnics to mimic actual battlefield conditions in training simulations, perchlorate contamination of groundwater can shut down training operations. “When soldiers get deployed to real combat theaters, they are less prepared,” says Jared Moretti, a scientist with ARDEC who specializes in pyrotechnics.

(3) A CHANCE TO HELP. In the aftermath of Dwain Kaiser’s death, a GoFundMe has been launched to assist his widow.

We are raising money to help his wife, JoAnn Kaiser, who is in her 80s and lives well below the poverty level. Dwain and JoAnn owned one of the last used bookstores in Pomona, not because they made a enough money to live on, but because they loved educating our community. More importantly, they loved BOOKS. JoAnn is unable to cover the overwhelming expenses she will incur during this time of great loss: funeral, a memorial service, moving, and paying store bills. We reach out to all of you for support. Any assistance you can provide will impact JoAnn’s ability to grieve the loss of her best friend and husband without the burden of wondering how she is going to survive financially. All proceeds will go toward Dwain’s funeral, a memorial service, and moving expenses.

The goal is $10,000, and at this writing they are halfway there.

(4) LORD OF THE RINGS SETTLEMENT. Yahoo! Movies, in “Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle Massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit”, reports the parties have reached agreement.

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have resolved a rights dispute over “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the two parties said in a court filing.

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins had filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract, in 2012, as reported here in  “What  Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”

The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

…The suit also complained the defendants had asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

(5) DC AT SEA. Batman features in the new livery some Italian ferryboats — “Batman jumps on board the new Tirrenia ships”.

Tirrenia, partnering with Gruppo Onorato Armatori and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has started a great restyling of their ferry ships.

The classical white and blue livery will progressively be substituted by the DC Superheroe par excellende: Batman!

Sharden, docked today 7th April of 2017 at pier 18 of the Port of Civitavecchia, is one of the first Tirrenia ships to wear the new colours: both sides of the ships are different from one another: at one side are Batman and Robin, at the other Batman with his fierce enemy, the Joker.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the hammer of Thor (the Norse god of thunder and lightning) as a religious symbol for veteran gravestones. Two soldiers have headstones bearing the hammer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.
  • July 4, 1939 — Julius Schwartz ditched the last day of the first World Science Fiction Convention and went with Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. He still got to see fan history being made. Baseball fan history.

A very special thing happened that afternoon: Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from the game of baseball. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s something I will never forget.

Gehrig’s famous lines echoed throughout the park:

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

(8) THE FIRST COUNCIL. Noting with pleasure that the President has reestablished the National Space Council, Jerry Pournelle remembers the final achievement of the original Council of which he was part.

When the Bush I administration took office, most of the Reagan people were replaced by Bush supporters. As a Reagan man – I chaired the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy that in 1980 wrote the Space and Space Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration – my White House access and contacts effectively came to a halt. There were no more Reagan men in the White House.

However, there was the newly created National Space Council, headed by the Vice President, Dan Quayle. Mr. Quayle was not a space cadet, and hadn’t been well known in the pro-space community. Until the day he was asked to be then Vice President George H. W. Bush’s running mate, he was referred to as “the distinguished junior Senator from Indiana”, and generally well regarded; the day after he joined the ticket he became a buffoon not to be taken seriously by the very same news media. However, he took the post of Chairman of the National Space Council seriously, and when the Citizen’s Advisory Council proposed an X project, the SSX, he met with General Dan Graham, rocket genius Max Hunter, and council chairman Jerry Pournelle.

We presented our proposal for the SSX, a 600,000 gross liftoff weight (GLOW) single stage to orbit (SSTO) X Project; as Max Hunter said, we hoped it would make orbit; it would sure scare it to death. It would also be savable; and it could be flown sub-orbital. Of course it was fully recoverable. The preliminary design description was done mostly in my office, with visiting members of the Council working on it.

Mr. Quayle listened to us, and the asked advice from his technical people. He was told that recoverable single stage to orbit was impossible and had been proved to be so in a RAND study. Mr. Quayle then asked RAND to review that study, which they did, and Lo! It turned out not to be impossible after all. It was a possible X Project. Mr. Quayle tried to get it funded; apparently he took us quite seriously. He was unable to get full funding, but he did get Air Force funding for a scale model. Douglas won the competition for that X project, and it was built, on time and within budget, and delivered to White Sands test range for flight testing. It became known as the DC-X (Douglas Aircraft gave all their aircraft, such as the SC-3, that kind of designation).

One big controversy about vertical rocket landings was that it could not be controlled at low altitude and the speeds involved. Another was that it would re-enter nose down, and wouldn’t be able to turn tail down. DC-X flew 10 successful missions, landing and being refueled and flown again; there are plenty of reports on that. On one of those missions it went from nose up the nose down, then back to nose up in which orientation it made a perfect landing.

Alas after the 10th flight the Air Force turned the ship over to NASA. On the eleventh mission, it successfully landed, but a NASA technician had failed to connect the hydraulic line to one of the landing feet, and it fell over. It could have survived that, but due to over vigorous (and needless testing) the NASA test people cracked the hydrogen fuel tank, then welded it and sent it to fly. Falling over cracked that tank and DC-X literally burned on the ground a hydrogen leaked out.

Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, and in 1993 abolished the National Space Council. President George W. Bush did not revive it, nor did President Obama.

(9) BREAKING OUT. The Verge interviews “Fantasy author Myke Cole on grounding a medieval world with demons in it”.

…For his next act, Cole is changing things up a bit. His upcoming series, The Sacred Throne, exchanges the modern-day world that he’s been using as a setting for a more traditional fantasy realm. The Sacred Throne series is very much a modern-day fantasy thematically, but more on the “grimdark” side of the genre in the vein of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or George R.R. Martin than the more optimistic worlds of Tolkien or Lewis….

Why the change from the more urban fantasy setting from your Shadow Ops series to something closer to traditional swords and sorcery?

This book is super important me. So the Shadow Ops series, when it sold and when it got praised, it was always the authentic military voice. I think I might have been the only currently serving military member writing. At the time I was still on duty to the Coast Guard when that book came out. There’s a lot of retired military guys writing, but I don’t know anyone who is actually active and writing, which is what I was doing. So I kept getting praise for my “authentic military voice.” I was just kind of like, “Okay, I’m glad that people like this, and I’m definitely happy if it sells books,” but the truth is that you start to think “Well, is this a gimmick?” Do people like my writing because I’m a good writer, or do people like my writing because it’s authentic and it’s a military voice? And of course that set me up for kind of growing insecurity, and so it became very important to me to prove to myself that I was a writer with a capital W. That I can do other things.

(10) PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE.  They make number one sound far ahead of the other four — “Five Writers Who Could Be the Next Stephen King”.

  1. Andrew Pyper

The number one writer who could challenge the King for positioning is Andrew Pyper. Pyper’s most recent novel titled “The Damned” is rapidly becoming a massive success. The 2013 novel has already become a best seller. This is number six and by far the most pleasing to his following. The Writer from Toronto has written the horror story and makes no apologies. The book follows “The Demonologist” which established quite a fan base for the writer who is beginning to delve more deeply into horror genre, but without the commercial nonsense that many come to expect. He’s not prone to cliche and you’ll have to read it to find out how he makes use of throwing curves so you won’t really know what’s coming up.

(11) BANGARANGING ON. The Washington Post’s Ada Tseng interviews Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook (an orange-mohawked guy who was killed by Captain Hook in the film), and has now made a short-film about Rufio, Bangarang, which is available online — “Remember Rufio in ‘Hook’? The actor is trying to keep his cult character’s legacy alive.”.

Basco has a cameo in the film, but is too old to play the young Rufio. A new generation of kids now knows him better for his voice-over work as Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But he still gets recognized by “Hook” fans every single day.

“I’ve been Rufio longer than I’ve not been Rufio, for sure,” he says. “To this day, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people have such strong memories of me as a young actor, that it’s hard to see me as anything else. But everyone comes to Hollywood hoping to get a role people are going to remember them for, and I get girls saying I was their first crush, or Asian guys saying Rufio was the first time they saw an Asian kid on-screen that wasn’t nerdy or stereotypical, so I was lucky the character that resonated was cool.”

 

(12) TZ. John King Tarpinian told me he’d be at home today watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. And Steve Vertlieb made a timely recommendation that I read his 2009 post “The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time”:

“The Twilight Zone: An Element Of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the original, classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series may bring to mind your own special memories of the program. Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…”The Twilight Zone.”

Here’s the beginning:

For a writer searching for his voice in the midst of corporate conservatism during the late 1950s, the creative horizon seemed elusive at best. Television, although still a youthful medium, had begun to stumble and fall, succumbing to the pressures of financial backing and sponsorship in order to survive its early growing pains. Navigating a successful career through a cloak of fear and indecision became problematic for a young writer struggling to remain relevant.

Rod Serling had penned several landmark teleplays for The Columbia Broadcasting System, including Patterns, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, but the perils of network censorship were beginning to take a toll on the idealistic author. As his artistic voice and moral integrity became increasingly challenged by network cowardice, Serling found his search for lost horizons alarmingly elusive.

(13) HALF CAST. Stewart Clarke in “Second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Starts Shooting as New Plot Details Emerge” on Variety, says that the second Fantastic Beasts film will be set in Paris in the 1920s and will have Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.

The studio offered new details of the upcoming film, which will see Eddie Redmayne return as magical beasts lover Newt Scamander to take on Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard played by Johnny Depp, who was unmasked at the end of the first movie.

Jude Law will star as future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film, a younger version of the character originally played by the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films. The sequel moves the main action to 1920s Paris, shortly after Scamander’s capture of Grindelwald at the end of the first installment.

Warner Bros. revealed that “Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.”

(14) MORE THAN JUST DECORATIVE. JJ sends this along with a safety warning, “Totally not a suggestion for Hugo winners with annoying neighbors. Purely hypothetically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the e.e. cummings of filers. clack.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/17 Pixeldimethylaminotickaldescroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S DAY

  • History of World UFO Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The worst of all was its –

  1. Mockumentary-style Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second-Book Syndrome

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

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

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

 The End Is Nigh Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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