Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/16 Scrollilas in the Mist

(1) MIND MELD. SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld asks —

Q: What Speculative Fiction titles are you most looking forward to consuming in 2016?

The answers this time come from Rachel Cotterill, Fran Wilde, Lisa Taylor, Paul Weimer, Foz Meadows, Rachel Cordasco, Lynn Williams, Amanda Rutter, Robert Davis, Sally Ember, Ed.D., Nick Mamatas, Delilah S. Dawson, and Sunil Patel.

(2) ARE THE GUNS BIG ENOUGH? Camestros Felapton has added Sad Larry to his line of Hugo figure trading cards. Looks like he’s holding a pair of .32 Lego Specials. Hmm. May need to rethink that. Larry was shooting a .44 Magnum when he was eight years old, and later in life was a licensed machine gun dealer.

Camestros will post additional figure cards posted over the next few days. He says they are all male, and that he is worried about the gender balance of the collection.

So 9 figures only one of which *looks* female (by the crude standards of lego), only one of which is referred to as female and some which could be female. That’s a pretty bad showing. I really want to add some more but avoid anything that looks like I’m mocking somebody’s appearance.

Funny that someone who’s messing with Sad Larry thinks that is what he should be worrying about…

(3) GOING TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE. George R.R. Martin’s update on the progress of The Winds of Winter indicated if the manuscript had been turned in by year-end it could have been out by March. Chris Lough at Tor.com explains how a book could be produced at warp speed in “How Could The Winds of Winter Be Published In Only Three Months?”

…The production process is broken into six steps below, with an overall explanation of how the process typically works, coupled with speculation on how that process could be condensed into a span of three months. It should be noted that some of the terminology used may be publisher-specific, even though the terminology describes a universal process within the industry….

(4) LITIGATION. The Last Unicorn Film Tour investors have filed a lawsuit against Connor Cochran. Support Peter Beagle’s summary is:

They’re suing Cochran for $450,000, based on the original investment, not to mention punitive damages for fraud and all legal costs incurred by them. You can read the sordid details here in Sandbox-Complaint-for-Damages.

(5) MARGULIES OBIT. Character actor David Margulies died January 11 of cancer at the age of 78. He was best known for playing the mayor in Ghostbusters and Tony Soprano’s sleazy lawyer. The New York Times recalled:

In “Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), he played the mayor, Lenny Clotch, who evoked the incumbent New York mayor at the time, Edward I. Koch. In the sequel, Mr. Margulies invokes a former mayor (“I spent an hour last night in my bedroom talking to Fiorello La Guardia, and he’s been dead for 40 years”) and expresses skepticism that the citizenry’s obnoxious behavior is to blame for the river of pink slime that is inundating the city.

“What am I supposed to do?” he asks the Ghostbusters team (including Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd). “Go on television and tell 10 million people they have to be nice to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker’s God-given right.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1128 — Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.
  • January 13, 1930Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 – The Wham-O Company developed the first Frisbee.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 13, 1893 — Clark Ashton Smith
  • Born January 13, 1933 — Ron Goulart

(8) CAMPBELL AWARD PARAPHERNALIA. Okay, we’ll definitely be watching for this to show up.

(9) NO SANITY CLAUS. Steve Davidson at Amazing Stories proves he’s as tired as anyone of writers who don’t finish in “F**K YOU, Dead Writers”.

The other day I was reading some commentary on George R.R. Martin’s FAILURE to meet his latest installment’s deadline and about how concerned he was regarding fan reaction.

Then, this morning, I was reading the comments to David Gerrold’s latest analysis of the CBS vs Axanar lawsuit and was reminded of David’s FAILURE to get the latest War with the Chtorr novel out – for 23 years,

And THAT reminded me of Harlan Ellison’s FAILURE to finish up a certain anthology I don’t dare mention by name for fear of invoking the wrath of Elcin, the wind god.

And THEN I was reminded of the fact that these living icons of science fictional disappointment are pikers compared to some.

You can not imagine how absolutely apoplectic I am about Robert A Heinlein.  Or Arthur C. Clarke.  Not to mention Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Eric Frank Russell, Fred Pohl, A. Bertram Chandler, Leigh Brackett, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Henry Kuttner, Judith Merrill, C.L Moore, Doc Smith, Hamilton, Campbell, Bester, Chalker, Zelazny, Henderson, McCaffrey, Farmer, ….

You’re all dead and now you’ll NEVER finish ANYTHING! …

(10) CRITICAL MORASS. Lou Antonelli’s “On constructive criticism” manages to thread Lois Tilton, criticism, last year’s Hugos, and Catholic theology together on one string.

Most of the reviews of my short story “On a Spiritual Plain” boiled down to “The premise sucks, and it’s a weak story, and it’s badly written, and Lou Antonelli is a miserable human being, anyhow.”

Occasionally I was surprised by some genuinely thoughtful reviews. Any author worth his salt will recognize VALID criticisms. For example, saying a story of mine relies too much on dialogue and first person narration is valid; I lean on that a lot, and it indicates a weakness in my writing skills.

But IMHO, overall most so-called constructive criticism I hear simply reminds me (having been raised a Catholic) of original sin. Deep down, we’re all sinners, and it’s something we all have to fight constantly – to do good and help people, and improve the world.

Constructive criticism is usually just a justification for hatefulness.

(11) KNOW NOTHINGS. ScreenRant learned nothing about the next Star Trek series from an interview with the head of CBS Entertainment – because he doesn’t know anything either.

Despite being the launchpad for the new Star Trek series, CBS Entertainment’s new president Glen Geller revealed to Slashfilm that the show has been developed exclusively by and for the All Access streaming division.

“I’m not sure about the plans creatively for new characters. I don’t have anything to do with it. It really is for All Access. While the network will be broadcasting the pilot, I actually can’t answer any creative questions about it. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Star Trek. I think it’s going to be an exciting project.”

…While Geller says the new TV show will have no connection to the upcoming film, it may be inspired tonally by that franchise. Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote and produced the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), will executive produce the 2017 series. He’ll be joined by Heather Kadin, with whom he also produces CBS series Limitless and Scorpion.

The first episode of the sixth Star Trek series will have to be impressive enough to convince viewers to sign up for a subscription service to see the rest. Netflix has set a precedent for getting new fans to sign up in order to watch episodes of series like Orange is the New Black and Daredevil, and CBS will be hoping longtime Trek fans will be extra motivated. For $5.99 a month, viewers can watch the new Star Trek series, plus every episode of its five predecessors. The service also includes on-demand viewing and live streaming of many of CBS’s other shows.

Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016. The new Star Trek TV show will debut on CBS in January 2017.

(12) TOUGH TO BE TOLKIEN. Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison’s “Doing Tolkien Wrong” is a reprint of a 2005 article.

I was given The Hobbit for my sixth birthday, The Lord of the Rings for my ninth. I’ve read The Silmarillion. I own the extended edition DVDs of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King–even though I don’t own a DVD player. In other words, I love Tolkien as much as the next really geeky person.

So when I say that Tolkien is an affliction and a curse, you understand that I’m saying it for a reason.

Specifically, Tolkien is an affliction and a curse to fantasy writers. This is a horribly ungrateful thing to say, when it’s largely thanks to Tolkien that fantasy writers can exist as a sub-species today at all. Certainly it’s thanks to Tolkien that so many fantasy novels, especially series of novels, can get published. But, nevertheless, the genre has reached a point where Tolkien causes more problems than he solves.

The reason for this is that, while Tolkien was a genius and a godsend to readers prepared to love secondary-world fantasy, he is a terrible model for writers. And that for a number of reasons, ranging from, on the macro level, his use of the quest plot to, on the micro level, the nature of his prose style. Imitating Tolkien – in and of itself, not a bad idea – has become mired down in slavish adherence to his product, rather than careful attention to his process.

(13) DICK AWARD. Joel Cunningham’s post “This Year’s Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Take SF in Strange New Directions” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gives the Hugos a little bump en route to praising his favorite sf award.

Sorry Hugos, but for my money, there’s no more interesting award in sci-fi than the ones named for Philip K. Dick. In the tradition of everyone’s favorite gonzo pulpist, the “PKD Award” honors innovative genre works that debuted in paperback, offering a nice reminder that you don’t need the prestige of a hardcover release to write a mind-blowing book (just ask William Gibson, whose seminal cyberpunk classic Neuromancer claimed the title in 1984), and in fact, if past winners are any evidence, the format might be seem as a license to take greater risks.

 [Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Will R., for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day  Soon Lee.]