Justice League: Non-Spoiler Movie Review

By Daniel P. Dern: So we went to see the new Justice League movie over the weekend. It was OK enough (more on that below), but at the same time, I didn’t come away with the happy I-just-saw-a-enjoyable-movie feeling that I got from, say, Thor: Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.

Here’s some quick thoughts — non-spoilers unless you haven’t even seen the main trailer. (And I’ll ROT13 any potential spoilers.)

Note: I’ve been reading comics long enough — starting in the single-digit age, when comic books were still a dime (although they soon jumped to twelve cents) — to remember the League’s first appearance, in 1960 (in The Brave and the Bold #28). (Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, debuted in 1956, Showcase #4 — I remember reading it, though probably not when it came out, but have clearish memories of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in 1959 (Showcase #22), who were among the League’s original members (which did not include Superman or Batman). And, with some multi-year hiati, I’m still reading, through a mix of buying, librarying, and (legitimate) digital access. At heart, I’m a DC fan. Yes, I’ve read lots of Marvel, and bunches of indies — but I have less (if any) emotional attachment to how non-DC capes (heroes) get movie-ized.

Justice League, like the first Avengers movie, is a mix of “putting the band together for the first time,” “origin recaps for characters who’ve already been in one or more films (for this “universe”), and “fighting the ‘Big Bad'(s)” (to use the obvious Buffy-ism). Thankfully, not Lex Luthor; instead, Fgrccrajbys naq onmvyyvbaf bs Cnenqrzbaf obbz-ghovat va sebz Ncbxbyvcf (sebz Wnpx Xveol’f Sbhegu Jbeyq).

Given how incredible dark, dour, dismal, grumpy and/or sometimes unacceptably off-canon many of DC’s preceding superhero flicks have been (e.g., much of the Dark Knight Batman trilogy, much of The Man of Steel, much of Suicide Squad, not to mention Batman v Superman (whose events precede this movie) – Wonder Woman happily dodged these bullets, and Green Lantern had other, different problems), Justice League had a depressingly low bar to beat — from its fellow DC flix.

On the other hand, just a month or so ago, we got Thor: Ragnarok from Marvel, showing how much fun a super-scheme-and-punch-fest could be. And on the gripping hand, and pretty much concurrent with Justice League, over on the “small(er) screen” was the remarkably credible Supergirl/Arrow/Flash/Legends of Tomorrow “Crisis On Earth X” (pronounced “eks” rather than “ten”) four-part cross-over of DC heroes, arguably a movie-length four-acter.

In my opinion, Justice League did some things quite well:

  • Quick (or -ish) introduction of the new (within movie context) heroes Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash
  • Why Bats is building a team. (In the original Justice League origin, heroes converge via different parts of the Big Bad, and post-triumph, decide to form a club.)
  • Good action/fight scenes.
  • Great chatter and banter amongst heroes.
  • Some sense of reality, e.g., Batman being severely bruised post-fight.

But. But.

Very dull Big Bad. As one friend I chatted with said, no character there. Contract that with Thor: Ragnarok, where we were treated to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, along with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (sometimes as a Bad), and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. No shortage of style there, in acting, wardrobe or action.

I think that’s why I came away uninspired. Nothing (major) annoyed me. As with Thor: Ragnarok, thankfully neither New York City nor Washington D.C. were trashed. I enjoyed the heroes bantering, some of the derring-do-ing. But — like the first Avengers movie — having a handful of heroes go up against a world of baddies, that’s basically a way-outnumbered war movie.

The Justice League, throughout their (comic) career, have been at their best fighting more well-defined foes (or groups of foes). Kanjar Ro. Despero. Felix Faust. Luthor & his super-bad-friends. Splitting up into smaller teams, coming together for the big boffo win. And doing more than just physical fighting — also more problem solving, detective work, and the like.

Still: if you’re a DC fan, go. You’ll get enough (good) out of it. If you’re not a comic/superhero fan, and haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok yet, do that. (If you’re a Marvel fan, I find it hard to believe you haven’t seen T:R yet.)

Beating a low bar, sigh, better than not doing so.

Here’s hoping the next Justice League movie (presumably based on the final “Easter Egg”) has better Big Bads.

Meanwhile, I’ve been told that the Director’s Cut of Batman v Superman makes somewhat more sense — and/but is somewhat longer. To the library web site I go!

Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) A-WEEMA-WEH. Derek Kunsken, one of the guests of honor, tells Black Gate readers about “The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017”.

Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others. A few of us got to visit the Panda breeding facility the day before the conference started.

…Incidentally, China is interested in hosting a WorldCon, and some of my expedia searching has shown me that flights from Ottawa to Chengdu were in the neighborhood of $900 Canadian, and the hotel they got us in downtown Chengdu was about $110 Canadian a night. I don’t know how much more or less expensive that is compared to Helsinki or Dublin, but I would vote for a Chinese bid on a WorldCon!

Black Gate adds this background about the author —

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, is being serialized right now in China in the magazine SFWorld before its publication in book form in the spring.

(2) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. Hillsdale College historian Bradley J. Birzer, in “Out of the Shire:  Life Beyond Tolkien” in The American Conservative, recommends several writers for Tolkien fans, but “of all 20th century fabulists, Ray Bradbury comes closest to equaling Tolkien’s literary and imaginative powers.”

If you look at what’s playing on your television, at what’s showing at the local cinema, at what video games your children are playing, or at what is selling in the young adult section of your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you’ll see something that is at once deeply cultural and deeply countercultural at the exact same moment: Romanticism.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the movement started, though most historians and literary scholars would give the nod to Edmund Burke and his second great work, On the Sublime and the Beautiful. From Burke’s treatise, almost all modern Romantic thought arose. Burke’s presence is, at times, implicit, and, at times, blatant in the works of such critical figures as Wordsworth and Coleridge, but it can be found throughout most of the romantic poetry and art of the early 19th century. It’s not hard even to imagine Burke’s shadow lingering over Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. In his own writings on Western civilization, Christopher Dawson argued that the rise of Romanticism, whatever its excesses and failings, was as important to Western civilization, as the re-discovery of Hellenic thought in the Renaissance. Whatever its original and essential intent, Romanticism successfully saved Christianity from the utilitarianism and rationalism of the 18th century, Dawson continued. In its recovery of medieval Christianity in the early 19th century, the Anglo-Welsh Roman Catholic scholar asserted, the Romantics actually discovered “a new kind of beauty.”

From its earliest origins, one can trace Romanticism’s history through the 19th century and into the early 20th century through figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, G.K. Chesterton, and Willa Cather. Perhaps most importantly for Western culture, however, was its manifestation in the vast mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien….

(3) TOP LGBT SFF. Rocket Stack Rank has consulted the ratings for excellent stories and come up with the “Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016”.

Greg Hullender sent the link with a note: “We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but we finally got it put together. Note that this is just 2015-2016. Because we depend on scores from other reviewers (including the 4 annual anthologies plus Hugo and Nebula nominations), the earliest we could do anything like it for 2017 would be April 2018, so our current plan is to do 2017 in June for Gay Pride Month and try to make that a regular thing.”

In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.

Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.

(4) BLACK FRIDAY. New Zealand’s Weta Workshops is running a Black Friday sale through Monday. All kinds of figures and paraphernalia from Lord of the Rings and other films they’re associated with.

(5) UNICORN ANTIDOTE. This will cure your post-ceramic stress — JJ calls it “Brain bleach for the wine caddy.” If you need that explained, consider yourself lucky.

(6) TIMEY-WIMEY. Holiday shipping has run amok:

(7) XL5. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard turned on the TV and found this new show on channel 1962 — “[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)”

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

(8) KIT SHIRT. Francis Hamit, whose movie script has been winning prizes, offers the “Christopher Marlowe fan T-shirt” through Zazzle.

Check out the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE fan t-shirt that I designed at Zazzle.co.uk. We did this because we have about 1,400 Facebook friends in London and we need to sell something to prove that we are actually in business. Zazzle seemed like the easiest way to do this and we already own the art. We also have a similar product. on CafePress.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE SLEUTH’S BOSS. The Financial Times’ Henry Mance profiled Mark Gatiss, a writer for Doctor Who and the showrunner for Sherlock, where he also plays Mycroft Holmes: “‘We will all be dust soon’: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss on death, despair and drama”. (Usually these are behind a paywall, but I was able to see this one. Caveat non-emptor.)

When asked if Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s, Gatiss says, “I don’t think it (Asperger’s) is a disorder.  You can read Conan Doyle and think he is–you can diagnose him. Clearly that is based on people who have manic mood swings.  We made Mycroft the Niles to Holmes’s Frasier, who apparently feels nothing–though of course he does, he just keeps it under control.”

When asked if there will be more episodes of “Sherlock,” Gattis says, “Dunno.  Honestly.  It’s the first time we haven’t had to make plans for 18 months down the line.  The last episode of Sherlock was both “a possible natural ending, and a possible place for them to do another one.”

Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

(11) WORTHY OF THE VOGONS. History.com found a by-product of its cipher-cracking project: “This Supercomputer Was Programmed to Think Like the Zodiac Killer. No Wonder Its Poetry is So Creepy”.

Now Knight, CARMEL and a team of code-breaking researchers are working with the HISTORY Channel to try and crack the Z340, the Zodiac killer’s most impenetrable cipher. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-named murderer terrorized Northern California with a succession of random killings and taunting letters to the police and newspapers. Four of those communiqués contained ciphers filled with perplexing letters and abstract symbols. Cryptologists consider the Zodiac’s 340-character cipher, sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, a holy grail of sorts.

As part of Knight’s research into what computers can do with language, CARMEL can churn out complex verse on any given topic within a matter of seconds.

(12) PARTS OF SPEECH. Fast Company explains why “John Waters Doesn’t Need To Make Movies To Make Trouble”.

Despite the fact that he has “never graduated from anything,” John Waters was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to deliver its 2015 commencement address. In his speech, Waters urged the graduating class to cause trouble. “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully,” he advised. “Design clothes so hideous they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous.”

Understandably, the speech went viral, or as Waters puts it, “it had a little trip.” In April of this year, the speech was turned into a book called, Make Trouble. Now, that book has been turned into a vinyl record of the same name, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Waters recorded the audio at his dining room table in his New York apartment in an afternoon. “But it took me three days to write it,” he says in mock defensiveness.

(13) SCORING THE COVERS. Camestros Felapton has started the ball rolling with “The Book Cover Thing 2017: Draft Long List”. Jump over and add your suggestions.

A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.

  1. A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
  2. To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
  3. The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
  4. Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
  5. Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.

(14) CULTURE WARRIORS. And while you’re visiting Camestros’ blog, check out the full-length edition of Doris V. Sutherland’s lyrical comment:

Jason Rennie was ill
When the Hugos stood still
But Superversive’s where he stands
And Chuck Tingle was there
While lacking underwear
Dec Finn was the most Pius man
But something’s not right
With Vox Day and John Wright
They got caught in a No Award jam
Then at a deadly pace
It was in cyberspace
And here’s how the message ran…

(15) IT’S WEIRD. Bookmunch recommends this compilation of 2016 weird fiction: “We are living in an apocalyptic moment and we have a duty to be witnesses” – Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Four ed. Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall is the guest editor for this year’s book. An award winning writer and creative writing lecturer, she comes at weird fiction from a very different angle to last year’s editor Simon Strantzas. This is no bad thing. The key to weird fiction is its malleability. Last year, Strantzas put together a very horror centric anthology, with weird fiction’s key players such as Robert Aickman, Rob Shearman (who will be guest editing volume five) and Ramsey Campbell at the forefront. Marshall instead has assembled a vastly different kind of anthology, which demonstrates the vastness of the genre. Yes, there are horror stories in here, most notably Usman T Malik’s ‘In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro’, but then there are also stories like Irenosen Okojie’s magnificent ‘Outtakes’, or Aki Schilz’s ‘Beating the Bounds’, both of which are highlights of a brilliant book.

(16) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Kincaid, whose book about Iain M. Banks came out earlier this year, talks about his next book in “A Priest chronology”.

So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind.

(17) CHOW TIME. Aaron Pound continues cooking his way through Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook — “Ad Astra Review – C3PO by Ef Deal”

Review: C3PO is a pretty simple recipe. It more or less consists of a can of crushed pineapple with chopped bell pepper, onion, and pecans all mixed into a pile of cream cheese. That is basically it. The only change I made from the text of the recipe was that I used a red bell pepper instead of a green bell pepper, mostly because I had a red bell pepper on hand. The end result is a spread than can be used on crackers or fresh vegetables. The end result is also delicious.

(18) AN ETHNIC FIRST. The Washington Post’s Noah Berlatsky, in “With ‘Justice League,’ now there’s a Jewish superhero played by a Jewish actor on the big screen”, notes that The Flash is the first movie superhero to be Jewish, and he looks at other Jewish superheroes in the comics, including The Thing, who was revealed to be Jewish in the early 2000s.

I’m sure this statement will provoke some disagreement among people who pay attention to firsts in films. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that the first superhero was also the first Jewish superhero. Superman, after all, was created by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and fans have found some (often overstated) traces of Jewish cultural influence in his creation.

There’s also Thing of “The Fantastic Four,” who wasn’t officially declared Jewish in the comics until the 2000s, and hasn’t been identified as Jewish in the films. But he was often seen by fans as a working-class ethnic stand-in for his creator, working-class ethnic Jew, Jack Kirby. The X-Man Kitty Pryde was Jewish in the 1980s, and the X-Man villain Magneto was retconned into a Holocaust survivor at about the same time.

Flash, though, is the first character in our ongoing superhero film frenzy who is identified specifically as Jewish — he mentions he’s Jewish quickly, offhand, when he first meets Batman (Ben Affleck).

(19) SCORCHED PLASTIC. The Lego Millennium Falcon – if you haven’t already ordered, you’re screwed: “What’s $800 And Already Sold Out? This Lego Star Wars Ship”.

It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But a new buildable version of Han Solo’s famous Millennium Falcon is currently stalled.

Those hoping to snag one of Lego’s new Star Wars sets for the 2017 holidays will likely be disappointed. It’s currently sold out online. After a September release only to its VIP list, the company promises it’s working as fast as it can to “make more sets available and keep our LEGO builders happy.” At a cool $799.99 and more than 7,500 pieces, it’s the expensive, easy-to-lose gift that keeps on giving.

Dang, these went faster than Worldcon 76 hotel rooms.

(20) FOR YOUR TREE. Of course, these are still available — “Holiday Gift Idea: ‘Elvira Christmas Ornament’”. I don’t suppose that comes as a surprise.

Sculpted by artist MATTHEW BLACK and painted by DAVID FISHER, these specialty Mistress of the Dark ornaments come in two versions; Standard has Elvira in black dress, while the Limited Edition has her in red and is limited to 500 pieces.

(21) TURNED DOWN. The news behind Deadline.com’s report “Time Responds To Donald Trump’s “Incorrect” Claims Of Turning Down Person Of The Year — Update” is inspiring things like Will Brown’s tweet —

(22) DUDE. Two compilations of “Super Café” videos from How It Should Have Ended.

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.

I LOVED IT!

Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 11/21/2017 Come On Over For Scrolled Pixel With All The Trimmings

(1) TOWARD A MORE GRAMMATICAL HELL. McSweeney’s John Rauschenberg explains it all to you in “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions”.

First Circle (Limbo):
Autocorrect

Here wander the otherwise virtuous souls who were forced into grievous errors by autocorrect programs. They sit in silent masturbation, only rising once every hour to chant eerie koans such as “ducking auto cat rectal.”

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

And so on.

(2) EVEN PIXAR. The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters, in “John Lasseter’s Pattern of Alleged Misconduct Detailed by Disney/Pixar Insiders”, says that longtime Pixar CEO John Lasseter has been suspended following sexual harassment allegations.

Rashida Jones is still credited as a writer on Toy Story 4, the next installment in the beloved franchise. But, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, the actress and her writing partner at the time, Will McCormack, left the project early on after John Lasseter, the acclaimed head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, made an unwanted advance.

Jones and McCormack did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Disney declined to comment on the alleged incident though a studio source said the departure was over “creative differences.” Multiple sources spoke with THR but asked not to be named out of fear that their careers in the tight-knit animation community would be damaged.

Based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, the alleged incident was not an isolated occurrence. One longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.

(3) MELTDOWN AT LITTLE ROCK’S COSPLAY CON. PopCultHQ extensively covers last weekend’s most disappointing event — “Chaos at Cosplay Con & Anime Experience #CCAE2017”.

November 17 & 18th was the weekend for the Cosplay Con and Anime Experience in North Little Rock, AR. This convention didn’t have a stellar list of top-name celebrities, but it had a good line-up. Their headliner was Ciara Renee from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Other guests included Cig and George from SYFY’s Faceoff, Joshua Monroe from Cosplay Melee, and actor/voice actor Robert Axelrod.

Ticket prices weren’t bad for a new convention. The day of the con weekend passes were only $30, Friday passes were $15, and Saturday were $25.

This cosplay con and anime experience promised to be, “The ultimate community focused convention” and was marketed as “…a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented Cosplayers, writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types.”

Instead, this turned into a complete disaster that caused so much stress and anxiety for some that at least one person ended up in the hospital. There are so many things with this con, that I’m just going to give you a list of what I have heard so far and then I will expound on a few of them;

  • Bad communication all around
  • Guests weren’t paid
  • Caterer wasn’t paid
  • No break relief for vendors
  • Vendors were not allowed food or drink at their booths
  • Vendors were forced to accept ‘vendor bucks’ without compensation
  • No Load-in information or map provided for Vendors
  • Guests were kicked out of the hotel when the convention credit card was rejected
  • Not all of the Costume contests occurred
  • Owner avoided guests and wasn’t even seen in the vicinity of the convention for a large portion of the show
  • Owner suspected to be operating with a false identity
  • Continual schedule changes during the event
  • Staff wasn’t paid
  • Volunteers didn’t get fed
  • VIP packages weren’t entirely as promised

The article delivers a paragraph or more about each bulleted complaint and accusation, largely gathered from the victims’ Facebook comments.

(4) FOR CERTAIN VALUES. Camestros Felapton dissects the moral values of the new Netflix series in “The Punisher – An Artfully Crafted Moral Vacuum”.

But this is not a general review. What I wanted to discuss was the wisdom of making the show in the first place. I certainly had my doubts when it was announced and it was also clear that Marvel were nervous about making a show centered on a character defined by his gun-fueled killing sprees. While any of the TV/Movie versions of Marvel characters have some scope for re-invention, The Punisher has to act as a one man extra-judicial death squad. A plot line can expand his motivation or show other aspects of his character and he doesn’t even need his distinctive skull logo but sooner or later if he doesn’t kill lots of bad guys then he simply isn’t The Punisher.

…But this fourth space for superheroes to occupy for non-otherworldly threats poses problems for Marvel (and for DC). This vacuum was eluded too but not examined in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America’s stance not to sign the Sokovia Accords was not well examined or explained. Instead, the rightness of his stance is largely just assumed as an extension of Steve Rogers own integrity. That manages to just about work in that film so long as you don’t pay too much attention to it but on closer examination Rogers really has to choose to be either an agent of the state or a vigilante. If you call yourself ‘Captain America’ then you can either be a soldier employed and held accountable by the state or your indistinguishable from a nutty ‘militia’ hiding in a compound and plotting against the BATF.

The Punisher series gets this. It really is genuinely aware of these issues – mainly because they become unavoidable when your central character uses military equipment to murder criminals without trial.

(5) TRANSHUMAN. C.P. Dunphey’s The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology is out from Gehenna & Hinnom.

As technology progresses, so does its connection with mankind. Augmentations, cybernetics, artificial intelligence filling the void that the absence of flesh will leave behind. In Transhumanism, we fine our imminent future. Whether this future is to be feared or rejoiced, depends on the individual.

Will technology replace mankind? If AI becomes self-aware, is a war imminent?

C.P. Dunphey, critically acclaimed author of Plane Walker and editor of the bestselling Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology and Hinnom Magazine¸ has collected 25+ stories from the best up-and-coming authors in science fiction for Gehenna & Hinnom’s sophomore collection, The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology. From veteran award-winning authors like Julie Novakova, to popular horror authors like Chad Lutzke, the anthology presents no shortage of entertaining, mind-bending science fiction.

(6) THE REST OF THE FOOTAGE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Steven Soderbergh Reveals The BackStory on His Viral Lucasfilm Rejection Letter”, interviews Soderbergh, who says the rejection letter from Lucasfilm (reported in the Scroll awhile back) was for some short films Soderbergh sent them and he’s actually not surprised that Lucasfilm rejected the films.

The inspirational message went viral, no doubt encouraging every dreamer with Hollywood ambitions. But the question remains: just what was on the videotape that Soderbergh submitted to Lucas? A proposed sequel to Return of the Jedi? A pitch for a standalone Ewok movie? Soderbergh’s theory for how Han Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, Soderbergh revealed that the tape in question had nothing to do with that galaxy far, far away. “I sent them a 3/4-inch tape that had two of my short films on it,” the director says, chuckling at his youthful hubris. “I was not surprised that it got kicked back! There aren’t enough decimal points to count how many packages George Lucas was getting at that point, and probably still gets.”

Soderbergh adds that the short films in question didn’t have any science-fiction elements, although one of them told a story that might have resonated with the director of the nostalgia-drenched teen classic American Graffiti….

(7) YELLOW LIGHT. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Why ‘Justice League’ failed — and where DC goes from here”, says that the low box office returns for Justice League has cast Warner’s plans for greenlighting 10 “DC Creative Universe” films, including Flashpoint, Cyborg, and Justice League 2 into question.  Part of the problem is that DC has no one equivalent to Kevin Feige at Marvel implementing quality control and that th stand-alone success of Wonder Woman leads DC and Warner to support quality “stand-alone films” rather than insisting that all its superhero properties “feed into a universe.”

A little more than three years ago, Warner Bros. announced ambitious plans for its DC Comics properties.

The film studio would undertake no fewer than 10 DC movies, chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said. It would introduce various characters and build up to a pair of “Justice League” ensemble pictures, which in turn would allow it to spin off more stand-alone movies. The template? Rival Marvel, which began with “Iron Man” in 2008 and four years later evolved into a massively successful “Avengers” film, which then became the gift that kept on giving (17 movies and counting, including the current smash “Thor: Ragnarok.”)

This past weekend, all those plans blew up.

(8) MISSING KIT REED. One of the writer’s students tells about how he kept in contact with the author: “Alexander Chee on the life, work and loss of his mentor, Kit Reed” in the LA Times.

The first day of Kit Reed’s advanced fiction class, sitting in the yellow Victorian house I would come to know simply as “Lawn Avenue,” was my first time for so many things. I had never been taught by a professor in her own home, for example, and I remember I couldn’t stop looking at it all. I had never been in a home full of that much art, or with walls painted white or black, or in rooms full of chrome furniture, Lucite lamps, and mirrors— there was an offhand glamour to it all that I loved from the start. This was the kind of home you hoped professors at Wesleyan University had, or at least I did, and I sat nervously, excited, aware that I was lucky to be there as she listed off her rules for the class. We had to turn in 20 pages every other week—she ran the class like a boot camp—and she told us never to call her before noon, as she was writing and wouldn’t answer.

Another first: I’d never had a professor tell me I could call at all, and I don’t know that any of them ever did tell me, besides her. It never occurred to me to call my professors outside of class. Her willingness to accept a call was an openness to another kind of connection and conversation with us, one that, for many of us, would go on for the rest of the time we knew her.

(9) BEWES OBIT. Rodney Bewes (1937-2017): British actor and writer, died November 21, aged 79. Genre appearances included Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Jonah and the Whale (1975), Jabberwocky (1977), The Spaceman and King Arthur (aka Unidentified Flying Oddball, 1979), Doctor Who (two episodes, 1984).

(10) CASSIDY OBIT. David Cassidy (1950-2017): US singer and actor, died 21 November, aged 67. Genre appearances included The Flash (one episode, 1991), Kim Possible (voiced one episode, 2004).

(11) REESE OBIT. Is playing an angel considered genre? From CNN: “Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ star and singer, dies at 86”.

For nine seasons on CBS, Reese played Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” tasked with sending angels to Earth to help people redeem themselves.

“We were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” CBS said in a statement to CNN. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien

(13) GENRE WHIFF. Poul Anderson always advised writers to engage all five senses. But what is a signature science fictional smell? “Ellis Brooklyn’s “Sci Fi” perfume convinced me, a fragrance monogamist, to switch scents”.

I tried “Sci Fi” from Ellis Brooklyn. Everything about this perfume is intriguing. The name, the packaging, the fact that it’s vanilla but in no way smells like what I imagined a vanilla-forward scent to be. When I think of “vanilla perfumes,” I think of the Body Fantasies body spray I bathed myself in during middle school. But Sci Fi’s vanilla is something utterly different.

Sci Fi, like a Ray Bradbury novel, pulls you in and confounds you. It begins with notes of vanilla bean, swirls into a cloud of orange and freesia, and then finishes with a bright smack of green tea. One day of wearing Sci Fi and I knew this was my next scent. I was making the switch.

(14) DISHING ABOUT THE DISH. NASA Watch has the good news: “NSF Decides Not To Shut Down Arecibo”.

Statement on NSF Record of Decision on Arecibo Observatory, NSF

“On Nov. 15, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed its Record of Decision for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This important step concludes the agency’s decision-making process with respect to the general path forward for facility operations in a budget-constrained environment and provides the basis for a future decision regarding a new collaborator.”

(15) COSMIC STOGIE. You’re not from around here, are you — “Bizarre shape of interstellar asteroid”.

These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, comprised of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over long periods of time.

Although ‘Oumuamua formed around another star, scientists think it could have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our Solar System.

(16) MANSON, HUBBARD AND HEINLEIN. Click-seeker Jeet Heer finds them this week with “Charles Manson’s Science Fiction Roots” in New Republic.

In 1963, while a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington state, Charles Manson heard other prisoners enthuse about two books: Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and L. Ron Hubbard’s self-help guide Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950). Heinlein’s novel told the story of a Mars-born messiah who preaches a doctrine of free love, leading to the creation of a religion whose followers are bound together by ritualistic water-sharing and intensive empathy (called “grokking”). Hubbard’s purportedly non-fiction book described a therapeutic technique for clearing away self-destructive mental habits. It would later serve as the basis of Hubbard’s religion, Scientology.

Manson was barely literate, so he probably didn’t delve too deeply into either of these texts. But he was gifted at absorbing information in conversation, and by talking to other prisoners he gleaned enough from both books to synthesize a new theology. His encounter with the writings of Heinlein and Hubbard was a pivotal event in his life. Until then, he had been a petty criminal and drifter who spent his life in and out of jail. But when Manson was released from McNeil Island in 1967, he was a new figure: a charismatic street preacher who gathered a flock of followers among the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

…As vile and sociopathic as he was, Charles Manson did have a gift for absorbing the zeitgeist, which is one reason he held such a powerful sway over the cultural imagination. Manson picked up Stranger in a Strange Land in the same spirit that he learned to strum a guitar and offer exegeses on Beatles lyrics. It was a way for him to ride the wave of cultural change. Manson remained infamous all these decades not just because he inspired mass murder, but also because he did so by manipulating some of our most powerful myths.

(17) BAD LUCK. Wrong place, wrong time? A civilian’s frustration at trying to shoot the demolition of the Georgia Dome — “‘Move bus, get out the way!'” (video).

An unlucky camera operator waited 40 minutes to film a stadium demolition – but was thwarted at the last moment.

(18) VIRTUAL MOVIE MUSEUM. Yourprops.com is the “free online museum for your movie props, costumes and wardrobe.” There are myriad photos of movie props (original and replica), wardrobe (original and replica costumes), production used items (crew jackets, shirts and gifts, storyboards, artwork, etc.).

For example: “The Dark Tower, Hero light up Breaker Kid’s Devartoi Watch”.

(19) WHEN NORTH MEETS EAST. At Adweek, see “Sensei Wu Saves Santa, Who Saves Christmas, in Lego’s Fun Holiday Ad”.

Lego Australia is out with a largely winsome addition to the Christmas advertising pile—a stop-motion animation about a Lego Santa finding his way home to save Christmas, thanks to a little surprise help from a spirited stranger.

The minute-long spot from CHE Proximity opens with a Lego North Pole—or Lego Christmas Town, as the brand calls it—set on a living room floor. It’s abuzz with holiday activity, when a human-Godzilla foot comes crashing down on the blissful scene, causing a specific Lego reindeer to squirt very specific Lego poop in fear—graphic sound effects included—while general catastrophe ensues everywhere.

(20) TODAY’S VIDEO. A lure to the dark side in these snippets of The Last Jedi – “Tempt.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Chris Barkley, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

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 11/19/17 And That’s What Pixelmas Is All About, Charlie Scroll

(1) BY WAY OF MELBOURNE. Playbill says King Kong will open on Broadway next year. (Just keep those biplanes grounded!) “King Kong Sets Broadway Opening Night; Tickets Now on Sale”. This musical premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and was originally supposed to come to Broadway when Spiderman folded in 2014. But it didn’t.

The anticipated stage musical adaptation of King Kong—written by Jack Thorne with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect—will officially open November 8, 2018, at the Broadway Theatre. Previews are set to begin October 5.

The production, which features a one-ton, six-meter-tall silverback gorilla puppet as its star, arrives on Broadway following a 2013 Melbourne world premiere.

An all-new creative team has been assembled to bring King Kong to Broadway, including Olivier Award-winning book writer Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Let the Right One In), Olivier Award-winning director-choreographer Drew McOnie (Strictly Ballroom, In the Heights), and Australian songwriter Perfect, who is also adapting Beetlejuice for Broadway. Perfect joins the show’s original composer and arranger de Vries (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet).

(2) TWO FINS UP. Craig Miller comments on a screening of The Shape of Water.

The film was pretty great. It’s set in the early 1960s but it has a sort of timeless quality about it. Set at some sort of secret, military-run laboratory, it’s about a lonely, mute cleaning woman (Hawkins) who works there and what happens when a new “asset” is brought in for investigation and experimentation. Her performance, and that of Doug Jones, are remarkable. More so in that neither character is capable of speaking but you understand them both perfectly.

(3) MINORITY REPORT. The National Review’s Armond White says “Justice League Is the Epic We Deserve” – and means it in a good sense.

Zack Snyder’s audacity in creating a comic-book movie renaissance (which began with the complex, ambitious Watchmen) has inspired philistine resentment from reviewers and fanboys who don’t want cinema. They’ve been desensitized to the form’s vitality and richness. (Like civics, art is no longer being taught in schools.) The schoolyard game of lambasting Snyder’s magnificent Man of Steel and the even more intricate Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice almost directly parallels the unsubtle breakdown of our political process. And this year’s post-election delusional praise for the utterly mediocre Wonder Woman is a symptom of our current political paralysis. By coordinating DC Comics’ superhero characters into the fight against Steppenwolf, Snyder attempts to extend his saga from Dawn of Justice. Studio interference (Warner Bros. envy of the lucrative Marvel franchise) and personal tragedy have prevented Snyder from completing his vision on a scale commensurate with the ever-astonishing Watchmen. But as Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join Batman (Ben Affleck) in the most-intense-yet fight for human life, what remains of Snyder’s handiwork — after the studio imposed The Avengers dullard Joss Whedon on the final product — is still a triumph.

(4) COCO. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna talks to the stars and producers of COCO and looks at how Pixar is coming out with a Mexican-themed film for the first time: “‘Coco’ forced Pixar to dive deep into a real-world culture — and add some diversity”.

PIXAR STUDIOS, for all its renown for creating highly detailed worlds, has rarely had to worry too much about cultural authenticity. Even after all their fabled research for movies such as “Brave” and “Ratatouille,” the filmmakers have been free to use their imaginations, without real fear of offending toymakers, automakers or entomologists.

The Bay Area studio knew, however, that centering “Coco,” which opens Nov. 22, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday would enter an entirely different realm, because it would include not only depictions of traditions, but also a significant increase in casting diversity.

(5) THE SCIENTISTS IN SF. Tor.com nominates “Our Favorite Fictionalized Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors in SFF”.

Benoit Mandelbrot (Mandelbrot the Magnificent)

Where the rest of us see fractals spinning off into infinity, Benoit Mandelbrot saw minute pockets into parallel universes. Liz Ziemska’s magical pseudo-biography reimagines the mathematician’s childhood during Hitler’s rise to power: in an era where people like Mandelbrot’s family were fleeing their homes to escape the growing evil, young Benoit discovers secret dimensions in which to hide, all unlocked by math. Talk of Kepler’s ellipses transports Benoit; archetypal math problems about approaching infinity provide him with glimpses into mirror worlds in which he can hunt monsters. But as the monsters in his world abandon all pretense of peace, Mandelbrot must harness his gifts to hide his family, or else he’ll have sealed their fates. It’s a lovely example of using fantasy as a way to gild the edges of inspiring true stories, linking math with magic for non-mathematicians. —Natalie

(6) GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP. In another piece, Michael Cavna gives his picks for “The 10 best graphic novels of 2017”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

By Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

This debut graphic novel from a 55-year-old Chicago artist is a revelation: a deeply textured tale of dark histories framed as a girl’s diary and told through riveting art that is an homage to midcentury horror comics and film. A dark-horse winner that came out of nowhere.

(7) NIGEL’S NEXT. Nigel Quinlan did a cover reveal of his new book, The Cloak of Feathers, an MG fantasy coming in the UK and Ireland from Hachette Children’s in January 2018.

It’s about an awful summer festival held every year in a small village in Ireland. Once every hundred years the Fair Folk visit, and it becomes a Great Festival, full of magic and wonder. Except everything has gone horribly wrong. The lake is polluted, there’s a ghost estate built on the shore, and their beloved Princess has vanished. Our heroes, the reluctant members of the Junior Knockmealldown Festival Committee (Cow-Fetching Sub-Group) must perform four Feats to win the Cloak of Feathers and rescue the Princess before the whole village is punished.

(8) SUPER SJW CREDENTIALS. Quirk Books makes its selection of the “10 Best Cats in Comics”.

Chewie – Captain Marvel

Supergirl and Power Girl are not the only big name superheroes to have pet cats. Captain Marvel has her own feline companion, Chewie. Initially, Carol believed that Chewie was just a normal cat that could keep her company on her adventures, but when she met Rocket Raccoon, he claimed that Chewie was, in fact, a Flerken. Captain Marvel refused to believe that her furry friend was secretly a tentacle-mouthed, egg-laying alien with pocket dimensions in her body…but when Chewie laid 117 eggs on board the ship, she was forced to admit it was true. Although the 117 Flerken kittens were left at a rescue, Chewie herself teleported back on board the ship, and Carol decided to keep her, Flerken or not.

(9) REBOUND. The Traveler pilloried the November 1962 issue of F&SF in a post at Galactic Journey. What a difference a month (and 55 years) makes! — “[November 19, 1962] Reverse Course (December 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

I’ve complained bitterly in this column on the meanderings of my favorite science fiction magazines.  Galaxy has gotten too tame.  Analog has gotten too staid.  F&SF has gotten too literary.  In fact, just last month, I was lamenting the streak of purple fluffiness that had corrupted that last mag.  Story after story of unreadable droll nothings, or at best, fantastic horrors without any hard sf.

The December 1962 issue did not promise to be any better.  It has the same line-up of authors, the same subject matter of stories.  There are even 11000…er.. 24 pages devoted to the concept of binary numbers.  Has F&SF lost its mind?!

So imagine my surprise to find that I actually enjoyed this month’s issue, entirely due to the well-written nature of its material.  These are not the kind of stories I prefer, but this experience just goes to show that high quality trumps subject matter.  See if you agree…

(10) ANDY WEIR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has an extra installment of its Into the Imagination podcast: “Bonus: Andy Weir (author of The Martian and Artemis)”.

We have a mid-month bonus episode with Andy Weir, author of the novel The Martian, so memorably adapted in the film starring Matt Damon, and the new book Artemis, which launches today! We talk about lunar colonization, his approach to world- and character-building, and what he would do if he was in charge of the future of space exploration. Andy will be speaking at the Clarke Center on December 7th.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

(11) BEST AND THE REST OF AUGUST. Rich Horton reviews short fiction at Locus Online, covering Lightspeed 8/17, 9/17, Tor.com 8/17, Apex 7/17, Interzone 7-8/17, and McSweeney’s #49.

There’s a good set of stories in the August Lightspeed. Ashok Banker‘s “Tongue” is an uncomfortable and rather over-the-top satire on the horrors of a traditional Indian mar­riage, set on an asteroid. The over-the-top elements are part and parcel of satire, though I also thought the portrayal of Indian culture seemed a wincing cliché, as did the corporate menace target; still, it shocks and scares.

(12) ANALOG (NOT THE MAGAZINE). An op-ed writer for the New York Times claims “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over”.

This surprising reversal of fortune for these apparently “obsolete” analog technologies is too often written off as nostalgia for a predigital time. But younger consumers who never owned a turntable and have few memories of life before the internet drive most of the current interest in analog, and often include those who work in Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Analog, although more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalents, provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen. People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning, and even the subtle taste of the ink on your fingertips. A book can be bought and sold, given and received, and displayed on a shelf for anyone to see. It can start conversations and cultivate romances.

The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital. Though a page of paper is limited by its physical size and the permanence of the ink that marks it, there is a powerful efficiency in that simplicity. The person holding the pen above that notebook page is free to write, doodle or scribble her idea however she wishes between those borders, without the restrictions or distractions imposed by software.

(13) VERDICT ON NEW TURTLEDOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club contends The Hot War is Turtledove at his best”.

Of particular interest in this alternate history is the tragic — and believable — story of Harry Truman. Turtledove’s research into historical figures is always impeccable, and many of Truman’s decisions in these novels are based on courses of action that he considered in real life. Turtledove paints a portrait of an alternate failed presidency that hinges on one bad decision after another.

The consequences of Truman’s mistakes keep compounding. The way in which this weighs on him in the novels is effectively conveyed, and this may be one of the best character arcs Turtledove has ever written. Turtledove seems to be arguing that even a well-intentioned president might invite calamity through brinksmanship.

This cast may be one of the most memorable groups that Turtledove has written since Worldwar: In The Balance back in the 1990s. However, it’s still clear that Turtledove has difficulty writing characters from outside his cultural background — none of the important Korean or Chinese characters are given point-of-view sections.

(14) BE OUR GUEST. Her Universe is ready to fill your need to own the “Star Wars BB-8 Tea Set”.

Being stranded on Jakku might be a downer, but it’s no excuse to avoid quality tea time. This BB-8 themed teapot and cup set from Star Wars is happy to roll up with a hot beverage. Set includes a 650 ml teapot & lid with two 220 ml cups and two 5 1/2″ saucers.

(15) MILLENNIUM PLUS FORTY. Entertainment Weekly was there: “Luke comes home: Mark Hamill’s heartbreaking return to the Millennium Falcon in The Last Jedi”.

Luke Skywalker quietly walks aboard the Millennium Falcon, alone. His old friends are gone. His old life is gone. He is ghostlike himself.

The old Luke Skywalker is gone, too.

That’s a scene from the latest trailer for The Last Jedi (see it here), but in real life, visiting the set of the old Corellian freighter was a similarly haunting experience for Mark Hamill.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had,” the 66-year-old actor tells EW. “I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon. I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, ‘Sure.’”

(16) BLABBING ABOUT CAMEOS. The Hollywood Reporter learned “Princes Harry and William Play Stormtroopers in New ‘Star Wars’ Film”.

The royals — along with Tom Hardy and singer Gary Barlow — were rumored to make an appearance in Stormtrooper outfits in the film releasing Dec. 15.

In August, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star John Boyega spilled the beans that not only did Prince William and Prince Harry film scenes when they visited Pinewood Studios in April 2016, but Tom Hardy also was milling around the set at the same time. By then, Take That singer Gary Barlow had already revealed that he had shot a scene in March.

(17) KEEPING A FINGER IN THE PIE. According to SyFy Wire, “Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies to write new Doctor Who adaptations”.

Steven Moffat may be leaving his gig as Doctor Who showrunner following this year’s upcoming Christmas special titled “Twice Upon a Time” to make way for Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), but it looks like he isn’t done with the Whoniverse-at-large just yet.

According to Radio Times, Moffat will team up with former showrunner Russell T Davies and novelist Jenny T. Colgan for a series of Doctor Who novels that will adapt several episodes from the Davies and Moffat eras of the BBC series.

Published by BBC Books and Penguin Randomhouse, the new “Target Collection” is based on the old Target novelizations that strived to adapt classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s, with the episodes’ original scriptwriters penning the adaptations whenever possible from the original scripts.

(18) SOME TIME LATER. I will never be the same now that I have seen this tweet.

Here’s the link to his post.

(19) MIGHTY MUMBLING. How It Should Have Ended does a comedy overdub of Batman v Superman and Dawn of Justice. It’s a toss-up whether these animated mouths remind me more of Clutch Cargo or Wallace and Gromit.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, 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 Jon Meltzer.]

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 11/17/17 No, I’m Never Gonna Tick  A Box, Guilty Scrolls Have Got No Pixels

(1) MARVEL CHOPS TOP. Newsweek reports “Marvel’s New Global-Minded Chief C.B. Cebulski Replaces Controversial Axel Alonso”.

Marvel Entertainment announced Friday that it has a new Editor in Chief. C.B. Cebulski is a comic book editor who has worked in Marvel’s global division for more than 15 years. The move comes as Marvel shows greater commitment to diversity in its superheroes, and as it eyes readership that reaches all over the globe.

The shakeup comes amid lagging sales for many of Marvel’s titles, which outgoing EIC Axel Alonso implied was due to the company’s push for ethnically diverse superheroes.

… At a retail summit last year, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel told attendees that the sales slump was due to updated versions of classic characters: a mixed-race Spider-Man, an Asian Hulk, a female Thor. Alonso was part of the discussion and seemingly agreed, saying Marvel had gotten too political. “We’ve gone through a period where in pop culture as a whole (and you guys notice that as much as we do), there’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” he said. “But Marvel is not about politics.”

Cebulski, on the other hand, has always been entrenched in Marvel’s attempts to include heroes of diverse backgrounds. He began his career in manga, and worked on the Marvel Mangaverse in the early 2000s. He also worked on the Runaways spin-off Loners, overseeing Nico Minoru’s storyline in the series Mystic Arcana.

(2) CURSED. Camestros Felapton feels there’s a paranormal explanation behind these cinematic disappointments: “Review: Justice League The Curse of Zak Snyder”.

I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.

Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.

So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.

Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad….

(3) LEAGUE LUKEWARM. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “‘Justice League’ Is Just OK”:

But the stuff that works in Justice League, if only just, bears [Whedon’s] stamp. It also sticks out from the material that Snyder started shooting 19 months ago like strapping Clark Kent in a newsroom full of pasty, soft-bellied bloggers.

(4) SOMETHING ROTTEN. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Rotten Tomatoes under fire for timing of ‘Justice League’ review”, discusses the fire directed at Rotten Tomatoes after they delayed the rating (which was 43 percent) for Justice League for 24 hours, allegedly because Time Warner owns 30 percent of the site and Comcast owns 70 which would lead to Rotten Tomatoes giving Warner and Universal releases better treatment.

More than just a kerfuffle over one superhero movie, however, the incident raises larger questions about the relationship between reviewers and the public, the editorial objectivity of aggregators and how much studios should be empowered to control the pre-release messaging of their films.

“I think we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Guy Lodge, a critic who writes for Variety. “An aggregation site should practice absolute objectivity. You mix Time Warner into it,” he added, “and it becomes very confusing.” A WB spokeswoman declined to provide a comment for this article.

(5) A RED S. Here’s a link to the catalog for Profiles in History’s Superman auction, which happens December 19.

An alien named Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton was sent to Earth and raised as Clark Kent by human foster parents. As an adult, he became the protector of Earth while Clark Kent worked as a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis.  After several failed attempts to find a viable publisher for their story, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel’s creation hit the big time when it was chosen as the cover feature for Action Comics #1 in June 1938 by National Allied Publications (the precursor of DC Comics).  Thus marked the genesis of Superman and the superhero genre, forever changing popular culture. We are now on the cusp of the 80th anniversary of his colossal debut.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Nibble frozen cranberries with Amal El-Mohtar” in Episode 52 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Amal El-Mohtar

It’s time to say farewell to Helsinki—and hello to award-winning writer Amal El-Mohtar—in the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during Worldcon 75. Our meal took place a mere 36 hours after she’d won this year’s Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” for which she’d also won a Nebula Award earlier in the year.

We chose one of the city’s oldest seafood restaurants for our lunch—Sea Horse, which has been in operation since 1934. And it’s lasted that long for a good reason! We enjoyed the food and the ambiance so much I returned a few days later for dinner with my wife during our post-Worldcon stay.

Amal’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Apex. Her stories “The Green Book” and “Madeleine” were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and “The Truth About Owls” won the Locus Award in 2015. She won the Rhysling award for Best Short Poem in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and in 2012 received the Richard Jefferies Poetry Prize.

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

(7) AUDIO TORTURE. It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast, everywhere we go.

(8) A PLEASURE. Elsewhere in the world Cheryl Morgan found easy listening: “M. John Harrison in Bath”.

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

(9) CHECKING OUT. Open Culture tells how “’Library Extension’ Helps You Find Books At Your Local Library While You Shop for Books Online”.

The concept beyond “Library Extension” is simple. As you browse books and e-books websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, the Library Extension will check the online catalog of your local library and see whether the book you’re interested in happens to be available at your local library. The browser extension currently works on Chrome. Firefox is coming soon. And the browser extension currently has access to data from 4000 local libraries and library systems.

 

(10) SDI. Thrillist revisits “How 2 Sci-Fi Writers Fueled a U.S. President’s Wild Quest to Weaponize Space”.

Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series — a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet — was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he’s published, and he continues to flesh out the series.

But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan’s stance on space. The “Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy” included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven’s science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States’ space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan’s official policies.

In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God’s Eye — about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion — and 1977’s Lucifer’s Hammer — about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist — but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes — Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 17, 1979 Salem’s Lot premiered on TV.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian learned about interior design Batman-style on Brevity.

(13) MANY DOLLARS. The BBC says San Diego Comic-Con has a big handle: “Comic book success: The rise of the Comic-Con festival”.

From a gathering of less than 300 people in 1970, the event has morphed into an annual, multi-day media bonanza that draws major corporate sponsors, movie studios and more than 150,000 people.

The event made more than $17m in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent tax filing available online, and it has spawned similar festivals in cities around the world.

“San Diego’s growth has been mind-boggling,” says author John Jackson Miller, who also owns Comichron, which tracks sales of comic books.

Mr Miller went to San Diego for the first time in the early 1990s, when it still drew less than 40,000 people.

(14) FOR WHICH TWITTER WAS MADE. Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig are at it again. The thread starts here.

(15) MOSKOWITZ. Hal W. Hall’s Sam Moskowitz: A Bibliography and Guide is available as a free download online from Texas A&M University. The sketch of Sam Moskowitz on the cover is by Frank R. Paul.

A comprehensive bibliography of the writings of Sam Moskowitz. Sam Moskowitz was a fixture in science fiction, from near the beginning to the present day. He was a fan, editor, author, historian, critic, WorldCon organizer, and cheerleader for the science fiction field. He was a prolific author of books, articles and letters. His books are readily available in libraries or for sale. The same cannot be said of many of his articles, and certainly not of his letters. Many of the articles and letters appeared in science fiction pulps and in fanzines. Some of the fanzines were quite professional in appearance, content and editing, and served a valuable service to science fiction scholarship in preserving much of the early history of science fiction. The writings of Sam Moskowitz are an important part of that historical archive. Eric Davin notes that “Sam Moskowitz saw himself as the science fiction historian of record.” It is a good description. He researched and recorded much about the beginnings of science fiction.  Some items remain the only resource available on a particular person or topic. An accurate scholarly judgment of the historical and critical output of Moskowitz remains to be done.

(16) QUACKS ME UP.

(17) UNACQUIRED TASTE. Glenn Garvin of Reason.com reviews the Hulu series “Future Man,” in “Future Man is Gleefully Sophomoric, And That’s Part of Its Charm,” where he notes that the series, written and produced by the people who brought you the immortal masterpiece Sausage Party, which means it’s full of the sophomoric jokes teenage boys like, with many jabs at video gamers in general and The Last Starfighter in particular.

The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf’s favorite plan is “Rip his fucking dick off!”—supply much of Future Man‘s staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)

But it’s hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.

(18) SAY CHEESE. “The Largest Digital Camera In The World Takes Shape”NPR has the story. “It will go on a giant telescope taking shape in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.”

LSST is different from most large telescopes. Instead of staring at a tiny patch of the sky and taking essentially one snapshot in time, LSST will take a panorama of every part of the sky…and it will do so over and over and over. The idea is to see what’s moving or changing in the heavens.

“That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don’t know about yet,” says Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Roodman is the scientist in charge of the integration and testing of the camera.

(19) SILENT MOVIE THEATER. The future of a LA landmark is in doubt, as Variety says “Cinefamily to Permanently Shut Down Following Sexual Harassment Scandal”.

Los Angeles independent film venue Cinefamily will permanently shut down and dissolve the board following allegations of sexual misconduct made against some of Cinefamily’s executives in August that led to two resignations from the company.

Silent Movie Theater, Cinefamily’s longtime home, will be closed and renovated by the landlord, while the board will establish a transition team to handle the organization’s financial and legal affairs, according to a statement from the board of directors.

“The damage caused to the organization by the conduct of some and the crippling debt now facing the Cinefamily are, in the Board’s view, irreparable,” the board of directors wrote in a statement.

As previously reported by Variety, Cinefamily temporarily suspended all activities in August amid the scandal where anonymous emails accused Cinefamily leaders of sexual harassment. Executive director and co-founder Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai resigned on Aug. 22.

(20) DON’T TREAD ON THESE. Peer treated us to a new Elvis lyric in comments.

Pixelled my blue suede shoes
And I clickboxed a plane
Scrolled down in the land of mounttsundokus
In the middle of the pournelle rain
JRR Tolien won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a fifth class ticket
But I’m as blue as a Filer can be
Then I’m scrolling in Comments
Keeping at least ten feet off of the Beale
Scrolling in Comments
But do I really file the way I file?

Read the ghost in the shell
Or Atomic Avenue
Followed up with the water knife
Then I waded right through Borne
Now Mord, they did not see him
And he just hovered ’round his town
But there’s a pretty little shell
Waiting for the hell
Down in the Broken Earth
When I was Scrolling the comments
I was clicking with The box right of the left
Scrolling the comments
But do I really file the way I file?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “What’s New, Atlas?” on YouTube you can see a Boston Dynamics robot do a somersault.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hal W. Hall, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]