Pixel Scroll 11/15/17 Or All the Scrolls With Pixels

(1) TURNOVER AT TOLKIEN ESTATE. Christopher Tolkien, 92, resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate Limited on August 31, 2017 according to records at Companies House in the UK.

Christopher Tolkien

Despite this having occurred over two months ago, the information seems to have become public only recently, and there is rampant speculation what the timing of resignation implies, given Amazon’s announcement this week of a new Lord of the Rings sourced TV production, and Christopher Tolkien’s negative statements about the Peter Jackson adaptations.

While I searched, unsuccessfully, to find who broke the story, via Michael Martinez’ blog I discovered Tolkien Brasil has a long and informative piece about the transition in the Estate’s leadership (in Portuguese – a Google Translate English rendering is at this link, offered with the usual caveats about accuracy.)

The Tolkien Society’s post on the topic clarified that Christopher Tolkien remains his late father’s literary executor.

(2) INDIGENOUS AND BLACK SF. Canada’s CBC Radio program The Current hosted a discussion of indigenous and black sf on November 14. A podcast of the segment is available.

Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future As soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.”

Download Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future [mp3 file: runs 00:28:13]

(3) BRETT RATNER OUT. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot said she would not sign for the sequel if he was still involved: “Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner won’t be involved with Wonder Woman 2”The Verge has the story.

Two weeks after a Los Angeles Times report detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against director and producer Brett Ratner, the filmmaker seems to have been officially cut from the DC cinematic universe. This morning on Good Morning America, Gal Gadot reiterated earlier reports that Ratner’s financing company RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which helped fund 2017’s Wonder Woman, would not be involved with the upcoming sequel.

The confirmation comes a few days after a Page Six report claimed that Gadot threatened to drop out of the sequel if Ratner or his company was involved in any way. On Good Morning America, she says she didn’t come close to leaving. “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie — it’s not just me — and they all echoed the same sentiments,” she said.

(4) VANDERMEER. Variety reports: “Netflix Nabs ‘Hummingbird Salamander’ From ‘Annihilation’ Author Jeff VanderMeer”.

Netflix is nearing a deal for rights to “Hummingbird Salamander” and plans to tap Sugar23 to produce the picture, Variety has learned.

The book is the latest from Jeff VanderMeer, the best-selling author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy and one of the foremost sci-fi writers working today.  The film will be produced by Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta at Sugar 23.

… VanderMeer will also executive produce the project.

However, VanderMeer himself sounded uncertain in his Facebook comments about the Variety article

Hmmm. I wonder if this is true. It’d be kind of a dream team to be with Netflix with the Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight producing. It’d be even more incredible if the rumor that it’s a mega deal and I’ll be an executive producer and creative consultant on the film were true…

As you can imagine, for someone who sometimes writes about mushroom people, it’s surreal that every novel I’ve written or am under contract to write since Annihilation may have been optioned for the movies. If these rumors are true.

(5) WIZARD WORLD ON LIFE SUPPORT.  Although the company has 17 conventions planned for 2018, their money is running out: “WIZARD WORLD Warns Of ‘Substantial Doubt’ Of It Continuing Into 2019”.

Wizard World. Inc.’s Q3 2017 quarterly report has been released, with a notice that due to recent operations loss there is “substantial doubt” that the company can continue operating as it is now past November 2018.

“The Company had a loss from operations of $4,454,857 and $1,182,246 for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 and the year ended December 31, 2016, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, we had cash and working capital deficit (excluding the derivative liability) of $1,176,034 and $1,514,182, respectively,” the company stated. “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.”

(6) GOODREADS CHOICE. Matt Mitrovich analyzes an award contender in “Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai” at Amazing Stories.

I was informed that All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain was nominated for the Goodreads Choice 2017 Best Science Fiction and Best Debut Author awards. Since I had a copy sitting in my to read pile since July, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally read it and see what all the fuss is about.

All Our Wrong Todays begins in an alternate timeline where a Lionel Goettreider invents his “Goettreider Engine” on July 11, 1965. This invention produces free energy and sparks the creation to the techo-utopia that 1950s sci-fi authors dreamed about. By 2016, all of those crazy predictions that never came true actually exist, like flying cars, jetpacks and space colonization. Anyone living in this post-scarcity world should be happy…but not Tom Barren.

(7) MONEY IS THE ROOT OF THIS EVIL. Dean E.S. Richard has seen the complaints and has issued “A (cranky) Casual Gamer’s Manifesto (Updated)” at Nerds of a Feather.

The new one has a campaign, and it looks pretty awesome, but we’re here for ground level troops dukeing it out on the best battlefields in the Star Wars galaxy.

At least, I thought that’s why were all here. Apparently, I was wrong. It’s all about getting the most powerful heroes and being able to wreck shop. If you pay attention to video games even a little bit (like, say, as little as i do), you’ve heard about this. It takes roughly 40 hours of gameplay (three years in Real Dean Time [RDT]) to unlock Luke or Vader. This I am fine with. Again, Battlefront is supposed to be about the troops, not the Jedi and Sith and whatnot.

The real problem comes in where the game has a micro transaction system wherein you can just buy credits outright, with your real monies, and thus unlock said heroes. All told, it costs about $800 to unlock all the heroes.

Eight. Hundred. Dollars.

In a sixty dollar game.

I have read comments such as: “that’s like making me work a second job that pays less than minimum wage!” which, no. It’s a game. No one is making you pay for heroes, players just want shortcuts. It’s the same mentality that ruined the Old Republic MMORPG – players were so concerned with getting to level whatever as soon as possible, they never, you know, played the game. For me, and others like me, tagging along with our dinky lightsabers and level 12 or what have you, it got boring in a hurry – which is too bad, because the game itself was a delight.

(8) PANEL TITLE. Jim C. Hines’ “Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel” excerpts the posts tracked here at File 770 and concludes with his own analysis:

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

(9) PLANET STORIES. The Guardian says a “Potentially habitable world found just 11 light years away”. So if our TV news signals travel there at the speed of light, they still think it’s the middle of the Bush administration and that Trump is the executive producer of the Miss USA pageant?

A potentially habitable world, termed Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.

Astronomers calculate that its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60° and 20°, making it temperate and possibly capable of supporting oceans, and life.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory’s world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS. They reported the discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

HARPS identifies planets by the way their gravity forces their parent stars to wobble. It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s bulk. So the planet would have a stronger pull of gravity at its surface.

(10) GALAXY QUEST. Writer/producer Paul Scheer doesn’t want his efforts to revive the fan favorite to be overlooked: “‘Galaxy Quest’: Paul Scheer Plans to Blend Original and New Casts For Amazon Series”.

Amazon first announced it was developing the 1999 film as an episodic series in 2015, but things escalated last August when Scheer came on board to work on the show. In a new interview with SlashFilm, he revealed that he’s not only turned in his first script for the series, but has some big ideas on how to honor the original film while also updating the premise for the modern age of television.

“It’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point,” he said. “But for me, it was really important to do service to a ‘Galaxy Quest’ story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ into what the fun of that world is […] and also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film.”

…As Scheer told SlashFilm, it’s still very early days for “Galaxy Quest: The Series” (officially, according to the final moments of the film, “The Journey Continues”). But this fall, Amazon has been on the hunt for “its own ‘Game of Thrones,’” a need which was theoretically addressed by acquiring the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe. What if the platform’s actual breakthrough genre hit ends up being a very different adaptation?

(11) THE MARTIAN BOTANICALS. Would you like that with ranch? “Dubai Airshow: Why the UAE plans to grow lettuce on Mars”.

One thing you can’t accuse the United Arab Emirates of lacking is vision.

First they unveiled plans to launch a Mars probe. Then it was an ambition to colonise the Red Planet.

Now the UAE has a new aim – to grow palm trees and lettuce there.

The space sector is a huge feature of the Dubai Airshow, with exhibitions, conferences, and speakers that include former Nasa Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

But even before a UAE Mars probe leaves the ground in 2020 from Japan – UAE is working in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the Gulf state has now announced its space agriculture intentions.

“There are similarities between Mars and the desert,” says Rashid Al Zaadi, senior strategic planner at the UAE Space Agency. “The landscape of the UAE, the soil, are similar.”

(12) A LONG WAY FROM HECTO. Awhile ago the Scroll linked to a story about printing a prosthesis, with plastic; these guys are printing with cells: “The firm that can 3D print human body parts”.

Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.

It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.

The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.

But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.

This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.

(13) SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Publishers Lunch says the floor plans for the next Book Expo betray that it is continuing to get smaller.

Book Expo has opened for registration for the 2018 show. The refreshed website lists Wednesday, May 30 as limited to the remainders pavilion, “premium B2B exhibitors,” and the rights center, with two days of regular floor exhibits on May 31 and June 1.

More dramatic for now is the revised floor map* for the shrinking trade show. Though still early, the map shows the smaller southern hall of Javits closed to exhibits, reserved for autographing, shipping and Book Con lines. Even that reduced “show floor” has what looks to be less floor exhibit space: Meeting rooms, lounges, and a stage move to occupying a big chunk of the back two-fifths of the hall.

(14) THAT’S CAT! Congratulations to Richard Paolinelli, winner of “The First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence”. Award spokesbeing Camestros Felapton explains:

The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.

So let’s make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution.

(15) THAT’S DOG! Suzy Byrne, in “Carrie Fisher’s beloved bulldog Gary is ‘doing great,’ says ‘Auntie Joely’ Fisher” on Yahoo! Lifestyle, says that Carrie Fisher’s goofy bulldog, Gary Fisher, has found a home with Corby McCown, the personal assistant to  Carrie Fisher’s sister Joely.

The dog has become even more popular since Carrie died. He recently surpassed 150,000 Instagram followers with help from posts including a touching tribute to Carrie on what would have been her 61st birthday last month. He followed up his San Diego Comic-Con appearance with another one at L.A. Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Last weekend, he was at Kansas City Comic Con. (A portion of the money the dog gets for appearances goes to charity.)

Yup, we’d say that Gary is doing great, too.

The dog has a Twitter account at Realgaryfisher.

(16) GROTESQUE JOKE. Not all of the Christmas season advertising has been heartwarming: “Greggs sorry after replacing baby Jesus with sausage roll in advent calendar promotion”.

Greggs has been forced to apologise for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the launch of its advent calendar.

The bakers released a promotional image for its festive calendar that showed a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the Three Wise Men.

But it was met with serious backlash online as offended fans accused the budget chain of religious insensitivity and vowed to boycott it.

Twitter users said that replacing Jesus, who was Jewish, with a pork product was “inappropriate”…

(17) ON JJ’S WISHLIST. JJ says, “Despite having a full collection of manual and power tools, I find myself itching to buy this.” ThinkGeek is offering the “Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set”.

You must be worthy in order to wield Thor’s hammer, but Marvel never mentioned any restrictions on Thor’s screwdriver or his pliers. Wield them all with our Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set! This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #19

Burn The Witch and Shoot the Messenger – Windycon 44

By Chris M. Barkley:

Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around the tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

From “Burn The Witch” by Radiohead

It’s not as though I seek out unpleasantness, it seems to find me. The latest round of is playing out this weekend at Windycon 44, in Lombard, IL.

I week ago, I emailed the programming staff of Windycon to inquire about the panels I was going to be on. I had filled out a questionnaire several months ago and had not heard back from them.

On November 4, I received several urgent emails from Louisa Feimster, the head of Programming of Windycon, apologizing because Mail Chimp had lost some emails and mine was probably among them.

Even though it was far past the deadline to include me in the program book, she sent me a link to fill out a new survey and programming application. Within 24 hours of doing so, I was inserted into several panels which had members drop out for one reason or another:

  • Friday, 5:00 pm, Geek Chic: We don’t have to hide anymore. When did it happen and how long will it last?
  • Saturday, 11am, Creature Comforts: What would you miss the most? Ice, TV, Chocolate, etc.
  • Saturday, 12 pm, You Know Nothing, John (sic) Snow: Game of Thrones is very popular but there is a division between show fans and Song of Fire & Ice reader fans. Can we bring peace to the 7 kingdoms or at least the two fandoms?
  • Sunday, 10am, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A lot of today’s technology was yesterday’s science fiction. Join a discussion about that past and what might be tomorrow’s tech.
  • Sunday, 11am, The Obligatory Doctor Who Panel: Discuss fandom’s favorite Doctor.
  • Sunday, 12pm, Tutti Frutti Literature: With changing social norms and lifestyles, how is this affecting our literature?

On Friday, at 6:18pm, I received a tweet from author Jim C. Hines: “Damn…@cmzhang42 – any idea what the heck’s going on with this one?” (screenshot)

I had NO idea of what he was talking about.

So, I immediately went to my Twitter feed and found a post from @leeflower, who was complaining about the “Tutti Frutti Literature” panel:  (screenshot)

After thinking a moment, I decided to enter the fray by directly asking @leeflower, “Hello, I’m on this panel. Can you explain what your objection is, please?”

I immediately tweeted back to Jim Hines, @leeflower and @Windycon, “I have made an initial inquiry with the person who complained. Stand by…” To date, I have yet to receive a response from @leeflower.

In the meantime, the shit was hitting fan. All sorts of people piled onto to this haywagon of condemnation of the Windycon Programming staff, based solely on the objections on @leeflower.

[Editor’s note: Chris supplied these screencaps without indicating their order. Looked at Twitter and attempted to reconstruct it. The inconsistent order of the internal timestamps (e.g., “14h”) is due to not all the screencaps having been made at the same time. That said, they still might not all be in order.]

No one in the Windycon administrative pipeline has responded in any way because…did I mention that Windycon was THIS weekend? And I might also add that as far as I know, NONE of the plaintiffs in this debacle are actually attending Windycon.

I happened to run into Louisa Feimster at the Saturday afternoon at the Art Show. When I outlined what was happening on Twitter in the past twenty-four hours regarding the “Tutti Frutti Literature” panel, she did a huge eyeroll and said, “You want to know what really happened? We were under a lot of pressure to come up with titles for panels and we kinda finished up in the middle of the night. Really, we didn’t mean to offend anybody, we were just tired.”

She also went on to explain that in her end of the BDSM world, ‘tutti frutti’ does not have a negative connotations and she thought it would be an interesting way to title a panel on the changing forms of literature.

So, there was no grand conspiracy to offend the gay community. While the choice of the term “tutti frutti” may be regrettable, it was NOT done in any sense of malice, at least from my point of view.

So, in every sense of the term, THIS was a witch hunt, but no actual witches were found. We only burned ourselves. (Author’s note: I in no way condone the burning of witches, good, evil or otherwise. It’s just a metaphor, OK?)

So at the appointed time, the panelists gathered; authors Cliff Jones, Ross Martinek and the moderator, Mari Brighe. Everyone had been briefed and I was looking forward to an interesting panel. The audience was rather sparse, it numbered no more than a dozen people.

Louisa Feimster was also in attendance, to make a statement about the controversy before the panel started. Her appearance seemed to annoy Ms. Brighe who asked if she still had control of the panel.

Louisa Feimster said she that she did, but wanted to make a brief statement about the title of the panel and to outline what the intentions of the the Programming staff was when they made the decision to title this particular panel. After eloquently stating her case from what she had said to me yesterday, she indicated that the panel should begin.

Then Ms. Brighe surprised me by asking if I wanted to make my statement then. Surprising to me because usually the moderator introduces themselves before the other panelists do.

“Some of you may have heard of a dispute that started on Twitter Friday evening regarding the title and subject matter of this particular panel, ‘Tutti Fruitti Literature.’ Someone with the twittter handle @leeflower has stated that the use of this term, in the context of a discussion about our changing social norms and literature is a slur against the gay community.”

I then went onto explain, perhaps a little too forcefully, that there was no intended slur and that in the big scheme of things, we had more to worry about than a perceived slight by people who were not attending the convention and did not know the context of how the phrase was being used.

“The main point is that damage has been done to the honor and reputation of Windycon because someone was offended.

“To which I respond : BIG DEAL!

“This is the double-edged sword of the pervasive use of social media; yes, when wrongdoing is detected and a bright harsh spotlight is aimed at targets like Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., the world can be enlightened and warned about a situation.

“But when there is an angry, unwarranted attack, as this shows every indication to be, it does a huge disservice to the accused party and to fandom as a whole.

“To @ leeflower and other offended parties I say this; save your indignation and anger for the bigger issues and targets, like the social forces who seek to divide and demoralize us. Save it for the corporations who seek to pocket more of our tax dollars to support their businesses and interests. Save it for the judicial and police forces who oppress and kill our brothers and sisters every day. Save it for the politicians and lobbyists who are plotting and this very moment to suppress voting rights and subvert the Constitution of the United States. And most of all, save it for the current occupant of our White House, whose list of crimes and misdemeanors grow with each passing day.”

“We have plenty of enemies to worry about. Windycon is definitely NOT one of them.”

Now, I have to admit that during the latter part of my statement, I was channeling my inner Keith Olbermann, my voice filled with more than a little outrage and anger. Because, let’s face it, I was more than a little angered and outraged.

Well, I had hoped that this little outburst would rally the troops to my cause and there would be a large burst of applause as the cherry on top.

It was met with mostly silence and a few angry faces. And then came the kicker.

Ms. Brighe then took center stage and stated, in no uncertain terms, how she as a transgendered fan, was very disappointed in Louisa’s leadership with the Programming staff and with this program item in particular. She also stated that she thought that Windycon was not as progressive as they thought they were and that she still found instances of “micro-aggression and homophobia” at the convention and that as a consequence, she was relinquishing her responsibilities with this panel and was leaving.

With that she got up and left the room, leaving all us in stunned silence.

After a moment or two, Ms. Feimster picked up the moderating duties. We started with a discussion of what the hell just happened. One woman (whose name I did not catch) seemed to blame me personally for the walkout; she thought Ms. Feimster’s speech struck the right note by my speech was loud, noisy and did not take Ms. Brighe’s point of view into account.

Cliff Johns remarked that the whole incident appeared to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. I followed up by saying that this would have been a great opportunity to more understand her point of view, HAD SHE STAYED to moderate the panel.

Then Ross Marinek came to my aid by stating that he understood my point of view because he saw this attack on Windycon as an act of bullying. None of the people complaining were actually attending the convention and were triggered to make an assumption of the programming staff’s intentions without knowing the context of the offending phrase.

After this rather tense disacussion, we settled down to throwing out some examples of books, television shows and films that show how we as a society have progressed in the past 75 years.

In the aftermath of the panel, people online have proclaimed that I am a “puppy,” a bully and guilty of being homophobic myself.

The only thing I can say is that in my passion for defending the kink positive panel and Windycon, the LGBTQ community sensed a dog whistle that did not exist. If I was being overly assertive in defending a convention I dearly love and cherish, I apologize.

I may choose to do it differently next time, having learned from this experience.

However, I will always defend all of fandom, all of the time.

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/17 Is That A Pixel On Your Screen, Or Are You Just Scrolled To See Me?

(1) YOU CAN ORBIT BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. Alex Parker likes to think Cassini’s dive into Saturn is payback for the dinosaur extinction event. A thread explaining his complicated theory starts here:

(2) SFWA GALAKTIKA SETTLEMENT NAMES AFFECTED AUTHORS. There are further developments in a story reported here in July. Full information at the SFWA Blog: “Agreement Reached with Galaktika on Past Infringements”.

The Authors Guild and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced today that they collaboratively reached an agreement with a Hungarian science fiction magazine, Galaktika, which for years had been reprinting stories of American and British science fiction writers without their permission….

Part of the settlement between the magazine Galaktika and SFWA and the Authors Guild was that Galaktika would provide a complete list of authors whose work had been published without authorization by Galaktika. The list below was created from the spreadsheet that they provided, and, as far as SFWA can discover, it is accurate. This list includes authors or their representatives who have already come to agreements with Galaktika or are still in the process of negotiation. It is being made public to aid authors who may not know their work was published without authorization. Note that some of the works affected may be out of copyright in Hungary.

(3) BOOK SMUGGLERS KICKSTARTER. Thea James and Ana Grilo have launched The Book Smugglers: Level Up Kickstarter.

Ana and Thea

We celebrate our tenth anniversary next year and we would like to level up, so we finally decided to take the leap and create a Kickstarter of our own. We are trying to raise $16,500 which will go towards a new season of short stories (under the theme “Awakenings”) at a higher pay rate and ensuring we can hire freelancers to do production work for the ebooks. We would also love to get paid contributors to the blog on a weekly basis. If we raise more than the initial amount? The sky is the limit. All with a view to continue to publish and highlight diverse voices.

We donate our time to the Book Smugglers because we love the work that we do, which we hope to continue doing for another ten years.

To date their Kickstarter has raised 5,842 of its $16,500 goal.

(4) KEEP ON TICKING. Jim C. Hines reviews “The Tick, Season One”. BEWARE SPOILERS. In case that sort of thing worries you….

I didn’t need this to be a repeat of the animated show I loved. But it felt like it tried way too hard to be dark and gritty and edgy, at the cost of the heart and joy I was hoping for.

With all that said, I might still watch the next batch of six episodes when they come out. (I’m told that technically, this won’t be season two, but the second half of season one.) If they continue to improve the way they did in those last couple of episodes…

But for now, I’m rating this a solid disappointment.

(5) GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Anybody who’s watched the right episodes of the TV series Suits on the USA Network knows that lawyer Louis Litt is a Game of Thrones fan … at one point, he said, referring to himself, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” This clip from the most recent episode shows that watching aGoT may not always be good for your mental health:

(6) ACROSS THE ATLANTIC BY HOT AIR. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan blows the whistle on a pre-internet author of bogosity: “Edgar Allan Poe Wrote Fake News”.

In 1844 he was working for the New York Sun, and penned a front-page story for the April 13 issue trumpeting a new scientific wonder — the crossing of the Atlantic in three days by balloon. The story breathlessly related how a crew of eight men, including William Henson and Monck Mason, both well-known aeronauts, and famous British novelist Harrison Ainsworth, traveled in a powered balloon from England to Charleston, South Carolina, in 75 hours. The article went on to give various technical details.

(7) GETTING PAID, BUT NOT MUCH. Catherine Baab-Migura, in “Edgar Allan Poe Was A Broke-Ass Freelancer” on The Millions looks at how little money Poe made for his great works and how much time he had to hassle publishers to pay him. But now that you know his history with fake news, how broken up can you really feel?

A lot of fans know Edgar Allan Poe earned just $9 for “The Raven,” now one of the most popular poems of all time, read out loud by schoolteachers the world over. What most people don’t know is that, for his entire oeuvre—all his fiction, poetry, criticism, lectures—Poe earned only about $6,200 in his lifetime, or approximately $191,087 adjusted for inflation.

Maybe $191,087 seems like a lot of money. And sure, as book advances go, that’d be a generous one, the kind that fellow writers would whisper about. But what if $191,087 was all you got for 20 years of work and the stuff you wrote happened to be among the most enduring literature ever produced by anyone anywhere?

(8) AFTER THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION. Jennifer Brozek’s new project returns her to the BattleTech universe: “Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy”.

Catalyst, licensors of the BattleTech tabletop game and Shadowrun roleplaying game, is taking the next step in creating a diverse BattleTech universe with a new young adult trilogy. Jennifer Brozek, award-winning author of BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident and Shadowrun: DocWagon 19, is developing a character-driven, action-filled story set after the Jihad, and exploring the tumultuous aftermath of the Age of Destruction. Currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release date, it can’t come soon enough for BattleTech fans looking for brand new fiction set in the military science fictional universe.

(9) SADCOMS. The Guardian should warn readers they might need a tissue here: “In the golden age of TV, the existential-animation is king”

Why is a talking cartoon horse making me cry? It’s a question many of us might have asked ourselves as the new season of BoJack Horseman – an improbably moving Netflix cartoon about a version of Hollywood populated by talking animals – surfaced over the weekend.

The characters, led by BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett), make terrible decisions about sex and dating, sell themselves short, and generally end up miserable in the funniest possible ways. It’s a show at the forefront of a recent crop of animated TV series for adults that surpass most live-action shows this side of Twin Peaks in terms of sheer emotional ambition.

There’s BoJack, Adult Swim’s critically lauded sci-fi series Rick and Morty, the Duplass brothers’ Animals on HBO, and Archer, a workplace comedy about a spy agency that has gone crazily off the rails. In broad terms, TV is still embracing what critic Jenny Jaffe dubbed the “sadcom” – a show with an ostensibly comic outlook that trades in for pathos – but something special is happening in animation. With animated shows TV is able to flex different muscles.

(10) FROZEBUD. Citizen Lucas might go for this — “Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe” from ThinkGeek.

We’re going to be honest here: we squeed when we first unboxed this product. Our excitement might have drawn other employees over to look. There are SO many little details. “Oh look! Luke’s lightsaber is in the snow!” “I love how the ice of the cave starts on the inside of the globe and continues outside it.” “OMG. THERE’S A DEAD TAUNTAUN ON THE SIDE.” A Hoth snow globe just makes sense. And this Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe created by our GeekLabs team is magnificent. It perfectly captures the tense atmosphere of the cave scene while still being a flippin’ snow globe. Watch the snow gently settle around Luke in what looks like a hopeless situation. And the Tauntaun isn’t gory so it’s appropriate for all ages. Stick it behind your little holiday village diorama as a reminder to the elves and reindeer not to wander out alone.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 13, 1965 Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster battled their way into theaters
  • September 13, 1974 Planet of the Apes TV version premiered.
  • September 13, 1977 — Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(12) TODAY’S CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANGER

  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl

(13) YOUR FAVORITE ICONOCLASTS. Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy declare “Chapters are cultural convention that we need not adhere to” at Camestros Felapton’s blog as they unleash (get it?) a new installment of their classic work.

“Well, well, well,” said McEdifice, “if it isn’t Commander Clench, my old nemesis. I thought I told you never to set foot again on the Grassland Planet of Steppe.”

“Well yes, you did but as I explained at the time, I’m free to go anywhere I like and also I outrank you and also I have an orbiting space-dreadnought directly above us that could wipe you off the face of the planet before you could even grimace at me in a way I didn’t like.” explained Commander Clench.

I don’t know, I thought this was quite readable…. Send help….

(14) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Bullets with the Monster Hunters International logo on sale for charity. Ten percent goes to the Houston Food Bank. They’ve already sold 60,000. Living in interesting times.

These are just bullets for handloading. This is not loaded ammunition. Also, be aware that this design is on the front of a 9mm bullet. It is VERY small and serves no purpose other than being really cool. Please do not expect anything magical or supernatural from them. They are just bullets with an awesome stamped logo. Though the lead we sourced does contain trace amounts of silver, it isn’t enough for serious hunting. They are to be used on nothing larger than a gnome.

(15) NZ CONREPORT. At Concatenation, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts and Darian Smith discuss LexiCon 2017, New Zealand’s 38th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention – with a shout out to DUFF delegate Paul Weimer.

LM:  First up for me panel-wise was moderating a session on the language of science fiction and fantasy, with Swedish writer Emma Lindhagen, Cloud Ink Press’ Mark Johnson and local personality Jack Newhouse sharing the front table. One of the first panels of the con, it was too soon for convention goers to have succumbed to con crud, so the room was packed and it was a lively discussion covering topics such as conlanging, conlinging, inclusiveness, and Klingon. I also moderated a panel on Introducing new readers to SFF, but because the session was scheduled against Paul Mannering in conversation with Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire, there were only seventeen of the con’s attendees present. So we decided to pull the chairs into a circle and invite everyone to join in, which turned out to be a great idea as the input from the audience was terrific. I think that’s one of the advantages of our New Zealand conventions: because we are small and most of us know each other, we can be flexible and no one throws a hissy fit. The DUFF delegate, Paul Weimer from Minneapolis, made a comment to that effect in the ‘Australia and Us’ panel, saying he hadn’t realised before he came, just how close-knit our SF/F/H community is here, an aspect he felt might be unique to New Zealand.

DR:  In the way of all good cons, a good portion of the Con should have seen the bar buzzing with people rubbing shoulders and chinking glasses, and from time to time it was. Surprisingly, there was less of this than expected, mainly because so many of the attendees were going to panels, which in some cases came as a surprise even to them. So while there was less action in the bar than we are used to, the panels were humming and people were networking and fan fund delegates were hanging out and talking community-building while peddling raffle tickets and auction lots. I am not quite sure the Suncourt knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to our booking the place out for a convention, but they were amazing hosts as well, and everything went off about as smoothly as we could have hoped.

(16) SCHRODINGER’S 7-11. Fast Company says “Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete”.

While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store–or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles–still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you’re bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer.

Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Interesting idea but expecting it to be viable in ethic communities where a bodega or the cultural equivalent is as much community centre as store is incredible culturally naive.”

Where Cat lives, “We have, other than gas stations that carry a range of stuff this plans on carrying, exactly one English language as first tongue convenience shop for the twenty thousand inhabitants of the peninsula. But there’s dozens of ethically based shops including Central American, Middle Eastern, African, Russian and at least one Armenian one.”

And to see the Bodega Cats, er, SJW Credentials mentioned in the above article, click here, Instagram has photos.

@whiskeygems

A post shared by Bodega Cats (@bodegacatsofinstagram) on

(17) BRIGHT. Will Smith in Bright available on Netflix starting December 22.

In an alternate present-day where magical creatures live among us, two L.A. cops become embroiled in a prophesied turf battle. Stars Will Smith.

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

 

(18) LEAGUE OF GODS. Out on DVD.

Based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Feng Shen Yan Yi (The Investiture of the Gods), the story tells of how King Zhou of Shang becomes a tyrant due to the wiles of Daji, a vixen spirit who is disguised as one of his concubines.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/17 There Are Eight Million Pixels In The Naked Scroll

(1) ROBOCALL BOMB THREAT LEADS TO CON EVACUATION. On Sunday fans were ordered to evacuate Yestercon, a one-day nostalgia con in Carson, California, as a result of a bomb threat. PopCultHQ has extensive coverage.

…“CelebWorx brought Keith Coogan and Greg Berg to Yestercon. At approximately 3:08, onsite staffers from the Carson civic center went through the celebrity aisle to calmly alert us to leave the facility immediately. We had no time to grab anything. When we reached the parking lot, the Carson police department asked us to get in our cars and drive away as far as possible. The show until then was going wonderfully with a healthy crowd. It was the most attended Yestercon in the past three years. We returned two hours later to retrieve our abandoned items.” – Nery Lemus – Vice President – CelebWorx

Nery then went on to provide me the following;

“After speaking to a Yestercon official, the Bomb Threat was a result of a robotic phone call singling out the name Yestercon as the target of the threat.”

(2) CAN THIS GAME BE PLAYED FOR MONEY? Yes, if you make it to the world-champion video-gaming tournament: “The biggest e-sports event in the world”.

The International isn’t just any e-sports tournament.

It’s the biggest event of its kind in the world with a prize pool of nearly $24m (£18.4m) and is hosted by Valve.

Sixteen teams, with players from all over the world, are competing in the season climax for online battle arena game Dota 2.

For many of them the prestige of lifting the trophy at this ultra-competitive event is far more important than the cash.

Alex “machine” Richardson is Dota 2’s answer to Gary Lineker and has been hosting the live stream of the group stages, which are taking place in Seattle.

(3) HOW DOCTOR WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. ScienceFiction.com says it could have been lost for good — “Steven Moffat Explains How Last Year’s Christmas Special Was Almost The Last”.

In a recent interview, current showrunner Steven Moffat – who will cede the position to newcomer Chris Chibnall after Moffat’s last episode, the upcoming Christmas Special – outlined how the special episode almost didn’t happen this year, and may have been eliminated forever.

As Moffat explains about his discussions with the BBC regarding his departure:

“There was one big glitch, which was Christmas. I was going to leave at the end of series 10 – I had my finale planned and what I wanted to do with it. I had a good notion of that. Then I learned at a drinks event somewhere that Chris didn’t want to start with a Christmas [episode], so at that point they were going to skip Christmas. There’d be no Christmas special and we would’ve lost that slot.

(4) THE NEXT DOCTOR. The BBC tells “How Jodie Whittaker ‘missed’ fan reactions to Doctor Who role” — contains long audio on her reactions (lots of gosh-wow) and on advice she received from former Time Lords (starting at 6:50 on 2nd clip).

Jodie Whittaker says she didn’t see people’s reactions to her becoming the first female Doctor Who, because she’s not on social media.

Speaking to BBC 6 Music in her first broadcast interview since her casting was revealed, she said: “This will be a blessing and a curse.

“I’ve missed a lot of the fun stuff and probably the bad stuff.”

(5) W75 YES, COMICONS, NO. Helsinki-bound book dealer Francesca T. Barbini of Luna Press Publishing answers the question, “Why Do Authors Need To Go To Cons?”, and advises which ones to pick.

On Monday we leave for Finnish shores. Worldcon 75 here we come!

I’m laughing/crying at the logistic nightmare ahead of us: 5 cricket bags full of books! Between the early rise to catch the plane and the dragging of luggage, by the time we reach Helsinki, we’ll feel like Sisyphus in the Underworld. However, the plan is to return home much lighter 🙂 so please, make our authors (and our back) happy and adopt a book!

Conventions are a big part of an author’s life. I cannot imagine being where I am today without my con experience. Specifically, I am referring to book conventions/events, rather than traditional book fairs like London or Frankfurt, and definitely not ComicCons, which are a different matter altogether. The ones I go to are primarily about SF, Fantasy and Horror.

That said, I also realise that I am lucky to be able to attend, as they are also one of the biggest expenses in an author’s yearly schedule, which not everyone can afford, for several reasons. And what if you can’t go? What will people think?

With Worldcon upon us, I want to share my con experience with others and why I think that authors should go to conventions if they can. We’ll look at Pros and Cons as well as tips for when money is an issue…..

(6) THE SENSE OF WONDER IS NOW MAINSTREAM. Never mind the authors aching for Dragon Awards, it used to be that sci-fi shows watched by millions couldn’t get a sniff of the Emmys. Vanity Fair remembers: “From Game of Thrones to Stranger Things: How Geek TV Crashed the Emmys”

In 2005, Emmy voters opened their mail to find a mysterious black envelope stuffed with DVDs. “‘The No. 1 Television Show of 2005’—Time Magazine,” the cover read, without disclosing the title of the program on the discs. The show was Battlestar Galactica, a serious-minded reboot of the campy 1970s series, and the idea was to trick snobby TV Academy members into watching a science-fiction drama without rolling their eyes.

“We were battling the name,” Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore told me recently, of his effort to get colleagues who were making dramas such as The West Wing and 24 to take seriously a show set in a distant star system. “It was considered kiddie stuff: ‘That’s not real TV. It’s people running around in silly outfits. There was real TV and then what we were doing. You couldn’t get a meeting on NYPD Blue,’” Moore said. The black-envelope strategy didn’t work—despite receiving widespread critical acclaim for its writing, acting, and directing, Battlestar Galactica collected nominations only in the visual-effects categories that year.

What a difference a decade or so makes. Fantasy and science-fiction TV are now decidedly prestige TV, as shows such as Moore’s latest—the time-traveling Starz series, Outlander—exist in a crowded world of awards-hungry monsters, zombies, and robots. There’s HBO’s Westworld, which tied Saturday Night Live as the show with the most Emmy nominations this year (22), Netflix’s Stranger Things (18) and Black Mirror (3), Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale (13), USA’s Mr. Robot (3), and Starz’s American Gods (2), to name a few. Many of the shows sit on the shoulders of HBO’s barrier-breaking Game of Thrones, which became the most awarded scripted series in Emmy history last year, with 38 wins. That a cable program featuring chain mail and dragons could shatter a record once held by NBC’s Frasier reveals how much the TV industry has changed. (Due to the timing of its season, Game of Thrones is not eligible for Emmys this year, to the relief of every one of its competitors. Outlander, which has been nominated for three Emmys and four Golden Globes in the past, is out of contention this year for the same reason.)

(7) BEFORE HE WAS SPOCK. While Bill was searching for more clippings about celebrities who love Mexican food (triggered, presumably, by the item about Boris Karloff the other day) he came across this Leonard Nimoy item in The Boston Globe for March 31, 1968 – which has nothing to do with food, but you may like it anyway….

[Leonard Nimoy] was asked to tell the story again about the time he was driving a cab and he picked up John F. Kennedy. “That was in 1956. I was just out of the service and I was driving a cab at night in Los Angeles and looking for acting jobs during the day. I got a call to go to the Bel Air Hotel to pick up a Mr. Kennedy. It was a highly political time — right before the conventions — and Stevenson and Kefauver were running strong. When I got to the Bel Air I asked the doorman if I was waiting for the senator from Massachusetts. He said he didn’t know. When Kennedy came down the doorman whispered to me, ‘Is this guy a senator?’

“As Kennedy got in the cab I said, ‘How are things in Massachusetts, senator? He perked up. He said, ‘Are you from Massachusetts?’ He asked me so many questions — he was very socially-oriented — he asked me why I was in California, where my folks were from, why they came to the U.S. and what they thought about my being an actor. I asked him about Stevenson’s chances and he said, ‘You talk to a lot of people. What do you think?’ I asked him what would happen if Stevenson won the nomination and lost the election. He said ‘He’d be finished politically.’ That was the one flat statement he made about politics. I dropped him at the Beverly Hilton. The fare was $1.25 and he didn’t have any cash in his pocket. He went into the hotel and I followed him, tagging along for my $1.25. He finally found somebody he knew and he borrowed three dollars and he turned around and handed it to me.”

(8) NAKAJIMA OBIT. Vale, kaiju. Rue Morgue reports the death of original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima.

Very sad news: The man who first portrayed Japanese cinema’s greatest monster has passed on, leaving behind an enormous footprint.

Haruo Nakajima, who donned the rubber suit for the title character of 1954’s GOJIRA (released Stateside as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in 1956),

(9) LOS ANGELES UNDERSTOOD. A Bradbury quote begins this LA Times article about the 2028 Olympics: “A dream and a reality, the 2028 Olympics give Los Angeles a chance to imagine its future”.

When asked to explain the secret of Los Angeles on the eve of the 1984 Olympics, the late poet, novelist and fantasist Ray Bradbury broke it down, capturing the ingenuous advantage the city enjoyed as it was coming of age.

“L.A. is a conglomerate of small towns striving toward immensity and never making it, thank God,” he wrote. “We have no kings, queens, or courts, no real pecking order, no hierarchies to prevent those of us who care to lean into creativity from running loose in the big yard.”

(10) BRADBURY’S MARS. Local NPR station KPCC devoted part of today’s Take Two show to “‘The Martian Chronicles:’ An out-of-this-world projection of LA”. Audio clip at the link.

It doesn’t even take place on this planet, yet this Sci-fi classic by longtime resident Ray Bradbury has a lot to say about L.A. in the early 1950s.  David Kipen is a book editor and founder of the Libros Schmibros lending library. You can take Bradbury out of L.A. but you can’t take L.A. out of Bradbury, he says. …

Parallels between native peoples of Earth and Mars

The stories add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. They add up to this parable of what Ray experienced as an immigrant to Southern California where the only remnant left that he could readily see of the Tongva, of the Chumash, were some cave paintings up in Santa Ynez, and a lot of place names like Tujunga – like Topanga. The Native Americans were here but there weren’t where Ray Bradbury grew up on Alexandria or Kenmore in Hollywood. Ray was not going to see much evidence of that. So it’s this sense of a bygone civilization of which only remnants remain. Ray, as a guy coming to LA in the 1930s with his family, was only going to get these kind of ghostly hints of the people who once lived on this same land for thousands of years before. And he transmutes that into the way he presents the Martians as these people very much in sync and in sympathy with the land, and rather otherworldly, and at the same time, endangered.

(11) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian’s radar also spotted the Bradbury reference in today’s Frazz.

(12) WORLDCON PROGRAMMING. Not in Helsinki today? Here’s something else you’ve missed:

(13) STILL PACKING. Some may be delayed because their SJW credential is trying to stow away.

(14) A SURPRISE. Lou Antonelli, in “First thoughts on the Dragon award”, included this insight about the award’s management:

I’ve been a finalist for both the Sidewise and Hugo awards, and in both cases, if you have made the ballot, you are contacted in advance, and asked if you accept the honor. Sometimes people prefer to take a bye.

Nominations for the Dragon closed July 24, and after a week had passed I assumed I had not made the grade. I was sure of it last Thursday night when I received an email that had a link to the final ballot.

I opened the ballot, to see who HAD made the grade, and was startled to see my name there. The Dragon award apparently is less bureaucratic than some others, I suppose, and they simply released the final ballot the way the nominations fell.

(15) DRAGON WITHDRAWAL. Alison Littlewood preceded John Scalzi in taking herself out of contention with “A statement regarding the Dragon Awards”.

It has just been announced that The Hidden People has been nominated for a Dragon Award.

While this would normally be a great pleasure, it has also been brought to my notice that my book has been selected by a voting bloc who are attempting, for reasons of their own, to influence the awards outcome. Essentially, the same group who set out to fix the Hugo Awards are now encouraging their supporters to follow their voting choices in the Dragon Awards.

I’m grateful to anyone who has voted for The Hidden People in good faith, but I am deeply concerned that the voting should be fair going forward and so I have today emailed the organisers and asked for The Hidden People to be withdrawn from consideration.

I would just like to add that I have had no contact with the voting bloc and indeed have never asked anyone to vote for me in the Dragon Awards. Thank you again to anyone who did so because they enjoyed the book!

(16) THE PROFESSIONALS. Chuck Wendig and Jim C. Hines are working hard to extract the lessons to be learned from this year’s Dragon Awards.

(17) KERFUFFLE LITERARY HISTORY. Doris V. Sutherland will cover some of this year’s Dragon Award nominees as part of a book project: “Dragon Awards 2017: Which Finalists to Write About?”

So yeah, I’ve been working on a book called Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers, about the stories caught up in the whole Puppies-versus-Hugos kerfuffle. I’m planning to cover every single Hugo-nominated prose story published from 2013 to 2016 (the years of the Sad Puppies campaign). I’m also going to look at the nominees for other SF/F awards from the same period – but in those cases I’ll be a little more discriminating about what gets covered and what doesn’t.

With the ballot for the second Dragon Awards announced, my main concern is figuring out which finalists are worth looking at in my book. So here goes…

Blood of Invidia got a boost from the Puppysphere, and judging by its Amazon synopsis, it’s a jokey, self-aware urban fantasy. Alongside zombie apocalypse, that’s one of the few horror-adjacent genres that the Puppies have shown much support for. Into the horror chapter it goes, alongside Jim Butcher and Declan Finn.

I might give The Hidden People a mention as it was one of Vox Day’s picks, against the author’s wishes. Don’t see that The Bleak December is particularly relevant to my topic, though.

(18) HASSELHOFF. Gwynne Watkins of Yahoo! Movies, in “David Hasselhoff’s Road to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? ‘It All Started with ‘Knight Rider!’”, interviews actor David Hasselhoff, who says that his part in Guardians came about because director James Gunn loved Knight Rider as a kid.  Hasselhoff says “I’ve got the kids market wrapped up” because of his role in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Do you have people telling you that a lot that you were a father figure to them because of Knight Rider?

Almost every day, a man comes up to me and says, “I need to tell you my Knight Rider story.” Or a man will tell me that he loves me. Or a person from Thailand will say, “You are my mentor.” Or a person from Afghanistan who’s driving a cab says, “You’re my hero.” I say, “Where are you from?” And he goes, “Afghanistan.” I say, “Oh my God.” Iraq. Iran. It’s just insane. And it’s incredibly fantastic because they all have got a specific story, from India or Pakistan — watching it like Slumdog Millionaire, 200 people around a TV — to the shah of Iran’s wife saying,We used to sell tickets on the back lawns. People would gather and watch the show illegally by satellite for 25 cents in Iran!” And I’m going, “What? What? What?”

And now, 30 years later, it gets to be in one of the biggest movies of all time. And it’s just still following me around, and I embrace it. The theme of Knight Rider is, “One man can make a difference.” And I’m still alive and proving that, hopefully, almost every day.

(19) VAN HELSING TRAILER. Syfy brings back Van Helsing for a second season.

The world is over and so is the wait. Slay. All Day. Van Helsing returns this Fall with all-new episodes on SYFY. About Van Helsing:

Van Helsing is set in a world that has been taken over by vampires following a volcanic explosion that blocked out the sun. Vanessa Van Helsing is the last hope for survival, as she unknowingly awakens to discover she has a unique blood composition that makes her not only immune to vampires, but with the ability to turn a vampire human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires. Her objective: Save humanity – and find her daughter.

 

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/17 Buy Pixels At Half Price At Filedepository SF

(1) STICK IT TO ‘EM. There will be “Ten of Disney’s finest villains on new U.S. set”Linn’s Stamp News has the story.

The Disney Villains stamps will be issued in a pane of 20 July 15 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif. A 1:30 p.m. first-day ceremony is scheduled during the Disney fan event D23 Expo 2017.

…Each stamp in the set depicts a classic Disney villain set against a deep blue background. Each stamp includes text that identifies the film in which the villain appeared, and the villain’s name.

The 10 characters on the stamps are the Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Honest John (Pinocchio), Lady Tremaine (Cinderella), the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), Cruella De Vil (One Hundred and One Dalmatians), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), and Scar (The Lion King).

(2) SINGERS WHO ARE BAD. But not bad singers. This is the perfect place to drop in Peter Hollens’ new “Epic Disney Villains Medley” featuring Whitney Avalon.

(3) CLARION FUNDRAISER. The Clarion Write-A-Thon hopes to raise $15,000 for the workshop between June 25 and August 5. They’ve taken in $1,802 in the first two days.

Welcome to Clarion UCSD’s Eighth Annual Write-a-Thon! What is a write-a-thon, anyway? Think charity walk-a-thon. In a walk-a-thon, volunteers walk as far as they can in return for pledges from sponsors who make donations, usually based on the number of miles the volunteer walks. Our Write-a-Thon works like that too, but instead of walking, our volunteers write with a goal in mind. Their sponsors make donations to Clarion sometimes based on number of words written, sometimes based on other goals, or just to show support for the writer and Clarion.

People can sign up to write or support writers, and win prizes.

As always, we have prizes for our top Write-a-Thon earners. In addition, this year we have surprises as well as prizes!

  • The top fundraiser will receive a commemorative Clarion Write-a-Thon trophy celebrating their success.
  • Our top five fundraisers will each receive a critique from a well-known Clarion instructor or alumnus. We’ve lined up Terry Bisson, David Anthony Durham, Kenneth Schneyer, Judith Tarr, and Mary Turzillo to have a look at your golden prose. A roll of the dice decides who is paired with whom. (The authors have three months to complete their critiques, and the short story or chapters submitted must be 7,500 words or less.)
  • Our top ten fundraisers will each receive a $25 gift certificate of their choice from a selection of bookstores and stationers.
  • A few small but special surprises will be distributed randomly among everyone who raises $50 or more. Lucky winners will be decided by Write-a-Thon minions drawing names from Clara the Write-a-Thon Cat’s hat. These are such a surprise that even we don’t know what they are yet. We do know that certain of our minions will be visiting places like Paris and Mongolia this summer. Anything at all might turn up in their luggage. In addition, who knows what mystery items unnamed Clarionites might donate to the loot!

(4) ASSISTED VISION. Invisible 3, a collection of 18 essays and poems about representation in SF/F, edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj, was released today. As with the first two volumes in this series, all profits go to benefit Con or Bust.

Here’s what you’ll find inside (with links to two free reads):

  • Introduction by K. Tempest Bradford
  • Heroes and Monsters, by T. S. Bazelli
  • Notes from the Meat Cage, by Fran Wilde
  • What Color Are My Heroes? by Mari Kurisato
  • The Zeroth Law Of Sex in Science Fiction, by Jennifer Cross
  • Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities, by Alliah
  • Erasing Athena, Effacing Hestia, by Alex Conall
  • Not So Divergent After All, by Alyssa Hillary
  • Skins, by Chelsea Alejandro
  • The Doctor and I, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • My Family Isn’t Built By Blood, by Jaime O. Mayer
  • Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes, by Carrie Sessarego
  • Decolonise The Future, by Brandon O’Brien
  • Natives in Space, by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • I Would Fly With Dragons, by Sean Robinson
  • Adventures in Online Dating, by Jeremy Sim
  • Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
  • Shard of a Mirage, by MT O’Shaughnessy
  • Unseen, Unheard, by Jo Gerrard

(5) GODSTALKER. Jamie Beeching finds many things to compliment in “Hamish Steel’s Pantheon – ‘Because gods are people too…'” , a graphic novel reviewed at Pornokitsch.

In Pantheon, Hamish Steele tackles the Egyptian deities in a way described by Steele as “a faithful retelling of […] the battle between the gods Horus and Set for the throne of Egypt.”  Perhaps the most interesting word in that quote is ‘faithful’.  I’m no expert on Egyptian mythology, so I’ll have to take the author’s word on the majority of the facts but I somehow doubt that any of the gods referred to Set as “a notorious cock”.  It’s exactly this mixture of genuine mythological weirdness (and we’re talking totally batshit) and modern irreverence that creates Pantheon’s unique and very successful blend of humour.

(6) NINEFOX, TENFOX. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Yoon Ha Lee.

When did you notice or feel you had honed your voice? Was it before or after you made short story and poetry sales?

I think it developed during the process of learning to write. Early on, I aimed for a very clear, very transparent style in imitation of writers like Piers Anthony. Then I discovered Patricia McKillip and Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny, and they blew my head open in terms of how language can be used. Part of it was also subject matter. After reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game for the first time, I realized that what I wanted to write about, most of all, was military ethics. That was sometime in high school, and my writing shaped itself accordingly after that.

How has the overall reaction to Ninefox Gambit been from readers?

Very bimodal! From what I can tell, most people either love it or hate it. There were some narrative decisions I made that I knew would not be popular with some readers. For example, because the two main characters, Cheris and Jedao, are making command decisions from the very top, I chose to use throwaway viewpoint characters to depict the “boots on the ground” perspective and show the consequences of decisions that are abstract from a general’s perspective. Some readers really like to tunnel into a smaller number of characters and get close to them, and I knew that I would be losing people who like to read that way. For another, I used minimal exposition. I remember really enjoying C.J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun books because they’re told in a similar way, leading to this great sense of immersion, but some readers prefer to have the world spelled out for them. On the other hand, other readers liked those very things. There are always trade-offs.

(7) EU DROPS THE HAMMER ON GOOGLE. The Guardian reports “Google fined record €2.4bn by EU over search engine results”. However, huge civil penalties like that are really in the nature of an opening bid – Google will never pay that amount. But it makes for a stunning headline.

The European Union has handed Google a record-breaking €2.42bn (£2.14bn) fine for abusing its dominance of the search engine market in building its online shopping service, in a dramatic decision that has far-reaching implications for the company.

By artificially and illegally promoting its own price comparison service in searches, Google denied both its consumers real choice and rival firms the ability to compete on a level playing field, European regulators said.

The Silicon Valley giant has 90 days to stop its illegal activities and explain how it will reform its ways or face fines of up to €10.6m a day, which equates to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of its parent company Alphabet.

On the back of the finding that Google is the dominant player in the European search engine market, the EU regulator is further investigating how else the company may have abused its position, specifically in its provision of maps, images and information on local services.

…Google immediately rejected the commission’s findings, and signalled its intention to appeal, in an indication of the gruelling legal battle to come between the two sides.

(8) TREASURE MAP. The investor-pitch map of the first Magic Kingdom sold for a chest of gold.

An original map of the first Disneyland park has fetched £555,838 ($708,000) at an auction in California.

The 1953 drawing was used by Walt Disney to secure funding, after his own studio refused to fund the site.

The artist’s impression was given to an employee, and remained out of public view for more than 60 years.

The map was personally annotated by the creator of Mickey Mouse, and reveals a picture of Walt Disney’s vision for the theme park, built in 1955.

(9) AUDIOPUNK. Carl Slaughter says, “Via YouTube, listen to the complete BBC radio broadcast of Neuromancer, William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic brought to life in the form of a very well done radio drama.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 27, 1966 – J.J. Abrams

(11) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster commends this Dilbert strip full of timey-wimey-ness.

(12) SINCE SLICED BREAD. Marc Scott Zicree, Mr. Sci-Fi, explains why science fiction conventions are the greatest thing ever.

(13) PECULIAR SCI-FI BAR. The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis discovered “The real reason everyone’s standing in line for D.C.’s ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar”.

And this is what we want from our bars in 2017: an exhilarating escape from reality. Except instead of rides, we want photo ops.

“It’s purely for the Instagram,” said Lara Paek, 28, waiting with her sister in line outside the bar before it opened.

People who order “the tequila-and-grapefruit tonic ‘Shame,’ have the bartenders shout, ‘Shame! Shame!’ at them while everyone snaps photos for Snapchat.”

(14) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Geoffrey Thomas’ debut novel, The Wayward Astronomer, is set in the same fictional universe as the online anthropomorphic graphic novel series Dreamkeepers, by Dave and Liz Lillie. The book was released May 17.

THE WAYWARD ASTRONOMER

Hal Adhil and Miri Rodgers are best friends. They spend their days working at a small observatory in the Starfall Mountains beyond the metropolis of Anduruna.

Miri is the only person Hal trusts to understand a dangerous secret: Hal can see all wavelengths of light. Hal uses his superpower only when they are free from prying eyes that could report them to the authorities.

The lives of Hal and Miri quickly change one night, however, when a meteor crashes into the nearby mountains. When they set out to retrieve the fallen star, it quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. What appeared to be an ordinary meteor is in fact a strange power source that Hal and Miri are not the only ones looking for.

In order to rescue his closest companion, Hal must not only unravel a mystery that has eluded his people for ages, but also face unsavory characters from his own past. Can Hal, the Wayward Astronomer, harness his supernatural powers to rescue his friend before time runs out?

(15) HARD-TO-MISS MACROPODESTRIANS. A problem Down Under? Volvo’s driverless car can avoid most animals but is confused by kangaroos.

The Swedish car-maker’s 2017 S90 and XC90 models use its Large Animal Detection system to monitor the road for deer, elk and caribou.

But the way kangaroos move confuses it.

“We’ve noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight when it’s in the air, it actually looks like it’s further away, then it lands and it looks closer,” its Australia technical manager told ABC.

(16) ANT POWER. There’s a pilot project for buses that run on formic acid. (Easier to handle than hydrogen as it just sits there.)

Team Fast has found a way the acid can efficiently carry the ingredients needed for hydrogen fuel cells, used to power electric vehicles.

The fuel, which the team has dubbed hydrozine (not to be confused with hydrazine), is a liquid, which means you can transport it easily and refill vehicles quickly, as with conventional fuels.

The difference is that it is much cleaner.

“The tailpipe emissions are only CO2 and water,” explains Mr van Cappellen. “No other harmful gases like nitric oxides, soot or sulphuric oxides are emitted.”

(17) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the ATM in the UK – how many questions can you answer in this 10-part trivia quiz? “Cash machine quiz: Test your knowledge”.

I only got three right – you have to do better than that!

(18) GLOOP AVOIDANCE. Jason Heller reviews Karen Tidbeck’s novel for NPR — “In ‘Amatka,’ A Warped And Chilling Portrait Of Post-Truth Reality”.

Her 2012 short story collection, Jagganath, showcased her knack for sharp yet dreamlike tale-spinning. Tidbeck’s debut novel Amatka came out the same year, in Swedish only — and it’s seeing its first English translation now. Not a moment too soon, either: Despite being originally published five years ago, its surreal vision of deadly conspiracies, political oppression, and curtailed freedom couldn’t be more eerily timely.

Amatka takes place in one of the most audacious science-fiction settings since Bes?el/Ul Qoma from China Miéville’s The City and The City….

Tidbeck’s premise is almost comical, but her execution is anything but. Amatka teems with mysteries, and almost every innocuous detail — like the fact that the colony’s residents are vegan — winds up having head-spinning ramifications later on. As exquisitely constructed as her enigmas are, however, they’re atmospheric and deeply moving. Vanja is not an easy character to latch onto, but that sense of distance makes her ultimate choices and sacrifices — and what they say about loneliness and freedom — so much more poignant.

(19) UP IN THE AIR. Debut Tor novelist Robyn Bennis does sky military steampunk with a rookie female officer who has to overcome odds on all fronts.

THE GUNS ABOVE by Robyn Bennis (Tor)

Released May 2, 2017

In the tradition of Honor Harrington and the high-flying Temeraire series, Bennis’s THE GUNS ABOVE is an adventurous military fantasy debut about a nation’s first female airship captain.

They say it’s not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.

So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?

Praise for The Guns Above:

  • “Steampunky navy-in-the-air military tale full of sass and terrific characters. Great storytelling. Loved it.” ?Patricia Briggs
  • “Marvelous, witty, gory AF, action-packed steampunk with exquisite attention to detail. Bennis’s writing is incredible, her vocabulary impressive, and she honest to God made me believe you could build an airship from spare parts.”?New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Ann Aguirre
  • “The Guns Above is a sharp, witty Ruritanian adventure full of flintlock rifles, plumed shakos, brass buttons… and airships! Taking place in an alternate mid-nineteenth-century Europe where dirigibles ply the smoky air over battlefields and women have been grudgingly admitted to the air corps,The Guns Above takes a clear-eyed, even cynical view of the ‘glories’ of war, complete with blood, shit, shattered limbs, and petty squabbles among the nobility. The aerial combat is gut-clenchingly realistic, the two viewpoint characters are well-drawn and as different as can be, and the action never stops. Hard women learn compassion, soft men learn bravery, and the fate of a nation depends on one rickety airship and its stalwart crew. A winner!” ?David D. Levine, author of Arabella of Mars
  • “An engaging gunpowder adventure with a helping of witty Noel Coward dialogue and a touch of Joseph Heller.” ?Tina Connolly, Nebula Award-nominated author of Ironskin
  • “Wonderfully adventurous and laudably detailed. Bennis paints airship battles so clearly you’d swear they were from memory.” ?Becky Chambers, author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

(20) TONIGHT’S FINAL JEOPARDY! The Jeopardy! game show often makes references to sff. For example, in the Final Jeopardy answer for June 27 —

An homage to a 1953 novel, this number appears as an error code when a user tries to access a web page with censored content

Click here and scroll down past the ads to read the correct question.

(21) FAVES. At Open Culture, “Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books”. Here are the first five on his list:

  1. The Borrowers — Mary Norton
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Children of Noisy Village — Astrid Lindgren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robinson
  5. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome

(22) OVERDRAWN AT THE IDENTITY ACCOUNT. What Happened To Monday? stars Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, and Glen Close.

Set in a not so distant future burdened by overpopulation, with a global one child per family policy, seven identical sisters (portrayed by Noomi Rapace) live a cat-and-mouse existence pretending to be a single person to elude the Child Allocation Bureau.

 

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/17 Pixel Me Your Best Shot, File Away!

(1) A LITTLE LIST. James Davis Nicoll returns with “Twenty Core Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field.

There are two filtering rules:

Only one work per author per list

Any given work can appear on only one list

(2) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Sign up for video conference call from 1962 hosted by The Traveler from Galactic Journey.

Hello, friends and fellow travelers!

As some of you are aware, Galactic Journey is a frequent presenter at conventions around the country. In a mix of seminar and road show, the Journey brings the past to life with a personal appearance.

Well, this month, we’re going to take that to the next level — using Visi-phone technology developed for the 1962 Seattle World Fair, the Journey will be appearing live Coast to Coast (and beyond) at 11 a.m. [PDT] on June 17.

Tune in, and you’ll get a peek behind the scenes at the Journey, meeting the Traveler, himself, and potentially the Young Traveler and the Editor! We’ll show off some of our favorite vintage toys, answer your questions — and there will be prizes for the best ones!

RSVP for this no-charge event — The Traveler personally guarantees it’ll be worth every penny you spend!

(3) WORLDBUILDERS AND WORLDRUNNERS. Political lessons with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz at Inverse“Here’s Why Sci-Fi Authors Will Always Tell You To Fuck Off”.

“People will visit my website or Twitter feed where apparently I have political opinions,” said Scalzi. “Then I get the sorrowful email that says, ‘I thought I was coming to you for entertainment, but you’re telling me how to think and regretfully I must not read your books anymore.’ They’re expecting me to say something like, ‘No, don’t leave.’ They’re not expecting the email I actually send, which is ‘Dear whomever: kiss my ass.”

(4) IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS. Discussions about cultural appropriation are not typically about the Irish, but they could be. Fantasy-Faction Brian O’Sullivan discusses “Wading in the Cultural Shallows: How Irish Mythology Became A Commodity for Fantasy”.

One night at a party I was introduced to a woman who proudly informed told me she’d named her baby daughter ‘Banshee’ in celebration of her Irish heritage. Even at the time I was pretty stunned by the announcement. For an Irish person (and I would have thought most people would have known this), this was the equivalent to naming her daughter — Death.

About two weeks later, at another party (I had a life back then!), I was cornered by a different woman demanding a translation for the chorus from Clannad’s haunting Theme Song from Harry’s Game. The Irish lyrics for the chorus had been written on her CD sleeve as ‘Fol dol de doh fol-de de day’!) which she thought was absolutely beautiful and must mean something mythically profound.’ Needless to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed when I translated it as ‘La, la la la, la la laaah!’

These are just two examples of the cultural disconnect between Irish people and those who dabble in Irish mythology. They are however only two of the hundreds I’ve personally experienced over the last twenty years or so and I know many other Irish people who’ve had similar experiences. It’s actually a source of continual bemusement to to see how bizarrely and inaccurately our culture’s been represented over that time.

…I don’t believe for a moment that it’s any author’s intention to be offensive when they use mythologies that aren’t their own. In fact, I’d suspect the vast majority of them would be dismayed if they knew their work was somehow considered offensive. Unfortunately, authors write stories based on their own experiences or what they’ve managed to learn and, frankly, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Different cultures aren’t easily transferable (although if you spend enough time living in them or studying them intensely you can certainly pick up a lot) and this makes wading in the mythological shallows that much more dangerous. This is particularly the case with Irish mythology as there’s so much misinformation already out there (many people, for example, through no fault of their own, still believe W. B. Yeats is a credible authority on Irish mythology!).

(5) WEIMER IN THE WILD. If this is what DUFF delegates get to do, everyone will be running next time. (Having lunch with Ian Mond and Likhain.)

Of course, some things you can do without traveling 12,000 miles:

(6) HERITAGE SPACE AUCTION RESULTS. Heritage Auctions released some sales figures from Space Exploration Auction #6173,which had total sales of $822,203 .

Vintage NASA photographs were strong, especially the nice Selection of “Red Number” Examples we were pleased to offer. The definite “star” of this category was the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” Photo (NASA Image AS8-14-2383) of the earth above the moon’s horizon, taken by Bill Anders on Christmas Eve 1968 from lunar orbit. This is one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century and one tenacious bidder laid claim to this early red number print for $10,625. Another exciting lot was a Collection of Sixteen Apollo 11 Photos (twelve red number and four blue number) which included an example of the famous Buzz Aldrin “visor” portrait. Six bidders competed for the group before one took it home for $7,812.

Robbins Medallions are always a popular category. In this auction, two examples made particularly strong showings. A beautiful Unflown Apollo 15 Medal partially minted with flown “treasure” silver from a 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck ingot closed at $7,500. A rare Flown STS-6 Space Shuttle Challenger Medal (one of only sixty-seven carried on the mission) brought in $11,250. Of particular interest, a notarized presentation letter signed by the entire four-man crew accompanied this one. This was the first from this mission that Heritage has offered in ten years of Space auctions.

One-of-a-kind items are always difficult to estimate and there were a few in this sale that performed quite a bit better than our best guess. Project Mercury was represented in this category by a Capsule Flight Operations Manual that sold for $10,625. At what price would two sets of Gemini Spacecraft Crew Hatch Door Assembly Shingles and their associated blueprints be valued? The answer, supplied by six eager bidders, is $11,250.

(7) HELSINKI BOUND TRAVELER SEEKS ADVICE. Daniel Dern has asked me to put out his request for information, as in, “Seeking European SIM card suggestions for Helsinki Worldcon”.

I’m sure I’m not the only fan who’s not a frequent international (here, “not living in Finland”) traveler, trying to suss out a reasonable (as in “affordable” and “non-complex”) answer to having (moderate) cellular connectivity during and pre/post-Worldcon.

Here’s my particular constraints/deets (obviously, YMMV):

o Aside from Worldcon, looking at ~2 weeks in Denmark/Norway/Sweden.

o I’m in the US. However, since a) my carrier is AT&T, whose international rates are excessive, and/but b) not planning to bring my primary phone, so a) is moot. Yes, I know that being a T-Mobile’s customer would be a simple, goodly-priced answer, but that’s not an option here.

o I’ll be packing an unlocked Android phone. Probably my Moto G4, if I can find it. That’s what I’m looking for a pre-paid refillable SIM card for.

o Initial landing is Copenhagen.

o Main cellular uses: for brief local phone calls to restaurants, etc, and texting “where are you?” etc. Some data. Everything else can be done using Skype (and other VoiPs), etc over WiFi.

o Probably looking for a multi-country 30-day pass with 1 or 2GB data and some local phone, ideally unlimited texting.

Web search is turning up bunches of suggestions, but other than wading through comments, I have no clue. Experienced Eurotravellers, what say ye?

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

There’s a lot to know about Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot/. Like, who was inside?

“One of the first things you do when you design a robot or monster,” [Art Director Robert] Kinoshita recalled in an interview, “is to try to confuse the audience as to where you put the guy inside. It’s difficult to completely fool an audience because they know there is someone inside. But if you make an effort to confuse them it can work in your favor and make the whole creation more believable. Robby was designed so that the man inside could see out of the voice box below the glass head.” Although many people were fooled by Robby’s disproportionate form, he was controlled by Frankie Darro from inside, and his voice was provided by talented actor and announcer Marvin Miller, who gave Robby that distinctive, sophisticated wit so loved and remembered by audiences everywhere.

(9) STALKING THE WILD GANACHE. Gourmet chocoholic Camestros Felapton gives Americans an advance look — “Review: Kinder Joy — eating refined sugar so you don’t have to”.

For those of us outside of the US, the Kinder Surprise egg is a familiar sight. A thin chocolate egg which encases a plastic capsule within which is a small toy. Often you have to assemble the toy and sometimes they are themed collectibles. The chocolate itself — well it’s is an acquired taste. Mass manufactured chocolate is one of those paradoxically regional things.

Americans have not had ready access to Kinder Surpises because of the dangers of them eating the encased toy accidentally. However, the more recent Kinder Joy egg has sidestepped the problem. It retains the egg shape but has two seperate halves — one with chocolate (sort of) in it and the other with a toy.

Wednesday I saw one in the wild and bought one and ate the bits you are supposed to eat. This is my story….

(10) INVISIBLE COVER REVEAL. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj have revealed the cover and contributors list for Invisible 3, the third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.” See the image at the link.

The introduction is by K. Tempest Bradford. The contributors are Alex Conall, Alliah, Alyssa Hillary, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Brandon O’Brien, Carrie Sessarego, Chelsea Alejandro, Dawn Xiana Moon, Fran Wilde, Jaime O. Mayer, Jennifer Cross, Jeremy Sim, Jo Gerrard, Mari Kurisato, MT O’Shaughnessy, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sean Robinson, and T. S. Bazelli.

There isn’t an official release date yet. Hines says that will be coming very soon.

(11) TO INFINITY. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s space opera collection Infinite Stars is available for pre-order. I thought the table of contents looked pretty interesting — it helps that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity is one of my favorite sf stories.

(12) BAD WRAP. Entertainment Weekly reports “The Mummy reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”. Quotes at the site.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(13) NAPOLEON DID SURRENDER. James Davis Nicoll sends along a link to The Watchtower restaurant website, a nerd-themed tavern in Waterloo, Ontario.

They have a fantasy-themed origin story.

Their plethora of monthly events includes Nerd Nite.

On the final Wednesday of every month, KW’s own Nerd Nite takes over the Watchtower. Join us for unique, informative, and entertaining presentations, trivia, and socializing in a fun, positive, and inclusive atmosphere. Presentations are done on a ton of nerdy topics!

They also have a series of YouTube videos of their barmaster making some of their signature drinks.

(14) ROLL THE BONES. One researcher says, “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Or if there is a Garden of Eden it’s the size of Africa. — “Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity’s birth back to 300,000 years” at USA Today.

Digging on a hilltop in the Sahara Desert, scientists have found the most ancient known members of our own species, undermining longstanding ideas about the origins of humanity.

The newfound Homo sapiens fossils — three young adults, one adolescent and a child of 7 or 8 — date back roughly 300,000 years, says a study in this week’s Nature. The next-oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, the scientific name for humans, are about 200,000 years old.

(15) NEST UNFEATHERED. The argument goes on: “Study casts doubt on the idea of ‘big fluffy T. rex'”

Primitive feathers have been identified in some members of the Tyrannosaur group, leading to speculation that the king of reptiles also sported feathers.

In the latest twist, researchers analysed skin impressions from a T.rex skeleton known as Wyrex, unearthed in Montana.

They also looked at relatives that roamed during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and other parts of North America, including Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Skin patches from the neck, pelvis and tail of Wyrex show scaly, reptilian-like skin, says a team led by Dr Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

(16) BOND. 20 LB. BOND. Is your printer tattling on you? “Why printers add secret tracking dots”.

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 — at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

(17) A CLASSIC. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary #94, 60,000 words of lively book talk and analysis, is available for download from eFanzines.com:

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, Gideon Marcus, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/17 I Got Two Pixels When I Scrolled The Bones

(1) THE ROARING 20. James Davis Nicoll continues his series of “core” lists with “Twenty Core Trader Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

(2) PRIME TIME LE GUIN. Rare video of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Guest of Honor Speech at Aussiecon (1975) has been uploaded to YouTube by Fanac.org.

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. Guest of Honor Ursula K. Le Guin gave an insightful and entertaining speech about the state of science fiction, and her part in it. There’s a real sense of community evident here, as well as a delightful sense of humor (look for the propeller beanie). Le Guin’s comments on the place of women in the field are particularly interesting. The bearded gentleman who introduces her is Robin Johnson, chairman of Aussiecon. Thanks to S.C.I.F.I. for digitizing, and to Elayne Pelz for providing us the footage.

 

(3) I FOUGHT THE LAW. Litigation begins: “Bookseller Suing California Over ‘Autograph Law'”. {Publishers Weekly has the story.

Last year, the California legislature broadened a set of civil code regulations focused on autographed collectibles to include “all autographed items” with a value over $5. Assembly Bill 1570 requires anyone selling autographed books to provide an extremely detailed “certificate of authenticity” with each book, describing the book, identifying the signer, noting witnesses of the book signing, insurance information, and other details. Per the new law, booksellers must keep the certificates for seven years or risk substantial damages, court fees, and a civil penalty if the autographed book gets questioned in court.

These new regulations took effect in January, prompting protests from around the state—including a Change.org petition with over 1,700 signatures urging the state legislature to repeal the bill. Petrocelli’s suit marks the first time a California bookseller has challenged the law in court.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit law firm defending “private property rights, individual liberty, free enterprise, [and] limited government,” mounted Petrocelli’s lawsuit free of charge, as it does for all its clients. “We spoke to booksellers up and down the coast,” said Anastasia Boden, one of the PLF attorneys representing Book Passage in the suit. “But Bill was the only one so far brave enough to join a constitutional lawsuit and act as a civil rights plaintiff.”

The lawsuit argues that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” By that argument, the regulations Assembly Bil 1570 places on booksellers violates a basic freedom accorded to all Americans by the Constitution.

According to the lawsuit, the new paperwork and penalties “significantly burdened and seriously threatened” Petrocelli’s efforts to sell books autographed by their authors. Book Passage hosts around 700 author events every year, as well as a “Signed First Editions Club” for dedicated members. These programs, under the new law, would generate thousands of pages of paperwork, as well as the potential for massive liabilities.

(4) POPCORN V. PROTEIN BARS. Yahoo! Beauty finds “Wonder Woman Fans Angry Over ‘ThinkThin’ Movie Promotion Deal”.

Wonder Woman is viewed as a strong and fearless female character in popular culture — and one would think that the production company about to debut a major feature film based on the character would align its marketing tools with the same profile.

Instead, Warner Bros. has partnered with the protein-focused nutrition company ThinkThin to promote the upcoming flick, and it’s causing quite a stir, as many users believe it sends the wrong message.

“We wanted to celebrate a hero film featuring a woman in the leading role,” Michele Kessler, the president of ThinkThin, said in a press release on the partnership. “We love that Wonder Woman has super strength, and we’re proud to offer delicious products that give women the everyday strength they need to power through their day.”

But despite ThinkThin’s belief that its variety of protein smoothie mixes and bars are fit for powerful women — the primary target the upcoming film is celebrating — fans still have a lot to say about the partnership. Many believe teaming up with the company sends the wrong message from the film.

There have proven to be two sides to the controversy — as this pair of tweets shows:

(5) OPEN DOORS. Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, told Specpo readers — “’Science Fiction is for Everyone’ Panel at LA Harbor College a success”.

On April 25th, the Cultural Equity Workgroup invited five science fiction authors and fans to LA Harbor College to discuss the subject “Science Fiction Is For Everyone,” for a room that was at times standing room only.

Held in Tech 110, I was presenting with Stephanie Brown, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Jaymee Goh, Gregg Castro and Steven Barnes. It was a great line-up with some touching comments that drew on diverse fields of knowledge and experience, from the work and influence of Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia Butler, to the way readers and writers have been brought into the world of science fiction not only in the US but around the world. There was a strong highlight on the appeal of steampunk and afrofuturism.

During my portion of the panel, I focused on a discussion of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and had the honor of previous SFPA president Deborah Kolodji in attendance as well as fellow SFPA member and community builder Denise Dumars facilitating the conversation. Overall, our audience was very engaged with our varied approaches to the speculative arts. I demonstrated that speculative poetry draws on a very extensive tradition back to the very roots of poetry itself. The work of Edgar Allan Poe was cited as one of the key efforts to develop a distinctive American voice in poetry that was distinct from what was found in Europe at the time.

(6) PROMETHEUS ONLINE. The Libertarian Futurist Society has launched a new blog devoted to science fiction, Prometheus Blog which replaces the society newsletter.

The new blog complements our main mission of awarding annual literary awards, the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, along with periodic special awards and Hall of Fame awards for notable authors.

..We will be offering news about our organization’s awards and actions, and we’ll be publishing reviews of science fiction books and other artistic works of genre interest, and essays on science fiction.

The blog’s introductory post is “Freedom in the Future Tense: A Political History of SF” by Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and a longtime SF fan.

One: people whose basic political philosophy is flatly incompatible with libertarianism will continue to find the SF mainstream an uncomfortable place to be. Therefore, sporadic ideological revolts against the Campbellian model of SF will continue, probably about the established rate of one per decade. The Futurians, the New Wave, the cyberpunks, and “Radical Hard SF” were not the end of that story, because the larger political questions that motivated those insurrections are not yet resolved.

Two: all these revolts will fail in pretty much the same way. The genre will absorb or routinize their literary features and discard their political agendas. And SF will continue to puzzle observers who mistake its anti-political DNA for conservatism while missing its underlying radicalism.

And the blog’s coming attractions:

In the next few weeks, we will publish book reviews of all of the current nominees for the 2017 Prometheus Award. A survey of the works of Jack Vance will soon by published. Many other articles are in the pipeline.

(9) STATION INFESTATION. Here’s a rare opportunity to watch a monster movie within a stone’s throw of the locale they terrorized — “Off-Ramp Recommendation: Scientists needed! Giant ants invade Union Station Friday night!”

Let’s face it. Ants are nobody’s favorite. They ruin summer picnics, sneak under the door to steal your crumbs, and are… HUGE?! In 1954 sci-fi film “Them!” ants are gigantic, radioactive, flesh-eating, and coming directly for you!

Friday night, as part of the Metro Art series, Union Station is screening the second film in its “Sci-Fi at Union Station” series. It’s the 1954 sci-fi classic “Them!” LA Times entertainment reporter and classic Hollywood expert Susan King will provide a background on the film and its historical significance to both the sci-fi genre and LA.

Director Gordon Douglas helped created the nuclear monster genre with “Them!” and due to its campy horror, the movie has become a cult-classic. “Them!” follows the creation and subsequent terror of carnivorous insects and their pursuit of film stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon. The film culminates in a battle scene set in our very own city, featuring shots of beautiful Union Station, LA’s neighborhoods, and storm drains.

And if that’s not enough – young Leonard Nimoy appears in the film (in a very minor role)!

(10) MORE FROM WJW. Flyover Fandom has Part 2 of its interview with Walter Jon Williams.

DAF: The Praxis is a very stratified society. What did you look at for inspiration, because at times you will have Peers engaged in almost comedy of manners escapades. At other times they engage in white collar crime. What did you pull from?

WJW: There are almost too many to mention. But certainly the books reflect class and class resentment in the 19th century British empire. Which became more class-based as the century went on, but in addition to the diehard imperialists out to conquer the world, they also produced Bertie Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

The social setting is based on Republican Rome, as that experience came down through Spain and the colonial experience in New Mexico where I live. There are certain practices common in Rome that are still common in New Mexico, such as the patron-client relationship exercised by the leading Spanish families and their descendants.

The underground movements of World War II are another great inspiration. At one point Sula is leading the an underground movement against an occupying army, and I gave her an alias taken from a real-life French resistance heroine, Lucie Aubrac.

(11) TODAY’S DAY

Twilight Zone Day

The Twilight Zone was created by acclaimed television producer Rod Serling in 1959, with the first episode premiering on October 2nd. At the time of its release, it was vastly different from anything else on TV, and it struggled a bit to carve out a niche for itself at the very beginning. In fact, Serling himself, though respected and adored by many, was famous for being one of Hollywood’s most controversial characters and was often call the “angry young man” of Hollywood for his numerous clashes with television executives and sponsors over issues such as censorship, racism, and war. However, his show soon gained a large, devoted audience. Terry Turner of the Chicago Daily News gave it a rave review, saying, “Twilight Zone is about the only show on the air that I actually look forward to seeing. It’s the one series that I will let interfere with other plans.” The Twilight Zone ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964.

(12) EXOPLANET STUDY. James Davis Nicoll calls this “more evidence we live in a Hal Clement universe” — “Primitive atmosphere discovered around ‘Warm Neptune'”.

A pioneering new study uncovering the ‘primitive atmosphere’ surrounding a distant world could provide a pivotal breakthrough in the search to how planets form and develop in far-flung galaxies.

A team of international researchers, co-lead by Hannah Wakeford from NASA and Professor David Sing from the University of Exeter, has carried out one of the most detailed studies to date of a ‘Warm Neptune’ – a planet that is similar in size to our own Neptune, but which orbits its sun more closely.

The study revealed that the exoplanet – found around 430 light years from Earth – has an atmosphere that composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with a relatively cloudless sky.

This primitive atmosphere suggests the planet most likely formed closer to its host star or later in its solar system development, or both, compared to the Ice Giants Neptune or Uranus.

Crucially, the discovery could also have wide implications for how scientists think about the birth and development of planetary systems in distant galaxies.

(13) CRY ME A RIVER. Break out your tissues – ScreenRant is ready to show you “Doctor Who: 15 Most Heartbreaking Moments”. (Boo Who!)

  1. River is saved in The Library

Entire books could be written on The Doctor and River Song and how their relationship is a mess of mixed up timelines. The Doctor’s first moment with her is River’s last with him and wrapping your head around that is a sadder thing than most. As the audience, our relationship with their story begins from The Doctor’s perspective and it’s not until later seasons do we realize just how lovely it really is.

River’s first appearance coincides with her death and it’s tough for us to watch, let alone for The Doctor to experience. She knows his true name, has his screwdriver, and is aware of every moment of their future together but–for the sake of spoilers–knows she can’t divulge too much.

In her dying moments, she talks about her last night with him and how beautiful it was before saying goodbye to the man she’s loved for years, knowing that he’s only just met her.

In a final and also first act of love–The Doctor realizes his future self had a plan and is able to restore River’s mind (saved in the sonic screwdriver) to a computer where she can, in a way, live on for eternity.

(14) MY VOTE. Is it too late to pick Hayley Atwell as the next Doctor Who? ScreenRant sells the idea.

If the series does decide to go for a female Doctor in season eleven, we’re looking pointedly in the direction of Marvel star Hayley Atwell. The British actress shot to fame as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, a role that eventually led to her own spin-off series, Marvel’s Agent Carter. Agent Carter was cancelled after two seasons, to the disappointment of its huge fan base, and Atwell went on to work on Conviction, which was cancelled after only a single season. Although we would have loved to see Atwell find success with the show, this leaves her in need of a new project – and what better than Doctor Who?

Atwell has everything that we are looking for in a new Doctor. She’s British, which is something of a requirement (it’s easier to envision a female Doctor than an American one, for most fans!), and she’s very used to dealing with a major role in a huge franchise, thanks to Marvel. Her role as Agent Carter also proved her ability to work with a sci-fi/fantasy role, and to get physical with a part. Peggy Carter is not afraid to do things her own way, or to get her hands dirty; and while the doctor isn’t as violent as Peggy has been, he certainly does his fair share of physical adventuring. She’s got a genius for comedy, which is a vital part of the show, and she’s mature enough and experienced enough to handle a character as complicated as the Doctor. She’s also much younger than Capaldi – and we’ve seen from past Doctors that the current fandom seems to connect more with younger regenerations. Although longtime fans loved Capaldi’s take on the character, there is no denying that some viewers did find him less appealing than the more boyishly charming Smith and David Tennant.

In addition to all of this, Atwell herself has said that she would like to take on the role. In a Twitter Q&A, the actress said “I’d like to BE Doctor Who”, setting the fandom alight when it happened in 2015. At the time, she was busy with Agent Carter, but now that she’s looking for a new project, we would be surprised if she doesn’t throw her hat in the ring with the BBC. Having a longtime fan join the franchise is always a good thing, as it means that the new star is approaching the role with an in-depth understanding of who, exactly, the Doctor really is.

(15) SCI-FI ORIGINS. This is as exciting as paleontologists finding a record-setting homonid fossil. Yesterday in comments, Bill pointed to a 2014 post by Fred Shapiro claiming an earlier origin for the term “sci-fi” than previously known:

There has been a fair amount of attention given to the question of what is the earliest use of the term “sci-fi.”  The OED’s first use is dated 1955.  The OED web site of science fiction citations has a December 1954 usage by Forrest J. Ackerman, who is often said to be the coiner.  A supposed usage by Robert A. Heinlein in 1949 has been shown to be erroneous.  The term looks very much like a Varietyism, and in fact I have now found an earlier occurrence in Variety:

1954 _Variety_ 17 Feb. 38 (ProQuest)  New Telepix Shows … The commercial possibilities are there as well since “Junior Science,” aside from its positive qualities, is a rewarding change of pace from the more thunderous sci-fi and spaceship packages.

(16) GRAPHIC STORY. Deadline: Hollywood displays the new SyFy logo.

For the first time since the NBCUniversal cable network changed its name from Sci Fi to Syfy in 2009, it is changing its logo, introducing a new identity brand refresh ahead of the channel’s 25th anniversary in September.

(17) SYFY REBOOT. io9 says the logo is a minor change in comparison to what will be happening to Syfy programming: “Syfy’s Plan to Save Itself: Harry Potter, Comic Books, and George R.R. Martin”.

Of course, all of that is window dressing compared what Syfy will actually put up on screens. McCumber said the goal was to go back to high-end, scripted television, with four focuses: space and scifi, fantasy, paranormal and supernatural, and superheroes and comics.

The Expanse and The Magicians are clearly the network’s flagship returning shows, mentioned many times and with pictures all over the presentations. For new projects, it was announced Tuesday night that Happy!, the adaptation of a Grant Morrison comic starring Christopher Meloni that was announced last year, will get a full season. Similarly, the Superman prequel Krypton has a full series order.

The only new project announced was the development of George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, a scifi-horror novella he wrote in 1980, which was actually adapted into a movie in 1987.

(18) NEW GRRM TV PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter says “George R.R. Martin Novella ‘Nightflyers’ Headed for TV on Syfy”.

The ‘Game of Thrones’ creator is teaming with writer Jeff Buhler to develop the drama for the small screen.

Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin is expanding his TV footprint.

The author and exec producer of HBO’s fantasy drama is teaming with Syfy to adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers for the small screen, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Set in the future on the eve of Earth’s destruction, a crew of explorers journey on the most advanced ship in the galaxy, The Nightflyer, to intercept a mysterious alien spacecraft that might hold the key to their survival. As the crew nears their destination, they discover that the ship’s artificial intelligence and never-seen captain may be steering them into deadly and unspeakable horrors deep in the dark reaches of space.

(19) DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THIS. The editor of Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cirsova apparently is getting it from both sides.

Here’s an example from “his side.”

And I guess this is what provoked Cirsova’s comment. (Waves hello!)

(20) NODDING OFF. Did any SF writers think getting a good night’s sleep in space would be this difficult? “The quest to help astronauts sleep better”.

But getting a good night’s sleep in space is not easy. There are no beds or pillows – astronauts sleep strapped to the wall in sleeping bags. And that’s not all. “There’re probably several reasons they don’t sleep properly,” says Elmenhorst. “Isolation, a sunrise every 90 minutes and [with the ventilation system] it’s quite noisy in the ISS.” Often, astronauts have to work shifts to monitor experiments or capture visiting supply ships.

To investigate how this lack of sleep affects astronauts’ performance, Elmenhorst’s team has been subjecting groups of paid volunteers to sleep deprivation experiments. “We want to show how sleep loss affects cognitive function,” she says, “and how some people cope better than others.”

(21) SEE-THRU. “Scientists 3D-print transparent glass” – a video report. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “It will be interesting to see whether they ever make their goal of printing photographic lenses, which would require very fine control.”

(22) BUDDHISM AND SCIENCE. How did the religion gain its reputation for being less incompatible with science than many others? At NPR: “Buddhism, Science And The Western World”.

Of course, by its very nature religion, all religions, are changed by their encounters with new cultures. This is particularly true of Buddhism and its steady march eastward from its birth in India 2,500 years ago. Religions always have a way of outgrowing their own scriptural and ritual basis, while simultaneously holding on to them. As author Karen Armstrong has shown, practitioners in any age are always selecting out those parts of their religions that are meaningful to them while ignoring the parts that seem dated. She called the process “creative misreading.”

[Robert] Sharf has no problem with the creative misreading that allows Buddhist Modernism to share space with scientific worldviews. “My concern,” he told Tricycle, “is not with the selectivity of those who read Buddhism as a rationalist and scientific religion — it is perfectly understandable given the world in which we live. It is really not a question of misreading. It is a question of what gets lost in the process.”

(23) SITH REALITY. Cédric Delsaux has put an interesting spin on Star Wars by incorporating its imagery into real photos.

“Over the years, many artists have interpreted Star Wars in ways that extend well beyond anything we saw in the films. One of the most unique and intriguing interpretations that I have seen is in the work of Cedric Delsaux, who has cleverly integrated Star Wars characters and vehicles into stark urban, industrial – but unmistakably earthbound – environments. As novel and disruptive as his images are, they are also completely plausible.”

George Lucas

(24) WRITE A BIG CHECK. An early visualization of the idea for Disneyland will be auctioned soon, and it won’t go cheap — “Original Disneyland concept art shows park origins, growth”.

Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019.

Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first.

That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

(25) ANIMATION ROUNDUP. Financial Times writer James Mottram, in “Are animation movies growing up?”, gives an overview of current arthouse animation projects, including Tehran Taboo, Your Name, and the Oscar-nominated film which is My Life As A Zucchini in the US and My Life As A Courgette in the Uk.  He includes an interview with Michael Dudok de Wit, director of the Oscar-nomnated, Studio Ghibli-backedThe Red Turtle. (The link is to the Google cache file, which worked for me – I hope it will work for you!)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Eli, Bill, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]