Pixel Scroll 7/6/17 Microcosmic Godstalk

(1) AT THE CORE. James Davis Nicoll returns with a new list: “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Mysteries Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Here are the first four —

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

White Cat by Holly Black

The Mountains of Mourning by Lois Bujold

Tea from an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan

(2) YOUR GUIDE TO MOUNT TBR. Gabino Iglesias devotes his LitReactor column to explaining “10 Things Only Hardcore Bookworms Do”.

  1. Buy the same book more than once

We buy books because they are great and smell good and feel right and occupy empty space and they’re our friends. “I don’t have this edition.” “This cover is too amazing to pass up.” “This one is signed.” “This is the one I had when I was a kid.” “This is only a dollar!” “I’ll keep it around and give it away to someone later.” I’ve even used this one to rationalize the purchase of a third edition of Langston Hughes’ The Dream Keeper and Other Poems: “I mean, I have two editions already, but this one’s illustrated!” Yeah, hardcore bookworms will come up with amazing reasons why they “need” to buy a book they already have. On the other hand, we will also buy the same book twice by accident. It’s there and it’s affordable…and we’re not going to drive home and look through our piles for it: we’re going to buy it again.

  1. Judge people by their books/shelves

I know this one is tough to swallow. I also know some of you will debate that you’re better human beings than me and you are above and beyond judging others. Well, fuck it, I’m being brutally honest here and being judgmental has kept me alive this far, so I’m gonna keep doing it. If you invite me to your house and give me a tour of it and I don’t see a single book, I kinda want to get out of there because who the hell doesn’t own at least a couple of books? A house without books is like a body without a soul. If you do have some books, us bookworms will find a way to sniff them out and study them. Then, silently and with a smile on our faces, we will judge you. John Waters said “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them,” and I think most bookworms agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. Likewise, we will probably change the way we feel about you based on the quality of the books on your shelves. For me, the books you own/read and the way you treat animals are the two factors that lie at the top of the list. You read good shit and you’re good to animals, I’ll get down with you even if you’re a mercenary. Is this horrible? Yes. Is this unfair because “good books” is a subjective term? Yes. Does it matter to us? Nope. Will we change or stop doing it? Yeah…no.

(3) ACT CLEANUP NEEDED. Kisha Bertrand delivers a powerful rant about how trolls are coddled on a certain convention’s OFFICIAL Facebook group: “Shame on you, Dragon Con”.

Earlier today, a black girl posted this Io9 article in the group as she was excited about the movie adaptation and release of Black Panther along with the plethora of cosplay opportunities available to people of color. The post was meant to be positive and celebratory, but we all know what happens when black people get together in excitement of something that positively highlights us in any form of media. Yep. Angry and fragile white folx with their exclamations of, “But what about me? Why does it have to be about race?” and my all time favorite, “You only like it because it’s about black people.” Racist trolls begin crawling out of the woodwork spewing bile and nonsense to whoever will give them the time of day. I mean, god forbid PoC (“people of color” for those of you asleep in the back) are excited about a film involving superheroes who look like us and are at the forefront of the storyline.

Trolls are trolls and we all know they live to stir the pot and poke to get a rise out of people. Most of us know not to feed the trolls. In most cases we look the other way. I tend to bite my tongue because I don’t have the energy to challenge and educate bigots via social media. I’m fucking tired, y’all. I’m SOOO goddamn tired, BUT, there are those instances where trolling goes too far which is what happened today in the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group.

What started out as ignorant incompetence from some random redneck, turned into comments that were not only racist, but anti-semitic, transphobic, ableist and misogynist. It got to a point where it was no longer a matter of ignoring the troll. This guy was threatening people – a group of con goers who will be gathered in my city for Dragon Con in less than two months. People were pissed, myself included. I mean, the racist did refer to me as a monkey when I challenged him. A monkey… how clever.

Regardless of the troll, serious conversations were happening on this post. Some people were actually listening and being educated by PoC putting in the emotional labor to teach them. To be honest, some of these conversations were actually kind of awesome. The majority of white folx were celebrating the film and some of the more stubborn lot were legit backing off and LISTENING. Any PoC will tell you that getting white folx to stop making it about them and actually listen when we talk about our experiences is a pretty big deal. We’re unpacking some complicated stuff in these conversations.

Of course the troll wasn’t having it. He kept on pushing and taunting, reaching into the collection of shitty memes he was no doubt waiting to unleash at the right time – some of which were direct threats to Black and Jewish people specifically. This went on for several hours, all while members of the group were reporting this guy to not only the moderators of the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group, but also sending emails to the Dragon Con staff via dragoncon.org. Strength in numbers right? I was so proud of my extended nerd family of all backgrounds joining together to vanquish the evil troll. We were all just waiting on the moderators of the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group to swoop in, swing the ban hammer, and let us continue with our conversations and celebration of Black Panther and black cosplay. That was, in fact, the whole point of the post to begin with.

I guess banning the troll would have been too challenging for the moderators of the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group because what did they do? Rather than simply remove this terrible waste of human flesh from the group, they deleted the post in its entirety. They essentially swept the issue under the rug AND KEPT THE FUCKING RACIST PIECE OF SHIT TROLL IN THE GROUP.

What makes this terribly tragic (aside from the obvious) is this is NOT the first time such an instance has occurred in the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group. They deleted posts and conversations that came up after the 2016 convention when people wanted to discuss the costumes done in poor taste (e.g. blackface and the burning world trade center towers) and what we as a community could do to stop it. People wanted to discuss what they saw at Dragon Con in the OFFICIAL Dragon Con Facebook group because isn’t that what the fuck the group is for?!?! When members asked why they weren’t allowed to openly discuss these topics, one of the moderators (there are seven of them, five guys, two women, ALL WHITE) simply said, “You’re giving these people the attention they were looking for by discussing it. We just don’t have time to moderate and read through every post.” So your solution is to silence people in the community and ignore it? You don’t have time? Well golly gee, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a moderator of a group? MODERATE?!?! If you don’t have the time, maybe don’t volunteer to be a moderator of a group of over 12k members. I dunno. Just using a bit of logic here.

I guess we can expect any post about Black Panther and/or the celebration of black cosplay to eventually be deleted. Posts such as these will almost always bring out the racist assholes who want to stir the pot…because racism and transphobia and anti-semitism and ableism and misogyny sure are fucking funny, aren’t they? Rather than cut away the rot, you slap a band-aid over it and let it continue to fester because, “you don’t have the time”…

This was Dragon Con’s response:

(4) SPECULATIVE POET LAUREATE. The SPECPO blog announced that poet Tracy K. Smith, whose collection, Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, has been named the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Here’s an excerpt of the New York Times’ article:

Now the Library of Congress has named Ms. Smith its new poet laureate, the nation’s highest honor in that field. With the appointment, announced on Wednesday, Ms. Smith will take on a role held by some of the country’s most revered poets, among them Rita Dove, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, W. S. Merwin, Charles Simic and most recently, Juan Felipe Herrera.

Ms. Smith often plays with genre in her work and says it serves as “a distancing device.” Some of the verses in her 2007 collection, “Duende,” were inspired by westerns. Her 2011 collection, “Life on Mars,” which won the Pulitzer, is inflected with dystopian themes and tropes from science fiction. Many of the poems are meditations on cosmic affairs, like the incomprehensible vastness of space and humanity’s efforts to understand our place in the universe, but the collection is also anchored in the personal. The escapist, fantastical themes in the collection are blended with intimate reflections: mournful, elegiac verses about the death of her father, an engineer who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.

“I was thinking about loss, and thinking as someone who was about to become a parent,” said Ms. Smith, who lives in Princeton with her husband, Raphael Allison, and their three children. “The distancing device of science fiction was helpful, and it changed the metaphors.”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 6, 1990 — George Jetson took Jane and the rest of his gang from the boob tube up onto the silver screen as Jetsons: The Movie.

(6) BOOTS ON THE FACE. In keeping with the great tradition of Vice Presidential speeches about the space program, Mike Pence has made an Orwellian-sounding promise:

Vice President Mike Pence vowed Thursday to make space exploration a priority for the U.S., including the conquering of another planet.

“Our nation will return to the Moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” Pence said during remarks at the Cape Canaveral headquarters in Florida.

(7) KICKOFF. Sports news blog SBNation.com is doing a serial science fiction story (July 5 through 15) about “What football will look like in the future”. The far future.

Danny Sichel sent the link with this endorsement: “Jon Bois is doing some incredible things with the medium, and I say this as someone who really doesn’t care about football.”

The whole thing was kind of dizzying to me – you’ve been warned.

(8) BRAVE NEW WORLD. Visiting the real site behind The Technicolor Time Machine: “The first European settlement in the New World”.

Twenty minutes later, I continued on my journey; it was another 80km to L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site. Stepping out of the car, my nostrils filled with the crisp, briny sea air carried in by a breeze that rippled across the grassy landscape.

It is here, on the northern tip of Newfoundland, that a significant moment in human migration and exploration took place.

In the year 1000, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus set sail, a Viking longboat, skippered by Leif Erikson, brought 90 men and women from Iceland to establish a new settlement – the first European settlement in the New World.

(9) SCENERY CHEWER. Adam Rowe reprises “The Secret History of J. Jonah Jameson, Comics’ Greatest Supporting Character” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

J. Jonah immediately latched on to Spider-man for a weirdly specific reason: he feared the young hero’s violent actions would lead children to idolize him, and they’d get themselves hurt in the process. “He is a bad influence on our youngsters” is a direct quote from page five of Amazing Spider-Man #1, and a direct summation of Wertham’s views. The parallels get stronger from there: while Wertham compared superheroes to the “Nazi myth” of the Ubermensch, J Jonah contrasted Spider-man against his own son, all-American astronaut John Jameson. Wertham called for comic censorship, and J. Jonah called for Spider-Man to be “outlawed.”

(10) BACK TO THE PRESENT. Marvel has announced the following creative teams and Legacy titles:

FALCON #1: TAKE FLIGHT! PART 1
Written by RODNEY BARNES
Art by JOHN CASSARA

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #709: RETURN TO PLANET HULK PART 1
Written by GREG PAK
Art by GREG LAND

X-MEN GOLD #13: MOJO WORLDWIDE PART 1
Written by MARC GUGGENHEIM
Art by MIKE MAYHEW

X-MEN BLUE #13: MOJO WORLDWIDE PART 2
Written by CULLEN BUNN
Art by JORGE MOLINA

(11) NOT THE SON OF A CARPENTER. But the creator himself! Variety has the story — “John Carpenter Inks Overall Deal With Universal Cable, to Develop Two New Series”.

Horror master John Carpenter has signed an overall deal with Universal Cable Productions (UCP), Variety has learned.

Under the new deal, Carpenter will executive produce scripted programming with UCP for the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment portfolio, as well as for external networks and streaming services, along with his producing partner, Sandy King, under their Storm King Productions banner.

UCP and Carpenter are already in development on “Tales for a Halloween Night” for SYFY. Based on Carpenter’s award-winning graphic novel anthology of stories, the series brings together storytellers from the worlds of movies, novels, and comics for a collection of horror stories featuring graveyards, sunken ships, and all the things that go bump in the night. A search for a writer is underway. Additionally, UCP and Carpenter are developing “Nightside,” based on the literary series by New York Times bestselling author Simon R. Green, with “Scream” TV series co-creator Jill Blotevogel attached to write the script. In the series, Nightside is the secret heart of London where creatures of the night congregate

“John Carpenter is an incredible creator whose dark imagination has left an indelible mark in film and in our dreams,” said Dawn Olmstead, executive vice president of development at UCP. “We are thrilled to have a master of the horror genre join UCP.”

(12) HEAVY DUTY. LHC “double heavy” particle to shine light on strong force.

Scientists have detected a new particle at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

The discovery will help researchers learn more about the so-called “strong force” which holds the centres of atoms together.

The existence of the new particle was theoretically predicted but this is the first time it has been identified.

The details of the Xi-cc++ particle were presented at a high-energy physics conference in Venice.

…Nearly all the matter that we see around us is made of neutrons and protons, which form the centres of atoms. These are made up of three smaller particles called quarks which can be either light or heavy.

New arrangement

There are, however, six different types of quarks which combine in different ways to form other kinds of particle. Those that have been detected so far contain at most, one heavy quark.

This is the first time that researchers have confirmed the existence of one with two heavy quarks. According to Prof Guy Wilkinson of Oxford University, there is an intriguing difference between the new particle and the ones that have been discovered before.

“In contrast to other particles of this type, in which the three quarks perform an elaborate dance around each other, a particle with two heavy quarks is expected to act like a planetary system, where the heavy quarks are like two stars orbiting one around the other, with the lighter quark orbiting around this binary system.”

The research team will now measure the properties of the Xi-cc++ to establish how this new arrangement of quarks behaves and how the strong force holds the system together. They also expect to find more double heavy quark particles.

(13) THE SOOTH IS OUT THERE. Looking for the remnants of a volcano bigger than the one that spawned Frankenstein: “The massive volcano that scientists can’t find”.

It was 10 October 1465 – the day of the hotly anticipated wedding of King Alfonso II of Naples. He was set to marry the sophisticated Ippolita Maria Sforza, a noblewoman from Milan, in a lavish ceremony. As she entered the city, the crowds gasped. Before them was a sight so strange and beautiful, it was like nothing they had ever seen before.

….In fact, what Alfonso’s wedding party witnessed may have been more extraordinary than anyone imagined. Many thousands of miles away in the tropics, a giant volcano was making geological history. This was an eruption so big, it produced an ash cloud which enveloped the Earth and led to the coolest decade for centuries.

The blast itself would have been heard up to 2,000km (1,242 miles) away and created a tsunami which caused devastation hundreds of kilometres away. In terms of scale, it surpassed even the 1815 eruption of Tambora, which unleashed energy equivalent to 2.2 million Little Boy atomic bombs and killed at least 70,000 people. Traces of the eruption have been found from Antarctica to Greenland.

The thing is, scientists can’t find the volcano that did it. What’s going on?

(14) FIBER COUNT. Dirty laundry: Are your clothes polluting the ocean?

“Not many people know that lots of our clothes are made of plastic,” says Imogen Napper, a PhD student at Plymouth University, “polyester, acrylic.”

Ms Napper and Prof Richard Thompson study marine microplastics – fragments and fibres found in the ocean surface, the deep sea and the marine food chain.

And in a recent lab study, they found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it was washed- sending another source of plastic pollution down the drain and, eventually, into the ocean.

(15) MORTALITY TABLES. Robert Chan, in a Yahoo! piece “‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Peril-o-Meter: Who Dies Next?”, looks at 20 characters on Game of Thrones and ranks them by the likelihood they will be killed.

It’s not easy predicting who will be the next to go on Game of Thrones. Some deaths seem so certain as to be almost predestined (Ramsay Bolton); some were literally predestined (Cersei’s children, Hodor); and some feel like they’re there just to mess with us — Ned Stark’s death basically told us, “This ain’t your grandfather’s fantasy series.” We did pretty well with last year’s Peril-o-Meter, so here are our best predictions for this season on a scale of 1 to 5 — with 1 being “Very Likely to Survive” and 5 being “Call a Mortician.”

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Stephen Burridge, Andrew Porter, Jim Henley, and Danny Sichel for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/17 Pixeldimethylaminotickaldescroll

(1) PREMIO MINOTAURO. Nieve en Marte (Snow on Mars), a science fiction novel written by Pablo Tébar, is the winner of the 2017 Minotauro Award, Spain’s literary award for the best unpublished SF, fantasy or horror novel. The prize is worth 6,000 Euros.

The novel earned the unanimous vote of the Minotauro Award Jury, this year composed of writers Javier Sierra and Manel Loureiro, the Director of the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, Ángel Sala, movie producer Adrián Guerra and the editor in chief of Ediciones Minotauro publishing house, Marcela Serras.

This is the fourteenth year that the International Fantastic and Science Fiction Literature Award has been presented by Ediciones Minotauro. (Hat tip to Europa SF.)

(2) AT THE LANGUAGE FOUNDRY. Editor Joe Stech says from now on he’s calling what his magazine publishes “Plausible Science Fiction”.

I was at convention yesterday and heard a panel discussion about the old “hard vs. soft” science fiction debate. I realized while listening that there is a huge amount of baggage that people associate with the term “hard science fiction,” and that by using it when I describe the focus of Compelling Science Fiction I may be conveying something different than intended. Because of this, I’m going to start using a different term when talking about what sub-genre Compelling Science Fiction focuses on: “plausible science fiction.” The word “plausible” is still ambiguous, but I believe it doesn’t have all the semantic cruft that has built up over the decades around “hard.” We will no longer reference “hard science fiction” when describing our magazine, even though what we look for in stories is not changing.

“Plausible science fiction,” in this context, means “science fiction that tries not to disrupt suspension of disbelief for people that have knowledge of science and engineering.” This can mean not blatantly contradicting our current knowledge of the universe, and it can also mean not blatantly ignoring how humans generally behave. It also means internal self-consistency….

(3) STORY TIME. LeVar Burton reads to you — in the intro he says he’ll pick short stories from a lot of genres, including his favorite, science fiction — on the Levar Burton podcast.

LeVar Burton is an Actor, Director, Educator & Cofounder of the award-winning Skybrary App, host and Executive Producer of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and lifelong children’s literacy advocate.

(4) COMPLETELY MAD,  I TELL YOU. Dorothy Grant at Mad Genius Club lets a “friend” explain the best strategies for not selling books in  “How to Successfully not Market your Book: Or Doing it All Wrong (Almost) By Alma Boykin”

Alma Boykin here. I have been successfully getting in my own way and not marketing (fiction) books since December 2012. In the process, I’ve managed to make pretty much every mistake you can do as an indie author, bar one. Dorothy Grant, Cedar Sanderson, and others have written a lot about how to market your books and stories. So here’s a quick guide on how to successfully not market your book, thus ensuring that only the most selective, discriminating, or lucky readers will ever find it. …

  1. No social media presence ever. I did give in and start a blog, Cat Rotator’s Quarterly,(Alma! I added the blog name and link! You should promote it! -Ed.) in February 2014, but I have no Twitter, Facebook, G+, LiveJournal, Snapchat, Pinterest, or whatever other social media platforms are out there. This is another great way not to tell people about your books. What they don’t know about, then can’t find. HOWEVER! If used properly, social media can help not-sell your work. Some of the best ways are to overload anyone who follows you with near-daily announcements about “Only three years, two months, and a day and a half until the release of [book]!” or “Hey, boy my book! Buy my book!” The more often you remind people to buy your work, the more they will drop your feed and flee the company of your works. Think of it as the electronic version of the whiney 5-year-old in the back seat asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I gotta go. Are we there yet?”

(5) SUMMER READING. The Verge says “Here are 16 books coming out this month that you should also check out”, beginning with —

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

Greg Egan is known for some spectacular science fiction novels in recent years, and his latest looks pretty out there. It’s set in a strange universe where light can’t travel in every direction. Its inhabitants can only face and travel in one direction: east. Otherwise, they’ll get distorted across the landscape. A surveyor named Seth joins an expedition to the edge of inhabitable space, where they discover an unimaginable fissure in the world — one that will stop the ongoing migration of its inhabitants. The only way forward is down, to try and find a way to save everyone.

(6) THE WORST FORM OF GOVERNMENT, AFTER ALL THE REST. David Langford has made a belated addition to the July Ansible – a copy of “the tasty General Election campaign flyer from a candidate in our area.” Well worth a look.

(7) COME TO THE FAIR. Also thieved from Ansible, this item about Ken McLeod’s slate of events at the Edinburgh International Book Fair.

  • On Tuesday 15 August at 6:30 I’ll be talking with Stephen Baxter about his new novel The Massacre of Mankind,
  • On Wednesday 16 August 2017 at 7.15pm I’ll be chairing a discussion with Charles Stross and Jo Walton on ‘End Times, Crazy Years’, to ask: what happens when reality outdoes dystopia, let alone satire?
  • My own work comes up for discussion on Thursday 17 August at 2.30 pm, when I’m on with Charlie Fletcher, who, like me, has just completed a trilogy.
  • I’ve long been a proponent of the argument, which I first encountered in the work of Gary Westfahl, that informed and engaged criticism by active readers has shaped the SF genre perhaps more than any other, from the letter columns of Amazing Stories onward. Who better to test this contention with than two outstanding critics who are also outstanding writers? That’s what’s on offer on Thursday 17 August at 5.30 pm, when I chair a discussion between Adam Roberts and Jo Walton.
  • For this final event in the strand, Rockets to Utopia? on Friday 18 August at 6.30 pm, we have two truly exceptional writers. Nalo Hopkinson is a Guest of Honour at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, …Ada Palmer is a historian, who burst on the SF scene only last year with her acclaimed, complex novel Too Like the Lighting …Nalo and Ada are joined by me and Charlie, and we’re chaired by Pippa Goldschmidt. Pippa writes close to the edge of SF, has previously featured at the Book Festival, and in an earlier life held the Civil Service title ‘Chair of Outer Space’, so should have no difficulty chairing a panel.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

  • History of World UFO Day

World UFO Day was organized by WorldUFODay.com in 2001, and was put together to bring together enthusiasts of UFO’s and the evidence they’ve all gathered to support their existence. …Many of them believe they already have arrived, and anyone who knows anything about UFO’s is aware of the stories of abductions and what is seen as the seminal event in UFO history, the crash at Roswell. While they believe that the governments of the world are presently hiding this information from the populace, this in no way discourages believers from continuing to search for the truth they’re certain is out there.

(9) TALKING FOR DOLLARS. The truth may be out there, but the number of people looking for it seems to be declining. Consider this report from The Register, cleaning up after the latest mess: “Shock: NASA denies secret child sex slave cannibal colony on Mars”.

NASA has not enslaved a colony of children on Mars nor is it using them for vile orgies on the Red Planet nor feasting on them to harvest their precious bone marrow, officials have told The Register….

On Thursday, one of President Trump’s favorite talking heads, Alex Jones, interviewed ex-CIA officer Robert David Steele during his radio show. Steele made some astonishing – think nuttier than squirrel crap – allegations of NASA covering up that humankind already has an outpost on the Mars. And that the alien world was red not just with oxidized iron dust but with the spilled blood of innocent youngsters snatched off the street and shipped into outer space.

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony,” Steele claimed. How exactly they are still children after 20 years of space travel wasn’t, funnily enough, explained.

…”There are no humans on Mars yet,” NASA spokesman Guy Webster told El Reg last night, presumably restraining himself from adding” “I can’t believe I have to answer this kind of stuff.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 2, 1959 – Premiered on this date, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
  • July 2, 1992 — Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking breaks British publishing records on this day. His book A Brief History of Time has been on the nonfiction bestseller list for three and a half years, selling more than 3 million copies in 22 languages.

(11) SAVE THE BOOKS. History will be rewritten – if it’s not destroyed first. See The Guardian’s book review, “The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English review – how precious manuscripts were saved”.

For African historians, the realisation during the late 1990s of the full scale of Timbuktu’s intellectual heritage was the equivalent of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for scholars of Judaism in the 1950s. When the African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr visited Timbuktu in 1997 he actually burst into tears at the discovery of the extraordinary literary riches. He had always taught his Harvard students that “there was no written history in Africa, that it was all oral. Now that he had seen these manuscripts, everything had changed.”

Yet with the coming of al-Qaida, there was now a widespread fear that this huge treasure trove, the study of which had only just begun, could go the way of the Baghdad, Kabul or Palmyra museums, or the Bamiyan Buddhas. Before long, efforts began to smuggle the most important of the manuscripts out of Timbuktu and to somehow get them to safety in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The story of how this was done forms the narrative backbone of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu, which consequently reads like a sort of Schindler’s list for medieval African manuscripts, “a modern day folk tale that proved irresistible, with such resonant, universal themes of good versus evil, books versus guns, fanatics versus moderates”.

(12) JUST THE FACTS. How well will you do on the Guardian’s twentieth anniversary “Harry Potter quiz: 20 years, 20 questions”?

It’s exactly two decades since the first of JK Rowling’s books was published. Try our Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test to see how much you have learned since then.

I got 8/20, which is better than I usually do on internet quizzes.

(13) NO JUSTICE. There’s a reason CBS never greenlighted its Justice League series, even if it did include the Green Lantern. ScreenRant says, actually, there are fifteen reaons why…. “15 Things The Unseen Justice League TV Pilot Got Wrong”.

You’d be hard pressed to find a comics or cinema fan not aware of the highly anticipated Justice League film due this November. What many of these fans might not know is that this is actually the second attempt at adapting DC Comics premiere super team – with the feature-length pilot for a CBS Justice League of America TV series pre-dating it by a whole decade!

The reason why most people are oblivious when it comes to the Justice League pilot is simple: it never aired in the United States (although it did see the light of day on some international networks). The rationale behind the CBS executives’ decision to bury the pilot is even simpler: it’s… uh, not very good (like, at all).

The worst of all was its –

  1. Mockumentary-style Interviews

Another “surprisingly ahead of its time” aspect of the Justice League pilot gone horribly wrong is its inclusion of mockumentary-style, to-camera interviews intercut through the episode.

Ever since The Office popularized the mockumentary format in TV comedy, there have been plenty of imitators with little interest in accurately simulating its “real-world” mechanics (looking at you, Modern Family). But way before any of these – heck, before The Office itself! – the Justice League pilot was completely throwing any sense of verisimilitude out the window entirely!

Think about it: who is filming these interviews? How come they know our heroes secret identities? Why isn’t the rest of the show shot like a documentary? These questions and more immediately come to mind as soon as the first interview cut-away rolls around, but those looking for answers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

(14) EVERY VOTE A SURPRISE. Tpi’s Reading Diary shares “My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas” and says Seanan McGuire’s story is in first place on his ballot.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die – gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure. A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard – badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

(15) WHATEVER. Two tweets make a post – is that a metric thing? John Scalzi and Dan Wells make merry on the last day of a con — “In Which I Trespass Against Dan Wells at Denver Comic Con, and He Exacts His Fitting Revenge, a Tale Told in Two Tweets”.

(16) BAD TO THE BONE. BBC Trending gleefully explains “Why coders are battling to be the… worst”

Why have computer programmers on Reddit been battling it out to make volume control as bad as possible?

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cheryl S., John King Tarpinian, Joe Stech, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/17 Hugos And Dragons And Campbells Oh My!

(1) HAN SOLO DIRECTORS AXED. The untitled Star Wars Han Solo spinoff started principal photography on February 20 at London’s Pinewood Studios, but progress has come to an ass-grinding stop with the departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who cited “creative differences” for the split.

Variety’s article puts it a bit differently — “’Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff: Lord & Miller Fired After Clashing With Kathleen Kennedy”.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s reputation for writing irreverent, poppy films such as “21 Jump Street” and “The Lego Movie” helped the white-hot writing and directing duo land one of the most coveted gigs in Hollywood — a chance to call the shots on a “Star Wars” film.

But their chance to put their stamp on a galaxy far, far away collapsed on Tuesday with the stunning announcement that the pair would be departing the still untitled Han Solo spin-off movie in the midst of production. Their exit comes after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, and the two directors hired to infuse the “Star Wars” universe with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Miller and Lord were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.

(2) SAY IT OUT LOUD. Madeleine E. Robins has some advice about dialect in “’Ow’s that, Guv’nor?: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more [Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep] than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

(3) RED PLANET INTERIOR DECORATORS. Jeremy White in WIRED (“IKEA designers are living in a Mars simulator to get inspiration for future collections. Really”) says that IKEA sent an in-house design team to spend seven days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, who then decided how to make a Mars mission “more homey” and then use that knowledge to aid in IKEA’s product development.

At its annual Democratic Design Day event in Älmhult, Sweden, IKEA has revealed its latest collaborations and products, with a focus on millennials and space travel. Yes, space travel.

To this end, IKEA has done something rather drastic. It’s banished a delegation of its in-house design team to live in a simulated Mars habitat at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, America, to learn what it’s like to live in the inhospitable and cramped environs of off-world settlements.

When the company learned that Nasa and students from Sweden’s Lund University School of Industrial Design were working on what would be needed for a three-year space mission to Mars, IKEA requested to join the project.

The home furnishings giant wants to tap in to what scientists and engineers learn from spaceflight to Mars, and apply these discoveries to products and methods for everyday life at home. Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, said the company wants to find out what could make space travel “homey” and to identify the boundaries and restraints needed to work in that environment, and then port that knowledge into IKEA’s own product development and “use space knowledge for a better everyday life on Earth”.

(4) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton reviews a science fictional-themed brew, complete with photos of its exotic label, in “Tuesday Beer: Galactopus @LittleBangBrew”.

…I know my readers would WANT me to drink a beer called “Galactopus”, which features a planet devouring octopus on the label.

The sacrifices I make for you all.

The label has some very clever copy. I wonder how many beer labels a person has to author to qualify for SFWA?

(5) RHETORICAL QUESTION. Having seen the Wonder Woman movie Daniel Dern wants to know, “Why no kangas on Paradise Island?”

(6) HOWARD. The duck’s cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy give his leading lady a new excuse to brag: “Lea Thompson Talks ‘Howard the Duck,’ Claims Her Crown as First Queen of Marvel”.

Lea Thompson couldn’t give a quack about what you think of Howard the Duck, the puntastic 1986 Marvel Comics-based action-comedy that ran afowl of movie critics and has lived in film infamy ever since. The George Lucas-produced movie has a fan base out there, and that’s good enough for her.

“People love that movie!” Thompson said of “HTD,” as she likes to call it, during a Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Movies (watch the full interview below). “They’re releasing it again in Blu-ray or something… They don’t just do that because they’re nice.” (The film was made available on Blu-ray for the first time last May.) “It’s a hilariously bizarre movie,” Thompson continued. “The only thing that I can say that I don’t like about it is that I thought it was a little long.”

The film, which featured the Back to the Future breakout as a Cleveland singer who helps the anthropomorphic duck acclimate to life on Earth, runs 110 minutes, which is still well short of the average runtime of today’s Marvel movies, including the two Guardians of the Galaxy films that have briefly resuscitated Mr. HTD

(7) FIVE STARS. Marion Deeds and Kat Hooper each take a cut at Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders at Fantastic Literature. Here’s Marion’s first paragraph:

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes an amusing sf reference today in Bliss.

(9) SAD PUPPIES PROGRESS REPORT. Sarah A. Hoyt returned to tell Mad Genius Club readers what happened to Sad Puppies 5 in “About Those Lost Puppies”. After a lengthy recap of her version of history, she reaches the tentative present:

…Our intention was always to just create a page, in which those who register can post reading recommendations, not just of recent years, but of anything that struck their fancy.  There will be a place where you can say when the book was published and if it’s eligible for an award — and not just a science fiction award — and a link to the award page for people to follow, if so minded.  Yeah, we’ll include the Hugo, but probably with a note saying the award is in the process of self-destructing.

Thing is, I meant to have this up before nominations for the Dragon Award opened.  But on top of the comedy of errors above, our website provider either crashed or was hacked, so while trying to survive auto-immune and meeting more deliveries than UPS, I’ve been trying to get it up and running again.  (My author site is down also.)

So, that’s where we are.  We’ll put it up sometime in the next couple of months, and then Amanda and I will run it, and then Amanda will take over  Or Amanda, Kate and I will continue shepherding it.

When we said this before and pointed out that PARTICULARLY indie books need some place to mention them, we were linked to/lectured by someone one the rabid side, because apparently they already have a site, so we don’t need one of our own.

Tips hat to the right.  Thank you kindly.  But you guys are aware your aesthetics and goals aren’t ours, right?

You just turned Marxist aesthetics on their head, and are judging books by being anti-Marxist and how much they don’t support the neo Marxist idea of justice.  That’s cool and all.  To each his own.  And since, so far, your crazy isn’t being taught in schools, it’s slightly less annoying than the Marxist crazy.

It is still annoying, though, because you’re still judging literary value by whether it fits your (at least as crazy-cakes’ as the Marxists) narrative and your precepts….

(10) I ATE THE WHOLE THING. It’s been reliably reported that Whole Foods was not long for existence if Bezos or the like hadn’t bought them. “Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America” japes The Daily Beast’s Joel Kotkin.

Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.

 

(11) PLAY BALL The Washington Post’s Scott Allen, in a piece called “Nationals will hide ‘dragon eggs’ ahead of ‘Game of Thrones’ Night”,  says the Washington Nationals have hidden 10 “dragon eggs” in the D.C. area, and if you find one fabulous prizes can be yours at the Nationals’ Game of Thrones night.

Nationals Park will look and feel a bit more like Westeros, the fictional continent from the popular HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, when the Nationals host the Reds on “Game of Thrones” Night on Friday.

Ahead of the event, the Nationals will hide 10 prize-filled “dragon eggs” in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A Westeros-themed map posted on the team’s social channels and in The Washington Post Express on Tuesday morning will guide fans to the eggs, which contain a Nationals and “Game of Thrones” co-branded T-shirt, two tickets to Friday’s game and a fast-pass to pose for a photo on the 800-pound Iron Throne that will be located in the Right Field Plaza.

…The Racing Presidents will wear different-colored cloaks with faux fur designed by Ingrid Crepeau, the same woman behind the elaborate costumes that the Racing Presidents have worn on “Star Wars Day” since 2015. Teddy and George showed off their costumes at AwesomeCon in D.C. over the weekend. Screech will be dressed as his favorite “Game of Thrones” character, the three-eyed Raven.

 

(12) SEUSS MUSEUM. The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs asks, “Will the Dr. Seuss museum be one of the places you’ll go?” Her article reports on the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, where museumgoers can make small books or “a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, look at his art, and see the rooms where he wrote and drew his books, including hats given him from fans of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children’s books. The front door opens up to “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” the first children’s book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew’s Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from “If I Ran the Zoo.” There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd — a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from — burp — “Yertle the Turtle.”

Here’s the direct link to “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum”.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a permanent, bilingual museum designed to introduce children and their families to the stories of Ted Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills. The 3,200-square-foot first floor exhibition will provide opportunities to explore new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, invent stories, and engage in activities that encourage teamwork and creative thinking.

The second floor will be filled with personal memorabilia belonging to Ted Geisel, including original oil paintings, a collection of zany hats and bowties, the original Geisel Grove sign which used to hang in Forest Park, and furniture from Ted’s sitting room and studio, including his drawing board, breakfast table, sofa, and armchair.

(13) NAZI RELICS. Matt Novak of Gizmodo covers the “Huge Collection of Nazi Artifacts Discovered Inside Secret Room in Argentina”.

Federal police in Argentina recently discovered a time capsule of evil, hidden inside a house near Buenos Aires. Roughly 75 Nazi artifacts, including everything from a large knife to Nazi medical devices to a photo negative of Adolph Hitler, were uncovered in a secret room. Police are investigating when and how the items entered the South American country….

One reason that authorities in Buenos Aires has some degree of certainty that they are originals is that some items from the collection are pictured in photographs with Nazi leaders. For example, one item in the collection is a magnifying glass. The same magnifying glass is seen in a photo negative from the collection showing Hitler himself. Investigators showed the photo to the Associated Press on the condition that the photo not be published.

“This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,” said Bullrich.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:

 

When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)

 

(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/17 I Saw A Pixel Filing Through the Streets of Soho With A Chinese Menu In Its Scroll.

(1) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. James Davis Nicoll gives the Young People Read Old SFF panel Vonda McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”.

The second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake. I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young People.

Mind you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before….

(2) GENRE BENDER. Jeff Somers praises Gregory Benford’s new book at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project Gives Science and History a Thrilling Twist”.

The lines between book genres can get a blurry as authors push against boundaries, trying to do something new with a story. Sometimes the result is a novel that incorporates the best parts of several genres, creating a category all its own. Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project is one of those books—equal parts alternate history, spy thriller, history lesson, and physics textbook, it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining sci-fi novels of the year.

(3) EXPANSE. Aaron Pound’s review of Caliban’s War is online at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: Caliban’s War continues the story started in Leviathan Wakes, with James Holden returning along with the rest of the crew of the Rocicante to deal with yet another interplanetary crisis. They are joined by new characters who replace the missing Detective Miller as view point characters – the tough Martian marine Bobbie, the naive Ganymedean botanist Prax, and the calculating and shrewd U.N. official Avasarala, all of whom must navigate the crisis caused by the raw tensions between the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Against the backdrop of this raging internecine human conflict, the mysterious alien protomolecule carries out its enigmatic programming on the surface of Venus, sitting in the back of everyone’s mind like a puzzle they cannot understand and an itch they cannot scratch.

(4) ZENO’S PARADOX. You can’t get to the Moon, because first you have to…. “So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery”, a guest post at According To Hoyt.

Do you want to put people on your rocket?  There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt:  space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call.  Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew.  That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence.   However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches.  You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing.  You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.

(5) NEWS TO ME. Did you know that Terrapin Beer’s Blood Orange IPA is “the official beer of the zombie apocalypse?”

It is an official tie-in beer with The Walking Dead and has a cool blood red label with a turtle on it!

(6) NEWS TO SOMEONE ELSE. Daniel Dern sent me a non-spoiler review of Suicide Squad when I was in the hospital last August. I didn’t notice it again until today. Sorry Daniel!

(“Non-spoiler” as in, assumes you have seen some or all of the three trailers, particularly trailer #2, done to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”…)

I enjoyed it enough. Hey, it’s a comics-based movie.

I’ve skimmed some reviews listing the flaws in S/S. Probably mostly correct, but arguably BFD.

The good: it didn’t thematically overreach or overbrood, unlike (cough) BvS (which I liked enough, but accept that it had big problems). A lot of good lines (you’ll see many/most in the trailers), good action, etc. A little (but not too much) Batman.

The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:

– DEADPOOL has set/upped the ante and standard for humor/violent comic-based live-action movies. Particularly the BluRay version of Deadpool, which is what I saw. And before that, lots of Guardians of the Galaxy bits.

– S/S’ Trailer # 2. I would have been happy/er with a shorter, even 12-minute, video not bothering with plot, just lovely musical jump cuts and snappy lines.

– Is it just me, or did S/S seem to do the “who’s who” twice, and not really bring in the antagonist (“big bad(s)”) for an astonishingly long time?

– This is an A-level plan? I mean, Captain Boomerang? Having seen Ghostbusters a week earlier, I would have considered sending that team in instead, in this case.

On the other hand, at least it wasn’t Manhattan that got trashed this time.

I can see how if you aren’t a superhero comic fan you’d find this less satisfying. Granted, I’m still happy-enough when it simply looks reasonable, doesn’t insult continuity gratuitously, and doesn’t try to go all philoso-metaphysical on us.

Recommended enough, particularly if you can get a bargain ticket price…

(7) TV LIFE AND DEATH. Cat Eldridge says Adweek’s “A Guide to 2017’s Broadcast TV Renewals and Cancellations” “on who stays and who gets the ax is fascinating as regards genre shows.”

The renewal is pretty much everyone save Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Frequency, and possibly iZombie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Arrowverse of course was kept intact.

If you’ve not watched the second season of Legends, do so as its far entertaining than the first season was.

(8) O’HARA OBIT. Quinn O’Hara (1941-2017), a Scottish-born actress who starred in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, died May 5. The Hollywood Reporter elaborated:

In The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), from American International Pictures, O’Hara played Sinistra, the nearsighted daughter of greedy lawyer Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone); both were out to terrorize teens at a pool party held at a creepy mansion. She also sang “Don’t Try to Fight It” and danced around a suit of armor in the horror comedy.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1886 — Coca-Cola went on sale.

(10) THE SAME OLD FINAL FRONTIER. Tom Scott explains “Why Sci-Fi Alien Planets Look The Same: Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone.”

There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.

 

(11) MEMORIAL NIGHT. See Poe performed in a Philadelphia graveyard, May 18-20.

As the sun sets over the cemetery’s historic tombs, The Mechanical Theater will bring some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting tales to life in this original production, directed by Loretta Vasile and featuring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

Two young men hide out in the shadows of Laurel Hill Cemetery while hosting a secret on-line auction. The clock is ticking as they try to sell a priceless, stolen object known only as The Anathema. When the antique expert finally arrives to verify the object’s authenticity, he shares with them some of The Anathema’s dark history as well as rumors of its power. But as the night goes on, one of the thieves starts to suspect these stories are far more than legend. This anthology piece will include Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-frog,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and The Pendulum.”  Written and directed by Loretta Vasile.  Starring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.

(12) BIG ANSWERS. Coming June 5 on the UCSD campus: “Sir Roger Penrose: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics”.

Sir Roger Penrose

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents an evening with Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated English mathematician and physicist as well as author of numerous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. The talk is titled “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics.” A book signing will follow.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations, developed with his father Lionel, inspired the works of MC Escher, and the Penrose Steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transit Terminal. Their five fold symmetry, which was initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

(13) DEARTH WARMED OVER. Trailers are supposed to sell people on a movie. But here’s a pre-dissatisfied customer.

On the other hand, a cast list on IMDB includes three Hispanics and a black actor born in England

(14) DIALING FOR NO DOLLARS. Vote on how Jim C. Hines should spend his time. Well, within certain limits, anyway.

(15) SPLASH. Most SF writers didn’t think about the waste heat of monster computers:” Google Moves In And Wants To Pump 1.5 Million Gallons Of Water Per Day”.

“We’ve invested a lot in making sure the groundwater quality that we treat and send to the customers is of high quality. We also want to protect the quantity side of that,” Duffie said.

In addition to building several reverse osmosis plants to treat the water, Duffie said the community has spent about $50 million since the mid-1990s to install pipelines and purchase surface water from the Charleston Water System to supplement the water being pumped from underground.

Google currently has the right to pump up to half a million gallons a day at no charge. Now the company is asking to triple that, to 1.5 million. That’s close to half of the groundwater that Mount Pleasant Waterworks pumps daily from the same underground aquifer to help supply drinking water to more than 80,000 residents of the area.

(16) WHITE NOISE. On the other hand, sff authors are wellaware of the high noise levels from widespread communication: “Facebook – the secret election weapon”.

A quarter of the world’s population now use Facebook, including 32 million people in the UK. Many use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends and are unaware that it has become an important political player.

For example, the videos that appear in people’s news feeds can be promoted by political parties and campaigners.

The far-right group, Britain First, has told Panorama how it paid Facebook to repeatedly promote its videos. It now has more than 1.6 million Facebook followers.

(17) AUDIO KILLED THE MUSIC HALL STAR. Edison probably never realized he was killing off the mid-level performer: “Superstar economics: How the gramophone changed everything”

In Elizabeth Billington’s day, many half-decent singers made a living performing in music halls.

After all, Billington herself could sing in only one hall at a time.

But when you can listen to the best performers in the world at home, why pay to hear a merely competent act in person?

Thomas Edison’s phonograph led the way towards a winner-take-all dynamic in the performing industry.

The top performers went from earning like Mrs Billington to earning like Elton John.

But the only-slightly-less good went from making a comfortable living to struggling to pay their bills: small gaps in quality became vast gaps in income.

(18) BANAL HORROR. In other news: the BBC slags Alien: Covenant but still gives it 3 stars: “Film Review: Is Alien: Covenant as good as the original?”

Given that he is now 79, and so he doesn’t have many directing years left, you have to ask whether it’s really the most stimulating use of [Ridley] Scott’s time and talents to churn out yet another inferior copy of a horror masterpiece that debuted nearly four decades ago. He certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in recapturing the scruffy naturalism, the restraint, or the slow-burning tension which turned the first film into an unforgettable classic.

Much of Alien: Covenant is simply a humdrum retread of Alien. Once again, there is a spaceship with a cryogenically frozen crew – a colony ship this time. Once again the crew members are woken from their hypersleep, once again they pick up a mysterious radio transmission, once again they land on an Earth-like world, and once again they discover some severely rotten eggs.

(19) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Pascal Lee, Director of the Mars Institute, talks to Money magazine about the expense of going to Mars: “Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Travel to Mars”

At this point, what would it cost to send someone to Mars?

Pascal Lee: The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime.

Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years.

(20) TOP TEN FELLOW WRITERS HELPED BY HEINLEIN, AND WHY: Compiled by Paul Di Filippo. None of these facts have been checked by File 770’s crack research staff.

10) A. E. van Vogt, needed money to open a poutine franchise.

9) Barry Malzberg, stuck at Saratoga racetrack with no funds to get home.

8) Gordon Dickson, wanted to invest in a distillery.

7) Keith Laumer, wanted to erect barbed wire fence around home.

6) Damon Knight, wanted to enroll in Famous Artists School.

5) Anne McCaffrey, ran out of Mane ‘n’ Tail horse shampoo during Irish shortage.

4) Joanna Russ, needed advice on best style of men’s skivvies.

3) Isaac Asimov, shared the secret file of John W. Campbell’s hot-button issues.

2) Arthur C. Clarke, tutored him in American big band music.

1) L. Ron Hubbard, helped perform ritual to open Seventh Seal of Revelation.

(21) SJW CREDENTIAL ENTRYIST INVASION. The Portland Press Herald is aghast: “Cats at the Westminster dog show?”

Dogs from petite papillons to muscular Rottweilers showed off their four-footed agility Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, tackling obstacles from hurdles to tunnels. And next door, so did some decidedly rare breeds for the Westminster world:

Cats.

For the first time, felines sidled up to the nation’s premier dog show, as part of an informational companion event showcasing various breeds of both species. It included a cat agility demonstration contest, while more than 300 of the nation’s top agility dogs vied in a more formal competition.

It didn’t exactly mean there were cats in the 140-year-old dog show, but it came close enough to prompt some “what?!” and waggish alarm about a breakdown in the animal social order

(22) POOH ON THE RANGE. Atlas Obscura explains the popularity of “Five Hundred Acre Wood” outside London.

Every year, more than a million people travel to Ashdown Forest to find the North Pole. Ashdown Forest is 40 miles south of , but they’re not crazy. In the forest they’ll find the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and somewhere in the Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place where Christopher Robin discovered the North Pole.

Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, the magical place in which a fictionalized version of A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had adventures with Winnie the Pooh and friends.

In 1925, Milne bought a Cotchford Farm on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and he brought his family there on weekends and for extended stays in the spring and summer. The next year, he published the first collection of stories about a bear that would become one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son, his son’s toys, and the family’s explorations of the woods by their home.

The book’s illustrator, E. H. Shepard, was brought to Ashdown Forest to capture its essence and geography, and a plaque at Gill’s Lap (which became Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories) commemorates his collaboration with Milne and its importance to the forest. A pamphlet of “Pooh Walks” is available to visitors who want to visit places like Gill’s Lap, or Wrens Warren Valley (Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place), the lone pine (where the Heffalump Trap was set), a disused quarry (Roo’s Sandy Pit), or, yes, the North Pole.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/17 Precog Ergo Sum

(1) AND THEY’RE OFF. Fictional horses, ranked by their chances. Emily Temple handicaps the field in “Who Will Win The Literary Kentucky Derby?”  at LitHub. Finishing at the back of the field….

The Skin Horse, of The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

“The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces.”

Adding the fact that toy horses are generally smaller than normal horses, not to mention fantasy horses, it seems unlikely that such a creature could beat any of the others listed here in a race. At least he’s wise, though. Not to mention Real. Imagine him, all Real and worn and loved, his little legs all seamy, limping across the finish line in the dimming afternoon, long after everyone else has gone home…no, you’re crying.

(2) STICKING TO IT. Canada will be issuing another new set of Star Trek stamps this year, featuring the five captains with their ships. Available from Canada post’s website here.

The five legendary leaders of Starfleet stand as the paragons of excellence: Kirk (William Shatner), Picard (Patrick Stewart), Sisko (Avery Brooks), Archer (Scott Bakula) and Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) are featured on this collectible pane of 5 stamps.

But a hero is nothing without an obstacle, a threat or an antagonist. No villain has tested our protagonists as much as their infamous counterparts: Khan, Locutus of Borg, Dukat, Dolim and the Borg Queen, who shadow the heroes on the stamps.

This pane pits each legendary hero against their nemesis on a stylized background containing their respective starships navigating the cold and dark expanse of Federation space. The wormhole from Deep Space Nine also makes a looming appearance.

The only thing more stunning than this mini-poster is a phaser.

(3) GEEK GENESIS. Patrick Read Johnson’s long-awaited Biopic about being the first Star Wars Geek! Opening 5-25-17 everywhere!!!

(4) SIX EASY SLICES. Cat amanuensis Camestros Felapton finds inspiration in the kitchen: “Timothy the Talking Cat Presents: How to cook a frozen pizza the Hugo way”.

Frozen pizza: the forbidden food. Yet these instructions defeat me. Yes, I, a cat who can field strip an AR-15 in the dark and without the aid of opposable thumbs, am incapable of reading these tiny instructions or operating the big heaty kitchen box thingy.

Time to turn to wiser heads. Who better than the six nominated writers for the Hugo 2017 Best Writey Book Prize!

If it worked for Bret Harte, why not Timothy?

Box’s End: The Three Pizza Problem

Yun Tianming listened to the radio from his hospital bed. The United Nations had jointly formed a resolution to condemn the doctrine known as ‘not being arsed to cook anything nutritious’. With the Trisolans a hundred years away from Earth, humanity had, in despair, stopped making an effort to cook anything decent….

(5) WE’RE GOING TO THE VOLCANO TO BLOW UP ROBOTS. National Geographic has changed a lot since I was a kid: “Robot vs. Volcano: ‘Sometimes It’s Just Fun to Blow Stuff Up’”.

“Sharkcano.” It’s not the title of some campy summer blockbuster, but rather a real-world phenomenon that went viral in 2015, when scientists on a National Geographic expedition found sharks living inside one of the most active underwater volcanoes on Earth. Not surprisingly, the team was eager to go back and learn more, but how do you explore an environment that could easily kill you? You send in robots, of course.

(6) ALL’S WELLS. Martians meet The Mudlark. “BBC is making a Victorian-era War of the Worlds TV series” says The Verge.

Earlier today, the BBC announced a number of new shows, including a three-part series based on H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. The show is scheduled to go into production next spring, and it appears that, unlike most modern adaptations, it will be set in the Victorian era.

The series will be written by screenwriter Peter Hartness, who adapted Susanna Clarke’s Victorian-era fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for the network, as well as a handful of Doctor Who episodes.

(7) DYING FOR DUMPLINGS. Scott Edelman dines on dumplings and discusses writing with Brenda Clough in Episode 36 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

During last year’s Capclave in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Brenda Clough tantalized me with tales of JDS Shanghai Famous Food, telling me they made some of the best soup dumplings in the D.C. area. So when it was time for her appearance on Eating the Fantastic, how could we go anywhere else?

Brenda has published short fiction in Analog, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, my own Science Fiction Age, and many others, and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her novella “May Be Some Time.” She’s also written many novels across multiple series, and teaches writing workshops at the Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

 

Brenda Clough

Scott also says the future holds good things in store: “Check out the five guests I managed to record with during StokerCon!”

If you’re hungry for more, come back in two weeks when my guest will be Cynthia Felice, who’ll be followed by five episodes recorded during the recent StokerCon: William F. Nolan, Elizabeth Hand, Dennis Etchison, Nancy Holder, and George R. R. Martin.

(8) FONDLY REMEMBERED. This video was presented at Costume-Con 35 to recognize members of the community lost in the previous year. Other memorial videos posted on the International Costumers Guild site in the past few months include tributes to the late Robin Schindler, Toni Lay, and Adrienne Martine-Barnes.

(9) HOWARD FRANK OBIT. SF Site News reports Howard Frank (1941-2017) died on May 1. Husband of Jane Frank, a Chicon 7 GoH in 2012, he co-authored two books with his wife based on their collection. He won First Fandom’s Sam Moskowitz Archive Award in 2013.

(10) TODAY’S DAYS

  • Revenge of the Fifth

Not had enough Star Wars on May the 4th? Thinking of stepping over to the Dark Side? Think you’d be a great Sith? Well keep swinging those light sabers, Revenge of the fifth is here to keep the force going with another Star Wars-themed observance!

  • International Space Day

On the first Friday of each May, space boffins and science fans alike celebrate space with a dedicated day of observance to everything in the great beyond. Because there’s so much out there in space, you can be sure that there’s always going to be enough to celebrate on this day as every year comes! The History of International Space Day International Space Day started out as plain and simple Space Day in 1997. The day was created to observe the many wonders of the unknown space that our planet floats in, and encourage children to have more of an interest in the scientific field. In 2001, Senator John Glenn, himself a former astronaut, changed the day to International Space Day to widen its scope of celebration across the world.

  • Cartoonist’s Day – May 5

The History of Cartoonist’s Day In 1895 a man named Richard F. Outcault introduced a small bald kid in a yellow nightshirt [The Yellow Kid] to the world in an incredibly popular publication in the big apple at the time, the New York World. While the paper itself was looked upon with a sort of disdain by ‘real’ journalists of the time, the yellow kid was embraced by people everywhere. Little did Richard know that when he first created this character, it would lead to a revolution in how stories were told and presented in sequential art pieces (That’s comics kids), but would in fact create a new standard piece of content for newspapers everywhere. Cartoonists’ day was created to celebrate this man and his accomplishments, and all the good he brought to the world as a result. Everything from our Sunday Comics to animation can be linked back to him and his creation. Just a simple bald kid in a yellow nightshirt.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 5, 1961 — From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

(12) PUZZLE WRAPPED IN AN ENIGMA. Well, now that you mention it….

FARGO. That rocket-shaped award continues to be of interest to those unraveling the mysteries of Fargo. Warning: The Bustle’s episode recap contains SPOILERS.

One of the weirder, seemingly superfluous details of Fargo Season 3 comes to the forefront in the spectacularly odd May 3 episode, which focuses on the backstory of Ennis Stussy, née Thaddeus Mobley, and his adventures in science-fiction writing. But is The Planet Wyh a real book? And what about the bizarre events that transpired around the book’s success?

The pulpy paperback is first discovered by Gloria Burgle after her stepfather is murdered, hidden in a box under the floorboards of his house. Viewers see the book again — along with a newspaper clipping about Mobley winning an award, and a trove of other books with bizarro titles like The Plague Monkeys, Space Elephants Never Forget, and Organ Fish Of Kleus-9 — in the second episode. And in “The Law Of Non-Contradiction,” Gloria travels to the City Of Angels to do some digging into her stepfather’s secret past.

It turns out that, in 1975, Mobley traveled to Los Angeles to accept the prestigious Singularity Award for Best Science-Fiction Novel at the Golden Planet Awards. A producer named Howard Zimmerman quickly approached the naïve author about turning the book into a movie; but as Mobley wrote check after check and no progress seemed to be forthcoming, it eventually became clear that the whole thing was a scam to fund the lavish lifestyles of Zimmerman and his actress girlfriend. Enraged, Mobley assaulted Zimmerman and practically left him a vegetable, fled California, and changed his name to Ennis Stussy — inspired by the brand name of his hotel room toilet.

(13) THE WEED OF CRIME. Lou Antonelli ends his feghoot “Calling Grendel Briarton” with a really awful, no good, very bad pun – I liked it.

One day, while I was a teenager in Massachusetts, a group of high school students volunteered to help with a beach clean-up. It was an uncommon spill, but not unheard of – illicit drugs had washed up on a beach in the Cape Code National Seashore…

(14) THE SOUND OF WIKI. I just discovered WikiWikiup, a YouTube channel dedicated to making Wikipedia available to people with limited vision. Is this voiced by a robot?

(15) WHAT’S THE NEWS ACROSS THE NATION?  I also discovered this Puppyish satire about the fate of Castalia House’s The Corroding Empire, masquerading as a report on a daily sf news channel.

(16) OH, THE INHUMANITY! The first teaser trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans.

(17) STAY UP LATE OR GET UP EARLY. I believe the writer is referring to Eastern time zone: “Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, Crumbs of Halley’s Comet, Peaks This Weekend: What to Expect”.

The annual, week-long Eta Aquarid meteor shower is predicted to reach its maximum on Saturday morning (May 6). The bright moon will be a few days past first quarter (a waxing gibbous, 81 percent illuminated), and it will set just prior to 4 a.m. local daylight time, leaving only about an hour of reasonably dark sky for early morning observations of this shower before the increasingly bright dawn twilight becomes too restrictive.

(18) WHO KNOWS? “Why Don’t People Return Their Shopping Carts?” in Scientific American.

The world will likely not end because we aren’t returning our shopping carts — that would be an amazing butterfly effect — but it’s an example of a quality of life issue we can control. That guy who didn’t return his cart may not be a complete jerk. He may just be using the example set by others so he can get home a little more quickly. But if everyone does that, then we’re shifting the balance of what is acceptable, which may have greater ramifications to the social order. We have a greater influence over seemingly mundane situations than we realize.

Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “My hypermarket, Hannaford’s, embeds a RFID in theirs that locks the front wheels if one of ether goes beyond the parking lot.”

(19) CUTENESS CONQUERS. The Life of Death on Vimeo is a video by Marsha Onderstijn about what happens when Death encounters an adorably cute animal!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and bookworm1398 for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/17 Let Us Now Pixel Famous Scrolls

(1) YA AWARD NAME. Annalee Flower Horne makes a preemptive strike.

Is this just gratuitous Heinlein hatred? Dude hatred? Have I missed a news item? Or maybe I haven’t. Kevin Standlee recently wrote that if the YA Award passes the Helsinki Business meeting, then the Business Meeting can take up the issue of what its name should be.

There was a nonbinding survey  asking fans’ preferences among six names (Anansi, Lodestar, Ouroboros, Spellcaster, Tesseract, and Worldcon), but that places no limits on the Business Meeting.

(2) A REAL VIKING. Hampus Eckerman recommends, “For those Filers that will combine their visit to WorldCon with a visit to Sweden, a new Viking Museum, called Viking Life, opened this weekend. Some comments about being the only real place to see Vikings in Stockholm has already sparked a fight with the Historical Museum. The Historical Museum retorted that they had largest Viking exhibition in the world and that all authentic artifacts displayed at the Viking Museum had, in fact, been borrowed from the Historical Museum.

“But the thing that put Swedish twitter on fire was not this spat. It was the pictures of the Swedish king at the inauguration. Please enjoy a real Viking King.”

(3) HE’S THIRSTY. OK, Steve Drew is sold on going to the Worldcon.

(4) VON BRAUN’S HUGO. Bill Mullins visited a space shrine:

I was at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center today for my son’s graduation from Space Camp. After the ceremonies, we toured the museum and saw Wernher von Braun’s retro-Hugo (1954, from Boston’s Noreascon 4 in 2004) in the Best Related Work category, for his book Conquest of the Moon, co-written with Fred Whipple and Willy Ley. His office at Marshall Space Flight Center has been recreated there as a permanent exhibit, and his award is sitting on his desk.

Patrick Molloy also wrote about it here in 2012.

(5) CONTROVERSIAL EDITS. Natalie Luhrs articulates how “Failures of Empathy” are an sff community issue.

Recently, Seanan McGuire (1, 2, 3) and J.Y. Yang (thread) have talked on Twitter about copyeditors making changes which fundamentally alter the story, and not for the better. The change in question: redacting the use of the singular they—used by nonbinary characters—to whichever binary gender the copyeditor felt like substituting. This is an act of erasure and, as Yang points out in the linked thread, an act of violence.

Many nonbinary people use the singular they as their pronoun—while this is a relatively new usage, it is not incorrect (copyeditors of the world, take note). I have seen it become more widely used over the last few years and at this point anyone griping about it is basically using it as an opportunity to be a prescriptivist jerk.

…We have an empathy problem in the SFF community. These failures are more obvious when a convention dismisses the safety concerns of their female Guest of Honor in favor of their friend the serial harasser, but you can also see it at a smaller scale: World Fantasy’s initial decision to retain the H.P. Lovecraft pin and Brian McClellan suddenly deciding to tweet about how unprofessional it is to talk about your bad copyedit is when a person of color is the one talking. It’s an entire spectrum of failure, this lack of empathy.

(6) COMPANIONABLE ALIEN. ScreenCrush catches up with “Karen Gillan on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ and Nebula’s Near-Death Experience in ‘Guardians 1’”.

I think it’s fair to say that when the first Guardians came out, these were the most obscure characters to get their own Marvel movie. Now, of course, the first movie is beloved and everyone knows the characters. Did that change anything about how you guys went about making the sequel? Was there new pressure that wasn’t there before?

That was quite an interesting thing for me as well, because I was wondering if anyone was going to be feeling the pressure; like second album syndrome or something. Maybe they did and they didn’t really show it, but I didn’t because I didn’t feel I had the responsibility of the film on my shoulders. I just got to come in and play this fun character.

(7) ANCESTRY. I can’t believe a spellchecker did this – but how else would you get that typo?

(8) COMICS EVERYONE BOUGHT. You can infer these are not all that rare, right? Yahoo! News lists “The top 10 best selling comic books of all time”.

#10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #583 – 530,000 copies sold

This comic, featuring Spidey’s encounter with then President Barack Obama, became a must-have collectible after being highlighted on news programs around the country.

#9. The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #1 – 533, 000 copies sold

After a yearlong storyline that involved Doctor Octopus posing as Spider-Man, fans were more than happy to celebrate this back-to-basics approach to the friendly neighborhood wall crawler.

(9) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Here’s the moos – The Boozy Cow, a restaurant chain with a charitable foundation and donates all its profits to charity, has opened a fourth location in Scotland: “Charity restaurant chain opens fourth Scottish eatery”.

The Boozy Cow chain – launched by philanthropist Garreth Wood two years ago – already has premises in Aberdeen, Stirling and Edinburgh, has now opened a venue in Dundee.

Mr Wood also revealed that a further five charities will receive a share of the profits from The Boozy Cow chain – Hot Chocolate Trust, Mid-Lin Day Care, Dundee Woman’s Aid, Art Angel and Help for Kids.

This brings the number of good causes currently supported by the company to 18.

Last month, the organisation announced it was giving away £210,000 to charities including CHAS, The Archie Foundation and the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in Edinburgh, with almost half a million pounds given away since the company opened its first venue in Aberdeen in 2014.

(10) DAVIS OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Grania Davis (1943-2017) on April 28.

Author Grania Davis (b.1943) died on April 28. Davis was married to Avram Davidson for 3 years and served as his primary editor after his death. She co-authored several works with Davidson as well as writing works on her own.

(11) DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUE COMPAINTS. Nevertheless, back in 1962, The Traveler tells Galactic Journey readers he is giving a vote of no confidence in new F&SF editor Davidson’s handiwork: “[Apr. 28, 1962] Changing of the Guard (May 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

I never thought the time would come that reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would be the most dreaded portion of my duties…and yet, here we are.  Two issues into new Editor Avram Davidson’s tenure, it appears that the mag’s transformation from a great bastion of literary (if slightly stuffy) scientifiction is nearly complete.  The title of the digest might well be The Magazine of Droll Trifles (with wry parenthetical asides).

One or two of these in an issue, if well done, can be fine.  But when 70% of the content is story after story with no science and, at best, stream-of-consciousness whimsy, it’s a slog.  And while one could argue that last issue’s line-up comprised works picked by the prior editor, it’s clear that this month’s selections were mostly Davidson’s.

Moreover, Robert Mills (the outgone “Kindly Editor”) used to write excellent prefaces to his works, the only ones I would regularly read amongst all the digests.  Davidson’s are rambling and purple, though I do appreciate the biographical details on Burger and Aandahl this ish.

(11a) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 29, 1923 — Irvin Kirschner, filmmaker, director of The Empire Strikes Back.

(11b) TODAY’S DAY

International Astronomy Day

Astronomy allows us to see the history of the universe with our own eyes. The stars that twinkle as you look out on a dark, clear night may not exist right now. They existed at whatever point in history they emitted that light, which has taken millions of years to reach Earth.

(12) LATE EASTER EGG STANDING. Hey, I’d already forgotten there was one — “Explaining the mid-credits scene in Suicide Squad”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Suicide Squad’s mid-credits scene features a meeting between Amanda Waller and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. The conversation starts off simply enough: Waller needs help when it comes to keeping everything that happened in Midway City (and her involvement) on the down low. In order to protect herself from Enchantress’ wrath and keep her reputation in the green, Waller makes a deal with Wayne to maintain damage control surrounding the movie’s events. Of course, she has to bring something to the table to make the deal happen…

(13) EXPANSIVE. Aaron Pound reviews Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Full review: The first book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes is a kind of hard-ish medium future science fiction almost Space Opera story that feels a little bit like Firefly and a little bit like a Dashiell Hammett novel. The book is full of adventure, intrigue, and excitement, but it is the kind of industrial, oil-covered adventure, intrigue, and excitement that results in broken bones, bullet holes, and dead characters. Alongside the truckers and detectives in space in the book is just enough alien weirdness to shake things up and add a bit of inhuman horror to the impersonal dangers of living in a hostile environment that will probably kill you if you make a mistake.

(14) NEWS TO SOMEBODY. Vox (the website, not the Rabid Puppy) said in its February review,, “Forget ‘white saviors’: The Great Wall is really about fighting giant lizard monsters”.

A few things you should know about The Great Wall: It’s simultaneously 400 percent more movie than most and 10 percent as much movie as most — huge, bombastic, colorful, explosive, and containing almost no story at all. It’s roughly equivalent to watching the assault-on-Mordor bits of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for 103 minutes. It was filmed in 3D, and I ducked a few times while watching. It also made me seasick, but that’s my own damn fault for sitting too close to the screen.

(15) THE LONG VIEW. AI viewed with alarm: “Viewpoint: Is inequality about to get unimaginably worse?”. Chip Hitchcock snarks, “He probably wouldn’t have been paid if he’d just posted a link to ‘With Folded Hands’…”

Inequality goes back at least 30,000 years.

Hunter-gatherers were more equal than subsequent societies.

They had very little property, and property is a pre-requisite for long-term inequality.

But even they had hierarchies.

In the 19th and 20th Centuries, however, something changed.

Equality became a dominant value in human culture, almost all over the world. Why?

It was partly down to the rise of new ideologies such as humanism, liberalism and socialism.

(16) AND THE THIRD LITTLE MARTIAN PIG… There may be no straw or timber, but — “Scientists just discovered something awesome about the soil on Mars”.

The research, which was published in Scientific Reports, reveals that the soil on Mars is particularly well-suited to brick making. In fact, the dirt is so easily formed into bricks that building a rigid structure out of it wouldn’t require any special substance or even heat to bake them, and it’s all thanks to the same material that gives the Mars surface its reddish hue.

At first, engineers at the university were trying to figure out exactly how much additional polymer would be needed for the Mars soil to be shaped into bricks. As they gradually reduced the amount of additive used with their soil simulant they eventually realized that they didn’t need any at all. The team was able to successfully compact iron-oxide-rich Mars dirt with a flexible container which was then pressurized. The result was small, firm blobs of soil which were stable enough to be cut into brick-like shapes.

(17) SHINY. The New York Times tells where to buy “A Solid Gold Darth Vader for the Sith Who Has Everything”.

For less than the cost of a trip to Tatooine, one lucky Star Wars fan will soon be able to own a solid gold Darth Vader mask — perfect for bartering, though perhaps not so good for heavy breathing.

On Tuesday, the Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka unveiled the imposing headgear and announced that it would go on sale at the company’s flagship store in Tokyo on May the fourth (do we need to spell this out for you?) to celebrate Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary.

The price? A mere 154 million Japanese yen, or about $1.4 million. Tax included!

(18) ON ICE. This is the lede of an article by Helen Brown in the April 22 Financial Times (behind a paywall.)

A survey recently found that the most popular song among prison inmates in the UK was ‘Let it Go,’ the big number from Disney’s 2013 blockbuster Frozen.

Despite the incongruity of old lags carrolling along to a song more easily associated with preschoolers dressed as animated princesses, anyone alive to the emotional truths of the film would not be surprised to find it resonating with prisoners struggling to own the guilt of the past and move on…..

(19) AI SCRIPTWRITER RETURNS. “It’s No Game–A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring David Hasselhoff” is a commentary on the forthcoming writer’s strike, featuring David hasselhoff as an android, that explains what happens when writers are replaced by the Golden-Age-Ophile and the Sorkinator.

 [Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Mullins, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to Fie 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Update: Corrected item one to the name Annalee Flower Horne. (Not Newitz, as I mistakenly wrote to begin with.) Apologies to all concerned.

Pixel Scroll 4/26/17 A Scroll On The Hand May Be Quite Continental

(1) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED AN ARCHITECT. The structure replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home is nearly finished. LA Observed interviewed architect Thom Mayne and his wife about the design in “What would Ray think? Thom and Blythe Mayne’s house in Cheviot Hills is almost ready to call home “. Despite the title, it didn’t seem to me the question was really addressed.

Prominent LA architect Thom Mayne razed the longtime Cheviot Hills home and work space of Ray Bradbury to build his own home. Mayne promised the neighborhood and fans a “very, very modest” house that would honor Bradbury in its design. Now that the teardown-and-replace is nearly complete, KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of Design & Architecture, gets a tour and assesses if the promise was met.

However, the promised fence with Bradbury quotes is there, although you really can’t make them out in this photo from LA Observed.

A metal screen, fabricated by Tom Farage, contains quotes from Ray Bradbury’s writings. The moving gate will eventually have a hedge that moves with it (photo: Frances Anderton.)

(2) THAT TIME GRUMPY AND DOC WENT TO THE MOVIES. Atlas Obscura unearthed “The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney”.

…According to an account in the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Tolkien didn’t go see Snow White until some time after its 1938 U.K. release, when he attended the animated film with [C.S.] Lewis. Lewis had previously seen the film with his brother, and definitely had some opinions. In a 1939 letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton, Lewis wrote of Snow White (and Disney himself):

Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

… Tolkien didn’t like the goofball dwarfs either. The Tolkien Companion notes that he found Snow White lovely, but otherwise wasn’t pleased with the dwarves. To both Tolkien and Lewis, it seemed, Disney’s dwarves were a gross simplification of a concept they held as precious….

(3) DEMENTOR INVENTOR. Zata Rana, in an article on Quartz, “How JK Rowling Overcame Depression and Went On To Sell Over 400 Million Books”, reminds us that Rowling began to write Harry Potter novels after being diagnosed with clinical depression in the 1990s and her struggles to overcome her depression provides inspiring lessons for us all.

…During this period, her depression took a dark turn, and she considered herself a failure. She had fallen and felt stuck. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, she found it in her to seek help, and writing became an outlet. The idea for the Harry Potter series had come to her years before on a train ride from Manchester to London. She had worked on a few chapters in Portugal, but she only really found her momentum back in the UK.

Rowling finished the first two books while still on welfare benefits. The dementors introduced in the third book were inspired by her mental illness….

(4) STINKS IN SPACE. The popular video game took a wrong turn when it left the Earth: “Activision admits taking ‘Call of Duty’ to space was a bad idea”.

Right from the very start it was clear that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise had taken a bit of a wrong turn with Infinite Warfare. The initial trailer for the game was absolutely slaughtered on YouTube, and early sales indicated that the game just wasn’t striking a chord with some of its target audience. Now, Activision is admitting what we all knew: Infinite Warfare was a misstep.

In a recent earnings call with investors, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and COO Thomas Tippl revealed that the company wasn’t particularly pleased with how the game sold, or its overall reception….

(5) CAN’T PULL OVER TO THE ROADSIDE. And you know what else is going to stink in space? Blue Origin “Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips”. Here are a couple quotes from a Bezos Q&A session.

What if I get queasy? Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness. “You’re going to be fine,” Bezos said.

What if I have to use the bathroom in flight? Go before you go. “Listen, if you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems,” Bezos said. You may have to hold it for more than 11 minutes, though, since passengers will board the spaceship a half-hour before launch.

(6) TODAY’S TRIVIA. “What, Me Worry?” Alfred E. Neuman made his debut as Mad Magazine’s mascot by appearing on the cover of The Mad Reader, a reprint paperback published in November 1954. He appeared for the first time on the magazine’s cover in issue #21 (March 1955).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 26, 1956  — The Creature Walks Among Us was released.

(8) THEY STOPPED FOR LUNCH. And didn’t clean up after. Better hope your litter doesn’t last this long. “Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative study says”

A startling new report asserts that the first known Americans arrived much, much earlier than scientists thought — more than 100,000 years ago __ and maybe they were Neanderthals.

If true, the finding would far surpass the widely accepted date of about 15,000 years ago.

Researchers say a site in Southern California shows evidence of humanlike behavior from about 130,000 years ago, when bones and teeth of an elephantlike mastodon were evidently smashed with rocks.

The earlier date means the bone-smashers were not necessarily members of our own species, Homo sapiens. The researchers speculate that these early Californians could have instead been species known only from fossils in Europe, Africa and Asia: Neanderthals, a little-known group called Denisovans, or another human forerunner named Homo erectus.

This reminds me of my visit 40 years ago to the Calico Early Man Site where Louis (but not Mary) Leakey thought they had found evidence of equally ancient toolmaking. According to Mary, their disagreement over this contributed to their split.

(9) QUESTIONS BIGGER THAN THE EXPANSE. The Space Review ponders the utopian and quasi-religious aspects of space advocacy in “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

A few years ago historian Roger Launius wrote “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” in the journal Astropolitics. He noted the similarities between human spaceflight enthusiasts and what we understand as traditional religion. For much of the history of the space age the comparisons have often been blatant, with spaceflight leaders such as Chris Kraft and Wernher von Braun, as well as numerous political leaders such as Ronald Reagan, talking about spaceflight in quasi, or even literally religious terms. Launius observed that human spaceflight, like religion, has its immortality myths, its revered leaders and condemned villains, its sacred texts, and its rituals, rules, and shared experiences. According to Launius, “The belief system has its saints, martyrs, and demons; sacred spaces of pilgrimage and reverence; theology and creed; worship and rituals; sacred texts; and a message of salvation for humanity, as it ensures its future through expansion of civilization to other celestial bodies.”

These religious aspects can be found throughout the writings of spaceflight advocates, the self-styled missionaries of the spaceflight religion. One of the most common arguments for space settlement is to achieve immortality for humankind by moving a portion of humanity to Mars in event of catastrophe. The Space Review regularly publishes these kinds of appeals to transcendence. The advocates argue that humankind could be wiped out by natural disaster—typically a meteor strike—and settling the Moon and Mars would help avoid the species being wiped out (see “Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space”, The Space Review, February 1, 2016). Other commonly-cited threats include man-made ones like war and environmental destruction—as if space settlers would not also face the same things in a far more fragile biosphere. The Expanse has highlighted this vulnerability and interdependence with a subplot about food production on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede collapsing because the ecosystem lacks the robustness of Earth’s complex environment.

(10) CHU ON WRITING. In an interview at Outer Places, “Author John Chu Talks Cybernetics, Short Fiction, and Sci-Fi”.

OP: Are there themes or elements you find yourself returning to again and again in your work?

Chu: At a LonCon 3 panel, I joked that all the parents in my stories make unreasonable expectations of their children. That may be truer than I’d like. Certainly, I like to explore the notion of family in its many forms, i.e., family does not have to mean blood relation. The most interesting characters in my stories are likely either navigating relationships with their blood relatives, searching for their family, or both.

(11) PLUS ATWOOD’S CAMEO. An NPR reviewer finds  “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Compelling — And Chilling”.

One searing scene features Offred’s memory of Aunt Lydia, the abusive headmistress who trains new Handmaids, quoting scripture and shocking the women with cattle prods. Eventually, she explains their duties as breeders. “You girls will serve the leaders of the faithful and their barren wives,” says Aunt Lydia, who cites Tinder as one source of the moral turpitude that has caused God to create the infertility crisis. “You will bear children for them. Oh! You are so lucky!”

(Atwood, who also served as a consulting producer on Hulu’s series, pops up in one scene from the first episode, where she slaps Offred for being slow to respond during an indoctrination session.)

This is a world of 1984-style paranoia and doublespeak. On the surface, it’s a placid, polite community that just happens to have black-clad guards with machine guns on every corner. But beneath that veneer is a world of grim desperation, fear and oppression. Women are stripped of husbands, children, jobs, their own money and control over their sexuality.

(12) MARVELS AND MARTYRS. Carmen Maria Machado reviews The Book of Joan for NPR.

One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer’s ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish. Fans of her previous novel, The Small Backs of Children, will recognize these themes and their treatment.

(13) HELL’S JINGLING BELLS. And the BBC tells us why Milton should be more widely read.

…Ricks notes that Paradise Lost is “a fierce argument about God’s justice” and that Milton’s God has been deemed inflexible and cruel. By contrast, Satan has a dark charisma (“he pleased the ear”) and a revolutionary demand for self-determination. His speech is peppered with the language of democratic governance (“free choice”, “full consent”, “the popular vote”) – and he famously declares, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. Satan rejects God’s “splendid vassalage”, seeking to live:

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile Pomp.

(14) SOME LIKE THE LIGHTNING — SOME DON’T. Two perspectives on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of ciscentricity, allocentricity, intersexis, and gender essentialism, and for quoted anti-trans and anti-intersex slurs apply to the following essay, as well as SPOILER WARNINGS.

Too Like the Lightning has been feted and critically acclaimed, and now nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I read it back when it first came out, after hearing about how well it supposedly handled queerness, and especially gender in the context of queerness, from a number of people whose opinions on the topic I usually respect; I did not agree with these assessments. I’ve been asked a number of times to discuss more fully my issues with the presentation of gender in the novel, so, with the Hugo Awards now open for voting, it seems like this might be the moment, to let voters see what this particular genderqueer person thought of the presentation of gender in the book. For context, I’m a bisexual nonbinary person and my pronoun is they….

Hi! I’m trans. I’m queer. I would like to talk about trans characters who end up dead in the course of story, or queer characters who are not the heroes of the story, and why that is frequently completely all right with me; and why the frequent labeling of works as “problematic” for not portraying trans (etc.) characters as paragons of virtue is itself a problem….

Now, I can completely sympathize with someone, especially a trans or nonbinary someone, noping out of Palmer’s novel due to the use of pronouns. I am personally of the opinion that you can refuse to leisure-read a book for any reason you damn well please, and I can see why that would hit a sore spot. (To reiterate: we’re talking about leisure reading here, things you read of your own will.) But I do not agree that Palmer’s worldbuilding here was problematic, and I do not think she should have been discouraged from writing this future….

“But is it hurtful?” you ask.

I feel this is the wrong question.

Individuals are hurt by whatever hurts them. And that’s not always something an author can predict–given the number of individuals in this world that’s a losing proposition, to try to write a work that never hurts anyone. I was not hurt by Palmer’s exploration of gender and society and use of pronouns, but again, trans people are not a monolith; and I want to be clear that people who noped out of the novel because of the pronouns (or any other reason) are entirely within their rights. I do think she was doing something interesting and definitely science fictional and that that’s fine, and that she should not have been prevented from writing with this device.

(15) CLASSIC WHO. Michael O’Donnell contributes an “it’s always new to someone on the internet” news item, a Doctor Who documentary, 30 Years In The Tardis posted on Vimeo by the director Kevin Davies around a year ago. It was originally broadcast by the BBC in 1993 to celebrate the Doctor’s 30th anniversary and never repeated (although it was included with one of the Doctor Who box sets).

Part 1:

Part 2:

(16) WELCOME TO KARLOFFORNIA. And A.V. Club remembers when “Thriller turned classic pulp stories into terrifying television”. (A post from 2014.)

… “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!” was the catchphrase associated with Thriller, the horror anthology hosted by the craggy, silver-haired Englishman who in 1960 was still the world’s most emblematic scary-movie star. Rod Serling’s nervous energy animated The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic drawl set the tone for his eponymous suspense series. Karloff was a natural choice to join their ranks: He let viewers know what they were in for just by saying his name….

Here is the prosaic chain of events by which Thriller came to meet Weird Tales: Frye’s associate producer, Doug Benton, asked writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) for his ideas on material to adapt for Thriller. Beaumont suggested the pulp magazine and steered Benton to superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned a complete set. Ackerman wouldn’t part with his trunk of back issues but agreed to loan them to Benton, a few at a time. Benton set out to track down authors and rights, and so Thriller began to offer relatively authentic screen versions of many key Weird Tales authors: August Derleth, Harold Lawlor, Margaret St. Clair, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch. Only Lovecraft was missing.

(17) PASSING GO. Atlas Obscura goes inside the history and geography of the iconic game: “Touring the Abandoned Atlantic City Sites That Inspired the Monopoly Board”.

One of the last traces of old Atlantic City is the Claridge Hotel. Found on the corner of the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board—Park Place and Boardwalk—the Claridge was known in its heyday as the “skyscraper by the sea.” Opened in 1930, it had an Art Deco opulence that wouldn’t be out of place in midtown Manhattan.

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