Pixel Scroll 1/15/18 Scroll Down, You File Too Fast, You Got To Make The Pixels Last

(1) KURT ERICHSEN’S RETIREMENT MAKES THE NEWS. The Toledo Blade has published a superb article about fanartist Kurt Erichsen, who is retiring from his day job as vice president of water quality planning for Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments after a 34-year career. I learned all kinds of things I never knew about his work on getting the Ottawa river cleaned up, and was pleased to see they also covered some of the fannish things I did know about the 2002 Rotsler Award winner —

Mr. Erichsen’s passion for environmental planning wasn’t his first calling in life, though. He was fascinated with drawing since he was young. He might have pursued a career as an illustrator if his parents hadn’t convinced him otherwise, but he never gave up his passion for drawing.

From 1980 to 2008, he produced a comic strip called “Murphy’s Manor.” It focused on the lives of gay men living in the fictional town of Black Swamp, Ohio. That series and others he produced, including “The Sparkle Spinsters” and “GLIB Talk,” appeared in as many as 70 publications marketed to homosexuals, resulting in awards from the Gay/?Lesbian Press Association.

“I was trying to be entertaining while making a point,” Mr. Erichsen said.

Mr. Erichsen also has produced artwork for fans of science fiction fanzines and conventions.

(2) COMES THE MILLENNIUM. Congratulations to James Davis Nicoll, who sent a link to his review of Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong – captioned “And Rain Keeps Falling Like Helpless Tears” – with the note that it is his 1000th review.

Elizabeth Hand’s 1990 debut novel Winterlong is the first volume in her Winterlong Trilogy.

Nuclear war and germ warfare have left Washington a shadow of its once glorious past. A handful of administrators, descended from self-appointed curators, control the relics of America’s lost past, defending the remnants from the diseased, mutated, and simply unlucky inhabitants of the surrounding sea of ruins….

(3) VERSE AS SWORD AND SHIELD. Middle-Earth Reflections’ new post “On the songs of power” discusses how they work in The Silmarillion.

Among many powerful notions in the world of Arda few are more potent than music and language. Music is the essential element of Arda, its heart and soul, as the world was created and shaped by the majestic Music of the Ainur. And it was the word of Ilúvatar — Eä! — that brought the created vision to life.

The power of words in Middle-earth cannot be overestimated. If used masterfully, with subtlety and skill they can inspire others to do incredible things. It is especially prominent when words are put into verse: songs can become something a lot more potent than mere poetic recitals. I have already spoken about the songs of challenge in The Silmarillion: sung in the situations of dire need and despair, they bring hope and salvation against all the odds. A special place in the story is occupied by the songs of power. They are very effective verses able to create or destroy, be used as a weapon or for defence.

It is by means of a song that Yavanna brings to life the Two Trees of Valinor and, later, the last fruit and flower from them used for creating the Sun and the Moon after the Trees’ destruction. Finrod duels with Sauron on the songs of power. Lúthien sings an equally powerful song to make Tol-in-Gaurhoth tremble and be heard by Beren trapped in Sauron’s dungeons.

(4) HANDMAID’S TALE. Hulu previews the second season.

Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 returns April 25.

 

(5) ATWOOD’S FEMINISM. Margaret Atwood answers her own question, “Am I a bad feminist?”, in an op-ed at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

So let us suppose that my Good Feminist accusers, and the Bad Feminist that is me, agree on the above points. Where do we diverge? And how did I get into such hot water with the Good Feminists?

In November of 2016, I signed – as a matter of principle, as I have signed many petitions – an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case. Specifically, several years ago, the university went public in national media before there was an inquiry, and even before the accused was allowed to know the details of the accusation. Before he could find them out, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.

But then, after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge’s report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC’s flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being.

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won’t be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

(6) VENUS IF YOU WILL. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler reports on the wealth of information collected by the latest (in 1963) Venus probe — “[January 15, 1963] Venus’ true face (Scientific Results of Mariner 2)”.

Getting there is half the fun

Before I talk about Mariner’s encounter with Venus, it’s important to discuss what the spacecraft discovered on the way there.  After all, it was a 185 million mile trip, most of it in interplanetary space charted but once before by Pioneer 5.  And boy, did Mariner learn a lot!

For instance, it has finally been confirmed that the sun does blow a steady stream of charged particles in a gale known as the “Solar Wind.”  The particles get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and cause, among other things, our beautiful aurorae.

Mariner also measured the interplanetary magnetic field, which is really the sun’s magnetic field.  It varies with the 27-day solar rotation, and if we had more data, I suspect the overall map of the field would look like a spiral.

Why is all this important?  Well, aside from giving us an idea of the kind of “space weather” future probes and astronauts will have to deal with, these observations of the sun’s effect on space give us a window as to what’s going on inside the sun to generate these effects.

One last bit: along the way, Mariner measured the density of “cosmic dust,” little physical particles in space.  It appears that there’s a lot of it around the Earth, perhaps trapped by our magnetic field, and not a lot in space.  It may be that the solar wind sweeps the realm between the planets clean….

(7) LAST JEDI DOES NOT IMPRESS CHINESE. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “China Box Office: ‘Jumanji’ Clobbers Competition With $40M, ‘Last Jedi’ Crashes and Burns”.

Dwane Johnson’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle roared into China over the weekend, racking up a strong $40 million.

The Sony tentpole finally toppled runaway Chinese hit The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes, which earned $25.3 million in its third frame, bringing its local total to $272 million. Globally, Jumanji, also starring Kevin Hart, has earned $667 million.

Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, meanwhile, didn’t even put up a fight. Only in its second weekend on Chinese screens, The Last Jedi pulled in a paltry $2.4 million — a 92 percent decline from its disappointing $28.7 million debut, according to data from EntGroup.

The Star Wars franchise, never popular in China, appears to be on a precipitous decline in the Middle Kingdom, the world’s second-largest film territory.

…The global picture is far better, of course: As of Sunday, Last Jedi had a worldwide haul of $1.264 billion, making it the biggest film of 2017.

Looper attempts to explain the disappointing numbers –

(8) BINTI ARC CONCLUDES. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog points out how Binti: The Night Masquerade Is the Epic Climax to a Deeply Personal Saga”.

Each of the previous two books in Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s coming-of-age story saw Binti faced with tremendous change and exposed her to new truths that widened her world, and made it smaller. She’s taken on attributes of the (sometimes) murderous and very alien Meduse, and come to understand there’s more to the seemingly uncivilized desert people of her homeland than she’d ever imagined. The Night Masquerade is the conclusion of her journey, and the title refers to a spectre of change that appears to significant people at times of great crisis. It’s wonderfully evocative of the climactic nature of the story, and Binti will face a great deal more turmoil before hers is done.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 – Robert Silverberg

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Pearls Before Swine showed him an excellent reason (or three) to keep the closet closed
  • John King Tarpinian discovered the consequences of making a Flintstones reference in B.C.
  • Mike Kennedy learned news happens whether you know it or not in this installment of Nonsequitur.
  • The Flying McCoys explore what would happen to Batman if a certain supervillain lived up to his name.

(11) WHAT GOES UP. The BBC talks to “The astronaut fighting to save our home in space”:

The International Space Station (ISS) is humanity’s most expensive structure – and in just six years’ time, it may vanish, plunging into the Pacific Ocean. BBC Future meets the man trying to save it.

… “I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky,” he says, laughing. “Most astronauts are very jealous of me, which is probably why I won’t get to fly in space again!”

Most famously, Foale was on board Mir in June 1997 when an un-crewed Progress supply ship ploughed into the station, smashing a solar panel and breaching the hull. With the master alarm sounding, air leaking, power failing and the station spinning, Foale worked with his two Russian crewmates to prepare their Soyuz escape capsule and close off the damaged module.

By holding his thumb to a station window and examining the movement of stars, Foale used his physics training to estimate the spin rate of the station, so mission control could fire thrusters to bring it back under control.

(12) MUST COME DOWN. Someone hit the center divider on the road, went airborne and crashed into the SECOND floor of a dental business —

Which inspired this Harry Potter reference from “Typical Girl” —

(13) MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. In “Bruce Lee Lightsabers Scene Recreation,” Patrick Nan asks, “What if Bruce Lee fought with lightsabers?”

(14) COMMITMENT. Laura Resnick continues a series about her volunteer work — “Cat Rescue, Part 3: Return to Sender”.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

(15) CLASSIC WEIRD. Jared pays tribute to “Jane Gaskell, First Lady of the Weird” in a compelling review article at Pornokitsch. Here’s an excerpt:

The Atlan Series: The Serpent (1963), Atlan (1965), The City (1966), Some Summer Lands (1977)

Note: To keep things complicated, later printings split The Serpent into two volumes (The Serpent and The Dragon)

This series – Gaskell’s epic fantasy saga – is batshit crazy.

It follows Princess Cija, as she meddles in the politics of Atlantis. She goes from princess to prisoner to conqueror to spy to Chosen One to fugitive to back again… It is bonkers, risque and occasionally befuddling.

In a way, the Atlan saga is an even more extreme version of Strange Evil, exacerbated, perhaps, due to its epic length. Cija, like Judith, lacks agency. She is notable because she is desired, rather than possessing any strong desires of her own. She’s passed from hand to hand (to paw), partner to partner. Her bloodline is important, her presence is ‘destined’, but, again, we find in Cjia a distressing subversion of a Chosen One. She is one that has been Chosen, rather than having any control over her fate. This is the Epic Fantasy with the princess-in-the-tower as the first person protagonist, and it can make for harrowing reading: to be the prize and not the hero is, unsurprisingly, kind of dark.

Atlan also has an utterly ridiculous setting – packed with ‘SPACE AGE’ SF, mad science, dragons, monsters, death rays, lizard people, whatever. It feels almost deliberately pulpy, in a way that makes its sneaky-dark message all the more sinister.

Michael Moorcock included the series in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988), and admires – slightly sarcastically – the over-the-top pulpy elements. He refers to the series’ “bewildering status changes” and “breathless peregrinations”, and his summary gleefully points out how silly the whole thing is. But he eventually concludes “Too much? Never! Stirring stuff, all of it.”

Others also (mostly) approve – John Clute describes it with lukewarm praise: “In genre terms the series – sometimes uneasily, but at points with real panache – marries sf and the popular romance; it is full of vigorous and exuberant invention and occasionally overheated prose.” (It is worth noting that late 1960s ‘popular romance’ was pretty bleak stuff – this isn’t a sappy love story, but a harrowing tale of self-actualisation [or… semi-reluctant acceptance].)

(16) ROBOTS V. FAIRIES. SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney isn’t high on this new collection — “Book Review: Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe”.

Robots vs. Fairies is my first reading disappointment of 2018. I loved Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s first anthology, 2016’s The Starlit Wood, so I was very hyped for this one when it was announced. Unfortunately, Robots vs. Fairies is a bit of a sophomore slump for the editing pair, with a theme that feels more questionable the farther one reads into the collection, stories that largely feel a little too written to spec, and not enough that’s new and interesting to recommend it on those scores. It might work as sort of comfort reading for those who find its table of contents—filled with some of the hottest short fiction writers currently working in SFF—appealing, but if you’re looking for exciting, fresh, innovative work, there’s not much of that here.

(17) JDA TODAY. Jon Del Arroz tries to defend against the Jim C. Hines compilation without mentioning the author by name in “The Ever-Changing Narrative And Double Standards Show They’re Disingenuous” (link to the Internet Archive).

In the past couple days, with that Narrative being such bad publicity for the convention because of the double standard they applied over political affiliation, it’s shifted to “he’s mean on the internet!”  NYT Bestsellers have been swearing about me on their twitter, lower-selling midlist authors are cheering and congratulating each other over spreading rumors and gossip like this is a high school clique rather than professionals. This strategy is going to backfire as well, because first, being mean on the internet is not a crime. No one has been banned from conventions over being mean on the internet before. And it applies to these folk in a massive double standard way. I don’t go around being nearly as mean or cruel as they are.

(18) MEDIC, I’M HIT! I was bitterly disappointed that Jim C. Hines showed in comments today that he reviewed the evidence with JDA about his doctored “Goodbye Jon” email conversation with me (which actually happened in this order) only to conclude —

The summary: We have several possibilities here.

  1. Jon is faking his screenshots.
  2. Mike is lying.
  3. Jon’s Sent Mail shows a different Sent Time than the email(s) Mike received from him.

(19) CHOPPAGE. At Pedestrian, Ben McLeay reports the latest antics of men’s rights activists – erasing women from The Last Jedi — “MRAs Make 46-Minute Cut Of ‘The Last Jedi’ That Edits Out All The Women”.

It is utterly tragic that MRAs aren’t given the respect they deserve. It’s truly galling that just because their entire worldview was formed around a profound sense of entitlement induced by watching thousands of hours of harem anime, no one takes them seriously. It’s heartbreaking to think that people dismiss them out of hand just because – instead of addressing actual issues like the rates of suicide and depression among men – they focus on dumb shit like editing out all the parts of The Last Jedi that aren’t centred around men.

If that last thing sounded too ridiculous to be true, you have clearly forgotten which time it is that we live in and the corresponding fact that pretty much nothing now is too ridiculous to be true. We live in the most aggressively ridiculous timeline. Accordingly, the self-described “chauvinist cut” of TLJ is very, very real, and exactly as dumb as it sounds.

Uploaded to The Pirate Bay yesterday by an anonymous user, the “The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fanedit” is, according to their own description “basically The Last Jedi minus Girlz Powah and other silly stuff“.

(20) HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM. WIRED delivers a less-than-stunning revelation: “Cantina Talk: The Last Jedi’s Shirtless Kylo Is Proving a Problem for Cosplayers”.

So, About Kylo’s High-Waisted Tights…

Source: The Wall Street Journal, of all places

Probability of Accuracy: They did get a high quality still of shirtless Kylo, so there’s no denying that they know what they’re doing.

The Real Deal: Perhaps the most surprising Last Jedi story to appear in recent weeks is this Wall Street Journal piece about the high-waisted tights Kylo wore in that one super-uncomfortable scene of him Force-communicating with Rey. (Don’t pretend like you know know exactly which one we’re talking about.) For one, it was surprising because it was in the Journal, but also because it focused on how hard Shirtless Buff Kylo Ren was to pull off for cosplayers. The piece even quotes Last Jedi costume designer Michael Kaplan, who said, “The world of Star Wars is not our world… Kylo Ren is not some hipster in hip-hugging jeans. Think Errol Flynn swashbuckling coolness as a point of departure. Hide that navel!” So, now you know. (Also, let’s be honest: Kylo Ren most definitely is some hipster in hip-hugging jeans, even if his wardrobe doesn’t reflect it.)

(21) BLACK PANTHER. Ruth Carter “‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Ruth Carter has created costumes for some epic films, Amistad, Malcolm X and Selma among them, but nothing prepared her for the size and scope of Black Panther. For the super-stylish superhero film opening Feb. 12, she imagined a new African diaspora with 700 costumes fusing futurism, indigenous dress and high fashion, using research that spanned from the Rose Bowl Flea Market to textile dealers in Accra, Ghana.

The Ryan Coogler-directed film brings to the big screen Marvel Comics’ first black superhero, reinventing the circa 1966 character for today. Black Panther is depicted as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who rules over the fantastical African country of Wakanda, rich with vibranium, a mythic metal that is woven into the superhero’s sleek black, repeating triangle-pattern suit (designed by Marvel’s Ryan Meinerding), and has allowed the population to make technological advances nearly a century ahead of the rest of the world. The fight for vibranium is at the heart of the story, with T’Challa defending the kingdom against Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger.

Carter worked with five illustrators, 14 designers, mold makers, fabric dyers, jewelry makers and more. “It was an army,” the costume designer says. On her mood boards were images of African dress from the Maasai, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka peoples (including a men’s glass bead, animal skin and cowry shell corset from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), as well as piercings and body art, and more abstract examples of drapery and beading. She also examined fashion by avant-garde pleating master Issey Miyake, African-style vintage pieces by Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan.

(22) STARTS TOMORROW. CW released a clip from Black Lightning — The Resurrection Scene 2 – a show that premieres January 16.

About BLACK LIGHTNING: Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life and his family on the line, he left his Super Hero days behind. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, James Davis Nicoll, Dann, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/18 A Scroll By Any Other Name Would Pixelate Just As Adequately

(1) SETTING A VISION. Author Fonda Lee explains her approach to storytelling in a thread that begins here —

(2) LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HIGHLIGHTS WOMEN ILLUSTRATORS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Undersung women illustrators get their due at Library of Congress exhibition”, reports on a Library of Congress exhibition featuring such significant women cartoonists as Dale Messick, Lynn Johnston, and Lynda Barry.

It is possible, in this era of increasing recognition of women artists, to gaze at the recent prize-laced success of Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast and Raina Telgemeier and Lynda Barry, to name just a few, and consider that the field of illustration is becoming more level along gender lines. But then you consider that only two women have ever won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, or that The Washington Post runs only two comic strips created by women — and none by a woman of color — and you remember how much further the cause of women artists getting fair representation has yet to travel.

That is a central thread running through “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists,” the rotating exhibit of nearly 70 works now up at the Library of Congress’s Swann Gallery from its Prints and Photographs Division.

“This show has been years in the making,” says its curator, Martha H. Kennedy, noting that her vision for “Drawn to Purpose” long preceded 2017’s shifting zeitgeist amid the #Resist and #MeToo movements.

Here’s a link to the Library of Congress webpage about the exhibit.

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery.

The exhibit, which opened in November, continues through October 20.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW. Here’s an updated poster for the 2018 Vintage Paperback Show with the names of participating writers and artists.

(4) BY THE NUMBERS. Here’s an ambitious project – Ross Johnson gives us “Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

  1. “Shut Up and Dance”

Hackers take over a teen’s computer and threaten to expose his solo sexual activities to the world if he doesn’t commit a series of increasingly intense tasks. Commentary on the “for the LULZ” troll culture aside, its an episode that falls victim to the show’s worst impulses: much as in season two’s “White Bear,” the big twist undermines the whole thing, attempting to convince us maybe the kid had it coming all along—after we’ve been lead to care about him. The performances are spot on, and the story’s engaging enough for a time, but the vague moral (“people who are bad deserve absurdly elaborate punishments, or do they?”) is just lazy. This is Black Mirror at its most mean-spirited. (Season 3, Episode 3)

(5) TV SF. Here is “io9’s Ultimate Guide to 2018’s Scifi, Fantasy, and Superhero TV”. For example —

Counterpart

Series premiere: January 21 at 8:00 pm, Starz

The always-great J.K. Simmons stars in this scifi thriller about a pencil-pusher who realizes the government agency he’s working for has long been concealing the existence of a parallel dimension. Things get really odd when his double (a badass secret agent) pops up in his world and enlists him to help catch a killer who’s also slipped in from the other side.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes —

  • I’d given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D ~2 seasons back, but the current one has been worth watching IMHO
  • Legion’s (the Marvel mutant, not DC’s L of Super Heroes (1)) first season was incredible. Halfway through that season, I thought they were going to go yukky-horror, but happily that’s not where they went. Yes, it’s a Marvel mutant, but no, this isn’t a mutant or superhero show per se, more like Number Six’s Last Year In Marienbad.

(6) ANTIQUE COOLTH. Gotta love this. (If you’re a geezer.) “I was there when it was cool”.

(7) NO SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE IN 2018. John Fleskes, Cathy Fenner, Arnie Fenner announced on Facebook that they will not be holding a convention in 2018, however, there will be a Spectrum Awards ceremony.

We have (understandably) been receiving a number of messages and emails inquiring about the 2018 dates for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. While we have worked diligently since the close of the 2017 show last April to come up with something workable this year, we, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. Kansas City is an increasingly difficult venue to find acceptable show dates; we’ve felt lucky to have been able to squeeze in when we could in the past (realizing, of course, that any dates we used put SFAL in conflict with other conventions artists like to attend). With a new downtown convention hotel in the works and a new airport approved by voters, dates in Kansas City will continue to get harder to come by in the future rather than easier as more—and bigger—shows move into the area. The dates, spaces, and hotel prices that were available to us this year simply didn’t work for the vision we have for SFAL.

Reluctantly we’re announcing that there is no Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention planned for 2018.

However, there IS a Spectrum 25 Awards ceremony in the planning stages for May 2018: we are working with Baby Tattoo’s esteemed showman Bob Self on something pretty wonderful. We’ll be making an announcement once details are finalized in the coming weeks.

But what about another SFAL? Well, we’re working on that, too.

This hiatus is allowing us to rethink the model for an artist convention/fair. While we’re extremely grateful to the 2000+ supporters who turned out for SFAL in Kansas City, we recognize that we were falling short of the event’s potential. Being unable to break through that attendance ceiling has prevented us from achieving the goals we have for the show and community….

Certainly, the social and networking opportunities of any convention or gathering are extremely important—but so are the finances for all. SFAL was never set up as a profit-generator for us, but it has to pay for itself and to provide a reasonable return for exhibitors. Spending time together is always an emotional plus, naturally, but artists paying for their own “party” while an organizer pockets their cash isn’t—and will never be—our purpose. Growing the market and giving the Fantastic Art community the public recognition it deserves are what SFAL, like the Spectrum annual, have always been about.

(8) UP ALL NIGHT. From The Guardian, “Buy a cat, stay up late, don’t drink: top 10 writers’ tips on writing”.

…stay up late as HP Lovecraft did: “At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.”

(9) STEUER OBIT. Jon Paul Steuer (March 27, 1984 – January 1, 2018), known as the first actor to play Worf’s son Alexander Rozhenko in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is dead at 33.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 5, 1914 Superman actor George Reeves.

(12) BLACK PANTHER. Capitalizing on the new film, Marvel will release Black Panther – Star Here, a FREE sampler, on January 31.

Featuring excerpts from Marvel’s current Black Panther ongoing series, as well as World of Wakanda, Black Panther and the Crew, and portions from Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.’s Black Panther run, BLACK PANTHER – START HERE serves to introduce brand new readers to the character’s expansive 50-year Marvel history, while long-time fans will be able to relive some of T’Challa’s most epic adventures.

(13) ADVANCE NOTICE. The New York Historical Society will host “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” from October 5, 2018 through January 27, 2019:

Journey to where magic and myth began! Join us in October 2018 for “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, a British Library exhibition. New-York Historical Members can reserve tickets starting February 14 at 12 pm. Tickets go on sale to the general public in April.

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, New-York Historical Society, U.S. Harry Potter-publisher Scholastic, and other special collections. Visitors can explore the subjects studied at Hogwarts and see original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Jim Kay. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is currently on view at the British Library in London through February 28, 2018.

September 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K. in 2017.

(14) RELIC OF MIDDLE-EARTH. The New York Times, in “The Hero Is a Hobbit”, has unearthed W.H. Auden’s review of The Fellowship of the Ring from 1954.

Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called “The Hobbit” which, in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which is the first volume of a trilogy, J. R. R. Tolkien continues the imaginative history of the imaginary world to which he introduced us in his earlier book but in a manner suited to adults, to those, that is, between the ages of 12 and 70. For anyone who likes the genre to which it belongs, the Heroic Quest, I cannot imagine a more wonderful Christmas present. All Quests are concerned with some numinous Object, the Waters of Life, the Grail, buried treasure etc.; normally this is a good Object which it is the Hero’s task to find or to rescue from the Enemy, but the Ring of Mr. Tolkien’s story was made by the Enemy and is so dangerous that even the good cannot use it without being corrupted….

(15) TIME PASSAGES. In the past Jim Butcher has rarely spoken out about fan controversies (no matter how hard people tried to get him involved), but after reading Larry Correia’s fresh condemnation of the Worldcon banning Jon Del Arroz he made these comments:

Don’t agree with Larry about everything, but when it comes to WorldCon and the Hugos, I think he’s got a point or two which are, based upon my experiences with WorldCon, difficult to refute.

The choices made by various folks involved with WorldCon have, over time, convinced me that there’s quite a few more less-than-nice people there than at other conventions. As I get older, my remaining time gets increasingly valuable. If I went to WorldCon, that’s a weekend I could have spent with some of the many wonderful people in my life, or with excellent and nerdy readers who don’t much care about politics and just want to do fun nerd things. Or I could have spent that time writing.

There’s probably a lot of perfectly wonderful people helping with WorldCon, and there’s certainly a lot of nice people attending. But it’s sort of hard to see them through the crowd of ugly-spirited jerks, and the nice people of WorldCon? They are completely inaudible over the noise the jerks are making.

So for the kind people at WorldCon, I hope you catch me at another con or signing sometime, and thank you so much to those of you who buy my work.

To the jerks, may you meet no one who displeases you, and I hope that your con goes exactly the way you want it to go.

(16) WHEN WAS THE FUTURE INVENTED? Can’t find a record of linking to this when it came out – Adam Roberts’ essay “Till Tomorrow” in The New Atlantis.

So this future, the one Gleick is talking about, is a quite recent technological invention. There is a peculiar irony here: Gleick, who scolds Shakespeare for being stuck in the present, is so attached to our present ideas that when he encounters past views of the future he denies that they count as “the future” at all. If the difference were not framed so absolutely, Gleick would surely be on to something — nobody could gainsay the observation that, at the very least, stories about the future are very common today whereas a few centuries ago they were not. In the hands of a less breathless writer, this might have led to a more fruitful discussion about how our “temporal sentience,” as he puts it, differs from our ancestors’.

But the larger claim is dotty. Can you really imagine any population of human beings living their lives wholly incurious about what next week, or next year, might bring, or thinking that it won’t be different? Think through the practicalities: How could anybody have planned anything, stored grain for the winter, calculated the interest on loans, or mustered armies, if the future truly were indistinguishable from the present?

And this brings us to hunter-gatherers and farmers. It is certainly possible to imagine our hunter-gatherer ancestors living in some bestial, continuous present of consciousness, their experience of time pricked out with moments of intensity — the chase, the kill, the satisfaction of a full stomach — but indifferent to the distant future.

But it is quite impossible to imagine farmers prospering in such a frame of mind. Once we humans began to depend on planted crops and domesticated animals, our new mode of life absolutely required us to think ahead: to anticipate setbacks and think through solutions, to plan, to map out the future world — indeed, many potential future worlds.

Time travel as mental exercise must have begun at least that early. And that makes this focus on recent modernity look a little parochial. We are not so special. Indeed, thinking in this way of the future’s origins might make us rethink some of the metaphors we use to articulate our sense of time. Gleick is good on the limitations of these figures of speech — for example, time, as he shows, is not really “like a river.” Farmers, the original time travelers, are likewise prone to think of rivers not first as modes of transport but means of irrigation. Might time be the same for us — not a vehicle for taking us somewhere, as a horse is to a hunter, but a resource to make fertile what we have and hold dear?

(17) MORE ON SWATTING. According to Vice, “Fatal swatting results in felony charges for gamer but not cop who pulled trigger”.

Barriss has been charged in Kansas, though he’s being held without bail in Los Angeles. He’ll likely be out in Kansas to face trial by early February, according to the Wichita Eagle, and could wind up spending up to 34 months in prison.

The police officer who allegedly pulled the trigger has not been charged, though Finch’s mother is calling for charges against the officer.

“Justice for the Finch family constitutes criminal charges against the shooting officer and any other liable officers as well as damages against the city of Wichita for the policies and practices of its Police Department,” attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The Wichita police department claims that Finch was shot after he came to the door and moved his hand toward his waistline. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” according to TIME.

(18) SOUND FAMILIAR? Curvature with Lyndsy Fonseca and Linda Hamilton, is a time travel drama about an engineer who travels back in time to stop herself from committing a murder.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, K.M. Alexander, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Woody Bernardi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/18 Scroll Out Wild Pixels, To The Sci Fi

(1) P STEW’S COWBOY CLASSICS. Where was I when this came out in 2016? Patrick Stewart did a fundraiser album of cowboy songs for International Rescue Committee (IRC). The album itself is sold out now, but they will still sell you a five-tune sampler at P Stew Sings.

Help save refugees in crisis

Help us save refugees fleeing for their lives. Your support right now will help innocent families fleeing Myanmar, South Sudan and other crises.

Here’s P Stew singing the theme from Rawhide.

(2) SWATTING. In The Verge, writer Katherine Cross has a follow-on to yesterday’s SWATting story — “In 2018, let’s stop pretending abusive fans are ‘passionate’”.

First, we have to take stock of what led us to this moment, including technology and gaming industries too willing to indulge the “passion” of their most ardent fans — even when that “passion” is nothing more than frothing rage and unchecked entitlement. We also have to reckon with why swatting is so potentially deadly: militarized American police forces trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Just a few months ago, we witnessed another case of fandom gone horribly awry, which — in its own absurd way — prefigured the same entitlement and callousness on display in the instigators of the Wichita shooting. The incident is infamous now precisely for its penny-ante stupidity: fans of Rick and Morty running wild at McDonald’s restaurants that ran out of szechuan sauce packets for a promotional tie-in with the show. Several McDonald’s employees were screamed at by fans who did not receive their sauce, and treated the people behind the counter as uniformed vending machines obligated to dispense the edible fandom kitsch they desired. “Some [fans] became physical,” reported Eater, and in one Los Angeles location, police were summoned to the scene.

The restaurant giant responded to the debacle by plucking a page from the PR handbook of the gaming industry, which routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans. Take Beamdog CEO Trent Oster, who responded to a furious transphobic backlash against Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear by saying: “The last few days have showed us how passionately many of our fans care for our games.” McDonald’s, similarly, issued one ingratiating tweet after another, calling the unruly Rick and Morty fans “the best fans in the multiverse,” and saying that the company was “humbled by the amazing curiosity, passion, and energy” of the enraged sauce-seekers.

The gaming industry routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans

There’s nothing quite so emblematic of commodified fan culture as corporate representatives euphemistically describing this sort of toxicity as “passion.” This C-suite impulse — to never draw a line in the sand and to let the ugliest and loudest voices dictate what fandom should look like — inevitably privileges the bottom line over the more vulnerable people who are harmed by the colliding forces of technology and toxic fandom.

(3) BEREN AND WIFE. Olga Polomoshnova traces their real-life romance: “In the name of love: on Ronald and Edith” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

The story about one of the greatest loves in Middle-earth sprang from the greatest love of Tolkien’s life. Ronald and Edith’s tombstone in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford bears the names of Beren and Lúthien right under their real names, revealing to those familiar with the legend that the love of Ronald and Edith was not an ordinary one. Just like the story of the mortal Man Beren and the Elven maiden Lúthien, the story of Edith and Ronald was full of sacrifice and difficulties, but was deeply rooted in great love and affection which they managed to carry throughout their whole lives.

(4) RSR EXPANDS SPECTRUM. Rocket Stack Rank announced an increase to its “Magazine Coverage By Reviewers”.

We’re adding Jason McGregor and Charles Payseur to RSR’s Recommended By list and changing our criteria for “prolific reviewer” to make up for low coverage of Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Strange Horizons magazines, as shown in red in the table below.

(5) GALAXY’S EDGE TO HAVE CHINESE OWNERSHIP. SF Site News reports “Galaxy’s Edge Sale”:

Publisher Shahid Mahmud announced in the Phoenix Pick January Newsletter that they will be offering Galaxy’s Edge for free on-line. The note stated that the expansion of free material was due to a cash infusion from various sources and also noted the “imminent sale” of the magazine to a Chinese publisher.

Click to see the Galaxy’s Edge website.

(6) CUMMINS OBIT. British actress Peggy Cummins (1925-2017) passed away December 29, 11 days after her 92nd birthday. Appeared in the 1953 comic fantasy Meet Mr. Lucifer, played the murdered professor’s daughter in the classic MR James adaptation Night of the Demon (1957, aka Curse of the Demon), and contributed to Speak of the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon (2007). She’d recently made several public appearances and her films regularly feature on the UK cable channel Talking Pictures TV.

(7) COPYWRONG. This story is all over the mainstream news, but we often touch on copyright here so it seemed a good idea to include The Hollywood Reporter story for future reference: “Spotify Hit With $1.6 Billion Copyright Lawsuit Over Tom Petty, Weezer, Neil Young Songs”.

“Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” states the complaint. “Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief.”

The complaint (read here) suggests that as much as 21 percent of the 30 million songs on Spotify are unlicensed.

Spotify hasn’t responded to a request for comment. The company may continue to challenge Wixen’s authority or it could attempt the provocative argument that it has been putting forward in the Gaudio lawsuit — that “streaming” implicates neither reproduction nor distribution rights under copyright law.

All this occurs as lawmakers turn their attention to reforming music licensing.

In late December, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the Music Modernization Act, which among other things, would end the “notice of intent” process that’s currently spelled out by Section 115. Instead, a database would publicly identify songs and potentially alleviate the way that digital services struggle to identify and locate co-authors of each of the tens of millions of copyrighted musical works. Under the proposal, digital services would fund a Mechanical Licensing Collective that would be granted blanket mechanical licenses. And rates would more closely hew to market value, with songwriters and publishers being granted audit rights.

(8) SHAPE OF SFWA TO COME. Cat Rambo announces her “Promises for the 2018 SFWA Presidency”. They end —

  1. I will work at paying attention to all the disparate groups that make up SFWA and serve their needs, particularly both our newer groups, like game writers and indie writers and groups that have in the past been underrepresented or underserved in/by the organization.
  2. I will continue to piss off a few people with what they think is my irreverent or otherwise inappropriate sense of humor/outlook/set of principles.
  3. And finally, as always, when I screw up, I’ll admit it and say what I’m doing in the future in order to do better.

(9) 451 REVIEW. Literary Hub, in “Savage and Shockingly Prophetic”, quotes what August Derleth said about Fahrenheit 451 in the Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1953.

Fahrenheit 451 was conceived out of Hitler’s burning of the books, and is all the more timely now because of the fortunately ill-fated American venture on a similar path….

(10) WORD FROM A TALKING CAT. Another author you won’t be seeing in San Jose.

(11) THE BRAVE LITTLE WHATSIT. The BBC reports: “Psychedelic toasters fool image recognition tech”.

A team of Google researchers has created psychedelic stickers that can fool image recognition software into seeing objects that are not there.

Using a toaster as an example, the team produced colourful computer-generated patterns by sampling hundreds of photographs of the appliance.

When the patterns were put next to another item, such as a banana, many neural networks saw a toaster instead.

The team said the method could be used to “attack” image recognition systems.

(12) UK BOX OFFICE. Emma Watson did it — “Beauty and the Beast pips Star Wars to be the UK’s top film of 2017”. Admittedly, Star Wars isn’t done, but this includes its first three weekends, which is usually most of a typical film’s legs.

The foe to defeat the all-action space sequel in the year-end box office rankings was Emma Watson, with her hit Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast earned £4.1m more than The Last Jedi in 2017.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/17 The Greatest Scroll On Earth

(1) LAST JEDI REVEW. Craig Miller attended the official world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

No Spoilers Review: A pretty amazing achievement. More emotion than most Star Wars films. And more humor (though not a gag fest like, Thor Ragnarok). Some surprises. Including a “surprise” I thought was likely yet still surprised me when it happened by the way they did it. I haven’t quite processed where I think it should go in my pantheon of Best Star Wars Movies but it’s certainly up near the top of the list. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back still hold the top honors but this is getting near it.

His post includes a couple of sweet photos of Kelly Marie Tran (who plays Rose) seeing a fan dressed as her character for the first time.

(2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Mashable collected a bunch of tweets sent by people who saw the movie: “‘The Last Jedi’ first premiere reactions are here and – you guessed it – the Force is strong”.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi held its star-studded world premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and the credits had barely finished rolling before attendees hit Twitter to share their first reactions to Rian Johnson’s take on the Skywalker saga.

While spoilers and plot details are under strict embargo until Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. PT, that didn’t stop fans from weighing in on the tone of the movie…

(3) IMPEDIMENT TO FAKE REVIEWS. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green brings news of “Amazon Review Policy Change & More”.

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy….

(4) AND HEEERE’S PHILIP! Kim Huett asks, “Do you ever have those moments when you discover a different side to an author? Well of course you do. We all do. I did just the other day in regards to Philip K. Dick:” See “Straight Talking With Philip K. Dick” at Doctor Strangemind.

It’s in Lighthouse #14 (October 1966) that Carr published a Philip K. Dick article called Will the Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, and If So, What Becomes of Robert Heinlein? This piece doesn’t read like a fully formed article in my opinion. It’s a series of unconnected paragraphs that feels more like a transcript of Dick’s responses to a series of questions that had been posed by a talk show host (Conan O’Brien most probably, I can’t imagine who else would enjoy interviewing Phil Dick). Take this line:

‘I have written and sold twenty-three novels, and all are terrible except one. But I am not sure which one.

That so feels like the sort of thing a talk show guest might say to set the tone of the interview. Watch out audience, I’m quirky and don’t take anything too seriously.

Mostly though Dick expresses the sort of blunt and sweeping opinions I never thought he was likely to come out with….

(5) MAKE IT SNOW. Let SyFy Wire help with your holiday shopping — “2017 Gift Guide: Beam up these great Star Trek gifts”. My favorite —

U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

If you love Star Trek AND sushi then this awesome sushi set will hit the sweet spot. The set includes a shiny Enterprise NCC-1701 in mid-warp and propped on a wooden base, which is actually… a sushi plate. If you remove the top of the saucer section, you even get a small dish for soy sauce. Slide out the warp effects of the nacelles and voila, you have your own pair of chopsticks.

Get it for $34.99 at Star Trek Shop

(6) NO PRIZE. In the Paris Review, Ursula K. Le Guin makes a meta suggestion: “The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes”.

I refused a prize once. My reasons were mingier than Sartre’s, though not entirely unrelated. It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette The Diary of the Rose was awarded the Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. At about the same time, the same organization deprived the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem of his honorary membership. There was a sizable contingent of Cold Warrior members who felt that a man who lived behind the iron curtain and was rude about American science fiction must be a Commie rat who had no business in the SFWA. They invoked a technicality to deprive him of his membership and insisted on applying it. Lem was a difficult, arrogant, sometimes insufferable man, but a courageous one and a first-rate author, writing with more independence of mind than would seem possible in Poland under the Soviet regime. I was very angry at the injustice of the crass and petty insult offered him by the SFWA. I dropped my membership and, feeling it would be shameless to accept an award for a story about political intolerance from a group that had just displayed political intolerance, took my entry out of the Nebula competition shortly before the winners were to be announced. The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So—with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground—my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.

(7) TOLKIEN CANONIZATON CONFERENCE CANCELLED. The hosts of a December 18 conference in Rome to popularize the idea of canonizing J.R.R. Tolkien, an initiative of the SUPR (Student Association of Roman pontifical universities) and sponsored by the CRUPR (conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities), say they have had to cancel the event in the face of unspecified opposition. You can see they didn’t go quietly.

(8) IMAGINING A PAST, AND A BETTER PRESENT. French novelist Jean d’Ormesson died December 6 at the age of 92 reports the New York Times.

It was only in 1971 that “La Gloire de l’Empire” — translated into English as “A Novel. A History” — secured a lasting place for him in 20th-century French literature.

The book, a fictional compendium of imagined history, won the academy’s coveted Grand Prix.

“This has to be one of the most engrossing histories ever written — yet not a word of it is true,” William Beauchamp, a French literature scholar, wrote in The New York Times Book Review when the book was published in English in the United States in 1975.

He added: “Jean d’Ormesson’s empire is pure invention; his book, fictional history. If numerous details suggest the real empires of Rome, Persia, Byzantium, of Alexander or Charlemagne, they are devices designed to achieve verisimilitude — the illusion of reality.”

When Mr. d’Ormesson entered the academy in 1973, at the age of 48, he was the youngest of its 40 members, all of them committed to maintaining the purity of the French language and to promoting French literary merit.

All were also men; the body had barred women since its founding in 1635. But that changed in 1981, when Mr. d’Ormesson sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, a writer and classical scholar, to join the academy. Though he incurred much criticism and not a few misogynistic jibes for his championing her, she was accepted….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LIBRARIAN

  • Born December 10, 1851 – Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. As a young adult he advocated spelling reform; he changed his name from the usual “Melville” to “Melvil”, without redundant letters, and for a time changed his surname to “Dui”.

(11) DOWNSIZING. Parade’s Amy Spencer, in “Sunday With…Matt Damon”, asks the star of Downsizing such novel softball questions as “What’s a situation where, in real life, you felt really small?” and “What is something small that means a great deal to you?” At least he didn’t have to answer any questions about potatoes.

(12) BEARLY THERE. Framestore animation director Pablo Grillo goes into Paddington 2: “Paddington 2: The challenges of making the film”. (Video at the link.)

(13) BEATING THE BUSHES. Botanical exploits: “How British plant hunters served science”.

Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) was one of four 20th Century botanists who made expeditions to then remote parts of China to discover and bring back plants.

He and his contemporaries – George Forrest (1873-1932), William Purdom (1880-1921) and Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) – are remembered in a new exhibition at the RHS Lindley library in London.

…Frank Kingdon-Ward, son of a botany professor, was perhaps the most prolific of the four plant collectors.

“He carried out over 20 expeditions in total – not all in China; he travelled all over, in India as well and Assam Himalayas, and really his first love was exploration,” says Sarah McDonald.

Kingdon-Ward frequently cheated death on his travels. Once, lost in the jungle, he survived by sucking the nectar from flowers. Another time, a tree fell on his tent during a storm, but he crawled out unscathed. And he survived falling over a precipice only by gripping a tree long enough to be pulled to safety.

In a letter to his sister, he wrote: “If I survive another month without going dotty or white-haired it will be a miracle; if my firm get any seeds at all this year it will be another.”

(14) MARTIAN BOG. If only Heinlein could make The Traveler happy – a magazine review at Galactic Journey. “[December 9, 1962] (January 1963, IF Science Fiction)”.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 2 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

Part II of Heinlein’s new juvenile(?) about Miss Poddy Fries and her space jaunt from Mars is a bit more readable than the last one, but it’s still overwritten and gets bogged in detail.  This is the spiritual successor to The Menace from Earth I’d hoped to share with my daughter, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough.  Three stars for this installment.

(15) CASTING FOR PIKACHU. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie reports “Ryan Reynolds Has Been Cast as ‘Detective Pikachu’ Because Why the Hell Not”.

So one of the weirdest projects out there for a while has been Legendary’s live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s a live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. No one was really expecting it to happen, and now the latest news is that it has a rather unexpected star: Ryan Reynolds.

That’s right, Ryan Reynolds is going to play Detective Pikachu in the Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s not bad casting – Reynolds is a talented actor – but it’s definitely weird casting. I mean, he’s a funny guy (remember, unlike most Pokemon, Detective Pikachu can talk), but it’s not a direction most people thought casting would go.

(16) DIAGNOSIS. Definitely sorry for his health problems, but how many cold sufferers inspire such a colorful description?

(17) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR. Jason, at Featured Futures, has posted his picks for the Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories). His “virtual anthology” is a table of contents of selected links to 70,000 words of the best science fiction published online in 2017.

Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny.

(18) EDGED WEAPONS. Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams at Locus Online.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of antique weaponry is formidable, as well as his command of archaic military and naval terminol­ogy: the tale is packed with enough chebeks, dirks, calivers, pollaxes, and demiculverins to win a dozen Scrabble or trivia games, not to mention such neologisms as “gastrologist,” “logomania,” “poetastical,” “credent,” and others which, as Quillifer and others proudly announce, they “just made up.” As should be evident, there’s a good deal of infectious playfulness involved here, and the question that quickly arises is whether this is going to be infectious enough, or Quillifer himself ingratiating enough, to power us through what promises to be at least three hefty volumes of episodic adventures.

(19) CAT TALES AND OTHERS. In the LA Times’ Jacket Copy section, “Michelle Dean loves Ursula K. Le Guin’s cat stories. Which is a good start”:

Here we get some thoughts on publishing too, or rather, as the book calls it, “The Lit Biz.” Posts on this theme include a lament about how often people ask her “why” she writes — she calls this question “highly metaphysical.” It also includes Le Guin’s frustration with the notion that someone, somewhere has written the Great American Novel. But that argument gradually morphs into a paean to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novel Le Guin evidently feels might be closest to a Great American novel. And then also segues, in a pleasingly bloggy way, into an anecdote about how Le Guin actually knew Steinbeck in her youth and hid with him in the bushes at a terrible wedding with racist guests. “We need to get away from boring people and drink in peace,” she records Steinbeck saying on this occasion. Amen, Great American Writer.

(20) LETTERS TO SANTA. The Guardian found the North Pole in an unexpected place: “Santa Claus, Indiana gets 20,000 letters a year – and ‘elves’ reply to all of them”.

The letters, sometimes addressed to Santa Claus, Indiana, sometimes to just “Santa Claus”, come from all over the US, and even from outside the country. They’re processed by a team of 300 “elves” who write personal replies – penning up to 2,000 notes a day.

“It’s an amazing thing making children happy,” said Pat Koch, the town’s Chief Elf. Koch, 86, is in charge of the mammoth effort. She’s been handling Santa’s correspondence since she was 11 years old.

“We just sit in there and laugh and cry,” Koch said.

“We get letters from children that say: ‘We learned to use the potty’ – well, their mother writes for them – ‘So we hope Santa will come’.

“Or they stopped sucking their thumb. Or some children write very sad letters: ‘I’m living with my grandma and I want to be with my daddy.’”

The elves also receive mail from older people who are lonely and want a letter from Santa, Koch said. Sometimes inmates write to Santa Claus, asking him to send a letter to their children. Post arrives from as far away as Japan, China and Malaysia. Each is read and responded to.

(21) WRATH OF KHAN REVISITED. Orange Band gives old movies the trailers they deserve.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/17 She’ll Be Scrolling Six White Pixels When She Files

(1) HOME IS THE HUNTER. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared “SMOFCON 35: A Brief Report”:

…I had dinner with the talented and lovely Regina Kanyu Wang, a contributor to these pages, one of the actifans of China’s largest fan group AppleCore and the Executive Editor of Storycom, that has, among other things, worked with Clarkesworld magazine to bring translated Chinese SF to the west.

We talked about the cultural revolution, the reception of science fiction in China, censorship, the possibilities of a Chinese Worldcon, the fact that fans are fans the world over, different strains of “Asian” science fiction (the differences between Japanese SF and Chinese SF:  Japanese SF is far more influenced by western tropes than Chinese SD) and I felt like I took a crash course in the subject.  I’ve a lot more to learn, as do we all, but my prediction is that in not so many years, China is going to be dominating this market.

I also spent a fair amount of time helping out with the NASFiC bid for Utah in 2019.  They joined a wine and other liquors tasting party on Saturday evening (I don’t imbibe, but I sure as heck can carry cookies and danish to the room).  As a result of my generosity, I have been allowed to purchase a supporting membership (Grabthar’s Hammer level) and have been volunteered to run the bid table at the 2018 Boskone in February.  (An actifan’s reward is more work!)…

(2) NATIONAL NETWORK PICKS UP EL-MOHTAR STORY. Amal El-Mohtar’s horrible experience with TSA made the Montreal news this morning: Canada’s CBC has picked up the story — “Ottawa author detained by U.S. border guards says system ‘broken'”

El-Mohtar, born and raised in Ottawa, has been crossing the border into the U.S. three to four times a year for at least the last five years because that’s where many of her fans are.

With an Arabic-sounding name, she said she expects to be racially profiled, endure intense questioning and pat downs.

“Every time, I’d get the allegedly random extra screening. Every time. To the point where I’d always make jokes about, if only the lottery were this kind of random.”

This time, however, she was sent for secondary screening, which she said was particularly degrading.…

(3) YA HARASSMENT SURVEY. Anne Ursu, a Minneapolis YA author, is collecting data about “Sexual Harassment in Children’s Book Publishing”.

(4) BENEFIT FOR REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS. Children of a Different Sky, edited by Alma Alexander, is now available online (including at Amazon). Alexander told Carl Slaughter about the project in a File 770 interview.

It is a themed fantasy anthology, about migrants and refugees, and it is a charity anthology, with all the profits from the sales of the book above anything required for housekeeping and production are going straight to two selected charities working with refugees and migrants both in the USA and globally.

The contributors are Jane Yolen, Aliette de Bodard, Seanan McGuire, Irene Radford, Gregory L. Norris, Brenda Cooper, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Randee Dawn, Jacey Bedford, Nora Saroyan, Marie Brennan, and Patricia McEwen

(5) CAN REBELS AND THE FEDERATION STOP THE EMPIRE? Trek Wars is the Star Wars/Star Trek Crossover Fan-Trailer.

The Death Star is on a direct course for Earth, the crew of the starship Enterprise teams up with the Rebel Alliance to stop it!

 

(6) NEXT UP AT KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Christopher Brown on Wednesday, December 20, 7p.m. at the KGB Bar.

N.K. Jemisin

N(ora). K. Jemisin is the author of the Broken Earth Trilogy, the Inheritance Trilogy, and the Dreamblood Duology. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Award; shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. In 2016, she became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season; she won again in 2017 for The Obelisk Gate.

Her short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, WIRED, and Popular Science. She writes a New York Times book review column, Otherworldly, covering recent Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown is the author of Tropic of Kansas, a novel published in 2017 by Harper Voyager that was recently nominated for the Compton Crook Award. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology he co-edited, Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic.  His next two novels, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers set in the world of Tropic of Kansas, are slated for publication by Harper in summer 2019 and 2020. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. He lives in Austin, where he also practices technology law.

The KGB Bar is located at 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(7) OPERATIC VERSION OF OCTAVIA BUTLER WORK KICKSTARTER. Toshi Reagon has started a Kickstarter appeal to fund “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera”.

This opera, which I composed in collaboration with my mother, Dr Bernice Johnson Reagon lives in an unprecedented intersection of science fiction, opera, African-American art & spirituality, feminism, and climate activism.

It features a cast of 15 amazing singers of singular talent and diversity, and a 5 member orchestra which includes my band BigLovely, and a striking set design and visual installation, and a dream team of designers and creatives.

We are asking that you join us, and support us as we finish the creation of this ambitious project and bringing it to communities around the country and the world. It’s urgent, we have to do this now.

They have received $10,205 of the $30,000 goal as of this writing, with 23 days remaining in the drive.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 4, 1964Marisa Tomei. She got her screen debut in an uncredited role (as “Health Club Girl”) in The Toxic Avenger (1984) — arguably one of the most gruesome creatures known to man.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned from the December 2 Bliss that while there are things man was not meant to know, that doesn’t mean nobody knows them.

(10) MARTHA WELLS. The holiday season continues at The Book Smugglers with “Books of My Year – A Smugglivus post by Martha Wells”.

For Smugglivus, I thought I’d do a list of recommendations for some of the favorite books I’ve read this year, or am reading this year, or am about to read this year.

First on the list —

Substrate Phantoms by Jessica Reisman

An SF novel about love, loss, and contact with a truly alien intelligence too strange for humans to understand. If you love thoughtful far future SF with brilliant worldbuilding, this is for you.

(11) FROM TOLKIEN’S PANTRY. Lembas is “A bite of energy” – its origin and use is discussed at Middle-earth Reflections:

Different in strengthening properties and generally more pleasant than its brother cram, made by Men to keep them going in the wild, lembas was a special kind of waybread baked by the Elves alone. The name lembas is a Sindarin one: it is derived from an older version lenn-mbass meaning “journey-bread”. As the name implies, one could and needed to eat it on long journeys when there was no other food to support a traveller or if one’s life was in peril after receiving a hurt. With lembas being a very special — and essentially Elvish — kind of food, Galadriel and the Elves showed the Fellowship a great honour by giving it to them.

(12) THE WRITING DAY. RedWombat takes a break.

(13) A MANLY ANTHOLOGY. Superversive SF’s “Submission call for ‘To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity’” is open ‘til February 14, 2018.

We want…

  • Stories showing the masculine virtues in a positive light.
  • Stories that introduce or reintroduce young men to the manly virtues.
  • Stories that pay homage to men and masculinity.

I love that the post’s last line is –

Contact me at manlyantho@superversivepress.com if you’re not sure.

(14) LOOK OUT BELOW. MeTV is ready to tell you — “Here’s what’s on the ground in ‘The Jetsons'”.

It goes like this: While The Flintstones seemingly takes place in the Stone Age, and The Jetsons is set in 2062, the two worlds co-exist. The Flintstones is the post-apocalyptic life on the surface under The Jetsons. Barney and Wilma live on the ground underneath George and Jane.

It’s a fun theory to debate at parties, but there is one big problem. We see what is on the surface in The Jetsons.

One of the most common misconceptions about The Jetsons is that the cartoon never shows the ground beneath Orbit City. The Jetson family lives in the Skypad Apartments. George works at Spacely Space Sprockets. Both cylindrical buildings project into the sky like birdhouses on long poles. It is a world of flying cars.

This optimistic vision of the 21st century often left viewers wondering — what is on the ground? Well, the answer is… hobos, walking birds, concrete and parks….

(15) ALT-CAT. Every day is a tough one when you’re battling fake news.

(16) DEL ARROZ ON CEBULSKI. Jon Del Arroz, now writing for The Federalist (called by a Bloomberg Politics writer “a source of original interviews and real-time arguments between conservatives and libertarians”) says “The Manufactured Outrage At Marvel’s New Editor In Chief Is Just A Power Play”. He calls the Cebulski story a “phony controversy” —

When Cebulski was named, it had a lot of comic readers scouring the Internet to find out who he was, and if he looked like he’d be able to right Marvel Comics’ sinking ship.

Most comic professionals praised the move. Longtime Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis said, “Creators, you’re about to be treated and fed SO [sic] well. This is a great day for comics. All in it together!” Christos Gage, writer of Netflix’s “Daredevil” season one, said, “Excellent choice in [Cebulski] as new Marvel EIC. He loves comics and comic book creators.” Even Marvel’s most vocal of critics seemed pleased with the move.

It didn’t take long for the gossip entertainment news to attack Cebulski, however. This week, Cebulski is the victim of manufactured identity politics outrage, in an attempt by the media to get him fired before his work as editor in chief even begins. Bleeding Cool, IO9, and the Huffington Post, outlets notorious for hyper-partisan clickbait, attacked Cebulski over the fact that 13 years ago he used a pseudonym to write a few books for Marvel. If it sounds like something not even worth mentioning, you’d be right, but it has the leftist outrage machine calling for Marvel to remove him.

Then with his usual rhetorical prestidigitization, Del Arroz equates Cebulski’s writing under an Asian pseudonym with D.C. Fontana going by her initials, and makes other leaps of illogic, such as —

If the media is right that Cebulski had to use a minority moniker to get a job, it means white men aren’t considered for the work, or at the very least, minorities are preferred. Therefore, pro-white racism in entertainment doesn’t and didn’t exist as far back as 15 years ago.

(17) HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS? Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! Entertainment piece called “How all those ‘Star Wars’ cameos wound up in surprise box-office hit ‘Wonder'”, interviews Wonder director Stephen Chblosky about why his film packed with Star Wars Easter eggs,

Star Wars plays a small but significant role in Wonder; not only is it the singular obsession of the film’s main character, Auggie Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay — a noted Padawan in his own right), but Chbosky also wrangled surprise cameo appearances by two residents of George Lucas‘s far, far away galaxy: a certain Wookiee co-pilot and a sinister Sith-turned-emperor, who appear in fantasy sequences imagined by Auggie, who initially prefers the company of fictional characters because real people struggle to adjust to his facial deformities caused by a rare medical condition. “I will point out, very proudly, that on Dec. 15 there will be two Chewbacca movies in theaters — that has never happened!” Chbosky says, laughing. “I really hope that being part of Wonder might help the box office of The Last Jedi. They’re really struggling over there.”

(18) FINAL PRANK. Carrie Fisher pulled a fast one on Mark Hamill.

Hamill, 66, spoke about his fond memories of his dear friend on a recent visit to the set of “Popcorn With Peter Travers.” He also recalled the last prank she pulled on him before she died on Dec. 27, 2016.

“We were sort of in an unofficial contest to get to 1 million Twitter followers first,” he explained of their competition from summer 2016. “She was 63,000 ahead of me … I said, ‘Game on girl!'”

As of now, Hamill has more than 2 million followers and Fisher posthumously has 1.19 million. Hamill, who was trailing in the beginning, said he started pulling these ridiculous stunts like offering up exclusive “Star Wars” clips to gain followers and catch up to Fisher.

“I felt bad, I was really gaining,” he said, so he also came up with a plan where the two could cross the milestone together, as on-screen brother and sister. “I sent her an email and I said, ‘Hey Carrie want to explode the internet?’ … We had never seen our wax figures at Madame Tussauds.”

The plan was to go, take pictures with the wax Luke and Leia figurines, then post on the internet to fans’ delights. But Fisher never emailed him back.

“Three of four days later, there she is at Madame Tussauds posing with my figure, posing with her figure, I went, ‘What!?’ I was livid,” he said. “I went to the studio the next day [and went right to her trailer]. I said, ‘Carrie, what did you do!? It was like … you threw the party and you didn’t invite me!'”

According to Hamill, she just looked up at him and said, “Should have I not done that?”

(19) LUNAR GLIMPSE. The only supermoon of 2017 rose on Sunday, December 3. Here are three galleries with some of the best photos.

(20) INTERVIEW WITH THE CAPTAIN. The Hollywood Masters features Patrick Stewart on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

[Thanks to DMS, Cathy Palmer-Lister, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/17 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction

(1) PRONOUNS AND ROCKET STACK RANK. Bogi Takács wrote a series of tweets criticizing Greg Hullender’s statements in reviews about the usage of pronouns for non-binary characters in stories reviewed at Rocket Stack Rank, adding many screenshots of examples. Takács also pointed out the reviews are given a certain implied authority because Rocket Stack Rank is linked from the official The Hugo Awards site as a “Third Party Recommendation Site.”

Get into the thread here:

The Hugo connection is illustrated here:

The comments on the Hugo linkage include one from Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

For those who are unfamiliar, here is Bogi Takács’ brief bio from Patreon:

I’m Bogi Takács, a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person (e/em/eir/emself or singular they pronouns) currently living in the US as a resident alien. I write speculative fiction and poetry – I have had work published in various professional venues like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Apex and Strange Horizons.

Other comments on RSR, Hullender’s views, and their impact included —

(2) COCO CASHES IN. On opening weekend in the U.S., “Pixar’s ‘Coco’ feasts on ‘Justice League’ at box office”.

Pixar’s “Coco” sang its way to the fourth best Thanksgiving weekend ever with an estimated $71.2 million over the five-day weekend, a total that easily toppled Warner Bros.’ “Justice League.”

“Coco” rode strong reviews and an A-plus CinemaScore from audiences to the top spot at the domestic box office. According to studio estimates Sunday, it grossed $49 million from Friday to Sunday. Centered on the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), “Coco” has already set box office records in Mexico, where it has made $53.4 million in three weeks.

(3) BSFA AWARDS. The British Science Fiction Association invites members to “Nominate for the BSFA Awards” between now and December 31:

The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.

…Nominations are open until 31st December. This will be the first round. Then from 1st January to 30th January the opportunity for members to vote for their shortlist from the collated suggestions will be provided. This will be the second round.

To nominate in the first round, fill in the form here: http://tinyurl.com/BSFA2017nominations

or email your nominations to awards@bsfa.co.uk. A form and process for the second round will be made available on this page after the first round has closed.

(4) FLORIDA EXPANDS RIGHT TO CHALLENGE TEXTBOOKS. The Associated Press has the story: “New Florida law expected to increase textbook challenges”.

A parent in Florida is citing profanity and violence in trying to get the local school to ban Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” — itself a cautionary tale on the banning of books. Another wants to remove Walter Dean Myers’ “Bad Boy” for using the word “penis” and a homophobic slur.

Elsewhere in Florida, some say global warming and evolution are a hoax and should not be taught in textbooks unopposed. Others say their local school’s textbooks shortchange Islam’s role in the world, while their opponents argue it’s the danger posed by Muslim terrorists that’s underexposed.

Under a bill passed by the Florida Legislature this year, any district resident — regardless of whether they have a child in school — can now challenge material as pornographic, biased, inaccurate or a violation of state law and get a hearing before an outside mediator.

The mediator advises the local school board, whose decision is final. Previously, challenges could only be made by parents to the school or district. There was also no mediator and fewer mandates. Districts must now also post online a list of all new books and material by grade level to make monitoring easier.

(5) THANKSGIVING AT THE ISS. A day like any other day, only turkey was there: “Happy Space Thanksgiving: How the Food-Stuffed Holiday Went Orbital”.

One Thanksgiving party will literally look down upon them all, as the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) continues its longstanding tradition of observing the festive harvest holiday from orbit. This year’s menu includes irradiated smoked turkey, rehydratable cornbread dressing, green beans and mushrooms, broccoli au gratin, mashed potatoes, candied yams, sweet tea, and thermostabilized cherry blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Space.com says “Thanksgiving in Space Means Turkey, Work and Football for Astronauts”:

“They don’t actually have the day off on Thursday,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com in an email, adding that the crew has “a lot of cargo-unloading tasks to complete” with the Cygnus spacecraft that arrived last Tuesday (Nov. 14). However, the astronauts will at least have Friday off, Huot said.

Along with over 7,700 lbs. (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and science equipment, the Cygnus cargo craft delivered the crew their Thanksgiving dinner and some other tasty treats, like pizza and ice cream. Holiday gifts and care packages from the astronauts’ families also shipped with Cygnus. With that trove of holiday goodies just waiting to be unpacked, the astronauts have plenty of incentives for working through the holiday

(6) AFTER THE STUFFING. Here’s how it looks from the Batcave:

(7) ANTHOLOGY APPEARANCE. Cora Buhlert highlights her recently-published story: “New science fiction anthology with a new “In Love and War” story available: The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw”.

The Guardian includes eleven science fiction stories by international authors, all featuring guardians of some kind. My own story in the anthology, “Baptism of Fire” is a prequel story to my In Love and War space opera romance series, so all you fans of Anjali and Mikhail (come on, I know there are some of you out there) rejoice.

(8) ALAS, POOR ALANTIM. Motherboard invites you to “Watch a Robot Eulogize Its ‘Brother’ at Moscow’s New Cemetery for Dead Machines”; video at the link.

The sad news is that this Alantim could not be revived after the attack. But the silver lining is that its death inspired Olga Budnik, a spokesperson for the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark, to create the world’s first dedicated robot cemetery.

“Alantim was a really good robot,” Budnik told me in an email. “It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet. And [the cemetery] was an idea to bury it like a pet. Not disassemble or carry it to the trash. To say good-bye.”

On October 31, Alantim’s Earthly remains were placed at the Phystechpark cemetery site next to a box for collecting other dead robots. He was eulogized by another Alantim, who honored his dearly departed “brother” for being “very useful to your people and Russian science,” according to a Russian-to-English translation of the ceremony as seen at the top of this article.

(9) COURT IS IN SESSION. Lauren Davis briefs io9 readers about “Six Strange Cases of Science Fiction Trademarks”.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Ownership Claimed by: The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate

The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate owns numerous trademarks based on Tolkien’s works, as well as registered trademarks on Tolkien’s name. Last year, a fellow who sold buttons reading “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion” through Zazzle was contacted by Zazzle, who said that they were removing the buttons at the Tolkien Estate’s request. Later, Zazzle restored the buttons, saying that they had been removed erroneously due to a miscommunication, but it shined a light on the estate’s ownership of Tolkien’s name and left lots of folks wondering where the line was. When are you invoking Tolkien the brand and when are you referring to Tolkien the man?

The estate also owns the right to publicity for Tolkien’s name and image, which they used to challenge the publication of Steve Hillard’s historical fiction book, Mirkwood: A Novel About JRR Tolkien. Eventually Hillard and the estate settled, with Hillard agreeing to make some changes to the book’s appearance to make it look less like one of Tolkien’s novels. A Mirkwood movie is in the works.

Bonus Round: Like any other trademark holder, the Tolkien Estate has to be vigilant about enforcing their trademarks. But some are stranger than others. In 2004, the estate issued a cease and desist letter to the owner of the domain Shiremail.com, claiming the estate owned the trademark on the word “shire.” The word “shire,” which means an administrative subdivision, such as a county, has been around since the 12th century.

(10) BOARDMAN OBIT. Perdita Boardman (1931-2017) died November 26 after a long illness. Mark Blackman writes:

Perdita was best-known in Northeast Fandom for hosting Lunarians meetings and running the Lunacon Con Suite for many years, and with her husband, John, hosting a monthly fannish gathering called First Saturday. For their long service, she and John were voted Honorary Members of the Lunarians.

Her younger daughter, Deirdre, shared the following on Facebook:

I wanted to share with family (& friends) about the passing of my mom this morning peacefully in her sleep.

Many know she has been suffering from severe dementia well over a decade now, but she became very sick about two weeks ago and moved to hospice care.

Born Dec 27, 1931 in Baxter Springs, KS she grew up outside of Detroit, bounced around a bit living in Chicago, San Francisco, Virginia and finally settling in New York City about 1960, first in Manhattan, then Park Slope and finally her well known home in Flatbush. She spent her final years in Frederick, MD to be closer to Karina & I.

She has loved science fiction & fantasy (as well as mysteries & regency romances) novels since the 50s and was an avid reader.

She was a talented artist, master seamstress and knitted the most amazing sweaters!

I could go on all.

One of her funny quotes from the other day after being annoyed by nurses prodding her was, “I am Perdita Ann Lilly Nelson Boardman and I am going to sleep”

Good night mom.

(11) LE GUIN AS CRITIC. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison – stories “for the uncommon reader” in The Guardian:

One of these brilliantly told stories, “The Walls”, begins: “A man, let’s call him D, is seen digging his way out through the wall of his cell. To help in this project, D has only the thinnest and least reliable tools: two dessert spoons (one stainless steel, one electro-plated nickel silver); half of a pair of curved nail scissors; some domestic knives lacking handles; and so on. The cell wall, constructed from grey, squarish cinder blocks about a foot on a side has been carelessly mortared and laid without much attention to detail. But this lack of artifice makes no difference; none of the knives is long enough to reach the last half inch of mortar at the back of each block, and the more D uses them the shorter they get. Each block must, eventually, be loosened and removed by hand, a task which can take several months, and which leaves him exhausted.”

A close attention to detail characterises this story and contributes much to its effectiveness, and yet, like the careless mortaring of the cinder blocks, it makes no difference in the end. Why and how does D have two dessert spoons? What does he live on during these months (which become years)? Who brings it to his cell? We have nothing with which to fill in unstated facts, as we’re used to doing when reading fiction, because the story is consistent only in pulling the carpet out from under its own feet. It is a play of imagination in a void. Its power is that of a dream, in this case a bad one, the kind that keeps repeating itself with variations in an endless loop of frustration.

This holds for all the stories collected in You Should Come With Me Now. Some of them are surrealistic, some are spoofs, some are fables; many are funny, all are inventive; none entirely escapes the loop….

(12) 25 WAYS TO RUB YOUR LAMP. A Yahoo! Movies piece, “Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: 25 magical fun facts for 25th anniversary”, has lots of trivia about Aladdin, including how Patrick Stewart nearly played Jafar but couldn’t get out of his Star Trek: The Next Generation commitments and how there is a hidden Aladdin reference in Hamilton.

  1. The animators crafted the Genie around Williams’s rapid-fire improv. Co-director Ron Musker said Williams did 25 takes for the movie’s first scene, “and they were all different.” The entertainer would stick to the script for the first few takes, “then he would riff.” Musker said Williams recorded 16 hours’ worth of material, forcing the creative team to piece the character together “like a ransom note.”

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy quit groaning at the Tolkien pun long enough to send a link to today’s Brevity.

(14) HE’S DEAD ED. The Smithsonian covers nine theories about “The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” (2014 article.)

On September 27 [1849] —almost a week earlier—Poe had left Richmond, Virginia bound for Philadelphia to edit a collection of poems for Mrs. St. Leon Loud, a minor figure in American poetry at the time. When Walker found Poe in delirious disarray outside of the polling place, it was the first anyone had heard or seen of the poet since his departure from Richmond. Poe never made it to Philadelphia to attend to his editing business. Nor did he ever make it back to New York, where he had been living, to escort his aunt back to Richmond for his impending wedding. Poe was never to leave Baltimore, where he launched his career in the early 19th- century, again—and in the four days between Walker finding Poe outside the public house and Poe’s death on October 7, he never regained enough consciousness to explain how he had come to be found, in soiled clothes not his own, incoherent on the streets. Instead, Poe spent his final days wavering between fits of delirium, gripped by visual hallucinations. The night before his death, according to his attending physician Dr. John J. Moran, Poe repeatedly called out for “Reynolds”—a figure who, to this day, remains a mystery.

(15) MISSING FROM THE MARQUEE. The project loses some name cachet as “Adam Nimoy Steps Down From Directing Deep Space Nine Doc, Release Pushed Back” – story at TrekMovie.com.

On Saturday there were two announcements from What We Left Behind, the upcoming crowd-funded Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary.  Adam Nimoy, while remaining involved, will no longer be directing, and the release date  is likely being pushed back.

Nimoy stepping back

In a statement posted on Facebook Saturday, Adam Nimoy revealed he was stepping down as director for What We left Behind, but he will continue to be a producer and advisor on the doc. The reason given for the change was that he needed more time to focus on other responsibilities. From the statement:

“The real creative force behind the DS9 documentary was well in place before I came along. I was happy to lend them support and guidance to push the project along so that it could be completed in time for the 25th anniversary of the show which is coming up in 2018. I wish the creative team all good things as they Boldly Go!”

(16) WINDOW ON THE UNIVERSE. Motherboard’s article about the “Casting of a Giant Mirror for the First Extremely Large Telescope” has a good infographic comparing the relative sizes of all the existing large telescopes, as well.

(17) HARD SF. Down these mean starlanes a man must go…. A Twitter conversation begins here:

(18) COMPLETE HORSESHOE. Here’s another statistic I never knew anyone kept – the record for world’s largest horseshoe sculpture: “Camberley artist’s dragon ‘could obliterate’ world record”.

Mr Poolman’s sculpture is described as “not just a dragon but a tableau”, telling the story of a village bringing a dragon from the sky with arrows and stones.

“It’s partly collapsed,” Mr Powell said, “brought to the ground, in its death throes.”

Tens of thousands of old horseshoes were provided by farriers in Hampshire – some of them were used whole and others cut into smaller pieces.

“A complete horseshoe is quite limiting in what it can be made into,” Mr Poolman said.

(19) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Brandon Sanderson isn’t just on the list, he’s #1 —

(20) UNDER THE TREE. We continue our cavalcade of holiday presents with –

(21) MULTITASKING. It’s a Jedi thing: “Elle UK Interviews Daisy Ridley While She Builds A Lego Millennium Falcon”.

She’s talented and beautiful and she plays Luke Skywalker’s new padawan, Rey, in one of the most anticipated “Star Wars” films of all time, but now comes the true test: Can Daisy Ridley build the Millennium Falcon with Legos?

Elle UK interviewed the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress, asking her things like when was the last time she cried, what color her lightsaber would be, and if her father still prefers “Star Trek” (ouch) ? all while she’s tasked with building the Millennium Falcon out of Legos.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Happiness by Steve Cutts is a cartoon on Vimeo about rats trying to survive the rat race as commuters, consumers, and at work. I’m having trouble getting it to embed, so here’s the link — https://vimeo.com/groups/motion/videos/244405542

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/17 I’ll Be Over Here Eating My Lunch Alone On The Pixelground

(1) TURKEY FIRST. ULTRAGOTHA chastized me for yesterday’s Scroll title:

Mike, Mike, Mike. Please. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Can’t we have our Pixellated Turkey with Scrollbean Casserole and all the fixins before being subject to Scrollnuts Roasting on an Open Glyer?

(2) ATTENTION REDWOMBAT READERS. T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is available for pre-order.

For those following along at home, this is the Thing With The Paladin And The Ninja Accountant. And it is Book One! It is not a standalone! Book Two will be out, hopefully February-ish! (It is, however, a duology, not a trilogy or whatever.)

(3) LINE UP AND SIGN UP. The makers of Pacific Rim Uprising are offering someone a chance to be in the movie – sign up at Jaeger Academy.

Do you have what it takes to become a Jaeger Pilot? Welcome to Jaeger Academy, where you will learn to pilot the most powerful machines to ever walk the Earth, and become the most heroic version of yourself. Enlist now to test yourself in Pan Pacific Defense Corps missions for the chance to become immortalized in the Hall of Heroes, have your name in the film credits, name a Jaeger from the film, and more! Join the Uprising now to stand tall for all humanity.

 

(4) A LIST OF THE BEST. The B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog calls these 25 books “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017”. I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard of a third of these titles. And their runner-up list has several titles I expect to be award nominees.

Which brings us to the books below—25 titles that stood out in a particularly strong year for SFF, a year during which many of us looked to the speculative to help us grapple with the strangeness around us—or to offer us an escape from it. Taken collectively, they are: provoking, thoughtful, compelling, challenging, unique. And, most certainly, they are all so very 2017. These are the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. (Never fear, short fiction fans: we’re covering anthologies and collections in a separate list—horror too.) 

(5) ELEVENFOX. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog also has the cover reveal for Elevenfox Gambit, actually titled Revanant Gun.

Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About Revenant Gun

What are we looking at on the cover of Revenant Gun?
The cover shows my protagonist Jedao’s flagship (“command moth,” in the parlance of the books), called the Revenant, and the Fortress of Pearled Hopes.

(6) LE GUIN, MOTHERHOOD, AND WRITING. David Streitfeld does the asking in “Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin” at the LA Review of Books.

When did you write?

After the kids were put to bed, or left in their bed with a book. My kids went to bed much earlier than most kids do now. I was appalled to learn my grandchildren were staying up to 11:00. That would have driven me up the wall. We kept old-fashioned hours — 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. I would go up to the attic, and work 9:00 to midnight. If I was tired, it was a little tough. But I was kind of gung-ho to do it. I like to write. It’s exciting, something I’m really happy doing.

Does being in the Library of America make you feel you’ve joined the immortals? You’re now up there with all the greats — Twain, Poe, Wharton.

I grew up with a set of Mark Twain in the house. Collections of authors’ work were not such a big deal. And my agent was hesitant about the contract, since the pay upfront was less than she’s used to settling for. She’s a good agent. Her job is to make money. What I did not realize is that being published in the Library of America is a real and enduring honor. Especially while you’re still alive. Philip Roth and I make a peculiar but exclusive club.

(7) MWA AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of its 2018 Special Edgar Awards – Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen:

Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey have been chosen as the 2018 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.  Ms. Langton, Mr. Link, and Mr. Lovesey will receive their awards at the 72nd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 26, 2018.

…The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.  The Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski will receive the 2018 Raven Award.

The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The store was opened in 1987 by co-owners Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright. Kehde kept the store for 28 years, weathering the Borders storm with a plan to “stay the same size and cultivate [the] clients.” Heidi Raak took over the store in 2008. Current owner and poet Danny Caine took over in August of 2017; he is a longtime employee of the shop. The Raven has two store cats, Dashiell and Ngiao.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Robert Pépin. Mr. Pépin began his literary career in 1964 as a translator of English-language novels. Since then he has been a translator, editor, and publisher of some of the most important authors of the past century including Lawrence Block, Alex Berenson, C.J. Box, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Church, Miles Corwin, Martin Cruz Smith, and Robert Crais.

[Hat tip to Locus Online.]

(8) MORE ON TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Here is an initiative of the Student Association of Roman pontifical universities and sponsored by the Conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities.

(9) DENISE DUMARS. The SPECPO blog interviewed a veteran sf poet who’ll be at Loscon this weekend: “From Sheet Lightning to Paranormal Writing: An interview with Denise Dumars”.

Looking back at your first poetry collection Sheet Lightning to now, what’s changed most about your process in putting a manuscript together?
I rarely think in terms of “putting together a manuscript” when it comes to poetry and short fiction. The poems come one at a time, and rarely do I have a theme for a collection. My most recent collection is an exception to that rule: Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal was a themed volume; more than half the poems dealt with paranormal research of the type that I find really funny—you know, the ghost hunters and all their gadgets. But the other half of the book is more serious as it deals with New Orleans and the paranormal. Every collection is different. Right now I have a collection of haiku that I’m trying to figure out where to send—it’s call the Punk Rock Picnic Haiku, as it was written over time as I went to punk rock concerts with the rest of my elderly punk set at Liquid Kitty, a club that was recently bought by someone who turned it into a rich businessman’s lounge. The haiku series is a memorial to a time and place. I keep meaning to create a collection of specifically science fiction poems and a collection specifically of horror and dark fantasy poems.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PRIME TIME. GeekWire says the Electric Dreams release date has been set:

Amazon today announced that its new anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” will premiere on Jan. 12, exclusively on Prime Video. The much-anticipated streaming series will be comprised of 10 standalone episodes, each set in different worlds — five to 5,000 years in the future…

 

(12) MOON MEN. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait enjoys himself while demolishing another conspiracy theory in “No, that’s not a stagehand in an Apollo astronaut photo”.

I was checking Facebook Sunday, and saw I was tagged in a post by Evan Bernstein, from Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Dreading what I’d see if I went to the page, I clicked the link anyway. I can’t help it. Bad astronomy is like catnip to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Evan had a link to an article in NewsweekNewsweek — that is a credulous account of a guy on YouTube who calls himself Streetcap1. This particular video shows an image from the Apollo 17 mission, which landed two astronauts on the Moon in December 1972.

… That’s clearly the figure of a human. I think we’d all agree on that. Where I part ways with Streetcap1 is that he is guessing that’s a stagehand or someone else standing there when this photo was taken. In his video he points out features he thinks he sees on the figure, including — and I swear I’m not making this up — long hair. Because this was “back in the early ’70s.”

Yes. He said that.

(13) LET ‘ER RIP. Camestros Felapton is decompressing from the first season of Star Trek: Discovery by launching a weekly review of older Trek TV episodes — “Trek Tuesday* – Errand of Mercy”.

The obvious pretext for including this episode as background for Discovery is that it is the first Klingon episode. Like Discovery, Starfleet finds itself rapidly falling into war with the Klingons. However, my main reason for picking on it is as an example of what Discovery is failing to do, which is to examine some of the assumptions of Star Trek that arise out of its post-WW2 and US hegemonic roots.

… Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, leaving Sulu in charge of the Enterprise with strict others to skedaddle if the Klingon fleet turns up. Kirk and Spock find the Organians to be a technologically primitive people, with little in the way of government. The Organians lsiten politely to Kirk’s offer of Federation membership and help against the Klingons but they politely decline. Shortly thereafter the Klingon fleet arrives and invades Organia.

It needs to be said that the Klingons are both comical and appalling. The Klingon army is a few guys marching across the set. The makeup manages to be racist in a way that is insulting both to black people and Chinese people – apparently they literally used shoe polish. The Klingon commander, Kor, is perhaps the most urbane Klingon in the Trek canon beating even Christopher Plummer’s Shakespeare quoting Klingon from the movies. At this point in Trek, the Klingons are just a generic military dictatoship, more 1984 than the syncretic mix of Viking-Samurai from later versions.

(14) DEADER THAN A SUPER DOORNAIL. The Hollywood Reporter’s Ciara Wardlow asks the question n“Has ‘Justice League’ Killed the Superhero Origin Story?” and argues that the answer is “Yes.”

At first glance, this may appear like the Warner Bros.’ DC universe taking shortcuts in order to try to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is something else important to be considered. Namely, that the MCU’s Phase One strategy to build up to The Avengers is no longer an option. It’s too reliant on solo origin stories. Even within Phase One, audiences were getting a little restless with the formula by the time Captain America: The First Avenger rolled around only two months after Thor.

There’s nothing wrong with origin stories, and even just this year we got a great one with Wonder Woman. But the cinematic reboot craze jumpstarted by 2005′ Batman Begins lead to such an explosion of origin stories that the market has grown saturated. There is still a niche or two left available here and there. “Quality female superhero origin story” was still wide open for Wonder Woman, and can probably fit a few more entries before things start getting too crowded. But origin stories revolving around one Great Big Hero are naturally going to end up hitting the same narrative beats and plot points. Switching up various elements can keep things interesting for a while, there are limits that the superhero genre is inching very close to surpassing — a boundary where pleasantly or at least tolerably familiar crosses into the territory of boringly repetitive.

(15) LIFE IMITATES ART. “Finally, You Can Have Breakfast at Tiffany” – the New York Times has the story.

There are certain movie scenes that are so iconic that they still retain their importance in the pop-culture lexicon, even decades later. When Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, stepped out of a yellow cab and sauntered to the window of Tiffany & Co. in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” playing in the background, such a scene was created.

As Holly ate a croissant and carried a cup of coffee, she was still, unfortunately, on the outside of the building. Since 1837, Tiffany’s has been a preeminent luxury jeweler and not a place where you could actually have breakfast. However, that changed on Friday, with the opening of the Blue Box Café, at the company’s venerable flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. Menu items will be seasonal and reflect a sophisticated take on a variety of New York dishes.

Located on the fourth floor of the building, which houses a recently renovated home and accessories section, the café is a bright, airy space, with the “Breakfast at Tiffany” breakfast starting at $29….

(16) SKILLZ. Finally, a school that teaches something students believe will be useful after they graduate…. The BBC explains “Why Singapore is training professional gamers”.  (Video preceded by obnoxious ad)

 A career in gaming would once have been unthinkable in Asia. But with the global e-sports market forecast to hit $1.5bn in three years, Singapore wants to help train new gamers how to go professional.

(17) PIG BELLY. Why this one won’t melt as quick as expected: “Antarctic glacier’s rough belly exposed”.

The melting Antarctic ice stream that is currently adding most to sea-level rise may be more resilient to change than previously recognised.

New radar images reveal the mighty Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to be sitting on a rugged rock bed populated by big hills, tall cliffs and deep scour marks.

Such features are likely to slow the ice body’s retreat as the climate warms, researchers say.

(18) CUISINE ALCHEMY. Carrots in blackberry yogurt? “The surprising ingredients behind common foods” (video).

Some of our daily staples are made of strange things that enhance their taste or their looks, or make them cost-effective.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Goodbye Uncanny Valley” in Vimeo, Alan Warburton looks at the state of computer graphics today, including a look at edgy projects that are on the verge of development in the future.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18/17 It’s Beginning To Scroll A Lot Like Pixelmas

(1) THE PHENOMENA BEHIND LEGENDS. Kim Huett has added two new posts to Doctor Strangemind.

The first is about the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio transmission: “The Great Radio Hoax”.

As appealing as I find the idea of Wells’ story taking in so many thousands of people who had been looking down their noses at science fiction I can’t bring myself to believe it. The prosaic alternative, that the supposed mass panic was in reality a beat-up by a newspaper industry hoping to scare advertisers away from radio back to print by labelling the former ‘irresponsible and untrustworthy’, seems far more likely to me. (Not surprisingly while CBS was keen to refute such newspaper claims Orson Wells was happy to play along in return for the massive amount of personal publicity it gave him.)

Now as it happens I recently discovered a small piece of evidence to back up my preferred assumption. In the March 1942 issue of Leprechaun is an article by Gerry de la Ree all about this incident. This is the Gerry de la Ree who later went on to publish books such as The Book of Virgil Finlay, A Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Fantasy by Fabian: The Art of Stephen E. Fabian by the way. In his article de la Ree repeats most of the claims that appeared in the papers; injured people were admitted to hospital in New York, Minneapolis switchboards were inundated by calls, hundreds were fleeing by car in New Jersey. However amongst all this second-hand reporting Gerry de la Ree describes his own encounter with The Mercury Theater’s Halloween production. I suspect this hits closer to the mark than any of the newspaper hysteria.

The second is about the Flying Dutchman and sheep: “Far Beneath, the Abysmal Sea”.

The first reference in print to the ship appeared in 1795, when George Barrington mentioned the matter in his book, Voyage to Botany Bay. According to Barrington sailors had told him of a story about a Dutch ship that was lost at sea during a horrendous storm. This it was claimed was due to Captain Bernard Fokke for he was known for the speed on his trips from Holland to Java. The story went that Fokke was aided by the Devil and that he and his crew eventually paid the price for dealing with Old Nick and so were consequently doomed to sail the seas forever more despite their demise. Sighting the Flying Dutchman was said to be very bad luck.

Now what strikes me most about all this is how late in the piece this legend comes. The general agreement seems to be that the Flying Dutchman legend originated in the eighteenth century and that my friends is passing strange. If the Flying Dutchman obeys the principle of reality conservation in fiction then what changed to make such a story suddenly possible? Clearly some new phenomena was needed because mysteriously abandoned boats drifting with the currents is a scene as old as sailing itself. If it was simply a matter of sailors wanting to explain boats apparently travelling by themselves then I can’t imagine they would wait till the eighteenth century to invent the Flying Dutchman story.

Huett also says he’s working on a revised edition of his John Brosnan collection You Only Live Once for Dave Langford to add to the ebook page of TAFF freebies.

(2) JOT AND TITTLE. You’ve heard of the Oxford comma. Now there’s the Straczynski period.

(3) LOVE AMONG THE RAYGUNS. SyFy Wire names “The 26 greatest romances in science fiction’s last two decades”.

07 Amelia Pond and Rory Williams, Doctor Who

The Ponds are two of The Doctor’s most beloved companions. Amy (Karen Gillan) is best remembered for her eagerness to see every inch of every universe but her most compelling story arcs always foregrounded her relationship with Rory (Arthur Darvill). For example, when a trickster time lord traps the three time travellers in two potential realities and asks them to determine which is real lest they die, it’s up to Amy to sort them out. But she doesn’t rely on logic to guide them, she uses her heart; when Rory dies in one timeline Amy decides that it must be the fake one because for her no world without Rory could be real.

(4) JOHN GARTH AT OXFORD. The author of Tolkien and the Great War will speak this coming week at Oxford.

I have exciting things to reveal about Tolkien’s extraordinary Creation myth in a talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society (Taruithorn) in Lecture Room 2, Christ Church, Oxford, at 8pm next Thursday, 23 November. Non-members £2.

(5) MARVEL’S WORST PARENTS. Could it be the criminal Pride, or a negligent Hero? Find out in Marvel’s Top 10 Bad Parents!

(6) CROWDSOURCED HELP PAYS OFF. Last April the Scroll gave a signal boost for to a GoFundMe for a young writer’s medical expenses. Nick Tchan has sent along a good news update about Lachlan:

Scans and meeting with surgeon and oncologist today.

Lachlan is officially cancer-free!

Thank you for initially posting the GoFundMe link to File770.

Tchan wrote about the appeal in April:

“The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

(7) HOME SAVED. And the GoFundMe to Help Mike Donahue keep his home has succeeded.

I’m overwhelmed. Thank you all. In just two days! I’m writing individual thank you cards to everyone but I want to post today that you have filled me with a tremendous sense of hope. If all the money comes in, this, along with what I have saved, will reinstate my mortgage. I’ve arranged for my attorney to talk with Ditech and verify the demand letter and make sure it will all work properly.

(8) FRIES WITH THAT. Nicola Griffith hunts for sff that passes “The Fries Test for disabled characters in fiction”:

…Most readers will be familiar with the Bechdel Test. Today I want to talk about the Fries Test for fiction:

Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?

…There are more novels in which the main character is disabled and isn’t cured or killed, such as the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, but those characters are alone in their disability.6 Novels in which crips talk to each other? Novels in which we talk to each other about something other than wanting to be cured, or how to get cured, or why we want to die because we can’t be cured? Novels in which we don’t die? I’m drawing a blank.

Think about that. I read a lot. I can only think of four novels for adults with two or more crip characters who talk to each other and who are not killed or cured. It’s true that until recently I might not have noticed whether or not characters were disabled but, still, five.7 FIVE.

Surely I’m missing some. Please tell me I’m missing some…

(9) BREW MATCHMAKER. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews on Nerds of a Feather: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 10/2017”.

“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)

Tasting Notes: A surprising tang gives this a punch of sweetness that almost overpowers with its joy, settled only by the complexity of its profile and the lingering smiles it leaves in its wake.

Pairs with: Peach Hard Cider

Review: Computron has a fairly ordinary job…for the only sentient AI in existence. He teaches kids about robots and artificial intelligence, something that he’s rather singularly qualified to do. Only it really doesn’t seem like people consider him the marvel that he is, judging him on the retro-futurist aesthetic he has, imagining he’s outdated despite his uniqueness, despite the fact that he’s sentient. It’s not until he finds a show that features a character much like himself, an older-style robot named Cyro, that he begins to understand just how much he was yearning to see himself represented in media, to interact with other people who won’t think he’s strange because of the way he looks. Enter fandom. I love how this story explores the ways that fan spaces allow people to explore and celebrate themselves. No, fandom isn’t perfect, and Computron does have to deal with aspects of that, but at the same time it gives him this new purpose, this new feeling of belonging. Where he doesn’t have to fit all he has to say into a tiny window inside a larger presentation on robotics. Where he can really get into something and be appreciated for it and make connections through it and shatter the isolation that had dominated his life. It’s a story about being a fan, and how fun and freeing that can be. The story revels in Computron’s journey into fandom, writing fic and offering feedback and just being an all around pleasant person. And it’s a joyous story to experience, clever and cute and playing with the tropes of how AI mirror humans, but how they are distinct as well, and valuable in how they are different, able to contribute in ways that are surprising and wonderful.

(10) MORE ON DIAN CRAYNE. The death of Dian Crayne received a write-up in her local paper, the Willits Weekly. Most of the text is unblushingly copied from the File 770 obit (!) but there are some interesting added details. Click here for the PDF edition.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 18, 1990 — The television version of IT premiered with Tim Curry.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned something unexpected about the afterlife in Close to Home.

(13) DISSATISFIED BABYLONIAN CUSTOMERS. “Garbageboy Stinkman” tells us about the evidence for one of history’s least reputable businessmen in cuneiform clay tablets.

The majority of the surviving correspondences regarding Ea-nasir were recovered from one particular room in a building that is believed to have been Ea-nasir’s own house.

Like, these are clay tablets. They’re bulky, fragile, and difficult to store. They typically weren’t kept long-term unless they contained financial records or other vital information (which is why we have huge reams of financial data about ancient Babylon in spite of how little we know about the actual culture: most of the surviving tablets are commercial inventories, bills of sale, etc.).

But this guy, this Ea-nasir, he kept all of his angry letters – hundreds of them – and meticulously filed and preserved them in a dedicated room in his house. What kind of guy does that?

(14) LEAPIN’ DRAGONS. John F. Holmes thinks the latest category changes mean the Dragon Awards have turned their backs on indie authors.

And the Dragon Awards jump the shark.

I’m fine with a new award, (even though I think the category is kinda bulls*t) but why the BLEEP do you drop Post-apocalypse awards?

“Best Media Tie-In Novel” is a huge slap in the face of indie authors. You have to be a big time writer to get permission to write for a brand, like Star Wars or Halo. And, to be honest, a lot of those novels kinda SUCK, though many are great. I’m thinking about the first new Star Wars novel, which was horrible.

Holmes is the first I’ve seen put that interpretation on it.

(15) UNDERSTANDING TOLKIEN RIGHTS. Kalimac analyzes why it’s probably accurate that the Tolkien Estate controlled the TV rights involved in the new Amazon deal.

…The most curious question is, what authorized entity is responsible for conveying the rights to do this? News articles in the past have often confused the Tolkien Estate – the family-controlled entity that owns Tolkien’s writings – with Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), the company which owns the movie and associated marketing rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and which licensed them to New Line to produce the Jackson movies.

They’re not associated. Tolkien sold the movie rights outright in 1969, and they eventually wound up in the hands of the late Saul Zaentz, who was the producer of the 1978 Bakshi movie and the creator of the firm that now owns those rights. It’s this firm which is responsible for most of the trademark defense that’s hit the news over the years, but it’s the Estate that sued New Line for shafting it on royalties owed.

Since the Estate has no control over the LotR movie rights, its opinion on the topic is moot, though Christopher Tolkien, head of the family and his father’s literary executor, has expressed his distaste for them. Because of this, and because of the historical confusion between the entities, the assumption was that the new project came from Middle-earth Enterprises, despite news references to the Estate.

But that apparently is wrong, and it has to do with the fact that the new series will be television, not movies, and will be inspired by other writings by Tolkien. Middle-earth Enterprises does not own rights to either of these aspects; the Estate retains that.

This article on a Tolkien bulletin board is the fullest I’ve seen, and looks the most reliable to my eye. It cites scholar Kristin Thompson on this. Despite Thompson’s lack of comprehension of criticisms of the Jackson movies, I’ve found her well-versed on the facts of the history of the movie rights, so if she says this, I accept it.

That means, in turn, that the Estate did authorize this…

(16) FAILURES OF JUSTICE. Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! article “Justice League before ‘Justice League’: Revisiting 4 less-than-super attempts to unite the DC heroes”, profiles four failed efforts to film the Justice League, Including “Legend of the Superheroes,” a late-1970s effort which would have been Adam West’s comeback as Batman had it been greenlit, and Justice League Mortal, a project of Mad Max director George Miller that was killed by the 2007 writers’ strike.

So far, early reviews are mixed, with some (including Yahoo Entertainment) suggesting that Justice League doesn’t live up to the high standards set by this summer’s blockbuster Wonder Woman. Nevertheless, these versions of the characters look positively super compared with the non-animated incarnations of the Justice League we’ve seen in the past. For Flashback (or, should we say, Flash-back?) Friday, we’re revisiting three less-than-super TV versions of DC’s all-star super team, as well as one film project that never came to fruition.

(17) IN THE BEAT OF THE NIGHT. The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr, in “Law clerk by day, ghost hunter by night, now Trump’s judiciary nominee”, profiled Brett Joseph Talley, whose previous appearance in the Post was in 2014 when, as a speechwriter for Sen. Ron Johnson, he took a Post reporter ghosthunting.  O’Harrow quotes an interview done by the Unlocked Diary website with Talley where the interviewer said Talley’s Stoker-nominated novel That Which Should Not Be has “awesomestatic gooeyness coming frome very page to where you will be licking it off your fingers and savoring it for days to come.”

In 2012, Talley and Higdon co-authored “Haunted Tuscaloosa,” a short book of stories about ghostly doings in Alabama. At the time, Talley was working as a speechwriter for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Higdon said Talley wrote the book using Higdon’s recollections and ideas. In the introduction, Talley raises questions about the line between personal experience and verifiable fact.

“In this book, there are children who died too early, professors who never left the classroom and even the spirit of a collie that still serves its master, long after his death,” Talley wrote in the introduction.

“Some will criticize these stories, saying they are not real history,” he wrote. “But that raises a question. What is real history? Sure, we know the dates and the major players, but the color, the heart of the matter — that we see through eyewitnesses.”

(18) BACK TO BILLY JOEL. He’d like to restart the fire.

(19) FLASH IN THE PAN. An “observation camera” captured short video with spectacular end: “Meteor streaks across Arizona sky”.

The city of Phoenix captured a meteor on one of its observation cameras as the bright light flashed across the skyline.

(20) FRANCLY SPEAKING. Not quite Da Vinci (but ~genre): “Rare Tintin art fetches $500,000 at Paris auction”.

A rare India ink drawing of young reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy has been sold for almost $500,000 (£380,000) at auction in Paris.

The picture from the 1939 comic album King Ottokar’s Sceptre was among items by Hergé, the Belgian artist who created Tintin, to go under the hammer.

An original strip from the book The Shooting Star fetched $350,000.

But a copy of Tintin adventure Destination Moon, signed by US astronauts, failed to find a buyer.

(21) SJW CREDENTIALS OF THE DESERT. Nerdist convinces you to click, and click again, in “Impossibly Adorable Sand Cat Kittens Caught on Film for the First Time”. Who can resist?

You might think you’ve seen all the cat videos on the internet, but here’s one you haven’t: the first known footage of sand cat kittens in the wild. It takes a lot to make us squee nowadays but wow — LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE FACES.

In case you aren’t familiar with them, sand cats (Felis margarita) are an adorable species of impossibly tiny cats that are perfectly adapted to live in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. They have a light brown/tan fur that blends in with sand and brush, and their extra-furry paws protect the sand cats from hot sand (and barely leave a trace of where they’ve been). Those oversized ears are not just super cute; they also give the sand cat exceptional hearing for tracking down its prey, typically small rodents, birds, or lizards.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/14/17 The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Scrollbar And The Pixels From Mars

(1) PRO TIP FROM SFWA. SFWA Director Kate Baker issued this word to the wise —

(2) WINDYCON APOLOGY. At Windycon.org, the Windycon 44 statement regarding the Tutti Frutti Literature panel title and description from convention chair Daniel Gunderson.

Now that the convention is over, we have had the opportunity to read through the many posts and comments on the subject. We have taken to heart the hurt and anger caused by the poor choice of wording used in the title and description of this panel.

We are very sorry we offended. While this was not our intention, it was the result, and for this we sincerely apologize.

We will be working to ensure this does not happen in the future. These are some specific steps we will take moving forward.

We will push back the programming timeline significantly. This will allow for more careful choice in wording for panel titles and descriptions. This will also allow more time for oversight and review of titles and descriptions.

We will work to keep titles and descriptions clear and unambiguous. Panel titles should be sufficiently clear that the entire intent of the programming item can be understood from the title alone. Descriptions will be used to provide additional information about the panel, but will not be relied on to supplement an insufficient title.

We will make sure to run titles and descriptions past a larger group of individuals who were not involved in the generation process. This will provide the opportunity to have outside individuals point out potentially problematic phrasing that programing may not have been aware of, or may have been blinded to by already understanding the original intent.

As of this posting, we have removed the programming item from our online programing list, so we do not continue to offend.

Again, we deeply apologize for any pain this may have caused.

(3) HELP NEEDED. Long-time LASFSian Mike Donahue has started a GoFundMe appeal — Help Mike Donahue keep his home. He gives the full explanation at the link. It begins:

I’m in imminent danger of a bank sale on my house, which is in foreclosure. No date has yet been set. I’ve been given a pay up date of Dec 5 2017. They can move before that, I don’t know. And they don’t tell you the info you need.   Or how long after that they force the sale on the house. I was in an auto accident in January, which greatly strained my cash resources….

(4) SUPERPEDESTRIAN. In the early Seventies, Margaret Atwood wrote Kanadian Kulchur Komics under a pseudonym. She tells what it was like in — “Margaret Atwood reflects on the significance of her This Magazine comic strip”.

Yes, it’s a blast from the past! Or if not a blast, maybe a small firecracker?

Whose past? My past, obviously: I was Bart Gerrard, one of my noms de plume—the name of a then-forgotten and probably now more-forgotten Canadian newspaper caricaturist of the turn of the century.

…The central joke of the Survivalwoman comics was this: in 1972 I’d published a book called Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, which had made waves of a sort, not all of them friendly. This book was an attempt to distinguish what people wrote in Canada from what they wrote in the United States and the United Kingdom, in riposte to what we were so often told: that there wasn’t any Canadian literature, or if there was, it was a pale echo of things written in large, cosmopolitan, important places. Survival against the odds—both natural and human—I took to be one of the leitmotifs of such Canadian writing as I could get my hands on then, in the dark ages before the Internet, print-on-demand, and Abe Books.

Pair that leitmotif with the fact that, in the world of comix, Canada did not have a superhero of its own—Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Johnny Canuck and their bros and sisses having vanished with the demise of the wartime “Canadian Whites” in approximately 1946. (King of the Royal Mounted did not count, being American. Anyway, King had no superhuman features, unlike the present-day Wolverine.)

So what more appropriate than Survivalwoman: a superheroine with no discernable powers, who had a cape but could not fly—hey, it was Kanada, always lesser—and came equipped with snowshoes? The visual design was based on me—curly hair, short—as was part of the personality—earnest and somewhat clueless.

(5) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. If any of you have good celebrity connections, David Brin could use a hand getting invitations out to people he’d like to have involved in his 20th anniversary screening of The Postman.

I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.)

I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty – and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too – (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I’ve researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.

(6) SPFBO FINALS. Mark Lawrence has set up a post to track the “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Finals”. At this stage, the 10 finalists will be chosen based on the scores of participating blogger-reviewers. They are: Bookworm Blues, Fantasy-Faction, Fantasy Book Critic, Lynn’s Books, The Qwillery, Pornokitsch, Ventureadlaxre, Fantasy Book Review, Booknest, and Kitty G video reviews.

There’s not much to see there yet, but it will become more interesting as the results are filled in.

Filers will be interested to know there are links to a large number of book reviews at the post for the first phase of the Blog-Off, in which 200 of the 300 works under consideration were eliminated.

(7) FRESH HORROR. Brett J. Talley, whose name has appeared in this blog before as a Bram Stoker nominee, is up for a federal court appointment. The Daily Beast has the story: “Before He Was Tapped By Donald Trump, Controversial Judicial Nominee Brett J. Talley Investigated Paranormal Activity”. There’s more at the link about his interest in Lovecraft.

Brett J. Talley, nominated by President Donald Trump to the Federal District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, has never tried a case, is married to a White House lawyer, and has been dubbed as unqualified by the American Bar Association.

… But ghost chasing wasn’t a quirky side-hobby. Indeed, before he became the embodiment of the Trump administration’s efforts to pack the courts with young, conservative, sometimes dubiously-credentialed judges, Halley wrote books about paranormal activities that earned him numerous plaudits. And not just within the horror fiction scene. Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager in 2012, was a fan too.

“I find it hilarious that no one is writing about his horror writing. He has a cult following.” Stevens told The Daily Beast. “I have to say I wasn’t really aware he was a lawyer as my dealings with him were as a writer on campaign. He’s an interesting, smart guy. But so is Stephen King.”

(8) FIN DE CYCLE. James Davis Nicoll, in “Seasons Crying No Despair”, says it wasn’t easy, but David Axel Kurtz’ Northern Tier won him over.

Those reservations aside, I got drawn into Slip’s story, which is saying a lot when you consider how very much I dislike bicyclists as a group. Having been run over on numerous occasions by scofflaw bicyclists, I live for a future in which the use of bicycles is limited to the Marianas Trench, the Lunar farside, and the surface of the Sun, places I do not plan to visit any time soon. I am not the target market for thrilling tales of bicyclists and the increasingly vast armies who stalk them. Nevertheless, Slip won me over; she persisted.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1851 Moby Dick is published.
  • November 14, 1969 – Apollo 12 took off.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 14 – Cat Rambo
  • Born November 14 – Wolf Von Witting
  • Born November 14 — Moshe Feder
  • Born November 14 – Edd Vick
  • Born November 14 – Charles Mohapel

(11) FINAL FRONTIER. Fan-made Star Trek Continues released Part II of its last episode “To Boldly Go.” (Find Part I here.) Executive Producer Vic Mignogna (also the series’ “James T. Kirk”) told Facebook followers:

No vocabulary can express how much this production has meant to me. From the very beginning, all I knew was that I wanted to make one episode of Star Trek the way I remembered it. Would anyone like it? I didn’t know. Would I make another? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted to pay tribute to Bill, Leonard, Gene and everyone who made the show that meant so much to me when I was a boy. I would use all the skills that TOS inspired me to try for the first time to make the best episode I could. I never imagined so many amazing people would do so much, and I’m deeply humbled by their involvement. I will be forever grateful to the cast, crew & volunteers who selflessly gave so much to make Star Trek Continues a reality. And to you, the viewers and fans, for your support and enthusiasm. With bittersweet joy, we present our final episode. Hopefully, it will be a long lasting tribute and historic ending to the most iconic television series in history.

 

(12) COMING SOON ON AMAZON. People are having a lot of fun with the idea of a new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon. This idea beats Dynasty and Dallas to pieces.

(13) PRE-RINGS CIRCUS. Nathaniel Ingraham tries to figure out what the Amazon series will be like in “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel will need to forge its own identity”. One of his ideas comes from a video game:

Of course, Amazon new series won’t be the first new narrative set in Middle-earth. The most recent example is the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and its newly-released sequel). The game drew players in by using the familiar setting of Mordor, a familiar timeframe (between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), iconic characters like Gollum and crucial elements like the Rings of Power. But it also starred entirely new characters, expanded Tolkien’s mythology and told an entirely new story.

It wasn’t perfect (that ending!), but Shadow of Mordor overall did an admirable job at taking a familiar setting and writing a new story around it. It’s the kind of product that could serve as a blueprint for how Amazon can create a new property that will hook loads of viewers while still paying service to longtime fans. Simply being able to reference The Lord of the Rings will be enough to bring in many viewers — millions have seen Jackson’s films and won’t care if the series is telling stories Tolkien himself didn’t dream up. Add in the fact that Game of Thrones will wrap up in 2018 or 2019 and it’s easy to imagine those viewers getting their fantasy methadone from Amazon’s new series.

Ultimately, the enduring popularity of Tolkien’s work is what Amazon is banking on here. Yes, there will absolutely be a cadre of fans who hate what Amazon produces, but that group will almost certainly be outnumbered by people enjoyed The Lord of the Rings at some point in their life and decide to give Amazon’s series a shot — if the show is good.

(14) MORDANT OF THE RINGS. Adam Whitehead engages in less serious – well, frankly hilarious – speculation about “Ideas for the new LORD OF THE RINGS TV series” at The Wertzone.

This Ent-focused conservation programme, voiced over by David Attenborough, will fuse almost-thrilling episodes where the Ents discuss a problem for hours on end with notes on the shameful deforestation of Fangorn Forest and destruction of the surrounding ecosystem.

(15) DARK VADER. Mark Hepworth sent this photo with his brew review: “I thought a beer item might enliven the scroll. I came across this in a local-ish pub and obviously had to try it. It was much more drinkable than I’d expected from a Sith Lord!”

(16) MARTIANS AND SIGOURNEY WEAVER. Mark Swed reviews “‘War of the Worlds’: Delirious opera rises from the death and destruction of L.A.” in the Los Angeles Times.

So here’s what you need to know about the heavily hyped “War of the Worlds” that [Yuval] Sharon mounted at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon for the L.A. Phil, in collaboration with his own massively disruptive opera company, the Industry, and the nonprofit Now Art L.A. A new opera and new kind of opera by Annie Gosfield, it does everything an opera’s supposed to. It does a lot opera’s not supposed to do. That includes immersive opera, one of Sharon’s specialties as the mastermind of “Hopscotch,” the celebrated opera in autos two years ago.

…On the most basic level, this is a fairly straightforward operatic adaption and update of Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast, based on H.G. Wells’ science-fiction novel “The War of the Worlds.” At a time when radio broadcasts were beginning to be interrupted by news flashes, Welles treated the play as an ordinary dance-band radio program with increasingly frightening bulletins of an alien invasion.

The brilliantly theatrical night-before-Halloween prank caused panic among some gullible listeners, giving credence to Russian futurist Velimir Khlebnikov’s prediction that radio had the power to become the Great Sorcerer. Sharon sees the panic as an early-warning sign of the imposing threat of fake news.

Riffing on the radio show, this “War of the Worlds” begins as a symphony concert, albeit one with a celebrity host, Sigourney Weaver. The opera will eventually take over the concert, which is meant to include Gosfield’s new celestial orchestral cycle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Holst’s “The Planets.”

…Weaver breaks in again and again on the first two movements with reports from outdoors, which are beamed into the hall (audio only, this is radio). Astronomy professor Pierson (actor Hugo Armstrong), standing on a parking lot, attempts to allay fear with his soothing British accent. Mrs. Martinez (mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán) offers a more feverish firsthand account of the scary machines and creatures somewhere on Main Street. Gen. Lansing (baritone Hadleigh Adams) haplessly leads the troops in attacking the aliens.

Before long the music creeps into the action. The Martians have an alien voice in soprano Hila Plitmann’s stratospherically supernatural coloratura (and she does look like she might have stepped out of an outtake of “Alien”), accompanied by theremin and otherworldly percussion. Sharon’s libretto follows Peter Koch’s original radio play fairly closely. L.A. doesn’t fare any better than New York City. Civic officials are of little help, although the mayor valiantly tries. There is political humor for all.

…Finally, there are those decommissioned sirens left over from the Second World War that still peek out from behind billboards and buildings around town, noticed primarily by history buffs. They’re the symbol of the production and were one of the motivating ideas for both Sharon and Gosfield, who was obsessed with them when she studied at CalArts in the 1980s.

In the end, they are about the least interesting thing visually, theatrically or sonically about the production. It is not that they aren’t marvelous in their mysteriously antiquated way; it is just that every other aspect of this opera and its sensational production and performance happens to be more marvelous.

(17) SECURE THE NOMINATION. Timothy the Talking Cat has picked up a new vice: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter Awards”.

“Ahem, here is what I was just writing:

Dear Mr or Mrs Pulitzer, Hello. As you may know I am one of the best writers in the world. You may have already read some parts of my latest book “McEdifice Returns” a psychological drama about one man’s struggles to come to terms with his past.

I guess you are probably thinking ‘We’d love to give Timothy one of our Pulitzer Prizes but people might think it is just a way of making our prize look more popular and relevant with the cool kids’. Fear not! That is exactly the right kind of move that will help the sadly faded and increasingly irrelevant Pulitzer Prize strike a chord with modern audiences who frankly a sick of all that liberal clap-trap and just want some good old fashioned entertainment.

So I hereby give you permission to award me a Pulitzer.

Yours,

Timothy the Talking Cat

PS This is like totally a nomination so you’ll understand that from now on I’ll be saying ‘The Pulitzer Prize nominated author Timothy the Talking Cat’. That’s great free publicity for your prize. No need to thank me – just trying to help you out.

“Hmmm, I see you have also written similar letters to ‘Mr Oscar and your friend Tony’ as well as ‘Ms or Mr Grammy'”

(18) MARVEL’S MULTIPLE AVENGERS. This cover art just jumps off the screen.

Avengers: Disassemble! The epic weekly takeover continues this February when Kim Jacinto takes the reigns to draw the second month of Marvel’s biggest team adventure, and Marvel is excited to reveal the covers for issues #679 – #682 of AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER by Mark Brooks.

“In month two of NO SURRENDER, the rubber hits the road as we learn what’s really going on and who is behind it,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “A couple different Avengers make the supreme sacrifice, the action grows ever more intense—and the stage is set for the return of a major player in the Marvel line-up of stars! Oh, and the origin of Voyager!”

Co-written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto and Paco Medina, AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into one weekly book of exciting action. It all starts with AVENGERS #675 this January, when the teams of THE AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS, and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a story as exciting and powerful as the Marvel Universe itself.

(19) FASHION JUSTICE. Ashley Boucher, in “‘Justice League’ Amazonian Bikinis Have Twitter in Uproar: ‘Men Ruin Everything’” in The Wrap, says that there are many tweets complaining that the Amazons in Justice League wear bikinis while those in Wonder Woman didn’t.

The costumes worn by the Amazon women are noticeably different than they were in “Wonder Woman,” and viewers are afire online with discussions about how the change represents differences in the male and female gaze.

In “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, the costumes were designed by Lindy Hemming, and covered the Amazons’ torsos with armor. In “Justice League,” directed by Zach Snyder, the costumes were designed by Michael Wilkinson. And while Wilkinson’s outfits keep a similar Gladiator vibe, they feature small bra tops and bottoms that some say more closely resemble bikinis than what you’d want to wear into battle.

 

(20) HISTORIC HOOCH. Back when the Little Old Winemaker was young: “‘World’s oldest wine’ found in 8,000-year-old jars in Georgia”.

Scientists say 8,000-year-old pottery fragments have revealed the earliest evidence of grape wine-making.

The earthenware jars containing residual wine compounds were found in two sites south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, researchers said.

Some of the jars bore images of grape clusters and a man dancing.

Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran.

(21) COST CUTTING. Darth Vader has been discounted: “Star Wars game in U-turn after player anger”.

Games publisher EA has changed a rule in its Star Wars Battlefront II video game after a huge backlash.

During the game, players have to obtain credits – either by buying them or through long hours of game play – to unlock popular characters including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Many players said it was unfair as the gaming required worked out at around 40 hours per character, unless they paid.

EA says the number of credits required will now be reduced by 75%.

“Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning,” said executive producer John Wasilczyk from the developer Dice, in a statement.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Dave Doering, David K.M.Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, rcade, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 11/13/17 And So Pixels Made Of Sand Scroll Into The Sea, Eventually

(1) TOWARDS ST. J.R.R. Supporters of sainthood for Tolkien have launched an appeal to crowdfund a 2018 conference in Oxford:

We’re raising £50,000 to fund a Conference for the formal opening of the Cause for Canonisation of J. R. R. Tolkien (1st-2nd September 2018) in Oxford.

This year has seen a special grace in the movement to Canonise J. R. R. Tolkien, with the first Mass being celebrated at the Oxford Oratory on the 2nd September 2017, calling for prayer for the cause for canonisation to be formally opened.

– The first Mass marked the 44th anniversary of Tolkien’s death. The cause is under the guidance of Fr Daniele Pietro Ercoli, a Salesian priest from the Diocese of Treviso (but as a Salesian belonging to the religious province of Triveneto).

The Conference would support a solemn Mass on the 2nd September 2018, and would last from Saturday 1st to Sunday 2nd. The purpose of the Conference would be to provide a cultural dialogue to advocate for the sanctity of Tolkien’s personal life, as well as how this was mediated through his artistic works. I have already secured as a keynote speaker Robert Colquhoun, the Vatican backed International Director of 40 Days for Life to speak on the theme of “The Conversion of England – Hobbits and grassroots activism: Fellowship will overcome the evil of abortion.” Linking Tolkien to the new evangelisation and the conversion of England in this way, I hope to situate Tolkien’s own faith as a creative response to the joys and sorrows of this generation and use the conference as means to seeing how Tolkien’s own faith can provide solutions.

(2) WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME. Turns out Google is in fact everywhere. On the tiny Faroe Islands, lacking many paved roads, they didn’t do “Street View” but instead “Sheep View”.

Last year, the Faroe Islands petitioned Google to be featured on Google Street View by creating our own version of the mapping system, using cameras mounted on the backs of sheep and calling it Sheep View. Now, just over a year later, we have succeeded in our aim – with Google announcing today that Google Street View now features the Faroe Islands.

The Sheep View campaign was launched in July 2017 by Faroes’ resident, Durita Dahl Andreassen, who wanted to share the beauty of her native islands with the rest of the world and, in turn, to petition Google to have the nation included on Google Street View. Together with a few friendly sheep equipped with solar-powered 360-degree cameras and the support of Visit Faroe Islands, Durita set out to collect images of the Faroe Islands that could be uploaded to Google Maps.

When the tech giant heard about the Sheep View project, they thought it was “shear brilliance” and, in August 2016, they supplied the Faroese with a Street View Trekker and 360-degree cameras via the Street View camera loan program so that residents and tourists alike could assist the sheep in capturing even more images of the beautiful archipelago, using selfie sticks, bikes, backpacks, cars, kayaks, horses, ships and even wheelbarrows.

Dave Doering sent the link with a note: “Despite being this tiny speck between Scotland and Norway, the place has two nice little bookstores. Just the place to pick up Lord of the Rings in Danish and relish the read amongst the sheep!”

(3) ORC VIEW.  Paul Weimer announced in comments, “In December, Alex ‘Tolkien Map killer’ Acks and I will be teaching one of Cat Rambo’s classes on fantasy maps” — “Mapping Fantasy with Alex Acks and Paul Weimer”. Here’s the description:

Fantasy maps can add extra dimensions to a work, showing the world the writer has created. But how do you create a map that both reflects that world and the basic laws of physics? Join Alex Acks and Paul Weimer as they talk about fantasy maps in order to give you the tools you need to create and map your world. Topics include basic geologic principles, common mistakes, forms maps can take, how maps reflect world view, and how maps change over time.

Saturday, December 16, 2017 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time

(4) THE CASH REGISTER RINGS. Variety’s Joe Otteson, in “‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Moving Forward at Amazon With Multi-Season Production Commitment”, says that Amazon Studios has made a deal with the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Trust to have The Lord of the Rings as a multi-season series, based on events before The Fellowship of the Ring and with a possible spinoff as part of the deal.

Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding “The Fellowship of the Ring.” The deal also includes a potential additional spin-off series. The series will be produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“’The Lord of the Rings’ is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted series for Amazon Studios. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

The Amazon deal does not cover “The Silmarillion,” the third major work taking place in Tolkein’s Middle Earth and adjacent worlds, published after the author’s death.

(5) IN NAME ONLY. Meanwhile, Kurt Busiek has been brainstorming titles for the new production.

(6) TEA AND LIMITED SYMPATHY. Larry Correia was inspired by the kerfuffle over Patrick Rothfuss’ complaint reported here the other day (item #3) to write a few thousand words in “A Capitalist Novelist’s Guide to Fan Expectations and How Not To Be A Douche” for the readers of Monster Hunter Nation.

This isn’t an all or nothing, one side is right, the other is wrong thing. Like relative douchiness, it’s on a spectrum. So this is what this discussion looks like to me.

FAN: I am disappointed that author X has not finished his next book yet.

CORREIA: Yeah, buddy. I feel your pain.

FAN: I feel betrayed and will not buy any more of his X’s books!

CORREIA: I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s your choice.

FAN: He owes me!

CORREIA: Whoa. Hang on now.

FAN: X has broken our unwritten moral contract that I have imposed on him!

CORREIA: Fuck that. Where’d I put my shotgun?

But if you thought this was a post about sympathizing with a beleaguered writer, no, this is a post about Larry:

I don’t know Rothfuss, but six years a book, personally I would be embarrassed.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1992 Bram Stoker‘s Dracula premiered. This is the one starring Gary Oldman with the strange bouffant hairdo.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ found these Transylvanian travel reviews in by Tom Gauld.
  • Chip Hitchcock discovered a new bit of Star Trek headcanon in Red and Rover.

(9) LAD GENIUS. Other people’s wounds are beneath Dave Freer’s notice. His way of proving it is by devoting a Mad Genius column to them.

Mind you, just going over the top – as tens of thousands of men did, well, they probably all needed kilts. This – the trenches of Somme – shaped JRR Tolkien. This, in its way, made the LORD OF THE RINGS what it is. It’s a far, far cry from the caliber of self-elected ‘elite’ of modern sf and Fantasy, having tantrums because someone was so terribly, terribly, horribly awfully insensitive and used the term evil ice-cream name ‘tutti-frutti’ in the title of con talk. You have to laugh. We’ve passed through micro-aggressions, down through nano-aggressions, into pico-aggressions. And they’re demanding ‘respect’. I had a few orificers who demanded respect, back when I was in the army. They didn’t get it: it’s not something you can ‘demand’. It’s given, when it is earned.

(10) NOBODY OBJECTED. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli explains why he thinks it’s okay for him to call his book a Nebula nominee:

Anyone as desperate for affirmation as that, how long will it be ‘til we’re reading about Paolinelli’s Nobel Peace Prize nomination?

(11) MORE HOLLYWOOD HARASSMENT. Buzzfeed reports: “DC Comics Fires Longtime Editor Following Sexual Harassment Claims”. The decision came two days after Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment launched a review into revelations that Eddie Berganza was promoted despite allegations he forcibly kissed and tried to grope colleagues.

Berganza, a 25-year veteran at DC Comics, was a group editor who oversaw production of major titles, including Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman. Before he was fired, he was overseeing Dark Knights: Metal, a special series that is reportedly one of DC’s biggest-selling titles at the moment.

Two women who worked at DC told BuzzFeed News that Berganza either forcibly kissed them, or attempted to do so, in the early to mid 2000s. Several people complained to the company’s human resources department in 2010, when Berganza was up for a promotion to executive editor. Berganza still received the promotion, but was demoted to group editor in 2012 after another woman said he kissed her without her consent at a comics convention

(12) TAKING ORDERS. Contrary to what you may have heard — “The Answer To Life, The Universe — And Everything? It’s 63”.

When it comes to figuring out the nature of physical reality, part of that process starts at the absolute edge of the observable universe — the cosmic horizon, a distant layer from which light has only just, in this very instant, managed to reach us after more than 13 billion years of racing through space.

This intangible boundary between the knowable and the unknowable is, at present, roughly a thousand, trillion, trillion meters across — should you possess the means to measure it.

At the other end, in the deepest innards of every single speck of cosmos, is a scale of a hundred billion, trillion, trillionths of a meter. It represents the last meaningful physical scale within our present understanding of physics, a place where space-time itself gets choppy, uncertain, and decidedly problematic.

These two extremes span a jaw-dropping 63 orders of magnitude.

(13) AFROFUTURISM. At The Root, “A Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction Made for Black People, by Black People”.

Since the beginning of time, when we have not been included, we have created our own. HBCUs, black-owned businesses, black houses of worship, black social organizations and The Root itself are fruits of our resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. The books Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture and The Encyclopedia of Black Comics are fantastic evidence of this rich hub of black art. To further elaborate, here is an inclusive (and intersectional) guide to black art and artists in the genre to support, ranging from emerging to longtime favorites.

(14) BLACK PANTHER. ComicsBeat says “These Black Panther character posters will make you wish it was February” – see the full set at the link.

(15) BREATHING NORMALLY. Camestros Felapton begins “Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 9” with a lefthanded compliment:

I kind of suspected that the crew would pull their act together for the mid-season finale and they certainly did. Genuinely exciting and not once did I let out an exasperated sigh. This was actually good.

Oh so many spoilers below as I go through what went right this time…

(16) FOOD COURT IN SESSION. Is this the long-delayed revenge for introducing the rest of the world to haggis? “Taco Bell to open first Scottish restaurant next month”.

Fast food giant Taco Bell has announced it will open its first restaurant in Scotland next month.

The Tex-Mex chain will open its doors in Glasgow on December 7, with a new outlet on Sauchiehall Street in city centre.

The first 100 people through its doors on the opening day will receive a free limited edition Taco Bell t-shirt.

There will also be four prizes of a year’s supply of Taco Bell handed out to fans of the chain, with more information to be announced across the company’s UK social media channels in the coming weeks.

(17) THE ACCIDENTAL SANTA. Beware, your heart will be warmed by this Marks & Spencer Christmas ad with Paddington.

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