Pixel Scroll 12/11/17 You Ain’t Pixelin’ Dixie!

(1) DEFENDANTS COMMENT ON COMIC CON VERDICT. Bryan Brandenburg has this to say about the verdict in the SDCC v, SLCC lawsuit.

I woke up this morning facing a bright new future. The weight of the world has been lifted from Dan [Farr]’s and my shoulders. We have successfully cleared our names and lifted the cloud of accusation that has been surrounding us for 3 1/2 years.

– We were accused of stealing and hijacking. The jury said we were NOT GUILTY of this. There was no willful infringement.

– We were accused of trying to associate our convention with the San Diego convention. The jury said that we were NOT GUILTY of this. They found no evidence of false designation of origin.

– We were accused of causing $12,000,000 damage to the SDCC brand. They said we were the very worst offender. The jury found no evidence of damage. They awarded San Diego $20,000 in damages, less than .2% of what they asked for sending a clear message that we didn’t hurt the San Diego brand and this is what will be paid out for the worst of the 140 comic cons.

– We were accused of infringing San Diego’s trademarks, along with 140 other “infringers”…other conventions that call themselves “comic con”. The jury said that we were guilty. San Diego said, “They’re all infringers, that we and 140 other conventions that use the term comic con were guilty.” So for now they have 3 valid trademarks. We think that they will still lose “comic-con”. We’re proud to be lumped in with some of the finest comic cons in the country.

Dan and I have no regrets about standing up for ourselves when we took action after receiving a cease and desist. In hindsight, we would not have taken the car down to San Diego. For that we apologize to San Diego Comic Con. They are a great event with great people.

This process helped me realize once again that we truly have the best fans in the world. You have been there for us and it was comforting to have so many pulling for us. We are glad that we were able to clear our names at a minimum. But there are a lot of things moving in the background which I cannot talk about. All good things.

We own the trademark for FanX. There are over 140 comic cons and one FanX. That’s not a booby prize. If we needed to drop comic con from the name and just be FanX we have a trademark for that and a lot of positive brand awareness. Almost all the hundreds of thousands of people that have attended our events are familiar with that brand and name.

We’re not sure exactly how things will play out. We may change our name. We may appeal. But one thing is for certain. 2018 will be our best year yet….

(2) NEW LOGO. Bubonicon 50 takes place August 24-26, 2018 in Albuquerque, NM with Guests of Honor John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal, Toastmaster Lee Moyer, and Guest Artist Eric Velhagen. Bubonicon 49 Toastmaster Ursula Vernon has created a special logo:

(3) THE CUTTING ROOM. I was very interested to learn How Star Wars was saved in the edit – speaking here about the original movie.

A video essay exploring how Star Wars’ editors recut and rearranged Star Wars: A New Hope to create the cinematic classic it became.

 

(4) EXPAND YOUR MASHUP WARDROBE. Still gift shopping? A lot of places online will be happy to sell you the shirt off their backs!

(5) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY IS OUT. David Steffen announced the release of the Long List Anthology Volume 3, available as an ebook from Amazon and Kobo, in print from Amazon. He said more ebook vendors are in the works, including Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and others.

This is the third annual edition of the Long List Anthology. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favorite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. This is an anthology collecting more of the stories from that nomination list to get them to more readers

There are 20 stories in the volume – see the complete list at the link.

(6) BEYOND PATREON. Here’s the hybrid approach that The Digital Antiquarian will take in the aftermath of Patreon’s problems.

I’ll be rolling out a new pledging system for this site next week. Built on a platform called Memberful, it will let you pledge your support right from the site, without Patreon or anyone else inserting themselves into the conversation. The folks from Memberful have been great to communicate with, and I’m really excited about how this is shaping up. I think it’s going to be a great system that will work really well for many or most of you.

That said, my feeling after much vacillation over the last several days is that I won’t abandon Patreon either. Some of you doubtless would prefer to stay with them, for perfectly valid reasons: for high pledge amounts, the new fee schedule is much less onerous; some of you really like the ability to pledge per-article rather than on a monthly basis, which is something no other solution I’ve found — including Memberful — can quite duplicate; some of you really want to keep all of your pledges to creators integrated on the same site; etc. And of course it’s possible that Patreon will still do something to mitigate the enormous damage they did to their brand last week. At the risk of introducing a bit more complication, then, I think the best approach is just to clearly explain the pros and cons of the two options and leave the choice in your hands

(7) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR – FANTASY EDITION. Jason, at Featured Futures, has completed the set by posting his picks for the Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories).

As with Web’s Best Science Fiction, Web’s Best Fantasy is a 70,000 word “virtual anthology” selected from the fifteen webzines I’ve covered throughout the year, with the contents selected solely for their quality, allowing that some consideration is paid to having variety in the reading experience. The contents were sequenced as best I could with the same concern in mind.

(8) RATIFYING STURGEON’S LAW. Fanac.org has added “Lunacon 15 (1972) – Theodore Sturgeon Guest of Honor speech” to its YouTube channel, a 38-minute audiotape, enhanced with numerous images and photos (including two taken by Andrew Porter.)

Isaac Asimov introduces Theodore Sturgeon’s Guest of Honor speech at the 1972 Lunacon. There are corny puns and jokes from both of them, but primarily the talk is a serious, constructive discussion of Sturgeon’s “best beloved field”, and a defense against those that would marginalize and dismiss it. There are a few poignant minutes at the end about the (1972) US government amassing citizens’ private data, without any ability to challenge it. More than 40 years later, it’s still important, and worth listening.

 

(9) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Andrew Porter draws our attention to the fact that the German film Münchhausen came out in 1943. As he sees it, “We could have a Nazi film under consideration for a retro-Hugo!”

The complete film is available on YouTube, with English subtitles.

(10) BILLINGS OBIT. Harold Billings (1931-2017), librarian, scholar, and author, died November 29. (The complete Austin American-Statesman obituary is here.)

He spent fifty years at the University of Texas general libraries, rising from cataloger to Director of General Libraries, a position he held for the last twenty-five years of his career. … Harold also edited and wrote extensively about authors Edward Dahlberg and M. P. Shiel. Reflecting a long time interest in Arthur Conan Doyle, in 2006 he received the Morley-Montgomery award for his essay The Materia Medica of Sherlock Holmes. In recent years, Harold had turned to supernatural literary fiction, authoring such stories as “A Dead Church”, “The Monk’s Bible”, and “The Daughters of Lilith”.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 11, 1922 — Maila Nurmi. (Vampira)

(12) HEROIC EFFORT. Reportedly, “New research finds that kids aged 4-6 perform better during boring tasks when dressed as Batman”. Hampus Eckerman says, “I’m sure this works for adults too.”

In other words, the more the child could distance him or herself from the temptation, the better the focus. “Children who were asked to reflect on the task as if they were another person were less likely to indulge in immediate gratification and more likely to work toward a relatively long-term goal,” the authors wrote in the study called “The “Batman Effect”: Improving Perseverance in Young Children,” published in Child Development.

(13) WITH ADDED SEASONING. Star Trek: The Jingle Generation.

(14) THAT FIGURES. This must be like Rule 34, only it’s Rule 1138: If it exists, something Star Wars has been made out of it. “Funko POP! Star Wars Trash Compactor Escape (Luke & Leia) Exclusive Vinyl Figure 2-Pack [Movie Moments]”.

(15) MORE MYCROFT. SFFWorld’s Mark Yon reviews The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer”.

Probably the thing I like the most about The Will to Battle is that we get to know in much more depth the inner workings of the political aspects of the world that Palmer has imagined. We learn much more about things that we have only seen mentioned before (the set-set riots or the difference between Blacklaws, Greylaws and Whitelaws, for instance) and we even witness a trial, a meeting of the Senate and the Olympic Games. I really enjoyed discovering how the author had planned with incredible care every little aspect and finding out that little details that seemed to be arbitrary are, in fact, of crucial importance.

(16) YOUNG UNIVERSE. Linked to this news before, but the Washington Post’s account is more colorful: “Scientists just found the oldest known black hole, and it’s a monster”

That hope is what drove Bañados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in California, to the Chilean mountaintop in March. It was not entirely clear whether he’d be able to find a quasar so far away. Supermassive black holes swallow up huge amounts of matter, squeezing the equivalent mass of several hundred thousand suns into a space so small that gravity wraps around it like an invisibility cloak and causes it to vanish. An object like that needs a long time to grow and more matter than might have been available in the young universe.

But the object Bañados and his colleagues discovered, called ULAS J1342+0928, was even bigger than they’d bargained for — suggesting that something might have made black holes grow more quickly. Scientists don’t yet know the underlying reasons for such rapid growth, or whether still older black holes are waiting to be found.

“This is what we are trying to push forward.” Bañados said. “At some point these shouldn’t exist. When is that point? We still don’t know.”

In a companion paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists report another odd finding: The galaxy where ULAS J1342+0928 dwells was generating new stars “like crazy,” Bañados said. Objects the size of our sun were emerging 100 times as frequently as they do in our own galaxy today.

“To build stars you need dust,” Bañados said. “But it’s really hard to form all this dust in such little time on cosmic scales — that requires some generations of supernovae to explode.”

During the universe’s toddler years, there hadn’t been time for several rounds of stars living and dying. So where were the ingredients for all these new stars coming from?

(17) THE RISKS OF TALKING TO THE COPS. I saw Ken White’s  “Everybody Lies: FBI Edition” for Popehat linked by a FB friend and found it riveting. While it’s focused on criminal law, a lot of this advice is still good even if you’re only talking to someone about your taxes.

Dumbass, you don’t even know if you’re lying or not. When an FBI agent is interviewing you, assume that that agent is exquisitely prepared. They probably already have proof about the answer of half the questions they’re going to ask you. They have the receipts. They’ve listened to the tapes. They’ve read the emails. Recently. You, on the other hand, haven’t thought about Oh Yeah That Thing for months or years, and you routinely forget birthdays and names and whether you had a doctor’s appointment today and so forth. So, if you go in with “I’ll just tell the truth,” you’re going to start answering questions based on your cold-memory unrefreshed holistic general concept of the subject, like an impressionistic painting by a dim third-grader. Will you say “I really don’t remember” or “I would have to look at the emails” or “I’m not sure”? That would be smart. But we’ve established you’re not smart, because you’ve set out to tell the truth to the FBI. You’re dumb. So you’re going to answer questions incorrectly, through bad memory. Sometimes you’re going to go off on long detours and frolics based on entirely incorrect memories. You’re going to be incorrect about things you wouldn’t lie about if you remembered them. If you realize you got something wrong or that you may not be remembering right, you’re going to get flustered, because it’s the FBI, and remember even worse. But the FBI would never prosecute you for a false statement that was the result of a failed memory, right? Oh, my sweet country mouse. If you had talked to a lawyer first, that lawyer would have grilled you mercilessly for hours, helped you search for every potentially relevant document, reviewed every communication, inquired into every scenario, and dragged reliable memory kicking and screaming out the quicksand of your psyche.

(18) MRS. PEEL IS NO RELATION. Bananaman: The Musical is on stage at the Southwark Playhouse in the UK through January 20.

Bananaman is one of the flagship characters in the world’s longest running comic, The Beano. He was also the subject of the hugely popular TV cartoon that ran on the BBC during the 1980s. With a useless hero and some equally clueless villains, Bananaman’s riotously funny, slapstick humour has been sealed into the memories of those who saw him first, and will now spark the imagination of a new bunch of Bananafans.

In “A Call To Action” Marc Pickering is playing Bananaman’s nemesis Doctor Gloom. The song comes in the first half when Doctor Gloom is planning ways in which to deal with Bananaman who is thwarting his plans for world domination!!

(19) FIXED THAT FOR YOU. Damien Broderick says “A strange and terrible thing happened” with his book, now available in a modified 2018 version — Starlight Interviews: Conversations with a Science Fiction writer by Damien Broderick.

The first printing, also from Ramble House affiliate Surinam Turtle Press (owned by Dick Lupoff) turned out to have a botched variant of Russell Blackford’s chapter. My fault, I freely confess it! I only learned of this goof after I gave Russell his copy at the recent World Fantasy con in San Antonio.

Russell and I delved into the dark heart of several hard drives and managed to recompile his intended text. With the help of Chum Gavin, a repaired version of the book has now appeared on Amazon (although their website announcement has retained a mistaken pub date from earlier this year). If any Chum purchased a copy of the botched version, do let me know and I will hastily dispatch a Word doc of RB’s True Chapter. For those very few Chums who somehow forgot to rush their order for the book to Amazon, now is your near-Xmas chance to make good that lapse!

(20) OUTSIDE THE STORY. K. C. Alexander describes a variation on the classic writer’s advice in “Don’t Show, Don’t Tell”  at Fantasy-Faction.

You’re probably familiar with Welcome to Night Vale, so you’ll recognize the Night Vale Presents line in this incredible and fascinating podcast. The key difference, however, is this one presents more of a focused story, all delivered from a single point of view—Keisha; a truck driver (narrated by the matchless Jasika Nicole) searching for her dead wife. Named, naturally, Alice. (One other POV appears later in season, which I will not spoil here, but it is eerie af.) This is a creeping, haunting, sometimes lonely story about a heartbroken woman struggling with a mental illness—namely, a panic/anxiety disorder, and the paranoia and fear that comes with. After the death of her wife, an experience she was not there to witness, our fearful protagonist hires on with a long-haul trucking service to find answers.

Her story is narrated through snatches of narrative delivered on CB radio.

So what makes this podcast the keystone for “don’t show, don’t tell?”

It’s the outside stuff we never see. What’s going on outside her narration, what the people outside of our view are doing and why they are doing it. The ripples “shown” in Fink’s writing remain so subtle that you may not hear them, understand them, until your second or third listen. They are small ripples, hardly noticeable in black water, bringing with them an expertly woven sense of dread. But why? From where?

We don’t know.

(21) THE CLASSICS. The comments are fun, too. (If you need the reference explained like I did – clicketh here.)

(22) NETFLIX TRAILERS. New seasons for two genre shows on Netflix.

  • Sense8 — Finale Special First Look

  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones: She’s Back

Just don’t get in her way. Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2 coming March 8, only on Netflix.

 

(23) BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS. Marcus Errico, in “The secret history of ‘Christmas in the Stars,’ the bonkers ‘Star Wars’ holiday album co-starring Jon Bon Jovi” on Yahoo! Entertainment, discusses the super-cheesy and super-obscure Star Wars Christmas album that came out in 1980.

Unlike his previous cover-heavy albums, Meco started from scratch with the music. He and Bongiovi needed Star Wars-themed Christmas songs and they needed them fast, but they weren’t having much luck with the songwriters they approached. Enter a struggling composer named Maury Yeston, who was trying to put together the musical that would become Nine and could use some extra cash. “I met with Meco and I said, ‘Look, this may sound ridiculous to you, but if you want to do a Star Wars Christmas album you have to have a story,” Yeston told the CBC. “This is obviously Christmas in the world of Star Wars, which means this is in a galaxy far, far away, thousands of years ago. It’s not now. So call it Christmas in the Stars.” Meco was sold on the idea of the album having a through-line and recruited Yeston.

Yeston, who would go on to win a Tony Award for Nine and eventually write the smash Broadway musicals Titanic and Grand Hotel, cranked out nearly 20 Yule-appropriate tunes, nine of which made the final lineup. “The Meaning of Christmas,” minus Yoda, was radically retooled from the original version because Lucas didn’t want any of the traditional, religious-themed lyrics to be associated with the Force. It established the story of the album, set in a factory where droids make gifts for one “S. Claus.”

 

Playlist

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

Pixel Scroll 8/3/17 Hot Dog Stand On Zanzibar

(1) ANN LECKIE’S NEXT BOOK. At Motherboard you can “Read a Mindbending Excerpt from Ann Leckie’s New Novel ‘Provenance’”.

A transaction with a mysterious entity leads to trouble in the award-winning sci-fi author’s upcoming novel.

Now Leckie is returning with a new novel called Provenance due out on September 26. Motherboard is premiering an excerpt of the first chapter here. — The editor.

(2) ANNIHLATION COMING. Deadline, in “Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ Gets 2018 Release Date”, reports that Paramount has announced Annihilation, a film based on the first Southern Reach novel by Jeff VanderMeer, will be released on February 23, 2018. Alex Garland, who directed Ex Machina and received an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina’s screenplay adaptation, directed Annihilation. The movie features Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac with Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez.

(3) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR SUBJECTED TO INDIGNITIES. At Amazing Stories, Darren Slade explains “How the debate about the first female Time Lord has insulted fans”.

But I’ve felt like a bit of a bystander in the 13 Doctor debate, because that discussion has broken out of the fan and genre forums and been taken up by the big news media, especially in the UK.

On the liberal left, the Guardian warned us that “it will take more than a female Time Lord to change the world”, but that didn’t stop it running other opinion pieces with headlines like “A female Doctor? She’s the revolutionary feminist we need right now.”

On the right, the Daily Mail and The Sun gleefully reported the objections of those who proclaimed that political correctness had, once again, gone mad.

“Doctor under debate: Doctor Who fans in furious online debate after Jodie Whittaker confirmed as first female Doctor,” reported The Sun.

The Mail Online went on to run such edifying headlines as “Doctor Nude! First ever female Time Lord Jodie Whittaker joins her predecessors in stripping off on camera after having sex on the stairs in 2014 drama” and “Even Time Lords need to do the grocery shopping! Bare-faced Doctor Who newbie Jodie Whittaker wears ripped baggy jeans for very low-key supermarket spree.”

(4) BASE NOTE. This year’s Hugo base, designed by a Finnish artist selected by the Worldcon 75 committee, will be unveiled for the first time on August 11, the day of the Hugo ceremony, says co-Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte.

(5) GET READY. This Is Finland’s article “A guide to Finnish customs and manners” will aid fannish tourists in their last-minute cultural cramming:

Tipping

Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality; today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”. Tipping does nevertheless exist in Finland, and you can feel safe that while nobody will object to being tipped, very few will mind not being tipped…..

(6) PATREON. The Verge takes you “Inside Patreon, the economic engine of internet culture “.

…Patreon boasts 50,000 active creators and over a million active patrons.

Patreon is still tiny compared to Kickstarter, where 13 million backers have funded 128,000 successful campaigns, but it’s rapidly growing. Half its patrons and creators joined in the past year, and it’s set to process $150 million in 2017, compared to $100 million total over the past three years….

Patreon creators can find their close relationships with patrons not just gratifying, but productive. Rebecca Watson, an early Patreon adopter who makes videos under the moniker Skepchick, says that the site has helped her identify a core audience whose opinions she trusts. “If my patrons request something, I know that, you know, these are the people that are supporting me. They’re not just some jerk on the internet,” she says. “It clears out all the noise.”

For creators who already make money elsewhere, Patreon can also simply function like a tip jar, not a social space. Artist Arlin Ortiz, for instance, is part of the vast lower middle class of Patreon users. He gets paid about $100 for each of the vivid fantasy maps he posts online, a welcome — if small — boost to his income over the past two years. He interacts with his patrons, but they’re not necessarily steadfast fans, the way they might be for a video personality. “People just like what I’m creating,” he says. “I don’t think they want to see me on YouTube, talking at them.”

… Some people have staggeringly large Patreons, like multimedia artist Amanda Palmer, who gets $40,000 (as her page puts it) “per thing.” But because there’s no concrete end point, there may never be universally recognized “blockbuster Patreons” the way there are blockbuster Kickstarters — massive mainstream campaigns that will be remembered for years to come, either as great successes or slow-motion train wrecks.

(7) TRAIN TO NOWHERE? Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie has discovered “Angry Goat Productions Running ‘School of Wizardry’ Train Event Under a New Company Name”.

The caution I’d give anyone choosing to purchase a ticket to this is that literally every event ever planned by this company has been cancelled. They even claimed they were going to run a Train based event back in 2016 which got cancelled (and something to do with it is why they got sued by a cast member from The Hobbit films). Events announced by this company tend not to happen.

…But people who sign up for the North American School of Wizardry don’t have to worry about whether or not refunds will come if the events get cancelled… because they definitely won’t. According to the site’s Disclaimer there will be no refunds whatsoever if the event doesn’t happen. So you’d be buying tickets for an event run by a company with a reputation for cancelling everything they’ve ever planned with zero chance of getting your money back when the inevitable happens.

(8) NEWS FROM NEW WORLDS. At Galactic Journey, Mark Yon reports from 1962 about a British prozine — “[August 3, 1962] New Worlds to Conquer (a view from Britain: September 1962 New Worlds)”.

I can see that, even with New Worlds, there have been some drastic changes in the last few months. The glorious colour covers of the last few years by artists such as Bob Clothier, Gerard Quinn, Sidney Jordan and Brian Lewis have since the June issue (that’s number 119) been replaced by covers with black & white photographs on a coloured background. Whatever reason editor John Carnell has had for the change – I’m assuming to reduce printing costs, but of course, it could be a number of things – to my mind it makes the magazine less attractive as a science fiction magazine (One rumour is that it is meant to be a radically different cover style to try and attract a wider, less specifically science-fiction readership). Colour pictures on the front cover would have made this new look so much more attractive. I do hope that this is nothing to worry about from our leading British magazine.

The magazine contents are as variable as ever, though. New Worlds has a reputation of being the publishing place of many of our British authors such as Mr’s Brian W. Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, James White, and John Brunner, names you may recognise. Some of the work of other lesser known authors can vary in terms of quality and consistency, though I must say that there’s something worth reading in each issue. As well as the fiction, the magazine occasionally covers book, film and television reviews, usually by Mr Leslie Flood.

(9) MERMAID MUSICAL PUT IN DRYDOCK. USA Today, in “ABC drops plans for ‘Little Mermaid’ musical”, says the live musical production probably will never air.

ABC has scrubbed plans for its first live musical in years, based on parent Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The event, announced in May and scheduled to air Oct. 3, a week into the new TV season, has been quietly postponed (and most likely canceled) due to budget constraints, according to people familiar with the decision who were unauthorized to speak publicly.

But the network had already spent a considerable sum building sets, and was due to begin rehearsals soon.

Incidentally, NBC has also tabled plans for Bye, Bye Birdie, planned as a holiday musical starring Jennifer Lopez.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 3, 1977 — Radio Shack announces TRS-80 Computer
  • August 3, 1984 The Philadelphia Experiment premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found an idea he could get behind in today’s Non Sequitur.
  • And John King Tarpinian got a laugh out of Speed Bump.
  • On the other hand, I suspect you will feel a frisson of horror when you look at John’s recommendation in today’s Bliss.

(13) DIGITAL DANGERS. Fast Company spoke with Vint Cerf — “The Internet’s Future Is More Fragile Than Ever, Says One Of Its Inventors”.

My biggest concern is to equip the online netizen with tools to protect himself or herself, to detect attempts to attack or otherwise harm someone.

The term “digital literacy” is often referred to as if you can use a spreadsheet or a text editor. But I think digital literacy is closer to looking both ways before you cross the street. It’s a warning to think about what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re doing, and thinking critically about what to accept and reject . . . Because in the absence of this kind of critical thinking, it’s easy to see how the phenomena that we’re just now labeling fake news, alternative facts [can come about]. These [problems] are showing up, and they’re reinforced in social media.

(14) FOLLOWING ARABELLA. Tadiana Jones reviews David D. Levine’s new novel for Fantasy Literature in “Arabella and the Battle of Venus: Arabella meets Napoleon Bonaparte”.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus is, like Arabella of Mars, a cleverly conceived and executed novel. Levine spins a story incorporating elements from both early science fiction and actual history, weaving in real people from the Napoleonic era. It’s not only major players like Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, but also less well known historical figures like British Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the American inventor Robert Fulton (who did spend some years in France, designing steamboat engines, submarines, and torpedoes), and the merciless police minister Joseph Fouché. Sailing ships ? with a few tweaks ? function as spaceships in this universe.

(15) SJW CREDENTIAL CONSUMER REPORT. Gizmodo’s Rae Paoletta claims “This Treat Camera Gave My Cat Trust Issues”.

… Since both of us are busy most of the day at our respective places of work, we forget to check in on each other. Thankfully, Petcube’s newest gadget, Petcube Bites, lets humans check in on their furry companions when they’re apart. It also lets us fling treats at them on command which is both heartwarming and mildly horrifying….

The Petcube shot out Artemis’ treats precariously and with abandon, like a frat boy throwing his drink at a guy who wore the same Vineyard Vines zip up as him. The whole thing was like a cannon of delicious nightmares—needless to say, my cat was horrified. Make no mistake, she still ate the treats—but after the incident, she pretty much veered away from the machine.

(16) BACKTALKING BOTS. Facebook isn’t the only source of wild chatbots: “Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts”

A popular Chinese messenger app has ditched two experimental chat robots, or “chatbots”, which were apparently voicing criticism of the government.

Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March.

But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots.

Some of the remarks appear to criticise the Communist Party.

One response even referred to the party as “a corrupt and incompetent political regime”.

(17) POD FOR PEOPLE. Video of testing the first human-sized Hyperloop: “Hyperloop One: Passenger pod tested successfully”.

Hyperloop One has carried out its latest test of a futuristic high-speed transport system in the Nevada desert.

The creators hope to carry passengers at speeds of up to 650mph in vacuum propelled pods.

(18) DRONING ON. Another change SF missed: making money legitimately with drones: “Cashing in on the drone revolution”.

“Organisations that do surveying, whether of buildings or pipelines, power lines or railway lines, are increasingly using drones, which are much cheaper than helicopters,” says Mr Johnson.

“Archaeologists use them to get a bird’s eye view to decide where to dig; farmers use them to heat-map fields, and identify hot spots that are doing well, and cold spots that require more fertilisation.

“They are also used for search and rescue by the emergency services, or to deliver food, blood or medicines. Local authorities use them to monitor flooding, and they are used in emergency relief operations.”

The main benefit, he says, is that drones save time and money, and the opportunities to use them seem “almost endless”.

(19) FLEX APPEAL. The author of Strange Practice tells readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog why she chose genre in “Vampires Doing Crossword Puzzles (in Ink): Vivian Shaw on Contrasting the Magical and the Mundane”.

This is why I particularly love to write stories that contain very sharply contrasted elements, and why I write genre rather than literary fiction. In the simplest terms, most literary fiction can be described as stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things—living in the real world, with no elements of fantasy—and I prefer to read and write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or vice versa. I want to read about vampires in dressing-gowns doing the Times crossword in ink, sorcerers standing in line at the grocery store, demons holding strategy meetings over Skype. I want to read about bog-standard humans finding portals to another dimension inside their office closet, going on quests through the realms of the unreal, driving spaceships off the shoulder of Orion. And because I want to read it, I write it.

(20) WRONG POV. At Elitist Book Reviews Writer Dan tells why he put Kim Liggett’s horror novel The Last Harvest in the category of “Books We Don’t Like.”

This lack of understanding absolutely killed any possibility that I was going to get into the novel or the plight of the main character. More than this though, a secondary character gets introduced along the way, and it becomes fairly obvious that the story should be getting told from her perspective instead of the QB’s as the events that are occurring in the town have a direct tie (read that again… DIRECT TIE) to her past. She’s the one that understands all of the rules. She knows what’s going on. Not the QB. This was especially evident when Tate’s subconscious starts telling him where to go because when he’s thinking logically he has no idea what to do. This leads him directly where the bad guy wants him to be, funny enough. I guess the author had to get Tate to go somehow, so why not?

(21) TIME AFTER TIME. Nicola Alter delves into the “The Pros and Cons of a Macro Timescale” at Fantasy-Faction. Here’s one of the “cons”.

Complexity

The other potential pitfall of a large timescale is that it often adds complexity. The Malazan Book of the Fallen has been known to intimidate new readers with its sheer scope – one that encompasses a burgeoning cast of characters, multiple continents, and thousands of years. It has nonetheless garnered many loyal fans, no doubt because readers who invest in it are ultimately rewarded with an intricately-crafted world and story. Still, it takes a skilled authorial hand to weave a tale of that size, and attempting such an endeavor is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

(22) TEEN ANGEL. Here’s the trailer for Fallen.

Luce is just an ordinary teen girl until a shocking accident sends her to a mysterious reform school for misfit and eclectic teenagers. There, she meets two students, Daniel and Cam. Torn between the instant electrifying connection she feels with Daniel and the attracting force of Cam, Luce is quickly pulled into a passionate love triangle. As she tries to piece together deeply fragmented memories, she is left with a feeling of undeniable longing for her one true love and the revelation of a love story that has been going on for centuries, will shatter the boundaries between heaven and earth.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/7/16 All True Scrollaroos Meeting At Worldcon Hinder Pixelman Agenda

(1) HOPEFULLY INCURABLE. Rhianna Pratchett reacted to the news item that also inspired #12 in yesterday’s Scroll (“Nailsworth teacher claims Harry Potter books cause mental illness”):

(2) CRAZY EX RATED. On NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, “Not My Job: Actress Rachel Bloom Gets Quizzed On Crazy Ex-Boyfriends”.

Since she’s the expert on crazy ex-girlfriends we’ve decided to ask her three questions about some well-known crazy ex-boyfriends in a game called “No! Really! This time I’ll change!”

She mentions Ray Bradbury, subject of her 2011 Hugo-nominated song.

Rachel Bloom meets Ray Bradbury in 2010. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Rachel Bloom meets Ray Bradbury in 2010. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(3) GO AHEAD AND JUMP. David K.M. Klaus predicts, “Someday some Harry Potter fan is going to invent a practical personal jet pack or anti-gravity belt, just so he or she can play Quidditch.” ‘Til then we’ll make do with these skydiving Quidditch players from a Colombian phone commercial.

(4) PARTLY IMMORTAL. Fantasy Faction reposts “Foundations of Fantasy: The Epic of Gilgamesh”.

More than any other genre, fantasy tends to examine ancient epics. Whether it’s the study of archetypes and ectypes, or a historical understanding of narrative itself, or simply a desire to experience myths and legends that have lived for ages, these books remain alive to us. This series of posts will be about some of the more important mythic texts in history, and how they relate to modern fantasy.

The Story Behind the Story

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest books we have on record. Original stories regarding the character date back as early as the eighteenth century BCE. The primary text was written between the 13th and tenth century BCE, in cuneiform on stone tablets. Then, it was lost for thousands of years, until it was rediscovered in 1850 in the excavation of Nineveh. Even then, it took decades to be translated into English.

Translations are tricky when dealing with situations like these. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was one of the first people to read it translated. John Gardner (who also wrote the fantastic novel Grendel, a retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s point of view, and The Art of Fiction: Notes on the Craft for Young Authors) made a much more accurate, yet difficult to read translation, making certain to note each place the actual text was missing. Penguin Classics put out a two-volume translation by Andrew George which has received considerable acclaim. For a more poetic, if less rigorous version, Stephen Mitchell’s translation is quite readable, and uses inferences and the aforementioned earlier stories of Gilgamesh to fill in the missing gaps….

(5) GOOD STUFF. See Rachel Swirsky’s recommendation, “Friday read! ‘Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters’ by Alice Sola Kim”.

One man watches the world evolve as he passes, sleep by sleep, into the future, trailing after his generations of descendants….

Hwang’s Bilion Brilliant Daughters” by Alice Sola Kim…

(6) THE MARQUIS OF TENTACLE RULES. Is the beer as good as the label? Octopus Wants To Fight IPA from Great Lakes Beer.

Octopus-Wants-to-Fight_can_label

It pours a beautiful burnt gold edging into a dull orange, like a orange creamsicle complete with a tight white head. As you can imagine, lots of tropical fruits abound from the glass with the first whiffs, followed by a walk in the woods as pine, evergreen and some herbaceous notes are picked up. The first sip provides some sweetness, some dank grass combined with pine needles and then onto “juicy fruit”.  Soft body with some middle mouthfeel bitterness that tastes like another.

The Story “Our pet octopus is a bit of a jerk. He’s that guy who has a couple then either tells you how much he loves you or threatens to fight you. So we brewed this IPA, with 8 varieties of hops and 8 types of malt. We targeted 88 IBU and 8.8% to appease him. Sadly, when he found out that we’d fabricated all of the above info, it only made him more volatile. We are starting to realize that Octopus was a poor choice for a pet.”

Food pairing recommendations

Calamari…

(7) DRAGONSCALE. Mark Yon has a fine review of Joe Hill’s The Fireman at SFFWorld.

The arrival of the latest book by Joe Hill has generally been seen as one of the highlights of the publishing year, and has been much anticipated here at SFFWorld.

Joe has said that The Fireman is his take on his father’s masterwork The Stand. I can see what he means, though the end-results are clearly different. Whereas The Stand begins with the spread of a killer flu germ (‘Captain Trips’), The Fireman begins with the dispersal of a 21st century equivalent – a spore named Dragonscale, of unknown origin, possibly weaponised, that has spread to the general public. The symptoms occur suddenly and are quite striking – a strange dark tattoo, interlaced with gold, appears on the body,  often followed by spontaneous combustion of the person infected….

(8) FELLOW ARTISTS. Rudy Rucker blogs about recent visits to SF MOMA and other cultural events, accompanied by plenty of photos and wry commentary.

I was happy to see they have Arneson’s “California Artist” on display, wearing shades whose lenses are holes revealing, oho, that he has an empty head, California artist that he is. I first saw this sculpture when we moved to California in 1986, and I was, like, yeah, I’m a California artist too. I just didn’t realize that before. It’s high time I got here. Solidarität!

(9) FREE WEIRD. From Europa SF I learned about the English-language magazine Finnish Weird:

Finnish Weird is a free magazine published by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society. It introduces the concept of “Finnish Weird”, showcases a few writers and also includes short stories by Johanna Sinisalo, Anne Leinonen, Helena Waris, Leena Likitalo and Magdalena Hai. The printed version will be available on select occasions (come and look for the Finnish party at Worldcon!), but you can also read the zine online or get an electronic version, either as a pdf or an ebook (epub).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 7, 2010 — The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets its first sequel in Iron Man 2.

(9) LET IT RAIN. The Kickstarter for Quench seeks $20,312 to fund the creation of a computer game that allows players to control the weather and help herds of animals restore their home. Coming to PC & Mac in 2016.

Controlling the Weather

Using your divine powers over the weather, you will provide for your herds, help them as they take up their great pilgrimage, and ultimately restore the world.

Summon rain to bring life to withered plants, quench fires and calm enraged spirits.

Create gusts of wind to hurry your animals along, confuse attackers, and shift great dunes of sand.

Quake the earth to break open chasms and fountains, stun smokebeasts, and clear boulders blocking the way.

Strike lightning to start fires, revive fallen animals and obliterate foes. But don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature!

There’s also an option for people to vote yes to greenlight the game on Steam.

(10) MORE ABOUT BLACK GATE. Rich Horton’s thoughts about the impact on fiction categories comes before this excerpt in his Black Gate post The Hugo Nominations, 2016; or, Sigh …”.

Of course Black Gate was nominated as Best Fanzine last year, due to Rabid Puppies support, and John O’Neill quite rightly withdrew its nomination. This year we again were (unwillingly) on the Rabid slate, and again John has decided to withdraw.

We discussed what to do – though the choice was always John’s – and there was a definite split. Many of us – myself included – at first inclined to the notion that perhaps we should stay on the ballot. I had four reasons for this: 1) I am certain that Black Gate got a good amount of support from non-Rabid nominators (but we have no way, for now, of knowing how much); 2) I though perhaps the point had been made last year; 3) I felt that withdrawing was ceding even more influence to Vox Day, and also was to an extent disenfranchising the non-Rabid nominators; and 4) I really do think Black Gate is a worthy choice.

But John made two very strong arguments in favor of withdrawing, arguments that now have swayed me so that I believe his decision is correct. First, and most important, by withdrawing it is guaranteed that there will be an entry on the Final Ballot not chosen by Vox Day. Second, in John’s estimation, it is likely that Black Gate wouldn’t have won anyway. I don’t think that’s nearly as important – but it’s probably true. (Alas, the very possible win for whoever replace Black Gate will be somewhat tainted as well if it’s perceived that it won as a default choice.)

(11) CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Rachel Swirsky said if her Patreon reached $100 by the end of May she would write and send “If You Were a Butt, My Butt” to everyone who subscribes. Well, soon after this tweet, it did, and donations are still coming in. The funds will be given to Lyon-Martin health services.

(12) OF TWO MINDS. Damien G. Walter’s vlog, titled “Why is writing hard?”, never mentions Chuck Tingle, missing a golden opportunity. He previews the actual topic on his blog —

“Damien gets passionate about writing, and talks about the thing that makes it hard, the clash of two very different sides of our personality, the conscious mind and the subconscious imagination. OR. The crazy old hippy VS the corporate middle manager in all of us.”

 

(13) THREE GOLDEN MINUTES. Kendall turned us on to the amazing 2012 short film “The Device.”

[Thanks to Sunhawk, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, ULTRAGOTHA, Kendall, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]