Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.

Go.

One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —

Erin

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

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

Pixel Scroll 3/26/16 Who Killed Morlock Holmes?

(1) WHERE THE DEER AND ANTELOPE PLAY. BBC’s report “Grand Theft Auto deer causes chaos in game world” includes a video clip.

More than 200,000 people have tuned in to watch the deer via a video stream on the Twitch site.

Best version

The project uses a modified version of GTA V that let Mr Watanabe change the player to look like a deer. The animal wanders around the virtual 100 square miles of the San Andreas world in which the game is set.

“The most difficult thing during the creation of the project was simply teaching myself to modify GTA V,” Mr Watanabe told the BBC. “There is an incredibly active modding community and I figured out how to programme the mod through a lot of forum searches and trial and error.

“The biggest difficulty was getting it stable enough to run for 12-14 hours at a time without crashing,” he said.

He made the deer impervious to harm so it can keep on wandering despite being regularly shot at, beaten up, run over by cars and trucks, shelled by tanks and falling off buildings.

The trouble it has caused on military bases, beaches and on city streets led, at one point, to it having a four star wanted rating.

The deer regularly teleports to a new position on the game map so it does not get stuck in one part and to make sure it samples the games’s many different environments and meets lots of its artificial inhabitants.

(2) JEDI EVANGELISM. Darren Garrison wanted to be sure I knew about “Jedism in the Wisconsin State Capitol”. I enjoy running Jedi religious stories more when the concept hasn’t been appropriated for the culture wars.

Around Easter every year, the Capitol rotunda becomes cluttered with numerous religious displays, mostly of a Christian nature. This year’s the rotunda features a large wooden cross, several Christian posters promoting Jesus’ death, and pro-life displays, among many others. This time, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (AHA) have added a Jedism poster to the mix.

The poster, designed by AHA, is based on a modern, newer religion called Jedism. Its followers worship Jedis such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, from the Star Wars movies. Their poster reads “One Man Died for All”, referring to the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The poster displays a portrait of Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Jedi, but is oftentimes confused as a portrait of Jesus. Their poster asks the following questions with respective answers: “Who is this man?” “Obi-Wan Kenobi”, “Why is it important that we remember him?” “To escape the death star”, and “How does his death help us?” “Because he comes back as a ghost at times and it can be quite surprising”.

(3) ORIGIN STORY. Andrew Liptak praises “The Innovative Jim Baen” at Kirkus Reviews.

Baen returned to Ace Books in 1977, where he began working with publisher Tom Doherty. Doherty had grown up reading Galaxy, and “I had kept reading both of those magazines,” He recalled, “I thought [Baen] was doing an exceptional job, and brought in him to head up our science fiction [program].”

At Ace, Baen continued his streak of discovering new and interesting authors. “He brought in a number of strong authors,” Doherty recalled. His time at Ace was short-lived, however: Doherty decided to venture out into the publishing world on his own, setting up Tor Books. Baen, along with Harriet McDougal, joined Tor Books, where he continued his work under Doherty editing science fiction

Baen followed “the same pattern that had revived Ace,” Drake wrote in his remembrance, “a focus on story and a mix of established authors with first-timers whom Jim thought just might have what it took. It worked again.”

In 1983, rival publisher Simon & Schuster began having some problems with their paperback division, Pocket Books. Their own SF imprint, Timescape Books, run by David G. Hartwell, wasn’t doing well, and was being closed down. They reached out to Baen, asking him if he’d like to run the imprint.

Doherty remembered that Baen wasn’t keen on joining Simon & Schuster: “Look, Jim doesn’t want to join a big corporation,” he told Ron Busch, Simon & Schuster’s president of mass-market publishing. “But he’s always dreamed of having his own company. How about we create a company which you will distribute. We’ll take the risk and make what we can as a small publisher, and you’ll make a full distribution profit on our books?” Busch agreed to the deal: he would get his science fiction line.

Baen formed his own publishing house, Baen Books, with Doherty as a partner, and began to publish his particular brand of science fiction.

(4) KEN LIU INTERVIEW. Derek Kunsken has “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories: An Interview with Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-Winner Ken Liu” at Black Gate.

You play with a lot of myths. Good Hunting and The Litigation Master and the Monkey King pull in Chinese myth. The Waves weaves the creation myths of different cultures into the narrative. State Change creates its own mythology of souls and famous people. What are your favorite myths? When writers use myth, do they only borrow that cultural and thematic gravitas, or do you think that writers today can bring to the table a new way of looking at older myths?

All cultures are founded on myths, and modern life hasn’t changed that at all. It’s important to remember that living myths are not static, but evolving, living tales we craft.

Our sense of what it means to be American, for example, depends on contesting and re-interpreting the foundational myths of America—our “Founding Fathers,” our original sins of slavery and conquest, our exceptionalism, our self-image as the city on the hill, the crucibles of the wars that gave us birth, the gods and heroes who laid down our republican institutions and democratic ideals like the bones and sinew of a giant upon whose body we make our home.

Or look at the myths that animate Silicon Valley: the idea that a single person, armed with a keyboard (and perhaps a soldiering iron), can transform the world with code; the belief that all problems can be reduced down to a matter of optimization, disintermediation, and “disruption”; the heroes and gods who founded the tech colossi that bestride the land while we scurry between their feet — some of us yearning to join them in a giant battle mecha of our own and others wishing to bring them down like the rebels on Hoth.

(5) COVERS UP. John Scalzi answers readers’ questions about writing at Whatever.

Listhertel: There’s an adage not to judge a book by its cover, but we all know people do. I know authors get little to no say in the cover art, but do you have any preferences? Painting versus digital, people versus objects, a consistent look versus variety? Are there any of your covers you particularly love or hate (including foreign editions)?

The book cover of mine I like least is the one on The Book of the Dumb, but inasmuch as BotD sold over 150,000 copies, meaning that the cover art worked for the book, this might tell you why authors are not generally given refusal rights on their covers. Cover art is advertising, both to booksellers and to readers, and that has to be understood. I’m at a point where if I really hate a cover, I’ll be listened to, but I also know what I don’t know, so I rarely complain. But it also helps that, particularly with Tor, the art director knows her gig, and they do great covers. I would probably complain about oversexualized covers, or characters not looking on the cover they way they’re described in the book, but in neither case has this happened to me.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1969 — Rod Steiger stars as Carl, The Illustrated Man.

(7) TWO SPACEMEN. From George Takei:

Crossed paths Thursday with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, at Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Experience, where I am appearing Friday and Saturday. Buzz walked on the moon 47 years ago, back in 1969. Isn’t it time someone set foot on Mars?

 

Takei Aldrin COMP

(8) MORE FROM SALT LAKE. “Doctors and River reunite to celebrate the infinite possibilities of ‘Doctor Who’” in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Actors from “Doctor Who,” including Alex Kingston, left, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith fielded fan questions and discussed the popular show among the Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX 2016 at the Salt Palace Convention Center on Friday….

Even a fleeting moment is going to follow Smith for the rest of his life. A fan in Friday’s audience asked Smith if he would do the Drunk Giraffe. The Drunk Giraffe is a dance move Smith’s iteration of The Doctor does, during which he throws his arms over his head and waves them around like noodles of spaghetti.

Fans count the moment — which takes up just 3 seconds of screen time — as a favorite of Smith’s run. Smith, to uproarious cheering, obliged.

“For the rest of my life, I’m going to have to do that,” Smith said. Kingston joked that McCoy and Davison should join him; alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

(9) NEEDS MORE KATSU. BBC Magazine remembers “The octopus that ruled London” at the Crystal Palace in 1871. Several stfnal references.

“It would have been a bit like a freak show for the Victorians,” says Carey Duckhouse, curator of the Brighton Sea Life Centre, as the aquarium is known today. “They would have featured models of ships in the cases for the octopus to grab hold of. They would probably have loved that, as they enjoy playing.”

One possible visitor to Crystal Palace aquarium was the writer HG Wells, who was just five years old when it opened and lived in Bromley, four miles away. Several octopus-like creatures appear in his stories.

In his 1894 essay The Extinction of Man, Wells pondered a “new and larger variety” that might “acquire a preferential taste for human nutriment”. Could it, he asked, start “picking the sailors off a stranded ship” and eventually “batten on” visitors to the seaside?

More famously, the invading Martians in Wells’s War of the Worlds have tentacle-like arms.

(10) UPSIDE DOWN IS UPRIGHT FINANCIALLY. The Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Kickstarter appeal has successfully funded. A total of $23,206 was raised from 1,399 backers.

The anthology, edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates, is an anthology of short stories and poems that highlights the long-standing tradition of writers who identify tropes and cliches in science fiction, fantasy, and horror and twist them into something new and interesting.

(11) SANS SHERLOCK. “WonderCon 2016: HOUDINI & DOYLE Screening and Q&A” at SciFi4Me.com.

During this year’s WonderCon, there was a preview screening of the first episode of the new Fox show Houdini & Doyle, “The Maggie’s Redress”, followed by a short Q&A with Michael Weston, who plays Harry Houdini, and executive producers David Shore, David Ticher, and David Hoselton.

The series follows the two men in 1901 as they go about investigating cases that involve supposed paranormal events. Houdini, riding high on his celebrity as a magician, is the doubter, wanting to bring reason and expose those who would take advantage of people who are looking for comfort from the great beyond. Doyle, on the other hand, has just killed off Holmes and is trying to get out of that shadow, and is the believer, wanting proof that there is something more to this life beyond death. We will be recapping the series when it premieres.

 

(12) GRAPHIC PREFERENCES. Barry Deutsch completed review of “2015 Science Fiction and Fantasy Graphic Novel Recommendations, Part 3: Crossed + One Hundred, and, Stand Still, Stay Silent”.

….Moore returns to the reinvention game with Crossed + One Hundred, a new graphic novel set in Garth Ennis’ awful Crossed universe. Crossed was Ennis’ attempt to make the zombie genre more disturbing and violent: the premise is that most of humanity population gets infected with a mysterious disease that turns them into torturing, murdering, rape-happy idiots. In many ways Crossed is the comics equivalent of the Saw movies; cheap, gratuitous, and compelling…..

(13) VOLTRON WILL RETURN. Engadget has the story and a gallery of images — “Here’s your first look at Netflix’s ‘Voltron’ series”.

As Netflix expands its suite of original programming it’s going to the nostalgia well once again. The good news here is that instead of another sitcom spinoff like Fuller House, we’re getting Voltron: Legendary Defender. Today at Wondercon 2016 its partner Dreamworks Animation showed off a teaser trailer and some artwork that confirm everything at least looks right to children of the 80s.

(14) BACK TO BASIC. The video “How to Send an ‘E mail’–Database–1984” is an excerpt from a 1984 episode of the ITV series Database where viewers learned how to send emails. Major retro future action is obtained where they get onto the net through a phone modem with a dial on the telephone… (Yes, I’ve done that, and I have the white beard to prove it…)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, JJ, and Barry Deutsch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Will Jedi Perform Marriages in Scotland?

Should I be worried? The BBC reports “Jedi could perform marriages, says Free Church of Scotland”.

Scotland currently recognizes religious marriages, conducted by an authorized religious celebrant, and civil marriages, conducted by a state registrar. A pending Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill would authorize a third option, marriages performed by a representative of a “belief body.” (See a copy of the existing law marked up to show the effect of the proposed changes here.)

The law writers say they have intended to benefit humanists, who are classed as religious rather than non-religious under present law, but heaven only knows who else will be exercising the privilege —

The Free Church of Scotland has raised concerns about religious and civil partnership ceremonies being joined by a third category.

Church spokesman, the Reverend Iver Martin, told BBC Alba: “The third category is quite astonishing because it is the so-called belief category without really defining what belief means.

“There are loads of people in a diverse society like this for whom belief can mean virtually anything – the Flat Earth Society and Jedi Knights Society – who knows?

“I am not saying that we don’t give place to that kind of personal belief, but when you start making allowances for marriages to be performed within those categories then you are all over the place.”

Are Jedi getting a bad rap here? What is Reverend Martin really trying to warn us against? The only reason Anakin Skywalker and Padme didn’t let a Jedi officiate at their wedding is he would have put a stop to it. I dare say there are weddings Reverend Martin would like to put a stop to. He may have more in common with the Jedi than he thinks.

Jedi Outpaces Scientology in Aussie Census

Figures released by the Australian census to ABC’s Lateline program show the Church of Scientology’s membership is in such decline, that it now is outnumbered by people who identify as Jedis and Wiccans.

And from here on, Jedi affiliation can no longer be presumed a kind of practical joke on census takers. Jedi Master Peter Lee, interviewed on Lifeline’s June 29 broadcast, said he’s working toward official recognition as a religion —

PETER LEE, JEDI MASTER: It’s less of a stigma now. Right back in 2001 there was that stigma – that it was a joke religion and that it was just a prank played on the census but I’m finding that I declare myself as Jedi everywhere I go and I’m finding less and less heckling or giggling.

STEVE CANNANE: Peter Lee has already applied to the Tax Office to have Jediism recognised as a religion.

PETER LEE: It is a serious religion; it’s a very serious religion. More than half the population in the world believe in a life force energy. We believe in The Force as our life force energy.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

The Jedi Is Strong in This Force

You probably never wondered if the Strathclyde Police force is serious about diversity, but the BBC can tell you — they’re not:

Eight police officers serving with Scotland’s largest force listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms, it has emerged. Strathclyde Police said the officers and two of its civilian staff claimed to follow the faith, which features in the Star Wars movies.

Now I ken Scottish jaywalkers get tickets written by constable Obi-Wan MacTavish Dundee…

[Thanks to Peter Sullivan for the story.]