Pixel Scroll 2/19/18 The White Zone Is For Scrolling And Filing Only. There Are No Ticky-Boxes In The White Zone

(1) MORE MEXICANX. John Picacio announced more picks to receive Worldcon 76 memberships from the Mexicanx Initiative.

(2) MANY DOLLARS WERE MADE. From NPR: “‘Black Panther’ Breaks Records And Barriers In Debut Weekend”

Black Panther pounced on the weekend box office, breaking cultural barriers and earning the highest debut ever for a February film, with an estimated three-day domestic gross of $192 million, said Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

The opening was the fifth highest-earning of any film, according to Disney. The only other movies that have brought in more are Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World and The Avengers, according to The Associated Press.

(3) WAKANDA. Abigail Nussbaum weighs in on “A Political History of the Future: Black Panther” at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog:

From architecture to interior design to costuming, every aspect of Wakanda was designed from the ground up to incorporate traditional African imagery while projecting it into a bold, positive future. Costume designer Ruth Carter’s bywords for the film were “Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful.” Camille Friend, head of the movie’s hair department, has spoken about her determination to feature only natural black hair, in varying styles reflecting the different characters’ personalities. (In one amusing scene, no-nonsense Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) complains about having to wear a Western-style wig while undercover. Later, during a fight, she throws the wig in her opponent’s face as a distraction.) Star Chadwick Boseman has explained his decision to give T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, an African accent as an attempt to forestall the preconception that as a cosmopolitan member of the elite, he would naturally have been educated in Europe. In every respect, Black Panther is hard at work crafting an image of African life that is sophisticated, knowledge-based, and futuristic, while at the same time producing a society that is just, prosperous, and benevolent.

(4) CATALANO’S HAT TRICK. Frank Catalano has had three sf-related stories on GeekWire this week:

“I interviewed Peter S. Beagle about his memories of Pittsburgh, where he is getting his SFWA Grand Master Award this year, and also about Seattle, where he used to live. It was done as a study in contrasts between GeekWire’s home city of Seattle and Pittsburgh, a city it is highlighting for the month of February. I happened to think Beagle and the SFWA Nebula Conference were a natural tie.”

Beagle said he came to the University of Pittsburgh as a writing student in 1955, when he was 16 years old. “It was the Steel City of legend then: legendary for its griminess, its foul air, its wretched baseball team, the blazing mills along the river going night and day,” he recalled. “Seeing it from an airplane at night (which was my first sight of the city) was truly like being welcomed to hell.”

Yet the city grew on him. “I came to cherish Pittsburgh, as I still do, even though there literally isn’t a brick on a brick remaining of the mid-fifties town I knew,” he said.

“I also interviewed Ramez Naam, author of the Nexus trilogy of science-fiction thrillers, about his take on why the world is trending more toward the positive than the negative (plus the status of turning Nexus into something more than a novel), and had him re-visit some predictions he made in 2015, for my podcast on science fiction, pop culture and the arts. It led to two stories, the first on the state of the world and tech (and the state of Nexus), and the second on his predictions”:

If you were to ask globally known clean energy expert Ramez Naam what makes him optimistic about technology and the future, it may boil down to one word: scale.

Naam has a long history of thinking about the effects of scale, even before his current role as co-chair for energy and the environment at Singularity University. In his award-winning Nexus science fiction trilogy, Naam tackled the implications of widespread brain-to-brain communication. And in his past role as a computer scientist at Microsoft leading teams working on early versions of Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Bing, Naam came to appreciate what sheer magnitude can do.

“I learned that we can create tools that really improve people’s lives, and that technology can scale to help billions of people,” Naam said. “And that, I think, inspired me with the power of using our minds and our imaginations to make the world better.”

Many of these what-ifs recall a frequent theme of Naam’s writing and speaking: building resilience, both organizationally and individually, to technological change. “Technology moves faster than society, and society even has multiple strata,” he explained. Each is subsequently more sluggish, starting with how fast the next generation learns, to how fast we learn, to how fast organizations learn, and finally to how fast government learns.

So to deal with rapid change, Naam said, “We have to be more experimental as a society.” Governments may have to try different policies just to see which ones work. “That would be anathema to the way that politicians voice certainty of, ‘X will do Y.’ But that’s how science works. It’s how innovation in business works,” he said.

“Finally — and this is a personal favorite — a story that Tacoma will soon have a park named for Dune, honoring Frank Herbert. Why a personal favorite?  Back in 1986, I was asked by Frank Herbert’s family to help field news media calls about his literary legacy when he died (at the time, I was very active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and had been an officer of the organization).  And the park’s setting is especially appropriate, as my story notes.”

There likely won’t be any sandworms, but that’s not needed to spice up this news: Tacoma, Wash., native Frank Herbert, best known for the hugely popular Dune science-fiction novels, is getting a namesake park in his home town.

The Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners has approved naming an 11-acre waterfront site “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park,” and a winding pedestrian loop being built on the same site the “Frank Herbert Trail.” The public space is currently under construction on land that once housed the former ASARCO copper smelting operation, next to the Tacoma Yacht Club boat basin.

(5) JOE HILL ON VINYL. HarperAudio, the audio imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will publish Dark Carousel, a “vinyl-first” audiobook by New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill on April 20, a release timed to coincide with Record Store Day on April 21. Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover of Dark Carousel along with an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

 Says author Joe Hill, “My hard rockin’ fantasies are pretty well documented at this point — the hero of my first novel was, after all, a world-famous heavy metal rocker. I’ve always wanted to have my own LP, and the idea that one of my stories is being released as an audiobook on vinyl blows my Beatles-quoting, Stones-fixated, Zeppelin-obsessed mind. Even better, I’m on the record with Matthew Ryan, a great American rocknrolla. His cover of “Wild Horses” is the best version of the song since the original. I’m so excited for readers and listeners to drop the needle on this story and Matt’s song.”

Written about a balmy summer night in 1994. Dark Carousel is the tale of four teenagers out for an evening of fun on the boardwalk who take a ride on the “Wild Wheel” – an antique carousel with a shadowy past – and learn too late that decisions made in an instant can have deadly consequences. What begins as a night of innocent end-of-summer revelry, young love, and (a few too many) beers among friends soon descends into chaos, as the ancient carousel’s parade of beasts comes chillingly to life to deliver the ultimate judgment for their misdeeds.

(6) HAVE YOU ORDERED YOURS YET? Hasbro wants 5,000 pre-orders to greenlight production: “Hasbro’s first HasLab toy is a replica of Jabba the Hutt’s barge”.

At this year’s Toy Fair in New York, Hasbro announced HasLab, a new program that aims to bring to life special creations like a massive, four-foot long recreation of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge. The company is taking inspiration from platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, too: In order for the barge to become a real for-sale production item, Hasbro wants to gather 5,000 $499 pre-orders by midnight on April 3rd.

If the project reaches its funding goal, Jabba’s Sail Barge (or The Khetanna if you’re a Star Wars geek) will come with a 64-page booklet with behind-the-scenes details, set photos, interviews and blueprints of the actual set piece in the film as well as production information on the toy. The barge also comes with a 3.75-inch scale Jabba the Hutt and soft cloth sails for the top of the sand boat.

(7) JOHN BROSNAN. Kim Huett’s next Doctor Strangemind post is “John Brosnan & the Abomnibus”. In 1969 John joined a group of other young Australians who were planning to travel by double-decker bus to England. The attempt was somewhat less than successful…

Something that John wrote extensively about in the early days was his attempt to travel by bus from Australia to England. Up until the eighties there was something of a tradition among young Australians to visit ‘Mother England’ before settling down to lives of quiet desperation in the sun-baked suburbs of Australia. Most such adventurers travelled to the mother country via cruise liner, a few lucky ones flew there, but John, being inexplicably drawn to doing everything the hard way, decided that he would spend several months of 1969 travelling to ‘Ye Merry England’ with a group of other young Australians in a double-decker bus. My impression from what he wrote is that he enjoyed it more in retrospect than he did at the time…

Huett is keeping Brosnan’s non-book material alive. There’s a PDF collection that can still be downloaded for free from eFanzines. More recently Dave Langford asked Huett to put together a new, even larger version, which can be downloaded for free here.

(8) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver celebrates another author with “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Lostronaut’” at Black Gate.

…Lethem won the World Fantasy Award for his collection The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award four times, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, and the Shirley Jackson Award, Sidewise Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award one time, each. His novel Gun, with Occasional Music received the William L. Crawford Award and won the Locus Poll for best first novel….

(9) NEW TWIST ON PARK MAPS. Mental Floss reports “A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style”:

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports

Click here to see his impressive Yellowstone National Park map.

(10) HUGO RECS. Strange at Ecbatan’s Rich Horton wrapped up his Hugo recommendations with “Final 2018 Hugo Recommendation Post” – Semiprozine, Fancast,  Best Related Work, Professional Artist.

The others in the series are:

(11) FILLING IN SOME BLANKS. Mark Kaedrin also shares his picks for “Hugo Award Season 2018”, beginning with —

The nomination period for the 2018 Hugo Awards is open, so it’s time to get out the vote before the requisite whining and bitter recriminations start in earnest. I’ve read a bunch of eligible works, but of course not all will make the cut. Here’s where I’m at right now:

(12) CHOCOLATE CHAMPS. Congratulations to Filer Daniel P. Dern for scoring second in Boskone 55’s Chocolate for Trivia event.

CHOCOLATE TRIVIA SCORES

Bob Devney  52
Dan Dern  44
Tim Liebe  27
Peter Turi  23

(13) QUICKER SIPPER. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Shimmer #41 [February stuff]”.

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

(14) GUITAR CITY. A popular movie has paid off in more than one way: “A Town In Mexico Sees Guitar Sales Soar Thanks To The Movie ‘Coco'”.

Real-life sales of guitars like Miguel’s guitar have soared thanks to the movie. And not just in U.S. stores. A small town in Mexico’s western highlands, famous for its generation of guitar makers, is also enjoying a Coco boon.

Paracho, in the state of Michoacán, is the former home of the very guitar maker who helped design the instrument seen in the film.

(15) NOT EXACTLY THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. A marker for the beginning of the Anthropocene: “‘Loneliest tree’ records human epoch”.

It’s been dubbed “the loneliest tree on the planet” because of its remote location, but the Sitka spruce might represent something quite profound about the age in which we live.

The tree, sited on Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean, records in its wood a clear radioactive trace from the A-bomb tests of the 1950s and 60s.

As such, it could be the “golden spike” scientists are seeking to define the start of the Anthropocene Epoch – a new time segment in our geological history of Earth.

The suggestion is that whatever is taken as the golden spike, it should reflect the so-called “Great Acceleration” when human impacts on the planet suddenly intensified and became global in extent.

This occurs after WWII and is seen for example in the explosion in plastics production.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. It’s 1963 and producer Roger Corman turns to Poe for his forty-seventh movie. Galactic Journey tells whether it’s worth seeing: “[February 18, 1963] An Odd Beast (Roger Corman’s The Raven)”.

The Raven hit theaters last month not so much to terrify audiences, but to reel them in with a star studded cast and a light, Edgar Allan Poe-flavored, fantasy comedy story. Starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Hazel Court, the film is very loosely based around the narrative Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. By this I mean that Hazel Court is, of course, the sassy and longed-for Lenore, and Vincent Price quotes segments of the poem. There the similarities end.

(17) A BETTER USE FOR THAT MONEY. K. Tempest Bradford argues her fundraiser is a bargain at half the price.

(18) SPEAKING UP. Sophie Aldred gives Uncanny Magazine readers a captivating account of “My Voice-Over Life”.

Sophie Aldred has been working as a professional actress, singer, and director for the last 35 years in theatre, TV, film and audio. She is perhaps best known as the 7th Doctor Who’s companion, Ace, who beat up a Dalek with a baseball bat….

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to read stories to her brother. She liked to put on funny voices for all the different characters and found that she was rather good at mimicking accents and odd vocal characteristics. Sometimes her brother would beg her to stop reading as he had had enough; sometimes she listened.

The little girl also liked listening to the radio programmes that her Mummy had on in the kitchen while she was making supper for Daddy who came in hungry and tired from the office (it was the 1960’s after all). Although she didn’t understand any of the so-called jokes, she loved a man called Kenneth Williams, whose strangulated vocal gymnastics she tried to imitate, and another one called Derek Nimmo, who you could tell was rather vague and very posh just by the tone of his voice….

(19) I SEE FOUR JELLYBEANS! A psychiatrist in a mental hospital has a disturbing conversation with one of his patients, a brilliant mathematician, in the SF short film The Secret Number by Colin Levy.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/16/18 There Are Six Pixels On This Scroll: Two At The Rear, Two At The Front And Two Over The Tick Box

(1) 2017 HUGO VIDEO. Worldcon 75 Hugo Ceremony video has been posted. Due to technical difficulties, it omits the first 15 minutes of the event and the first winner presented (Best Fan Artist). They did capture the remaining two-plus hours of the ceremonies. (Oor Wombat’s “Whalefall” acceptance speech begins at 1:48.)

(2) INSPIRED.SPECPO catches up with a longtime poet — “Fairy Tales and Finding Poetic Inspiration: An interview with Ruth Berman”.

Ruth Berman

How did you get started as a writer?
When I was about five, the family took a train trip to Florida during winter vacation.  Looking out the train window at the full moon shining on a lagoon, I felt that it was so beautiful that had to compose a poem about it. As I did not know how to write, I dictated the result to my oldest brother to write down for me so that I could keep it until I could read. (No, I won’t quote it. Five-year-olds don’t compose very good poetry.)

Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy influences?
The members of the Twin Cities Sf Poetry writing group and of the Aaardvaark writing group. Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Avram Davidson, Terry Pratchett, Fritz Leiber, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll.

What keeps you going as a writer?
Sometimes nothing does. But at some point when I haven’t had any ideas for a long time, something will set me off again, so I try not to worry during the dry spells. I read a lot of non-fiction in the fields of mythology, folktales, history, and science, looking for ideas — sometimes find some in the process, sometimes not. Also sometimes get ideas from other people’s fiction, especially if I disagree with a story. Sometimes, if the situation calls for characters to have coats of arms, it helps to stop and ask myself what a character’s coat of arms is — which I seem to find more helpful than the more usual prompts of asking what music the character likes or hates, what foods, books, clothes — that sort of thing.

(3) LE GUIN TRIBUTE IN PORTLAND. Ursula K. Le Guin’s family says a public tribute is being planned, date to be determined.

Dear readers and friends,

We are deeply honored by the outpouring of affection and admiration for Ursula and her life’s work.

Many have asked whether we are planning a public event to commemorate and honor Ursula; others have asked where one could direct donations in her name.

We are working with Literary Arts to plan a tribute, to be held in April or May 2018 in Portland, free and open to the public.

(4) NO BOOM. The LA Review of Books considers an atomic scientist’s spec-fic story: “Listening to the Dolphins: Leo Szilard on Nuclear War”.

LEO SZILARD’S short story “The Voice of the Dolphins,” published in 1961, imagines a history of the world written in 1990. The story begins with the sentence, “On several occasions between 1960 and 1985, the world narrowly escaped an all-out atomic war.” One of the 20th century’s greatest physicists, Szilard knew whereof he spoke: along with Enrico Fermi, he was responsible for creating the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942. Szilard understood very well the history, physics, and destructive power of the Bomb. He could have chosen to write a tense record of the 1945 explosion at Hiroshima, along the lines of John Hersey’s classic study, or he might have related the history of the Bomb’s invention à la Richard Rhodes. Instead, he chose to write a piece of fiction — dry almost to the point of tedium — about the geopolitical future of the Atomic Age.

His choice is fascinating, not least because it suggests that Szilard’s interests as a man of science extended far beyond the domain of physics into the social and political spheres. His actions belie the sort of caricature of scientists found in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) and other midcentury texts — an autistic tinkerer who leads the world to the brink of destruction by solving a military problem without any thought for the consequences. On the contrary, Szilard’s fiction is a serious attempt to grapple with the ethico-political impact of the epochal invention he in large part helped to author.

(5) CLAIM TO FAME. Kim Huett says, “Time to take it down a notch after writing such a serious post last week. You will note that I am the first person to ever combine Walt Willis and Mystery Science Theater 3000. (I’m possibly the only person who could.)”

Can Huett live up to this boast? Read “The Notorious Bert I. Gordon” and see.

Okay, so now we all know that MST3K is a TV show that revolves around showing a movie of dubious quality and providing a humorous commentary which, in this, the future world of today, is a little thing we like to call riffing. I doubt riffing is a new or revolutionary practise, I imagine people have been moved to talk back to the screen ever since the very first bad movie was shown in front of an audience. I even have evidence of a primitive form of movie riffing happening at a British science fiction convention. Consider this quote from Walt Willis writing about the Loncon in Quandry #22 (edited by Lee Hoffman, August 1952). This particular Loncon (there has been more than one SF convention called this) was held 31 May & 1 June, 1952 and in London of all places:

The final event was a showing of Metropolis, which in a way was the best part of the official programme. This was because there was no incidental music to drown fan comment on the action, some of which was brilliant. Dan Morgan shone especially. When the hero suddenly mimed exaggerated alarm the way they do in silent films and dashed madly for the door Dan remarked “FIRST ON THE RIGHT”. That started it and the whole worthy but rather dull film was enlivened by a ruining commentary from the audience which I wish I had space to quote…

(6) LAST RESTING PLACE. Atlas Obscura has photo features of a number of gravesites, including those of two Inklings —

The bones of C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s literary greats, rest within a peaceful cemetery. Nearby, an etched glass window bearing characters from his most famous fantasy world adds a whimsical touch of childhood magic to the churchyard….

The grave of C.S. Lewis lies within the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry just outside of Oxford. He was buried there in November of 1963, and even today it’s common to find flowers placed atop his tombstone.

The names Lúthien and Beren can be found inscribed on the shared grave of the famous writer and his beloved wife and muse.

The final resting place of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973) and Edith Mary Tolkien (1889-1971) is covered in an abundance flowers, plants, and offerings from fans in the verdant cemetery of Wolvercote in Northern Oxford. They are buried together in a single grave in the Catholic section of the cemetery.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 16, 1923 — In Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

(8) THE HORROR. Gizmodo may have violated the Geneva Convention by posting this online — “Man Redefines Horror By Building a Singing Furby Organ”.

(9) AMUSING CONCEIT. Here’s the Black Panther trailer done as an 8-bit game video:

(10) SUPERHEROES LIKE ME. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt interviews Ryan Coogler, who talks about how he has loved comics since he was a kid and how he was brought into the MCU by Nate Moore, Marvel’s only African-American producer: “‘Black Panther’s’ Ryan Coogler has always been searching for superheroes who look like him”.

“I went to the comic book shop that was by my school and asked if they had any black characters,” Coogler recalled.

That was the moment Coogler discovered the Black Panther.

While in film school at University of Southern California, where he graduated in 2011, that love of comics remained — and after Marvel Studios started its connected cinematic universe with 2008’s box office hit “Iron Man,” Coogler began imagining that one day he might direct a superhero movie.

Betancourt has another article about how he is half African-American and half Puerto Rican and is excited about a superhero movie featuring people who look like him: “I’m a 37-year-old Afro-Latino comic nerd. I’ve waited a lifetime for ‘Black Panther.’”

Imagine waiting a lifetime for a hero, at times thinking he’ll never come. Imagine being there when he finally shows up.

That’s the feeling for many of us — fans of color who love superhero culture — as we anticipate the live-action movie debut of the Black Panther, indisputably the greatest black superhero of all time.

In Marvel Cinematic Universe years, it’s only been a decade since 2008’s “Iron Man” introduced a new era of epic, interconnected storytelling on-screen. But for those of us who discovered Black Panther in the comics — the character first appeared in 1966 — the wait has been much longer.

(11) SETI SLOWDOWN. First they need to find intelligent life on earth – the BBC reports “Crypto-currency craze ‘hinders search for alien life'”.

Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said.

Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories.

However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer.

Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining.

“That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’,” Dr Werthimer told the BBC.

“This is a new problem, it’s only happened on orders we’ve been trying to make in the last couple of months.”

Mining a currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum involves connecting computers to a global network and using them to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

Here’s an even more direct measure of the impact of this currency mining — “Bitcoin energy use in Iceland set to overtake homes, says local firm”.

Iceland is facing an “exponential” rise in Bitcoin mining that is gobbling up power resources, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka has said.

This year, electricity use at Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes, according to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson.

He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act.

(12) SEVENTH DOCTOR WHO RETURNS. BBC Worldwide Americas and Titan Comics are bringing back the Seventh Doctor for a new three-part comic series stars the Seventh Doctor, as played by Sylvester McCoy, alongside classic companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Hitting stores and digital platforms in June 2018 with a double-sized first issue, DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR #1, written by Seventh Doctor script editor and showrunner Andrew Cartmel, and writer Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London). Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor expands Titan Comics’ hugely popular and critically acclaimed Doctor Who comics line.

Actor Sylvester McCoy starred as the Seventh Doctor from 1987 to 1989 anchoring hundreds of novels and comic strips before regenerating in the 1996 TV movie. As well as this new comic, the Seventh Doctor’s era lives on in a tremendously successful series of audios from Big Finish. McCoy’s portrayal as the Doctor was, at first, a light-hearted eccentric who darkened into a secretive, mysterious, and cunning planner across the course of his tenure.

In Titan Comics’ new mini-series, an unknown alien intelligence in orbit around the Earth. Astronauts under attack. A terrifying, mysterious landing in the Australian interior. The future of the world itself at stake. Counter Measures activated. The Seventh Doctor and Ace are slap bang in the middle of it all! This is OPERATION VOLCANO!

(13) EVIL EMPIRE. Eric Chesterton, in the MLB.com piece  “The Yankees Will Give Away An Aaron Judge Jedi Bobblehead For Star Wars Night,”  have a picture of the Coveted Collectible that all Filers who are Yankees fans will have to have!

(14) DESPITE POPULAR DEMAND. The irresistible charm of exactly what? explains why “Michael Fassbender is starring in a feature-length sequel to Kung Fury”.

The retro ’80s mash-up short Kung Fury made the improbable leap from kitschy Kickstarter project to the Cannes Film Festival, and now it will be getting a feature-length sequel starring Prometheus and Steve Jobs star Michael Fassbender. Variety reports that the creator and star of the original Kung Fury, David Sandberg, is also set to appear in the movie as the titular hero. David Hasselhoff, who had a role in the short, is also expected to return.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., Rev. Bob, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, Kim Huett, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/18 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.

Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.

If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.

For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.

(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”

Their names are Legion, for they are many.

According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.

I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.

So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….

(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.

The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.

From the FAQ —

What is the resolution mechanic in the game?

You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.

Example:
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.

Key features (no pun intended):

  • The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
  • It features a procedural adventure building system
  • A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
  • Five sets of generic maps
  • Mission cards
  • Location cards
  • Obstacle cards
  • Reward cards
  • Motivation cards
  • Character sheets

They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.

(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:

We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.

His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2.

The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net.

In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.

(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:

Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • February 4, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
  • February 4, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered.
  • February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.

(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….

(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.

The top candidates for my ballot are:

  1. Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….

(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.

The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.

(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”

On writing her first male hero

I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.

(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.

…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….

(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)

A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.

Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).

… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.

(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.

Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.

 

(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….

And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora Feuer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/18 The Man Who Scrolled The Moon

(1) PAIN FOR PLEASURE. The sheer, greedy click-seeking that fuels this kerfuffle is being paid for by the pain of the targeted family, as Foz Meadows makes clear in “A Personal Note”.

And it is an insult, regardless of Freer’s claims that he’s only saying what anyone might think. It is also uniquely hurtful – and again, I say this with no expectation that Freer himself cares for my feelings. Manifestly, he does not, and will doubtless rejoice to know that he’s upset me. Nonetheless, I am upset. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m not, but I am, and having admitted as much to myself, I feel no shame in admitting it here. Before all this, I’d never heard of Freer at all, and while I’m aware that the public nature of my life online means that I am, in a sense, accessible to strangers, there’s a great deal of difference between having someone object to my writing, and having them construct malicious falsehoods about my personal life.

In the past few days, at least one person has asked me if I’m really sure that Toby isn’t Camestros; that maybe he’s doing it all behind my back. Freer, Torgersen and Antonelli have laughed at the idea that, if Camestros isn’t Toby, then surely I must be grateful for their alerting me to the presence of a stalker-impersonator – as though they aren’t the ones rifling through my marriage in pursuit of a link that is not, was never, there.

(2) HELLBOY’S DRAWER. The Society of Illustrators presents “THE ART OF MIKE MIGNOLA: Hellboy and Other Curious Objects”, a selection of works from the comic artist and writer behind the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series Hellboy, from March 6 – April 21.

In this exhibit, the Society will feature highlights from his fan-favorite Hellboy series, as well as other spin-off titles including work from B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Witchfinder. The Society is also pleased to feature samples from his award-winning comic books including the Eisner Award winner The Amazing Screw-On Head (Dark Horse Comics) as well as Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra), co-written by best-selling author Christopher Golden. This special exhibit will include an array of comic pages, covers, and rarely seen original paintings by Mignola.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 6:30PM.

In addition, Mike Mignola will be a Guest of Honor at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival. This 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, draws over 8,000 attendees each year. Held on April 7 and 8, the Fest will include speaking engagements, book signings, and parties. Further scheduling for Mignola’s appearances including a panel talk and book signings will be available in future announcements.

(3) CONDENSED CREAM OF 2016. If they’re short stories, does that mean they don’t fluff up your Mt. TBR pile quite as much as book recommendations? Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing its 2016 catch-up posts:

Here’s our next-to-last article about 2016 short fiction. This one focuses on which publications were most likely to run stories that earned recommendations/awards/spots in year’s-best anthologies.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Publications”

The two tables of publication coverage are actually a very compact representation of almost all the raw data for this and the final article, which will focus on the sources of recommendations (i.e. awards, reviewers, and year’s-best anthologies).

(4) EXPANDED UNIVERSE: At Featured Futures, Jason recaps the first month of the new year, discussing some new zines and some (old) news in the January Summation.

Covering January short fiction was exciting (and busy), as Featured Futures added Analog, Ares, Asimov’s, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, F&SF, and Galaxy’s Edge to its roster, resulting in significantly more stories read than usual (86 of 455K words) and a similarly larger than usual recommended/mentioned list. In webzine news, and speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, I was going to add coverage of it as a print zine but, coincidentally, it returned to webzine status, once again making all its fiction available on the web. The categorized “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” (which doubles as a list of the markets Featured Futures covers as well as being a sort of index of reviews) has been updated to reflect this.

(5) TOWARDS CANONISATION. The advocates of sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien are calling for support of preliminary events, as well as the planned Tolkien Canonisaton Conference:

Please pray for the following intentions and dates for the upcoming Tolkien year in the lead up to the Tolkien Canonisation Conference in September 2018 in Oxford:…

  • Saturday 17th March – St Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Fundraiser 2018: raising funds for the Tolkien Canonisation Conference.
  • Friday April 13th – (provisional) Lecture on the Theology of the Body and J. R. R. Tolkien in London.
  • Saturday 1st September – Sunday 2nd September 2018 : Tolkien Canonisation Conference in Oxford.

(6) CHANGE AT TOR BOOKS. Publisher’s Lunch reports —

Liz Gorinsky is leaving her position as a senior editor at Tor Books on February 2. She will continue to handle some of her authors as a consulting editor at Tor and edit short fiction at Tor.com.

Gorinsky tweeted –

Catherynne M. Valente added –

(7) ROBERTS’ RECS. A thread by Adam Roberts is aimed at BSFA Award nominators but is interesting for everyone. Starts here —

(8) STORY SCRAPING AT LOCUS. Locus Online miraculously noticed the 2018 Darrell Award finalists today, one day after File 770 reported the story. Since Mark Kelly stopped doing the news posting there, Locus Online has become especially active scraping stories from File 770 without acknowledging where they got them. A little “hat tip” would be appropriate and appreciated.

(9) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PLANET. It’s time for any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” to nominate for the 2017 Planetary Awards. Click on the link to learn how to participate. The nomination deadline is February 14th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.

The Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards were given for the first time two years ago.  The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

The awards for 2016 work were posted in May 2017 –

  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright
  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom

The awards are administered by the Planetary Defense Commander, whose identity is findable with a little effort, but there’s no harm in having a handle, right Lou Antonelli? (Wait, maybe I should ask somebody else…)

(10) MORE ON MORT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of the late Mort Walker, who he interviewed in 2010 and 2013: “‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker, 94, created laughter ‘nearly every day of his life’”.  Cavna notes that Walker was around so long that Beetle Bailey was personally greenlit by William Randolph Hearst, and notes Walker’s efforts to create the Reuben Award and bring in more women into the cartooning field.

He was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II, but within the world of Walker, even that sometimes turned comically absurd. He spent time at Camp Crowder, which he said inspired “Beetle Bailey’s” Camp Swampy. “I signed up to go into psychiatry,” he told me in 2013 of the Army’s specialized training program, “and I ended up studying engineering. It was typical Army reasoning.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb premiered.

(12) VOTING BOOTH ABOUT TO OPEN. The official Hugo Awards website announced “2018/1943 Hugo Award Nominations Opening Soon”. (Date not specified.)

Worldcon 76 San Jose advises us that they will open nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards within the next few days. They have been working with Worldcon 75 Helsinki and Worldcon 2018 Dublin to coordinate the combined membership information from all three Worldcons, and to do so within the limitations of the three countries’ data-protection laws. When testing of the online nomination form is complete, Worldcon 76 San Jose will release it on the Worldcon 76 web site and make an announcement. We’ll also announce the start of nominations here on The Hugo Awards web site. Paper ballots will also be distributed with Worldcon 76 Progress Report 2, which we understand is going to press in a few days and should mail to members of Worldcon 76 in February. Besides the online form, a PDF of the paper form will be available from Worldcon 76’s web site when it is ready for release.

(13) FAN HUGOS. Rich Horton, in “First Hugo Recommendations: Dramatic Presentation, Fan Writer, Fanzine”, is among the first to blog about prospective 2018 fan Hugo nominees. (Horton also covers the Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category.)

Best Fan Writer

The two fan writers I want to promote the most this year are a couple I mentioned last year as well: John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books….

Best Fanzine

As I did last year, I plan to nominate Black Gate, Galactic Journey, and Rocket Stack Rank for the Best Fanzine Hugo. I’m particularly partial in this context to Black Gate, primarily of course because I have been a contributor since the print days (issue #2 and most of the subsequent issues)….

I heartily agree with Horton’s interest in finding other fan publications than File 770 to put up for the Hugo (though he does have kind words for this site). It seemed a good opportunity to say so here.

(14) REAR VIEW MIRROR. Meanwhile, DB makes a start on the “Retro-Hugos for 1942” with a canvass of his favorite writers.

…Now for Lord Dunsany. In 1942 Dunsany published five stories, all very brief, and about a dozen poems, mostly in Punch. Most of the poems are hopeful gazes towards military victory, and a couple of them introduce the allegorical figure of Liberty, so they could technically be considered fantasy.

None of the stories are SF or fantasy, though the only one of them that’s worth reading could possibly squeeze in by courtesy. It’s a Jorkens story reprinted in The Fourth Book of Jorkens (1947), where it’s the shortest piece in the book. Jorkens is Dunsany’s long-running clubman character who’s prone to making outrageous claims or telling absurd stories which nobody can disprove. In this brief tale, “On the Other Side of the Sun,” that topic comes up – “I wonder what’s there?” – and Jorkens astonishes all by stating, “I have been there.” His regular patsy, Terbut, demands “When, may I ask?” At Jorkens’ reply, “Six months ago,” any red-blooded SF reader should know instantly how the story is going to end, but the penny doesn’t drop for the hapless Terbut until after he makes a large bet that Jorkens is lying…

(15) RETRO FANZINES. While Fanac.org marshals digital copies of 1942 fanzines in support of Worldcon 76’s Retro-Hugos, Robert Lichtman and Bill Burns have tracked down additional fanzines published in 1942 by Bob Tucker available elsewhere online – specifically, at the Internet Archive, which has scans of Tucker’s zine Le Zombie. Four 1942 are issues listed.

(16) SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. WIRED Magazine’s “Cantina Talk: Finally, a Complete Guide to All of The Last Jedi’s Easter Eggs” not only covers the story in the title, but this even more compelling news —

The Last Jedi Adds Some More Material (But Not Onscreen)

The Source: An official announcement from Lucasfilm

Probability of Accuracy: It’s totally legit.

The Real Deal: So apparently, there was more to Star Wars: The Last Jedi than appeared onscreen—but fortunately for fans, it’s not going to remain a secret. Writer/director Rian Johnson is working with novelist Jason Fry to create all-new scenes for the book’s forthcoming novelization, as well as rescuing deleted scenes from the cutting room floor, to firmly place them in the canon. Amongst the things audiences didn’t see in theaters but will read about: Han Solo’s funeral. Prepare your tissues for March 6; you’ll get to read all about it then.

(17) FUTURE IMAGINED. BBC interview with 2016 Hugo winner — “Hao Jingfang: China’s award-winning science fiction writer” (video).

She tells the BBC a lot of her stories originate from thought experiments, and her latest novel imagines “a dark possibility for the future” where robots have replaced human’s jobs.

(18) THE MARKETPLACE OF THE INTERNET.  Kim Huett sent a link to “Boring Talks #02 – Book Pricing Algorithms” with a comment: “Those of you into buying books online (assuming some of you indeed are) might like to listen to the following cautionary tale brought to us by BBC radio. It will confirm everything you ever suspected about the practise…”

A book for $1.7 million? To a computer, it made sense. Sort of. Tracy King explains.

(19) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? If you play poker you may be interested in a new infographic, “Poker & AI: The Raise of Machines Against Humans”. It details insights and research about the evolution of poker-playing artificial intelligence.

But what about the poker industry? Surely there must be an AI capable of playing poker at high levels. The answer is yes, there is. This infographic will show you how the poker’s AI developed throughout the history, as well as where it is now. You can find a lot of interesting stats and information in this infographic, but if you are interested in reading more about poker related stuff, visit our website.

(20) WHERE THE BOYS ARE. This belongs in Connie Willis’ next satirical speech about things science fiction predicted (none of which ever were) — “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging”.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

Not just men, of course, but it made a good headline.

(21) OH NOES! Just think what a career he might have had, if he hadn’t been muted by the Guild!

(22) DISCOVERY SPOILERS. There, that should be enough warning about — “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Jason Isaacs Apologizes for Lying, Admits to Feeling Like a ‘Drunken Hippo’ When Fighting Michelle Yeoh”.

“I’ve done nothing but lie since September,” he said to IndieWire. “I knew, perfectly well, everything before we started. And that meant that every interview was a lie and every conversation I had with my friends… Actually, with quite a lot of my family, was a lie. Anybody on the street was a lie. Anybody in Toronto. So I apologize for all that, but that was the only way to tell the story well.”

(23) PEJORATIVE’S PROGRESS. Inverse’s Ryan Britt looks back on “How the Word “Terran” Became a Sci-Fi Slur”.

In the Mirror Universe of Star Trek, humans aren’t called humans. They’re called “Terrans.” The word “Terran” comes from the root Latin word “terra,” meaning “dry earth,” which is where we get the phrase “terra firma.” But the word “Terran” has been prevalent in science fiction long before it cropped up again on Star Trek: Discovery in 2018. As it turns out “Terran” has a long history of being a dirty word for “human.”

(24) BLACK PANTHER. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther – “Let’s Go” TV spot.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/18 You Can Get Anything You Want At Filer’s Pixel Rant

(1) WORLDCON 76 MEMBERSHIPS SPONSORED FOR MEXICANX FANS, CREATORS. Artist John Picacio, a Worldcon 76 guest of honor, and John Scalzi, are funding four memberships —

John Scalzi, who will fund a pair of the memberships, also publicized the announcement on Whatever: “John Picacio Offering Worldcon Memberships to Mexicanx Fans and Creators”.

(2) COMMEMORATION. Naomi Novik was asked by the New York Times to write an appreciation of Ursula K. LeGuin. She responded with a poem — “For Ursula” – which begins:

I want to tell you something true
Because that’s what she did.
I want to take you down a road she built, only I don’t want to follow it to the end.
I want to step off the edge and go into the underbrush
Clearing another way, because that’s also what she taught
Not how to repave her road but how to lay another
Even if it meant the grass came through the cracks of the pavement, and the thicket ate it up.

(3) DID YOU REMEMBER? Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin were at Berkeley High School at the same time in 1947. However, it spoils the story to add that they didn’t know each other…. See “When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together” at Open Culture from 2016.

(4) OF ACE BOOPS. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett draws this great anecdote from the pages of a classic Australian fanzine — “Ursula Le Guin & Her Elusive Hugo!”.

And now for my favourite Ursula Le Guin letter, one which highlights the two things I like best in an author, a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of humour. The following letter appeared in Philosophical Gas #2, published by John Bangsund in October 1970. The Hugo in question was awarded to Ursula for The Left Hand of Darkness at Heicon ’70, the worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany in August of 1970. I assume the rocket was accepted on Ursula’s behalf by Terry Carr of Ace Books (which would explain a lot).

(5) SFWA AFFIRMED. Jennifer Brozek on “SFWA and its Community”:

Last night, I went to the SFWA Reading to see my friends Josh Vogt, Greg Bear, and Tod McCoy read. I realized something: I’d missed my SFWA community. These are people I only see at conventions and SFWA events. I’d been so busy with my own stuff lately, and needed some distance from the organization after I stepped down as a Director-At-Large, that I’d pulled away too much. That was the wrong approach, but I suppose it was one I needed at the time.

It’s hard to express just how good it feels to be in a room full of like-minded people who all understand why losing one of the greats like Ursula K. Le Guin is such a tragedy or why naming Peter S. Beagle as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is such a joy. So many of the people I met up with last night are at various points in their writing careers. It was like looking at my past, present, and future writing self. They all understood the language of the writing professional and the publishing industry. It felt like coming home. It felt like family.

Recently, SFWA has had to deal with some tough issues. All of them center around protecting its membership at large. I know, intimately, what they’ve been going through—all the time spent, the discussions had, the decisions made—and I’m proud of the Board. I think, with the evidence they had on hand, they did the only thing they could do to protect the SFWA organization and the community they’ve built.

(6) MORE ON COMMUNITY. SFWA President Cat Rambo tweeted —

(7) RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE JURY. CSFF Anglia has empaneled a new Shadow Clarke Jury for 2018 — Gary K. Wolfe, Alasdair Stuart, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Nick Hubble, Samira Nadkarni, and Foz Meadows. (Speller and Hubble are the only returning Sharkes.)

Dr. Helen Marshall, General Director of the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy says in “And Now for a Word from our Hosts”

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has long been an excellent point of reference for taking stock of the changes in the field. It has a deliberately loose mandate to identify the “best” science fiction book of the year, acknowledging that the definition of “best” must be decided by a changing pool of jurors on an annual basis. The Clarke shortlist and the eventual winner showcase the work that has been done in the field, providing an intriguing snapshot of a field in flux. Since its inception the award has been at the heart of a robust critical discussion which interrogates the centre of the genre, its heartland, as well as the margins, where the genre pushes outward. This is why we’ve chosen the Clarke Award submissions list as a starting point for our discussions, and why we return to their shortlist in our discussions.

…What a shadow jury might do, then, is bring these debates into sharper focus. We believe the criticism is valuable, and that detailed, provocative, and respectful criticism enhances our understanding of the text and the cultures which produced it. This form of criticism is not intended to serve the needs of marketers or publicists but those of readers and writers. It aims not only to make visible but also to illuminate and contextualise.

Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller’s manifesto for the return engagement, “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, says in part —

Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers. Which is, if you think about it, exactly the same kind of work as that carried out by an award jury.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that criticism per se has become so frowned upon in the last few years. Is it just that people don’t want to admit this is what is going on behind the scenes? Is it because the word ‘criticism’ carries two meanings, one analytical, the other disapproving? We couldn’t tell but we were fascinated by this pushback against the Shadow Clarke project and decided we needed to explore it further. So, we have decided to run the project for a second year, and this time, rather than simply focusing on the Clarke Award, we’re taking the opportunity to use the shortlisting process as a springboard to exploring the business of criticism more broadly, because we continue to believe that critical analysis has a vital role to play when it comes to talking about science fiction.

(8) STRONG ATTACHMENT. Live Science reports the discovery of a “1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking to Australia”.

Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago.

Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks — sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea — had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada.

Will this open the way for an Aussie Worldcon with adjacent NASFiC?

(9) WHO IS COMING. LA’s premiere Doctor Who convention takes place in three weeks, and the program has been posted: “Gallifrey One 2018 Schedule of Events Now Online”.

With great pleasure, Gallifrey One today is proud to announce the release of our Schedule of Events for our upcoming convention, The 29 Voyages of Gallifrey One in February. As in prior years, we are using the Sched online scheduling system for a seamless and easy-to-navigate program that can be used on your desktop or mobile device….

Full Screen (General Purpose) version
Fully viewable version, with custom views of events, searchable, plus panelist and guest listings
http://gallifreyone2018.sched.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 24, 1984 — Apple Computer, Inc. introduced the Macintosh personal computer.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RON ELLIK AND THE RONVENTION (1962). Although I never met LASFS member Ron Ellik, who died before I ever joined the club, he was a well-known newzine editor (Starspinkle) and influence on Bruce Pelz, who kept his friend’s name alive in the title of his annual wine and cheese party that I attended for years. Now Rob Hansen gives us new reasons to remember him —

Ron Ellik in 1962.

This year’s Eastercon is being held in Harrogate for the first time in more than half a century. Known as the RONVENTION, that earlier one was organised by Ron Bennett and attended by TAFF-winner Ron Ellik, hence the name. At the January first-Thursday pub meeting here in London, Eastercon committee and staff persons Mark Plummer and Caroline Mullan asked me if I could add a section on the RONVENTION to my website that they could link to. Since this was one of those I’d always intended to get around to I was happy to oblige. I drew mainly from conreports by James White and the two Rons when putting it together: “Ronvention, the 1962 Eastercon”.

I’m uploading this earlier than originally intended because of something I realised after I started work on it, namely that tomorrow, 25th January, is the fiftieth anniversary of Ron Ellik’s death at the tragically young age of 30. So I’m publishing it today in memory of him.

Weird to think that when Ron died, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were still alive, the Beatles were still together, and astronauts had yet to leave Earth orbit and strike out for the moon.

(13) OSCAR ISSUE. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren, in “Kobe Bryant’s Oscar nod rings awkward in a year Hollywood is hyper-focused on sexual assault”, says Dear Basketball, an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film, may be in trouble because, despite its John Williams score and Glen Keane animation, it features Kobe Bryant, who settled a sexual assault case in 2003 for a substantial sum in an out-of-court settlement.

(14) WOEBEGONE. The MPR News (Minnesota Public Radio) post “Investigation: For some who lived in it, Keillor’s world wasn’t funny” has more information on the firing of Garrison Keillor. Several incidents are described at the link.

For weeks, Minnesota Public Radio refused MPR News’ repeated requests to comment on the company’s separation from Keillor. But as negotiations with Keillor’s company stalled and pressure from news organizations mounted, Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of MPR and American Public Media Group, broke his silence.

In an interview with MPR News Tuesday afternoon, he said the company’s separation of business interests from Keillor came after it received allegations of “dozens” of sexually inappropriate incidents involving Keillor and a woman who worked for him on A Prairie Home Companion. He said the allegations included requests for sexual contact and descriptions of unwanted sexual touching.

McTaggart, who after the interview with MPR News sent an email to MPR listeners and members further explaining the separation from Keillor, says cutting Keillor off was the most painful decision he’s made as CEO. But in-house and external investigations into the matter bore details he could not ignore.

“When we reached a point that from all sources we had sufficient confidence in facts that really required us to act, we took the action we did,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. It was the necessary thing to do, and we stand by it.”

Since the firing, Prairie Home Companion has been renamed Live From Here.

(15) WHAT FATE. Charles McNulty ponders “As artists fall into disgrace, must their art be consigned to oblivion?” at the Los Angeles Times.

The cavalier way men have systemically abused their power over women in and around the workplace warrants little leniency. But a more slippery question has emerged in this me-too moment of cultural reckoning: What to do with the works of artists whose conduct has been abhorrent?

In the growing gallery of alleged predators, there aren’t any artists I hold dear. James Toback’s films aren’t in my Netflix queue. I never mistook Kevin Spacey for one of the greats. And my admiration for James Levine’s conducting has been mostly of the dilettantish variety.

But inevitably a contemporary artist with whom I feel a special kinship will shatter my illusions about his or her character. I doubt that I will throw away the books or delete the recordings or swear off the films. I’m sure I’ll be disillusioned and quite possibly disgusted, but I know that an artist is not identical with his or her masterpieces and that few human beings can live up to their greatest achievements.

This is a theme that Marcel Proust returns to in his epic novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (more romantically known in English as “Remembrance of Things Past”). The narrator recalls a dinner party in which, as a young man, he meets his hero, the writer Bergotte. The young Marcel, intimidated to be seated among the important guests of the swanky Swanns, is struck immediately by the way Bergotte bears no physical resemblance to the man he had “slowly and painstakingly constructed … a drop at a time, like a stalactite, out of the limpid beauty of his books.”

More distressing to Marcel than Bergotte’s coarse appearance is “the busy and self-satisfied mentality … which had nothing in common with the type of mind that informed the books.” The narrator, a natural philosopher, begins to understand through this encounter that art is not contingent on the specific circumstances of an artist’s life.

(16) SF HISTORY. Michael Dirda, in “An expert’s guide to science fiction’s greatest — and neglected — works”, reviews the companion volume to A Conversation larger than the Universe, an exhibit on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10 (see the January 19 Pixel Scroll, item 7).

Being well-read both inside and outside the genre, Wessells contends that the first major work of alternate history was a 1931 collection of essays, edited by J.C. Squire, titled “If It Had Happened Otherwise.” Its fanciful “lapses into imaginary history” include “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg,” by none other than Winston Churchill. Wessells also lingers over one of the most chilling dystopian novels of the 20th century, “Swastika Night,” written by Katharine Burdekin under the pen name Murray Constantine. Drafted in 1936 and published in 1937, it projects a Nazified far-future Europe where Hitler is worshiped as an Aryan god and women are kept in pens as breeding animals. (For more about this remarkable book, I recommend Daphne Patai’s excellent Feminist Press edition or the Gollancz SF Masterworks paperback, for which I wrote a short introduction.)

(17) A COMFORTING DOOM. Jill Lepore’s “A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction” in the June 5-12 New Yorker last summer, is an essay-review of several dystopian novels, including Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and Ben H. Winters’s Underground Airlines. Martin Morse Wooster flagged up its quotable last paragraph:

Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one.  It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices.  Its only admonition is:  Despair more.  It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own.  Left or right, the radical pessimism of an unremitting dystopianism has itself contributed to the unravelling ot the liberal state and the weakening of a commitment to political pluralism. ‘This isn’t a story about war,’ (Omar) El Akkad writes in American War.  ‘It’s about ruin.’  A story about ruin can be beautiful.  Wreckage is romantic.  But a politics of ruin is doomed.

(18) UP IN THE AIR. Maybe we’ll get them after all? “Degree in ‘flying car’ engineering offered online”.

The online course is being offered by Silicon Valley e-learning school Udacity and will begin in February.

It is the brainchild of former Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who previously headed up Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo.

Prof Thrun is hoping to attract at least 10,000 applicants to what he is describing as a “nanodegree”.

A nanodegree, according to Udacity’s website, is an online certification that can be earned in six to 12 months, and aims to teach basic programming skills in various disciplines.

…Previously Udacity has offered a self-driving car course, which has attracted 50,000 applicants since 2016.

(19) KIDS PUT IT TOGETHER. “K’Nex builds toys rollercoaster you can ride in VR”. (Video) A little like those model railroad trains with the tiny camera on the front – only a lot faster.

Toy-maker K’Nex has designed a toy rollercoaster kit that children can assemble and then “ride” by wearing a virtual reality headset.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones tried it out at the Toy Fair 2018 exhibition in London.

(20) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. BBC reports “A submersible mission in Antarctic waters has revealed unique ecosystems so rare they deserve special protection, say scientists.” — “Antarctica’s Weddell Sea ‘deserves protected status'”.

The seabed investigation, co-ordinated by the campaign group Greenpeace, will help build the case for the creation of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuary.

Covering 1.8 million sq km, the marine reserve will be considered by Antarctic nations at a conference in October.

It would ban all fishing in a large part of the Weddell Sea.

… Along with the smaller creatures that live on the seafloor, the reserve would bring additional protection to larger animals such as leopard seals, orcas, humpback whales and penguins.

(21) WETTER RESISTANCE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why ‘The Shape of Water’ is the most relevant film of the year”.

All things considered, the savvy choice for best picture might be Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which has been nominated in a whopping 13 different categories. Admittedly, it’s yet another film with a male director, but it does have a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and a female lead, Sally Hawkins, and it passes the Bechdel Test within minutes. If that weren’t enough, it has major black and gay characters, as well as a South American immigrant; true, he’s a half-human, half-newt South American immigrant, but that’s not the point. More diverse and inclusive than any of the other best picture nominees, the film doesn’t just rail against sexism, racism and homophobia, it argues that they are all symptoms of the same patriarchal disease – a disease which all voiceless and oppressed people should defeat together. In short, The Shape of Water is a lot more militant than the average magic-realist fable about a woman who fancies a fish-monster. What’s more, it’s even more topical now than when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last August.

(22) WORKSHOP WISDOM. Cynthia Felice shared “Five things I learned at Clarion”. The first is:

  1. Writers who write naked or wearing only a fedora do not write any better than a writer who is fully dressed.

(23) TRAILER PARK TRASH. Cnet doesn’t want you to miss it — “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek gets a trashy parody trailer”.

Ever since news emerged that Quentin Tarantino, famous for films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill,” had pitched a great idea for a Star Trek movie to film studio Paramount, we’ve been wondering what Tarantino Trek might look like.

We now have one possible answer in the form of “Star Trek: Voyage to Vengeance,” a fake trailer made up of moments from the original series.

The video comes from Nerdist and features a laundry list of some of the original series’ most cringe-worthy moments, including the space hippies and almost everyone Captain Kirk ever kissed.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark Hepworth, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, David K.M. Klaus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/18 The Man Who Scrolled Christopher Columbus Ashore

(1) THE FIRE THIS TIME. The Paris Review tells about “Staging Octavia Butler in Abu Dhabi”. This really is the best article about the opera I’ve seen so far.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in November after years of delay and a cost rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same weekend as LAD’s grand opening, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center hosted the world premiere of Parable of the Sower, an opera composed by the singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon, a queer Brooklyn-based activist, and based on the prophetic novel by Octavia Butler. At first glance, it seems unlikely that a “starchitect” museum in Abu Dhabi, where gas is cheap and water is expensive, would stage an opera about a fiery, drought-ridden apocalypse. And yet, taken together, the museum and the opera initiate a set of conversations—about art and culture and change—that upend stereotypes about the Gulf.

The book Parable of the Sower (1993) was intended as the first of a trilogy. It’s set in a world where California is burning, rivers have dried up, and the president sells entire towns to the highest corporate bidder. Violence is everywhere, and not even houses of worship are safe. In the second book, Parable of the Talents (1998), a president is elected who promises to “make America great again.” The third book was never published. Given Butler’s prescience about America’s worst impulses, perhaps it’s best that the third book never came out: Do any of us really want to know how bad things might become?

The teenage heroine of the story, Lauren Olamina, flees her town on the outskirts of Los Angeles after the neighborhood is burned and looted by “pyros,” people addicted to a drug that makes fires better than sex. Along with two other survivors from the neighborhood massacre, Lauren decides to walk north, perhaps to Canada or to anywhere where “water doesn’t cost more than food.”

(2) COSMOS RENEWED. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak told readers that “Fox has renewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for a second season”.

The networks made the announcement today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, and deGrasse Tyson and producer Seth McFarland confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that the season will air in Spring 2019 on Fox and the National Geographic channel.

(3) SHARPENING CRITICS. Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation is taking applications for the “2018 Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism”.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Three days of extremely enjoyable discussion and exchange of ideas in the delightful environment of the city of Cambridge, the Masterclass is highly valued by past students.

The 2018 Class Leaders are:

Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)

John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.

Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels

(4) PKD SERIES CALLED WEAK. James Poniewozik of the New York Times finds the new series disappointing: “Review: In ‘Electric Dreams,’ the Future Seems Outdated”.

I can’t blame the weaknesses of “Electric Dreams,” whose first season arrives on Amazon on Friday, on the source material: The episodes’ writers had great leeway to stray from the originals. (The same happened with Amazon’s Dick adaptation “The Man in the High Castle.”)

Nor is a lack of star power at fault. The credits of the 10 self-contained episodes include Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston (one of 14 — 14! — executive producers) and Janelle Monáe (the actress-singer who recorded “The ArchAndroid” plays an arch android).

But this license and talent, plus the lavish scale of production, add up to little that feels freshly imagined or newly provocative.

(5) BUT CONTRARIWISE. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han takes the opposite view: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Showcases the Best of What Sci-Fi Can Offer”.

…That said, if Black Mirror is a nightmare, then Electric Dreams is… well, a gorgeous dream.

There’s plenty of darkness in Amazon’s new series, but it’s fundamentally geared toward the light. Like every anthology series, it’s a bit of a grab bag, but there’s something special to be found in each episode, and the heights reached by the best installments are more than worth the patience required to get through the less coherent entries.

(6) SMUGGLERS TREASURE. The Book Smugglers have a new volume out: “Announcing Gods and Monsters: The Anthology (and a Giveaway)”. They’re giving away three copies – see the post for details.

From a thief and a stolen goddess, to twin sisters more different than their fathers ever could have imagined. From a priestess fighting gods incarnate, to a cursed artifact and journal concealing a great evil. From a young boy discovering his godly lineage and power, to two trans boys falling in love and summoning demons. Gods and Monsters collects six tales of great and terrible powers, including:

  • “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” by Alison Tam
  • “The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson
  • “A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd
  • “It Came Back” by Samantha Lienhard
  • “Duck Duck God” by José Iriarte
  • “Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb

All stories originally edited and published by The Book Smugglers.

(7) HAPPY FAIL SAFE DAY. This was a push-notice to every cellphone in Hawaii. It took them 38 minutes to push a notice of false alarm. No matter what they said, today will not be the day before the Day After after all.

(8) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series — “Birthday Reviews: Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Maze of Maal Dweb”.

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 and died on August 14, 1961. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, he was one of the major authors at Weird Tales, writing stories which were similar to the dark fantasies Lovecraft wrote.

Smith maintained a correspondence with Lovecraft for the last 15 years of Lovecraft’s life. While Lovecraft wrote about Cthulhu, Smith wrote about the far future Zothique. Smith was named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner in 2015.

(9) WEIRDER STILL. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent the link to this anecdote about E. Hoffman Price with the note: “Today we explore one of the more unexpected consequences of smoking. If this had happened to Kipling it’s possible that line about a good cigar being a Smoke might not have been written.” — Smoking, more dangerous than you ever knew..

So. Everybody has heard of Howard Philips Lovecraft I presume? Well of course you have, even Xbox playing preteens can tell you that Lovecraft is Cthulhu’s agent. How about Robert E. Howard then? Well of course you have, even Netflix watching preteens can tell you Howard is Conan’s agent. (Though you can confuse them by asking which Conan does he represent?)

So what about E. Hoffman Price? Hah, got you there, you thought I was going to ask about Clarke Ashton Smith next, didn’t you? No, Smith is for another day when I’m feeling a little more eldritch. Not that E. Hoffman Price couldn’t write a pretty effective weird story when he was in the mood. He started selling weird shorts back in the 1920s and didn’t stop until not long before he passed away in the 1980s. I doubt anybody keeps selling that long if they don’t have the knack for it….

(10) CHECK IT OUT. The ACME Corporation has an admirer:

(11) EMBERG OBIT. Bella Emberg (1937-2018): British actress, died 12 January, aged 80. Television work includes Doomwatch (two episodes, 1970-71), Doctor Who (three episodes, in 1970, 1974 and 2006), The Tomorrow People (one episode, 1977).

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1888 — National Geographic Society founded.
  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee
  • January 13, 2008 — The Terminator franchise premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls it “misapplying the supernatural” in this installment of Bizarro.
  • John King Tarpinian notes in Close to Home that one person’s sci-fi is another’s biography.

(14) BEWARE THE PEAR. Here’s a tweet of some RedWombat-inspired cosplay –

Know Your Meme’s explanation of “LOLWUT” includes this RedWombat reference —

The surrealist painting of the laughing fruit, titled The Biting Pear of Salamanca[1], was posted to deviantART on February 27th, 2006 by Ursula Vernon. Inspired by pop surrealism, she wrote that the pear “lives off low-flying birds, hand-outs, and the occasional unwary sightseer.”

(15) COMING TO VIDEO. The Hellraiser series continues on video:

Experience a terrifying new chapter in the legendary Hellraiser series when Hellraiser: Judgment arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, Digital, and On Demand February 13 from Lionsgate. The tenth film in the classic horror series tells the story of three detectives as they struggle to solve a horrifying murder, but instead find themselves thrust into the depths of Pinhead’s hellacious landscape. Including horror icon Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), it was written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hansel & Gretel).

 

(16) SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON. Apparently, January 31 brings four lunar events for the price of one. The Crescenta Valley Weekly covers that, JPL’s 60th anniversary, and tells about a forthcoming mission, in “Inspired by Past, JPL Looks to the Future”.

On Jan. 31, there are several things happening. That night will see a full moon, a super moon (when the Moon is full at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), and a lunar eclipse blood moon (when the earth passes between the sun and moon, blocking out all of the light for a short while and giving the moon a reddish hue before and after). It’s a super blue blood moon. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the veritable birth of JPL.

“After Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. was just completely freaking out because the Soviets were the first into space. You’ve got this thing flying a couple hundred miles overhead beeping and it is a symbol of Soviet space technology and dominance. What people don’t realize is the U.S. response to Sputnik came from Caltech.

“The first satellite was Explorer I. So this Jan. 31 will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I. It was designed, built and operated by Caltech and what would become JPL,” Gallagher said. “Our most iconic photo [at JPL] is of William Pickering, who ended up being the first director of JPL, James Van Allen, who discovered the Van Allen radiation belt that was named after him, and Wernher Von Braun. [The three] are standing at the National Academy of Science holding Explorer I over their heads. It is an amazing picture. And that is the birth of JPL, and how we got started. We are very excited about that.”

Moving further into the year there are missions that will look to explore space, but also those meant to look back at our home planet, to better understand our world’s behavior and our relationship to it.

“In spring 2018, there is something called GRACE Follow-On, or GFO, that will launch as an Earth Science mission. GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, so it is a follow-on to the first GRACE and it is going to continue that work,” Gallagher said.

GRACE operated for 15 years and eventually died long past its expected lifetime. It consisted of two spacecraft that made highly accurate measurements of the variation of Earth’s gravity. This provided all types of information about what was going on under the Earth’s surface in drought areas or big areas of subsidence that opened up. GRACE tracks changes caused by additional water in the ocean, because this all affects gravity.

“It’s something that has a lot of practical benefits to society,” said Gallagher. “There is also a smaller instrument that is going to be launched called Eco Stress in June 2018. That’s also an Earth Science mission.”

(17) EVEN OLDER. The “Rocket Research Institute, founded in Glendale, celebrates 75 years”.

When the Glendale Rocket Society was founded by students at Clark Junior High— the current site of Crescenta Valley High — the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II had just commenced and Dwight D. Eisenhower had not yet taken command of the Allied Forces in Europe.

The organization’s leader, George James, 14 years old at the time, brought the society to Glendale High, where it gained a small but devoted membership of students interested in the study of rockets.

“We have carefully avoided inviting those who have no other interest in the subject beyond idle curiosity,” James told the Glendale News-Press in 1946. “All of our members contribute something to the project.”

Now, 75 years later, the group has survived as the Rocket Research Institute, a nonprofit educational group staffed by engineering, space and safety professionals who contribute toward space- and rocket-education advocacy.

Originally inspired by a Buck Rodgers comic strip, James’ interest in rocketry during high school secured him a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an assistant testing mechanic when the facility employed about 300 people.

(18) FIRSTS. Syfy Wire digs into the history of The Twilight Zone: “Firsts: The first episode of The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959”.

Syracuse, New York native and World War II combat veteran Rod Serling had been working as a freelance scriptwriter in radio and television for years, scoring his big breakthrough in 1955 with “Patterns,” broadcast live on Kraft Television Theatre. That led to more work and a string of acclaimed teleplays such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), “The Comedian” (1957) and “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (1958).

But Serling, an activist at heart who dealt with many of his social and political concerns in his writing, had been increasingly frustrated with corporate censorship by small screen sponsors that continually forced him to change his scripts. He reckoned that a series in which he could hide commentary on the contemporary world inside science fiction and fantasy tales would get the censors off his back.

CBS gave Serling the green light to move forward with his idea for a half-hour science fiction anthology series, which he dubbed The Twilight Zone, after the success of “The Time Element,” a sci-fi script he sold to CBS for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958. “The Time Element” was originally conceived as a pilot script for the program.

(19) BE THE ART. Good Show, Sir reports Lee Moyer, artist, designer and illustrator, has created a gallery of sci-fi cover recreations on his website. For example –

(20)  DUCK TECH. Cat Eldridge sent the link with the warning, “This is heart-wrenching.”

My Special Aflac DuckTM, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignTM and developed by Sproutel, is an innovative, smart robotic companion that features naturalistic movements, joyful play and interactive technology to help comfort children coping with cancer. With a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a part of Aflac’s 22-year commitment to providing care and support for children who have cancer. Aflac’s goal is to distribute this smart companion to the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge.

 

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Einstein-Rosen —

Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him – at least not for now.

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/18 Calculating Witticisms And Generating Sarcastic Comebacks At The Algorithm Round Table

(1) BRAM STOKER AWARDS. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton reminds members they have until January 15 to recommend works for the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards.

– ALL members may recommend works, including Supporting.
– ALL members may recommend works in ALL categories.
– If you’re trying to get your work considered, please review the Bram Stoker Awards etiquette page
– We’ve already seen a few examples of authors whose works appear on the Recommendations page claiming to be “nominated.” Please do NOT refer to your work as “nominated” unless you are listed on the Final Ballot.

The Bram Stoker Awards® Etiquette Rules begin with these general principles, then go into detail.

If there is a single thought to keep in mind here, it is the difference between promoting and soliciting.

Promoting (acceptable) is the business of spreading the word about your work and making sure anyone who wants to can read it.

Soliciting (unacceptable) is the practice of wheeling and dealing, whining and wheedling, in order to get yourself an award that you may not deserve.

Works that are truly worthy of the award tend to rise to the top without help if enough people read them. If you have to go out and beg for recommendations or votes, that says something rather uncomplimentary about both you and the work. So you’re doing yourself a service if you refrain.

(2) THE BDO. James Davis Nicoll provides “A Brief History of the Big Dumb Object Story in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

I was recently reminded of the golden age of Big Dumb Object stories (hat tip to reviewer Roz Kaveny for coining the phrase). As this is not yet commonly accepted genre shorthand, perhaps a definition is in order.

Contrary to the name, BDOs are not necessarily dumb. In fact, most of them have rather sophisticated infrastructure working away off-stage preventing the story from being a Giant Agglomeration of Useless Scrap story. What they definitely are is large. To be a BDO, the Object needs to be world-sized, at least the volume of a moon and preferably much larger. BDOs are also artificial. Some…well, one that I can think of but probably there are others…skirt the issue by being living artifacts but even there, they exist because some being took steps to bring them into existence.

(3) INTERNET ARCHIVE INFRINGEMENT CHARGED. SFWA’s “Infringement Alert” warns —

The Internet Archive (Archive.org)  is carrying out a very large and growing program of scanning entire books and posting them on the public Internet. It is calling this project “Open Library,” but it is SFWA’s understanding that this is not library lending, but direct infringement of authors’ copyrights. We  suspect that this is the world’s largest ongoing project of unremunerated digital distribution of entire in-copyright books. An extensive, random assortment of books is available for e-lending—that is the “borrowing” of a digital (scanned) copy.  For those books that can be “borrowed,” Open Library allows users to download digital copies in a variety of formats to read using standard e-reader software. As with other e-lending services, the books are DRM-protected, and should become unreadable after the “loan” period. However, an unreadable copy of the book is saved on users’ devices (iPads, e-readers, computers, etc.) and can be made readable by stripping DRM protection. SFWA is still investigating the extent to which these downloadable copies can be pirated. Unlike e-lending from a regular library, Open Library is not serving up licensed, paid-for copies, but their own scans.

The post includes guidance about how writers can deal with infringement issues.

(4) FAWLTY REASONING. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent a link to “Jack Vance & Fawlty Towers” with the warning: “I have to admit the logical progression of this installment is a little unexpected. I’m sure you’ll manage though. I have every confidence in you all.” The metaphor addresses William Atheling Jr.’s misguided review of a Jack Vance book, both written in the 1950s.

It’s with Vance’s next point however that we encounter what surely his Basil Fawlty moment. I’m willing to bet the restrained sarcasm Vance employed in order to agree with Atheling that the short stories contained in The Dying Earth collection made for a terrible novel is as nothing to how he felt when he first read Atheling’s complaint. As somebody who has read The Dying Earth collection, albeit many years ago, the thought that anybody could miss the assorted changes in plot, location, and characters is an astounding one. As the author of these assorted stories and thus more intimately involved with then than any reader could be the Atheling complaint was surely a source of intense frustration for Jack Vance. How do you deal with being told you have failed when the basis of the claim is as demonstrably wrong as this? There are things that should not need explanation, that are a chore, an undeserved burden to set right. If it had been me in Vance’s place the sheer frustration of Atheling’s comments would have had me curling up Basil Fawlty style.

(5) YOU’RE GRACE PARK. Io9’s Jill Pantozzi digs into The Magicians new season and asks “Could You Have an Entire Conversation in Pop Culture References? The Magicians Challenges Us All”.

Eliot’s entire conversation with Queen Margo is perfection but hits a high note by kicking things off referencing another Syfy series: Battlestar Galactica. Take a look (unless you want to go into the episode fresh, of course). And don’t worry if you’re not entirely versed in pop culture; there are helpful subtitles to explain some of the references.

 

(6) CALIFORNIA BOOK FAIR. The 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held on February 9-11, 2018 at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Featuring the collections and rare treasures of over 200 booksellers from over 30 different countries the California International Antiquarian Book Fair is recognized as one of the world’s largest and most prestigious exhibitions of antiquarian books. The California International Antiquarian Book Fair gives visitors the opportunity to see, learn about, and purchase the finest in rare and valuable books, manuscripts, autographs, graphics, photographs, print ephemera, and much more.

(7) FOR THOSE SCORING AT HOME. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender reports, “We’ve created the 2018 version of our page that helps people nominate for the Hugo Awards. In addition to our reviews, this incorporates feedback from six other prolific short-fiction reviewers to produce a sorted list of the best-reviewed short SFF of 2017.” — “2018 Hugo Awards”.

New this year: they have highlighted which stories were most recommended in different categories.

Hullender continues: “As in the past, the pages offer nomination help several different ways. The list of stories is helpful for readers looking for stories to read, but it’s also helpful to people who need help remembering the stories they’ve already read. The Campbell page identifies everyone eligible for the Campbell (based only on short stories we reviewed).”

(8) HUT CUISINE. New fiction from Mad Scientist Journal: “Excerpts from the Diary of Theodore Miro, Competitor on CryptoChefs Season 2”. The artwork makes it rather irresistible —

Here’s the opening paragraph:

May 6th

I understand that TV audiences want to see a little more showmanship than I’m used to providing on the line back at Lilette, but this is ridiculous. They trucked in a six-foot tall burlap sack with “HOUSE FEED” painted on the side, and we had to spend two hours getting shots of me and some crew pouring it out onto a giant plate. They kept having to refill the bag between takes, and I had nothing to do but sit around in the freezing-ass Russian afternoon. The only wifi reception out here is a 1980-looking suitcase laptop with one of those inch-thick rubber antennas. I think all it does is let Chaz keep in touch with the producers through some kinda HAM radio satellite or whatever. No apps or anything. I’d tried making small talk with him in between takes, but I think the only thing he’s ever actually read is liner notes from Smash Mouth albums. Album, singular? I don’t even know. He sure would though.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 8, 1862 — Frank Nelson Doubleday (publisher)
  • Born January 8, 1908 — The first Doctor Who. actor William Hartnell
  • Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking

(10) SEVEN CENTURIES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA. A Marvel comics milestone is approaching —

This spring, OUT OF TIME will culminate with the release of CAPTAIN AMERICA’s milestone 700th issue, concluding the arc in an oversized story from creators Mark Waid and Chris Samnee!

Frozen in time, awakened in a decimated future and once again a man out of his era, there is only one way for Steve Rogers to restore order and rebuild civilization—and that’s to rule it as King Captain America!

“No dream, no hoax, no lie, this IS Cap and this IS happening!” said SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Guest-starring the Thing and the Hulk (or as much as is left of them), it’s a celebration of 700 issues of star-spangled adventure! Plus, Mark Waid delivers an untold tale from Captain America’s past, featuring the classic artwork of Jack Kirby!”

(11) MILES MORALES. In “Jason Reynolds Is Revolutionizing the Art of Writing Characters”, Washington City Paper’s Kayla Randall profiles Jason Randall, an experienced African-American YA author whom Marvel picked to write Miles Morales: Spider-Man, a YA novel which appeared late in 2017.

When Marvel Comics calls, people answer. That seems to be a general rule. But local author Jason Reynolds was hesitant when he got his call. Marvel had plans to publish a young adult novel about Spider-Man, specifically Miles Morales, an immensely popular iteration of the character and the first black boy to don the spider suit in the comics. Reynolds was the author the bosses wanted.

That he would be on Marvel’s radar as it identified authors to write about a black Puerto Rican teenager coming of age in Brooklyn comes as no surprise. The Oxon Hill native, who now lives in Northeast D.C., has written nine books and become widely known over the past few years for writing complex young black characters, mostly boys. His book Ghost was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and As Brave As You was a 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book.

“I’ve written a gazillion books about black boys in Brooklyn, so it was kind of like ‘Look dude, this is your wheelhouse, will you take this on?’” Reynolds says.

His initial answer was “I don’t know.” He was afraid the stranglehold of a corporation with huge intellectual properties to protect and monitor would stifle his writing. Then there was the immense pressure he’d feel to properly represent a beloved superhero in his own words.

(12) SMALL WORLD. Yahoo! shares “A portrait of Earth and the Moon from 3 million miles away”:

Sometimes you need to step back to see the big picture, and if your subjects are 249,000 miles apart, you need to step waaay back. Luckily, the spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is moving rapidly away from us and was recently just in the right position, around 3.1 million miles away, so it trained its MapCam instrument towards its former home and captured this poignant portrait of the Earth and the Moon.

(13) LESSON FROM AN EXPERT. Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer, in “‘Hold-my-beer’ Precedent”, criticizes practices like —

‘De-platforming’ – Another precedent set and accepted and much beloved by the modern Left – those in power should be able to effectively silence any dissent, and isolate dissenters by denying them a public place – be that a convention, Twitter, or a book for sale to the public. The puppy-kickers and indeed SJW’s believe de-platforming an important and completely justified tool… in their hands. They’re in power and think it a great idea.

I know Dave can speak about de-platforming from experience, having banned me from MGC’s comments section.

And what explosive thing did I say to trigger him? My last comment there responded to their site redesign by asking them to make the bylines larger and more readable. No, no, this wasn’t concern trolling. It just seemed an obvious thing to fix as long as they were doing a makeover anyway.

(14) JON PINOCCHIO. Yesterday he was telling the world File 770 has no readers. In February he tweeted the figure below as a taunt. Which was true? Neither. Isn’t that a surprise. There has never been anything remotely like that number of outbound clicks from here to his site.

(15) JDA’S NEXT CHESSMOVE. Jon Del Arroz has posted “An Open Letter to Worldcon GoH Spider Robinson”.

In an unprecedented move, Worldcon pre-banned me, an action they haven’t taken since 1964 with Walter Breen, a convicted pedophile. Unlike Walter, I’m no criminal, just a family man and professional in the field. I’m an outspoken conservative and Christian, which sets me in the “other, not human” category for some people in science fiction writing, and I’ve been a target of a hate campaign because of my worldviews since coming on the scene. It’s about the opposite of what I imagined a loving, tolerant group would be.

I’ve been given no information to why I’m banned other than I “intend to violate the code of conduct” which I’ve stated several times I don’t. As a popular writer in the field, it seems a move solely based on hate and discrimination of people like me. I wish we could all get along despite differences like in Callahan’s, but it appears some in our world aren’t ready for that.

(16) GAME OVER. John C. Wright begins his January 8 post, “Love Crimes and Hate Crimes”, with this news –

Milo Yiannopoulos’ DANGEROUS website, for reasons, so they reassure me, that are no reflection on my writing, have suspended my column there, temporarily, or so they hope.

(17) INSPIRATION. There was a famous composer who answered the question “Where do you get your inspiration” with the remark, “When the check arrives.” Ridley Scott would like somebody to inspire him that way — “‘Blade Runner 2049’ Sequel: Ridley Scott Already Has Plans for a Third Chapter”.

Director Ridley Scott has an idea for a new “Blade Runner” film and is hoping to get it off the ground. Although he recently vocalized some strong opinions about why the second chapter, “Blade Runner 2049,” underperformed at the box office (“It’s slow. It’s slow. Long. Too long. I would have taken out half an hour,” Scott told Al Arabiya), he seems to be eager to return to the series.

When asked about continuing the saga, Scott told Digital Spy, “I hope so. I think there is another story. I’ve got another one ready to evolve and be developed, so there is certainly one to be done for sure.”

(18) A CHECK OF MONEY. Subterranean Press did inspire Harlan Ellison that way, and he allowed Jason Davise to put together the collection Blood’s A Rover. The Ellison-signed edition is already sold out ($500 a pop). Unsigned copies are available at $40.

Harlan Ellison introduced you to Vic and Blood in 1969’s Nebula Award-winning novella, “A Boy and His Dog.” You thrilled to their on-screen adventures in the 1975 Hugo Award-winning feature film adaptation billed as “a kinky tale of survival.” 1977 and 1980 brought brief reunions in “Eggsucker” and “Run, Spot, Run,” and the promise of another story—and a third solo, Spike, to make the Dystopian Duo a Tribulation Trio—but only audiobooks and comics followed, revisiting the same tales.

Now, nearly fifty years after they first set off across the blasted wasteland, Vic and Blood are back.

Harlan Ellison and his editor, Jason Davis, have painstakingly assembled the whole story of Vic and Blood and Spike from the author’s files, using revised-and-expanded versions of the novella and short stories, interstitial material developed for Richard Corben’s graphic adaptation, and—for the first time—never-before-published material from the aborted 1977 NBC television series Blood’s a Rover to tell the complete story of A Boy and His Dog, and a Girl who is tougher than the other two combined.

(19) IN HOC. Not genre, but too snarky to ignore — “New Latin State Mottoes for the 21st Century” from McSweeney’s. Examples:

Massachusetts
Tacete, scimus nos asperos esse
“Shut up, we know we are rude”

Ohio
Nostra flumina non iam ardent
“Our rivers no longer catch on fire”

(20) GOOD GOVERNMENT JOB. Seal of approval?: “SpaceX Rocket Launches Secret Government Payload Into Orbit”.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a top secret U.S. government payload into orbit, while returning its first-stage booster to the ground for reuse.

The Falcon lifted off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the first-stage of the Falcon returned to Earth for an upright landing, the upper stage lofted the mysterious Zuma, presumed to be a spy satellite or military communications satellite, into an undisclosed orbit.

(21) HEAVY METAL. Beating swords into stereos? “Headphones made from recycled firearms”.

Sweden’s Yevo Labs has unveiled a set of wireless headphones that incorporate metal made from seized illegal guns.

The charging case and a band on the headphones themselves are made of a material branded Humanium.

It is created by the Humanium Metal Initiative, also based in Sweden, and used by a number of Scandinavian manufacturers.

One analyst said the idea should help the headphones stand out in a crowded market.

(22) MIRROR, MIRROR. Cora Buhlert evaluates a popular episode of Black Mirror — “‘USS Callister’ and the Successful Mutiny Against Toxic Masculinity”.

…In the end, it turns out that “USS Callister”, the “Star Trek” episode of Black Mirror is only superficially about Star Trek. This shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise, since Black Mirror normally focusses on “five minutes into the future” tech dystopias and not far future space opera. And indeed, my initial reaction to the “USS Callister” scenes in the general season 4 trailer was, “Huh. Now that doesn’t look like Black Mirror at all.”

And indeed it quickly turns out that the scenes in the trailer of a day-glo 1960ish Star Trek type space adventure are just an immersive virtual reality game created by a programmer named Robert Daley, where he can forget his sad everyday existence and instead live in the world of his favourite TV show, a Star Trek clone called “Space Fleet”, as the heroic captain leading an adoring crew to explore the unknown. At first glance, this seems to be harmless enough, though it is notable that the crew of the USS Callister look very much like his co-workers. Things take a turn towards the seriously creepy when Daley steals the coffee cup of a new employee, swabs it for DNA and pushes a sample into a device attached to his computer…

(23) CW SUPERHEROES. The super season returns starting Monday, January 15 on The CW. Very amusing trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/17 Pixels Sold Separately. Some Scrolling Required

(1) POPULAR SF ART INSPIRES FILM, Simon Stålenhags’ art book is becoming a movie reports Swedish news source Boktugg. Thanks to Hampus Eckerman for the translation:

The right to film Simon Stålenhag’s latest art book The Electric State has been sold to Russo Brothers Studio. The sale was preceded by a bidding where several studios showed their interest.

Simon says that it feels very exciting.

–        This has never been a goal, but I have loved movies since I was a kid, so it is a little bit of a dream actually. An unexpected dream!

The Passage (in English The Electric State) was released in December 2017 by the publisher Fria Ligan (The Free League). The release was preceded by a kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017, which attracted over 3 million Swedish crowns. It is Simon Stålenhag’s third art book, his first two titles Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood have made him a world-famous visual storyteller.

Russo Brothers Studio is run by the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo who directed several Marvel films. The film director is expected to become Andy Muschietti (who made the new film based on Stephens Kings It).

What do you think about them winning the bidding?

– They felt very good in our conversations. But above all, I’m very happy to have Barbara and Andy Muschietti with me, I loved It and they are absolutely amazing people. We just had the same picture of what is important in the book, and in movies in general, says Simon.

Simon Stålenhag himself will be an executive producer for the film, which means that he will be involved in all important decisions, such as role crew, scriptwriting and selection of managerial positions.

Will the story work as it is in the movie format or does it need to be adapted?

–        I suspect we will want to get a little more drama to fit the long-film format. With emphasis on “a little”, everyone in the team really agrees that the characters and the journey they make in the book is what we’re going to make a film about, says Simon Stålenhag.

(2) CHRISTMAS IN THE COLONIES. Cora Buhlert’s holiday fare includes a work in English: “Two new releases just in time for the holidays: Christmas on Iago Prime and Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen”

Let’s start with the English language story. Back during the first July short story challenge in 2015, I wrote a little story called Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime, in which a couple attempts to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a new settled space colony.

I’d assumed that this was the first and last time I’d ever visit the colony of Iago Prime. However, I try to write a holiday story every year. And when I searched for ideas for a holiday story for this year, I suddenly thought “Why not write a science fictional holiday story about Christmas in a space station or interplanetary colony?” And then I thought, “Why not reuse the Iago Prime setting?”

The result is Christmas on Iago Prime. The protagonist this time around is Libby, a little girl whose scientist parents are due to spend a whole year on Iago Prime, including Christmas. Libby is not at all thrilled about this, at least at first. Kai and Maisie from Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime also appear and they have big news to share.

Available on Amazon and plenty of other ebook sellers for .99 USD/GBP/EUR.

(3) THE LONG RUN. A New York college made a video showing off its science fiction collection:

The City Tech Science Fiction Collection is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Atrium Building, A543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201).

This large collection comes to City Tech from an anonymous donor. It includes nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010, and an almost comprehensive collection of science fiction until 2010. There is also a significant amount of science fiction criticism, and selections of fringe texts, including horror and the supernatural.

 

(4) SFPA LEADERSHIP. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the selection of two officers, F.J. Bergmann as Vice-President and Renee Ya as Secretary.

F.J. Bergmann (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) has been a member of SFPA since 2007, its webmaster since 2010 and recently stepped down from 5 years as Star*Line editor…

Renee Ya (Bay Area, California, USA) is a Hmong American writer, photographer, and space shamen who has been volunteering at SFPA for the last three years with varying capacity from keeper of the voting forms to periodic updates to the website.

(5) PARADIGM SHIFT. A revolutionary interpretation: “Physicists negate century-old assumption regarding neurons and brain activity”.

Neurons are the basic computational building blocks that compose our brain. Their number is approximately one Tera (trillion), similar to Tera-bits in midsize hard discs. According to the neuronal computational scheme, which has been used for over a century, each neuron functions as a centralized excitable element. The neuron accumulates its incoming electrical signals from connecting neurons through several terminals, and generates a short electrical pulse, known as a spike, when its threshold is reached.

Using new types of experiments on neuronal cultures, a group of scientists, led by Prof. Ido Kanter, of the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, has demonstrated that this century-old assumption regarding brain activity is mistaken.

In an article published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers go against conventional wisdom to show that each neuron functions as a collection of excitable elements, where each excitable element is sensitive to the directionality of the origin of the input signal. Two weak inputs from different directions (e.g., “left” and “right”) will not sum up to generate a spike, while a strong input from “left” will generate a different spike waveform than that from the “right”.

“We reached this conclusion using a new experimental setup, but in principle these results could have been discovered using technology that has existed since the 1980s. The belief that has been rooted in the scientific world for 100 years resulted in this delay of several decades,” said Prof. Kanter and his team of researchers, including Shira Sardi, Roni Vardi, Anton Sheinin, and Amir Goldental.

(6) BACK FROM BOSTON. Marcin Klak’s conreport — “Smofcon 35 or what do you do when you are not organizing a con”.

Handling Feedback panel was not related to programming only, but the programme feedback is important for the development of the convention. There were some discussions concerning the methodology of collecting feedback, but one thing that got stuck with me the most was how to determine whether we should resign from inviting a panellist for the next year. It is obvious what to do when we receive negative feedback about the panellist’s skills. It is more complicated if we have a good panellist who is not behaving properly or who makes racist or homophobic comments during the panel. Nchanter’s solution of checking the negative feedback with co-panellists and finally basing our decision on the reaction of the person in question is a really good and fair approach. It makes sure that we verify the situation and it allows us to predict whether the same situation is likely to happen again in the future.

(7) HELL ON WHEELS. RedWombat saw a reference to “Jane Austen’s Fury Road” and started riffing….

(8) IT’S A WONDERFUL TRIVIA

Sheldon and Leonard of The Big Bang Theory were named after the actor/producer Sheldon Leonard.  He played Nick the Bartender in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Also, producer of The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy.

The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, were also named after two characters from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Bert the policeman and Ernie the cab driver.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823 A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast hit theaters
  • December 23, 1952 – The original The Day The Earth Stood Still premiered in Spain.
  • December 23, 1958 — Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered in theatres.
  • December 23, 1960 — Art Carney starred in a Christmas-themed episode of The Twilight Zone.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FULL KIT WANKER. For the three of you who haven’t seen this yet –

(12) BY YNGVI. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind knows it’s the time of year to send up a traditional favorite: “‘Twas Night Before Christmas”.

…At one point Harold Shea and the Norse god Heimdall are imprisoned by Frost Giants after losing a fight with them. While there they encountered a fellow prisoner who comes to the front of his cell every hour on the hour to yell, “Yngvi is a LOUSE!”

Thus began a debate which fascinated science fiction fandom for decades. Was this Yngvi indeed a louse or had his good name been falsely besmirched? At the Denvention, the 1941 worldcon, Milton Rothman (who went on to become a nuclear physicist and science fiction author) put forward a motion at the business meeting to the effect that Yngvi was not a louse only for it to be defeated. A subsequent motion was then passed stating that Rothman himself was a louse….

…So I sat back in my chair to wait for my guest
To reveal himself fully and the why of his quest

It took a few moments of squirming and kicking
Before he appeared rather than sticking

It was Yngvi of course, I could tell by his dress
An amazingly scrofulous, glorious mess…

(13) FUNGUS AMONG US. “When this old world starts getting me down….”: “‘Remarkable’ truffle discovery on Paris rooftop raises hopes of more”.

There was celebration among French foodies after a wild truffle was discovered on a Paris rooftop.

The discovery, at the base of a hornbeam tree in a hotel roof garden near the Eiffel Tower, is thought to be a first for the city.

Truffles usually grow further south, in more Mediterranean climes, and are dug up by specially-trained pigs or dogs.

Prices for the aromatic fungi have recently doubled to more than 5,000 euros ($6,000) a kilo.

(14) LAST JEDI. Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) offers the opinion of a “Star Trek Writer on The Last Jedi.”

(15) THE MALL’S MY DESTINATION. I don’t doubt it. Mine could be up there somewhere.

(16) SAVING HUMANITY. If anything can … “H.G. Wells and Orwell on Whether Science Can Save Humanity”.

…Wells foresaw many of the landmarks of 20th-century scientific progress, including airplanes, space travel, and the atomic bomb. In “The Discovery of the Future,” he lamented “the blinding power of the past upon our minds,” and argued that educators should replace the classics with science, producing leaders who could foretell history as they predict the phases of the moon.

Wells’ enthusiasm for science had political implications. Having contemplated in his novels the self-destruction of mankind, Wells believed that humanity’s best hope lay in the creation of a single world government overseen by scientists and engineers. Human beings, he argued, need to set aside religion and nationalism and put their faith in the power of scientifically trained, rational experts….

…Orwell was not bashful about criticizing the scientific and political views of his friend Wells. In “What is Science?” he described Wells’ enthusiasm for scientific education as misplaced, in part because it rested on the assumption that the young should be taught more about radioactivity or the stars, rather than how to “think more exactly.”

(17) THE SHAPE OF BEER. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Guillermo del Toro on Seeing a UFO, Hearing Ghosts and Shaping ‘Water'”.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s taste for sci-fi and fantasy doesn’t come from nowhere. When he was younger, the acclaimed director recalls, “I saw a UFO.”

“I know this is horrible,” del Toro continues. “You sound like a complete lunatic, but I saw a UFO. I didn’t want to see a UFO. It was horribly designed. I was with a friend. We bought a six-pack. We didn’t consume it, and there was a place called Cerro del Cuatro, “Mountain of the Four,” on the periphery of Guadalajara. We said, ‘Let’s go to the highway.’ We sit down to watch the stars and have the beer and talk. We were the only guys by the freeway. And we saw a light on the horizon going super-fast, not linear. And I said, ‘Honk and flash the lights.’ And we started honking.”

The UFO, says del Toro, “Went from 1,000 meters away [to much closer] in less than a second — and it was so crappy. It was a flying saucer, so clichéd, with lights [blinking]. It’s so sad: I wish I could reveal they’re not what you think they are. They are what you think they are. And the fear we felt was so primal. I have never been that scared in my life. We jumped in the car, drove really fast. It was following us, and then I looked back and it was gone.”

(18) ALTERNATE SOLOS. Will Lerner, in “Harrison Who? Here’s The Actor Who Almost Played Han Solo” for Yahoo! Entertainment. profiles Glynn Turman, who came This Close to being Han Solo, which would have meant that Han Solo would have been played by an African-American actor.

Before Star Wars started filming in 1976, director George Lucas auditioned dozens of actors for the first episode of his space saga, since rechristened as A New Hope. Over the years we’ve learned that Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Kurt Russell all read for the part of Han Solo before the role went to Harrison Ford. But there was a lesser-known candidate who almost scored the gig: Glynn Turman.

Turman, 70, started his career on Broadway, when he was cast as a 13-year-old in the original production of A Raisin in the Sun alongside legends Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Steadily picking up more and more screen roles through the ’70s, Turman finally got his chance to shine in 1975 as the lead of Cooley High. In the slice-of-life feature, Turman played a proxy of sorts for screenwriter and Good Times creator Eric Monte — a gifted young writer who aspires to a life beyond his housing project. Cooley High showcased Turman’s ability to play a scoundrel capable of great achievements. It’s no big surprise that performance captured the attention of Lucas.

(19) WALLY WOOD SANG? The comics artist seems to have branched out. It’s collectible, if not very listenable.

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

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

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

“Little Drummer Boy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

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

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

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

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