Pixel Scroll 3/28/17 Nevertheless, She Pixelisted

(1) EXPANSE FREAKOUT PREMATURE. James S. A. Corey says to settle down.

Anyway, they always have the books to fall back on…

(2) DON’T BE SHOCKED. Jim C. Hines didn’t expect people to be surprised when he told them “Yes, I Still Get Rejections”.

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.

Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.

Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so….

(3) SF MUSEUM EXHIBIT. From June through August 2017, the Barbican Centre museum in London will present the exhibition Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction, which is curated by historian and writer Patrick Gyger and will explore science fiction as an experimental genre. The Wire supplies the details in its article “A new Barbican exhibition will explore science fiction from a multidisciplinary angle”.

It’ll include more than 200 books, original manuscripts and typescripts, contemporary and existing art works, 60 film and TV clips, unseen footage, adverts, concept art, film props, comics, video games and robots.

Australian duo Soda_Jerk will present Astro Black, a two-channel video installation with a focus on Sun Ra’s theories of Afrofuturism and featuring footage of Kraftwerk, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy. Plus Ben Frost and Daníel Bjarnason’s score inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1973 film Solaris will be performed with Poland’s Sinfonietta Cracovia, plus video accompaniment by Brian Eno and Nick Robertson.

(4) THIS IS SO WRONG. “Firm Floats Plan to Hang Colossal Skyscraper From an Asteroid”NBC News has the story.

Dubbed Analemma, the fanciful tower wouldn’t be built on the ground, but suspended in air by cables from an asteroid repositioned into geosynchronous Earth orbit just for the purpose.

Over the course of each day, the floating skyscraper would trace a figure-eight path over our planet’s surface, according to plans posted online by Clouds Architecture Office. It would swing between the northern and southern hemispheres, returning to the same point once every 24 hours.

The speed of the tower relative to the ground would vary depending upon which part of the figure eight it was tracing, with the slowest speeds at the top and bottom of each loop, the plans say. The asteroid’s orbit would be calibrated so that the slowest part of the tower’s path would occur over New York City.

…Analemma would be powered by solar panels and use recycled water. Lower floors would be set aside for business use, while sleeping quarters would be sited about two-thirds of the way up. The plans don’t say exactly how people would get on and off the building, though one illustration seem to show people parachuting from the tower to the ground.

(5) EXTENDED FAMILY. Lightspeed Magazine’s Christian A. Coleman interviewed Nnedi Okorafor.

You wrote in the acknowledgments of Binti that your daughter, Anyaugo, essentially came up with the plot of the novella. Was she also involved in plotting Binti: Home?

Anya didn’t come up with the whole plot of Binti. I was stuck on that ship with Binti and the murderous aliens; I knew the ending, but I wasn’t sure what should happen next. I told her about being stuck and she suggested something that went on to become a major part of the plot. The same happened with Binti: Home. When I write, Anya is very often around me or FaceTiming with me. So I’ll look up from writing and talk to her about what I’m writing. She always has something to say, and nine times out of ten, it’s good stuff. The same with part three. There was a major part in part three that we actually argued over because it was disturbing. I wanted one thing; she was like, “Heck no! You can’t do that.”

We live with my characters.

(6) GRRM AND LIBRARIANS. StokerCon is coming up April 27-30 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.

George R.R. Martin will be there on Saturday for an interview and signing.

HWA is sponsoring Librarians’ Day at StokerCon 2017 – which is essentially a day pass for Thursday of StokerCon, as I haven’t seen anything requiring proof of being a librarian in the purchase information.

(7) TUMMY TIME. “Karen Gillan’s ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Costume Explained, but Does the Reason Make It Okay?” Yahoo! Movies ponders the answer.

When the first footage of the film was released during CinemaCon, the reason for her ensemble was revealed. The plot involves four high-school students who are forced to clean out the basement of their school while in detention. They find an old video game (rather than a board game like in the version of the movie starring Robin Williams) and each chooses a character to play. The teenagers become the characters they selected, leading a nerdy boy to become The Rock’s character and a popular girl to become Jack Black‘s character.

A more shy, reserved teenage girl ends up becoming Karen Gillan‘s character. The video game is old and dusty, so presumably the reason that she is dressed in tiny clothing is because that’s how female video game characters used to be dressed.

Is that enough of a reason for a movie to dress the character this way? Should the objectification of the female lead in the movie become permissible because Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s film creators wanted to be hyper-accurate to old video games? Does the fear of being anachronistic by giving Gillan pants or a fully formed top justify the male gaze? Do the critics who hated Gillan’s outfit feel soothed by this explanation?

(8) DON’T SOUND SO SURPRISED. Io9’s take is “The First Footage From Jumanji Is Surprisingly Very Fun”.

…They realize that, because they are in a video game, they each have video game powers. For example, Johnson’s character is super strong and Gillan’s character is a dance fighter, which they joke about. And also, she very quickly acknowledges how ridiculous it is that the game makes her outfit so skimpy. A kind of guide character tells them they have to place a jewel back into a statue to leave—but as they progress, the challenges get greater and greater. Killer animals, evil men on motorcycles, just lots of crazy stuff. And, like a video game, they each have three lives. If they lose those, they die for real.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 28, 1979 Phantasm was released. John King Tarpinian adds, “Angus Scrimm, The Tall Man, used to come to Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theater Company‘s plays.”

(10) IN GREAT DEMAND. James A. Owen’s seven-day Kickstarter to publish an Inklings Art Print Set hit 200% of its goal on Day One. These involve the illustrations he produced for Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer.

Not only can you see the drawings of the individual Inklings at the Kickstarter site, several are matched with photos of scholars and fans who visited to the English locations and recreated the authors’ poses, which I found highly amusing.

(11)THE TRICORDER HAS ARRIVED. And in more than one version. The Washington Post’s Karen Heller, in “This ‘Star Trek’-inspired gizmo could win its inventors $9 million”, profiles George, Basil, and Gus Harris, who are hoping to win a prize of up to $9 million from the Qualcomm Foundation for producing the first successful “tricorder”–defined as a hand-held medical device that could detect blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, and nine other conditions.  The rules are that this device has to weigh less than five pounds and can be mass-produced.

… Harris assembled a seven-member team — himself, three of his siblings and three friends — all of whom were managing full-time jobs. They worked nights and weekends in his home outside Philadelphia, crashed after 72-hour engineering marathons, churned out prototype after prototype on three 3-D printers in Harris’s jumble of an office, each plastic part taking up to 24 hours to fabricate and with his three children, ages 11 to 15, often overseeing sanding and wiring.

The XPrize field began with 312 teams from 38 countries.

Now, improbably, Harris’s group is one of two finalists for the $9 million prize. The winner is scheduled to be announced April 12.

Harris’s competition is Dynamical Biomarkers Group, as formidable as its name: a group of 50 physicians, scientists and programmers, many of them paid for their work, led by Harvard Medical School professor C.K. Peng, a physicist with a 29-page résumé, and backed by the Taiwanese cellphone leviathan HTC and the Taiwanese government.

So, this is basically a Basil and Goliath story….

 

Brothers George, Basil and Gus Harris examine prop tricorders from the Star Trek series. (Courtesy of XPRIZE)

(12) LUCAS INCREASES SCHOLARSHIPS. Liz Calvario on Deadline.com, in a piece called “George Lucas Family Foundation Donates An Additional $10M to USC in Support of Student Diversity”, reports that the George Lucas Family Fund has donated $10 million to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for scholarships for African-American and Hispanic students.

The George Lucas Family Foundation has donated an additional $10 million to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, expanding its support of student diversity, announced Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. The new endowment raises the Foundation’s total donation to $20 million.

Established in the fall 2016 semester with an initial $10 million, the George Lucas Family Foundation Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity was created for students from underrepresented communities who qualify for financial support. African American and Hispanic students in both undergraduate and graduate programs receive priority consideration for support from the Fund. Students are known as George Lucas Scholars or Mellody Hobson Scholars….

(13) IT MUST GO OFF. The File 770 comments section yielded an item for the Wordspy newsletter.

WORD OF THE WEEK

Chekhov’s lesbian n. The principle that every reference to a minority in a fictional story must be relevant and irreplaceable. [This is a play on “Chekhov’s gun,” the Russian short-story writer’s famous dictum that memorable story elements should also be necessary and relevant (see this week’s Quote, Words, Unquote).]

Okay, let’s codify it — Chekhov’s Lesbian: if a character in fiction is portrayed as a member of a minority group, that character’s minority status must become a relevant plot point before the end of the story. (Term used sarcastically.) —Darren Garrison, “Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men” (comment), File 770, May 20, 2016

 (14) SHORT NOTE TO L.D. COLTER. The Michael Glyer who’s on Twitter is not me. I don’t have a Twitter account because occasionally I’d fly off the handle and tweet something dumb and there it would be for the rest of time. The other Michael Glyer doesn’t appear to have that problem. So there could be worse things than me being mistaken for him.

(15) LOVECRAFT IN NEW MEXICO. As the locals say, it’s not new, and it’s not Mexico, H.P. Lovecraft of Ask Lovecraft visited George R.R. Martin in Santa Fe and recorded a couple segments of his vlog, which can be viewed at the link.

Seeing HPL at Meow Wolf was especially fun, since there are a couple of… ahem… decidedly Lovecraftian touches to be found in the House of Eternal Return.

If you ever get a chance to see Leeman Kessler perform as HPL, do catch him. It’s the next best thing to a shuggoth on your doorstep.

(16) MARTIAN ODDITIES. FiveThirtyEight does both a statistical analysis and a historical survey of Mars in the annals of pop culture — “This Is Why We Love Stories About Mars”.

Movies about aliens are getting more popular. Movies about Martians peaked a while ago.

…But multiculturalism was only part of the era’s Mars story. The 1950s and ’60s saw Martians firmly established on television as belligerent invaders. Marvin the Martian was introduced to give Bugs Bunny a worthy foe hell-bent on destroying Earth.3

There is something poetic about Marvin being the referee in “Space Jam” in the game between the Tunes and the Aliens. After all, he’s a creature of both worlds.

A 1960 episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “People Are Alike All Over” featured a Martian society that was just as indifferent and cruel as humans on Earth. The episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” played into the anyone-could-be-the-enemy-spy fears of the early 1960s, with invaders posing as humans to begin their infiltration.

In comic books, Martians are — with one notable exception — the baddies. Martians who show up in a Marvel comic are sure to be villains. Sometimes they’re Nazis dressed up as Martians to scare New York. Either way, these comics are stories about external threats made real, conquerors, spies, warlords and assorted monsters of the week. In DC Comics, the White Martians are boilerplate invader types, as are Yellow Martians and the original Burning Martians. Only the Green Martians, of which there remains one — the Martian Manhunter — aren’t out for Earthling blood, despite their ridiculous power.

In the contemporary era, humans dealing with Martians are occupiers, not collaborators. It rarely goes well….

[Thanks to Gregory N. Hullender, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, DMS, rcade, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/17 It’s Always In The Last Pixel You Scroll

(1) VAMPIRE DIARIES GOES GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. As the series goes off the air, The Guardian asks “Better than Buffy? Spare a thought for the Vampire Diaries”.

The eight-season run of the Vampire Diaries ended quietly on Friday night, without a hint of the outsized media fanfare so liberally bestowed on series finales in television’s so-called golden age. The glossy adaptation of LJ Smith’s young-adult novel series, even before its latter-season decline in form and ratings, never did inspire the type of sophisticated critiques reserved for the major-network or cable darlings. But even amid a landscape that’s only been further crowded by the emergence of Netflix and Amazon, there is a place for the pure concentrated entertainment that was offered up for years by the CW’s deliciously pulpy supernatural soap opera. Television will be poorer – and a less fun place – without it.

(2) HUGO REMINDER. Worldcon 75 sent members an alert that the deadline to nominate for the Hugos is only days away.

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections as long as the nomination period continues. But we recommend that you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

You may make changes to your nominations until 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Greenwich Mean Time, 08:59 in Finland, all on 18 March), by using the following link to sign in again:

(3) FOLLOW THAT CAT. Timothy the Talking Cat has stolen the keys to Camestros Felapton’s blog and posted his own “appalling” Hugo slate

Remember that this year the rules have changed! The social justice witches have put their broomsticks together and decided that you can no longer just vote for Dune over and over again. But no fear! As a grandmaster of non-euclidean hyperbolic  7-dimensional chequers, I can adjust my plans accordingly. See below!

(4) DEEP POCKETS. The Deep Space: Nine Documentary by Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone and Adam Nimoy hit 420% of its Indiegogo goal. The extra money will be used to add 50% more latinum minutes to the video, and lots of bonus features. Space.com has the story — “’Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Doc Warps Way Beyond Crowdfunding Goal”.

 After nearly quadrupling their Indiegogo goal to produce a new documentary on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9), the creators are busy trying to figure out how to best deploy their newfound wealth.

Today (March 10) is the final day of the campaign to produce “What We Left Behind,” and backers on the crowdfunding site have raised more than $575,000 for the film. The show is co-led by DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, produced by David Zappone and directed by Adam Nimoy. Zappone and Nimoy are known for the 2016 documentary “For The Love of Spock,” and Zappone also produced the 2011 “Star Trek” documentary “The Captains.”

In an interview with Space.com, Behr and Nimoy, who is the son of the first “Star Trek” series’ actor Leonard Nimoy, said they are reconfiguring their plans for the now 90-minute documentary, which is 30 minutes longer than their original vision, because of the extraordinary response to the crowdfunding effort.

(5) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. Naked Security analyzes “How online gamers use malware to cheat”.

“We typically think of malware as something used to steal data from corporations or knock down websites in politically motivated attacks.  But if you’re a gamer, sometimes it’s simply a tool for winning. “SophosLabs threat researcher Tamás Boczán has been studying this trend, and recently gave a talk about it at BSides Budapest.  This article reviews his findings and offers us a chance to share some of his presentation slides.”

…As cases of cheating have risen, so have the examples of anti-cheat technology from various companies. As various sides have upped the ante, both sides have drawn in people of greater skill. He said:

Hacking an online game is not that easy any more. In the old days, script kiddies could to do it, but now hacking is a serious game that requires a skilled attacker. So why would a skilled attacker waste their time and skill on a video game?

He mapped out the sequence of events this way:

  • All this was originally about having fun.
  • Then the gaming industry grew.
  • The games went online.
  • People began to cheat for profit, just as hackers often do when targeting companies.
  • In response, an anti-cheating movement has sprouted up that mirrors security companies….

(6) FORGEHAM OBIT. John Forgeham (1941-2017): British actor, died Friday, aged 75. Best-known for a long-running role in the UK soap Crossroads, other screen appearances included The Avengers (one episode, 1965), The Stone Tape (1972), Sheena (1984), T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus (one episode, 1991).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is published

(8) LE GUIN’S NEXT BOOK. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection No Time to Spare comes out December 5.

Her next book, No Time to Spare, will be a collection of recent essays. It comes with an introduction from Karen Joy Fowler, who, like Le Guin, knows a thing or two about writing across genres.

As Fowler notes in her introduction to the collection, Le Guin is currently enjoying a moment of mainstream cultural appreciation: Filmmaker Arwen Curry recently raised funds on Kickstarter for a documentary on the author, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, and back in October, The New Yorker ran a profile on Le Guin and her enduring influence.

You can read an excerpt from Fowler’s introduction at the linked post.

(9) BURIAL IN SPACE. At Krypton Radio, Thaddeus Howze reviews the long history of Star Trek, then dares to ask: Is it time to retire the franchise?

My point of all of this review is this: Since Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the three Kelvin Timeline Star Treks, (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Beyond) we have stopped looking to the future. Star Trek has become as lame as the political rhetoric many of us despise in our real lives…

“Make America Great Again” is the rallying cry used to talk about the past as if it were some great thing to be reclaimed and returned to. When the truth of the matter is the past is never as good as it seems and to seek refuge in the past is to deny the present and refute the future altogether.

CBS’ latest television series Star Trek: Discovery also takes place in the past (presumably the original timeline past, not the Kelvin Universe past) some time after Archer but before (or maybe during Kirk’s Enterprise) period. What we do know is this is not a far future Star Trek.

It is not an extrapolation of all we can be. It is not a look at the future of Humanity at our best and our worst. It is a remix of Treks, mashing costumes, designs, ships, and probably stories.

(10) SHADOW CLARKE DOINGS. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest activity includes two reviews and a FAQ.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season casts a long shadow on the Clarke submissions list, having won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and having been shortlisted for almost everything else. Thousands of words have already been spent praising it, critiquing it, speculating about it online since it came out in the US in 2015 and I imagine few people reading this are encountering it for the first time. In spite of its pedigree I was sceptical going in. The only other book by Jemisin I’d read – The Killing Moon – wasn’t a highlight. I thought its excellent world-building came at the expense of almost everything else. Then there was the thorny issue of eligibility and whether or not The Fifth Season conforms to the Clarke requirement that books be science fiction rather than more broadly speculative. When I shortlisted it I did so partly because it offers an opportunity to wade into the eligibility question and partly as a test for myself, to see if I would admire it as much as everyone else. I almost hoped I wouldn’t because, let’s be honest, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t work in fiction than what does.  Also, dissent prompts debate and this project is all about that. But, sorry folks, I’m afraid I’m about to tell a familiar story. The Fifth Season is just as good as everyone said it was and the genre controversy is dead in the water. It’s perfectly eligible for the Clarke Award.

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

What is the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury?

An initiative developed by Nina Allan and hosted by the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in 2017, the Shadow Jury is a panel of talented, passionate members of the SF community who come up with their own personal shortlists and winners for a given year.

(11) CRITICAL MASS. Charles Payseur analyzes the nature of book reviewing and his own reasons for doing it.

Let me say that there’s a great many reasons why people review. Some want to become authorities on a particular form or genre. They want to be engaged in creating a canon or they want to help determine the boundaries of genres or any number of other things that essentially boil down to gatekeeping. They want to be able to say what is and what is not, what should and what should not be considered when talking about science fiction or literary fiction or horror. When they review they might refuse to look at certain works because they don’t cleave close enough to what they expect and enjoy. This is not the kind of reviewer I hope to be. And there are reviewers out there who just want to express their opinions as honestly as they can. They want to go onto Goodreads and Amazon and rank what they liked good and what they didn’t bad and concentrate mostly on their immediate reaction to a story or work. This is actually much closer to what I do but it’s not quite what I aim for….

(12) KONG KILLED AGAIN. Reader’s Digest version – Locus film reviewer Gary Westfahl says the new Kong movie sucks little black rocks – “Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not achieve – namely, a King Kong film that recaptures the charm and élan of Merian C. Cooper’s classic 1933 production. Unfortunately, the film devolves into an iterative, and increasingly unpleasant, series of variations on the two basic set pieces observed in all giant monster movies: humans vs. monster, and monster vs. monster; and the only suspense involves which character will next be dispatched to a gory demise….

 (13) RED PLANET RADIO. It’s Mars Season on BBC Radio 4, with fiction, interviews, documentaries, and quizzes.

William Shatner introduces the “We Are The Martians” series, which explores the Mars of imagination, science and history.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, and David K.M.Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

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

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/6/17 Holy Pixels, Scrollman!

(1) FAME AND FORTUNE. Mark Lawrence, who contends there is a close correlation between the number of Goodreads reviews a book has and sales, has created a series of graphs that illustrate the number of GR reviews received by various segments of top-selling fantasy books.

The level to which A Game of Thrones outsells the rest of the field is quite staggering, particularly when the publication date means this difference will *increase* significantly when converting figures to a sales estimate.

But when we widen the field of that fantasy lens still further to include urban fantasy, paranormal romance fantasy, YA fantasy, literary fantasy and fantasy written for children… even the mighty GRRM is dwarfed.

(2) BAD NEIGHBORS. In The Australian, James Bradley reviews Stephen Baxter’s Massacre of Mankind, where H.G. Wells’s Martians come again.

As before, the attack begins in England. This time the Martians arrive in greater numbers, establishing a beachhead and overwhelming Britain’s armed forces. But this is only the first phase. With England secured, a second wave arrives, attacking cities around the world with ruthless and terrifying efficiency.

At his best Baxter produces big-picture Clarkean science fiction of a very high order. And while he could never be accused of being a high stylist, novels such as his Xeelee sequence or his recent Flood/Ark and Proxima/Ultima duologies are exhilaratingly accomplished exercises in hard science fiction. The Massacre of Mankind is a more intimate creation, and perhaps because of that takes obvious pleasure not just in pastiching Wells’s style, but the science and technology of the original novel’s setting.

Baxter has huge fun imagining a solar system informed by the theories of the “discoverer” of the Martian canals, Percival Lowell, and others about planetary evolution.

The narrative structure of the original, in particular the extended prelude to the actual attack, lends it a gorgeous elegiac power. While the decision to reproduce that here makes The Massacre of Mankind overlong, the intertextuality is frequently surprisingly entertaining. This is most evident in flourishes such as the complaints of several characters about the inaccuracy of Walter’s original account (and the almost-cameos by the “man of the future”, Wells himself), but it has its serious side as well.

(3) REBOOT. Dean Wesley Smith says Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is coming back.

As you can see from the pictures, we are doing an Issue Zero again this time that will be limited and part of a Kickstarter later in the summer. First issue comes out in January 2018 and the magazine will be quarterly, with about 70,000 words of short fiction every issue. It will be the size and shape of Smith’s Monthly.

I will be mixing some of the stories from the old Pulphouse days along with brand new fiction. I figured most of those older stories have long been forgotten and they need a new life. For each story we will push the author information and be clear to the reader if the story is new or if a reprint, where the story was originally published.

The magazine will have an attitude, as did the first run. No genre limitations, but high quality writing and strangeness.

(3) THE BOOK IS CLOSED. I reported yesterday that three actors are leading the wagering as favorites to become the next Doctor Who. Now Den of Geek says one has become such a popular choice that one UK bookmaker has stopped taking bets on him.

Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year, and incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall is the man tasked with finding his replacement in the TARDIS.

As ever, it’s tough to put much stock in what bookies say on the matter. But, nonetheless, the latest story to emerge from Ladbrokes is an interesting one: they’ve stopped taking bets on Kris Marshall landing the gig.

The My Family, BT adverts and Death In Paradise star, who recently left his role in the latter, has become such a favourite with punters that Ladbrokes have decided to pull the plug and stop accepting bets.

“A surge of punters have backed Marshall so we’ve had no choice but to close the book,” Ladbrokes’ Alex Donohue told the – sigh – Daily Mail. (You really don’t have to click that link and show them any support.)

“If he does get the gig,” Donohue added, “the bookies will be exterminated first.”

…The bets-being-suspended-on-Kris-Marshall story in no way confirms that he, or anyone, has got the part.

(4) DATLOW BOUND FOR ANTIPODES. Every year Canberra-based SFF fans “get together to celebrate everything creepy, geeky and fantastical” at Conflux, and the lucky International Guest of Honour at Conflux 13 will be Ellen Datlow.

We have to keep pinching ourselves to make sure this is real, but (deep breath) Conflux 13 is bringing none other than Ellen Datlow to Australia!!!

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty-five years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than ninety science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters, Fearful Symmetries, The Doll Collection, The Monstrous, Children of Lovecraft, Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, and Black Feathers.  Forthcoming are, Hallows’ Eve (with Lisa Morton), and Mad Hatters and March Hares (stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There).

Conflux 13 will be held September 29-Ocober 2 in Canberra.

(5) FIGHT TO THE FINISH. Unbound Worlds brings back Cage Match. Mark-kitteh comments: “SF character cage matches. I think the Dune sandworm is a bit of a ringer though – how would they even get it in the cage?”

What the hell is Cage Match?

Great question. A long time ago, on an internet far, far away, there was a website called Suvudu, which had been founded by some editors at Del Rey as a place to nerd out about sci-fi and fantasy. In the barely remembered year 2010, those editors decided it’d be a real kick to pit their favorite SF/F characters against each other in a fight to the death, and it’d be even MORE of a kick if they brought in some authors to write short scenes illustrating how they thought those fights might play out. And on top of that, they invited users to come vote on the outcome of those fights.

And apparently you all liked it, because we’re still doing it seven years later.

(6) OSBORNE OBIT. TCM’s Robert Osborne is mourned by Steve Vertlieb:

Robert Osborne passed away this morning at age 84. He’d been in ill health for some time. Robert was the face of Turner Classic Movies since its inception, and was a wonderful fountain of enthusiasm, sincerity, and palpable adoration of classic cinema. Those of us who watched the cable movie channel these countless years came to look upon Robert as a friend, a tireless champion of the arts, and as the very definition of integrity. We all knew that he’d been ill, but were afraid to ask about his telling absence of late from the network. A true motion picture historian, Osborne’s warmth and passion for films and their creators will be sorely missed by movie lovers everywhere. Rest In Peace, Robert. Your own star shall shine ever brightly among a luminescent galaxy of stars.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 6, 1928 — William F. Nolan

(8) CREATED IN 7 DAYS. Skyboat Media wants to raise $7,000 via Kickstarter to create an 11-hour audiobook of Queers Destroy Science Fiction.

With your help, if we can fund in 7 days, Skyboat will be able to produce an 11 hour digital audiobook for you of the short story and flash fiction portions of Lightspeed Magazine‘s QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION! It will be a glorious vocal celebration of inclusivity, diversity and all things science fiction-y!

KICKSTARTER’S ALL in 1: We are doing this for only one week. Our project is aligned with Kickstarter’s theme of 1s and 0s; this means we are offering only digital rewards.

The book was published by Hugo winning anthologist John Joseph Adams and guest edited by Seanan McGuire.

So far they have raised $1,263 of the $7,000 goal.

(9) CASTING CLASH. At ComicsBeat Heidi MacDonald tracks the issue — “Finn Jones leaves Twitter after trying to explain why a white Iron Fist isn’t problematic to an Asian person”.

Don’t get me wrong, Jones has a right to talk about his show, but when he explained to an Asian person, Geeks of Color’s Creative Director, Asyiqin Haron, how to feel about race…he got busted whitesplaining. Then, when the heat got too much for him, Jones just deleted his twitter account.

Pretty much the same thing happened when Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho had a tense email exchange over the Ancient One

(10) FAUX-MEN COMICS. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says “The Fake X-Men Comics From ‘Logan’ Are Incredible”.

When Logan director James Mangold asked Marvel comics if he could include X-Men comics in the final Hugh Jackman Wolverine installment, he was told he could as long as they weren’t any real comic books. To create the old-school style books for the movie then, Mangold reached out to Joe Quesada and Dan Panosian to create the pages of the books for the movie….

They’re all, frankly, fantastic, and really capture the feel of the X-Men books from the 1980s. I love the way they look just close enough while retaining a slightly off aesthetic letting you know this is another world. It just adds to the fabric of a world which just feels lived in.

There’s a gallery with the post.

(11) THE FLAW IN THE OINTMENT. It’s a hell of a lot more entertaining when somebody else is on the receiving end of these pleonasms. Jonathan McCalmont unleashes “Rabid Cuddlers” at Ruthless Culture.

…Unfortunately for the puppies, while it must have been comically easy to convince a bunch of teenaged nihilists to troll the Hugo awards, it was never going to be easy to convince basement-dwelling trolls to set aside their Japanese pornography long enough to read a bunch of over-written Catholic fantasy novels. The fact that Gamergaters turned up to harass liberals but didn’t stick around to spend money explains why prominent puppies have  downplayed their involvement, decreased their ambitions, and failed to step back from the movement in time and wound up being forced to repeatedly beg for financial support from their dwindling fanbase…

…The puppies’ experiences as nerd-fuhrers may well come to define their adult lives but their flirtations with moral entrepreneurship failed to secure them the kind of following that might provide access to the lucrative world of conservative cultural commentary. Even worse, their attempts to cultivate a right-wing alternative to the stuttering multiculturalism of mainstream genre spaces appears to have resulted in little more than a handful of underwhelming blogs supporting the work of a few self-publishing authors….

…The social and ideological instabilities of the puppy movement should come as no surprise once you realise the gulf that separates adolescent edge-lords  from a bunch of stupid old men who want fandom to go back to the way it was in 1953. What is surprising is the speed at which a movement whose ruthlessness once made international news has been reduced to bleating about politeness and passing out internet hugs. Liberal genre culture may be ponderous, self-serving, and morally confused but it was never quite that pathetic….

(12) ABOUT. Who doesn’t enjoy a flash of humor at the end of an author bio? Here’s the last line of Kendare Blake’s

She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/17 Scroll Was Born With A Gift Of Pixel And A Sense That The World Was Mad

(1) SINCE THERE’S NOTHING ON TV TOMORROW. MeTV has located several downloadable designs for making Star Trek ships from paper that you can use to keep yourself busy on Sunday if football is not your thing.

In Japan, the art of paper modeling is commonplace. Companies like Sankei sell miniature papercraft kits for building everything from cartoon creatures to houses and vehicles. Here in the West, it has started to catch on, as fans use two-dimensional paper to recreate three-dimensional models of their favorite characters, props and even spaceships.

In the Sixties, you might recall, we had rather simple coloring books, sticker books and paper dolls. Now, this has gone to a whole new level. Better yet, fans have created patterns anyone can print up and assemble for free. (We recommend spending for some high quality photo paper, though.)

As fans find new ways to engineer this craft, no subject is left out of the mix. Star Trek, naturally, remains a mainstay of the craze, but just about any classic sci-fi show you can think of has papercraft models available for download. We found Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea submarines and the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space….

We hunted down some favorites, if you are so inclined to give it a try. You can print and build:

The Galileo II Shuttle (instructions, template)

USS Enterprise NCC-1701

Kirk and Spock (template)

(2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Abraham Sherman of The John Carter Files tells why Elon Musk has him feeling more optimistic about reaching the Red Planet – “Home Sweet Mars”.

…Currently, the next milestone on SpaceX’s path to Mars is for them to finish and launch the Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket, the first of their rockets that will have sufficient power to get spacecraft to Mars.  After the FH gets off the ground late this year, the next milestone will be in 2018, when the unmanned Red Dragon capsule is to be launched atop a FH, and sent to test propulsive landing on Mars – a technique which forgoes parachutes and airbags and is entirely dependent on the built-in boosters of the capsule.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07Pm8ZY0XJI  The Red Dragon mission is the small tip of a much larger spear which was described in detail during Musk’s presentation at the IAC.

The SpaceX flagship for Mars colonization will be the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qo78R_yYFA  It will be the largest rocket ever built, and will be able to take one hundred Mars colonists at a time to the Red Planet.  It is in the design phase, and is currently scheduled to make its maiden voyage in 2024.  Once the colony is up and running and can accommodate massive numbers of new colonists at a time, the plan is to send dozens, or even hundreds of ITS spacecraft simultaneously to Mars.  SpaceX has proven to be uniquely motivated and situated to get to Mars several years ahead of any other organization, public or private….

(3) MOONWALKING. Famous astronaut “87-Year-Old Buzz Aldrin Slays The Runway At New York Fashion Week” reports The Huffington Post.

Buzz Aldrin took to the catwalk Tuesday in a New York Fashion Week debut he said was “as easy as walking on the moon.”

The 87-year-old astronaut ? who in 1969 became the second person to walk on the moon ? sported a metallic bomber jacket in designer Nick Graham’s show, aptly titled “Life on Mars.”

Aldrin couldn’t have looked cuter in his pants, sneakers and self-designed “Get your ass to Mars” shirt.

Walking the runway for @itsnickgraham #Mars collection WAS as easy as walking on the moon. #NYFWM

A post shared by Buzz Aldrin (@drbuzzaldrin) on

(4) JUST NEEDS A LITTLE SMACK. Ursula K. Le Guin took offense at a letter to the editor published by The Oregonian attempting to justify political “alternate facts” as akin to science fiction. Her rebuttal appeared on February 1:

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work.  We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined —  and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them.  The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.”  The sun rises in the east.  To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact.  Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction.  He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous.  In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Northwest Portland

(5) NOW I UNDERSTAND. James Whitbrook of i09 explains “The Detailed, Depressing Reason Deep Space Nine and Voyager May Never Get Full HD Versions”.

…By the mid-1980s, video technology had advanced enough to the point that many TV shows—including Star Trek: The Next Generation—were no longer editing the 35mm film footage, but scanning it into computers, transforming it into the lower, TV-friendly resolution and edited from there to save money. In TNG’s case, that helped make the VFX work on the show easier, but it also meant there all the show’s film was left in separate pieces. Essentially, for the HD release of Star Trek, all people had to do was scan each episode. For The Next Generation, they would have to scan all those original pieces of film and then edit together each episode again, themselves. It’s more difficult, more expensive, and much more time-consuming.

What’s amazing is that they actually did this for TNG’s Blu-ray release, which was a radical, unprecedented, and incredibly daunting task. Following the edited tape versions that were originally broadcast, a new team painstakingly recreated every episode of the show from the 35mm film footage, a process that cost millions and millions of dollars. But as TNG is the jewel in the Star Trek crown for legions of fans, it was seen as worth it….

(6) NOT SCI-FI, BUT OH WOW! John King Tarpinian spied this item for sale —

(7) DON’T KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS ONE. Atlas Obscura’s video about Wisconsin’s House on the Rock makes me want to visit. As a connoisseur of hoaxes, I wish I’d discovered it years ago!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1940  Filmmaker and zombie auteur George A. Romero, in NYC.

(9) HORROR IN SPACE. Here is the Super Bowl TV Spot for the forthcoming movie Life. Looks interesting, in a menacing sort of way…

(10) URBAN WRIGHTS. Futurism shows six examples of what architects think “The City of the Future” will look like.

…Architects and urban planners are letting their imaginations run wild — after all, where else can we go but toward our most outlandish, exciting, and sometimes even dystopian imaginings of the future?

Artisanopolis

For five years now, the Seasteading Institute has been working toward building Artisanolopolis, a floating city that runs on solar and hydroelectric power.

To make food production sustainable, the entire city would feature greenhouses, and a desalination plant would be responsible for the production of safe drinking water. The floating island would be protected by a massive wave breaker designed to prevent water damage to the structure.

Last year, the Seastanding Institute signed a memorandum with the French Polynesian government to begin construction on this ocean domain by 2019. If everything goes according to plan, the world’s first floating city, operating with significant political autonomy, may be ready for habitation as early as 2020.

(11) MEMORY GAPS. Unlike me, the staff at MeTV seems to remember all “15 forgotten sci-fi and fantasy series of the 1970s”. The question is – which of us is better off?

Time Express

1979

Charlie’s Angels creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts failed to strike gold again with this nostalgic flop. Think of it as Fantasy Island with time travel. Vincent Price starred as the conductor of a time-traveling train that would take passengers to the past in order to relive important points in their lives. Only four episodes aired before it was canceled. The synthesizer-heavy theme song was cool, though, clearly inspired by Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express.”

(12) NASFiC NEWS. NorthAmeriCon ’17, the NASfiC in San Juan, has opened Art Show registration.

NorthAmeriCon ’17 will have an Art Show! We welcome original art on science fiction, fantasy, astronomical, or fannish themes.

Registration for artists is now open through Jo Hogan’s website for managing artist data:

(13) AN ENCOURAGING WORD. NASA’s Kepler & K2 SciCon IV convention for scientists has a Code of Conduct, too. Thoughts?

Code of Conduct

The community of participants at astronomical meetings and in astronomical research is made up of members from around the globe with a diverse set of skills, personalities, and experiences. It is through these differences that our community experiences success and continued growth. We expect everyone in our community to follow these guidelines when interacting with others both inside and outside of our community. Our goal is to maintain a positive, inclusive, successful, and growing community.

As members of the community,

  • We pledge to treat all people with respect and provide a harassment and bullying-free environment, regardless of sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion. In particular, sexual language and imagery, sexist, racist, or otherwise exclusionary jokes are not appropriate. We will treat those outside our community with the same respect as people within our community.
  • We pledge that all discussions between members of the community should be done with respect, and we pledge to take proactive measure to ensure that all participants are heard and feel confident that they can freely express their opinions.
  • We pledge to help the entire community follow the code of conduct and to act accordingly when we note violations.

This code of conduct applies to all community situations, including conferences, associated social events, on social media, and one-on-one interactions….

(14) SEE PROPS OF THE EXPANSE. Adam Savage visits the props department of Syfy’s The Expanse, where armorists and propmakers engineer the weapons, helmets, and the gear that give weight and story to the universe of the show. Prop master James Murray shows Adam some of the unique props his team has made, revealing aesthetic and functional details.

[Thanks to JJ, Andrew Porter, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

💛 💛 💛 #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

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

 

Pixel Scroll 1/21/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling, Keep Those Pixels Scrolling, File-wide….

(1) ON THE MARCH.

(2) GRAPHIC NOVEL WINS DIVERSE BOOKS AWARD. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles says that Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin have won the Walter Dean Myers Award (or “Walter”) for Outstanding Children’s Literature for March: Book Three.  The award is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, which promises to buy 2,000 copies of the graphic novel and donate them to libraries.

Responding to the news that he had won the Walter, Lewis said via email: “I am deeply moved for our book to receive this award. It is my hope that it will inspire more people to read and to use their pen to inspire another generation to speak up and speak out.”

(3) BREAKTHROUGHS. Barnes & Noble SF/F blog has listed “20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice”.

From the Time Machine to Kirk and Uhura‘s unprecedented kiss, speculative fiction has often concerned itself with breaking barriers and exploring issues of race, inequality, and injustice. The fantastical elements of genre, from alien beings to magical ones, allow writers to confront controversial issues in metaphor, granting them a subversive power that often goes unheralded. On this, the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider 20 novels that incorporate themes of social justice into stories that still deliver the goods—compelling plots, characters you’ll fall in love with, ideas that will expand your mind. Let’s imagine a day when the utopian ideals of Star Trek are more than just the stuff of science fiction.

(4) SEER. Nature profiles Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his 100th birthday (last month).

In 1945, Clarke inadvertently launched a career as a futurologist with his outline for a geostationary communications satellite. In a letter (‘V2 for ionosphere research?’) published in February’s issue of Wireless World and inspired by the German V2 rockets then landing on London, he made a revolutionary proposal:

An ‘artificial satellite’ at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.

Clarke realistically concluded: “I’m afraid this isn’t going to be of the slightest use to our postwar planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.” He followed up with a more detailed piece in Wireless World that October, envisioning “space-stations” that relied on thermionic valves serviced by an onboard crew supplied by atomic-powered rockets.

(5) SCIENCE THE SH!T OUT OF THIS. Is dome living worse than dorm living? Six simulated Hawaiian Martians will find out — “Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome”.

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods — with a rare treat of Spam — and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The simulated stay on Mars with a carefully selected crew of researchers embarked on a mission Thursday to gain insight into the psychological toll a similar real-life voyage would have on astronauts. It’s part of a NASA-funded human-behavior experiment that could help the space agency send humans to the red planet in the next 20 years.

The man-made dome that the four men and two women call home is outfitted with futuristic white walls and an elevated sleeping platform on the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii. The vinyl-covered shelter spans 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom house.

A video released by the group shows the six scientists in matching red polo shirts arriving and entering the dome to farewell handshakes from program associates

(6) THE WORST. AlienExpoDallas forwards its picks as the “Top 5 Villains of Sci-Fi”.  Did they get it right?

Just like the clothes make the man, the villain makes the hero! (Unless you’re Batman — then you make the villains… in any case, I digress.) Today we live in a world where the villain gets his due — specifically villains of the sci-fi variety. Villains in sci-fi have a special gravitas where no matter how evil the scheme or horrid their actions, you somehow find yourself rooting for them. So with that, here are our top 5 villains of sci-fi!

Number 5 is Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

(7) VISITED BY THE MUSE. Amanda Palmer posted this photo on Instagram yesterday.

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

 

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

A post shared by Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) on

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 — First American novel, The Power of Sympathy, published in Boston

(9) PEER REVIEWED. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, co-authored a paper on AI/machine learning, based on a short film she directed.

The Twilight actress recently made her directorial debut with the short film Come Swim, and in it used a machine learning technique known as “style transfer” (where the aesthetics of one image or video is applied to another) to create an impressionistic visual style. Along with special effects engineer Bhautik J Joshi and producer David Shapiro, Stewart has co-authored a paper on this work in the film, publishing it in the popular online repository for non-peer reviewed work, arXiv.

(10) FIFTH OF KONG. There’s a new series of TV spots for Kong: Skull Island. In keeping with Scroll tradition, I picked #5.

(11) F.U.D. People are getting pretty good at recognizing fake news. Like Brian Niemeier’s insinuation about this year’s Worldcon supporting membership rate.

Worldcon 75’s supporting membership rate was fixed when the four rival bids for 2017 set the cost of a site selection voting membership in the summer before the 2015 Worldcon. It’s not a recent decision.

And have a look at the supporting membership rates for the five most recent Worldcons.

  • LoneStarCon 3 (2013) supporting membership: $60
  • LonCon 3 (2014) supporting membership: $40
  • Sasquan (2015) supporting membership: $40
  • MidAmeriCon II (2016) supporting membership: $50
  • Worldcon 75 (2017) supporting membership: $40

A $40 rate is a typical rate, not a cut rate.

(12) DEE GOOTS. In Andi Gutierrez’ The Star Wars Show episode “Rogue One Secrets Explained”, she interviews Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, delving into Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs, production details, and much more.

(13) THE COOLEST PROJECT. Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator! Do you want one badly enough to make it yourself?

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that’s not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the Star Wars replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

 

(14) INSTANT CLASSIC. Camestros Felapton wove together several recent memes as replacement lyrics for an Otis Redding tune.

Oh the Gorn may be weary?
Them Gorns they do get weary
Wearing those same old metallic shorts, yeah yeah?
But when the Gorn gets weary
Try a little pixelness….

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Rob Thornton, Gregory Benford, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/16 Ancillary of Green Gables

(1) MARS’ VIRGIN FIELD EPIDEMIC. Nautilus writer Christopher McKay, in a piece called “Make Mars Great Again”, says that Mars has life because of microbes sent aboard non-sterile Mars probes, and if the planet gets warmer in a century these microbes can be used for terraforming.

Mars is currently inhabited by an estimated 1 million microbes. They coat the surfaces and crowd the innards of our robotic landers and rovers, which international policy requires to be cleaned, but not fully sterilized. The bugs are dormant, but viable. If Mars warmed up and water began to flow again, these microorganisms would revive and reproduce. And it is within our power to make that happen.

The concept of terraforming—making a barren world suitable for widespread life—is well developed in science fiction. The term was first used in a science-fiction story published in 1942. It implies the creation of a copy of Earth, which need not be the goal, but the word caught on. (It is definitely more euphonious than the suggested alternatives of “ecopoiesis” or “planetary ecosynthesis.”) In the ’90s the award-winning science-fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars centered on the science and ethics of terraforming. But terraforming is no longer just science fiction.

(2) DIFFERENT CURRENCIES. Sarah A. Hoyt raises compelling points in “Some Hard Thinking About Our Business”. Why doesn’t everybody go indie? And how much money is it costing them to go with traditional publishers?

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.  I’m not disapproving, mind you — who the hell am I to be disapproving of other people’s business decisions? If I had my time again, I doubt I’d have made most of the ones I made.  I’d still want to write for Baen, but that’s about it — I’m just jaw-dropped shocked.  Because they’ll be giving up 90% of their income or so.  But perhaps they want the respectability.  And perhaps they think it will give them further reach.

Is the reach thing true?  For now.  For a time. More on this later.

Is the respectability that important?  Sure, if you want to have some sort of job as a “real writer” such places are starting to choose indies, but not really.  Some conferences too (though we’re not absolutely sure, in this new era how much attendance of conventions contribute to sales, with the remarkable exception of hard copy books [more on that later.]) expect you to flash your “real writer” credentials in the form of  contract.  I even understand it from the social point of view, where when you’re at a party and people ask what you do, the question after you answer “writer” is “so have anything published?” (Or maybe that’s just to me, because of the accent.)  Mind you, you can answer “Sure” and  list your books and not say “indie” but I also know that when I say “Sure, x books with Berkley, x with Bantam and x with Baen” people’s attitude changes completely.  And I can see that when people suspect you’re indie they say “So you published yourself” and dismiss it.  I know that’s a stupid reason to give up 90% of your income, but humans are social animals and I can see “not being embarrassed at parties” making a difference.  I can even see the velveteen writer thing, wanting to be a “real” writer in your own eyes, the way you envisioned it.

(3) LONG RELIEF. At MLB blog Cut4, “Superfan Sean Doolittle reviews ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”‘. Doolittle is a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

Big Star Wars fan Sean Doolittle was kind enough to take some time away from his rigorous offseason sock-throwing regimen to write a film review of Rogue One … yes, really! Enjoy it all below, and don’t worry — there are no major spoilers, as Sean knows what he’s doing. 

What really separates this movie from any other episode in the Star Wars franchise, though, is how dark and harsh it is. Rogue One is as much a war drama, with real, raw emotion, as it is a sci-fi adventure movie. This movie drops you into the middle of a brutal galactic civil war, one that’s taken everything from these characters and turned them into soldiers willing to fight for the Rebellion.

(4) NOT THE REASONS FOR THE SEASON. I thought Tor.com had a great discussion-generating post idea in “The Non-Holiday Movies We Always End Up Watching Over the Holidays” but they had more misses than hits as far as my tastes are concerned. (Anyone else watched Rocky II this month? I did.)

And it’s a discussion you can have on more than one level. I decided to watch Tracy and Hepburn in Desk Set the other night I’d long since forgotten that most of the climactic events happen at the office Christmas party. So can I count it as “non-holiday” or not?

(5) GHIBLI AND GRAVY. The YouTube video “Studio Ghibli in Real Life” is a charming YouTube video in which Studio Ghibli characters are placed into real-life Japanese settings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California. It was the first animated feature-length film with sound and color.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 21, 1937 – Jane Fonda

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 21, 1957 — Tsutomu Kitagawa, a Japanese actor and stuntman best known for playing Godzilla in the Millennium (or Shinsei) series. He also played the costumed actor for the Blue (and occasionally, Black) Ranger in many of Toei Company’s Super Sentai Series in the 1980s, better known in the US as Power Rangers.

(9) BRAIN CANDY. John Scalzi did not write an incisive political commentary today.

Me: I want to write a long piece on politics today!

Brain: Sorry, man. Not up for it. Too much thinking involved.

Me: But I have important things to say!

Brain: You should have thought about it before you decided to fuel me exclusively on Christmas cookies for three days straight….

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #22. The twenty-second of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a set of autographed books from Pamela Dean.

Today’s auction is for a set of books from Pamela Dean, including signed hardcover first editions of THE DUBIOUS HILLS and JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY, along with a signed mass-market paperback set of the reissue of the SECRET COUNTRY trilogy. That’s a total of five autographed books for you to enjoy!

About THE DUBIOUS HILLS: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.

About JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY: Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, handsome as the night, quoting poetry, telling riddles, and asking help for a complex and fascinating science project. Gentian isn’t interested at first–she has her own life. But gradually her life, and her time, belong more and more to Dominic and his project, and her father begins to fear that the lad may be more than a charmer…

About THE SECRET COUNTRY: Each vacation for the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played a game they call the “Secret”—and invented, scripted world full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring, court intrigue, and the Dragon King. In the Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they actually find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The five have arrived at the start of their games, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it… or if they will ever get back home.

(11) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MENTIONING RACE. Foz Meadows engages a recent controversy involving YA commentators — “YA, Race & Assimilation: A Response”.

Which is why, returning to the matter of QOP and Whitney Atkinson, pro-diversity advocates are so often forced to contend with people who think that “separating races” and like identifiers – talking specifically about white people or disabled people or queer people, instead of just people – is equivalent to racism and bigotry. Whether they recognise it or not, they’re coming from a perspective that values diverse perspectives for what they bring to the melting pot – for how they help improve the dominant culture via successful assimilation – but not in their own right, as distinct and special and non-homogenised. In that context, race isn’t something you talk about unless you’re being racist: it’s rude to point out people’s differences, because those differences shouldn’t matter to their personhood. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t allow for the celebration of difference: instead, it codes “difference” as inequality, because deep down, the logic of cultural assimilation is predicated on the idea of Western cultural superiority. A failure or refusal to assimilate is therefore tantamount to a declaration of inequality: I’m not the same as you is understood as I don’t want to be as good as you, and if someone doesn’t want to be the best they can be (this logic does) then either they’re stupid, or they don’t deserve the offer of equality they’ve been so generously extended in the first place.

Talking about race isn’t the same as racism. Asking for more diversity in YA and SFF isn’t the same as saying personhood matters less than the jargon of identity, but is rather an acknowledgement of the fact that, for many people, personhood is materially informed by their experience of identity, both in terms of self-perception and in how they’re treated by others at the individual, familial and collective levels. And thanks to various studies into the social impact of colour-blindness as an ideology, we already know that claiming not to see doesn’t undo the problem of racism; it just means adherents fail to understand what racism actually is and what it looks like, even – or perhaps especially – when they’re the ones perpetuating it.

(12) APOLLO 11 ON YOUTUBE. Ars Technica helps relive history – “Heinlein and Clarke discuss the Moon landings as they happen”.

Thanks to documentaries and YouTube, the younger set can experience some of the flavor of the late 1960s today, as well as what the Moon landing meant at the time to America and the world. The zeitgeist of hope and possibility might perhaps best be captured in a CBS News discussion on July 20, 1969—Apollo 11 landing day. Hosted by the inimitable Walter Cronkite, the great newsman interviewed science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein about the implications of NASA’s achievement. The program featured a discussion just after the landing, with a second segment following the first moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

“Time just stopped for me, I think it stopped for everybody,” a 51-year-old Clarke said, describing how it felt to watch the lunar module touch down. “My heart stopped. My breathing stopped.”

(13) CURSUS HONORUM. James Langdell raises a good question:

How do you become a Ghost Of Christmas Past? Do you work your way up after starting out as Ghost Of National Pickle Day Past?

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS LAUGHS. Curator John King Tarpinian delved into the archives for these Stan Freberg Christmas parodies —

  • Green Christmas

  • Christmas Dragnet (1953) / Yulenet (1954)

  • The Night Before Christmas (1955)

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]