Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.


  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.


  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.


  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.


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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/17 The Hodor Into Summer

(1) DEDICATION. Since the movie Hidden Figures came out a lot of people know this name: “NASA Langley’s Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility Officially Opens”.

When she heard that NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, would name its newest building after her, Katherine Johnson responded the only way she could – with surprise.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,” the 99-year-old Johnson, of “Hidden Figures” fame, said with a laugh.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, or CRF, was dedicated Sept. 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by family and friends of Johnson and her fellow “human computers,” students from Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and special guests from across Virginia.

“You have been a trailblazer,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”


(2) SAYING YOU CARE. Monica Valentinelli delivers an important reminder for us to value the people who create things we love.

Hey, if you could do ONE THING for me this weekend, reach out to an author, artist, editor, game designer/dev, etc. and send them fan mail. (Excluding me.) There’s another uptick of harassers and trolls attacking some great people out there, and the ONLY thing that counteracts that is love. That love can come from anywhere: self, friends, family, etc. But, telling someone their work matters to you? It means an incredible amount. Right now, creatives need you. The news is terrifying. Many uncertainties politically, financially, etc. Help motivate artists. Show you care. Please, don’t wait to reach out when someone’s in crisis or needs help. What you say now is fuel for the darker times. And, you never know. Not everyone can speak up and say how they’re doing. Telling someone something good can be fuel to help them finish that next thing that you’ll love and treasure. Peace out.

(3) WRITERS WHO WON’T READ. Jason Sanford makes two points in “The Submissions Men Don’t See”. The first is:

Lots of screaming in the SF/F genre lately about “data” suggesting far more women are being published in genre magazines than men. The problem with that analysis, though, was it only looked at a small group of magazines. Add in all the other professional SF magazines out there and the numbers change, making the controversy choke on a big mouthful of nothing pie.

Don’t believe me? Check out this excellent examination of gender submission and publication statistics in the SF/F short fiction field, which Susan E. Connolly published in Clarkesworld in 2014. Her examination spanned multiple articles and is incredibly detailed with a strong data set. Her conclusion? “Authors who are women are less well represented in terms of submissions and publications than authors who are men.”

Then he documents a second point, that men are more likely than women to disregard a magazine’s submission guidelines.

(4) THE DIGITAL ART OF SELF-DEFENSE. Alex Acks tells you “How to win an argument on the internet (without losing your mind)” in five steps. The first is:

  1. Assume until proven otherwise that the other person is arguing in bad faith.

…This is the foundation you need to start on. This isn’t a call to be rude or insulting out of hand – unless this addresses your ultimate goal, more on that later – but you need approach from word one with the understanding that the other person is not actually interested in having a debate, discussion, or argument. They’re interested in pissing you off. Sure, be open to the possibility that they’re the rare sort of unicorn that does want to understand, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

And what this frees you to do is take a step back from what’s in front of you and address it as a performance rather than an honest communication.

(5) ARRESTED PROGRESS. Professor Gerry Canavan’s “No, Speed Limit: John Scalzi’s “The Collapsing Empire” in the LA Review of Books uses a gravity assist from Donald A. Wollheim’s outline of Golden Age SF to launch readers into his analysis, which includes this outline of Scalzi’s varied approaches to faster-than-light travel.

John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire — whose title alone seems like an appallingly on-the-nose allegory for the state of the United States at this moment — is one of the most important revisionist hyperspace narratives to come along in some time. Scalzi, a master of science fictional parody and pastiche, has played with this problem before, unsettling the easy assumptions about hyperspace that characterized Golden Age science fiction. In Old Man’s War, his riff on Heinlein, hyperspace is indeed easy but carries with it a weird psychological cost: ships don’t actually move faster than light, they simply leap out of their original universe into a parallel one (which, the scientists assure everyone, is probably completely identical, more or less). In his Redshirts, a revisionist Star Trek, ships move at the speed of Narrative rather than according to any rational principle of physics; in his somber and understated The God Engines, the violation of physical principles we call hyperspace is made possible by flogging and torturing gods that our heroes have captured and enslaved.

(6) GIVE MY REGARDS TO HOGWARTS. Today on CBS Sunday Morning, “The magic of Harry Potter returns, on stage”. Video at the link.

Mark Phillips talks with Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne about the sensation of the London stage, coming soon to Broadway: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a story of the now-grown wizard and the burden passed down to his family.

And a counterpart article here — “Harry Potter brings his magic to the stage”.

Seven books, eight movies and about a billion dollars to the good later for its creator, J.K. Rowling, that was supposed to be the end of it.

“I genuinely, I didn’t want Harry to go onstage,” Rowling said. “I felt that I was done.”

So what happened? “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” happened … a theatrical collaboration with director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne.

It’s been the theater event of the year in London. It won a record nine Olivier Awards (Britain’s version of the Tonys). And it’s about to go to Broadway. Tickets for the New York production, which opens next year, go on sale next month.

(7) MARKETING. So is this a local store’s attempt to emulate Amazon’s “People Who Bought This” feature?


  • September 24, 1957 — The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field.
  • September 24, 1964 The Munsters premiered on television.
  • September 24, 1995 Space: Above and Beyond debuted on TV this day.
  • September 24, 1996 — Stephen King releases two new novels at once. The first, Desperation, was released under King’s name, while the second, The Regulators, was published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
  • September 24, 2001 — An obscure something titled It Came From Outer Space II premiered theatrically (in Russia).


  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson (TV producer, creator of Muppets)

(10) RICK AND MORTY. Rachel Withers reports at BrowBeat, “Rick and Morty Creator Dan Harmon “Loathes” the Show’s Sexist Viewers”.

Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon has blasted his show’s sexist fans in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, calling their behavior “disgusting.”

It seems a number of the animated comedy’s biggest fans are fragile of masculinity: Incensed by the show’s recent decision to employ a gender-balanced writing team, these trolls have taken it upon themselves to harass, threaten, and dox its female writers for daring to encroach upon their white-male-nerd territory.

Harmon is livid that they think they are acting on his show’s behalf. “These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own—and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender.” Harmon, who is white and male himself, says he finds the fans offensive, members of “a testosterone-based subculture patting themselves on the back.”

Rick and Morty’s sexist following is no secret. Vox critic Todd VanDerWerff tweeted that these toxic fans are part of why he doesn’t write about the show more often, even though he loves it.

(11) YODA HELPS FOUND THE UN.  I ran this item in yesterday’s scroll, before someone kindly sent me a copy of the photo.

A Saudi artist says he created this montage as an homage to King Faisal and a beloved “Star Wars” character. The setting is the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945. The artist’s work somehow ended up in a high school social studies textbook.

(12) PAPERBACKS. Here’s something else I touched on inferentially that Atlas Obscura devoted a whole article to this week: “How Books Designed for Soldiers’ Pockets Changed Publishing Forever”.

In early June 1944, tens of thousands of American troops prepared to storm the beaches of Normandy, France. As they lined up to board the invasion barges, each was issued something less practical than a weapon, but equally precious: a slim, postcard sized, softcover book.

These were Armed Services Editions, or ASEs – paperbacks specifically designed to fit in a solder’s pockets and travel with them wherever they went. Between 1943 and 1947, the United States military sent 123 million copies of over 1,000 titles to troops serving overseas. These books improved soldiers’ lives, offering them entertainment and comfort during long deployments. By the time the war ended, they’d also transformed the publishing industry, turning the cheap, lowly paperback into an all-American symbol of democracy and practicality.

(13) UNREAL ESTATE. A home inspired by the cottage from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on sale in Washington.

The four-bedroom and five-bathroom home in Olalla, Wash., featuring a design ripped directly from the 1937 animated film is listed on Top Ten Real Estate Deals for $775,000.

Hope there aren’t any apple trees on the grounds….

(14) PETER RABBIT. Discover the rabbit behind the legend.

(15) WEEDING THE GARDEN. When you put it on TV, is it doxxing or a public service? — “‘Troll Hunter’ exposes Sweden’s anonymous Internet haters”.

Enter “Troll Hunter.”

The Swedish reality TV show, hosted by journalist Robert Aschberg, tracks down the country’s most vicious anonymous commenters and confronts them about their hate speech face to face. America Tonight visited the Troll Hunter at his home in the Stockholm archipelago and spoke with him about taking down the most repugnant citizens of the Web. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. Be advised: Some foul language is used.

How did this idea come to you?

Robert Aschberg: It just struck me one day. But the strange thing is that nobody had the idea many years ago. I did some research and saw that this was an issue in the United States 10, 15 years ago, and then suddenly there was no discussion.

What are you looking for? Who are the people? What do they do?

We mainly look for people who are anonymous. What they do is everything from death threats to just harassment of all kinds — giving people hell. And many of these people who are victims, they don’t even know who it is.

Tell me about some of the trolls that you’ve unmasked.

It’s everything from people who should be locked up in psychiatric wards to people who give the illusion of being very, very normal. We’ve confronted old ladies, for example, who have been harassing other women for, I don’t know, some strange personal reason.

If we are now living in a society where, because of social media, you can be removed from the person you target, you can see them as completely devoid of humanity and feeling, how do you reinstill civility?

I’m an optimist. It’s fairly new in human history, the social media, the Net, everything. It’s one of the biggest inventions since the wheel, with an enormous impact that we haven’t even seen. A lot is going to happen. I think that people, when you get used to it, people will start to act differently. But you have to discuss it. You have to punish some of the criminals and so forth, but people will get used to it. In the Stone Age, people [from] different tribes met, they started warring, but then sooner or later, they made peace, and that gave them prosperity.

(16) SECOND JUMANJI 2 TRAILER. For two decades it went untouched. But the game always finds a way.

(17) BRANDING. Here’s another product no user can do without…. As a commenter says, “Your high ground is out of date and needs updating. Every. Single. Day.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bonnie McDaniel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Official Trailer

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle comes to theaters December 20.

In the brand new adventure Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the tables are turned as four teenagers in detention are sucked into the world of Jumanji.  When they discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of, they are immediately thrust into the game’s jungle setting, into the bodies of their avatars, played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan.  What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji –Jumanji plays you.  They’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, or they’ll be stuck in the game forever…


Pixel Scroll 3/28/17 Nevertheless, She Pixelisted

(1) EXPANSE FREAKOUT PREMATURE. James S. A. Corey says to settle down.

Anyway, they always have the books to fall back on…

(2) DON’T BE SHOCKED. Jim C. Hines didn’t expect people to be surprised when he told them “Yes, I Still Get Rejections”.

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.

Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.

Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so….

(3) SF MUSEUM EXHIBIT. From June through August 2017, the Barbican Centre museum in London will present the exhibition Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction, which is curated by historian and writer Patrick Gyger and will explore science fiction as an experimental genre. The Wire supplies the details in its article “A new Barbican exhibition will explore science fiction from a multidisciplinary angle”.

It’ll include more than 200 books, original manuscripts and typescripts, contemporary and existing art works, 60 film and TV clips, unseen footage, adverts, concept art, film props, comics, video games and robots.

Australian duo Soda_Jerk will present Astro Black, a two-channel video installation with a focus on Sun Ra’s theories of Afrofuturism and featuring footage of Kraftwerk, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy. Plus Ben Frost and Daníel Bjarnason’s score inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1973 film Solaris will be performed with Poland’s Sinfonietta Cracovia, plus video accompaniment by Brian Eno and Nick Robertson.

(4) THIS IS SO WRONG. “Firm Floats Plan to Hang Colossal Skyscraper From an Asteroid”NBC News has the story.

Dubbed Analemma, the fanciful tower wouldn’t be built on the ground, but suspended in air by cables from an asteroid repositioned into geosynchronous Earth orbit just for the purpose.

Over the course of each day, the floating skyscraper would trace a figure-eight path over our planet’s surface, according to plans posted online by Clouds Architecture Office. It would swing between the northern and southern hemispheres, returning to the same point once every 24 hours.

The speed of the tower relative to the ground would vary depending upon which part of the figure eight it was tracing, with the slowest speeds at the top and bottom of each loop, the plans say. The asteroid’s orbit would be calibrated so that the slowest part of the tower’s path would occur over New York City.

…Analemma would be powered by solar panels and use recycled water. Lower floors would be set aside for business use, while sleeping quarters would be sited about two-thirds of the way up. The plans don’t say exactly how people would get on and off the building, though one illustration seem to show people parachuting from the tower to the ground.

(5) EXTENDED FAMILY. Lightspeed Magazine’s Christian A. Coleman interviewed Nnedi Okorafor.

You wrote in the acknowledgments of Binti that your daughter, Anyaugo, essentially came up with the plot of the novella. Was she also involved in plotting Binti: Home?

Anya didn’t come up with the whole plot of Binti. I was stuck on that ship with Binti and the murderous aliens; I knew the ending, but I wasn’t sure what should happen next. I told her about being stuck and she suggested something that went on to become a major part of the plot. The same happened with Binti: Home. When I write, Anya is very often around me or FaceTiming with me. So I’ll look up from writing and talk to her about what I’m writing. She always has something to say, and nine times out of ten, it’s good stuff. The same with part three. There was a major part in part three that we actually argued over because it was disturbing. I wanted one thing; she was like, “Heck no! You can’t do that.”

We live with my characters.

(6) GRRM AND LIBRARIANS. StokerCon is coming up April 27-30 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.

George R.R. Martin will be there on Saturday for an interview and signing.

HWA is sponsoring Librarians’ Day at StokerCon 2017 – which is essentially a day pass for Thursday of StokerCon, as I haven’t seen anything requiring proof of being a librarian in the purchase information.

(7) TUMMY TIME. “Karen Gillan’s ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Costume Explained, but Does the Reason Make It Okay?” Yahoo! Movies ponders the answer.

When the first footage of the film was released during CinemaCon, the reason for her ensemble was revealed. The plot involves four high-school students who are forced to clean out the basement of their school while in detention. They find an old video game (rather than a board game like in the version of the movie starring Robin Williams) and each chooses a character to play. The teenagers become the characters they selected, leading a nerdy boy to become The Rock’s character and a popular girl to become Jack Black‘s character.

A more shy, reserved teenage girl ends up becoming Karen Gillan‘s character. The video game is old and dusty, so presumably the reason that she is dressed in tiny clothing is because that’s how female video game characters used to be dressed.

Is that enough of a reason for a movie to dress the character this way? Should the objectification of the female lead in the movie become permissible because Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s film creators wanted to be hyper-accurate to old video games? Does the fear of being anachronistic by giving Gillan pants or a fully formed top justify the male gaze? Do the critics who hated Gillan’s outfit feel soothed by this explanation?

(8) DON’T SOUND SO SURPRISED. Io9’s take is “The First Footage From Jumanji Is Surprisingly Very Fun”.

…They realize that, because they are in a video game, they each have video game powers. For example, Johnson’s character is super strong and Gillan’s character is a dance fighter, which they joke about. And also, she very quickly acknowledges how ridiculous it is that the game makes her outfit so skimpy. A kind of guide character tells them they have to place a jewel back into a statue to leave—but as they progress, the challenges get greater and greater. Killer animals, evil men on motorcycles, just lots of crazy stuff. And, like a video game, they each have three lives. If they lose those, they die for real.


  • March 28, 1979 Phantasm was released. John King Tarpinian adds, “Angus Scrimm, The Tall Man, used to come to Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theater Company‘s plays.”

(10) IN GREAT DEMAND. James A. Owen’s seven-day Kickstarter to publish an Inklings Art Print Set hit 200% of its goal on Day One. These involve the illustrations he produced for Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer.

Not only can you see the drawings of the individual Inklings at the Kickstarter site, several are matched with photos of scholars and fans who visited to the English locations and recreated the authors’ poses, which I found highly amusing.

(11)THE TRICORDER HAS ARRIVED. And in more than one version. The Washington Post’s Karen Heller, in “This ‘Star Trek’-inspired gizmo could win its inventors $9 million”, profiles George, Basil, and Gus Harris, who are hoping to win a prize of up to $9 million from the Qualcomm Foundation for producing the first successful “tricorder”–defined as a hand-held medical device that could detect blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, and nine other conditions.  The rules are that this device has to weigh less than five pounds and can be mass-produced.

… Harris assembled a seven-member team — himself, three of his siblings and three friends — all of whom were managing full-time jobs. They worked nights and weekends in his home outside Philadelphia, crashed after 72-hour engineering marathons, churned out prototype after prototype on three 3-D printers in Harris’s jumble of an office, each plastic part taking up to 24 hours to fabricate and with his three children, ages 11 to 15, often overseeing sanding and wiring.

The XPrize field began with 312 teams from 38 countries.

Now, improbably, Harris’s group is one of two finalists for the $9 million prize. The winner is scheduled to be announced April 12.

Harris’s competition is Dynamical Biomarkers Group, as formidable as its name: a group of 50 physicians, scientists and programmers, many of them paid for their work, led by Harvard Medical School professor C.K. Peng, a physicist with a 29-page résumé, and backed by the Taiwanese cellphone leviathan HTC and the Taiwanese government.

So, this is basically a Basil and Goliath story….


Brothers George, Basil and Gus Harris examine prop tricorders from the Star Trek series. (Courtesy of XPRIZE)

(12) LUCAS INCREASES SCHOLARSHIPS. Liz Calvario on Deadline.com, in a piece called “George Lucas Family Foundation Donates An Additional $10M to USC in Support of Student Diversity”, reports that the George Lucas Family Fund has donated $10 million to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for scholarships for African-American and Hispanic students.

The George Lucas Family Foundation has donated an additional $10 million to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, expanding its support of student diversity, announced Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. The new endowment raises the Foundation’s total donation to $20 million.

Established in the fall 2016 semester with an initial $10 million, the George Lucas Family Foundation Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity was created for students from underrepresented communities who qualify for financial support. African American and Hispanic students in both undergraduate and graduate programs receive priority consideration for support from the Fund. Students are known as George Lucas Scholars or Mellody Hobson Scholars….

(13) IT MUST GO OFF. The File 770 comments section yielded an item for the Wordspy newsletter.


Chekhov’s lesbian n. The principle that every reference to a minority in a fictional story must be relevant and irreplaceable. [This is a play on “Chekhov’s gun,” the Russian short-story writer’s famous dictum that memorable story elements should also be necessary and relevant (see this week’s Quote, Words, Unquote).]

Okay, let’s codify it — Chekhov’s Lesbian: if a character in fiction is portrayed as a member of a minority group, that character’s minority status must become a relevant plot point before the end of the story. (Term used sarcastically.) —Darren Garrison, “Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men” (comment), File 770, May 20, 2016

 (14) SHORT NOTE TO L.D. COLTER. The Michael Glyer who’s on Twitter is not me. I don’t have a Twitter account because occasionally I’d fly off the handle and tweet something dumb and there it would be for the rest of time. The other Michael Glyer doesn’t appear to have that problem. So there could be worse things than me being mistaken for him.

(15) LOVECRAFT IN NEW MEXICO. As the locals say, it’s not new, and it’s not Mexico, H.P. Lovecraft of Ask Lovecraft visited George R.R. Martin in Santa Fe and recorded a couple segments of his vlog, which can be viewed at the link.

Seeing HPL at Meow Wolf was especially fun, since there are a couple of… ahem… decidedly Lovecraftian touches to be found in the House of Eternal Return.

If you ever get a chance to see Leeman Kessler perform as HPL, do catch him. It’s the next best thing to a shuggoth on your doorstep.

(16) MARTIAN ODDITIES. FiveThirtyEight does both a statistical analysis and a historical survey of Mars in the annals of pop culture — “This Is Why We Love Stories About Mars”.

Movies about aliens are getting more popular. Movies about Martians peaked a while ago.

…But multiculturalism was only part of the era’s Mars story. The 1950s and ’60s saw Martians firmly established on television as belligerent invaders. Marvin the Martian was introduced to give Bugs Bunny a worthy foe hell-bent on destroying Earth.3

There is something poetic about Marvin being the referee in “Space Jam” in the game between the Tunes and the Aliens. After all, he’s a creature of both worlds.

A 1960 episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “People Are Alike All Over” featured a Martian society that was just as indifferent and cruel as humans on Earth. The episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” played into the anyone-could-be-the-enemy-spy fears of the early 1960s, with invaders posing as humans to begin their infiltration.

In comic books, Martians are — with one notable exception — the baddies. Martians who show up in a Marvel comic are sure to be villains. Sometimes they’re Nazis dressed up as Martians to scare New York. Either way, these comics are stories about external threats made real, conquerors, spies, warlords and assorted monsters of the week. In DC Comics, the White Martians are boilerplate invader types, as are Yellow Martians and the original Burning Martians. Only the Green Martians, of which there remains one — the Martian Manhunter — aren’t out for Earthling blood, despite their ridiculous power.

In the contemporary era, humans dealing with Martians are occupiers, not collaborators. It rarely goes well….

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, DMS, rcade, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]