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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second paragraph of third section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

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

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

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

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

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

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

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

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

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

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

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

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

And wait, there’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

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

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

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

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

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The issue goes on sale June 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sir Roger Penrose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/17 Precog Ergo Sum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If it worked for Bret Harte, why not Timothy?

Box’s End: The Three Pizza Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Brenda Clough

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S DAYS

  • Revenge of the Fifth

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

  • International Space Day

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

  • Cartoonist’s Day – May 5

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

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Molloy also wrote about it here in 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11a) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

(11b) TODAY’S DAY

International Astronomy Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inequality goes back at least 30,000 years.

Hunter-gatherers were more equal than subsequent societies.

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

But even they had hierarchies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile Pomp.

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

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

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

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

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

“But is it hurtful?” you ask.

I feel this is the wrong question.

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/22/17 Get Out Of There At Once! The Pixels Are Coming From Inside The Scroll!

(1) CON REPORT. Outer Places went to Steve Wozniak’s comic con — “The SVCC Tech Showcase Was Filled With Robots and Supercars”.

Second only to the Woz himself, the night’s biggest show-stealer was SoftBank Robotics‘ Pepper the Robot. The machine is designed to be able to accurately perceive emotions, and is currently being marketed as a personal assistant in Japan. Tonight, Pepper mostly just rolled up to people and requested they take a selfie with them – that may sound like a waste of Pepper’s talents, but any robot who can perceive emotions would eventually realize that humans enjoy doing really silly things. So before the robots take over, we’ll take selfies with them.

(2) CAPTAIN KIRK. Of course, that may be underestimating William Shatner who was at SVCC yesterday, too — “William Shatner delights fans at Silicon Valley Comic Con” . Watch the KGO news video at the link.

From “Star Wars” to “Star Trek” and everything in between, the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con did not disappoint on its opening night. In addition to costumes and cosplay fans were treated to an evening with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

(3) SOMEBODY’S WRONG ON THE INTERNET! The Fargo/Hugo Award identification continues to outrun the correction – as per usual in social media. But I’m impressed how many people know what a Hugo is. By comparison, it’ll be a cold day in Fargo Hell before the masses think they recognize a Dragon Award being used as a murder weapon on TV – take that, Puppies!

Series of tweets here:

(4) SCIENCE’S SIBLING RIVALRY. Star Trek, Arrival, linguistics, and “soft” science versus “hard” science: “Uhura Was a Comms Officer: Why Linguistics Matter”.

In Arrival, Louise Banks melds xenolinguistics, language documentation and underlying pattern recognition—even within the film, however, her specialty is derided as “not real” science by her male (theoretical physicist) counterpart Ian Donnelly. After quoting from a book on linguistics Banks wrote, Ian says flatly that she’s wrong:

“Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn’t language. It’s science.”

This is a succinct rendition of how language study tends to be viewed by those outside of it: that the scientific study of language isn’t science. This also, of course, ties into other things (such as sexism and whatnot, plus trying to use dialogue as characterization in media) but detailing such factors is beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to say, Arrival tries to detail the work of documenting and recognizing patterns of a completely unfamiliar system.

(5) WELCOME TO MARS, NOW DROP DEAD. Daily Mail, which enjoys such a reputation around here, warns “Visitors to Mars Will Die in Under 68 Days”..

…One of the most important conclusions of the research is that neither crops nor oxygen generated for the inhabitants will be sufficient to support life for long. A fatal fire is also a major risk.

The Daily Mail summarized the very long MIT paper:

Mars One is an ambitious plan by a Dutch entrepreneur to send people to Mars next decade and start building a colony there. The proposal has received fierce criticism for its lack of realistic goals, and now one study has dealt the team a crushing blow – by saying the colonists will begin dying in 68 days. Low air pressure, habitats at risk of explosion and a lack of spare parts are among the potentially fatal dangers that apparently await anyone who makes the inaugural trip.

(6) LEND A RESEARCHER A HAND. Zack Weinberg asks for your help. I ran this past a friend whose computer and network knowledge I respect and he agreed it looked bona fide – but as always, exercise your own wisdom about participating. This demo is part of a research study conducted by Zachary Weinberg, Nicolas Christin, and Vyas Sekar of Carnegie Mellon University. And as he says at the end, “’I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.”

I’m doing a research project related to online censorship, which you can help with, by visiting https://research.owlfolio.org/active-geo/ in any reasonably recent version of Firefox, Chrome, or IE. (You must have JavaScript enabled. It doesn’t work in Safari, which unfortunately means you cannot use an iDevice.) Press the Start button on the map, wait for it to finish, and then click the “Tell me more” button (which appears when it’s done) and read the text and follow the instructions. It is especially helpful if you do this on a computer physically located somewhere other than Europe and North America.

The experiment is testing “active geolocation”, which is when you try to figure out where a computer physically is by measuring how long it takes a packet of information to go round-trip between one computer and other computers in known locations. This has been studied carefully within Europe and the continental USA, but much less so elsewhere.

This is relevant to Internet censorship because, in order to measure Internet censorship, you need access to a computer within the sub-network run by a censorious country or organization. Commercial VPN services are one way to do this. Unfortunately, the countries that are most aggressive about censoring the Internet are also countries where it is difficult and expensive to host servers. I suspect that several commercial VPN providers’ claims of widespread server hosting are false: they are placing servers in countries where it is easy to do business, and then adding false entries to commonly-used geolocation databases. If whatsmyip and the like tell their users that the VPN server is in the right country, that’s good enough to make a sale…

I have run these measurements myself on many VPN servers, but I don’t know how accurate they are, and the accuracy varies depending on the true location. By visiting this page, running all the way through a measurement, and then telling me honestly where your computer really is, you provide me with data that I can use to calibrate the VPN measurements. Again, data from places other than Europe and North America is especially helpful: I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.

(7) CHARLES VESS. Coming this fall, an art book by the master — “Charles Vess Has An Original Art Edition of The Book of Ballads”.

From Neil Gaiman’s retelling of “The False Knight on the Road”, to Jeff Smith’s “The Galtee Farmer”, and Jane Yolen’s “King Henry” – Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads brought new visions of the classic folktales from the brightest New York Times bestsellers, award winners, and masters of science fiction and fantasy together with stunning art from Charles Vess. With this new The Boo of Ballads Art Edition, get ready to experience the stories anew!

Hits comic stores September 13, 2017 and bookstores on November 10, 2017.

(8) SQUEE DOWN UNDER Ryan K. Lindsay is an excited Aurealis Award winner.

(9) TODAY’S DAYS

Two choices for April 22 —

EARTH DAY

Earth Day Network

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

MARCH FOR SCIENCE

March for Science

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.

(10) MARCHER FOR SCIENCE. Given what a lot of you think about the Daily Mail, why wouldn’t most their coverage of the March for Science in London revolve around Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi? Except that you think it’s a good thing, don’t you. Fess up!

Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi joined physicists, astronomers and biologists at the March for Science as protesters paraded past London’s most celebrated research institutions.

Leading figures used the occasion to warn Britain’s impending divorce from the continent could compromise their work by stifling collaboration with overseas colleagues.

Organisers claimed 12,000 people joined the London event, as hundreds of similar protests took place around the globe, from Australia to the US.

Somebody needs to say it: What’s Doctor Who but a show that glorifies fake science and boasts a stunning lack of internal consistency? Yes, I love it, too, but let’s not get confused about what happens every episode….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 22, 1953 – Sci-fi horror movie Invaders From Mars was released on this date.
  • April 22, 1978 — The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • April 22, 1894:  Legendary film heavy Rondo Hatton is born in Hagerstown, MD. (Which makes me wonder, did he ever meet Harry Warner, Jr.?)

(13) SEE THE AUTHORS. Here are Ellen Datlow’s photos from the April 19’s Fantastic Readings at KGB with Laura Anne Gilman and Seth Dickinson.

(14) HEAR THE AUTHORS. At the next Fantastic Fiction at KGB on May 17, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present E.C. Myers and Sam J. Miller.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He has published four novels, and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, including Space & Time Magazine, Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Children, and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy, and YALSA selected The Silence of Six as one of its “Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” in 2016. His next book will be DoubleThink, a collection of stories related to The Silence of Six from and he continues to write for ReMade, a science fiction series from Serial Box Publishing.

And

Sam J. Miller’s short stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed, along with multiple “year’s best” anthologies. His debut novel The Art of Starving, forthcoming from HarperTeen, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, The Breaks, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. He graduated from the Clarion UCSD Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop in 2012. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.”

May 17th, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(15) GO AROUND AGAIN. The … individual … pushing circular runways backs up his ideas: “Circular runways: Engineer defends his proposal”

Last month we published a video arguing the case for circular runways at airports, as part of a series called World Hacks. It took off and went viral.

The video has had more than 36 million views on Facebook and generated heated debate on social media – including within the aviation community. Many people are sceptical about the concept.

So we decided to hand-pick some of the top concerns and put them straight to the man proposing the idea: Dutch engineer Henk Hesselink.

This is what he had to say….

Chip Hitchcock remarks, “I like how he casually dismisses increased landing speeds (ignoring their effects on tires) and doesn’t even discuss how difficult it would be to build several miles of surface with a uniform concavity or to refit several thousand airplanes with an autopilot sophisticated enough to handle such a landing — or how much harder aborting safely would be if the autopilot failed.”

(16) GET YOUR TISSUES READY. Nerdist has photos — “Little Jyn Erso Cosplayer Delivers Death Star Plans to Leia at STAR WARS Celebration”.

Harley and her dad made the data cards as a fun activity for the convention. Harley loves interacting with other people, and they thought this was a fitting tribute to their love of Star Wars and Fisher. As Harley ran into Leia cosplayers of all variety of ensemble, she handed over the Death Star plans. I don’t know how many Leia cosplayers were moved to tears by this act, but I’d wager it wasn’t a small number.

(17) KAMIKASSINI. Cassini sets up for final plunge: “Cassini probe heads towards Saturn ‘grand finale'”.

In the years that it has been studying the Saturnian system, the probe has flown by the haze-shrouded world on 126 occasions – each time getting a kick that bends it towards a new region of interest.

And on Saturday, Cassini pulled on the gravitational “elastic band” one last time, to shift from an orbit that grazes the outer edge of Saturn’s main ring system to a flight path that skims the inner edge and puts it less than 3,000km above the planet’s cloud tops.

The probe will make the first of these gap runs next Wednesday, repeating the dive every six and a half days through to its death plunge, scheduled to occur at about 10:45 GMT on 15 September.

The probe is scheduled for deliberate destruction to avoid any risk of it hitting and contaminating a Saturnian moon.

(18) APOLLO 13. Now there’s a documentary about “The unsung heroes who prevented the Apollo 13 disaster”.

Two days into what should have been a mission to the Moon, disaster struck Apollo 13. A new film explores the drama – and astronaut Jim Lovell recounts the incredible efforts to bring the crew back….

These tanks, in the spacecraft service module, were Liebergot’s responsibility. They held oxygen and hydrogen, which was converted to electricity and water in three fuel cells – powering the capsule and providing the astronauts with drinking water. The routine instruction to turn on stirring fans was to make sure the liquid in the fuel vessels was properly mixed, to ensure the gauges gave accurate readings.

Swigert flicks the switches for the fans. Two minutes later, there is a bang and the master alarm sounds.

On the ground, Liebergot is beginning the last hour of his eight-hour shift and is the first to see something has gone wrong. “The data went crazy, there was a lot of commotion in the room,” he says. “We didn’t know what we were seeing.”

That eight-hour shift would eventually end three days later.

“Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” Lovell tells mission control. “It looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are venting something out into space.”

Chip Hitchcock opines, “To go with a documentary about the rescue, which I can see starting another round of does-this-qualify-for-the-DP-Hugo — provided it gets enough attention. (Released 5 weeks ago, but I don’t recall it showing in Boston at all; did anyone else see it before it went to Amazon video?)

(19) BACK IN THE STEM. “Why Russia is so good at encouraging women into tech” — Chip Hitchcock introduces this with a lemony comment: “Makes an interesting contrast to the recent proposal to decriminalize wifebeating; I wonder whether their rightward political shift will affect this.”

According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.

Russian girls view Stem far more positively, with their interest starting earlier and lasting longer, says Julian Lambertin, managing director at KRC Research, the firm that oversaw the Microsoft interviews.

(20) PUB SIGN. Catching up on the news from 2011 — “Sizewell: Unique pub sign scoops top award” in the East Anglian Daily Times.

His unique creation features three variations on the vulcan theme – the Roman god, the delta-winged jet aircraft and the TV character Mr Spock.

Mr Fisk, who has been at the pub since 1997, decided to create a new sign after the old one was hit by a lorry around 18 months ago.

(21) HOLD EVERYTHING. In “Love in Public” on Vimeo, Noah Malone explains what happens to relationships when talking club sandwiches give gratuitous advice.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/2/17 Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Pixel Scroller.

(1) FREE AT LAST. It will be a historic moment when Baen Books releases volume 1 of The Best of Gordon R. Dickson on April 4, because the collection will include the never before published “Love Story,” written for Harlan Ellison’s legendary, but never published anthology, The Last Dangerous Visions. 

The Best of Gordon R. Dickson, Volume I, gathers together fourteen stories, predominantly from the first half of legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Gordon R. Dickson’s career, ranging from the early 1950s through the 1960s, including tales dragons, dolphins, aliens, werewolves, mutants and humans trying to make sense of an infinitely bewildering universe.

A maiden aunt is suddenly given superpowers. An alien who looks like a large, sentient rabbit makes ominous announcement which make no sense from behind an impenetrable force shield. Humans besieged by an alien enemy refuse, against all reason, to give up fighting. And much more, in stories running the gamut from exciting adventure to stark tragedy to hysterical comedy.

This is the first of two volumes.

 (2) THE VERDICT. This is from an advice column by “Judge John Hodgman” in the December 11 New York Times Magazine.

Phil asks:  “”My wife and I have agreed on a name for our future daughter, but we disagree on the spelling.  She wants ‘Mira”; I want ‘Meera.’ She prefers her spelling because she says it looks better.  I prefer ‘Meera’ as a tribute t George R.R. Martin and his character of the same name–and because the name cannot be mispronounced.’

John Hodgman:  “As a fan myself, I can appreciate your desire to name your daughter after Meera Reed, the trident-weilding heir to Greywater Watch.  But I think there are many traumatized Bilbos who will want a word with you first.  As it happens, ‘Meera’ is actually a real Hindi name here on Earth.  You can try to sell your wife on that.  But we all know what you’re really doing.  This court rules: Mira, a name meaning ‘wonderful,’and one that has never been misrpronounced.”

(3) INCOMING. Because Mount TBR is never high enough, allow me to refer you to The Verge’s list of “39 science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels to read this April”.

For example, coming April 11 –

Tender by Sofia Samatar

Sofia Samatar won widespread praise for her novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories. She’s now releasing her first collection of short fiction, Tender. The collection’s 20 stories include letters, supernatural beings, Middle Eastern fairy tales, and quite a bit more. The book has also since earned a coveted starred rating from Kirkus Reviews, which called the book “an impressive collection of stories that excite the imagination.”

(4) COOL STUFF. The Washington Post tells how “One of America’s foremost rare-book appraisers hangs on in the digital age”.

Stypeck is an impossible character, the kind of larger-than-life raconteur people say doesn’t exist inside the button-down Beltway. He’s the impresario of Second Story Books, one of the nation’s foremost appraisers of rare books and manuscripts, and a regular on “Chesapeake Collectibles” on Maryland Public Television.

Over his four-decade career, this “wanna see something cool?” gambit might have referred to an $11 million copy of John J. Audubon’s “Birds of America”; the mummified corpse of Gold Tooth Jimmy, a Detroit gangster; Henry Kissinger’s papers; dinosaur eggs; or a first edition of “The Great Gatsby,” complete with the telltale error “sick in tired,” on Page 205, which would let you know the book you’re holding is likely worth $100,000 or more.

(5) SCAM ALERT. Scholar Douglas A. Anderson adds to yesterday’s discussion of Routledge’s buck-a-page Tolkien book:

What you didn’t notice about this book is that it is supposed to be printed in a 50-copy edition.  This publisher did a similar critical set for James Joyce a couple of years ago.  Basically, they are out to soak money out of 50 large libraries.

Routledge announced this table of contents in December 2016.  I and several other Tolkien scholars were never contacted about the reprint rights of our works, and I checked with my publishers too, who told me they hadn’t been approached either.  I have told Routledge twice that I emphatically refuse permission to reprint my work (and I asked my publishers to refuse permission as well), and asked that my name and works be removed from their contents page.  So far, this has not happened.

As far as I can tell, this is an academic publishing scam of the worst type, and it should be called out for what it is.

(6) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian found a cartoon that combines references to sf and the impending tax return deadline at Frank and Ernest.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 2, 1513 — Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and claimed it for the King of Spain

A number of years ago, maybe a dozen, Ray Bradbury had just done an appearance at the Woodland Hills library branch.  Afterwards, we went across the street for dinner.  There were about a dozen of us, Ray’s entourage (including me) plus the library staff.  Ray sat at the head of the table, sipping wine, as the rest of us were sharing stories and laughing.

All of a sudden Ray turned to me and asked for a pen and paper.  He jotted down a few notes.  I, jokingly, asked Ray if he had just written a new story.  Sure enough a story had just came to him, fully formed.  Ponce de Leon came to the new world looking for the fountain of youth.  He discovers that the true fountain of youth is laughter.  The story came to him because of the rest of us sitting around and laughing

  • April 2, 1971 — The final episodes of Dark Shadows aired.

Dark Shadows’ Jonathan Frid

(8) TODAY’S BELATED BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 1, 1942 – Samuel R. Delany

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 2, 1914 – Alec Guiness – from The Man in the White Suit to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(10) MEDICAL AND OTHER EXPENSES. Atlanta fan Lewis Murphy, a long-time member of ASFS, needs help and has started a GoFundMe appeal to raise $5,000.

This is to defray costs of my medical treatments, transportation, and living expenses. I currently try to live on disabilty and a part-time job. I live alone. I am in congestive heart failure and require a replacement defib/pacemaker in the next month.

Though I can drive, my car broke down almost 2 years ago and the company responsible refused to honor the warranty. I had to sell the car and now rely on public transportation for everything, which is much more expensive than a cheap car.

People have donated $1,755 of the $5,000 target in the first five days.

(11) CRASH COMING. Tom Galloway predicts the Internet could go down on April 8 because San Diego Comic-Con,  New York Comic-Con, Gallifrey One (LA), and Blizzcon (Anaheim) tickets will go on sale that day.

(12) BUTLER TRIBUTE. The lineup of writers for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler has been announced. The collection of original letters and essays will be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017.

There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today.

Essays include original pieces about Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” and whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works. All of these original pieces show the place that Octavia Butler had, has, and will continue to have in the lives of modern writers, editors, critics and fans…. Luminescent Threads will also include reprints of articles that have appeared in various forums, like SF Studies, exploring different aspects of Butler’s work.

Here’s the lineup: Rasha Abdulhadi, Raffaella Baccolini, Moya Bailey, Steven Barnes, Michele Tracy Berger, Tara Betts, Lisa Bennett Bolekaja, Mary Elizabeth Burroughs, K Tempest Bradford, Cassandra Brennan, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Stephanie Burgis, Christopher Caldwell, Gerry Canavan, Joyce Chng, Indra Das, L Timmel Duchamp, Sophia Echavarria, Tuere TS Ganges, Stephen R Gold, Jewelle Gomez, Kate Gordon, Rebecca J Holden, Tiara Janté, Valjeanne Jeffers, Alex Jennings, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kathleen Kayembe, Hunter Liguore, Karen Lord, ZM Qu?nh, Asata Radcliffe, Aurelius Raines II, Cat Rambo, Nisi Shawl, Jeremy Sim, Amanda Emily Smith, Cat Sparks, Elizabeth Stephens, Rachel Swirsky, Bogi Takács, Sheree Renée Thomas, Jeffrey Allen Tucker, Brenda Tyrrell, Paul Weimer, Ben H Winters, K Ceres Wright, and Hoda Zaki.

(13) SLAUGHTERDOGHOUSE 451? That will not be the title of the book Doris V. Sutherland plans to write about Puppy history using her series of blog posts as the core.

A while back I contributed a series of articles to Women Write About Comics where I compared the stories nominated for the 2014 Hugo Awards with the stories on the 2015 Sad/Rabid Puppies slates; the total word count was around 40,000. I followed the articles up by reviewing the 2016 nominees, which took about 11,000 words.

I was surprised when I did the sums: had I really written that much? Had the combined word count of my Hugo reviews actually surpassed that of Slaughterhouse-FiveFahrenheit 451 and The Great Gatsby? As hard as it was to believe, it was true. I had written a book’s worth of material.

Which made the next stage obvious: rework my articles into a book!

… While my WWAC articles divided the stories by Hugo category, I want to try something more organic in Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers. Certain chapters will focus on the work of key authors, such as Larry Correia and John Scalzi, while others will cover genres and subgenres: military SF, horror fiction, space opera and so forth. My intention is to rework my WWAC posts from a pile of reviews into a set of cohesive essays that locate the stories within a more precise cultural context.

One of the topics that I would like to examine is how the Puppies have evolved from a pressure group focusing on the Hugos at the behest of an established author (that is, Larry Correia) to a brand that unites multiple authors, some of them newcomers who have made their names as Puppies. By joining the Puppy movement, new writers such as Declan Finn, Rawle Nyanzi and J. D. Cowan have benefited from a pre-existing readership eager to consume fiction written by an outspoken anti-SJW; whatever one makes of the ideology behind all this, it will be a potentially rewarding case study in regards to modern indie publishing. And so, I plan to include a chapter that looks at the world of Puppy publishing: Sci Phi Journal, Cirsova magazine, Superversive Press (publisher of the recent Forbidden Thoughts) and the concept of a “pulp revolution” championed by Jeffro Johnson.

(14) MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Bill Mullins points out that the 1980 NBC miniseries of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is available on YouTube, and can be binge-watched in its 4 hour 37 minute entirety at the link, or one episode at a time — Part I: The Expeditions; Part II: The Settlers; Part III: The Martians.

The miniseries starred Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowall, Fritz Weaver, Barry Morse and Maria Schell. It was adapted to the screen by Richard Matheson.

And the miniseries is currently under discussion on Metafilter.

(15) STEPHEN HAWKING’S NEW VOICE. From Comic Relief Originals:

Stephen Hawking has had the same trademark voice for 30 years and has now decided it’s time for a change. Watch him view the audition tapes from hopeful celebrities…

 

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

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.]