How J.K. Rowling Spent Black Friday

J.K. Rowling was constantly online Friday trying to set her Twitter followers straight about why Harry Potter named his son after Snape (and also Dumbledore, but nobody minds that).

Pixel Scroll 11/16 Time Enough For Hedgehogs

(1) The UCLA Library’s Special Collections include the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek collection and the Robert Justman Papers.

A year ago the Special Collections’ blog posted Justman’s memo to Roddenberry about some wigs and hairpieces that had gone missing. The Captain of the Starship Enterprise was the prime suspect.

Back in the day Shatner’s denials about wearing a toupee were news, but people long ago quit keeping his secret.

That anger spilled out in 1967 when the prestigious Life magazine sent a photographer to the Star Trek set – not to profile Shatner but Nimoy, who was being photographed having his pointy Vulcan ears put on in the make-up room.

James Doohan recalled in his memoir: “Bill’s hairpiece was being applied. The top of his head was a lot of skin and a few odd tufts of hair. The mirrors on the make-up room walls were arranged so that we could all see the laying on of his rug.”

Shatner suddenly exploded angrily from his seat and ordered the photographer to leave. George Takei, aged 70, who played Sulu, recalls: “Leonard was livid. He refused to have his make-up completed until the photographer was allowed back.”

(2) In celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, publisher Simon & Schuster is bringing back the popular fan fiction writing contest, Strange New Worlds.

Ten winning selections will be published as part of an all-new official anthology, coming from Simon & Schuster in 2016.

Plus, two first prize winners will receive a free, self-publishing package from Archway Publishing!

Register for the contest here.

(3) “CBS Pulls ‘Supergirl’ Episode Due To Similarities To Paris Attack” reports

Out of respect for the events that happened in Paris last Friday, CBS has decided to delay the episode of ‘Supergirl’ set to air tonight, titled ‘How Does She Do It?’ Apparently the episode revolved around Supergirl dealing with a series of bombings around National City, which the network felt might be a little to similar to the tragic events that struck Paris. With all of the heartbreak and discord currently enveloping that poor city, it makes perfect sense why the network would delay the episode, especially when shows like ‘Supergirl’ should serve as an escape for people from the real world, not a twisted reflection of current tragedies.

(4) “J.K. Rowling Said THIS Is Her Favorite Harry Potter Theory” – the theoretical tweets are posted on PopSugar.

The first Harry Potter book came out 18 years ago, but not a day goes by where new theories and plot coincidences don’t shock us all (and make us want to reread the entire series). J.K. Rowling keeps up with them too and she recently answered a fan’s question about which is her favorite.

(5) This year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special will be shown in North American cinemas on December 28 and 29. Get tickets through Fathom Events

The Doctor is back on the big screen this holiday season for a special two-night event featuring an exclusive interview with Alex Kingston and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the special featuring Peter Capaldi, Stephen Moffat and more….

It’s Christmas in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveler River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to celebrate the holidays with fellow Whovians in cinemas this December.


(6) It seems you can’t guarantee a win by betting on Albert Einstein after all. IFL Science brings word that an “Experiment Proves Einstein Wrong”.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) have proven beyond reasonable doubt that Einstein was wrong about one of the main principles of quantum mechanics and that “spooky action at a distance” is actually real.

We are now certain that entanglement, the ability of particles to affect each other regardless of distance, exists and that it’s an intrinsic property of the universe. When a pair or a group of particles are entangled, they cannot be described independently from each other. Measuring a particular property, like velocity, of a single particle affects all the other entangled particles.

Einstein and many other scientists believed that this phenomenon was paradoxical, as it would allow for information to be exchanged instantaneously across vast distances. He dubbed it “spooky action at a distance” and he believed that there was a way to reproduce this phenomenon with classical physics. He claimed that there were hidden variables – quantities that we didn’t or couldn’t know – that would make quantum mechanics perfectly predictable.

(7) Mark Lawrence seeks feedback on what really creates a sense of diversity in fiction.

JK Rowling told the world after the event that Dumbledore is gay. There was no need to mention it in the books – it didn’t come up. So … after reading seven books with gay Dumbledore and no mention of it … do gay people feel represented?

If Tolkien rose from the grave for 60 seconds to mention that, by the way, Gandalf is black … would that be delivering diversity?

Or does diversity mean seeing black people’s experience (in itself a vastly diverse thing) represented in fantasy – and the fantasy world needs real-world racism imported so the reader sees that particular aspect of black people’s experience?

In my trilogy, The Red Queen’s War, the main character is of mixed race. It’s not mentioned very often – though he does meet someone in the frozen north who mocks and intimidates him over his ‘dirty’ skin. In the trilogy I’m writing at the moment, Red Sister, the world is reduced to an equatorial corridor hemmed in by advancing ice. All races are mixed and have been for thousands of years. There are many skin tones and it’s of no more note or interest than hair and eye colour. Does a person of colour reading that feel represented – or does the failure to connect with the prejudice of the real world mean that they don’t feel represented?

I don’t know. I’m asking.

I’m not writing these books to promote diversity or represent anyone – the worlds and characters are just the way they are – just how the pieces of my imagination and logic meshed together on these particular occasions. But the question interests me.

(8) Congratulations to Jonathan Edelstein on his first professional story publication, “First Do No Harm”, at Strange Horizons.

For twenty-seven thousand years—through kingdoms and republics, through prophets and messiahs, through decay and collapse and rebirth—the city and the medical school had grown around each other. The campus stretched across districts and neighborhoods, spanning parks and rivers, but few buildings belonged to it alone: an operating theater might once have been a workshop, a classroom a factory floor. The basement room where Mutende sat in a circle of his fellow basambilila was an ancient one and had been many things: office, boiler room, refrigerator, storage for diagnostic equipment. Remnants of all its uses were in the walls, the fixtures, and most of all, in memory….

(9) At The 48th Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, The Invitation, directed by Karyn Kusama, picked up the Award for Best Feature Film in the Sitges 2015 Official Fantàstic Selection. The winners of the festival’s other awards can be found here.

(10) MousePlanet has the details about what’s going on with Star Wars at Disneyland – a long article with lots of photos —  but SPOILER WARNING.

If you don’t want to know anything about Star Wars – The Force Awakens before you see it in the theater, you should probably skip this update too. Before you go, heed this warning: If you wish to remain spoiler-free until December 18th, don’t go into the Star Wars Launch Bay, don’t see the Path of the Jedi feature in the Tomorrowland Theater, and don’t ride Star Tours. Hyperspace Mountain is spoiler-free, and a complete blast – you can enjoy that worry free, and see the rest of the additions in a month….

Star Wars Launch Bay

The lower level of the former Innoventions building – now officially known as the Tomorrowland Expo Center – is now the Star Wars Launch Bay. From the moment you step inside, you enter a spoiler-filled space packed with artwork, props and merchandise from across the Star Wars saga, including from the upcoming movie Star Wars – The Force Awakens. The Launch Bay is divided into six sections, with some smaller areas around the outer ring of the building.

Entrance and Gallery

The largest portion of the Launch Bay is devoted to case after case of props and replicas from the Star Wars Saga, including previews of people, places and things from Star Wars – The Force Awakens. Again, if you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you have no business in this exhibit.

The Light Side (Chewbacca meet-and-greet)

Enter a rebel hideout, and come face-to-face with the best co-pilot in the galaxy. To occupy you while you wait in what could be a very long line, the queue is filled with props from the Light Side, including lightsabers and helmets.

The Dark Side (Darth Vader meet-and-greet)

Like the Light Side, the queue for the Darth Vader meet-and-greet is filled with Sith props. Lord Vader isn’t much one for conversation, but he does have some prepared remarks for your encounter on the deck of a Star Destroyer. Disney PhotoPass photographers are on hand to document your meeting.


Star Wars Landing Bay carpet.

Star Wars Landing Bay carpet.

(11) Norbert Schürer discusses “Tolkien Criticism Today” in LA Review of Books. It takes awhile, but he finally finds something good to say.

It is perhaps no wonder, then, that the field of Tolkien studies is in a sad state. This is not to say that there aren’t excellent critics (such as Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, and Jane Chance) and outstanding scholarly venues (particularly the venerable journal Mythlore and the more recent annual Tolkien Studies). However, judging by seven recent works of Tolkien scholarship, there are various challenges in the field. Much criticism features weak, underdeveloped arguments or poor writing, and the field is overrun by niche publishers who seem to have little quality control…..

With the Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien and Tolkien: The Forest and the City (in parts), the future of Tolkien studies is perhaps not entirely bleak. The Companion in particular is a volume from a well-established publisher, which actually gives Tolkien academic cachet by including him in their Companion series. The essays in this volume and in Tolkien: The Forest and the City make well-developed, well-written, comprehensive, and compelling arguments. Thus, these books show the two requirements for good Tolkien criticism. For one, he should be treated like any other author in being discussed in seriously peer-reviewed journals and established academic presses rather than in essay collections and niche publications. Just as importantly, Tolkien should not be treated with kid gloves because he is a fan favorite with legions to be placated, but as the serious and major author he is.

(12) Jennifer M. Wood discusses “11 Famous Books That Have Proven Impossible to Film” at Mental Floss.


Believe it or not, there is a Philip K. Dick novel that has yet to be made into a movie. Which isn’t to say that an adaptation of this 1969 sci-fi tale of telepathy and moon colonization (set in the then-futuristic year of 1992) hasn’t been tried. As early as 1974, filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin commissioned Dick to adapt his own work for filming. Dick finished the script in less than a month; though it was never produced, it was published in 1985 as Ubik: The Screenplay. In 2006, A Scanner Darkly producer Tommy Pallotta announced that he was readying the film for production. In 2011, it was Michel Gondry who was confirmed to be at the helm … until earlier this year, when Gondry told The Playlist that he was no longer working on it.

(13) Farnam Street Blog’s “Accidents Will Happen” is an excerpt from Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, 2001), about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal.

command and control cover

A B-47 bomber was taxiing down the runway at a SAC base in Sidi Slimane, Morocco, on January 31, 1958. The plane was on ground alert, practicing runway maneuvers, cocked but forbidden to take off. It carried a single Mark 36 bomb. To make the drill feel as realistic as possible, a nuclear core had been placed in the bomb’s in-flight insertion mechanism. When the B-47 reached a speed of about 20 miles an hour, one of the rear tires blew out. A fire started in the wheel well and quickly spread to the fuselage. The crew escaped without injury, but the plane split in two, completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters sprayed the burning wreckage for 10 minutes—long past the time factor of the Mark 36—then withdrew. The flames reached the bomb, and the commanding general at Sidi Slimane ordered that the base be evacuated immediately. Cars full of airmen and their families sped into the Moroccan desert, fearing a nuclear disaster.

The fire lasted for two and a half hours. The high explosives in the Mark 36 burned but didn’t detonate. According to an accident report, the hydrogen bomb and parts of the B-47 bomber melted into “a slab of slag material weighing approximately 8,000 pounds, approximately 6 to 8 feet wide and 12 to 15 feet in length with a thickness of 10 to 12 inches.” A jackhammer was used to break the slag into smaller pieces. The “particularly ‘hot’ pieces” were sealed in cans, and the rest of the radioactive slag was buried next to the runway. Sidi Slimane lacked the proper equipment to measure levels of contamination, and a number of airmen got plutonium dust on their shoes, spreading it not just to their car but also to another air base.

(14) Tomorrow you can download Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Stories Inspired by Microsoft

— an anthology of short stories written by some of today’s greatest science fiction authors. These visionary stories explore prediction science, quantum computing, real-time translation, machine learning, and much more. The contributing authors were inspired by inside access to leading-edge work, including in-person visits to Microsoft’s research labs, to craft new works that predict the near-future of technology and examine its complex relationship to our core humanity.


Elizabeth Bear · Greg Bear · David Brin · Nancy Kress · Ann Leckie · Jack McDevitt · Seanan McGuire · Robert J. Sawyer The collection also includes a short graphic novel by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal, and original illustrations by Joey Camacho.



(15) Abigail Nussbaum has “Five Comments on Hamilton”.

If you’re like me, you probably spent some portion of the last six months watching your online acquaintance slowly become consumed with (or by) something called Hamilton.  And then when you looked it up it turned to be a musical playing halfway around the world that you will probably never see.  But something strange and surprising is happening around Hamilton–a race-swapped, hip-hop musical about the short life and dramatic death of Alexander Hamilton, revolutionary soldier, founding father of the United States, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and creator of the US financial system.  Unusually for a work of pop culture that is only available to a small, even select group of people, Hamilton is becoming a fannish phenomenon, inspiring fanfic and fanart and, mostly, a hell of a lot of enthusiasm….

(16) Local Three Stooges fans will convene November 28 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The 18th Annual Alex Film Society The Three Stooges Big Screen Event “showcases six classic Stooges shorts featuring Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp preparing, throwing and wearing food. Will high society matrons be hit in the face with cream pies? Soitenly!”

On the bill of fare — A Pain In The Pullman (1936, Preston Black), Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb (1938, Del Lord), Idiots Deluxe (1945, Jules White), Crash Goes The Hash (1944, Jules White), Sing A Song Of Six Pants (1947, Jules White), Dutiful But Dumb (1941, Del Lord).

(17) SF Site News announced this year’s ISFiC Writer’s Contest winner:

M. Aruguete won the ISFiC Writer’s Contest with her story “Catamount.” The contest is sponsored by ISFiC in conjunction with Windycon. Aruguete won a membership at Windycon, room nights, and $300. Her story was published in the con program book. This year’s contest was judged by Richard Chwedyk, Roland Green, and Elizabeth Anne Hull.

(18) Jeff Somers, in a guest post for SF Signal, argues that his stories with psionics should stay on the sf shelf at the bookstore.

As the TV Tropes page on psychic powers says, “Telepathy, clairvoyance, pyrokinesis—the powers are supernatural, but the names are scientific, which is good enough for soft Sci-Fi.” This sort of disdain is the top layer of a debate that’s been raging for decades about whether or not a story can have psychic powers and still be considered Science Fiction as opposed to Fantasy. The argument is simple: There is absolutely no evidence that supports psychic powers of any kind being possible, and without at least the real-world scientific possibility, they’re essentially magic powers. Which makes your story a Fantasy, thanks for playing, you might as well shove a bearded wizard in there and start reading Wikipedia articles about broadswords.

Anyway, I started thinking about all this recently because I’ve been writing and publishing digital-only short stories set in the Avery Cates universe, and in that universe (from the very beginning) there are psionic (er, psychic) powers…

(19) Mindy Klasky points out the varied uses of feedback, in “C is for Critique” at Book  View Café.

Critique partners offer authors valuable insight into what works and what does not work in a book. Sometimes, that criticism is directly on point—the mere statement of the problem is enough to help an author see what needs to be fixed. Other times, an author concludes that a critic is mistaken—she doesn’t understand the book, or she isn’t familiar with a particular sub-genre, or she was having a bad day as she wrote her criticism. Even in those cases, the rational writer considers the criticism as a warning that the reader was pulled off track at that particular point. Often, a critic finds fault with a particular aspect of a book (e.g., “your heroine sounds whiny when she talks to her best friend”) but an author discovers a completely different fix (e.g., the heroine shouldn’t be talking to her best friend in that scene; instead, she should be taking steps to solve her problem more directly.) Critics aren’t omniscient, but they can be good barometers of when a story succeeds.

(20) Kameron Hurley says this is “Why You Should Be Watching The Man in The High Castle:

I’m not sure when I realized that this wasn’t a story about the Nazis and Japanese Empire laying waste to the happy United States we have in our happy memories. I think it was when the Japanese Empire raids a Jewish man’s house, seemingly for no reason, and I realized it looked a lot like a swatting raid, or a raid on some innocent brown man with an Arab-sounding name, or the FBI raid on an innocent professor accused of sending sensitive material to the Chinese. And in that moment I realized the entire world I’d been presented thus in the show far wasn’t so much different from the United States in 2015, and that in fact the show was very much aware of that. If you’re brown, or black, or Muslim, or have a non-white sounding name, or you look at a TSA agent funny, or say something about supporting terrorism online (threatening to murder a woman is still OK! But I digress), get ready to get raided, detained, tortured, thrown into prison, or disappeared. I thought about our creepy no-fly lists, about police throwing students to the floor in classrooms, about minor traffic violations that end with somebody strangling you to death in prison and pretending you totally hung yourself with a plastic bag. I thought of this whole world we’ve built, post-World War II, and realized this show wasn’t saying, “Wouldn’t things be so different?” but instead, “Are things really as different as we think?”

(21) Move and groove like everyone’s favorite kaiju with Logemas Godzilla Simulator.

There’s something big coming this way… Logemas’ latest Motion Capture and VR demo!

We’re tracking 7 objects, hands, feet, hips, chest and an Oculus DK2 with Vicon Bonita cameras and streaming into the Unreal game engine for some mayhem!

Of course, we all want to know where they attach the tail-motion-generator.

[Thanks to Petréa Mitchell, Meredith, Will R., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10 The nine and sixty ways of constructing Pixel Scrolls

(1) Oscar handicappers have The Martian running second for Best Picture says Variety.

In the Oscar race for best picture, “The Martian” has taken off like a rocket among the predictions by media experts at Gold Derby. One month ago, it wasn’t even in the top 10, but now it’s tied for second place with “Joy,” both sharing 17 to 2 odds. “Spotlight” remains out front and has picked up support as it debuts in theaters.

(2) J. K. Rowling tweeted her favorite fan art of Sirius and James Potter:

(3) Auditioning to be the next Doctor?

(4) “Future’s Past: The astronauts of 2001: A Space Odyssey at The Space Review covers actors Keir Dullea’s and Gary Lockwood’s appearance at Dragon Con.

Lockwood also said that they got to meet the Apollo 11 crew, and then he paused and said, “I liked Neil… I don’t like Buzz.” He added that often when he and Dullea do joint appearances at film showings, somehow Buzz Aldrin always seems to appear and people want to introduce Aldrin to him. Lockwood drolly replies that he already knows the moonwalker. He implied that he had a similar low opinion of William Shatner, with whom he appeared in the second television pilot for Star Trek.

Lockwood also told a great story about working on the centrifuge set, which he thought was brilliantly designed. He joked that he realized that Kubrick hired him for the job because of his previous experience as a cowboy stuntman. One day Lockwood found himself strapped into his chair, eating goop from his food tray—upside down. Keir Dullea was supposed to climb down the ladder at the center of the set and then the whole set would rotate as he walked over to where Lockwood was sitting. Kubrick called “action” and told Lockwood to take a bite, and Lockwood then watched as the three squares of goop slowly peeled off his tray… and fell nearly 70 feet to the floor below, splattering everything on the pristine white set. They didn’t shoot for the rest of the day.

The actors took some questions from the audience and had some really interesting answers. For instance, somebody asked if they knew that the film would be a classic. Dullea said that he had his doubts because the early reviews were so poor. In particular, he mentioned New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael’s infamous devastating review, where she referred to 2001 as “trash masquerading as art” and “monumentally unimaginative.” Kael later recanted upon seeing the film a second time, but 2001 received numerous other lackluster and even harsh reviews. Considering that 2001 was released way behind schedule and over budget, expectations had been high, and presumably many critics were waiting to pounce.

(5) Entertainment Weekly has the good word — “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is Returning”.

Next year, TV viewers will be able to relive all manner of classic ’90s shows, with new episodes of The X-FilesTwin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, and Full House on the horizon. Add one more returning series to that list, as Joel Hodgson is announcing Tuesday that his beloved cult creation Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back after 15 years of dormancy.

For those unaware, the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is brilliantly simple: A mad scientist has launched a man into space, and he torments said subject with psychological experiments that involve him watching some of the worst movies ever made. In order to keep it together, the poor marooned host talks back at the screen, aided by a pair of pop culture-obsessed robots. The MST3K crew may not have invented talking back to the screen, but they certainly brought it to the masses.

(6) Gray Rinehart finds connections between running for local office and his experience as a Hugo nominee in “Political Lessons and… the Hugo Awards?”

I ran for elective office this year, and lost. (For the record, I spent about 0.41% of the total that all four candidates in my district spent up until the election, and I got 3.5% of the vote. Not close to winning, but a good return on my meager investment.)

I was also nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and lost. The story behind that has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere, and I won’t go into it in this post. (For the record, and as nearly as I can tell from trying to figure out the preferential voting numbers, about 9% of the 5100 novelette voters selected my story as their first choice. I ended up in fourth place . . . two spots below “No Award.”)

I introduce the fact of my being on political and literary ballots this year because I observed two things in the recent Town Council election process that seem pertinent to this year’s Hugo Awards. Specifically, that the political parties inserted themselves deeply into what was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, and other players also wielded considerable influence; and that a lot of voter information was readily available for the candidates to use.

A lot of food for thought. Among Rinehart’s many points:

And as long as we divide ourselves, or in the case of fandom subdivide ourselves; as long as we separate ourselves into (virtual or actual) walled-off enclaves and echo chambers, and associate only with those who look like us, act like us, and believe the things we do; we will find it harder to understand, relate to, and get along with one another — in civil life as well as in the SF&F community.

I think we would be well-served as a fannish community if we talked more about what we love and why we love it, without implying that those who do not love it as we do are ignorant or contemptible. And I think we would be better off if we recalled another RAH observation, also from Friday (emphasis in original): “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

(7) A fascinating installment of Robert W. Weinberg’s memoirs published by Tangent Online in 2011, “Collecting Fantasy Art #5: Lail, It Rhymes With Gail”

Six months later, Victor grew tired of the Freas and traded it to me.  The impossible had happened.  So much for my predictions. I now owned the original cover paintings for the first and second serial installments of Robert Heinlein’s novel, The Door Into Summer.  Immediately, I contacted Al, the guy I had met at the 1976 World SF Convention in Kansas City, to see if he still owned the third and final cover painting for the serial.  I had passed on that cover, though it had been priced cheap, because I had felt certain at the time I would never obtain the second cover painting for the novel.  Now that I had that piece, I really wanted the third cover so I would have all three paintings for the novel.

No such luck.  Al had sold the Freas painting at the convention.  He didn’t remember who bought it, and he didn’t even remember how much they had paid for it.  The painting was long gone.  I had had a chance to buy it back in Kansas City and had passed it by.

I learned my lesson that day.  Only too well.   Never pass up a painting of minor importance because someday that minor meaning might explode.  It was a difficult lesson to learn, but an important one.  It’s one I have never forgotten.

(8) No other writer handles one-star reviews this badly. “British Writer Tracks Down Teen Who Gave His Book a Bad Review, Smashes Her With Wine Bottle” at Gawker.

A 28-year-old British man, most notable for his 2006 victory on the quiz show Countdown, tracked down a Scottish teenager who’d written a negative review of his self-published novel and shattered a bottle of wine on the back of her head. The aspiring author pleaded guilty to the 2014 assault in a Scottish court Monday, the Mirror reported.

Brittain claimed the early reception for The World Rose was strong, blogging that “The praise I received was remarkable and made me feel great; I was compared to Dickens, Shakespeare, Rowling, Raymond E Feist and Nora Roberts.”

…But he also complained about bad reviews from “idiots” and “teenagers.”

One of those teenagers was Paige Rolland, the eventual victim of Brittain’s savage bottle attack. Her entire harsh (but fair) review has been preserved on Amazon, but this passage really sums up her criticism:

As a reader, I’m bored out of my skull and severely disappointed in what I might have paid for. As a writer (albeit an amateur one) I’m appalled that anyone would think this was worthy of money.

Not only does it begin with “once upon a time” which you could argue is perfect as this is a fairytale (and it doesn’t work, it’s incredibly pretentious), but it’s filled with many writing no-nos. Way too much telling, pretentious prose, and a main character that I already hate. Ella is the perfect princess (true to fairytales, so we can at least give him a little credit despite how painfully annoying this is coupled with a complete lack of real personality shining through).

Rolland also noted that Brittain “has gained a bit of infamy on Wattpad where he’s known for threatening users who don’t praise him (pray for me),” which turned out to be quite portentous.

(9) Here’s a word I’m betting you haven’t in your NaNoWriMo novel yet.

(10) Strange poll.

It’s a perennial question. I remember at the 1995 Lunacon that Mordechai Housman, an Orthodox Jew, was having fun circulating copies of his provocative arti­cle Hitler’s Crib, which tries to determine wheth­er religious law would permit time travel and, specifically, wheth­er it would permit travel­ing in time to kill Hitler.

(11) You know this guy: “Plane” at The Oatmeal.

(12) Today In History

  • November 10, 1969Sesame Street debuts.
  • November 10, 1969 — Gene Autry received a gold record for the single, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 20 years after its release.

(13) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • November 10, 1960 – Neil Gaiman

(14) James Whitbrook presents “The 7 Least Subtle Political Allegories on Doctor Who. His pick at number one (most lacking in subtlety) is “The Happiness Patrol.”

But it’s the despot herself who is the most obvious pastiche. Sheila Hancock openly plays the leader Helen A as a satirical take on then-Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” who dominated British politics. At the time, this barely made ripples, but a 2010 story in the British newspaper The Sunday Times about the connection—featuring a quote from Sylvester McCoy describing Mrs. Thatcher as “more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered”—saw Conservative politicians in uproar at the anti-Conservative bias this revealed on the part of the BBC. Ex-script editor Andrew Cartmel was brought onto the BBC news program Newsnight to answer claims that the 1980s Doctor Who creative team had been a source of left-wing propaganda in the wake of the “revelation”… despite the story having been no particular secret, 22 years earlier.

Always remember – science fiction is never about the future….

(15) A previously unpublished Leigh Brackett story is one of the lures to buy Haffner Press’ tribute book, Leigh Brackett Centennial.

SF and mystery author Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) – who also wrote screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and The Empire Strikes Back —?is represented by an array of nonfiction pieces by and about here, as well as the previously unpublished story “They,” which Haffner describes as “a mature science fiction tale of power and intrigue, of homegrown xenophobia versus stellar exploration, with an answer to the ultimate question: ‘Are we alone?’” The volume collects the majority of Brackett’s nonfiction writings, supplemented with vintage interviews and commentaries/remembrances from such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Richard A. Lupoff and more.

Brackett writes of bringing Philip Marlowe into the 1970s for Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye in “From The Big Sleep to The Long Goodbye and More or Less How We Got There.”

SF-author and NASA employee Joseph Green records the time he hosted Brackett at the launch of Apollo XII . . .
Midwest bookseller Ray Walsh documents the day he escorted Brackett to view a new groundbreaking space-fantasy film in the summer 1977…

Order the book at this link:

(16) John Scalzi gives his take on balancing awards and mental health:

I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.

(17) Luna Lindsey reviews two competing online tools in “Panlexicon vs. Visual Thesaurus — Who Will Win?” at the SFWA Blog.

I kept Visual Thesaurus on retainer as my go-to onomasticon until I stumbled upon in all of its simple, elegant magic.

The power of Panlexicon lies in its ability to search on multiple terms, which will bring up a larger spectrum of metonyms than most thesauri (including Visual Thesaurus). So it’s perfect for finding that just-out-of-reach expression when all you can remember are remotely-related numinous approximations of what you’re going for. Simply type two or more related words or phrases, separated by a comma, and voilà. (And of course, you can always search a standalone word.)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Jim Meadows for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7 The Manliness of MEH

(1) “The Empire Strikes Thomas Kinkade” points to Jeff Bennett’s satirical improvements on “The Artist of Light.”

(2) American wizards have a completely different word for “Muggle” reveals Entertainment Weekly.

Next year’s Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1926 New York, where the wizarding community uses another term entirely for people without magical powers.

In shifting the franchise away from the U.K., author J.K. Rowling — who also wrote the movie’s screenplay — is poised to introduce several new words into the Potterverse lexicon, and the most significant might be what Stateside wizards say instead of Muggle: “No-Maj” (pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic”).

(3) And here’s a gallery of images from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, we go on the set and deep inside the chamber of secrets of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here’s your first look at Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, Alison Sudol and Queenie Goldstein, and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski.

(4) More alleged secrets are spilled by the host of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

J.K. Rowling can’t stop revealing “Harry Potter” secrets, even though the last book came out over 8 years ago. It’s time for Stephen to take spoilers into his own hands.


(5) Adam Whitehead, in “A History of Epic Fantasy – Part 25“, courts controversy by asking about the Harry Potter series:

But is it really an epic fantasy?

That question has been asked many times before and has proven slightly controversial. The more obvious answer may be no: the books are set in the “real” world, with some of the action taking place in real locations such as London. Much of the story is set in and around a single location, Hogwarts, whilst epic fantasy is often based around a long journey or series of journeys across a fantastical landscape. Epic fantasy also usually features a large and diverse number of nonhuman races, whilst Harry Potter only has a small number of them, and all of the primary protagonists are human. Epic fantasy also relies on characters with diverse skillsets, whilst in Potter pretty much everyone of note is a wizard.

But there are strong arguments to the counter. The books may touch on the real world but most of the action takes place in original, fantastical locations such as Hogwarts. Also, the books make much of the idea of the world being similar to ours, but one where magic is real (if mostly secret) and the impact that has on government and society, making it arguably an alt-history.

(6) At World Fantasy Con 2015:

(7) Also allegedly sighted at WFC by Adam Christopher. No context!

(8) Ethan Mills continues his celebration of Stoic Week at Examined Worlds.

Friday: Relationships with Other People and Society Stoics, Vulcans, Buddhists, and artificial intelligences alike are often accused of being emotionless and not caring about other people.  In all four cases, this is a mistake (although in the case of AIs, it may depend on which AI you’re talking about).  See my philosophical tribute to Leonard Nimoy for more on this point. As any sufficiently nerdy Star Trek fan knows, Vulcans actually have emotions, but, in many of the same ways as Stoics, they train themselves to move beyond being controlled by negative emotions and they cultivate positive emotions like compassion.  Vulcans like Spock do care about their friends.  The deep friendship that Spock feels for his crew mates, especially Kirk and McCoy, is unmistakable, as illustrated most poignantly near the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (whether Spock is a utilitarian or virtue ethicist is hard to say.)

Marcus Aurelius realized that cultivating compassion for everyone is often hard, especially when other people are obnoxious (as they so often are, even more so now that we have internet trolls).

(9) In “Guillermo del Toro’s Guide to Gothic Romance” at Rookie the director lists the Gothic romances that influenced him.

Do you ever wonder what goes on in the wondrous mind of director, producer, and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro? Yes? Same. Well, to chime with the recent release of his creepy, goth thriller Crimson Peak, Guillermo has curated a syllabus of the Gothic and Gothic romance novels, short stories, and engravings that influenced the making of the film. He sent us these recommendations with the following words: “I hope you enjoy some of these as fall or winter reads by the fireplace.” Before you post up beside an actual fire, here’s what Guillermo del Toro has to say about these Gothic essentials.

First on the list –

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu This book defines the link between fairy tales and gothic romance. Uncle Silas is a convoluted, highly perverse mystery-thriller about innocence in danger, written by the master of ghost stories, J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s a dense but rewarding read, and it was crucial to Crimson Peak.

(10) Superman will make a (blurry) appearance on the next episode of Supergirl.

Consequently, Josh Wilding at We Got This Covered is a little bit crabby.

While it makes some sense that Superman would come and save the inexperienced Supergirl, the series really needs to find a way to take him off the board so he’s not continuously used as a plot device in future. If that’s not going to happen, then he should make an actual appearance instead of all these endless teases.

(11) Cedar Sanderson, “The Slow, Dark Eclipse of the Soul”, at Mad Genius Club.

It’s been a discouraging week, overall. First there was the article about SF writers coming into the genre without reading the classics of the genre. Then, when I started working on a list of classics available free (or very cheap) online to suggest to potential readers, I got a comment to the effect of ‘classics suck, they should die in a fire, and why should anyone read them?’

In the aftermath of that, which left me wondering why I was trying to make this list… I don’t make the lists to force anyone to read anything. I can’t – who am I? I’m not the teacher, or the… anything. I’m just someone who likes to create these lists of recommendations with input from others, and then they generate even more suggestions in the comments. I make lists to be beginnings, not endings. The hope is that someone will see a title they had never read, or had forgotten, and that strikes mental sparks in folks who have favorites they want to share, and so on. It’s about building up the genre, not tearing it down. I’d never say ‘you must read these books, and only these books, all others are anathema.’

As I was saying, I was still mentally mulling the whole ‘classics suck!’ thing over in my head, when a minor controversy erupted over writing book reviews. When, if ever, is it ok to be critical in a review? Should we put ourselves in a position where we say ‘well, that author is on my side, ergo I must never say a bad word about his work?’ Well, no, I don’t think so. Nor do I think that the occasional critical review is a bad thing – as long as the review is analyzing the work, not the author, and leavened with the good along with the bad. That’s how I do it. But it’s discouraging to be told that we can’t present a critical view of a work, simply because of who the author is.

(12) Fans are so smitten by the idea of an illuminated toy lightsaber that’s sturdy enough to bash around that they have fully funded Calimacil’s Kickstarter and then some – raising $46,889, well beyond the $38,259 goal.

The challenge was to build a lightsaber made of foam for safe play. To integrate light, we had to enhance the foam formula we normally use to build our products. Moreover, we had to develop a new technology into the handle to enable both light and sound. Thus our journey began, and we successfully achieved the creation of a fully immersive foam LEDsaber!….

The LEDsaber can communicate with a smartphone through Bluetooth. With that communication enabled, you will be able to customize the light effects of the blade. Multiple choices of colors are available: red, blue, green, orange and more. Even more, you can create various visual plasma effects on the blade….

Calimacil has no intention to commercialize the product using any kind of trademark associated to Disney. For the purpose of the kickstarter campaign we use the term LEDsaber.


(13) A lot of people post about their pets passing away, and I empathize with their sadness and loss.

It’s rare that someone can communicate what it was like to be in relationship with that animal, as John Scalzi has in “Lopsided Cat, 2000-2015”.

(14) And I therefore place next a BBC video in which an “Astronaut plays bagpipes on International Space Station”

A US astronaut has played a set of Scottish-made bagpipes on the International Space Station to pay tribute to a colleague who died.

Kjell Lindgren played Amazing Grace on the pipes after recording a message about research scientist Victor Hurst, who was involved in astronaut training.

It is thought to be the first time that bagpipes have been played in space.

(15) Internet English – the language in which “honest” means “brutal”!

The Force is awakening soon – and we have an honest look at the trailer for the movie that everyone’s already going to see anyway.


 [Thanks to Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10 The Camestrulan Neutral Zone

(1) Today’s birthday girl —

Born September 10, 1953 – Pat Cadigan

She had a good day – “My Birthday Wasn’t All About Cancer”

Even though it started with a blood test at the Macmillan Centre, my birthday was all about Chris, and sushi and sake. It was all about my weight-loss making more clothes fit better. It was all about walking all over central London without worrying about having to find a place to sit. Well, until after I drank most of a small(-ish) bottle of sake. My back became a bit less tractable for a while but it had shaped up pretty well after the bus ride home.

(2) Europa SF has a great feature on the Tblisi, Georgia sf club “Fantasti” by Irakli Lomouri.

The first issue of “Fantasti“, The Georgian Science Fiction Magazine , is dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

The first issue of “Fantasti“, The Georgian Science Fiction Magazine , is dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

Our SF and Fantasy Club “Fantasti” was officially registered in Tbilisi (Georgia) on March 18th, 2015, but its history began in August 2014, when I had a holiday – a free month – and lay down on the couch reading SF stories by means of my new tablet via internet. I love SF from my childhood, so I had to recall my favorite stories, and read many new ones – nearly 150.

I got so much pleasure, that I decided to offer it to others.

I wrote in a Facebook: Dear friends,  let’s create a SF and Fantasy Club and publish  a special dedicated magazine.

In Georgia SF is not popular, so I had no hope I could find real supporters of my idea, but fortunately I found them, so we met and started our club.

Since September 2014 we are having our biweekly meetings at my flat or in the House of Georgian Writers. In our club there are people of all ages, most of them write SF and fantasy themselves, so our club plays the role of literary studio, we read aloud our new stories and discuss them.

In our group on FB we have nearly 500 members (but not all are active)…

(3) Here’s something new to remember: the “t” in Voldemort is silent.

(4) National Geographic has a big article about the discovery of a new species of human ancestor in a South African cave.

A trove of bones hidden deep within a South African cave represents a new species of human ancestor, scientists announced Thursday in the journal eLife. Homo naledi, as they call it, appears very primitive in some respects—it had a tiny brain, for instance, and apelike shoulders for climbing. But in other ways it looks remarkably like modern humans. When did it live? Where does it fit in the human family tree? And how did its bones get into the deepest hidden chamber of the cave—could such a primitive creature have been disposing of its dead intentionally?…

The same schizoid pattern was popping up at the other tables. A fully modern hand sported wackily curved fingers, fit for a creature climbing trees. The shoulders were apish too, and the widely flaring blades of the pelvis were as primitive as Lucy’s—but the bottom of the same pelvis looked like a modern human’s. The leg bones started out shaped like an australopithecine’s but gathered modernity as they descended toward the ground. The feet were virtually indistinguishable from our own.

“You could almost draw a line through the hips—primitive above, modern below,” said Steve Churchill, a paleontologist from Duke University. “If you’d found the foot by itself, you’d think some Bushman had died.”

But then there was the head. Four partial skulls had been found—two were likely male, two female. In their general morphology they clearly looked advanced enough to be called Homo. But the braincases were tiny—a mere 560 cubic centimeters for the males and 465 for the females, far less than H. erectus’s average of 900 cubic centimeters, and well under half the size of our own. A large brain is the sine qua non of humanness, the hallmark of a species that has evolved to live by its wits. These were not human beings. These were pinheads, with some humanlike body parts.

(5) And at the other end of the timescale, NASA is busy today downloading and interpreting photos of Pluto taken by New Horizons.

New Horizons photo of chaos region on Pluto.

New Horizons photo of chaos region on Pluto.

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. “If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”

New Horizons began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend. Images downlinked in the past few days have more than doubled the amount of Pluto’s surface seen at resolutions as good as 400 meters (440 yards) per pixel. They reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface. They also show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.     “The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum.”

In the center of this 300-mile (470-kilometer) wide image of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).

(6) Huffington Post asked 13 top scientists to name their favorite books and movies.

Jane Goodall

Primatologist, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace

Three books of my childhood probably had the greatest impact on my life. The Story of Doctor Dolittle’ (by Hugh Lofting) and ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ (by Edgar Rice Burroughs) inspired me to understand what animals were trying to tell us and instilled within me an equally strong determination to travel to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them. ‘The Miracle of Life’ was a large book my grandmother got for free by saving up coupons from cereal packets. It was by no means a book intended for children.”

(7) Connie Willis is interviewed by Colorado Public Radio in “Hugos Battle: Both Sides Claim Sci-Fi Is Being Ruined By Politics”. Via Kevin Standlee.

(8) Chuck Wendig has some good news about his new novel.

I kinda didn’t think Star Wars: Aftermath was going to make list. In part because why would I assume that, and also in part because most books come out on Tuesday and this book came out on Friday and it was also a holiday weekend and, and, and.

Apparently, that was wrongo of me.

Because Aftermath debuted on both the New York Times list and the USA Today list at number four. Which is extra funny because it’s a pair of fours which is like Force and because my tweet wanting to be hired to write Star Wars in the first place was on September 4th and because the book then came out exactly one year later on September 4th and also because I actually apparently have the Force. *shoots lightning into the sky*

Of course, if instead of all 4’s it had been all 5’s we could have had a field day on File 770….

(9) And maybe Chuck can sign his next book contract with one of these Star Wars themed pens from Cross.

(10) Science fiction has an advocate in Malaysia.

KUSHAIRI ZURADI discovered late last year that not many publishers were keen to publish Malay science fiction books when he offered his collection of short stories to them.

The 25-year-old author and medical school graduate recalls: “Some ­publishers believe the ­readership for Malay science fiction is too small [for them] to make a decent profit and they do not want to take a chance on these novels.”

Realising this, in August last year, Kushairi ­decided to found his own publishing ­company, Simptomatik Press, to self-publish his first book, ­Biohazard, featuring 14 of his short stories. All 14 ­stories dealt with ­microorganisms.

“In my final year in medical school, I studied microorganisms and I was fascinated by their life-cycles,” says Kushairi, who is currently ­waiting to start his ­housemanship.

“You cannot see them but they are everywhere. We have been taught that 90% of [the cells in the human body are actually] organisms ranging from bacteria to parasites.”

[Thanks to David Doering and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2 Split-Level Headcheese

(1) Pat Cadigan is still making cancer her bitch.

I didn’t plan to travel as much as I did this year, it just happened that way. And I’m not done yet. I have at least one trip, possibly two left before I put the suitcase away till next year.

It’s been very good for me, physically as well as mentally. In May, I visited Copenhagen for the first time. In June, I took a road-trip from Virginia to a college reunion in Massachusetts. In July, I spent most of a week at a festival in Spain. And in mid-August, I went to Spokane, WA for Sasquan, the world sf convention. The difference in my physical condition now compared to the same time last year is virtually miraculous. I could walk reasonable distances without collapsing. On Saturday night, I went to the Hugo Losers Party––the one given by original co-founder George RR Martin––and didn’t go to bed till four a.m. Then I was up at 9-ish to meet a friend for breakfast.

Last year at this time, I was pretty feeble. This year, I’m hopping around like an ingenue. I appear to be well, so much so that you’d never guess I had terminal cancer. A lot of people didn’t know––they thought I was in remission. It was no fun to correct them. I hated making them feel bad. Seriously; I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I have a lot more experience being them than being terminal.

I’ve been saying that more often in the last few weeks: terminal cancer; I’m terminal; treatment is palliative. There’s about a year and four months left of my oncologist’s original two-year estimate. Where did the time go?

(2) Little White Lies “Video Artifacts No. 4 – Andrew Ainsworth”

You may not know the name, but Andrew Ainsworth is the creator of one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – the original Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet. Working out of his shop situated on the quaint, leafy Twickenham Green, Ainsworth began his career in the ’70s as a prop maker for films and has since become one of the leading exponents of products made via plastic moulding techniques.


(3) Here’s a headline I missed: James Potter — Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley’s son — started Hogwarts on September 1.

(4) Tremendous examples of trompe l’oeil posted by George R.R. Martin – all the work of John Pugh, “master of the art style called ‘narrative illusionism.’”

(5) Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time for Doctor Who fans to start counting down until “The Doctor and River Song Reunite For A Spectacular Christmas”

Alex Kingston returns to Cardiff to reclaim her role as Professor River Song for the highly anticipated 2015 Doctor Who Christmas special, part of BBC One’s essential seasonal viewing.

It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveller River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas.

Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by Lead Writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

River Song made her first Doctor Who appearance in 2008 in ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead’ and has appeared in 15 episodes to date.

Award winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance, “To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humour and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September? Why not!”

Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, adds, “Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song? The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time…”

(6) Ken Marable drops his name in the hat as another fan who would like to host the go-to Hugo recommendation site. Details are at 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season.

I am trying to encourage the community to take part in a “Hugo Recommendation Season” from November to February. Basically to both create as much conversation as possible about the works themselves, and to give each category its fair spotlight, I’m hoping to have a Focus Week on each category. During each week, fans would post their recommendations (on their blogs, Facebook, whatever) saying what works they love, and most importantly, why. (There are a lot of recommendation *lists*, I want more – I want to know *why* it is recommended.)

….I am hoping to get as many fans as possible to participate including Sad Puppies, non-Puppies, new members, and long-time fans like you. In fact, my ideal would be to have some of the old guard introduce each category, possibly explaining why it came into existence, things to consider, etc. (e.g. suggestions on how fans can look for a Best Editor; just what is and why do we have a semiprozine; venerable past winners; surprising past winners, etc.). Sure it’s all a Google search away, but it would be nice to have a single, short reference to accompany the recommendations. However, I would be pleased if fans just participated in each Focus Week and talked about works and people they think are award worthy in each category.

(7) David Gerrold has something going too – see Facebook

Here’s a secret cabal for the rest of us. THE SECRET CABAL OF FANNISH FANS [SCOFF]. Anyone can join. Anyone can recommend. There are no slates, just people sharing the books they enjoyed.

(8) Edouard Briere Allard has posted “A Critical Review of Laura J. Mixon’s Essay”, which is as voluminous and heavily annotated as the work it attacks:

This is only my interpretation, but Mixon appears saddened that BS was not kicked out of SFF and that BS has instead decided to become a better person and keep writing in SFF (although to be clear, BS had already made that decision in 2013, possibly even some time in 2012). Mixon later tells us: “trust can’t precede the cessation of abuse. Forgiveness can’t come at the expense of basic fairness. Reconciliation can’t precede regret.” This idea that the WoC in front of her might not be guilty of all the crimes she is accused of is impossible for Mixon to believe; just as impossible as believing that she, herself, might be guilty of comparable crimes. This, I think, explains her desire to pursue the matter until she gets her way. It’s a very American way of seeing things.

In the same follow-up post, Mixon says:

Dividing people into camps, branding those who disagree with us (or whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof), skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. offend us in some way, for that matter) as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice. No matter who does it. That was why I wrote my report.

Here, if nowhere else, this single paragraph illustrates perfectly why I loathed Mixon’s essay, and her apparent inability to empathise with others and to evaluate her own actions. Mixon, in an essay that begins with decrying the difficulty of getting rid of the “evil” that is BS, says: “branding those who disagree with us […] as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice”. This branding, you’ll recall, the only branding RH as ever done that could conceivably fit into what Mixon is saying here, is calling things or people misogynist, racist, homophobic or colonialist. While there is always ample room to discuss strategy and tactics in the fight against misogyny, racism, homophobia or colonialism, I disagree with Mixon’s sweeping condemnation, and I find her framing deeply hypocritical.

(9) Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon – “2015 Hugo Analysis: Category Participation”

[Post includes an assortment of graphs covering several years of history in every category.]

Now 2015: that line is totally inconsistent with the previous 4 years. Previously ignored categories like Editor grabbed an increase of 30 points—there’s your visual representation of how the Puppy kerfuffle drove votes. Thousands of voters voted in categories they would have previously ignored. I imagine this increase is due to both sides of the controversy, as various voters are tying to make their point. Still, 80% participation in a category like Editor, Short or Long Form is highly unusual for the Hugos. Even the Best Novel had a staggering 95% participation rate, up from a prior 4 year average of 87.4%.


(10) Harry Connolly, taking off from a recent Eric Flint post, speculates that Hugo voters and readers have these differences — in “oh god am i really going to write about the hugos again”

But here’s my suggestion, tentatively offered: what if the Hugo voters/nominators aren’t the one’s who’ve changed these last few decades? I mean, sure, some folks age out, new folks come in, so they aren’t the same individuals. But what if they’re the same sort of novelty-seeking reader, preferring clever, flattering books to pretty much everything else?

Because that would mean that the bulk of the readership now are the sorts of readers who don’t care about fandom or voting for Awards. Who have maybe sampled a few award-winners and found them not to their taste. They’re the people who came into the genre through Sword of Shannara, because it was the first fantasy to hit the NYTimes list, through STAR WARS and dozens of other action/adventure-with-ray-guns movies that sold millions of tickets, through D&D novels like Dragonlance, or through shoot-em-up video games.

Maybe the award hasn’t changed very much, but the readership now suddenly includes huge masses of people who are looking for Hollywood-style entertainment, with exaggerated movie characterization and a huge third act full of Big Confrontation.

(11) Robert B. Marks in Escapist Magazine – “The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Awards Burned”

When you take a step back, it’s easy to see the Sad Puppies as the only sympathetic clique of the lot. They bought their memberships and voted for the stories they thought were worthy of recognition, as was their right as members – they’re also the only group who didn’t advocate a response of “if we can’t have it, nobody can!” Of everybody involved in the voting, the Sad Puppies did nothing wrong. In fact, they may be the only clique in this mess who actually honoured the fan-driven spirit of the Hugo Awards. It speaks volumes that when George R.R. Martin asked if he could nominate authors for consideration in next year’s Sad Puppies effort, the answer came back as an unconditional “yes.”

(12) Charles E. Gannon on Whatever in a comment on “Wrapping Up 2015: A Hugo Awards Open Thread”

This is a proven recipe for quickening passionate partisans into aggressive zealots. When advocates forsake their initial behavioral limits, they have started down a path in which their ends have begun to justify means they would not have countenanced earlier. And so they are on their way to becoming radicalized extremists.

We are familiar enough with the early warning signs of this dynamic at work, and which, cast in the taxonomies of our genre, equate to:

increasing numbers of SF & F readers becoming infected with the same virus of polarization now endemic in so many other parts of our culturescape;

name-calling, mockery, and personal invective that becomes so ubiquitous that it no longer stands out as arresting or unusual;

increasingly strident and absolutist rhetoric, often accompanied by a reflex to screen for “correct think vs. wrong think” semantics.

I don’t propose to have any sweeping answer for how to reverse this trend. (That would make me yet another strident advocate, wouldn’t it?). Rather, I perceive the answer to be ultimately personal: a conscience-informed attempt to balance what one intended to convey with how it was received. In short, to temper oneself without muzzling oneself.

My own answer is to keep talking amiably with people from all over the spectrum, regardless of however different (or not) our opinions may be. Consequently, lots of the folks I’ve spoken with over the last six months will not find the content of this post surprising and have expressed sympathy for larger or smaller parts of it. The list includes people such as Larry Correia, David Gerrold, Brad Torgerson, John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and Eric Flint, just to name a few. And if anything strikes me as even more prevalent than the differences of opinion and perception among the dozens of people with whom I’ve chatted, it is the degree to which the “sides” do not understand each other. Which, given America’s contemporary culturescape, is not really surprising.

(14) Solarbird on crime and the foreces of evil – ”on the business meeting, part 2: e pluribus hugo”

E Pluribus Hugo doesn’t know about intentional slates. It doesn’t need to be told, “this is a slate.” Nobody has to make that call, because it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of like a normalisation function applied to nominations. There are no arguments over whether a pattern or voting is intentional or a plot or intent or political – a lot of identical ballots will be normalised to a first-order approximation of their actual popular support, regardless.

That’s why it’s so elegant, and that’s why it’s so genius. It doesn’t lock anybody out; it just stops campaigns from locking everyone else out, dramatically reducing their value vs. their labour and monetary cost, and eliminating the incentive for opposition parties.

For me, that is fair. For me, that is enough.

I hope that, for the honest flank of the Sad Puppies, it will also be enough. One self-identified Sad came up and voiced active support for E Pluribus Hugo during the business meeting. Those who actually believe in the mythical SJW VOTER CABAL – which was emphatically demonstrated not to exist by the events of this year, but stick with me – will know that E Pluribus Hugo would normalise this supposed SJW CABAL slate just as effectively.

Is it sad that we’ve reached a point where this sort of engineering is necessary? Eh, maybe. Probably, even. But it has driven fandom to create what even some opponents at the business meeting called a more perfect nominating system.

Yes, it’s tedious as all hell to do by hand, but it can be done. Yes, it’s more complicated – but not much. It’s only a little different than what we do for final voting and for site selection already.

(15) Allum Bokhari on Breitbart – “The online culture wars have moved out of comments sections and into Amazon’s Kindle Store”.

Online progressives were not so supportive. Alexandra Erin, a sci-fi writer who described Day’s book as “rehashing old slights”, wrote a short parody of the book for Kindle. Entitled “John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels,” the book makes fun of Day’s alleged fixation with the progressive sci-fi author John Scalzi.

Scalzi himself appeared to be delighted with the parody,  saying he “loved it already.” He used the book in a fundraising drive for a charity promoting diversity at sci-fi conventions, promising to release an audio recording of him reading the book if $2,500 was raised within three days. The target was successfully met, and Scalzi subsequently uploaded an audio recording.

Supporters of Vox Day responded by releasing their own parody book, entitled “John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia.”

The counter-parody was removed by Amazon today following complaints from Scalzi. Prior to its removal, it was the top seller in the “parodies” section of the Kindle store, two places ahead of Erin’s book. Kindle top 100 rankings are calculated on an hourly basis, and surges in popularity for titles usually reflect a short, rapid increase in the number of purchases….

Both parody authors saw genuine returns for their products. The parody books were both under 30 pages long, and are unlikely to have taken much time to write. The fact that they became part of a buying war by two factions in the culture wars shows how animosity can be harnessed for profit.

(16) John Scalzi weighed in throughout the day.

(17) Ken White on Popehat “Satire vs. Potentially Defamatory Factual Statements: An Illustration”

So. If someone wrote an article saying “Ken White’s legal analysis should be disregarded because dresses up in a rubber suit on the weekend and hunts ponies with a handmade crossbow,” and says it on their trash-talking blog, to an audience that knows them and knows about my blogging here, it’s almost certainly parody, because the relevant audiences would be familiar with our in-joke about responding to spam emails with rants about ponies and would therefore not take it seriously.

The Facts Here

Here the factors point very strongly to the book being treated as parody, and protected by the First Amendment, rather than as a defamatory statement of fact. With all respect to Scalzi, his question is wrong: you can’t analyze the book title in isolation. You have to look at it in the context of the whole. In that context, the intended audience (both fans of Beale and fans of Scalzi) would recognize it as a reference to Beale’s tiresome meme. Plus, the Amazon description explicitly labels it as “a blazingly inventive parody,” and the descriptive text is mostly nonsensical and evocative of ridicule of “SJW” concerns, and references some of the topics that anger Beale’s coterie in connection with Scalzi like the Hugo Awards.

I think this one is protected parody, and I don’t think it’s a very close call.

(18) Vox Day on Vox Popoli – “Why Johnny can’t sue”

I suppose that leaves lobbying Amazon to ban books that make fun of John Scalzi, which I tend to doubt will be a successful strategy. UPDATE: Amazon just pulled down John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia 

Fascinating, in light of how Is George Bush a War Criminal and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Paula Deen is a Big Fat Idiot are still available for sale there. I wonder who will be the next target of these dread parodists?

(19) Brad R. Torgersen – “Tyranny of the Safe”

We must not allow ourselves to become a Tyranny of the Safe. You can have intellectual latitude, or you can have intellectual comfort. But you cannot have both. Larry Niven was 110% correct: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently. Silence the other minds, and you will ultimately find you have silenced yourself. Because any rules you install today, are guaranteed to be abused by your opponents tomorrow. The mob you join in — to metaphorically encircle and burn the homes of the “wrong” people — will encircle and burn your home eventually. Commanded reverence — for an institution, an idea, or a demographic — begets simmering contempt. And the harder you push and punish, the more you use threats and pressure, the more obvious it is that your concepts cannot endure objective criticism.

(20) John C. Wright – “Dantooine is Too Remote”

Look — I hate to get emotional. It is bad for my Vulcan digestion. But the Hugos used to mean something, and now they don’t. A little bit of light and glory have departed the world.

Those who snuffed that light, hating a brightness they could not ignite themselves, must pay.

(21) David Wintheiser on Contrarian Bias “My Only Hugo Disappointment”

But the big problem with [Guardians of the Galaxy]as Hugo-winner came when I discovered what movie got left off the Hugo nominations list because of the three films from the Puppy slate that got on it: Big Hero 6.

The entire plot of Big Hero 6 revolves around the question of who decides how to make the best use of technology, and for what ends. The ‘superpowers’ exhibited in the film all make use of science presented in the film, and while not all the science is strictly ‘real-world’, it still follows the rules set up in the film itself — for example, the limitations of Hiro Hamada’s big invention become a significant plot point in the defeat of the true ‘villain’ of the piece. And, of course, it was a really good story, well-told. Had Big Hero 6 been in the nominations list, I’d have voted for it myself, and felt it was the most deserving potential winner, but because a bunch of butt-hurt white dudes felt like flooding the Hugo nominations market with their own wishlist, the movie I thought would have been the most deserving 2015 Hugo winner didn’t even get nominated.

That, to me, was the biggest and really only disappointment I had from taking part in the 2015 Hugo Award voting. It may well be something I decide to do more regularly in the future, if only to continue to represent a ‘new mainstream’ in SF where diversity in stories and subjects is celebrated, not lamented.

(22) A Stitch in Time – “The World is not Black and White: Hugo-related ramblings”

So. Knowing what I knew about the author’s campaign against the Hugo, and the Puppies slate, and the things said against him, or implied against him, or actually, mostly, the things he wrote that everyone from the Other Side (TM) thinks about him though they’re not actually true… I was really pleasantly surprised. (Now that I’m writing this, I think that I read most of the accusations allegedly done against Correia in his own writing, where he stated them and then vehemently said that he, of course, was none of that. In a way and tone that very much made me think that there was probably a bit of truth to them.)

I did enjoy the books, but knowing about all the personal and sorta-political background story, it felt a little weird to do so, as the Puppy Thing really irked me. I cannot completely part the writing from the author. That may be a good thing for a person: I’ve supported artists because I like the person for their personal qualities or their way of seeing and approaching life, though do not much care for their actual art, for example. But of course it can also mean that I won’t support someone because of their political or general stance on things, and, more importantly, because of the actions they take in this field.

Without the Hugo Kerfuffle, I would choose the Grimnoir books as an Xmas or birthday present for some friends of mine who I’m sure would enjoy them. But… the world is not black and white, and I will not buy these books on their own, because of the Hugo Kerfuffle and the actions the author has taken.

(23) L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – “The Hugos, or ‘You Just Don’t Understand’”

We have two groups with very different perspectives on what constitutes excellence. Each believes the other is wrong, misguided, or the like. Those on each side can argue quite logically their viewpoint. The problem is that, all too often, people with fixed mindsets believe absolutely and firmly that their understanding of a situation is the only way it can be accurately perceived. It has nothing to do with whether one is liberal or conservative, or any other social outlook. It has to do with a certain firmness of thought, described as “principled” by each of themselves, while describing their opponents as misguided or unprincipled.

In the case of the Hugos, as I see it, and I’ve certainly been criticized for the way I see it, there is some truth in both the cases of the “sad puppies” and the “new traditionalists.” [I have to say that I don’t see much truth or objectivity in the points of the “rabid puppies,” but perhaps my mindset just doesn’t accept what seems to be hateful provocation or use of hate to self-publicize.] And, as I’ve said before, not only do I think the field is big enough for both viewpoints, but the sales of a range of authors prove that rather demonstrably.

Yet each side is contending that the other did something hateful and discriminatory, largely because one side refused to abide by unspoken rules that they believed minimized their concerns. In the end, the other aspect of groups that this conflict illustrates, again, is why unspoken rules tend to be superseded by written procedures in larger groups.

[Thanks to Will R., Vox Day, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]

Pixel Scroll 7/30 Gonna Scroll the Bones

A lot of material out there because of the Hugo voting deadline tomorrow but if you want more than the three items I included in today’s Scroll then Google is your friend.

(1) Today in History!

1932: Walt Disney released his first color cartoon, “Flowers and Trees,” made in three-color Technicolor.

1976: NASA released the famous “Face on Mars” photo, taken by Viking 1

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image by its HiRISE camera of the "Face on Mars". Viking Orbiter image inset in bottom right corner.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image by its HiRISE camera of the “Face on Mars”. Viking Orbiter image inset in bottom right corner.

(2) And Today’s Birthday Boy and Girl – what a coincidence!

Born 1965: J. K. Rowling

Born: Harry Potter (main character of Harry Potter series)

(3) “The Tom-cademy Awards: The Only Awards Show Exclusively for Tom Cruise Movies” is part of a weeklong Cruise-themed series on Grantland. The author anoints Emily Blunt as the Best Supporting Actress of any Cruise movie.

The wonderful thing about EoT is that it’s really funny. It achieves that by not pretending the audience has never seen a time-travel movie. Instead, Edge of Tomorrow claps the audience firmly on the shoulder and, smiling, asks (rhetorically), “Hey, wanna see Tom Cruise get iced?” And, as it turns out, watching The Character Named Tom Cruise getting killed in fun and interesting ways, ways that show just enough exposed cranium to make the exercise mean something, is pretty invigorating.

But! Do we not, paradoxically, also want to see The Character Named Tom Cruise succeed? To save the world and get the girl? Yeah, of course we do. This is Tom Cruise we’re talking about. And it’s Blunt, playing it straight the whole time while kicking a Ripley-in-Aliens level of xenomorph butt, who has to downshift from hero-on-a-recruiting-poster to woman-who-we-kind-of-want-to-see-kiss-Tom-Cruise in order to make Cage’s journey from charming coward to soldier/love interest believable. He’s the hero we deserve, that we also need to see die.

Genre films Minority Report (Best Visual Effects) and Interview With The Vampire (Best Costume Design) also take home the hardware.

(4) Janis Ian, who now writes in the sf field, has her own Bill Cosby story from when she was a teenager preparing to sing her hit song on The Smothers Brothers show in 1967.

“No, I was not sexually bothered by Bill Cosby,” said Ian in a Facebook post Tuesday, reacting to a New York magazine report featuring 35 women who accuse Cosby of sexual impropriety.

In her post, Ian accused Cosby of publicly outing her as a lesbian, based on a chance meeting backstage at a television show.

“Cosby was right in one thing. I am gay. Or bi, if you prefer, since I dearly loved the two men I lived with over the years. My tilt is toward women, though, and he was right about that.”

(5) On to tamer subjects – the Worldcon business meeting. Kevin Standlee hopes to discourage complaints while rewarding the reader’s attention with a good discussion of why meetings adopt Roberts Rules or the equivalent:

The reason that parliamentary procedure is complex is that it’s trying to balance a bunch of contradictory rights. If you’re someone who is convinced that your personal, individual right to speak for as long as you want and as many times at you want trumps the rights of the group to be able to finish the discussion and reach a decision in a reasonable time, well, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be happy with any rules that allow for limits on debate. If you’re someone who has no patience with debate and just wants the Strong Man to Make Decisions, you’ll never be pleased with rules that allow for people to debate and reach a group decision through voting….

And he invites your help to improve how WSFS meetings are run.

WSFS rules are complicated because the people who attend the meetings have effectively voted for complexity, but also because some of the complexity is required to protect the rights of members, both individually and in groups, and including the members who aren’t even at the meeting. If you have a better way for deciding how we should run things, the onus is on you to propose something. As long as you just complain that “it’s too complicated,” without proposing something both easier and workable, don’t expect to be taken seriously.

(6 ) Russell Blackford on Metamagician and the Hellfire Club delivers “The Hugo Awards – 2015 – Summation”.

Even if there is a legitimate grain of truth somewhere amongst the complaints of the Sad Puppies group, their actions have led to an exceptionally weak Hugo field this year and to some specific perverse outcomes. If the Sad Puppies campaigners merely thought that there is a “usual suspects” tendency in recent Hugo nomination lists, and that politically conservative authors are often overlooked in recent times, they could have simply argued their case based on evidence. Likewise, they could have taken far wiser, far more moderate – far less destructive – actions to identify some genuinely outstanding works that might otherwise have been missed. What we saw this year, with politicised voting on an unprecedented scale, approached the level of sabotaging the awards. I repeat my hope that the Sad Puppies campaign will not take place next year, at least in anything like the same form. If it does, my attitude will definitely harden. I’ve been rather mild about the Sad Puppies affair compared to many others in SF fandom, and I think I can justify that, but enough is enough.

I really can’t understand how Blackford processes the ethics of the 2015 situation, this being the third go-round for Sad Puppies, that “enough” had not happened already to warrant a stronger expression of his disapproval, but a fourth iteration will.

(7) The shortest “fisking” in history — Larry Correia strikes back at Sad Puppies references in The New Yorker’s Delany interview The boldfaced sentences below are literally 66% of what he had to say.

The ensuing controversy has been described, by Jeet Heer in the New Republic, as “a cultural war over diversity,” since the Sad Puppies, in their pushback against perceived liberals and experimental writers, seem to favor the work of white men.

Diversity my ass. Last years winners were like a dozen white liberals and one Asian liberal and they hailed that as a huge win for diversity. 

Delany said he was dismayed by all this, but not surprised. “The context changes,” he told me, “but the rhetoric remains the same.”

Well, that’s a stupid conclusion. 

Alert the bugler to blow “Taps” over the fallen standards of Correia fisks….

(8) Cheryl Morgan tells fans don’t give up.

Look, there will be some weird stuff in the results this year. There may well be a few No Awards given out, and possibly some really bad works winning awards. It is not as if that hasn’t happened before, though perhaps not in the same quantities. On the other hand, people are talking about the Hugos much more this year than they ever have before, and in many more high profile places. In addition vastly more people have bought supporting memberships, and we are looking at a record number of people participating in the final ballot. All of those people will be eligible to nominate next year. This isn’t the way I would have liked to get that result, but it is a result all the same.

(9) John Scalzi realized he would have a more restful day if instead of discussing the Hugos he spent his time doing computer maintenance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor Soon Lee.]

Harry Potter Today and Tomorrow in History

The May Day story is that research shows Harry Potter readers become more tolerant toward minority groups:

Research published this week in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that kids who read J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular wizarding series are more likely to reduce their prejudices toward minority groups, reports Pacific Standard. The researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy noted that the books provide plenty of examples of bigotry, on which children can then form an opinion. From Harry’s defense of “mudbloods” like his friend Hermione, to Voldemort’s obsession with “pure-blood” witches and wizards, kids were able to recognize the unfairness in these instances and subsequently attach them to real-world examples of prejudice.

Tomorrow, May 2, we’ll be celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts

[Thanks to Orange Mike Lowrey and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

J. K. Rowling Explains
It All To You

Fairy godmothers are not a thing in Harry Potter, but J.K. Rowling sometimes plays one on her Twitter account.

Today she answered three readers’ questions about magical loose ends in her famous series.

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