Pixel Scroll 2018-01-02 The Scroll Awakens the Last Pixel

By JJ:

(1) INSPIRING THE RIGHT STUFF.  Space.com reports that American Girl’s latest entry in their doll line is an aspiring astronaut created with advice from NASA.

An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year.

Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a “distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side.” She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.

American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat “loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play.”

In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana’s story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic… [and] “Blast Off to Discovery,” an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game.

(2) RECRUITING THE RIGHT STUFF.  In honor of Nichelle Nichols’ birthday on December 28, NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi told a story of a past encounter with her: (click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread)

(3) BOOK SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Apex has announced that it is currently accepting submissions of Novels and Novellas.

Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Anything sent outside of this time period will be deleted unread.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

We only accept email submissions to apex.submission@gmail.com.

Additional details on the submission process can be found at the link.

(4) SHORT FICTION SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Kaleidotrope Magazine has announced that it is currently open to submissions of Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Artwork until April 1, 2018.

Kaleidotrope tends very heavily towards the speculative – towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror – but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore interested to read compelling work that blurs these lines, falls outside of neat genre categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves, and ghostly ax murderers alone, after all. We’d suggest looking through the archives to familiarize yourself with the zine, and/or checking out other work by our past contributors, to get a sense of what we’re looking for and what we like.

In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing.

We are also interested in publishing diverse writers. Kaleidotrope welcome writers of color and other groups, as well as work that represents the diversity of characters we want to see more of.

(5) SPOILER WARNING.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has Taken a hard-line on spoilers for The Last Jedi:

The following items have been carefully curated to provide interesting non-spoilery information on the movie, but click judiciously if you haven’t seen it yet.

(6) PLUS ÇA CHANGE.  In a piece at Critical Hit, Kate Willaert engages in some cultural archaeology to find out how fans reacted to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980: [WARNING: Spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back at the link]

Today the general consensus is that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.8/10 on IMDb, compared to A New Hope’s 96% and 8.7/10, respectively. These user scores weren’t generated until decades after the original trilogy was released, but it’s not like fan opinion could have shifted that much, right?

Thankfully, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog, so let’s take a look at issues #39-41. What were the fans saying?

As with The Last Jedi, fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Some felt it was better than the first one, some enjoyed it but had complaints, and some were disappointed. But what’s most interesting is how specific comments or criticisms mirror those of The Last Jedi…

(7) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING.  Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the linked blog post.)

I fucking loved it.

That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met

Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit – sometimes a lot – of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

But here’s the thing:

Stories can never be written for the fans.

Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing – it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.

The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.

Oh, it knows them.

It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.

And then the movie hits you with the porg.


That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.

The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.

It’s just not going to meet them.

(8) IT’S A THEORY.  On Twitter, Amelia Rose explains why she thinks that the much-maligned Star Wars prequels contain a very nuanced story told very, very incompetently. (Click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread; there are no spoilers for The Last Jedi in the main thread, but after the “FIN” there may be some SPOILERS in commenters’ tweets.)

(9) PAYBACKS ARE SWELL.  The Hollywood Reporter says that gross revenues on the new editions of the Star Wars franchise have exceeded $4 Billion, eclipsing Disney’s price to acquire Lucasfilm.

Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.

Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5).

(10) EDITORIAL LICENSE.  On Facebook, Amanda Downs Champlin has taken artistic liberties with the newest character in the Star Wars franchise. [WARNING: NO SPOILERS, JUST TERMINAL CUTENESS]

(11) WITHERING HEIGHTS.  The Last Jedi has sparked widely-varying opinions on the appeal of Kylo Ren.


  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov, Author and Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor (Tor Books)
  • Born January 2, 1973 – Lucy Davis, Actor (Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman)
  • Born January 2, 1980 – David Gyasi, Actor (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises)

(13) CAUGHT IN THE ACT.  SFF author Jason Sanford reports on a newly-revealed case of genre plagiarism:

Jake Bible, author of the Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that Balogun Ojetade plagiarized his writing in Ojetade’s novel Scorpion Wine (Qiq, the Bounty Hunter). Bible released the image above showing extreme similarities between a section of Ojetade’s book (at left) and his own novel.

Bible said on Facebook that Ojetade’s novel “changed character names and the setting, but it is an almost word for word ripoff.”

Bible requested Amazon take down Ojetade’s novel, which it did. However, an entry for Scorpion Wine was still on Amazon as of this writing.

In a personal message Bible told me that because “bounty hunter is such a niche sub-genre that one of my readers found (the plagiarism) right away.” But Bible suggested other authors may want to examine Ojetade’s works for other possible cases of plagiarism.

(14) SHOPPING WHILE INTOXICATED.  SFF author Cherie Priest got a surprise delivery:

(15) TAKE THAT, COMCAST.  Motherboard explains how someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection:

As the FCC prepares to the destroy the US internet by rolling back net neutrality protections, it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for alternatives to their corporate internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs own all the cable that routes information through the internet, and trying to replace these networks with community-owned cable is a costly and challenging process.

Fortunately, a UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string.

It’s an old joke among network technicians that it’s possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it’s just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string…

Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection.

(16) DON’T LET THE CAT DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.  Never underestimate the power of an SJW credential, especially if it’s a reader. KRLD reports that a White Settlement, Texas, City Councilman lost his showdown with the library’s beloved cat.

Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer.

Browser got his job at the library when he was just a kitten. He was recruited from a local animal shelter as an inexpensive, effective method of pest control at the library.

In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal.

The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.

Browser got a reprieve following a world-wide backlash, and reports say there were still some hard feelings among council members after the cat fight.

Councilman Clements eventually ran out of his 9-lives after he was defeated in a landslide in November’s election.

(17) NEXT WEEK, SKYNET.  Artificial learning algorithms are developing in unexpected directions:

(18) ARCHIVE THIS.  A digital museum is seeking a DMCA exemption for “abandoned Online games”, to preserve defunct gaming titles from being lost.

Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery claims to be “the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games.”

The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer – City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example…

Supporters of the proposal had until December 18, 2017, to submit comments or evidence to the US Copyright Office. Opponents to the request now have until February 12, 2018, to present written arguments against it. Supporters will then be allowed a rebuttal period until March 14. The USCO will make its decision soon after the final rebuttals are read.

(19) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, REALLY.  SFF author Catherynne M. Valente, explaining the contents of boxes of fannish detritus to her fiance as they unpack in their new home:

(20) DEEP IMPACT.  Geologists from the Birkbeck University of London have discovered mineral forms never before reported on Earth on the Isle of Skye:

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye got more than they bargained for when examining volcanic rocks on the Scottish site, finding mineral forms from a pre-historic meteorite impact that have never before been found on Earth.

The team, including members of Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andy Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca, discovered evidence of a previously unknown, 60 million-year-old meteorite impact.

They had been examining a thick layer at the base of a 60 million-year-old lava flow, which they at first thought was a volcanic flow deposit called ignimbrite. After putting it under an electron microprobe, they discovered that it, in fact, contained rare minerals from outer-space…

These mineral forms – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite – have never before been reported on Earth, only collected in space dust on a prior NASA mission.

The Isle of Skye has been well explored by geologists, and the scientists were surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before. The first site of discovery, Drake explained, was steep, rough and very boggy, which may have deterred previous researchers from exploring the layer.

(21) QUICK THINKING.  A DungeonMaster recounts a player’s narrow escape on his “yourplayersaidwhat” Tumblr blog:


(22) HELPFUL RESOURCE.  To assist award nominators, SFF Author A. C. Wise is maintaining an aggregated list of eligibility post links, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

(23) GALACTIC POSITIONING SYSTEM.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has installed a new kinetic sculpture to assist spacefarers in their travels:

[Thanks to Substitute Editor of the Day JJ for pilfering all of these stories from friends, acquaintances, and randos on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Credit for spelling and grammar goes to Copyeditor of the Day JJ. Blame for spelling and grammar mistakes goes to Scapegoat of the Day Camestros Felapton. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ. Any complaints should be directed to – oh, who are we kidding? complaints will be ignored.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/17 You’ve Got The Wrong Android, I Scroll My Name Danger

(1) HE DOOD IT. How could he not? “Wil Wheaton Wears ‘Star Trek’ Uniform To ‘Star Wars’ FOR REAL”.

Life gloriously imitated art Thursday when actor Wil Wheaton wore a “Star Trek” costume to a screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994), and has been playing himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” In a 2015 episode of the hit sitcom, he watched a “Star Wars” movie in “Star Trek” garb, attracting boos from the audience and an insult from one moviegoer. “Live long and suck it!” he yelled back in a memorable line.

(2) A DISTURBANCE IN THE THEATER. Fans weren’t prepared to accept the first silent Star Wars movie: “Uprising at Burbank AMC after ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ starts without sound”.

According to Twitter user, Isaias Rodriguez, theater management attempted to appease the angry fans by either moving them to another screening at the same theater — albeit not in the IMAX format — or to attend a screening of the much-anticipated film at another AMC theatre Friday.

Police reportedly were called to the Southern California venue.

(3) ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. Scott Edelman invites you to lunch at the Society of Illustrators with Irene Gallo in Episode 55 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Gallo

Gallo has worked as an art director at Tor Books for more than two decades, where she currently holds the title of Creative Director. She’s also the Associate Publisher of Tor.com, and is ultimately the one responsible for the look of the publishing company’s book covers, as well as its online output. She’s been nominated for a Chesley Award for her art direction an astounding 19 times, the first back in 1999, and has won 13, as early as 2001, and as recently as 2017.

We discussed what it was like the first time she realized she wasn’t the only one in the world who cared so strongly about art, how she felt the day she discovered Harlan Ellison as well as the title of his that made her go “whoa,” why seeing book covers as thumbnails started long before the trend of Internet bookselling, how a manuscript moves from cover concept through to final cover, whether the cliche that an author is the worst possible designer of their own book cover is true, how self-published authors who create their own books can get the best possible covers, and much more.

(4) WHO PREVIEW. If you want to read some “minor spoilers” for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “Twice Upon A Time,” ScienceFiction.com is ready to oblige: “15 Things To Watch For In ‘Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time’”. If not – DON’T CLICK!

With just 11 days to go until to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the Steven Moffat say their final farewells, some fans are finding it hard to wait! Some sites have been granted early access to ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ so to hold us over until December 25, we have a list of hints and teasers from the episode!

(5) SJW CREDENTIALS ARE GO. Corey J. White has identified “5 of the Coolest Cats in Space” for readers of Tor.com.

The cat is on the floor, looking up at me and yelling as I type this. My original plan was for a piece on ‘Pets In Space’, but she’s threatened to vomit on my bed, under the covers, if I don’t focus solely on cats. Why? Because cats are better than dogs. I am typing this of my own free will. Please send salmon.

In all seriousness though, even dog lovers have to admit that cats would make better pets aboard a space craft: they don’t require as much food as any but the smallest dogs, unlike many dog breeds they don’t need a lot of space to run around, and they’re great at catching the rodents chewing on the cables of the life-support system.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. John Scalzi shares his “Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi”.

  1. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

(7) PLAY BALL. Cut4.com, a Major League Baseball site, tried to attract a few clicks by assembling a baseball team out of Star Wars characters in celebration of The Last Jedi — “This is the team you’re looking for”. This one you need to follow baseball to fully appreciate:

Starting Pitchers: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jamie Moyer

The wise old wizard, utilizing a psychological advantage to best his enemies and thrive, despite all odds. And, as a solid No. 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(8) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VET BACK ON TV. Deadline reports — “Apple Orders Ronald D. Moore Space Drama Series”.

Ronald D. Moore is heading back to space. Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a space drama from the Battlestar Galactica developer. The untitled project hails from Sony Pictures Television and Moore’s studio-based Tall Ship Productions.


  • December 15, 1958 Frankenstein’s Daughter came out.
  • December 15, 1961 The Twilight Zone aired “Once Upon A Time,” starring Buster Keaton.
  • December 15, 1974 Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres.
  • December 15, 1978 Superman – The Movie premiered in U.S. theaters.


  • Born December 15, 1949 — Don Johnson, who starred with his canine companion in A Boy and His Dog.

(11) MATH PROJECT. Do we know anyone attending Emmanuel College in Boston?

(12) DUBIOUS FAN. Camestros Felapton is restraining his enthusiasm about new mix-and-match possibilities after the Disney/Fox merger for several reasons. Here’s one of them: “Disney, Fox and MCU”.

A comic book universe relies on somehow making superheroes whose basic premise is quite different work together. Marvel has juggled this by having elements that work together and elements that work as given character’s own domain. Thor can be a god-like alien being on Earth and exist side-by-side with Iron Man a human with fancy gadgets but their separate adventures put the characters in quite different characters. Some suspension of disbelief is required to accept that these characters can have their own stories without every film requiring all the Avengers to turn up to help but the settings help and each character can have separate stories.

Now add the X-men. The X-Men aren’t the X-Men without the key premise that they live in a world in which:

  • Some people get random mutant superpowers.
  • That the wider population knows this.
  • That the mutant population is feared and persecuted and suppressed.

Captain America has to be cool with this. I mean, obviously, he isn’t but for the X-Men to have their stories, basically The Avengers have to not do anything when the US government starts hunting people with giant killer robots. Also, the wider public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch. It has to be OK to get superpowers from a spider bite but not from a genetic mutation AND people have to believe that story (i.e. people don’t think Spiderman is a dangerous mutant).

(13) CHRISTMAS GOAT. Hampus Eckerman says, “Sometimes you have to go to the foreign press to understand why the Gävle goat is burned down every year. The Guardian has its own theory, totally new for me.” — “Killing Gävle – a Swedish city divided by a giant straw Christmas goat”.

Welcome to the small northern Swedish city of Gävle where there’s an annual battle over a 12-metre-high straw effigy of a goat. Local custodians try to protect a giant straw goat from mischievous pagans in a fight for the spirit of Christmas.

Every year since 1966, in the dark days of winter, the business owners pay for a goat to be built in the central square on the first day of advent. For 37 of those 51 years, the goat has been burnt down or damaged by shadowy outsiders, sometimes within a few hours of going up.

In the latest Guardian documentary, Killing Gävle, residents and those who might want to burn the goat explain their hopes and motivations as Christmas approaches and the battle over the goat is fired up once more.

The goat, which pulls Santa’s sleigh, has come to symbolise Christmas in Sweden, drawing people in from the surrounding country. Families bring their children to look in wonder and, the businesses hope, do a bit of shopping while they are there.

But there are other people in the dark forests that surround the city who hold an entirely different view of the goat. They believe in a time before Christianity appeared in Sweden, when people worshipped Norse gods including the goat goddess Heidrun (goddess of enlightenment) and the god of thunder, Thor, who rode around on two goats. Each night he would burn and then eat them, only to wake up the following morning to them having been reborn and able to pull his chariot again….


(14) DOPPELGANGER. When they get it right and find one that has nine planets, then we can talk: “NASA’s Kepler finds solar system like ours with eight planets” in USA Today.

Researchers used data from NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope to discover an eighth planet orbiting a star known as Kepler-90.

The planet, dubbed Kepler-90i, is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star every 14.4 days, and was found with the help of artificial intelligence, NASA said Thursday. The discovery marks the first solar system to tie with our solar system in the number of planets orbiting one star.

(15) STAY FROSTY. Timothy Cama, in a December 12 article in The Hill called “Emails: Disney annoyed by Obama push to use ‘Frozen’ brand” said that recently unearthed emails showed a 2015 negotiation between the Obama administration and Disney about using Frozen characters to promote warnings about climate change broke down because, according to one Disney executive, “it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.”

Papp’s outreach generated extensive media coverage at the time and attracted mockery and criticism from conservatives who already thought then-President Obama’s climate agenda had gone too far.

The effort to use “Frozen” for climate messaging was part of an extensive plan by the Obama administration to convince Americans and the world that climate change is a major issue with enormous consequences.

(16) OCEANS, NOT CANALS. The BBC considers “Pacific ‘baby island’ is natural lab to study Mars”.

It is one of Earth’s newest landforms and it could just tell us where to look for evidence of life on Mars.

The tongue-twisting volcanic island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015, and its shape has been evolving ever since as it has been lashed and bashed by waves.

Scientists are watching this slow erosion very closely.

They think they see the remnants of many such water-birthed islands on the Red Planet.

(17) FORERUNNER. The 60th anniversary of this project recently passed — “Skylark: The unsung hero of British space”.

It wasn’t a big vehicle, and it didn’t go to orbit. But the anniversary of that first flight from Woomera, Australia, should be celebrated because much of what we do in space today has its roots in this particular piece of technology.

“Skylark is an unsung British hero really,” says Doug Millard, space curator at London’s Science Museum.

“The first one was launched during the International Geophysical Year of 1957, and almost 450 were launched over the better part of half a century. It was the Skylark space rocket that really laid the foundations for everything the UK does in space.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Slaughterbots” on YouTube is a near-future film warning about the problems of miniature drones trained to kill.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/17 Or All the Scrolls With Pixels

(1) TURNOVER AT TOLKIEN ESTATE. Christopher Tolkien, 92, resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate Limited on August 31, 2017 according to records at Companies House in the UK.

Christopher Tolkien

Despite this having occurred over two months ago, the information seems to have become public only recently, and there is rampant speculation what the timing of resignation implies, given Amazon’s announcement this week of a new Lord of the Rings sourced TV production, and Christopher Tolkien’s negative statements about the Peter Jackson adaptations.

While I searched, unsuccessfully, to find who broke the story, via Michael Martinez’ blog I discovered Tolkien Brasil has a long and informative piece about the transition in the Estate’s leadership (in Portuguese – a Google Translate English rendering is at this link, offered with the usual caveats about accuracy.)

The Tolkien Society’s post on the topic clarified that Christopher Tolkien remains his late father’s literary executor.

(2) INDIGENOUS AND BLACK SF. Canada’s CBC Radio program The Current hosted a discussion of indigenous and black sf on November 14. A podcast of the segment is available.

Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future As soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.”

Download Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future [mp3 file: runs 00:28:13]

(3) BRETT RATNER OUT. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot said she would not sign for the sequel if he was still involved: “Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner won’t be involved with Wonder Woman 2”The Verge has the story.

Two weeks after a Los Angeles Times report detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against director and producer Brett Ratner, the filmmaker seems to have been officially cut from the DC cinematic universe. This morning on Good Morning America, Gal Gadot reiterated earlier reports that Ratner’s financing company RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which helped fund 2017’s Wonder Woman, would not be involved with the upcoming sequel.

The confirmation comes a few days after a Page Six report claimed that Gadot threatened to drop out of the sequel if Ratner or his company was involved in any way. On Good Morning America, she says she didn’t come close to leaving. “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie — it’s not just me — and they all echoed the same sentiments,” she said.

(4) VANDERMEER. Variety reports: “Netflix Nabs ‘Hummingbird Salamander’ From ‘Annihilation’ Author Jeff VanderMeer”.

Netflix is nearing a deal for rights to “Hummingbird Salamander” and plans to tap Sugar23 to produce the picture, Variety has learned.

The book is the latest from Jeff VanderMeer, the best-selling author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy and one of the foremost sci-fi writers working today.  The film will be produced by Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta at Sugar 23.

… VanderMeer will also executive produce the project.

However, VanderMeer himself sounded uncertain in his Facebook comments about the Variety article

Hmmm. I wonder if this is true. It’d be kind of a dream team to be with Netflix with the Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight producing. It’d be even more incredible if the rumor that it’s a mega deal and I’ll be an executive producer and creative consultant on the film were true…

As you can imagine, for someone who sometimes writes about mushroom people, it’s surreal that every novel I’ve written or am under contract to write since Annihilation may have been optioned for the movies. If these rumors are true.

(5) WIZARD WORLD ON LIFE SUPPORT.  Although the company has 17 conventions planned for 2018, their money is running out: “WIZARD WORLD Warns Of ‘Substantial Doubt’ Of It Continuing Into 2019”.

Wizard World. Inc.’s Q3 2017 quarterly report has been released, with a notice that due to recent operations loss there is “substantial doubt” that the company can continue operating as it is now past November 2018.

“The Company had a loss from operations of $4,454,857 and $1,182,246 for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 and the year ended December 31, 2016, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, we had cash and working capital deficit (excluding the derivative liability) of $1,176,034 and $1,514,182, respectively,” the company stated. “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.”

(6) GOODREADS CHOICE. Matt Mitrovich analyzes an award contender in “Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai” at Amazing Stories.

I was informed that All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain was nominated for the Goodreads Choice 2017 Best Science Fiction and Best Debut Author awards. Since I had a copy sitting in my to read pile since July, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally read it and see what all the fuss is about.

All Our Wrong Todays begins in an alternate timeline where a Lionel Goettreider invents his “Goettreider Engine” on July 11, 1965. This invention produces free energy and sparks the creation to the techo-utopia that 1950s sci-fi authors dreamed about. By 2016, all of those crazy predictions that never came true actually exist, like flying cars, jetpacks and space colonization. Anyone living in this post-scarcity world should be happy…but not Tom Barren.

(7) MONEY IS THE ROOT OF THIS EVIL. Dean E.S. Richard has seen the complaints and has issued “A (cranky) Casual Gamer’s Manifesto (Updated)” at Nerds of a Feather.

The new one has a campaign, and it looks pretty awesome, but we’re here for ground level troops dukeing it out on the best battlefields in the Star Wars galaxy.

At least, I thought that’s why were all here. Apparently, I was wrong. It’s all about getting the most powerful heroes and being able to wreck shop. If you pay attention to video games even a little bit (like, say, as little as i do), you’ve heard about this. It takes roughly 40 hours of gameplay (three years in Real Dean Time [RDT]) to unlock Luke or Vader. This I am fine with. Again, Battlefront is supposed to be about the troops, not the Jedi and Sith and whatnot.

The real problem comes in where the game has a micro transaction system wherein you can just buy credits outright, with your real monies, and thus unlock said heroes. All told, it costs about $800 to unlock all the heroes.

Eight. Hundred. Dollars.

In a sixty dollar game.

I have read comments such as: “that’s like making me work a second job that pays less than minimum wage!” which, no. It’s a game. No one is making you pay for heroes, players just want shortcuts. It’s the same mentality that ruined the Old Republic MMORPG – players were so concerned with getting to level whatever as soon as possible, they never, you know, played the game. For me, and others like me, tagging along with our dinky lightsabers and level 12 or what have you, it got boring in a hurry – which is too bad, because the game itself was a delight.

(8) PANEL TITLE. Jim C. Hines’ “Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel” excerpts the posts tracked here at File 770 and concludes with his own analysis:

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

(9) PLANET STORIES. The Guardian says a “Potentially habitable world found just 11 light years away”. So if our TV news signals travel there at the speed of light, they still think it’s the middle of the Bush administration and that Trump is the executive producer of the Miss USA pageant?

A potentially habitable world, termed Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.

Astronomers calculate that its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60° and 20°, making it temperate and possibly capable of supporting oceans, and life.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory’s world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS. They reported the discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

HARPS identifies planets by the way their gravity forces their parent stars to wobble. It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s bulk. So the planet would have a stronger pull of gravity at its surface.

(10) GALAXY QUEST. Writer/producer Paul Scheer doesn’t want his efforts to revive the fan favorite to be overlooked: “‘Galaxy Quest’: Paul Scheer Plans to Blend Original and New Casts For Amazon Series”.

Amazon first announced it was developing the 1999 film as an episodic series in 2015, but things escalated last August when Scheer came on board to work on the show. In a new interview with SlashFilm, he revealed that he’s not only turned in his first script for the series, but has some big ideas on how to honor the original film while also updating the premise for the modern age of television.

“It’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point,” he said. “But for me, it was really important to do service to a ‘Galaxy Quest’ story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ into what the fun of that world is […] and also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film.”

…As Scheer told SlashFilm, it’s still very early days for “Galaxy Quest: The Series” (officially, according to the final moments of the film, “The Journey Continues”). But this fall, Amazon has been on the hunt for “its own ‘Game of Thrones,’” a need which was theoretically addressed by acquiring the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe. What if the platform’s actual breakthrough genre hit ends up being a very different adaptation?

(11) THE MARTIAN BOTANICALS. Would you like that with ranch? “Dubai Airshow: Why the UAE plans to grow lettuce on Mars”.

One thing you can’t accuse the United Arab Emirates of lacking is vision.

First they unveiled plans to launch a Mars probe. Then it was an ambition to colonise the Red Planet.

Now the UAE has a new aim – to grow palm trees and lettuce there.

The space sector is a huge feature of the Dubai Airshow, with exhibitions, conferences, and speakers that include former Nasa Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

But even before a UAE Mars probe leaves the ground in 2020 from Japan – UAE is working in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the Gulf state has now announced its space agriculture intentions.

“There are similarities between Mars and the desert,” says Rashid Al Zaadi, senior strategic planner at the UAE Space Agency. “The landscape of the UAE, the soil, are similar.”

(12) A LONG WAY FROM HECTO. Awhile ago the Scroll linked to a story about printing a prosthesis, with plastic; these guys are printing with cells: “The firm that can 3D print human body parts”.

Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.

It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.

The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.

But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.

This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.

(13) SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Publishers Lunch says the floor plans for the next Book Expo betray that it is continuing to get smaller.

Book Expo has opened for registration for the 2018 show. The refreshed website lists Wednesday, May 30 as limited to the remainders pavilion, “premium B2B exhibitors,” and the rights center, with two days of regular floor exhibits on May 31 and June 1.

More dramatic for now is the revised floor map* for the shrinking trade show. Though still early, the map shows the smaller southern hall of Javits closed to exhibits, reserved for autographing, shipping and Book Con lines. Even that reduced “show floor” has what looks to be less floor exhibit space: Meeting rooms, lounges, and a stage move to occupying a big chunk of the back two-fifths of the hall.

(14) THAT’S CAT! Congratulations to Richard Paolinelli, winner of “The First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence”. Award spokesbeing Camestros Felapton explains:

The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.

So let’s make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution.

(15) THAT’S DOG! Suzy Byrne, in “Carrie Fisher’s beloved bulldog Gary is ‘doing great,’ says ‘Auntie Joely’ Fisher” on Yahoo! Lifestyle, says that Carrie Fisher’s goofy bulldog, Gary Fisher, has found a home with Corby McCown, the personal assistant to  Carrie Fisher’s sister Joely.

The dog has become even more popular since Carrie died. He recently surpassed 150,000 Instagram followers with help from posts including a touching tribute to Carrie on what would have been her 61st birthday last month. He followed up his San Diego Comic-Con appearance with another one at L.A. Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Last weekend, he was at Kansas City Comic Con. (A portion of the money the dog gets for appearances goes to charity.)

Yup, we’d say that Gary is doing great, too.

The dog has a Twitter account at Realgaryfisher.

(16) GROTESQUE JOKE. Not all of the Christmas season advertising has been heartwarming: “Greggs sorry after replacing baby Jesus with sausage roll in advent calendar promotion”.

Greggs has been forced to apologise for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the launch of its advent calendar.

The bakers released a promotional image for its festive calendar that showed a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the Three Wise Men.

But it was met with serious backlash online as offended fans accused the budget chain of religious insensitivity and vowed to boycott it.

Twitter users said that replacing Jesus, who was Jewish, with a pork product was “inappropriate”…

(17) ON JJ’S WISHLIST. JJ says, “Despite having a full collection of manual and power tools, I find myself itching to buy this.” ThinkGeek is offering the “Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set”.

You must be worthy in order to wield Thor’s hammer, but Marvel never mentioned any restrictions on Thor’s screwdriver or his pliers. Wield them all with our Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set! This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/17 As I Was Scrolling Down The Stair, I Met A Pixel Who Wasn’t There

(1) REDRUM. James Davis Nicoll continues to chart the core: “Twenty Core Cyberpunk Works Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. He says the image at the post is of Uwaterloo’s famous Red Room. Here are three of his cyberpunk picks:

  • Synners by Pat Cadigan
  • The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
  • When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

(2) BATTENING DOWN TATOOINE. Is this anything like a silver lining? “Due to the hurricane, Disney World has removed some construction walls — which means we can see Star Wars Land”. Photos at the link.

First and foremost, there is a Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Irma, hurtling towards Florida at a rapid pace and we hope everyone in the Sunshine State is staying as safe as possible, evacuating if that’s been ordered, and has plenty of water.

While Irma’s path across Florida is still unclear (it’s not expected to make landfall till the weekend), Disney World has already started making preparing for torrential rain and high winds. Things that can be bolted down have been bolted down, and things that are apt to blow away in the gusts of wind — like say, a fence and a tarp — have been removed. This means that many of the construction walls around Star Wars Land have come down. And this means, we can see the outskirts of Star Wars Land, and yes please.

(3) STAY FROSTY. The Society of Illustrators in New York is displaying a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ Above the Timberline from September 5 through October 28 in the Third Floor Hall of Fame Gallery.

The Society is pleased to present a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ latest stunning masterpiece Above the Timberline. This lavishly painted novel tells the story of the son of a famed explorer searching for his stranded father, and a lost city buried under the snows of a future frozen Earth.

When it started to snow, it didn’t stop for 1,500 years. The Pole Shift that ancient climatologists talked about finally came, the topography was ripped apart and the weather of the world was changed—forever. Now the Earth is covered in snow, and to unknown depths in some places. In this world, Wes Singleton leaves the academy in search of his father, the famed explorer Galen Singleton, who was searching for a lost city until Galen’s expedition was cut short after being sabotaged. But Wes believes his father is still alive somewhere above the timberline. Fully illustrated with over 120 pieces of full-page artwork throughout, Above the Timberline is a stunning and cinematic combination of art and novel.

Opening Reception on Thursday, September 28th, 6:30 pm. Open to the public. Cash bar. $10 suggested donation will benefit arts programming and exhibitions.

(4) ASKING FOR DONATIONS. Australian writer Lezli Robyn needs help paying for a procedure that will keep her eyesight from deteriorating further. Her employer has set up a GoFundMe. George R.R. Martin is one of many encouraging people to give.

Many of you know Lesley Robyn Glover (and I would like to introduce you to her if you don’t). She writes sf/fantasy as Lezli Robyn and works as my Assistant Publisher for Arc Manor…. What many of you who already know her may not realize is that due to a rare eye disorder, which is progressively getting worse, she is now considered legally blind without correction. When Lezli was 23 she was diagnosed with an unusual condition, Keratoconus, which is characterised by a progressive conical protusion of the cornea that results in her eyesight being distorted, to the point where she sees multiple images on top of each other and are no longer clear….

Since I pay Lezli Robyn I know what she earns–and it is not enough to be able to easily afford to pay for the treatment without which her eyeseight will continue to get worse.  I am also aware of financial and medical difficulties her parents are undergoing and it is almost impossible for them to fund the treatment. Currently a minimum of $2500 for each eye is required just for the basic procedure (not including specialist tests. medications, etc.) in Australia and it’s not covered by Lezli’s Australian medicare (see Optometry Australia’s article about it here ). The cost in the US, of course, can be significantly greater (up to $4000 per eye!) so it may actually be cheaper for her to fly to Australia to get the procudure rather than have it done in the US.

So I am asking our friends to join me in raising money for Lezli to be able to get this procedure done as soon as possible–before her eyesight gets worse. Keratoconus does eventually slow down in its progression but there is no specific timeframe, and in Lezli’s case the progession has consistantly continued unabated.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club has updated their list of award-worthy 2017 works: “What’s worth considering for the ballot in 2018?”  For example:

Short Story

A Passing Sickness — Paolo Bacigalupi

Sanctuary — Allen Steele

Paradox — Naomi Kritzer

The Secret Life Of Bots — Suzanne Palmer

(6) RUN AWAY. Dominic Patten at Deadline joins the growing number of critics who’ve turned thumbs down: “‘The Orville’ Review: Seth MacFarlane’s Fox Sci-Fi Drama Is Lost In Space”.

Honestly, if your need for sci-fi is gnawing at you, hold your powder a couple more weeks and wait for Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres September 24. Even with the highly skilled likes of Norm Macdonald, Transparent’s Jeffery Tambor, Holland Taylor, 24 vet Penny Johnson Jerald and Victor Garber making appearances alongside the Family Guy guy and the Friday Night Lights alum, The Orville’s aspirations to find a new path to the final frontier in this age of Peak TV goes nowhere frat-boy fast.

In fact, with its urination gags and heavy-handedness on such topics as gender identity and racism, the only purpose of the lost-in-space The Orville seems to be to as a way for Fox to continue its lucrative relationship with MacFarlane and keep him happy.

(7) NOT ALL WIGHT MEN. Actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, in this interview discusses the possibility of main characters becoming Wights.

(8) MARS: ONE SCOOP OR TWO? The Planetary Society has notified members:

On August 28th, NASA’s Associate Administrator of Science announced that the space agency intends to accelerate planning for a sample return mission to Mars to launch no earlier than 2026. A new Mars telecommunications orbiter would take a backseat to an increased focus on building a fetch rover and a “Mars ascent vehicle” to launch samples into orbit.

Never before has NASA had approval from the budget masters at the White House to pursue such a mission. So, take it from me: this is a very positive step. There are a lot of details yet to be announced, and we will now look forward to the 2019 budget proposal currently being drafted by NASA and the White House to see how serious these plans are.

We have been working hard to help the Mars program, and thousands of Planetary Society members helped by sending messages to Congress and the White House. Congress has already signaled its support by proposing over $60 million in new funding for Mars next year in support of a future mission. Now, NASA has said it intends to bring Mars home to Earth. Thank you to all who took action. There are exciting times ahead.


Buy A Book Day

The History of Buy a Book Day: Buy a Book Day was created in 2012 to educate people to the importance of books to our culture and civilisation as a whole. It is inarguable that books have been one of the greatest contributors to the advancement of the human race, by moving the hearts of many over the ages, stimulating their imaginations and helping them see the world in an entirely different light. Books have also served the simple but vital purpose of passing knowledge down from generation to generation. The creators of Buy a Book Day want nothing more than for people take a moment to truly appreciate books and their numerous roles in the human experience.


  • September 7, 1958Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 1974 – The (animated) Partridge Family 2200 A.D. first aired on TV
  • September 7, 1984 — The Brother from Another Planet first screened in theatres.

(11) QUICK CALL. Almost makes the tricorder look like steampunk technology: “‘Pen’ identifies cancer in 10 seconds”.

How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer – a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

(12) TALE OF THE SHARKE. Jonathan McCalmont’s “Lessons of Sharke” comments on his purposes in serving on the Shadow Clarke jury.

I was happy to get involved in the Shadow Clarke project because I wanted to a) help challenge the presumed supremacy of genre publishing by broadening the discourse to include science fiction novels from outside that cultural sphere and b) show that it was possible for regular readers to engage with the literature of science fiction in public using not only the full range of their emotions but also their own ideas about what constitutes good writing and good science fiction.

Regardless of whether you want to provoke change in existing social structures or create new social spaces embodying different principles, you need to be able to show what you’re about… if only to prove that alternatives to the status quo can exist. The Shadow Clarke project was by no means a flawless undertaking but I think it was successful not only in broadening the scope of genre discourse but also in demonstrating that ordinary readers can contribute more than simply hitting retweet and dutifully nominating their faves.

I expected both hostility and opposition because the Shadow Clarke project embodies a very different set of ideas about how we ought to engage with science fiction on the internet. Some might argue that those ideas and methods have always been present in genre culture but times change and cases must always be made anew. Looking back over the months I spent as a Sharke, I am proud of the writing we produced as a group; I think we championed books that would otherwise have been completely overlooked in genre circles and I think we provided dozens of articles that interrogate science fiction from a variety of nuanced and personal positions.

(13) BALLAD OF THE MTA. And our fate is still unlearned….

(14) THEY BITE. Camestros Felapton tells why “The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic”, and illustrates his point with an example of how the Alt-Right turned on Vox Day.

The slow coalescence of various species of online misogyny and trolling into the modern crypto-fascist ‘Alt-Right’ has been entangled with a more general appeal for ‘free speech’ in odd circumstances. These kinds of appeals were often directed at internet comments sections and forums as arguments against community guidelines or in defence of those arguing for active discrimination or even violence against various groups. As appeals went, their purpose was primarily aimed at trying to fool liberals and conservatives into not taking action against people who were actively trying to disrupt online communities, harass vulnerable people or shout down opposing views – indeed actions that themselves were inimical to free speech.

(15) A SPARKLING BEVERAGE? From the Brooklyn Eagle comes this item: “No Bad Blood Over Unicorn Coffee”.

A multicolored beverage named after a mythical horse doesn’t sound like something that could cause controversy, but after a couple cafes went head to head in the legal realm, a settlement cleared the air. The End, a cafe in Williamsburg argued that Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino was a rip off of its Unicorn Latte. After the two companies went up against each other in court, Brooklyn Federal Judge Arthur Spatt authorized a “mutually agreeable settlement,” according to The End’s lawyer. A Starbucks representative also said the terms, which are confidential, were mutual and the global chain no longer serves the colorful drink at its stores. (via the Daily News)

(16) BOOK RESEARCH. Sarah Gailey went right to the source and asked the (river) horse:

(17) SAY CHEESE. StarShip Sofa’s Jeremy Szal posted a suite of “Worldcon 75 Photos”. Lots of good ones. Here’s the last one in the set:

View post on imgur.com

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/17 M. Glyer’s Classic Tale Of Wretched Hives And High Tsundokus

(1) CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING. Have comic cons reached a saturation point, or is it a problem with this company in particular, which turned over CEOs last year? ICv2 says gateshow runner Wizard World continues to tank — “Wizard World Sales Drop Nearly 50%”.

Wizard World has released its Q2 financials, and the situation has deteriorated even further from the big loss in Q1 (see “Wizard World Revenue Decline Produces Big Operating Loss“).  Sales declined 49% in Q2 compared to the same quarter last year, and the company had an operating loss of $1.9 million, compared to a $475,000 operating profit in Q2 2016.

…The company says it is planning 22 events in 2017, and hoping to increase revenue over 2016.  That seems a bit of a stretch at this point, with first half sales over $6 million less in 2017 than in 2016.

(2) HOLLYN ON CARSON CENTER ADVISORY BOARD. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announces: “Carson Center taps arts, entertainment leaders”.

Twenty-five international leaders and innovators in new media will offer their advice and expertise to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.

Founding Director Megan Elliott on Aug. 23 announced the center’s initial advisory board, which will partner in the center’s strategic planning and offer valuable industry insight. The board includes leaders in art, technology, gaming, television and film, design, interactivity, communications and business, among other fields, with experience and connections with mainstays such as Lucasfilm, YouTube, Google, Disney and Paramount Pictures.

One of them is a longtime fan —

Norman Hollyn, the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Film Editing at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Hollyn is a longtime film, TV and music editor.

(3) UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE. Now that its publisher’s attempt to game the NY Times Bestseller list has caused the internet to turn a glaring spotlight on Handbook for Mortals, more of their tricks are coming to light — like the cover’s similarity to another artist’s work.

(4) IT GETS VERSE. And Fran Wilde has commemorated the book’s delisting with this parody:

(5) KEEP THE MONEY COMING. Sofawolf’s Kickstarter to publish T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus as an illustrated book has reached all its stretch goals, but if in the remaining hours of the drive they hit $28K then backers will be rewarded with an ebook edition of Black Dogs by Kingfisher’s closer personal friend Ursula Vernon. 🙂

So what’s next? We’ve gone over the financial numbers and everything that we have already committed to, and don’t see enough room for another physical thing without having to introduce some new levels and the resulting chaos that would cause. However, just because we can’t offer another physical thing, doesn’t mean we can’t add on a virtual one.

Many years back, we edited and published the first novel Ursula ever wrote, Black Dogs, as a two-part print edition. For a whole host of reasons (mostly lack of time) we have been slow to tackle the conversion of much of our backlist into eBook format, but we know more than a few of you have been requesting Black Dogs for some time.

Now will be that time.

We’ve gotten the okay from Ursula to release the eBook editions for free to the Kickstarter backers as part of the final stretch goal, which we are going to set at $28K (since we are already almost at $23K and we expect the usual last week frenzy). This will be added to all levels from $8 (Baba Yaga) on up.

If you are not familiar with the story, we want to stress that Black Dogs is not like Summer in Orcus in many ways. While it too centers around a young girl, in this case named Lyra, it is an altogether harsher world which she inhabits; and she both comes from and passes through some dark places to get where she is going. The writing is both clearly very early Ursula, and at the same time, very clearly all Ursula (or T. Kingfisher, or whomever you care to reference).

(6) GUFF DELEGATE. Donna Maree Hanson is chronicling her fan fund trip online. The entries about museum visits are lavishly illustrated with photos of the exhibits. This excerpt is taken from one of the posts about the Worldcon – “Guff # 6 -The Hugo Awards”.

Then it was our turn to go on stage. The ceremony is on You Tube I believe and was webcast. We were in the beginning section. There was an International group of people presenting, South Africa, Poland, China, US and Australia. We had to sit on a sofa on stage and then after we presented we had a short interview. Amazing, John [the TAFF delegate] and I got to plug the fan auction to like 5000 people! They had John’s name wrong in the script so Karen Lord called him Jeff. We gave John a hard time. So Jeff what did you do with John etc.

After the awards ceremony we were invited to the Hugo Losers’ Party. There was a shuttle bus (a small one) so a lot of people took cabs. We waited with C E Murphy and ? (I’m sorry I forgot your name again) and Nalo Hopkinson, George RR Martin, Pat Catigan and others. A Finish fan guy leaped on the bus and Nalo can I come with you and did.

The venue was Helsinki’s steam punk nightclub. It was crowded by the time we got there. Winners turn up and are boohed and made to wear ridiculous head gear. There was an amazing steampunk cake. Lots of booze. Lots of food and desserts in mini containers. The music was good at first but then we tried to dance and the music went to shit. Go figure. I had a blast but wanted to go home. Beans, my daughter, wanted to party and dance and I didn’t get out of there until around 2 am. But I met people, talked to people. John and Valerie turned up late dressed in their steam punk gear. So cute.

Here is a collection of shots, including the steampunk cake. The steampunk couple are John and Valerie Purcell….

(7) MARS CON IN SEPTEMBER. The 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention will take place September 7-10 at UC Irvine.

The four-day International Mars Society Convention brings together leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government policymakers and journalists to talk about the latest scientific discoveries, technological advances and political-economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the planet Mars.

On opening night the convention will feature a panel of science fiction greats discussing “The Human Future in Space.”

Members of this special panel will include Greg Benford (Timescape, The Martian Race, Chiller), David Brin (Startide Rising, The Uplift War, The Postman), Larry Niven (Ringworld, Lucifer’s Hammer, The Integral Trees) and Jerry Pournelle (Footfall, A Mote in God’s Eye, Starswarm).

The science fiction panel discussion will begin at 7:00 pm at the University of California Irvine (A-311 Student Center) and will be open to the public.

Commenting on the panel, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “This will be an extraordinary event. It’s like having a conference panel a generation ago featuring Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. I can hardly wait.”

(8) ARRRH. Gail Selinger’s new pirate history, Pirates of New England: Ruthless Raiders and Rotten Renegades will be released September 1.

One would be mistaken to think of pirates as roaming only the Caribbean. Pirates as famous as William Kidd and Henry Every have at various times plundered, pillaged, and murdered their way up and down the New England seaboard, striking fear among local merchants and incurring the wrath of colonial authorities. Piracy historian Gail Selinger brings these tales of mayhem and villainy to life while also exploring why New England became such a breeding ground for high seas crime and how the view of piracy changed over time, from winking toleration to brutal crackdown….

Gail Selinger is a maritime historian and pirate expert who served as a consultant on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels: Pirate Tech. Her commentary appears on the DVDs of The Princess Bride and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates and lectures on pirates and pirate history.

(9) NOT THE TERRITORY. Alex Acks explains why “I Don’t  Like Fantasy Maps”. And it’s not because you can never get them folded up again. Here’s the first of 10 points:

Most of them are terrible. Like geographically, geologically terrible. You’ve already probably seen me complain about the map of Middle Earth. From my experience as a reader, and I’ll readily admit that I have neither had the patience nor time to read every fantasy book ever written, the majority of fantasy maps make me want to tear my hair out as a geologist. Many of them are worse than the Tolkien map, and without his fig leaf of mythology to justify it. (And sorry, it’s not a fig leaf that works for me.)


  • Born August 26 – David K.M. Klaus

(11) ALIENS AHEAD. The New York Times previews an upcoming exhibit at UC Riverside: “For Latino Artists in Sci-Fi Show, Everyone’s an Alien”.

Starting Sept. 16, Ms. Cortez’s “Memory Insertion Capsule” will greet visitors to “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” an exhibition at the University of California, Riverside that shows Latin American and Latin-heritage artists mining the tropes of science fiction.

Some, like Ms. Cortez, have created startling objects that offer portals into alternative worlds or mimic time machines. Others use the imagery of extraterrestrials to express something of the immigrant’s alienating experience. Most engage in the speculative thinking long associated with science-fiction literature and film to explore social issues.

(12) COURSE CORRECTION. Apparently there was a problem with fulfilling the incentives earned by backers of the 2015 Kickstarter for Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, because the publisher’s new CEO is trying to make it right.

I know that there are some of you who either weren’t sent the correct rewards or any rewards at all. I sincerely apologize for this. There is absolutely NO reason that you shouldn’t have your rewards by now. That is unacceptable and just a little ridiculous. You have our apologies. We’ll absolutely be correcting this sort of problem.

I also wanted it known that Jaym (Gates) is absolutely NOT to blame for the delays. That falls squarely on our shoulders. Throughout, Jaym has been absolutely professional and has worked hard as your advocate. I also wanted to issue a public apology to Jaym for all the delays as well. Thank you for all your hard work and patience, Jaym. We really appreciate it.

Now, onto fulfillment and reward questions. Right now, I’m going through and trying to figure out who has gotten what and who hasn’t. We’re taking steps to get this sorted out immediately and to get everything to you all that you backed in short order.

To that end, it would help us greatly if you would take a few moments and fill this form out –

Genius Loci Backer Form

(13) WHEN TROI WAS ALMOST CANNED. Paramount wanted to let Marina Sirtis know who was wielding the hammer in these contract negotiations.

The final film for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew was nearly short one cast member. According to Marina Sirtis, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Deanna Troi, negotiations for her return in Star Trek: Nemesis were not going smoothly and at one point Paramount Pictures threatened to replace her in the film with Jeri Ryan, the actress who played the Borg Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. …While this is the first time that Sirtis has openly discussed the threat, Ryan has mentioned in it the past, saying that she was utterly confused by how Seven of Nine could possibly make sense showing up in a Star Trek: The Next Generation movie. With Star Trek: Voyager off the air as of 2001, Seven of Nine technically wasn’t doing anything else, but with much of Star Trek: Nemesis revolving around Troi’s wedding the film’s script would have needed a serious rewrite to account for Troi’s absence and Seven of Nine’s introduction.


(14) MORE ABOUT W75. Sarah Groenewegen’s Worldcon 75 report is rich in info about the panels: “WorldCon75 – All bound for Helsinki”.

Anyway, I didn’t end up seeing too many panels. I heard about some excellent ones, which will no doubt be highlighted in other reviews and reminiscences. The one that I did see that stood out was the one supposed to be on pre-Harry Potter magical schools. While I quite enjoyed it and found some of the panellists interesting – and I would have like to hear more about Italian versions, rather than just the Anglophone ones – it was a victim of too many panellists for 45 minutes, and the moderator was less than optimally effective, especially when a latecomer arrived on the panel and took over.

The Resistance panel was also good, but very heavily US-centric, saved by Kameron Hurley talking about her experiences in South Africa and drawing on her academic work in the field.

I enjoyed the one on Cyberpunk with Pat Cadigan (but, honestly, I could listen to her all day), and I found Quifan Chen’s contributions to be fascinating about real-life now cyberpunk cities in his native China. I’m reading Pat’s Synners, at long last, and greatly enjoying it.

(15) MAPS OF THE STARS HOMES. For those who have been worried about aliens tracking us down and mugging us based on information we’ve sent into the universe, this might represent good news…. Ethan Siegel tells Medium readers, “Voyager’s ‘Cosmic Map’ of Earth’s location is hopelessly wrong”.

Located throughout the galaxy, the Voyager golden records are emblazoned with the relative orientations, distances, and pulse timing frequencies of 14 different pulsars. (The Pioneer 10 and 11 missions also have the pulsar information on them.)…

Pulsars were only first discovered 50 years ago (by Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, above) in 1967; they were incredibly novel still when the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft were launched. Now that we have a better understanding of how they work, how ubiquitous they are, and how their apparent properties change over time, we can see that these are terrible long-term beacons! In hindsight, it would have been better to put together the astronomical properties of the Sun, along with the masses, radii, atmospheric contents, and orbital parameters of the planets. After all, those are the pieces of information we use to identify exoplanet systems today, and would be the best way to, on a long-term basis, identify our Solar System.

(16) BANGING ON. Someone wants to know: “Is Canada’s official residence in Ireland haunted?”

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland is concerned about ghosts.

Specifically, Ambassador Kevin Vickers is worried about a spirit that might be haunting Canada’s official residence in Dublin.

In a recent Facebook post, the ambassador describes hearing unusual bangs, laboured breathing and heavy footsteps in the residence’s halls.

Mr Vickers, a history buff, suggests it may be the spirit of one of the leaders of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising.

When he first moved into the residence, the ambassador heard rumours that Irish nationalist Patrick Pearse had once lived at the home in Dublin’s Ranelagh district.

Pearse was one of the architects of the April 1916 rebellion to overthrow British rule and set up an Irish republic.

(17) MINNEAPOLIS FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a photo-illustrated audio recording on YouTube of the “Minneapolis Fandom, 4th Street Fantasy & Music” panel at Balticon 51.

Geri Sullivan (Balticon 51 Fan Guest of Honor) and Steven Brust (Balticon 51 Special Guest) tell the true story of Minneapolis fandom from rent parties to 4th Street Fantasy to the music. Steve talks about how he programmed conventions, and where he got the idea for his first book, and Geri talks about her first years in fandom. There are great anecdotes about Steve, convention running and more, but overwhelmingly this audio program (with supplemental images) is about the music and culture of Minneapolis fandom. The fan history program was developed for Balticon 51 by the Fanac Fanhistory project.


[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).


When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.


  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.


(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”


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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/17 Soft Pixel, Warm Pixel, Little Ball Of Scroll

(1) VERIFIED FILER IN HELSINKI. Daniel Dern sent a photo of himself at Worldcon 75 wearing his Filer button: “From the batch I had made at Sasquan. Also note ‘pocket program’.”

Daniel Dern

Can it be, a pocket program that fits in a pocket?!!

Good thing – they need all the room they can get.

(2) JAMMED. Cheryl Morgan on “Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?”

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

(3) MORE SPACE COMING. Nevertheless, Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme says:

We will have more function spaces on Thursday available, and even more on Friday and Saturday. These things take time, as some of these rooms need to be built in halls, since we already have all the available rooms in Kokoustamo at our disposal. I believe this will help out the congestions somewhat.

Also, we are closing all membership sales on our website. http://www.worldcon.fi/news/closure-membership-sales/

All in all, I believe still we had a very good opening day for Worldcon 75 and the next four will be even better! See you in Messukeskus!

(4) UNPRECEDENTED. Kevin Standlee says:

I believe that’s true. And simply because I happen to know this story I will add that before L.A.con III (1996), Bruce Pelz and I briefly discussed what our membership cutoff should be – a topic because the previous L.A. Worldcon (1984) set the all-time attendance record. We considered 16,000. But since our attending membership sales didn’t even crack 7,000, it never became an issue.

(5) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Doris V. Sutherland finds three points of interest in Pat Henry’s answer to Alison Littlewood, refusing to take her off the Dragon Awards ballot — “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”. The third is:

3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.

Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.

For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.

(6) WHAT REAL WRITERS DO AND DON’T DO-DOO. Chuck Wendig offers a “PSA To Writers: Don’t Be A Shit-Flinging Gibbon”.

Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:

Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.

Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.

Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.

You’re a writer.

Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.

If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.

If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.

(7) A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON. Here’s the place to “Watch five years of the Curiosity rover’s travels in a five-minute time-lapse”.

Five years of images from the front left hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were used to create this time-lapse movie. The inset map shows the rover’s location in Mars’ Gale Crater. Each image is labeled with the date it was taken, and its corresponding sol (Martian day), along with information about the rover’s location at the time.


(8) COLD EQUATION. Although sf is not really a predictive genre, that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the recognition when the things they’ve warned about in fiction happen in reality: the Antarctica Journal has the story — “Craig Russell, Canadian Novelist Predicts Arctic Event”.

In 2016, a Canadian novelist, Craig Russell — who is also a lawyer and a theater director in Manitoba — wrote an environmental cli-fi thriller titled “Fragment” about a major calving event along the ice shelf of Antarctica. The Yale Climate Connections website recently recommended the novel, published by Thistledown Press as a good summer read.

Ironically, scientists in Antarctica are in fact right now monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf with a huge crack in it and threatening to fall into the sea any day now. How is that for reality mirroring art?

How did Craig Russell respond when asked how he felt about his accurately future-predicting novel being in the news now?

“Some 40 years ago, as a student, I lived and worked at a Canadian Arctic weather station, 500 miles from the North Pole,” he added. “So I’ve remained interested in polar events, and was both fascinated and appalled by the Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses in 1995 and 2002.”

To see world events catch up so quickly with a fictional reality I spent years creating has been quite unnerving,” he added.

(9) STAR WARS INTERPRETATION. Syfy Wire will show you the lot: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser posters get the LEGO treatment “.

The long wait for the next Star Wars film can be painful to endure. We hang on any morsel we can get, any tie-in we can overreact to, and anything else that can get us geeking out. Then there is LEGO, who can help ease the painful wait by just getting us in a good mood. Take the new teaser posters for The Last Jedi, which were released in mid-July at the D23 Expo.

LEGO has now taken those same posters and LEGO-fied them, giving us six posters with LEGO mini-figure art that corresponds to those D23 posters. Again, repeating the crimson robe attire, echoing the red we saw on the first poster and also the ruby red mineral base of planet Crait. There’s no telling yet whether these posters are just part of Lego’s social media campaign or if these posters will be part of their gift with purchase program for VIP Lego Club members.


Book Lovers Day

From the scent of a rare first edition book found in an old time book collection, to a crisp, fresh book at the local supermarket, the very sight of a book can bring back memories. Reading as a child, enjoying the short stories, the long books and the ability to lose yourself in a story so powerful that at the end your asking yourself where to get the next book in the series. This is for the reader in all of us, the celebration of Book Lovers Day!


  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes



  • Born August 8, 2017 — Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound

(13) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock saw yesterday’s Bliss and thought: “Flame on!”.

(14) RELICS OF WAR. Something to watch out for when beachcombing in Helsinki: “German woman mistakes WW2 white phosphorus for amber”.

A German woman narrowly escaped injury after picking up an object she believed to be amber but which then spontaneously combusted.

She had plucked the small object from wet sand by the Elbe river near Hamburg and put it in a pocket of her jacket, which she laid on a bench.

Bystanders soon alerted the 41-year-old to the fact her jacket was ablaze.

The stone was actually white phosphorus, which had reacted with the air as it dried.

Police say the two are easily confused.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Yes, most amber comes from the south coast of the Baltic, and leftover munitions may be more common in Germany than in Finland.”

(15) RIGHTING THE RECORD. Max Gladstone decides it’s up to him to salvage the reputation of a famous academic: “Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist” – at Tor.com.

First, I want to acknowledge the common protests. Jonesian archaeology looks a lot different from the modern discipline. If Jones wanted to use surviving traces of physical culture to assemble a picture of, say, precolonial Peruvian society, he’s definitely going about it the wrong way. Jones is a professional fossil even for the mid-30s—a relic of an older generation of Carters and Schliemans. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. By Raiders, he already has tenure, probably gained based on his field work in India (Subterranean Thuggee Lava Temples: An Analysis and Critical Perspective, William & Mary Press, 1935), and the board which granted him tenure were conservatives of his father’s generation, people who actually knew Carter and Schliemann—not to mention Jones, Sr. (I’ll set aside for the moment a discussion of cronyism and nepotism, phenomena utterly foreign to contemporary tenure review boards…)

Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?

(16) PROGENY. I can’t even begin to imagine, but apparently somebody at DC Comics can — “Superman & Wonder Woman’s Future Son Revealed”. ScreenRant has the story.

If you’ve ever wondered what the children of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman would look like, the time for wondering is over. Thanks to DC Comics, every fan gets to see the parentage and superpowers of the sons and daughters of the Justice League. The good news is that they’re every bit the heroes that their parents were, making up the Justice League of the future… the bad news is that they’ve traveled back in time to seek their parents’ help. Because as heroic as their superhero parents taught them to be, the future may be too lost for them to ever save.

(17) GUFFAW OF THRONES. If you don’t mind MAJOR SPOILERS, then this Bored Panda post is for you — “10+ Of The Most Hilarious Reactions To This Week’s Game Of Thrones”. Funny stuff.

If you haven’t watched this week’s Game Of Thrones, come back to this after you do because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned. All the rest of you probably agree that The Spoils of War was one of the most emotional episodes of the show to date. Judging from all the reactions online, at least the internet certainly thinks so.

Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of the funniest reactions to Game Of Thrones Episode 4 of Season 7, and they brilliantly capture the essence of the plot….

(18) FASHION STATEMENT. Architectural Digest wryly calls this “Innovative Design” — “Game of Thrones Uses IKEA Rugs As Capes”.

As any of the HBO series’s devoted fans can tell you, Game of Thrones is not a cheap production. In fact, with the budget for its most recent season coming in at more than $10 million per episode, it’s among the most expensive television shows in history. (If you have dragons in a scene, they need to destroy things . . . and that’s not cheap). But it’s not only the dragons and set designs that are costly; it’s also the costumes. There are upward of 100 people who work to ensure that each character is wearing an outfit that’s as realistic as possible. What might surprise some fans, however, is that IKEA rugs are often used as clothing.

“These capes are actually IKEA rugs,” Michele Clapton, an Emmy Award–winning designer, told an audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year. “We take anything we can,” Clapton added with a chuckle as she described the process that goes into designing medieval garb. “We cut and we shaved [the rugs] and then we added strong leather straps. . . . I want the audience to almost smell the costume.” The result is an IKEA-inspired cape that not only appears worn-in but also has the aesthetic of real medieval clothing. It remains unclear as to which IKEA rugs were used to dress the GoT characters. The next time you visit IKEA, see if you can envision Jon Snow marching into battle with a Höjerup or Alhede wrapped around his shoulders.

(19) POORFEADING. Another graduate of the Pixel Scroll Editing Academy & Grill:

(20) DINO TIME. This dinosaur had more bumps on its head than a Star Trek: Voyager humanoid: “It’s Official: Stunning Fossil Is a New Dinosaur Species”.

About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.

Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.

Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.

(21) THUMBS DOWN. Carl Slaughter says If you have read the Dark Tower series, you will probably share this reviewer’s shrill disapproval of the screen adaptation.

(22) MARJORIE PRIME. This doesn’t sound too jolly.

2017 Science-Fiction Drama starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith

About the Marjorie Prime Movie

Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past. Marjorie Prime is an American science-fiction film written and directed by Michael Almereyda, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Craig Russell, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.


(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.


(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.


[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/17 Fahrvergnügen 451

(0) What’s Daniel Dern’s title a reference to? Some commercials that aired before many of you were born.

(1) COLONIZE OR QUARANTINE? Pilita Clark, the Financial Times environment correspondent, complains “Elon Musk’s inter-planetary fantasy spells danger for Mars”.  (This link goes straight to a paywall, but via Google I found a way around.)

What is troubling is that he (Musk) seems to think of Mars mush as early European explorers viewed Africa and the Americas, as places to be colonised regardless of the consequences.

Mars is in a pristine state and experts say it should stay that way if we are to find proof of past or present life there.  Plonking a city of 1m humans on it would wreak havoc with such efforts, according to veteran space scientists such as Andrew Coates of University College London, whois working on the ExoMars rover due to launch in 2020.

Prof Coates says the big global dust storm on Mars could carry specks of terrestrial matter across the planet that scientists could mistake for evidence of Martian life.  He also worries about Mr Musk’s breezy attitude to the brutally cold weather on Mars, where temperatures average minus 63C.

(2) THE BREW THAT MADE KENTUCKY FAMOUS. We’ve mentioned Wil Wheaton’s beer before. Here’s this year’s edition of “Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.


Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer

Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb

Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

It’s been four years since this otherworldly stout burst out of our collective proverbial chests. Four years since the primally viscous first release ooze-snaked across the galaxy. This specialty imperial stout draws its huge flavor from wheat (that’s Wil, natch), pecans and bourbon barrels (two homages to Drew’s home of Kentucky) and Greg’s lifelong quest for pushing the limits of “why the hell not?” to make bigger, bolder beers. The result is a mind-blowing amalgamation of intense yet smooth flavors, perfect for a warm summer evening, a cozy winter’s night or the approaching destruction of the entire human race (be it externally or internally inflicted).

For this year’s bottle art, we were thrilled to entrust the task to heralded comic book writer and artist Walt Simonson. He was gracious enough to work with us in exchange for our donation to The Hero Initiative, a charity organization that provides retirement funds for golden-age comic book artists.

(3) MARVEL’S LIVESTREAM FROM SDCC. Marvel Entertainment will air the action from their booth at Comic-Con starting Thursday, July 20.

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, and Marvel Gaming host Jessica Brohard, viewers will be able to watch booth events with their favorite Marvel comic, television and movie talent, hear panel recaps from special guests, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings. Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/SDCC2017 or Marvel’s YouTube channel.


  • Thursday, July 20: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, July 21: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, July 22: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, July 23: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 3:00 p.m. PT/6:00 p.m. ET

(4) FROG FURY. The New York Times covers the brawl: “Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly ‘Muppet’ Firing”.

“This is my life’s work,” said Mr. Whitmire, 58, who lives in the Atlanta area. “The only thing I’ve done my whole adult life, and it’s just been taken away from me. I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t resolve this.”

Disney, which acquired the Muppets in 2004 from the Jim Henson Company, painted a wholly different picture, portraying Mr. Whitmire as hostile to co-workers and overly difficult in contract negotiations. Members of the Henson family said they supported the dismissal as well.

… Henson’s family, which still runs the Jim Henson Company, chose Mr. Whitmire to replace Henson as Kermit in 1990 after Henson unexpectedly died of pneumonia at the age of 53. Some of those same family members say they supported the decision to replace Mr. Whitmire, though they are no longer involved with the Muppets.

“He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations,” Lisa Henson, president of the Jim Henson Company, and Jim Henson’s daughter, said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.

Brian Henson, the company’s chairman and Jim Henson’s son, said that while Mr. Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” things changed when he was off set.

“He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” he said.

Whitmire, meanwhile, has continued to characterize himself as indispensable in posts at Muppet Pundit, such as — “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable”.

The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978.

I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share.

None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him.

So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

(5) NO SH*T! Eliot Peper of Harvard Business Review tells “Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction”.

At the end of the 19th century, New York City stank. One hundred fifty thousand horses ferried people and goods through the streets of Manhattan, producing 45,000 tons — tons! — of manure a month. It piled up on streets and in vacant lots, and in 1898 urban planners convened from around the world to brainstorm solutions to the impending crisis. They failed to come up with any, unable to imagine horseless transportation.

Fourteen years later, cars outnumbered horses in New York, and visions of manure dystopia were forgotten.

If 19th-century urban planners had had access to big data, machine learning techniques, and modern management theory, these tools would not have helped them. They simply would have confirmed their existing concerns. Extrapolating from past trends is useful but limiting in a world of accelerating technological change.

Science fiction can help. Maybe you associate it with spaceships and aliens, but science fiction offers more than escapism. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be…..

Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions locked top 19th-century minds into believing that cities were doomed to drown in horse manure. Assumptions toppled Kodak despite the fact that its engineers built the first digital camera in 1975. Assumptions are a luxury true leaders can’t afford.

(6) FOR SOME VALUES OF OVERDUE. John Ostrander reminisces about a career spent pushing deadlines in “The Digital Dog Ate My Homework. Honest.”

In my earliest days as a pro writer, I did everything on typewriter (first manual and then electric; rumors that I chiseled them on stone tablets are just mean). I didn’t have a computer until later and, even when I did, some companies (including DC) were not equipped to receive them electronically. So that meant printing them up on my dot-matrix printer and then rushing them off to FedEx for overnight delivery.

Unless you called in your package by a certain time, usually much earlier than you had the work done, you had to take the package to the nearest FedEx office. If you didn’t hit the office by closing time (usually around 6 PM), you had to make the Midnight Run to the main FedEx office out by the largest airport around. More than once, Kim was the driver while I finished collating the pages, stuffing them in the envelope, and addressing the delivery slip. Let me tell you, Speed Racer had nothing on Kim. She’d run stoplights and take stop signs as suggestions to be ignored. Often, we’d meet other local freelancers also making the death defying Midnight Run. It almost got to be a club.


  • July 18, 1986 Aliens burst into theaters.
  • July 18, 2001 Jurassic Park III opened.
  • July 18, 2008 The Dark Knight, the fifth film in the big-screen Batman series, opens in theaters around the United States.

(8) EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere and Tadiana Jones each review Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean. Capossere begins:

Informative, witty, vivid, often compelling, sometimes juvenile, knowledgeable, clear, and written throughout with verve and panache via what feels like a wholly singular voice, Sam Kean’s Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017) is what every non-fiction book should aspire to. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a work of non-fiction so thoroughly and consistently.

Kean divides his exploration of air into three large sections, the first dealing with the origin of our current atmosphere, one of many our planet (if not humanity) has seen….

Jones is just as enthusiastic:

Kean has a vivid and engaging style of writing, with a wry sense of humor, which elevates Caesar’s Last Breath far above most pop science books. Gas molecules are described as feral, oxygen as a madman, our moon as an albatross (as compared to the gnats that circle most other mooned planets), and gravity as “that eternal meddler” that won’t abide two planets in the same neighborhood. I learned about the Big Thwack (when a hypothetical planet called Theia smashed into our earth, vaporizing itself and eventually reforming into our moon), the Oxygen Catastrophe of 2,000,000,000 BC, and the mushroom cloud-shaped cakes baked during the heady days of the late 1940s when nuclear blasts didn’t really seem all that dangerous.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. Jennifer Brozek shared “10 Things I Learned While I Was A Director-At-Large for SFWA” at the SFWA Blog.

6: Authors, even your favorite author, are only human.

Everyone has either heard the story, or experienced it themselves: “I used to love reading AuthorX, but then I met them and discovered they are terrible. I can’t read their work anymore.” Sometimes it is hard to discover your idols are human with human wants, needs, foibles, opinions, habits, and flaws. When you work on SFWA’s Board of Directors, you usually see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Sometimes, you work with an author/editor on a SFWA project and it doesn’t go as smoothly as you like. Sometimes, it appears as if an author once admired has nothing but scorn for the work you are doing and no desire to help out—just kvetch and complain. Sometimes, authors come to the Board at their worst—financial or medical difficulties, personal conflicts that threaten to spiral out of control, issues with editors, agents, or publishers. They don’t have their “public face” on. They are human. They make mistakes. They can be hurt. They put their pants on one leg at a time.

This is one of those learning lessons that really surprised me. I’m not sure why. I just know it did.

(10) STARFINDER’S APPENDIX N. Paizo is producing a new science fantasy RPG named Starfinder, and they’ve released an image of the “Inspirational Media” pages from the game.  It’s a wide list of old and new SF, not just books but also comics, movies, and games.

In the comment thread one of the developers remarks, “That said, I am excited to see fans talking about the things that moved them that we didn’t include. Those suggestions, and the conversations they start, are to me the greatest legacy of all these inspirational media appendices.”

Few appendices have made as big a splash in gaming history as Gary Gygax’s Appendix N. (I thought Cosmo’s appendix bursting at Gen Con that one year might have it beat, but he reminded me that was technically a gallbladder removal, so it’s OUT OF THE RUNNING!) That formative list of novels hit in 1979, in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. In it, Gygax laid out some of the works that had made the largest impact on him in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, from Leigh Brackett and Robert E. Howard to Jack Vance and Andre Norton. In doing so, he created a reading list for an entire generation of gamers and fantasy fans, and had a tremendous impact on the genre as a whole.

When we created the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook in 2009, we gleefully took the opportunity to publish our own version of Appendix N, keen to introduce fans to our new favorites like Clive Barker and China Miéville, along with grand masters like C. L. Moore. Yet it was ultimately still a fairly small list—just a single column of text—and cribbed heavily from Gygax, focusing solely on novels.

When I first sat down to paginate the Starfinder Core Rulebook, I knew that space was going to be at a premium. I had, by some estimates, 800+ pages of content to cram into something even smaller than Pathfinder’s 576 pages. Yet I also knew that just one page of inspirational media wasn’t going to be enough. In order to make a game like Starfinder, we had to stand on the shoulders of innumerable giants, both childhood heroes and our friends and peers. We couldn’t in good faith restrict ourselves to just literature, either. How could you have Starfinder without Star Wars and Alien? Without Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000? Without Starcraft and Mass Effect? It just wouldn’t be the same.

(11) BIG EARS. BBC News video: “Telescopes to reach nine billion light years away”.

South Africa has started to set up radio telescopes far more powerful than any current ones in use around the world, in its pioneering search for extra terrestrial activity.

(12) WATER HAZARD. In Washington, D.C. a security robot drowns in a fountain mishap. “We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.”

A security robot in Washington DC suffered a watery demise after falling into a fountain by an office building.

The stricken robot, made by Knightscope, was spotted by passers-by whose photos of the aftermath quickly went viral on social media.

(13) RETURN TO TONE. Ian Leslie’s post “Unfight Club” on Medium contends there is a way to have discussions on Twitter without devolving into flame wars, virtue signalling, etc. etc.  If only.

  1. Beware the moral surge. The moral surge is the rush of pleasure you get?—?the dopamine hit?—?when you assert your moral integrity in public. A certain kind of columnist lives for it; much of social media is driven by it. Virtue signalling is its outer manifestation, but I’m talking about an inner mechanism. We’re all subject to it, and that’s not a bad thing in itself?—?it makes sense that we should feel good for ‘doing the right thing’ in the eyes of our group. But when you ingest too much of this drug, or get dependent on it, you end up giving your own bad behaviour a pass. When you’re addicted to the moral surge, personal abuse begins to seem like nothing when measured against high principles. ‘Anything I say to or about that person, however nasty or dehumanising, is justified, because they voted for austerity, which murders people,’ (the more apocalyptic your public language, the purer the hit). Letting your tribe see you condemn others feels good?—?so good that it degrades your own moral machinery. Viciousness becomes a virtue. Don’t let this happen to you: recognise your susceptibility to the moral surge, and be wary of it.

(14) THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. Martin Wisse calls The New Weird “The last whites only literary movement in science fiction”.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.

(15) LICENSE REVOKED. John C. Wright says “Dr. Who Is Not”.

The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.

It means if you want a female Norse warrior goddess, go get Lady Sif or Valkyrie, and leave Thor alone. It means if you want female Time Lady from Gallifrey, go make a spin off show starring Romana or Susan or The Rani, and leave The Doctor alone.

I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.

The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.

Dr. Who is dead to me.

(16) ON HIS GAME. So can John shout BINGO! yet?

(17) PRO TIPS. Now I’m wondering what anyone would be asking David about File 770 at his site. Maybe, “Why doesn’t Mike pay for material”?

(18) TWEETS OF FAME. To satisfy your appetite for something that has nothing whatever to do with science fiction, we present this link to Bored Panda’s “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets Of The Year So Far”. Here’s #2 on their list —

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “A Single Life” is an animated short nominated for an Oscar in 2014 by Job, Joris, and Marieke which asks what happened if you had a 45 RPM record that enabled you to travel through time?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.


(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).


  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.


(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]