Pixel Scroll 8/22/17 One Pixel Makes You Larger, And One Pixel Makes You Scroll

(1) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. When people finally stop sending letters, here’s the kind of thing we’ll be missing: “UK toys celebrated on Royal Mail stamps”.

The UK’s favourite toys from the past 100 years are being celebrated in a new set of stamps from the Royal Mail.

Characters in the set include the Sindy doll and Action Man, as well as brands like Spirograph, Stickle Bricks and Fuzzy Felt.

Meccano, the Merrythought bear, W Britain toy figures, Space Hopper and Hornby Dublo trains also feature.

The series of 10 stamps will be released on Tuesday at 7,000 post offices and to buy online.

Royal Mail spokesman Philip Parker said: “British toymakers enjoyed a reputation for quality and innovation.

“These nostalgic stamps celebrate 10 wonderful toys that have endured through the decades.”

 

(2) PARDON MY SHADOW. If someone had not added “photobomb” to the language, this would not be nearly so clickworthy: “The International Space Station just pulled off the photobomb of a lifetime” at Quartz.

Captured by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky while looking up from Banner, Wyoming, perfectly timed images show a tiny ISS passing in front of the sun.

(3) WABBIT TWACKS. Ricky L. Brown tells Amazing Stories readers about a bizarre crossover project in “Comic Review: Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1”.

Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 was written by Tom King (The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon) with cover and interior art by Lee Weeks (Daredevil) while color was provided by Lovern Kindzierski (Marvel) and lettering by Deron Bennett (DC, Vault).

This unique crossover is part of a six issue DC Universe / Looney Tunes One-Shot collection. In addition to the Batman Fudd combo, the list of other comics includes: Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special #1 written by Sam Humphries with art by Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna (June 14, 2017); Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 written by Steve Orlando and Frank Barberi with art by Aaron Lopresti (June 14, 2017); Lobo/Road Runner Special #1 written by Bill Morrison with art by Kelley Jones (June 21, 2017); Wonder Woman/Tazmanian Devil Special #1 written by Tony Bedard with art by Barry Kitson (June 21, 2017); Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam Special #1 written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Mark Texeira (June 28, 2017). Though these are billed as “one-shot” issues which are typical stand-alone stories, we can only hope/assume that DC Comics has left the window open for many more installments down the line seeing that they chose to include ”#1” in the title designations on their website. Just sayin’.

(4) POD PEOPLE. Fandompodden interviewed current and future Worldcon organizers for its first podcast in English. (They’re usually in Swedish.)

This is our very first English speaking podcast aiming new and old international fandom friends. We have three amazing interviews from the recent Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. Jukka Halme, supreme overlord of the finnish Worldcon. Dave Clark of the San Jose organisation and finaly Steve Cooper and Emmy England of Dublin 2019. Your host for the show is Håkan Wester and Patrick Edlund. Enjoy

(5) CATALANO REJOINS GEEKWIRE. You can now listen to the first episode of GeekWire’s new podcast interview/article series which Frank Catalano is hosting/reporting. It’s about pop culture, science fiction and the arts, and how one of those three topics intersects with tech. The first guest is Greg Bear, on the state of science fiction: “Science fiction has won the war: Best-selling author Greg Bear on the genre’s new ‘golden age’”.

“Nowadays, there’s so many private ventures that when I wrote the War Dogs series, I made the private ventures face forward, and called the Martian colonists Muskies, as a tribute to Elon’s dreams, if not to what the reality is going to be,” he said.

Seattle is a hotbed of science fiction thinking in all these corporations.

As a “hard” science fiction writer who does extensive research, Bear has dived into everything from nanotechnology (his 1983 novel Blood Music is credited by some as being its first use in science fiction) to planetary science. A current fascination, in part because it’s a key setting in the War Dogs trilogy, is Titan. “It’s got a hazy orange layer,” he explained. “It’s full of plastics, and waxes, and organic chemistry. Then, it turns out, it’s actually got a water ocean underneath.”

Access the podcast directly here. (parts of it will also air on KIRO-FM Seattle, as well as be available for streaming).

Some of the top films, TV shows and books today are what was once called “genre fiction,” like sci-fi and fantasy. So is it a golden age for the geeky arts? Or is this mainstream-ization of geek culture more ominous? We explore that question with renowned sci-fi author Gret Bear in the first episode of our special pop-culture podcast series, hosted by Frank Catalano.

Catalano says, “Upcoming episodes will include interviewing SFWA President Cat Rambo about the relevance of awards in science fiction and fantasy and the role of diversity, and curators at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) about the challenges in preserving science fiction and fantasy artifacts from film and TV that were never designed to last. More episodes to come after that, probably at the rate of one or two a month (as my day job allows).”

(6) FUNNY BOOK SALES FALL. Rod Lamberti reports “Comic Store In Your Future: The Secret Empire Sales Drop”.

It didn’t surprise me to read that July 2017 saw the first drop in overall comics sales of the year. A drop in sales did happen. This summer was weaker than last summer sales wise for us. Rebirth last year was a big seller. Our orders were lower than last year reflecting less demand for comics.

(7) MORE ON ALDISS. Christopher Priest writes a remembrance of Brian Aldiss on his blog that’s much more personal than the literary obit he wrote for The Guardian: “Here it began, here it ends”.

In fact, I was too hard up and too shy to go the SF convention, and did not meet Brian Aldiss in person until about 1965. Then, when he found out my name, he said, ‘I remember you — you wrote me that intelligent letter! Come and have a drink!’ It was the first moment of a friendship that was to last, with the usual ups and downs of any friendship between two difficult men, for more than half a century.

This is a photograph taken in June 1970, by Margaret, Brian Aldiss’s second wife. Brian had generously invited me down to their house in Oxfordshire to celebrate the publication of my first novel Indoctrinaire. Also there was Charles Monteith, who was not only my editor at the publishers Faber & Faber, he was Brian’s too. He had been responsible for buying and publishing all the early Aldiss books, including those short stories I had admired so much, and the fabulous bravura of Non-Stop.

(8) HENDRIX AND ALDISS. John Picacio posted this photo of Jimi Hendrix reading a Penguin sf collection edited by Brian Aldiss. Hendrix reading sf was actually a regular thing, as this 2010 Galley Cat article reminds: “Jimi Hendrix and His Science Fiction Bookshelf”.

Photograph by Petra Niemeier of Jimi Hendrix in 1967 reading Penguin Science Fiction

Most people don’t remember anymore, but rock legend Jimi Hendrix was a science fiction book junkie. We caught up with one the guitarist’s biographers to find out more about his science fiction bookshelf.

In the new book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius, authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber take a deeper look at the guitarist…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

Ray Bradbury’s 88th birthday cake

  • Born August 22, 1920 – Ray Bradbury
  • Born August 22, 1978 – Late-night talk show host James Cordon, who also was in some episodes of Doctor Who.

(10) BIRTHDAY GIFT APPEAL. Money is being raised to preserve books and other items donated to IUPUI by Ray Bradbury.

His collection of books, literary works, artifacts, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and so much more is housed at IUPUI in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The Center is led by Professor Jon Eller, a personal friend of Bradbury’s for over 23 years and noted scholar of the author’s works.

Without Bradbury, the world wouldn’t be the same. Preserving these assets will help ensure that generations of fans, scholars, authors, filmmakers, and historians are able to pay tribute to the October Man.

Help us preserve the books of the man who knew what society would be without them.

Your generous gift to this campaign will provide general support to the Center and assist in the preservation of the vast collection. DONATE NOW  and help us reach our $5000 goal.

(11) FAMILY TREE. And Bradbury’s family tree includes a Salem woman convicted as a witch. There’s some kind of lesson to be learned about the genetics of sf writers here – if I only knew what it was.

(12) SURVEY. Jess Nevins is conducting a survey about sexual harassment in the sf community.

(13) WHEDON REVEALED. The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven, in “Joss Whedon’s Fan Site Shuts Down After Ex-Wife’s Explosive Essay”, says that Whedonesque.com is shutting down after Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, posted an essay in The Wrap accusing Whedon of serial infdielity during 15 years of marriage.

(14) PLUS AND MINUS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere struggles with his final verdict on “The Hike: A surreal and often humorous journey”.

As noted, The Hike is a fast-moving work, despite coming in at just under 400 pages. I read it in a single sitting of just a few hours. Magary keeps things moving apace, save for a few sections that carry on perhaps a little too long. His fluid prose carries the reader along smoothly and easily even if they won’t find themselves lingering over it for its lyricism or startling nature. The humor is another reason it goes down so easily, most of it coming from that crab, who is, well, kinda crabby. The crab is given a run for its comic money, though, by Fermona the giant, who runs a kind of Thunder Dome Buffet for herself. The book isn’t all lightness and humor, however. Magary’s portrait of Ben’s suburban family life is a bit thin, but does strike some emotional chords in scenes where Ben is with or thinking of his children.

(15) VAMPIRE HUNTER. Next year the Stephen Haffner press will bring out The Vampire Stories of Robert Bloch. Right now, Stephen is crowdsourcing help in tracking down the original artwork for his cover.

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is one of the most fondly remembered and collected authors of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction of the 20th Century. Noted by many as the author of Psycho, Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. He was a member of the Lovecraft Circle and began his career by emulating H.P. Lovecraft’s brand of “cosmic horror.” He later specialized in crime and horror stories dealing with a more psychological approach.

While we have secured permission from the rights-handlers for Gahan Wilson‘s artwork for the cover image, we have been unable to locate the original “Parkbench Vampire” painting.

The image originally appeared on the cover of the humor digest, FOR LAUGHING OUT LOUD #33 (Dell Magazines, October, 1964) promising a “Hilarious Monster Issue!”.

As shown above and to the right, someone—somewhere—had access to the original artwork and placed a low-res image on the internet.

We have sent queries to several Gahan Wilson-collectors as well as many collectors of SF-art-in-general asking for the whereabouts of the original artwork, but nothing has surfaced yet.

So, if you, or someone you know, has a lead on where the original artwork resides, or can assist in supplying a high-resolution scan of the painting, please contact us ASAP at info@haffnerpress.com.

(16) BEWARE SPOILERS. Fantasy-Faction’s Zachary A. Matzo reviews The Silent Shield by Jeff Wheeler.

The Silent Shield, the fifth main book in Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, is proof positive that creative consistency makes for a good read. I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point, but Wheeler has once again crafted a short, engaging novel that manages to not only advance the overall narrative but succeeds in expanding the thematic scope of the series. The Silent Shield marks a new high point in a story that has been consistently excellent, and proves once again that one can craft a mature, emotionally resonant and accessible tale without relying upon the grim, the dark or the explicit.

(17) THE FIRST NUKE. Matt Mitrovich’s verdict is that the book is worth a read, in “Book Review: The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford” at Amazing Stories.

Do you ever feel like we are living in a timeline where people are actively trying to roll back the clock? For example, renewable energy technology is being ignored for coal, despite experts saying it is on its way out. We even have the president attacking Amazon as if online shopping is inferior to retail stores. Now people are apparently nostalgic for the constant threat of nuclear war, which makes The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford unfortunately relevant in this day and age.

The Berlin Project tells the story of Karl Cohen, an actual scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and father-in-law to the author. In our timeline, he devised a way of using centrifuges to make weapons grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. Now in our timeline, this method was rejected in favor of a gaseous diffusion method which cost billions and delayed the project significantly while the engineering problems were worked out. Benford proposes, however, that Karl is more assertive and has a little luck early on by getting private investors on board who hope to use nuclear power for civilians in the future. Thus a nuclear bomb is built a year earlier in time for the Normandy invasion. As the title suggests, the target for America’s first nuclear strike is Berlin, but the city’s destruction doesn’t necessarily give the Allies the outcome they were hoping for….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin J. Maroney, Frank Catalano, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/17 And Though She Thought Mike Knew The Answer, Well He Knew But He Would Not Say

(1) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY! Nicholas Whyte is back with “The Adminstrator’s Worldcon – part 2 of my 2017 Hugo memories”.

I almost didn’t make it to Worldcon 75. My taxi was 15 minutes late picking me up from home, and then encountered serious traffic en route to Zaventem airport. I was far too late to check my bag and brought it through security, where I almost came unstuck because of the Official Hugo Glue, which Dave McCarty had given me at Smofcon in December and I now needed to give back to him. (In fact we did not need it, as the artist who created the bases had engraved the winners’ plaques and attached them to the bases herself.) Five different security officials inspected the Official Hugo Glue Gun (which fortunately in Dutch is not a gun but a “lijmapparaat”, glue machine) before I was allowed to go on my way. The captain of my plane then scolded me, entirely fairly, for bringing “hand luggage” which was, in his words, “way too big”. But he did not throw me off, and I arrived in Helsinki.

Whyte includes a clear photo of the Hugo base by itself:

(2) ALL’S WELL. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted Renay’s tweets about the dismaying condition of Lady Business’ Hugo when it arrived. She told File 770 the problems were quickly resolved:

It turns out it was melted glue from where the felt was attached to the base (it’s hot here in Arkansas!). It’s been cleaned off with no problems and we’re looking into the proper type of glue to reattach the felt so disaster averted!! The bolt and washer were missing, too, but we’re going to pick a replacement up tomorrow. Nicholas Whyte from the Hugo team was super responsive. I’m also impressed everything arrived so fast. Those Worldcon 75 volunteers are ON IT.

(3) HUGO WINNER. The speech Ada Palmer was too overwhelmed to read at the Hugos is posted at her blog: “Campbell Award & Invisible Disability”.

Thank you very much. I have a speech here but I actually can’t see it. I can think of no higher honor than having a welcome like this to this community. This… we all work so hard on other worlds, on creating them, on reading them, and discussing them, and while we do so we’re also working equally hard on this world and making it the best world we possibly can. I have a list with me of people to thank, but I can’t read it. These tears are three quarters joy, but one quarter pain. This speech wasn’t supposed to be about invisible disability, but I’m afraid it really has to be now. I have been living with invisible disability for many years and… and there are very cruel people in the world for which reason I have been for more than ten years not public about this, and I’m terrified to be at this point, but at this point I have to. I also know that there are many many more kind and warm and wonderful people in this world who are part of the team and being excellent people, so, if anyone out there is living with disability or loves someone who has, please never let that make you give up doing what you want or working towards making life more good or making the world a more fabulous place.

(4) CONREPORT. Cora Buhlert shares her Worldcon experience in a short video, Cora’s Adventures at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki. Includes a shot of one of the File 770 meetups.

(5) CURBED ENTHUSIASM. Mark Ciocco weighs in on “Hugo Awards 2017: The Results”.

The 2017 Hugo Awards were announced on Friday, so it’s time for the requisite whining/celebration that peppers the steak of our blogging diet (that’s how food works, right?) Um, anyway, despite my formal participation in the awards process roughly coinciding with the Sad/Rabid Puppy era/debacle, this marks the fourth year wherein I’ve contributed to the results. This year’s awards were less directly impacted by those meddlesome puppies, but I feel like we’re still suffering through an indirect backlash and overcorrection. This isn’t exactly new, so let’s just get on with it. (For those who really want to geek out and see how instant-runoff voting works, the detailed final and nominating ballots are available.)

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin takes the rocket for Best Novel, making Jemisin just the third author to have back-to-back wins in this category (joining the ranks of Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold). She’s a good author, but damn, these books are not for me. Both were at the bottom of my ballot and while I can see why her novel won last year, this one is a little more baffling. It appears to have been a close race though, with All the Birds in the Sky only narrowly missing the win. I regret not putting it higher on my ballot, as it’s the only non-series finalist, and that’s something that’s becoming more and more of an issue… My preferred Ninefox Gambit came in third in the voting, which wound up being a theme for my first ranked works this year….

(6) PHOTO FINISH. Amal El-Mohtar coincidentally provides another clear photo of the Hugo base.

(7) WHAT THEATRICAL GENIUSES ARE READING. Broadway World delivers “Your 2017 Summer Reading List Courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda”, which includes a few genre works:

(8) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE READING. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has sicced the panel on “By the Waters of Babylon”. (Wow – I first read that in a junior high school textbook, when I was a Young People myself!)

The second story in Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF is Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937’s“By The Waters of Babylon”. He’s more obscure than he once was now—dying at age 44 didn’t help him stay in the spotlight—but you may have encountered his The Devil and Daniel Webster or Benét’s upbeat toe-tapper, Nightmare, with Angels, quoted in part in John Brunner’s disco-era The Jagged Orbit…

(9) ROWELL REUNITES RUNAWAYS. Marvel is bringing back Nico, Karolina, Molly, Chase, Old Lace and even Gert.

This fall, best-selling YA writer Rainbow Rowell (Carry On, Eleanor and Park), superstar artist Kris Anka (All-New X-Men, Star-Lord) and Eisner-winning colorist Matt Wilson (The Mighty Thor, Black Widow)  team up to bring the universe’s pluckiest team of super heroes back to where they belong: in the pages of a Marvel comic book.

“As a Runaways fan, it’s been such a thrill for me to see these characters together again,” said writer Rainbow Rowell. “I can’t wait to let everyone else into the party.”

“For years I batted other editors and creators back from the Runaways,” said Executive Editor Nick Lowe. “I was the last Editor to edit them and they are precious to me, so I didn’t want just ANYBODY to bring them back. So when my new favorite writer (Rainbow’s Eleanor & Park slayed me in the best way) said they were her favorites, I knew I had half of the lightning I needed. Kris [Anka] was the other missing link for the PERFECT RUNAWAYS creative team and I’m so excited to share them with the world!”

(10) NO CAPTAIN SULU. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, talks about an unproduced Trek series:

Star Trek and Deep Space Nine writer Marc Scott Zicree shares the entire Captain Sulu Star Trek pilot he and Emmy winner Michael Reaves wrote, and shares the untold story of why you never got to see that series — despite its Hugo and Nebula Award nominations!

 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 18, 1947 – Hewlett-Packard Co. is incorporated, nine years after William Hewlett and David Packard sold their first oscillators from a garage in Palo Alto, where they had set up shop with $538 in capital. Moving from oscillators, the first of which they sold to Disney for the movie Fantasia, the Stanford graduates built one of the world’s largest electronics companies
  • August 18, 2001Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies premieres in Japan.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 18, 1925 – Brian Aldiss

COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian approves of the monkey business on Brevity.

(13) INFRINGEMENT SUIT. In January the Arthur C. Clarke estate, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac to sue Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement. They charged that KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

Publishers Weekly has a progress report on the litigation in “Still No Opinion, but Judge’s Order Bans Distribution of ‘Infringing’ KinderGuides”.

Following a summary judgment ruling last month, a federal judge this week signed off on a permanent injunction immediately barring Moppet Books from distributing in the U.S. any versions of its KinderGuides series held to be infringing, until the works on which they are based enter the public domain. In addition, Moppet Books also agreed to destroy all current copies of the infringing works “in its possession or under its control” within 10 days.

Don’t expect the shredders to fire up quite yet, however. While the ban on distribution is effective immediately, the injunction includes an automatic stay on the destruction of existing stock, pending the “final outcome” of the appeal process.

…On July 28, Judge Jed Rakoff issued a summary judgment for the plaintiffs, rejecting Moppet Books’ claims that the works, created by founders Frederik Colting and Melissa Medina for the company’s KinderGuides series, were protected by fair use. The ruling came just days after oral arguments were presented in the case, and without an accompanying memorandum by Rakoff explaining his decision, which the judge said would come “in due course.”

…Meanwhile, despite the ongoing legal battle, Moppet Books is moving ahead with plans to launch a new line of books in October, including a collection of KinderGuides based on public domain works, and two original nonfiction works.

(14) WHAT’S THAT, ROCKY? The New York Times, in “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”, reports that new fossil discoveries show prehistoric “squirrels” glided through forests at least 160 million years ago.

In a study published on Wednesday, a team of paleontologists added some particularly fascinating new creatures to the Mesozoic Menagerie. These mammals did not lurk in the shadows of dinosaurs.

Instead, they glided far overhead, avoiding predatory dinosaurs on the ground — essentially flying squirrels of the Jurassic Period, from an extinct branch of mammals that probably still laid eggs.

(15) BRADBURY DRAMATIZED. Broadway World says a one-man Bradbury play will be part of a stage festival in New York next month.

Bill Oberst Jr. brings his award-winning solo performance, “Ray Bradbury‘s Pillar Of Fire,” one of Bradbury’s darkest tales, to Theatre Row on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 6:00pm. The NYC debut is part of the United Solo Theatre Festival.

Ray Bradbury has something to say to us at this exact moment in time;” said Oberst, “that we are citizens of the cosmos first, that the way we imagine our future determines our future, and that the most dangerous minds are those which cannot imagine themselves to be wrong.”

Oberst’s one-act adaptation uses Ray Bradbury‘s poetic prose to tell the story of William Lantry, a 400-year-old corpse who rises from the grave in the year 2349 to find himself the last dead man on Earth. Filled with hatred for a future world where superstition, gothic literature and human burials are all banned, Lantry decides to create an army of the dead. Bradbury later called the novella “a rehearsal for Fahrenheit 451.” He also famously said, “I don’t predict the future, I try to prevent it.”

(16) OLD HOME WEEK. Andrew Porter used to live in part of the historic Henry Siegel mansion, whose story was chronicled in the Daytonian in Manhattan blog yesterday.

…This is where I first published ALGOL, DEGLER! and then S.F. WEEKLY. It’s where I lived while I worked on the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3. I had numerous fan gatherings there, and have photos of Ted White and Arnie Katz in my room. This block of East 82nd Street is also the direct approach to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose fabled entrance stairs are visible directly down at the end of the block.

He wrote a long, fascinating comment there, including this genre tidbit –

In later years, part of the basement housed a toy store accessed by a stairway from the bookstore above. The proprietor told me that some of the toy soldiers he sold came from the collection of Donald A. Wollheim, a well-known collector and once publisher of DAW Books. And one of the buyers was George R.R. Martin, whose “Game of Thrones” (HBO) is so popular.

…For many years there was also a bookstore. In early 2017, Crawford Doyle Booksellers, which claimed to be there for 21 years, closed. However, there’d been a bookstore there since at least the late 1950s. I know, because as a teenager, I had a job delivering Womrath Library rental books to posh apartments around the area.

(17) IN THE FLOW. The Hugo Award Book Club discusses John Scalzi’s latest novel in “Review: The Collapsing Empire”.

Given John Scalzi’s track record, high profile, and vocal fan base, it seems likely that The Collapsing Empire will be given a fair amount of consideration on many 2018 Hugo nominators’ lists.

Based on how fun this book is at times, that consideration is probably warranted. The novel is set in an interstellar empire tied together by limited faster-than-light traderoutes known as ‘the Flow.’ This empire — The Interdependency — has lasted for millennia because of the economic dependence of its member worlds to each other. The key protagonists are the new Empress of the Interdependency, and the son of a scientist on a distant world whose father has spent decades discovering that the flow is going to collapse. The overaching plot — which has some parallels to Asimov’s Foundation— is expertly constructed and well-paced. Although the characters all seemed to speak with a similar voice, their motivations were clear, and the conflicts felt natural.

(18) THROWING SHADE. Solar-powered California prepares for the eclipse:

“We’re doing a lot of coordination, a lot of preparation,” says Deane Lyon, a manager at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages about 80 percent of the state’s electric grid. “It’s probably the most work this company has done to prepare for a three-hour event in our history.”

Solar power already comes with up and downs, in the form of clouds.

“So this was a particularly cloudy day,” says Jan Klube of Enphase, pulling up a graph showing the solar output from one California home. The Petaluma-based company monitors rooftop solar systems around the country day in and day out.

To show how a single cloud can make a difference, he points to the afternoon hours, when the output dips by about a third. “You see the big drop, so there’s a cloud coming and going,” he explains. “That’s why you see the zigzag.”

If your solar panels are in the path of totality during the eclipse, “it will go all the way to zero,” he says.

California isn’t squarely in the path, but the moon’s partial shadow will obscure 90 percent of the sun in the north, down to nearly 60 percent in the south. That’s more than enough to cause some anxiety for the people who have to keep California’s lights on.

(19) THE DARK SIDE. Scientists to study whether nature really goes crazy during an eclipse: “Will The Eclipse Make Crops And Animals Flip Out? Scientists Ask (Really)”.

With the help of elementary school students, University of Missouri biology professor Candi Galen is putting out microphones near beehives, in gardens and in a pumpkin patch to record buzzing activity.

“I don’t think it is really known the cues that bees use or don’t use when they are foraging that tell them to jump ship and go back their hives or stay put,” Galen says. “Bees depend upon the environment to regulate their temperature, and that may suggest that if indeed it does cool off a few degrees as the eclipse progresses, then they would get less active because they would be at a lower temperature physiologically.”

Researchers are also working with nearby cattle ranchers and even fishermen to monitor fish activity, Reinbott says.

(20) DNA EDITING. An NPR report is allowed to go “Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos”.

Critics, however, pounced on the news. They fear editing DNA in human embryos is unsafe, unnecessary and could open the door to “designer babies” and possibly someday to genetically enhanced people who are considered superior by society.

As the debate raged last week, I asked Mitalipov if I could visit his lab to see the next round of his experiments. He wants to confirm his initial results and determine whether the method can be used to repair other mutations.

He agreed to a visit, and on Monday, I became the first journalist to see these scientists cross a line that, until recently, had been taboo.

Chip Hitchcock adds a historical note: “Readers of antique SF may remember Heinlein’s elaborate description of deductive sorting of ova in Beyond This Horizon; another infodump bites the dust.”

(21) PUNISHER. The Verge invites everyone to watch The Punisher teaser trailer:

The Defenders hits Netflix today, and with it comes a look at Marvel’s upcoming show The Punisher. Frank Castle was introduced in season 2 of Daredevil. He’s played by Jon Bernthal, who will reprise his role as the gun-toting Army vet out for revenge.

Various rips of the trailer are popping up all over YouTube…

 

(22) SAY HELLO. Amazon Prime video will stream The Tick on August 25.

From creator Ben Edlund comes the hero you’ve been waiting for. In a world where heroes and villains have existed for decades, a mild-mannered accountant named Arthur has his life turned upside down when he runs into a mysterious blue superhero, The Tick, who insists that Arthur become the brains to his brawn in a crime-fighting duo. Will Arthur resist the call of Destiny or join the fight?

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Karl-Johan Norén, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/17/17 Like A Scroll Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) MEMOIRS OF A HUGO ADMINISTRATOR. The first part of “The Administrator’s Tale”, Nicholas Whyte’s account of handling the Hugos for Worldcon 75 includes his feelings about the run-up to his awards year.

On my birthday in 2016, I was sitting in a noisy Brussels pub with a former Lib Dem MP and had to keep excusing myself as the Hugo finalists were announced by MidAmeriCon II on Twitter. Only one of the previous year’s slaters had been active this time, but again several ballot categories were dominated by candidates chosen by him. I was dismayed. Concerned that the EPH system as proposed might not be sufficient to protect the Hugos in future, I put my name to a proposal supporting an extra preliminary stage of voting to screen out troll nominees, and to another moving the qualifying date for nominating back to December 31 of the previous year rather than January 31.

Both of these were passed at the WSFS MidAmeriCon II business meeting in August and sent on to Helsinki for ratification. After the 2016 Hugos had been handed out (with No Award winning only twice rather than five times), Dave McCarty provided detailed voting statistics showing that EPH would have drastically reduced the number of slate finalists. The WSFS business meeting consequently ratified both EPH and the shift to six finalists (but up to five nominations per voter) in each category, these changes to take effect for my turn as administrator in 2017.

This concentrated our minds rather wonderfully on the need to test our software for processing nominations, newly and beautifully designed by Eemeli Aro, using the new rules…

(2) ALL YOUR BASE. However, a Hugo Administrator’s work is never done. Renay, of Best Fanzine winner Lady Business, has had a catastrophe.

Seanan McGuire’s Hugo seems to have arrived okay – maybe it’s that special base packing material.

(3) WOW WITHOUT BOW. Which gives us a smooth segue to Torsten Adair’s analysis of the Best Graphic Novel winner in “The 2017 Hugo Awards: No Dogs Allowed” at Comics Beat.

2,464 nominating ballots were validated this year. 842 of those (34%) nominated at least one graphic novel title. Why does a publisher want to make the final list? Well, aside from being a nominee, which gains you shelf cred with a blurb on the cover, and another reason to issue a press release, it does something even more important: it gets your work seen by every Worldcon attendee. How so? Each attendee can download the Voter Packet, containing many of the nominated works.

A publisher can send out 7,740 digital copies (2017 attendance) to some of the most passionate and well-read fans in science fiction, some of whom may have never considered reading graphic novels before, or realized that there were amazing graphic novels which appealed to their tastes!

(4) WORLDCON TECH. Kyuu Eturautti’s “Worldcon 75 – great challenge, mixed feelings” is a thoughtful and deeply interesting account of his experiences working IT at Helsinki.

So, much of this is just “we do it different”, without right or wrong, but some differences were more than that. I’ll just say it: there was a chronic lack of responsibility seen many times. Equipment that was loaned was never returned. Often enough people didn’t even remember where it was. “Oh, we gave it to someone who asked” was heard occasionally. There was also a lot of odd attitudes, people leaving to party just like that and assuming everyone else would pick up the work. The key parts of the tech team worked 10-16 hours each day. We didn’t catch drinks or meet new friends at bars. I walked an average of 19315 steps a day, almost solely inside Messukeskus and I was not the hardest working one of the team. I’ve heard some other departments also suffered from this attitude. Many had to fix things which were caused simply due to attitude problems and laziness. Of course this wasn’t the majority attitude, but it doesn’t take many a fail to cause notable fusterclucks.

I suppose the biggest problem and reason for massive overworking was the differing staff policy which made it very hard to recruit help. Allow me to summarise. 1. In a Finnish con of around this size, a key staff member would get free tickets for himself and perhaps also friends, free warm meals each day, possibly costs of transportation to pre-con workshops and the con, basic accommodation during the con, a t-shirt and a staff only dead dog party with free food and free drinks, alcoholic and non alcoholic (alcohol in limited amounts, of course). 2. At Worldcon, a key staff member had to pay for entry, which even for a first timer was three times a common convention ticket price. There was partial food compensation, no travel costs compensation, no accommodation, a t-shirt and an open for all dead dog party with nothing free, which was full and out of food by the time our department was only halfway done packing.

(5) FIVE MORE. Steven J. Wright, inspired by Victor Milán’s choice of “five works of SFF which deserve (in his opinion) not to be forgotten” (in yesterday’s Scroll), makes recommendations of his own in “Five from the Forests of my Memory”. For example:

Elizabeth Lynn’s classy story A Different Light is also known to the cognoscenti – it’s been reviewed by James Nicoll, but, let’s face it, James knows all the books.  This story of an artist who gives up his life for an outer-space adventure manages to be clever and exciting and compassionate all at once.  Elizabeth Lynn has a substantial body of work besides, but I think this one deserves not to be overlooked.

(6) TEXAS REMEMBRANCE. The Texas Senate adopted a resolution honoring the late Julie Gomoll’s many accomplishments and important work in the city of Austin.

(7) HARRIS OBIT. Stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris was killed August 14 on the set of Deadpool 2 while performing a stunt on a motorcycle. She is known for being the first African-American female professional road racer. Deadpool 2 was her first movie as a stunt performer. She was the stand-in for Zazie Beetz who is playing the mutant mercenary Domino.  Vancouver authorities shut down production while they investigated, but ScienceFiction.com reports shooting has now resumed.

Joi Harris had been riding motorcycles since 2013 and had more than 1,500 hours of practice under her belt prior to the incident. She started competing in the American Sportbike Racing Association/Championship Cup Series in 2014 and was an advocate for female racing. Here’s some of what she had to say on her official website.

(8) KIM POOR OBIT. Astronomical artist Kim Poor (1952-2017) died August 16 of ataxia. His NASA bio lists his extensive credits:

…[His art appeared in] Omni, Science Digest, Discover, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Germany’s Kosmos, and the Russia’s popular Ogonjok. His book credits include Smithsonian Books, Time-Life Books and Carl Sagan’s Comet. Movies and TV often use his work as background props as in Alien Nation, Seaquest and Babylon 5.

Kim’s artwork is found in textbooks, encyclopedias, planetarium shows and scientific presentations. His work has been commissioned by the National Air& Space Museum and is found in collections worldwide, including those of many astronauts and NASA personnel. He headed up an American delegation of space artists who were brought to Moscow, USSR in 1987 to display their work for the thirtieth anniversary of Sputnik. His work hangs in the Yuri Gagarin Museum in Star City, Russia. This was one of the first overtures of Gorbachev’s glasnost, and resulted in an ongoing series of cooperative workshops between Russian and American artists. Their efforts culminated in a joint exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum in 1992.

He was also the founder of Novaspace, and the creator that brought Spacefest to life. A gallery of his art prints is here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 17 – Neil Clarke

(10) WHO KNEW? Jeff VanderMeer learned that the new Doctor Who is reading his books from Glamour’s follow-along visit with actress Jodie Whittaker on the set of Broadchurch. “Ever wondered what a day in the life of the first female Doctor Who looks like?”

11.40am

Straight into make-up, one of my favourite parts of the day. You get to catch up with all the cast, we’re just in a row chatting. Beth’s ‘no make-up’ make-up takes 45 minutes max, it’s blow-drying my frizzy hair that can take time.

1pm

After a lamb curry from catering, we’re on set. There’s lots of waiting, so I always have a book. I’ve nearly finished the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

(11) I STREAM, YOU STREAM. When Camestros Felapton ran out of things he wanted to watch, he went back to a show he’d originally given up on — “Review: Killjoys (Syfy, Netflix)”.

The initial premise of the show was this. On a planetary system with a bunch of human colonised moons (known as the Quad), a kind of freelance, bounty-hunting, law enforcement agency called the RAC catches (or sometimes kills) wanted criminals. The bounty hunters are known as Killjoys because “joys” are the local currency and they (occasionally) kill people. At the start of the season, the two main characters are a two person team Dutch (an ex-assassin) and Johnny Jaqobi (a less amoral and more geeky pilot) as well as their (stolen) spaceship/AI Lucy. The initial episodes involved the arrival of Johnny’s brother Da’vin into the system, an ex-soldier with psychological trauma.

While not terrible, it also wasn’t great. The three main actors were good, in particular, Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch managed to stop her role as sexy-badass-assassin from being actively bad and say corny lines with conviction. The stories themselves were a bit dull (mainly catch the baddy of the week) and while the premise of the show was original it all somehow felt terribly derivative. The Firefly DNA was obvious but also a heap of tropes from everywhere and everything just piled up together in the apparent hope that something would stick. Dutch’s backstory as a child raised to be a deadly killer who got away from that life etc smacked of a show that wanted depth just by throwing tragedy at its characters….

(12) OBI-WAN GOES SOLO. Er, I’m sorry, I’ll read that again. Deadline’s Anthony D’Allesandro and Anita Busch, in “‘Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie In Works With Stephen Daldry In Early Talks To Direct”, says that Disney is planning a stand-alone Obi-Wan Kenobi film. They want Stephen Daldry, who got Oscar nominations for The Reader, The Hours, and Billy Elliot to direct.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is in early talks with three-time Oscar nominated director Stephen Daldry on a Star Wars standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. No word on casting and at this time there is no deal and no script.

(13) HERE, TAKE THIS INTERNET.

(14) MASTERS OF DYSTOPIA. Today’s installment of NPR’s 1a program, “The Next Chapter For Dystopian Literature”, boasted a hall of fame lineup. You can listen to it at the link.

Today’s book lovers are hungry for stories of dark, dystopian futures. Novels like “1984,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Parable of the Sower” are hard to keep in stock these days.

But what’s inspiring the next generation of dystopian narratives? We assemble a panel of authors to talk about how current events, national politics and international relations inspire their new works and appeal to an audience with an affinity for apocalyptic endings.

Guests

Cory Doctorow Science fiction author, co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.

N.K. Jemisin Bestselling author of the “Inheritance” series and the “Broken Earth” trilogy. She’s won the Hugo Award for the past two years.

Paolo Bacigalupi Bestselling author of more than a half-dozen books, including “The Wind-Up Girl” and “The Water Knife”

Omar el Akkad Award-winning journalist and author of “American War”

(15) TEASER. Gnome Alone comes to theaters October 13.

From the producer of SHREK and the director of NUT JOB, GNOME ALONE is an energetic animated movie about one girl’s journey to discover the hero within herself. After moving to a new city with her mother, Chloe (Becky G) finds herself in a new house that creaks, a new school with creeps, and mysterious garden gnomes that are kind of freaky. No sooner has Chloe tried to fit in, but aliens from another dimension descend upon her house and threaten everything! To top it all off, the gnomes in her house come to life and ask for help to save the world. Now, the only thing standing between Chloe and the end of life as we know it are her new gnome-tastic friends, her neighbor Liam (Josh Peck) and the strength within. It’s up to Chloe and Liam to become the champions they’ve always been inside, and in the process discover that no matter where you are, you’re never GNOME ALONE!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Karl-Johan Norén, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (with an uninvited assist from moi).]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/17 A Hyperloop Named Desire

(1) THE BARGAIN BIN. NASA’s trash is their cash: “NASA flight suits bought for $1.20 could fetch thousands”.

A pair of Florida college students browsing the racks at a thrift shop ended up paying $1.20 for a stack of NASA flight suits that experts said could be worth more than $5,000.

Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth said they were shopping at a thrift store in Titusville when they came across the five blue NASA flight suits and a white “control suit” under some sweaters in a plastic bin.

… The American Space Museum said the names and flight dates on the suits’ labels match the time frame of the 1983-1985 shuttle missions flown by astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, Robert A. Parker and Charles D. Walker.

(2) CROWDFUNDING VOL. 2 OF THE DELANY JOURNALS. Kenneth James is editing the personal journals of Samuel R. Delany in a multivolume series for Wesleyan University Press.  The first volume, In Search of Silence, with Delany’s journals from the 1960s, came out earlier this year and received positive reviews in The New Republic (“Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”), The Gay & Lesbian Review, and at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog by SF critic Paul Di Filippo. (The G & L Review article is unfortunately behind a paywall).

James has just launched a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo — Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany — to fund the completion of next volume.

The next volume, which I’m working on now and which is entitled Autumnal City, collects Delany’s personal journals from the ’70s — during which time Delany wrote some of his most groundbreaking work, including Dhalgren, Trouble on Triton, and Tales of Neveryon.  During this time he also did substantial preliminary work for the novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.

…The goal of this campaign is to raise $30,000 to support the remaining year’s worth of work needed to complete the second volume. This funding will cover three areas: expenses associated with the project (travel to the archives, travel to interview subjects, office expenses, and so on), expenses associated with this campaign (fees and percentages, cost and shipping of rewards, and so on), and personal expenses. Funds raised in this campaign will not support Wesleyan University Press, but rather will go directly to me, in support of my scholarly labor. In academic publishing, an author’s income comes not from book advances or sales, but rather from a university paycheck – or, if the author is an independent scholar (as I am), from some other source. For this project, you will be that source.

(3) ELLISON BIO. As for Paul Di Filippo, today at Locus Online he reviews A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff.

Chapter two takes our hero through high school, through SF fandom, and into the professional world of editing Rogue magazine, among other accomplishments. Segaloff shows that he, as biographer, is willing to skip around in time thematically when the narrative demands. Thus, hearing of Ellison’s first marriage, we also get an immediate foretaste of those to come. And in fact, as we shall soon see, Segaloff will abandon strict chronology at a certain point, in favor of totally thematic chapters, out of which the linear factual events of Ellison’s later life can be readily assembled.

(4) ALL RISE. Walter Jon Williams alerts the media to “Stand By for Greatness”.

So while I was in Finland, Orbit reverted the rights to all three of the Dagmar Shaw books.

I’ll try to make those available as soon as I can.  I can hardly do a worse job of promoting them than the original publisher.

(5) KEEP FIVE IN MIND. Victor Milán knows the magic number – “Five Classic Works of SFF by Authors We Must Not Forget” at Tor.com. Here’s one of his picks:

Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore

Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987) had to use her gender-neutral initials to get published in the 1930s. That didn’t stop her creating the fledgling genre of sword and sorcery’s first female protagonist in Jirel of Joiry. As brave, capable, and arrogant as any man, yet far from invulnerable, Jirel was more than just a red-haired, female Conan. While her adventures were clearly influenced by Robert E. Howard, as well as by Moore’s and Howard’s literary acquaintance H. P. Lovecraft, they focus less on her sword-swinging than her spirit and furious determination. A curious blend of compassion and cruelty, she’s a pious Catholic who’ll risk damnation to gain the means to overcome her foe—then brave the very Hell she sent him to, to free his soul from eternal suffering.

And you’ll never catch Jirel in a mail bikini. She wears the same practical armor as any other warrior of her unspecified Medieval period would.

Moore’s writing is brisk, strongly sensory, and evocative of settings Earthly and alien, though flavored with a few too many adjectives for the modern palate. She had a long and successful career with Jirel and the space opera adventures of Northwest Smith, then writing in collaboration with her husband, Henry Kuttner. Jirel of Joiry is a collection of most of the Jirel tales.

(5) SECOND FIFTH. Moments after posting this Scroll I learned, via Paul Weimer, that Deadline is reporting N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ Book To Be Developed As TV Series At TNT.

N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning sci-fi fantasy novel The Fifth Season is getting the drama series treatment at TNT. The project is in early development at the cable network with Leigh Dana Jackson (24: Legacy, Sleepy Hollow) set to pen the adaptation and Imperative Entertainment’s (All the Money in the World) Dan Friedkin, Tim Kring and Justin Levy serving as executive producers.

Jackson brought the novel, the first in a three-book series, to Imperative, which secured the rights before the The Fifth Season‘s Hugo nomination. Jemisin went on to become the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel. She followed that up last week by winning the prestigious science fiction award for the second consecutive year for the second book in the series, The Obelisk Gate. The third book was published Tuesday

(6) THE RECYCLE OF LIFE. NPR’s “All Tech Considered” asks, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to … Interactive Biodegradable Funerary Urns?”

Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product — a biodegradable, Internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.

At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky — evidently, we’re running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.

Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born August 16, 1991 — Evanna Lynch (actress; plays Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter films)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 16, 1884 – Hugo Gernsback
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Robert Culp. Fans probably know him best from The Outer Limits episode “Demon With A Glass Hand,” written by Harlan Ellison.

(9) FROM HELL. New York City’s Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies relaunches in September with “Paperbacks from Hell”. The event takes place Tuesday, September 19 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY). Admission $12 advance / $15 door.

In the early ’70s, three books changed horror forever: “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Other.” The first horror novels to hit bestseller lists since 1940, they opened the floodgates for an avalanche of horror paperbacks to flood supermarket and drugstore shelves throughout the ’70s and ’80s, before “Silence of the Lambs” slit the genre’s throat in the early ’90s.

Fresh off last year’s one-man show, SUMMERLAND LOST, Grady Hendrix delivers a mind-melting oral history of this wild and woolly world of Nazi leprechauns, skeleton doctors, killer crabs, killer jellyfish, and killer fetuses, featuring hair-raising readings, a William W. Johnstone quote-off, and more tales of terrifying tots, tricycles, clowns, puppets, and heavy metal bands than should be strictly legal. Prepare yourself for a tour of this long-lost universe of terror that lurked behind the lurid, foil-embossed, die-cut covers of… the Paperbacks from Hell!

Following Grady’s illustrated presentation will be a live round table discussion and Q+A with several artists who painted the book covers under discussion, including Jill Bauman, Lisa Falkenstern, and Thomas Hallman.

(10) BRADBURY BY ATWOOD. Yesterday the Paris Review posted Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” with the outro –

This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles. 

….He ducked classification and genre corrals as much as he could: as far as he was concerned he was a tale teller, a writer of fiction, and as far as he was concerned, the tales and the fiction did not need to have labels.

The term science fiction made him nervous: he did not want to? be shut up in a box. And he, in his turn, made science-fiction purists nervous, as well he might. Mars in his hands, for instance, is not a place described with scientific accuracy, or even much consistency, but a state of mind; he recycles it for whatever he needs at the moment. Spaceships are not miracles of technology but psychic conveyances, serving the same purpose as Dorothy’s whirlwind-borne house in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or the trance of the traditional shaman: they get you to the 0therworld.

(11) CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. John Scalzi’s latest op-ed for the LA Times: “During Trump’s present, it’s hard to write the future, says science fiction writer John Scalzi”.

The thing is, science fiction has its setting in the future, but the people writing it and reading it live now, and the stories they’re writing and reading reflect the hopes and fears of whatever age the story is written in. There’s a reason science fiction literature of the late ’60s and early ’70s was about overpopulation, why in the ’80s cyberpunk reflected the uncertainty about the accelerating computerization of our world, and why much of the best science fiction of the last decade, from Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” to N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” is rooted in ecological disaster. Science fiction sees the world today and speculates out from there.

The secret, however, is to come at it from an angle. There’s a thin line between using contemporary themes to extrapolate from and entertain readers, and stepping up on a soapbox and using a political agenda to cudgel people. The least successful science fiction to me is the stuff that takes today’s political catfights and dumps it uncut into the deep future, hundreds if not thousands of years in the future. To have characters in far-flung times prattling on about issues clearly specific to our time would be like writing a novel where people in 2017 are having knock-down, drag-out fights about the Alien and Sedition Acts or the Boer War. Better that science fiction breathes life into today’s anxieties and aspirations in more clever and possibly subtler ways.

His article made me remember the experience of reading Doonesbury during the Watergate hearings, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau found it practically impossible to think up wilder stuff than was coming out in the daily news.

(12) RETRIEVAL. Beyond Skyline shows promise.

A tough-as-nails detective embarks on a relentless pursuit to free his son from a nightmarish alien warship.

 

(13) ONE OF THE FIRST OF ITS KIND. The BBC says “‘Frankenstein dinosaur’ mystery solved”.

Matthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates along its back.

“We had absolutely no idea how the ornithischian body plan started to develop because they look so different to all the other dinosaurs. They have so many unusual features,” the Cambridge scientist said.

“In the 130 years since the ornithischian group was first recognised, we have never had any concept of how the first ones could have looked until now.”

(14) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Connecting to a past discussion of chocolate in various climates: “Truck With 20 Tons Of Nutella And Chocolate Vanishes; Police Hunt For Semi’s Sweets”.

“Anyone offered large quantities [of chocolate] via unconventional channels should report it to the police immediately.”

We trust you’ll abide by those instructions from law enforcement in Germany, where more than 20 tons of chocolate treats have gone missing after thieves stole a refrigerated trailer packed with Nutella, Kinder Surprise eggs and other sweets.

(15) REQUEST FROM TYRION. Gina Ippolito of Yahoo!, in “Peter Dinklage Urges ‘Game of Thrones’ Fans To Stop Buying Huskies Just because They Look Like Direwolves”, says that Dinklage and PETA are combining to urge people not to buy huskies if they can’t handle big dogs just because they want a “direwolf” at home.

“Please, please, if you’re going to bring a dog into your family, make sure that you’re prepared for such a tremendous responsibility and remember to always, always, adopt from a shelter,” Dinklage said in an official statement.

So if Game of Thrones has you itching for a Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, Shaggydog, Lady, or Grey Wind of your own, but you’re not sure you can commit to taking care of a live one, maybe consider an adorable stuffed animal instead?

(16) THOR INTERNATIONAL TRAILER #2. I’ve always been a strong believer that movie trailers are much better with Japanese subtitles.

(17) GODZILLA: MONSTER PLANET. The drawback with TOHO’s own trailer for this animated Godzilla picture is that it doesn’t need subtitles.

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

Dragon Awards Reverse Decision: Littlewood Withdraws, But Scalzi Stays

Dragon Con, has informed Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi they now have the option to withdraw from the Dragon Awards, after initially informing them that they would not be allowed to. However, Scalzi surprisingly has decided to leave his book on the ballot.

Littlewood tweeted —

Littlewood’s book has now been removed from the 2017 Dragon Awards nominee list.

John Scalzi told his Twitter followers —

And the statement he gave to The Verge’s Andrew Lipkin says —

After I contacted the Dragon Award administrators regarding my intention to withdraw, the administrators got back to me and asked if I would consider staying on the ballot. They were hearing the community’s feedback and criticism and were acting on it. Their decision to honor Ms. Littlewood’s request to withdraw is a first example of what I see as their willingness to listen and learn, and is an action I applaud. To honor that action, and in sincere appreciation of the readers and fans who placed me on the Dragon Awards finalist list, I have agreed to remain on the ballot this year. I encourage everyone to vote for their own favorite works on the Dragon Awards finalist list.

And at the Dragon Awards website, they have posted their justification for both the original refusal and the subsequent change in policy, A New Day and a Fresh Perspective, which says in part —

Alison Littlewood, the author of The Hidden People, was nominated for a Dragon Award, which asks ordinary fans what they like to watch, read, and play. It’s a fan’s choice award, plain and simple. And it ought to be a good thing.

Though she clearly has a fan base of her own, Ms. Littlewood’s book was also included on a “slate” proposed by an individual/group she didn’t want to be associated with. She worried that she couldn’t trust the nomination was fairly won. And so, she asked if her book could be pulled from the ballot.

It put us in a jam. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them. In seven categories for literature, there were 53 different novels that represented the broad spectrum of fandom and there was something for everybody. It made an excellent reading list for fans everywhere.

So we told her no.

And then, over the last couple of days, we got an earful from our fans and others. We’ve reconsidered and changed our mind. This is what’s happening next.

We will remove Ms. Littlewood’s book from the 2017 Dragon Awards ballot and re-issue ballots to those people who voted for her book. We believe that fans who voted for The Hidden People should have a second chance to vote for a favorite horror work. No new title will be added to the ballot.

We are extending all voting for this year’s Dragon Awards by two days, to midnight on Sept. 1st, so that everybody who wants a chance to vote will have a chance. Register for a ballot at awards.dragoncon.org.

After this year’s awards, which will be conferred on Sunday, Sept. 3, we’re going to take a hard look at the way we do things at the Dragon Awards. It will still be the “fan’s choice” award, with fans nominating the works and fans voting on the winners. But, we also need to do a better job of listening to the authors and creators of these works. One of the things we will look at is how best to give them a chance to opt off a ballot before its finalized.

John Scalzi has also written an explanatory post at Whatever, Update on the Dragon Awards and Me, part of which is in a Q&A format addressing hypothetical reader questions like these —

I still have issues with the Dragon Awards.

That’s fair. They’re new and still figuring this out, which is not an excuse but is an explanation. In my discussions with the folks running them, my sense is that they really do want to make the awards something that is viable and useful (and fun) for fans of the genre. They have a lot of work to do (this is, I suspect, in the nature of awards in general). Hopefully they’ll get there. As I noted, some of the steps they’re taking now indicate to me they want to get it right. Your mileage may vary. In the meantime, with this as with anything, you’re perfectly within your rights to have issues and criticism. Fire away.

So are you going to the awards ceremony now?

Nope, I’m still counter-scheduled in Washington DC that weekend.

[Thanks to Andrew Liptak, David Langford, and Cat Rambo for the story.]

New Dragon Awards Press Release Still Includes Two Withdrawn Nominees

Four days after the 2017 Dragon Awards ballot was posted Dragon Con has issued a supporting press release, “Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards Publishes Its 2017 Ballot”.

The press release’s nominee list still includes Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi, although both had notified award administrators that they have withdrawn.

In addition to links fans can use to register and vote, the release contains a statement from the con’s top leadership:

“We believe strongly in the principle of one fan, one vote,” said Pat Henry, president of Dragon Con, Inc. “We believe that the vast body of fandom is in the best position to identify and recognize the most beloved works in science fiction and fantasy today.”

Henry went on to encourage every fan to go vote for their favorite works.

“We all know that a determined minority can carry the day when not enough people vote,” Henry said. “For that reason alone, we think it’s critical that fans everywhere vote for the books, games, comics and shows they love.”

The winners will be announced on September 3 at Dragon Con.

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.]

Scalzi Withdraws from Dragon Awards

John Scalzi has withdrawn The Collapsing Empire as a Dragon Awards nominee. He explained why in a post at Whatever:

The reason is simple: Some other finalists are trying to use the book and me as a prop, to advance a manufactured “us vs. them” vote-pumping narrative based on ideology or whatever. And I just… can’t. I don’t have the interest and I’m on a deadline, and this bullshit is even more stale and stupid now than it was the several other times it was attempted recently, with regard to genre awards.

My plan was to ignore it, but on further reflection (and further evidence that this nonsense was going to continue through the finalist voting period), I decided this was the better course.

Scalzi had originally accepted the nomination.

Since the Dragon Awards ballot came out, nominee Brian Niemeier has been heating up Twitter with insulting tweets about Scalzi and appeals to treat award voting as a battlefield of the culture wars.

And Scalzi hasn’t been the only target of people trying to leverage their Dragon Awards nominations, Jon Del Arroz has been busy harassing Tor’s Irene Gallo, too.

(Obviously I have the capability to reproduce the tweets here, but I’ve decided against it.)

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

Brooke Bolander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Hollywood get hacking so wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/17 In The Country Of The Pixelated, The First-Fifth Man Is God(stalk)

(1) GAME OF THRONES AND WORLDCON 75 MAKE NEWS. George R.R. Martin mentioned in his blog the other day (“Tick, Tick, Tick”) that Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are coming to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Chair Jukka Halme confirmed it and the story made it into Finland’s biggest newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat). You can get all the details there…if you read Finnish: “Game of Thrones -sarjan tekijät tulevat vierailulle Suomeen elokuuss”.

(2) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. The July 2 New York Times Magazine has an article by Steven Johnson called “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)” about the search for extraterrestrial life and the debate about whether we should wait for aliens to contact us (the “SETI” approach) or actively send messages to outer space (a method known as “METI”).  Johnson interviews David Brin, who is fiercely opposed to actively broadcasting messages of our existence to other worlds:

Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organization in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. ‘‘Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,’’ the statement argued, ‘‘raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.’’

One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. ‘‘I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,’’ he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. ‘‘If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?’’

(3) KAISER. JoAnn Kaiser reopened The Magic Door within a week of the death of her husband, Dwain, reports David Allen in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin “Pomona bookstore’s reopening binds community after owner’s death”.

But Saturday she was revived, buoyed by her family and friends. A 12th anniversary sale that had been set to end July 5 instead continues, with all merchandise 30 percent off. The sale pricing may continue indefinitely.

Her goal is not to keep the store long-term. For one thing, she’s 82. But she wasn’t going to let the tragedy mark the end of Magic Door.

“I could have locked the door. I’m not a door-locker,” JoAnn Kaiser told me firmly. “The plan is to get the books he loved to the people who want them, who need them. He didn’t want his books dumped. He wanted them to go to somebody.”

…The bookstore fit the Arts Colony like a glove. “It was just part of the ambience of downtown Pomona,” customer Bill Martinez told me outside after buying two books. (I recognized “The Best of S.J. Perelman” as one I had sold Dwain Kaiser a few weeks ago.)

“Everybody knew them,” Martinez said of the Kaisers. “They were part of the community, and one of the best parts.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval has visited to offer his condolences and at Monday’s City Council meeting asked for a moment of silence in Dwain Kaiser’s memory.

…Not every customer knew of Dwain Kaiser’s death. Monica Berrocal was saddened when I told her. She liked to bring her children there. Once JoAnn Kaiser gave her son a Thomas the Tank Engine book. “They were always so kind,” she said.

Hino, a Pomona High graduate, greeted customers warmly from Dwain Kaiser’s usual seat and thanked them for coming. A hospital executive, he confided that this was his first retail job. He’ll be there helping out as he can, as will his sister, Kim.

“It’s very different from what I normally do,” Hino told me cheerfully. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice. And it’s good being back in Pomona.”

…“Pomona’s resilient. I think tonight shows the best of Pomona,” JoAnn Kaiser said.

The store has a lot of books, and there are more in storage that Dwain Kaiser, due to age and mobility issues, had not seen in years. JoAnn Kaiser, with help, hopes to dig them all out, put them on the shelves and get them homes before shutting the doors for good.

“He had a mad love affair with books,” she said of her husband of 32 years.

“The support will fade. I know that. But I’m doing what he would have wanted.”

(4) BEAU GESTE. Deadpool gracefully yielded his place on the box office record lists to Wonder Woman:

(5) FOLLOW THE MONEY. What does John Scalzi have in common with Milo Yiannapoulos? Probably not much, except this one thing – Bookscan doesn’t count all their sales. Scalzi explains in “How to Screw Up a Triumphant Bestselling Debut”.

Here’s the deal: Yiannopoulos has asserted his book’s opening week sales were on the order of 100,000 copies. Contrasting this, Nielsen Bookscan, the service which tracks physical book sales via many (but not all) booksellers, including Amazon, has his first week sales as 18,268 in the US (and — heh — 152 in the UK). As most of us probably know, 18,000 is less than 100,000.

Or is it? Because here’s the thing about Bookscan — it doesn’t in fact track all sales of a book. It doesn’t track eBook sales, for example, nor does it track audiobook sales. Nor does it track sales from some small independent booksellers, who might have not signed up to be Bookscan-reporting retailers. As a result, depending on how much you sell in other formats, and where you sell your books, Bookscan can massively underreport your total sales.

I know this because that’s what Bookscan does with me. A couple of years ago I tracked the sales of the hardcover era of Lock In (which is to say, all the sales reported while the physical book was only available in hardcover). For the time it was in hardcover, Bookscan reported 11,175 hardcover sales in the US. However, overall the book sold about 22,500 copies in hardcover and about 87,500 copies across all formats (hardcover, ebook, audio).

In all, Bookscan recorded roughly 12.7% of my total sales. Which is not a lot! If Yiannopoulos were seeing a similar sort of ratio, based on his physical copy sales, he could indeed have sold something on the order of 100,000 copies of his book in the first week. He might not be lying.

With all that said, on further examination, this is why I very strongly suspect that Yiannopoulos has not, in fact, sold, 100,000 copies of his book in the first week…

(6) WE GET LETTERS. CBR.com tells you about “15 Times Fans Changed Comic Book History”.

15. INVISIBLE WOMAN’S POWERS

Other comics had certainly had an element of fan interaction in them before Marvel Comics, but Stan Lee took things to a whole other level when he began the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the early 1960s. Lee made fan interaction a key element of the success of Marvel. In Fantastic Four #11, Lee and Jack Kirby even worked in actual letters to the series into the comic book, having the characters respond to frequently asked questions.

Infamously, though, that issue also included their attempts to defend the Invisible Girl from all the hate mail she got for being seemingly useless (their “defense” was hilariously conceived – “She inspires them! Like Lincoln’s mother!” but still). They got enough of those complaints that they decided to give her invisible force fields in Fantastic Four #22, eventually leading to her becoming the most powerful member of the team!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 14, 1999 Muppets From Space screened theatrically

(8) A KEY TO WRITING. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles gives tips: “On Character Development”.

An understanding of character development techniques can bring many benefits to your writing and help improve your work, so let’s start by establishing what it is. In essence character development is the change in nature of a character brought about by events in the narrative, it can be subtle or pronounced, and it may happen over a long period or reasonably quickly. The difficult part is actually showing it on the page, and just as importantly, showing it’s justified. For a character to change their whole nature for no apparent cause or just because the plot requires it is sloppy writing and obvious to the reader. While the methods and timeframe may very per character, a well-constructed piece of character development will follow a set formula.

Establishment

In order to show change an author must first establish an original nature to change from. When the author introduces the character they must detail their personality, opinions and mannerisms in order to make us view them as a believable and realistic person, particular focus should be given to any traits that might be relevant to later development.

For example, if you’re planning to have a cowardly character show a moment of bravery and save the day at the end of the novel, then you need at least a couple of scenes showing his cowardice in action. It could be crumbling in an argument with a shopkeeper, avoiding a hostile boss, or literally running away from a fight. Before the development even begins the author must cement a character’s nature quickly in the reader’s mind, this can be done with a variety of traditional characterisation methods and tricks and ideally is accomplished as quickly as possible. Without this establishment there is no baseline to measure development against and the change will lack meaning. Think about our introduction to Daenerys in A Game of Thrones as she is appraised and abused by her brother:

“You don’t want to wake the dragon do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.

Without seeing the timid girl she was at the start of the story her later accomplishments and changes would be far less moving for the reader, but after Martin has shown us some early scenes of her life the reader gains a greater perspective to realise how pronounced her development is through several books.

(9) ECLIPSE VIEWING AND ECLIPSE CON. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is reputed to be the “point of greatest eclipse” for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Just call them Eclipseville.

We’re already planning for your visit; our southern hospitality will make you and your group welcome, and your Solar Eclipse experience memorable.  So, whether you are a bona fide eclipse chaser, or just looking for the best place to experience Mother Nature’s rare eclipse show, we invite you to be with us in Hoptown.  Our community’s big enough to provide everything you’ll need and want for the 2017 Eclipse weekend experience… we’re planning a big Friday-Sunday Eclipse celebration before the sun disappears – for two minutes and forty seconds – at 1:24:41 pm CT on Monday, August 21, 2017.

And that’s where you’ll find Eclipse Con “raising awareness and funds for the Boys & Girls Club” with nationally recognized celebrities and vendors in the genres of cartoons, comics, anime, cosplay, sci-fi and superheroes

August 19-20, 2017

James E. Bruce Convention Center

Currently Confirmed Guests:

  • Samantha Newark, best known for her beloved voice-over work as the speaking voices of “Jem” and “Jerrica” on the wildly popular cartoon series Jem and the Holograms;
  • The Walking Dead’s Santiago Cirilo, who was also a member of the 101st Airborne Infantry and was stationed at Fort Campbell prior to his acting career;
  • and the award winning creator of sci-pulp series, VIC BOONE, Shawn Aldridge.

(10) IT’S DARK OUT. Mental Floss explains “How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map”.

Today, James McClean is an eclipse chaser. That’s not the name of some cute weekend hobby. It’s a lifestyle. For the past two decades, McClean, a professional photographer, has given up everything resembling a normal life. He has no permanent home base, opting instead to trot the globe, work odd jobs, and live on tight budgets to see solar eclipses.

Every. Single. One.

McClean has made a living as a cartographer and an aurora borealis tour guide. He’s lived on an island near Sitka, Alaska and taught photography. (When he needed Internet, he’d kayak an hour and a half to the nearest library.) He’s spent summers in Germany doing archaeology and winters in Sweden constructing, and living in, a hotel made of ice. He’s slept in bamboo huts on top of volcanic islands, backpacked through Egypt, and trudged the snows of Svalbard, Norway. One time, in Indonesia, he was invited to sip coffee in a sultan’s palace.

(11) BERNECKER OBIT. The Walking Dead suffered another loss today when stuntman John Bernecker,  seriously injured in a stunt (he reportedly missed the landing mattress while doing a 20-ft. fall), was declared brain-dead. There are many tweets with condolences from industry professionals included in the linked article.

(12) OUT, OUT DARNED SPOT. Nautilus interviews UC Berkeley’s Philip Marcus, a computational physicist and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, about “Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Refuses to Die”. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work been done on this.

Why did it start on Jupiter and not somewhere else?

Here on Earth, if you fly over the ocean, you can almost certainly tell when there’s an island below you because there’s a cloud hanging on top—topographic features often pin clouds to themselves. But there’s no solid surface on Jupiter until you get down to a very small core. It’s basically a ball of fluid. You don’t have differential heating between continents and oceans. You don’t have winds interrupted by mountain ranges. You don’t have all that messy stuff, so it’s got a really well organized set of jet streams on it. Once you’ve got jet streams, vortices just form naturally. You’ve got winds going in opposite directions, shearing against one another. Think of a ball bearing between two oppositely moving walls. The walls make the ball bearing spin, and the oppositely moving jet streams on Jupiter make the air between them spin. Vortices between jet streams are resistant to anything smashing into them. If I create a vortex in a bathtub and I smash it, the vortex is generally gone. If I do a simulation of a big Red Spot on Jupiter sitting between zonal winds and I smack it, try and break it in two, it’ll come back together. So I think of jet streams as gardens in which you want to grow vortices.

(13) DO PANIC. Two Travelers from Galactic Journey praise a low-budget Roger Corman production. You know, somebody should make Roger a Worldcon guest of honor someday — “[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)”.

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

(14) FORK YOU. The January 30 New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Movie with a Thousand Plotlines”, is about efforts in Hollywood to create films that have alternate endings that viewers can choose among. The article focuses on efforts by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Swiss Army Man, to come up with films that fit this template.  The sf news is that both War Games and The Twilight Zone have had rights sold for interactive television series that are under development.

Treehouse is an intuitive program for a nonintuitive, nonlinear form of storytelling, and Bloch is adept at demonstrating it. In his office, he called up a series of video clips featuring the model Dree Hemingway sitting at a table. Below the clips, in a digital workspace resembling graph paper, he built a flowchart to map the forking narrative—how her story might divide into strands that branch outward, or loop backward, or converge. At first, the flowchart looked like a “Y” turned on its side: a story with just one node. “When you start, it is always ‘To be, or not to be,’ ” he said. The choice here was whether Hemingway would serve herself coffee or tea. Bloch dragged and dropped video clips into the flowchart, then placed buttons for tea and coffee into the frame, and set the amount of time the system would allow viewers to decide. In less than a minute, he was previewing a tiny film: over a soundtrack of music fit for a Philippe Starck lobby, Hemingway smiled and poured the beverage Bloch had selected. He then returned to the graph paper and added a blizzard of hypothetical options: “You can decide that here it will branch again, here it goes into a loop until it knows what to do, and here it becomes a switching node where five things can happen at the same time—and so on.”

As Bloch was getting his company off the ground, a small race was under way among like-minded startups looking for financial backing. In Switzerland, a company called CtrlMovie had developed technology similar to Interlude’s, and was seeking money for a feature-length thriller….

The article also discusses Mr. Payback, a 1995 interactive film about a cyborg – script by Bob Gale! – that was panned by Roger Ebert.

Early experiments in interactive film were likewise marred by shtick. In 1995, a company called Interfilm collaborated with Sony to produce “Mr. Payback,” based on a script by Bob Gale, who had worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In the movie, a cyborg meted out punishment to baddies while the audience, voting with handheld controllers, chose the act of revenge. The film was released in forty-four theatres. Critics hated it. “The basic problem I had with the choices on the screen with ‘Mr. Payback’ is that they didn’t have one called ‘None of the above,’ ” Roger Ebert said, declaring the movie the worst of the year. “We don’t want to interact with a movie. We want it to act on us. That’s why we go, so we can lose ourselves in the experience.”

(16) IN MOLT. Joe Sherry has reached the artist categories on his Hugo ballot: “Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist” at Nerds of a Feather. Too bad it includes a slam against Steve Stiles, one of the greatest fan artists of all time.

(17) PINCH HITTER. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin discovered something at the movies: “Star Trek IV Now Exists in the Same Universe As All Marvel Films Thanks to a Special Cameo”.

When nerds make movies, beautiful things can happen. In this case, the fact that MCU producer Kevin Feige happens to be a big fan of Star Trek IV led to a cameo that now places a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I won’t spoiler her spoiler – you’ll have to click through.

(18) UNEXPECTED CASTING. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will voice Harley Quinn in the upcoming Bruce Timm animated film Batman And Harley.

CinemaBlend is all in favor:

As far as casting decisions go, Melissa Rauch is a fairly pitch perfect choice for the role of Harley Quinn. Not only does she have a high-pitched voice that’s very reminiscent of Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong; she also has developed a reputation as an actress through her work in a show predicated on the passion and intensity of geek culture. Something tells us that all of those years on The Big Bang Theory have given her an understanding of how fans will respond to her performance, thus ensuring that she will deliver the best possible Harley Quinn.

 

(19) POETRY CORNER. Johnstick joined the throngs who have been raining limericks in the File 770 comments section.

As prophets of eld have foretold,
and pixels of all hues have scrolled,
Death takes the clever
and redshirts forever,
plus all those whose glister’s not gold!

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