Pixel Scroll 4/12/18 But By God, Elliot, It Was A Pixel Scroll From Life!

(1) KINGFISHER. James Davis Nicoll turned the Young  People Read Old SFF panel loose on “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher.

Young People Read Old SFF has circled back to a modern work for the final time in the phase of the project. This time the modern author is Ursula Vernon, who also publishes as T. Kingfisher. To quote her Wikipedia entry,

Digger won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012 and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2013. She won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the WSFA Small Press Award for Jackalope Wives in 2015. Her story “The Tomato Thief” won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I’ve read a number of Vernon’s works but not, as it happens, any of those. I have read “Toad Words”, however, and it seemed an apt choice for a modern work given what the Young People have liked in the past. But I’ve been wrong before…

(2) DEADPOOL CHOW. Adweek describes how “Deadpool’s Newest Product Pitch Takes Us Inside His Dreams, Which Center on … Frozen Food?”

Brand partnerships with superhero movies are inevitable—let’s face it, most movies are superhero movies these days—but so many of them seem like an unnatural fit. Or a lazy one, at best. There’s a car chase in the movie? Let’s use that in a car commercial! Genius!

That might initially seem like the case with Deadpool’s Devour partnership. Why would Deadpool care about frozen food? Well, he doesn’t—and that’s what makes the new 30-second spot work.

 

(3) POTTER RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster watched “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” last night on the CW:

This was a BBC documentary tied to an exhibit that is currently at the British Library and will be coming to the New-York Historical Society this fall, although what I gather from the Pottermore website is that there will be two exhibits with some overlap between the British and American versions.

The special, narrated by Imelda Staunton, had several parts.  One was when actors from the movies (including Warwick Davis, Miriam Margoyles, and David Thewlis) read excerpts from the novels.  A second thread consisted of curators from the British Library showing off their magical treasures of books and stuff from their collections.  In addition, we saw some witches and eccentrics who had things to donate to the exhibit, including two gentlemen named Dusty Miller XIII and Dusty Miller XIV who said they had created 7,500 magic-filled wands from sticks they collected in the woods.  Finally, J.K. Rowling was extensively interviewed and got to look at a lot of the stuff the curators had unearhed.

Oh, and there was a lot of Harry Potter cosplay.

Rowling had done a lot of research in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as a seventeenth-century herbal written by the great botanist Nicholas Culpeper.  She said that she invented everything to do with wands.  She also named two sources that inspired her.  One was C.S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and if there are references to portals and libraries in that book those are the parts she found inspiring.  A second source came from an illustration Rowling made in1990 of Professor Sprout.  Rowling said that that night she was watching The Man Who Would Be King, a film with many Masonic symbols.  A simplified version of one masonic symbol was the source for the three-part symbol that denotes the Deathly Hallows in the novels.

Finally Rowling said, “I tied to steer clear of hallucinogenic drugs in Hogwarts.”  So if you’re writing fan fiction where Harry and the gang settle in for good times with some mushrooms, you should know that such scenes are NOT canonical.

(4) AUSTRALIAN CON SURVEY. Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor and Galactic Suburbia cohost Alisa Krasnostein tweeted

If you’ve attended an SF con or event in Australia in the last 5 years, please consider taking this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCGQB82

…The purpose of this survey is to investigate the degree of harassment being experienced at our SF conventions and events.

(5) WOTF. Vajra Chandrasekera discourages participation in the Writers of the Future Contest. His thread starts here —

(6) NEW PERSPECTIVES. Bogi Takacs has started writing a column for Tor.com about “QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics”.

…In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion.

…On the other hand, I also don’t want to pigeonhole QUILTBAG+ writers and only show interest in their work if it is about their specific marginalization. I want to see minority writers write whatever they want. If they (we) want to write about cephalopods in space, I am all for that! Therefore I opted to include work either by QUILTBAG+ authors (where this is known) or with QUILTBAG+ themes. Often these two coincide, but not necessarily so.

A specific difficulty is whether to include people with non-Western, culturally specific gender, sex or sexuality IDs. Often these people also use at least some Western terms to self-identify, but sometimes they don’t—especially Indigenous people. If someone has expressed a desire not to be included in Western terms, both umbrella or specific terms, I will of course respect that. But in the absence of explicitly opting out, and also if the authors use Western terms, I decided on the side of inclusion. One of my motivations in this is somewhat self-serving: I also have a culturally specific gender / sex (though I am not Indigenous, specifically) and I am interested in other people who do too!

I aim to discuss a new book every two weeks. I will begin next week with The Gilda Stories, the queer Black / Indigenous vampire classic by Jewelle Gomez, and then follow with The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, possibly the first SFF novel by an intersex author—which also draws a parallel between being intersex and sharing a mind with a giant whale.

(7) TRUTHINESS. Hear about “’That High Truth’: Lewis, Williams, Chesterton, and Ray Bradbury,” in this video of a lecture given at the Wade Center by Jonathan R. Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on April 9, 2018.

(8) PROGRAM IDEA. Amal El-Mohtar has a fresh angle for a panel discussion. Start the thread here:

(9) BECKETT OBIT. Alex Beckett (1982-2018): Welsh actor, death announced April 12, aged 35. His genre appearances include Spark Ark (2014), and The Aliens (two episodes, 2016).

(10) HEAR STAN LEE’S DENIAL. Io9 reports “In a New Video, Stan Lee Threatens to Sue Anyone Reporting on Claims of Alleged Elder Abuse”.

The Marvel mainstay came down with pneumonia in February and so his frequent convention appearances were understandably cut back. During this time, multiple reports emerged detailing how hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literal blood, were allegedly stolen from him. In a video sent to TMZ this week that’s copyrighted to Keya Morgan (Lee’s handler, who is currently in control of all of his communications), Lee says he’s prepared to take legal action against any and all media outlets that have reported on the claims that he’s being taken advantage of:

“Hi this is Stan Lee and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now, you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others. Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off when I get a chance.

You have been accusing me and my friends of doing things that are so unrealistic and unbelievable that I don’t know what to say. It’s as though you suddenly have a personal vendetta against me and against the people I work with. Well I want you to know I’m going to spend every penny I have to put a stop to this and to make you sorry that you’ve suddenly gone on a one man campaign against somebody with no proof, no evidence, no anything but you’ve decided that people were mistreating me and therefore you are going to publish those articles.

I’m going to get the best and most expensive lawyers I can and I want you to know if you don’t stop these articles and publish retractions, I am going to sue your ass off.”

The subject video was reportedly sent to TMZ and is marked on their website as being copyrighted by Keya Morgan. The linked TMZ article is headlined: “STAN LEE DENIES ELDER ABUSE … Leave Me and My Friends Alone!!!” This copy is on YouTube, though who knows for how long?

(11) HUGOS AT ECBATAN. Rich Horton check off another nominated book in “Hugo Ballot Review: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee”.

The novel is interesting reading throughout, with plenty of action (and some pretty cool battle scenes), some rather ghastly (in a good sense) comic bits, and lots of pain and angst. There is a continuing revelation of just how awful the Hexarchate is, with the only defense offered even by its supporters being “anything else would be worse”. There is genocide, lots of murders, lots of collateral damage. The resolution is well-planned and integral to the nature of this universe, with a good twist or two to boot. It’s a good strong novel that I enjoyed a lot.

(12) SERVICE TO SFF. Congratulations to 2018 Chandler Award winner Edwina Harvey! The award recognizes members of the Australian speculative fiction community, both professionals and fans.

Edwina Harvey is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

She was one of the founding members of Astrex, the Star Trek fan club of NSW, and regularly contributed fiction to the associated fanzine Beyond Antares as well as other SF fanzines from the mid 1970s onwards. She was also an active member of The Hitchers Club of Australia (Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fanclub) from approximately 1984 onwards contributing to the newsletter Australian Playbeing through articles and comments and assisting with the copying and distribution of some issues of the newsletter.  Known locally as the Fund Raising Queens, Edwina has worked with Karen Auhl on organising fundraiser events for Medtrek 4, Huttcon 90 and two Sydney Worldcon bids. (Late 1980s – mid 1990s)  Edwina has been a contributing member of FOLCC (the Friends of Linda Cox Chan) which was an informal group donating monies raised to Diabetes Charities in Australia.  Linda Cox Chan was a Sydney-based SF fan artist and writer who passed away in 1991. From 2012 to the present time, Edwina has also run a lucky-dip at Australian SF conventions to raise money for FFANZ.

(13) EUROVISION IN SPACE. Learn about the author’s new novel Space Opera at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente”.

My agent refers to it as the fastest deal in publishing. It was done and I was committed before I could catch a breath. As I was signing the contract, my fiance asked: “Does it really just say ‘Eurovision in space’? Do you actually have any idea how you’re gonna pull that off?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “And no, I don’t.”

And I didn’t. Part of me was terrified. How the hell do you even begin to write that? I mean, you can’t play it straight. It’s too absurd. It’s obviously a comedy. Ah, but if you try to write science fiction comedy, the ghost of Douglas Adams appears and asks you with a stern expression if that’s really necessary. And even if it was a comedy, the core of Eurovision is that political darkness and artistic light. You can’t play it totally camp, either. And given the politics all around me, I wasn’t sure I was actually up to singing it out just this minute. What had I agreed to?

But the deadline approached. And I sat down at a blank screen. I laughed nervously.

And then I stopped trying to worry about whether I could do this thing at all and wrote some shit about Enrico Fermi and I was off, and off at breakneck speed.

(14) I’M HOME! Glen Weldon creates a mythic dialogue. Jump on the thread here:

(15) DIRECT FROM INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Here is Amazon Prime’s trailer advertising new episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. [Via io9.]

The world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a comedy about two goofball friends who end up in harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. As their silly ambitions dovetail with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, they are set on a collision course with his notorious super spies Boris and Natasha.

 

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Errolwi, James Davis Nicoll, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWwombat.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/18 The Opera Of The Menacing Phantom Tollbooth

(1) BUCKS TO PRESERVE BRADBURYANA. At BradburyMedia, Phil Nichols reports “Center for Bradbury Studies receives major grant”.

Congratulations to my friends and colleagues at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies who were today awarded $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The grant is for the preservation of the Center’s extensive collection of Bradbury papers and memorabilia – materials which have been invaluable in my research, and will continue to be of interest to Bradbury scholars in the future. The project lead is Prof Jonathan R. Eller, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound.

And Nichols was amused that the NEH press release mentioned Bradbury and Mae West in the same paragraph:

Additional awards will ensure the preservation of nearly 30,000 pounds of correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia from author Ray Bradbury, and support production of a documentary on the life and legacy of Mae West, one of the most powerful women of early Hollywood, whose writing and film roles served as a barometer ofrapidly changing social mores in 20th-century America.

(2) SIMPSONS RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster had his eye on The Simpsons last night:

Homer and Bart went to a “Tunnelcraft” convention, which was portrayed to be the most boring con ever.  It took up most of a giant convention center, with a few number of dealers and quite a lot of walking.  The high point for Bart was watching two Tunnelcraft players who were very popular on YouTube on a panel.playing each other.  But they presented the panel as if it was just two random dudes playing video games.

This was the first time I had heard “cosplay” used as a word on The Simpsons, and cosplayers in Tunnelcraft looked like the old-school rock’em sock’em robots.  One of the cosplayers was Daniel Radcliffe, who said the only way he could go to a con was hiding under a robot head.  He took off his robot head and was promptly mobbed by fans.  Daniel Radlciffe played himself.

This excerpt is from another part of the episode.

(3) PKD’S REVELATION. In his podcast Imaginary Worlds, Eric Molinsky interviews Penn State professor Richard Doyle, Erik Davis, one of the editors of the “Exegesis,” and Victoria Stewart, who wrote the play 800 Words: The Transformation of Philip K. Dick in order to find out why Dick was obsessed with the mystical experience that happened to him in 1974 and why his work resonates with us today

(4) 1963 SFF. Galactic Journey reviews the latest IF: “[April 9, 1963] IFfy… (May 1963 IF Science Fiction)”

Every month, science fiction stories come out in little digest-sized magazines.  It used to be that this was pretty much the only way one got their SF fix, and in the early ’50s, there were some forty magazines jostling for newsstand space.  Nowadays, SF is increasingly sold in book form, and the numbers of the digests have been much reduced.  This is, in many ways, for the good.  There just wasn’t enough quality to fill over three dozen monthly publications.

That said, though there are now fewer than ten regular SF mags, editors still can find it challenging to fill them all with the good stuff.  Editor Fred Pohl, who helms three magazines, has this problem in a big way.  He saves the exceptional stories and known authors (and the high per word rates) for his flagship digest, Galaxy, and also for his newest endeavor, Worlds of Tomorrow.  That leaves IF the straggler, filled with new authors and experimental works.

Sometimes it succeeds.  Other times, like this month, it is clear that the little sister in Pohl’s family of digests got the short end of the stick.  There’s nothing stellar in this book, but some real clunkers, as you’ll see.  I earned my pay (such as it is) this month!

(5) FASHION PLATE. Miriam Weinberg on Hugo Ceremony attire —

See the outfit under discussion in a photo here.

(6) CHARTIER OBIT. Christopher Chartier (1966-2018), founder of Warp 9, a media oriented fan club in Montreal, died April 5. Cathy Palmer-Lister notified local fans, adding: “He ran a couple of conventions, and got many of us involved in the concom. He also got me travelling to Chicago for Visions, still in my memory as the best conventions ever. It’s a shock that he passed away so young, only 52.”

(7) TOO. Junot Diaz’ #MeToo confession, “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma”, is online at The New Yorker.

I never got any help, any kind of therapy. I never told anyone.

Last week I returned to Amherst. It’s been years since I was there, the time we met. I was hoping that you’d show up again; I even looked for you, but you didn’t appear. I remember you proudly repped N.Y.C. during the few minutes we spoke, so I suspect you’d moved back or maybe you were busy or you didn’t know I was in town. I have a distinct memory of you in the signing line, saying nothing to anyone, intense. I assumed you were going to ask me to read a manuscript or help you find an agent, but instead you asked me about the sexual abuse alluded to in my books. You asked, quietly, if it had happened to me.

You caught me completely by surprise.

I wish I had told you the truth then, but I was too scared in those days to say anything. Too scared, too committed to my mask. I responded with some evasive bullshit. And that was it. I signed your books. You thought I was going to say something, and when I didn’t you looked disappointed. But more than that you looked abandoned. I could have said anything but instead I turned to the next person in line and smiled….

(8) THE EXPANSE. Abigail Nussbaum, in her column for the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with “A Political History of the Future: The Expanse”, assures readers: “I don’t hate The Expanse.

For two-plus years, I’ve watched this celebration of the show with bemusement. I don’t hate The Expanse, and I’ll probably keep watching it for as long as it’s on. But I also find it singularly un-engaging—surprisingly so, given how well-calibrated its premise and genre are to my interests. I would describe The Expanse as a show with great casting and production values, amazing worldbuilding, a so-so story, and characters who are, with a few notable exceptions, dull as ditchwater. In its second season in particular I’ve been extremely frustrated by where the show has placed its storytelling emphasis, and the political blindspots that has ended up revealing.

(9) MONSTER SMASH. From February 2017 – Hugo Finalist Emil Ferris, on how My Favorite Thing Is Monsters came to be in “The Bite That Changed My Life”. Following this intro, it’s all done as a comic.

Writer and illustrator Emil Ferris has always had an affinity for stories about outsiders. Growing up in Uptown in the 1960s, Ferris was part of a diverse community of people who she says “operated outside the system.” Her neighbors included black migrants who traveled north during the Great Migration, white Appalachian miners living in abject poverty, and thousands of Native Americans who left their reservations in the wake of relocation programs. “There was an incredible beauty,” says Ferris. “These were people who suffered, but were strong. They were survivors.”

One reason Ferris was drawn to those on the fringe was because she herself was a loner. Born with scoliosis, Ferris was immobile for much of her childhood. “I was also severely hunchbacked, which is why I loved monsters,” says Ferris, who also characterizes her younger self as very wolf-like. “I had this vision of this little wolf girl, enfolding in the arms of this tall handsome cut-apart Frankenstein character.”

Ferris uses those early experiences as a loose backdrop in her stunning debut graphic novel, My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

(10) ON EXHIBIT NOW. Print Magazine covers an “American Illustration and Comic Art Exhibit”, running from April 7 til May 20.

In the early part of the twentieth century, illustration came into its own. Simultaneously over on the newsprint pages of national newspapers, comic strips did as well. These were joined later in the decade by art for both pulp magazines and comic books. This golden age of editorial illustration and cartooning is currently on display in the exhibit “American Illustration & Comic Art” at the Sordoni Gallery, Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, PA.

The Gallery’s website describes the exhibit: “Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art”.

The exhibition features 135 original artworks by more than 100 artists—N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Schoonover, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, George Herriman, Harold Foster, Jack Cole, Milton Caniff, Norman Saunders, Harold Gray, Al Hirschfeld, Al Capp, Walt Kelly, Charles Schulz and many others. Wilkes Barre native son Ham Fisher, creator of Joe Palooka, is represented as well. While focusing on the golden age of illustration, contemporary artists, such as Anita Kunz, C.F. Payne, Bob Eckstein, Thomas J. Fluharty, Mike  Lynch and Paul Davis, also have their place in the exhibit.

In that century it would have been rare to see work for the slicks (the upper tire of magazine publishing, such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker) to be seen as equal to that printed on newsprint (the pulps and comics). There once was a pecking order within editorial illustration (slicks over pulps) and in cartooning (single panel over strips, strips over comic books), but times have changed. This all-inclusive exhibition includes work that appeared on magazine covers and interiors, advertisements, book jackets, album covers, daily and Sunday comic strips, cartoons, movie cels and comic books.

It all comes from the private collection of Andrew Sordoni III, whose mother helped found the gallery in 1973. The gallery was renovated last year and now sports 7,000 square feet of exhibition space. The show is up through May 20 and admission is free. It is accompanied by a 185-page catalog with myriad essays, including those by comic book artist and filmmaker Jim Steranko, David Saunders (Norman’s son) and New Yorker and National Lampoon cartoonist Sam Gross.

(11) JUSTICE LEAGUE PERFECTED. Just in case you wondered – “How Justice League Should Have Ended.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll

(1) WHEN TROLLS ATTACK. The London Film and Comic Con told readers how they responded to a trolling attack.

Now to an important activity that really did affect us last week and it did catch us out for a few hours until we worked out what was going down.

Two days before the most recent big announcement, 15 new accounts were created on our forum and equally, multiple new Facebook members with brand new accounts started following our Facebook page. Then, on the announcement night, the users of these accounts started to aggressively and negatively comment and undermine the guest announcement. This was the ONLY thing they were set up to achieve.

This was not noticed by us at first and it took some time to look into these Facebook accounts. As we started to look a little closer, it was clear that we’d attracted a small vocal minority with a real and cynical agenda to purely undermine the guest announcement and belittle any fans or attendees showing any type of excitement.

I’ve since learnt this is known as ‘TrollJacking’, where internet trolls post or comment on a piece of content or an announcement to drum up negativity or just to damage the purpose of the thread. What a lovely thing to do.

This is something very new to us and it really did catch us out, in fact so much so we left the comments up online – as we believe in freedom of speech and opinion and there’s always the odd bit of negativity with every update or announcement.

To all the true fans out there, regardless of whether you are happy about the announcement or not – I am sorry that we did not pick up on it sooner and allowed this minority to cause friction at a time that should have been a time for great excitement and discussion for everyone….

This announcement on Facebook about the appearance of Christopher Eccleston seems to have been the target.

(2) CORALINE MEANING. The Guardian interviews Gaiman about the opera based on his book: “Neil Gaiman on Coraline the terrifying opera: ‘Being brave means being scared'”.

The button eyes are a macabre touch that places Gaiman’s story firmly in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales tradition. And there’s more than a touch of Hansel and Gretel in Coraline’s themes of parental abandonment, an initially appealing but evil mother figure, and a brave child who conquers her fears to win the day. “I’d wanted to write a story for my daughters,” says Gaiman in the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition, “that told them something I wished I’d known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

(3) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And The Guardian comments on the performance: “Coraline review – creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s tale will turn kids on to opera”.

The Royal Opera have certainly done it proud. The supernatural rubs shoulders with the mundane in Aletta Collins’s production, in which the two worlds are placed back to back as mirror images on a revolving stage. Magic consultants Richard Wiseman and David Britland have been drafted in to provide the special effects, which drew gasps from the audience on occasion on opening night, though Collins also has a knack of suggesting unease by the simplest of means. The scene in which Kitty Whately’s Other Mother produces syringes and surgical needles in an attempt to sew buttons over the eyes of Mary Bevan’s Coraline (“just a little incision under your eyelids”) had me squirming in my seat.

(4) DUFF. SF Site News covered the Down Under Fan Fund result:

Marlee Jane Ward won DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) in an unopposed race. She will travel to the US to attend Worldcon 76, to be held in San Jose from August 16-20….

(5) ALPHABET SOUP. James Davis Nicoll returns with: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IV”. This time letter letters I and J, which include –

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was prolific and talented, which makes singling out a particular work as a starting point especially problematic. The fact she’s the subject of one of my review projects doesn’t help, as it only expands the number of worthy candidates. Although it is a bit of a cheat, what I would recommend is not a single novel but an omnibus: 2003’s The Dalemark Quartet. It is composed of four early secondary-world fantasy novels that recount the history of troubled Dalemark, from its age of legends to a quasi-medieval period thousands of years later.

(6) MLK. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, here is N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to CNN’s post “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to us, 50 years later?”

N.K. Jemisin: I pray it won’t take another 50 years

In 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. sat in solitary confinement in Birmingham, he lamented the failures of white moderates, who at the time seemed to prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It must have seemed clear to King that even white people who claim to support equality are unreliable allies — willing to talk the talk and walk a few steps, but only if their own anxieties are put first.

Which is why the civil rights movement made what progress it did by effectively shaming white moderates into doing the right thing. This makes me wonder what America is to do in 2018, when our society daily endures a shameless embarrassment of a President, abetted by his shameless party and the shameless media — and when, too often, some white liberals and moderates openly wonder if there’s some way to ease tension between themselves and … fascists.

I have no solutions to offer, other than to survive and to try and help as many others survive as possible. It saddens me that we’ve progressed so little in the 50 years since King’s death. I pray it won’t take another 50 years for all of us to know the presence of justice at last.

N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction. In 2016, she became the first black to win the Hugo Award for best novel for “The Fifth Season.” In 2017, she won Hugo for best novel again, for “The Obelisk Gate.”

(7) EXPANSE. The next Expanse novel will be out in December – Tiamat’s Wrath.

(8) THEY’LL BE BACK. The Hollywood Reporter brings word: “‘Riverdale,’ ‘Flash,’ ‘Supernatural’ Among 10 CW Renewals”.

The CW, fresh off news that it is expanding to a sixth night of originals for the 2018-19 broadcast season, has renewed nearly its entire lineup.

Returning for additional seasons are: Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl and Supernatural.

Still to be determined are the fates of midseason fare The 100, iZombie and Life Sentence and fall debut Valor. Official decisions on those four — as well as The CW’s new series orders — will be determined in May.

(9) FIGURING IT OUT. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds both style and substance in “‘Legion,’ Season 2: Welcome Back To The Weirdest Corner Of The Marvel Universe”.

Legion is the story of David Haller (a perpetually rumpled and vaguely confused Dan Stevens), the world’s most powerful mutant, who’s now free of the evil psychic parasite known only as the Shadow King, who last season assumed the form of his friend Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. David’s grown up believing himself to be schizophrenic, but came to realize his true nature when he was taken in by an organization seeking to train him — and to fight the Shadow King, who is in fact an ancient being known as Amahl Farouk (played, this season, by Navid Negahban).

(10) BEWARE SPOILERS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me, “Since you are having more troubles with computers I offer a show recap” —

Last night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow began with a scene captioned ‘OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE–1979,”  The camera zooms in on the back of an African-American student’s head.  The student, suing an Olympia manual typewriter, dutifully types, “Obama.Political Science 100.”  We know that this scence is about Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college.  Obama looks out the window and sees a campus in springtime.

As the future president is typing, the window is smashed and a giant paw GRABS the president and holds him high in the air!  It is Grodd the gorilla, and he’s on a mission.

‘IT’S TIME TO MAKE AMERICA GRODD AGAIN!,” the beast thunders,

Fortuntately the Legends of Tomorrow show up and Grodd drops Obama, who runs off.  The Legends then blast the beast with flamethrowers, then shrink him and throw him in a Mason jar.  The future president then decides to party with the Legends on their time ship.  He holds out a hand to one of the women, saying, “Hi, my name is Barry.”  “You should call yourself ‘Barack,’ ” she responds.  Another woman swoons, “I miss you, Barry!”

I wish I could tell you how Obama gets back to California and somehow doesn’t remember how he was nearly killed by a giant talking ape and then partied with some time lords.  But this is the first of a two-part episode, so we will learn these answers next week

(11) SKYE STOMPERS. Why are the : “Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important'”? They date to the Middle Jurassic, for which there’s relatively little data.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods – which stood up to 2m (6.5ft) tall – and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers’ Point – Rubha nam Brathairean – a headland on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape but the scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

(12) SMUGGLE BY WIRE. TeleCrunch reports “Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border”:

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think.

China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest.

Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long.

…So here’s what you do:

Send the drone over once with all cable attached. Confederates on the other side attach the cable to a fixed point, say 10 or 15 feet off the ground. Drone flies back unraveling the cable, and lands some distance onto the Hong Kong side. Smugglers attach a package of 10 phones to the cable with a carabiner, and the drone flies straight up. When the cable reaches a certain tension, the package slides down the cable, clearing the fence. The drone descends, and you repeat.

I’ve created a highly professional diagram to illustrate this technique (feel free to reuse):

(13) READ BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has some new work available — “A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera”.

I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

(14) BLOOM. The singer of “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” continues her TV career as someone who is late.

Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame will be heading over to another CW show when she guest stars on an upcoming episode of iZombie.

Bloom will be portraying a “pretentious theater actor” whose death is investigated by iZombie’s Liv (Rose McIver) and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), TV Line reported.

(15) GOING GREEN. The 2019 Worldcon committee wishes to apprise you of the availability of the “Finest Public Toilet in Dublin”. Or “Where All the Big Lads Hang Out…” as the post’s author Pádraig Ó Méalóid says:

It’s the middle of August 2019, and you’re in Dublin for Worldcon – a Stranger, if not in a Strange Land, at least in a strange city. A strange city with many secrets, which sometimes only the locals truly know about. You’ve heard all about our native literary giants – George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien, to name but three – but even they were only human, prey to the wants and needs that mortal flesh is heir to. It’s only natural that you’ll want to know where they would have gone, and where you could go, too. So let me introduce you to one of the hidden architectural gems of my native city: the beautiful public toilets in the National Library of Ireland….

(16) GOING PINK. You could win this outfit and fight cancer —

Enter to win Deadpool’s Pink Suit and Send a Big F-You to Cancer at https://fox.co/DeadpoolPinkSuitYT Learn more about Fuck Cancer at https://LetsFCancer.com

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/18 But A Scroll Files What It Wants To File And Pixelates The Rest

(1) SCROLLO. Four genuine Solo posters appeared in this space recently. I learned from Nerdist there have been a lot of Solo parodies, like these —

(2) WHAT, ME WORRY? In December, the Scroll linked to Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach’s query about whether robots will kill us all once AI becomes smarter than people. The Bookmark has responded with “Artificial Intelligence: Today’s Intrigue. Tomorrow’s Terminator”, which tells each AI’s Terminator Score, and how close each AI is to bringing about the end of the world.

“How might AI fit into our lives?” Our chart explains advancements in AI ranging from novelty to utility. You can click on any of the AI to learn more about how humans benefit from their existence. And, use our Terminator score (with 1 being the least threatening and 5 being the most) to help decide if you should worry about a robot uprising with each AI.

(3) LEVAR AND LANGFORD. Congratulations to David Langford, whose short story “Different Kinds of Darkness” is on Episode 19 of LeVar Burton Reads.

A group of children form a secret society around a mysterious and powerful artifact….

(4) SURPRISED BESTSTELLER. This scam involving fake books is a means of laundering money (not to gull regular readers into buying fake books as if they came from their favorite author) — “Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon?”

Patrick Reames had no idea why Amazon.com sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish….

…Reames said he suspects someone has been buying the book using stolen credit and/or debit cards, and pocketing the 60 percent that Amazon gives to authors. At $555 a pop, it would only take approximately 70 sales over three months to rack up the earnings that Amazon said he made.

(5) KUGALI. One of several crowdsourced projects hoping to ride the Black Panther’s wave is “The Kugali Anthology”, featuring African and diaspora creators.

200 full colour pages.  15 incredibly talented creators, 6 amazing stories and two wonderfully designed covers. But above all: a comic book experience you won’t find anywhere else!

From multiple award-winners to the brightest up-and-coming voices, Kugali has united some of the most talented artists across the African continent and diaspora. Our creators hail from across Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda) and other parts of the world (Venezuela, Brazil, Jamaica, the US and the UK)….

So far backers have pledged $2,890 of the $13,596 goal, with 28 days remaining.

(6) OTHERING. Dare Segun Falowo has a lot of interesting things to say about the villains from Black Panther.

….A lot of people are like he was right ideologically and I get where they are coming from. Still he wouldn’t have ended up being morally right because his repressed disdain for his place in the world has left him ill. He would have kept on drinking more and more of that sense of complete and utter power and it would have ruined him. He even had the purple plant destroyed because he wanted it for himself alone.

So he basically had actions that marked him out as obviously villainous but behind all these actions are factors like being abandoned as a child, being excluded by his blood. Think of it, how African Americans and certain Africans don’t get along because these Africans believe that African Americans are not African blah blah blah. It really hits a spot and the way the character is crafted, down to the jagged family ties, brings together a lot of the facets of what is seemingly wrong with the idea of the African-American both from the Western viewpoint, and from the African viewpoint. He stands in the middle. He’s othered actually. He’s an other in the story. Even though he has the accent and all, he belongs nowhere….

(7) SOCIOLOGY AT THE BOX OFFICE. According to NPR, a “Hollywood Diversity Study Finds ‘Mixed Bag’ When It Comes To Representation”.

The global box office success of Black Panther is no surprise to UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt. His annual report on Hollywood diversity argues that movies and TV shows with diverse casts and creators pay off for the industry’s bottom line.

Hunt says Black Panther, for example, “smashed all of the Hollywood myths that you can’t have a black lead, that you can’t have a predominantly black cast and [have] the film do well. It’s an example of what can be done if the industry is true to the nature of the market. But it’s too early to tell if Black Panther will change business practices or it’s an outlier. We argue it demonstrates what’s possible beyond standard Hollywood practices.”

The fifth annual diversity report is subtitled, “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audience prefers diverse film and television content. The study reports that people of color bought the majority of movie tickets for the five of the top 10 films in 2016, and television shows with diverse casts did well in both ratings and social media.

(8) MELNIKER OBIT. Benjamin Melniker, best known as a producer on Warner Bros.’ many Batman projects, has died at the age of 104.

Melniker was credited on every big-screen version of the DC superhero since Tim Burton’s 1989 film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found genre laughs in the Wizard of Id – I laughed too!

(10) DEEPSOUTHCON. At last weekend’s DeepSouthCon business meeting, CONtraflow (New Orleans) won its bid to host DSC in 2020.

(11) ANNIHILATION. The BBC’s Caryn James awards “Four Stars for the thrilling Annihilation.

… The further the team explores, the more we see of each character’s particular vulnerability. Cass is grieving for a dead child. Anya is a sober addict. In flashback we learn that Lena’s marriage was not as perfect as it seemed at the start. “Almost none of us commit suicide,” Ventress says about the team’s apparent suicide mission, extending it to a sweeping assessment of human nature. “Almost all of us self-destruct.”

Garland playfully borrows from classic genre films and makes those references and influences his own. There are scenes that evoke 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien and any number of Terrence Malick films. The minimalist, electronic score by Geoff Barrow (of the group Portishead) and Ben Salisbury adds a subtle layer of mystery….

(12) YOUTUBER MIGRATES TO TUBE WITH NEW SFF COMEDY. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han asks “Is ‘Final Space’ the Next Great Animated Series?”

Even if the name Olan Rogers doesn’t ring a bell, if you’ve spent any time on the internet over the past few years, you’ve probably seen his face. His YouTube channel has close to a million subscribers, and his videos are popular to the point that they’ve been mined for reaction images and GIFs. His latest project is considerably larger in scale, though it still bears the signs, good and bad, of that more short-form medium.

Final Space, airing on TBS and executive produced by Conan O’Brien, is an animated sci-fi comedy. Like most TV shows, it falls prey to the rule of “give it a few episodes and then it’ll get good,” but it’s charmingly animated and bite-sized to boot (each episode clocks in at just over 20 minutes), so it’s worth sitting through the shaky opening episodes to get to what lies beyond.

(13) NO MORE HAPPY FEET? French scientists report that king penguin breeding grounds will become untenable due to global warming: “Scientists Predict King Penguins Face Major Threats Due To Climate Change” (Of course, you all know Happy Feet is about emperor penguins rather than king penguins, so apologies if the headline struck you as a shocking error….)

Seventy percent of the world’s king penguin population could face threats to its habitat by the end of this century, according to a new scientific model.

The researchers say the problem is that the animals’ primary source of food is moving farther away from places where the penguins can breed. They’re very likely going to have to swim farther for their dinner.

“This is really surprising to us, to find such a massive change is going to happen in such a short time frame,” says Emiliano Trucchi, a researcher in evolutionary genetics from the University of Ferrara. The team’s research, co-led by Céline Le Bohec of the Université de Strasbourg, was published Monday in Nature Climate Change.

Trucchi tells NPR that king penguins breed only on islands that are ice-free near Antarctica, and there are “just a handful” of those.

BBC also has a story.

(14) KEEP DANCING. Maxwell Smart would be proud: hands-free emergency signaling via shoe radios: “Morse code shoes send toe tapping texts at MWC 2018”.

A pair of smart shoes has been created to let industrial workers keep in touch via toe-typed coded messages.

The footwear was inspired by Morse code, but made possible by the latest communication technologies.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones meets the firm responsible at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

(15) TODAY’S OUTRAGE. Io9 was not exactly surprised to find an argument on the internet getting out of hand, one that seemed to have lost track of an obvious fact: “We’re Sorry to Have to Remind You, But Groot Is Dead”.

Groot is dead. Long live Baby Groot!

Die-hard Guardians of the Galaxy fans are known for having watched and rewatched the James Gunn films multiple times in search of the hard-to-find Easter eggs the filmmaker scattered throughout the movie. That’s what makes it so odd that these fans seem to have forgotten something rather important about our dear friend Groot. He’s dead.

Gunn recently got into a heated philosophical debate with Entertainment Tonight producer Ash Crossan about whether it would be better to save the life of a single porg (from Star Wars: The Last Jedi) or Groot if forced to choose in a hypothetical situation. Crossnan argued in favor of the porg and Gunn understandably went to bat for Groot, pointing out that the sentient plant had a direct hand in saving the universe.

(16) LUCIFER EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster decided to save me from my bad wi-fi by writing a recap instead of sending a link. Thanks, Martin!

I watched Lucifer last night.  I haven’t seen the show in a while, but it now has a credit (which it didn’t used to have) acknowledging that the comic book on which it is based was created by Neil Gaiman and two other people.  This was the first time I saw that Gaiman had anything to do with this show.

The plot was about a popular YA author who wrote the Class of 3001 series, in which she fictionalized characters from her high school years.  But she put her high school antics in the future, and as one detective said, “She did have to come up with that futuristic sci-fi fantasy stuff.  That’s not easy.”  The author died because she wrote her novels on a typewriter, and there was only one copy.  The killer pummeled the author with her typewriter, and ultimately confessed that he did it because “she ended the series in the most boring way possible” and didn’t want anyone to read her ending.

Also, in the show a clueless nerd fails to impress a blind date by giving her a plant that was “the traditional Mexican cure for constipation.”

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

The Skin of Our Teeth: A Review

By Martin Morse Wooster: Name this play:  It’s probably one of the greatest fantasy plays ever written.  It’s one of the few outright fantasies to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  The likelihood you’ve seen this play is vanishingly small.

The answer is Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, which won the Pulitzer in 1943.  As far as I can tell from IMDB, the last time anyone tried to film it was an Australian Broadcasting production in 1959.  But it’s a play that is undoubtedly fantasy.  It isn’t staged much, in part because plays from the 1940s don’t get revived very often, but more likely because the play has about 35 speaking parts, and few theaters these days can pay such a large cast.  However, it was revived on Broadway last year, and the Constellation Theatre Company has revived it with a cast of thirteen and a lot of doubling.  I was very happy to have seen it.

Wilder (1897-1975) wrote that he decided to write The Skin of Our Teeth in part as a reaction to the “well-made” plays of the previous generation. “Towards the end of the ‘twenties, I felt far less pleasure in going to the theater,” Wilder wrote in 1956.  “I ceased to believe in the stories I saw presented there.”  He said that in the plays he saw he couldn’t feel “overwhelmed by an artistic creation.”

So The Skin of Our Teeth has a lot of what used to be called “breaking the fourth wall” and we call “snark.”  There’s one seduction scene, for example, where the actress who is supposed to play it suddenly announces she can’t because it would upset a friend in the audience who has undergone trauma.  A second scene in the third act isn’t performed because we are told that seven members of the cast have all gotten ptomaine poisoning from bad lemon meringue pie.

I thought these were ironic commentaries by today’s theatres on an antique text, but I dutifully read the script and these interruptions are in it.  In fact, I thought Mary Hall Surface’s direction was reasonably straightforward with minimal updating, although of course The Skin of Our Teeth is now a historical play set in the 1940s.

It’s also, like T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, very much an apocalyptic fantasy that is the product of when it was written—just before World War II.  Wilder said The Skin of Our Teeth “was written on the eve of our entrance into the war and under strong emotion and I think it mostly comes alive under conditions of crisis.”  He added that he was moved seeing productions in Germany in the late 1940s, “in the shattered churches and beerhalls that were serving as theaters,” where people would choose to skip meals to buy theatre tickets.

As for the plot:  We begin in the comfy home of Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus at 216 Cedar Street, Excelsior, New Jersey.  It seems like we’re in one of those dramas where characters take the 5:56 to Chappaqua every evening except that the Antrobus family is really five thousand years old, and a giant ice sheet is coming down from Canada.  Oh, and the refugees pounding their door asking for food are really Moses, the Muses, and other mythical characters.  And the Antrobus’s have a mammoth they milk and a pet dinosaur named Frederick.

It turns out there are more environmental disasters in this play than in three Kim Stanley Robinson novels.  The second act has the characters in Atlantic City, where Mr. Antrobus is about to win an award for being a superior human.  But then he has to face a titanic flood.  The third act has the Antrobuses surviving a major war in the U.S. that pits Mr. Antrobus’s son (who could be the Biblical Cain) against his father.

I’m not sure that this play works today.  It’s a different flavor than the sort of plays I enjoy.  But I respect Wilder’s intelligence and imagination, and I was very glad to have seen this play.  The Skin of Our Teeth is a classic that fantasy lovers need to have seen.

I thought the cast was fine, with Steven Carpenter as Mr. Antrobus and Tonya Beckman as Sabina giving the best performances.  But the standout to me were the costumes of Frank Labovitz, who both provided some ridiculous dresses for Atlantic City patrons and also created the dinosaur and mammoth costumes.  The mammoth looked like a walking throw rug, and was charming.

The Constellation Theatre Company deserves credit for reviving an important—and neglected—fantasy.

Jonathan Coulton Musical Revue

By Martin Morse Wooster: Flying V Theatre is a Washington-based company that specializes in productions with sf-related themes.  I’ve seen four or five of their productions, and they all have sf elements in them.  What I remember is one about the Mario Bros. video game that was fun if weird and one about pirates that would have been a rollicking two-hour show except that it was three hours.  I think they pride themselves on being Millennials but this Baby Boomer has enjoyed what they’ve done in the past.

I haven’t heard from Flying V in a while, but they are now at the Black Box Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland for the month of February, with “It’s The Rest Of The World That Looks So Small:  A Theatrical Revue of Jonathan Coulton”, which was conceived and directed by Jason Schlafstein and Vaughn Irving, with music by Steve Przybyski and Jon Jon Johnson.

You know about “theatrical revues,” those evenings where singers belt out 20 songs by Sondheim or Kander and Ebb? Well, Flying V’s production was like that—except it was for geeks!

I confess I had not heard of Jonathan Coulton or “JoCo” until now.  But I now know from his website http://www.jonathancoulton.com that he was born in 1970, was graduated from Yale in 1993, and was a member of the Whiffenpoofs (you know, like Cole Porter!).  He worked in software until 2005 when he quit to become a full time songwriter/performer.  In 2013 one of his songs was swiped by Glee and his battle with the TV show was dramatized on The Good Wife.

Where he intersects with fandom is the annual JoCo Cruise, which is scheduled to be held later this month on a Royal Caribbean ship.  A brochure on the cruise’s website for an earlier version promised customers “absolute dominion over an entire cruise ship filled with free food, fruity drinks, and swimming pools.”  Who wouldn’t want that?  They say they’re a cross between a music festival and a con, but what this reminds me of was the failed 1988 Worldcon bid for the cruise ship.  They’ve held this cruise five times, and the guests this year whose names I recognize include N.K. Jemisin, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, John Hodgman, Mark Frauenfelder, and Wil Wheaton.

Coulton says he writes “geek rock,” and he has geeky fans:  one video I saw on YouTube had some heckler, after he said he was going to perform his last song, responded, “There’s always the null set!”  Flying V performed his songs with an orchestra of four and a cast of about six, of whom four were on stage at any time.

Songwriting is theatre for the mind, and mundane theatrical revues work because the music works for talented singers who don’t need stage tricks to convey the point of the song.  What Flying V did was try to turn the songs into actual theatre.  This was a mistake.

For example, one of Coulton’s more famous songs is “Code Monkey,” which is his tribute to his days coding.  The song was not improved by having one actor wearing a rubber gorilla head while singing. “I’m Your Moon” is Charon’s consolation to Pluto after Pluto couldn’t be a planet any more.  Having a cardboard moon confused the point of the song, which I didn’t fully get until I went to YouTube. “Skullcrusher Mountain” was not enhanced by having two singers in trench coats.

As for the guy singing “Mr. Fancy Pants,” his pants were certainly fancy.  Yes, they were.  That’s all I’ll say.

Jonathan Coulton is a talented guy.  I’m sure I’d enjoy his concert, particularly with fruity drinks.  I’m sure other people could sing his songs, just as I’m sure he sings works by other songwriters.  I bet the JoCo Cruise is a lot of fun.

But all the props and choreography drowned Coulton’s songs in treacle. Flying V should realize that the point of a theatrical revue is to showcase the songs.  Minimalism should be the order of the day and the cast should work to show the audience how special the songs are.  This means resisting the temptation to run up and down a two-story stage, and having far too many costume changes.  And I’m sorry to spoil Flying V’s fun, but for this production they should have left their zap guns at home.

I’m grateful to Flying V for introducing me to Jonathan Coulton’s songs, but It’s The Rest Of The World That Looks So Small doesn’t work.

Review of “The Dog Must Die”

By Martin Morse Wooster: How do you judge an sf play by an 18-year-old?

That’s the problem I had when I saw The Dog Must Die, a play by Madison Middleton, a high school senior from Washington, DC.  Her play was produced by The Highwood Theatre, a semi-professional troupe.  The theatre is located in a nondescript office building in Silver Spring, Maryland with sf roots; one floor below, the office directory told me, was the Planet of Accounting.

When I was in high school Scott Edelstein (not Scott Edelman, but someone else) was famous for, at age 16, selling a short story to Swank, a magazine he could not legally buy.  The equivalent transgression today is that in Middleton’s play, there are many adult beverages being consumed.

The Dog Must Die is set in 2033.  The planet is ravaged by ecological disaster.  Savage fires and floods have pulverized the earth, and the government has selected a few people to live in a bunker for a year to survive the environmental apocalypse. Produce has largely vanished, and Thanksgiving turkeys have been replaced by mystery meat.

Good times!

The five people all have different skills.  We meet a doctor, an architect, a high school philosophy teacher, an agricultural specialist, and a guy who spends most of his time on a couch moaning for reasons that are not quite clear.  Backstory scenes show the philosophy teacher in a park playing chess and (less convincingly) the doctor stressed after a patient dies in her office.

But the agricultural specialist has a dog, who has muck on her feet.  She explains that the government has given her protective gear and a dog, so she can plant seeds and the dog can smell where the best soil might be located.  But why does she get to go out when everyone else has to stay in the bunker?  With all the cast members racked with cabin fever, anything could happen….

The problem with The Dog Must Die is one of world building.  We know that enough of the world’s infrastructure has survived that the head of “the International Union of World Governments” can broadcast globally.  Why can’t the characters access the Internet?  Why can’t they spend their days watching Khan Academy videos or binging on TV? Why don’t they have any books?

Moreover, what I saw in the play didn’t convince me that people had to stay in the bunker for all that time.  Middleton told me after the show that the world she created had been nuked, but that information came from the scene where the global leader broadcast, and I could hear very little of the speech, even from the front row.  I told her she should study John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up, that magnificently gloomy novel of ecological disaster, and study how he shows how his world is collapsing.

I can’t judge The Dog Must Die the way I would analyze a play by a professional.  But if I were a college admissions counselor at a highly competitive school, I would be very impressed by Middleton’s talent.  I hope she ends up at a school with an excellent drama department that has professors that make her write a lot.  If that happens, she could be someone that, in 2030, is recognized as a rising talent in the theatre.

Pixel Scroll 1/21/18 Right Here In File City, Trouble With A Capital T, That Rhymes With P, And Stands For Pixel

(1) COMPOSING SPACE OPERA. In this Twitter thread Cat Rambo captured the highlights of the Ann Leckie Space Opera class.

(2) WORLDCON 76 ACADEMIC TRACK ADDS PRIZE. The Heinlein Society’s Board of Directors has authorized a $250 cash prize to be awarded to the “Best Paper Presented at the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention’s Academic Track.”  President Keith Kato says “The final evaluation process is under discussion, but will likely involve a judging panel.”

The concom has extended the deadline for Academic Track papers to March 1 as a result.  This prize is not the William H. Patterson, Jr., Prize which is evaluated annually by the Society for the best Heinlein-related academic paper in a particular calendar year.

In addition, The Heinlein Society will be teaming with the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation for Academic Track papers, and possibly other con activities.

(3) HOW CAN THEY EVER RESPECT US AGAIN? She blabs a trade secret to The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood: ‘I am not a prophet. Science fiction is really about now’”.

“I’m not a prophet,” she says. “Let’s get rid of that idea right now. Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now. What else could it be about? There is no future. There are many possibilities, but we do not know which one we are going to have.” She is, however, “sorry to have been so right”. But, with her high forehead and electric halo of curls, there is something otherworldly about Atwood. Dressed in one of her trademark jewel-coloured scarfs and a necklace of tiny skulls, she cuts a striking figure outside the cafe in Piccadilly where we are huddled.

(4) OUTSIDE SFWA. Vox Day’s post “SFWA rejects Jon Del Arroz” [at the Internet Archive], in which the expelled member condemns and reviles the organization’s decision to refuse admittance to JDA, publishes what is represented to be the text of SFWA’s notification to JDA.

(5) DILLMAN OBIT. Actor Bradford Dillman died January 16 at the age of 87. Some of his better-known roles included Robert Redford’s best friend in 1973’s The Way We Were, and two appearances in Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movies.

His genre work included TV shows like The Wild, Wild West; Mission: Impossible; Thriller; Wonder Woman; The Incredible Hulk; and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the movie Escape From The Planet Of The Apes he was the kind Dr. Dixon who helps Cornelius and Zira evade capture. He also starred in Bug, and appeared in Swarm, and Pirhana.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian didn’t look to see if this was really in the Old Testament, he just laughed: Bizarro.
  • Chip Hitchcock has his eye on the same cartoon series. He noted that this Bizarro shows new job opportunities, and another Bizarro tells us that even ~gods apprentice:

(7) DREAM HOME. In a hole in the ground there stayed a tourist — “Calling all ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans! You can spend the night in a real-life hobbit hole”.

Wolfe relied on the construction know-how she’d picked up from her parents — her mother remodeled houses when Wolfe was a child — and brought in a backhoe to clear the land. Wolfe needed to ensure the hobbit hole could hold the foot of dirt she planned to place on the roof, so she used marine-grade, pressure-treated wood.

“Any time you put dirt on top of a house, when that dirt gets wet, it’s basically having a swimming pool on top of your house,” she added. “It’s a lot of weight.”

Up next: an entrance fit for a hobbit. Wolfe wanted a signature round entryway, which she created using an industrial-sized cable spool. She enlisted a local designer to craft the hinges and the opening to the 288-square-foot space. He repurposed a trailer hitch to build the door handle.

When guests enter through the circular portal, they immediately stand in the bedroom. To the right is a fireplace, which helps heat the home in the winter, along with a woodworker’s bench. To the left is the bathroom, complete with a large wooden tub…

 

(8) WHO OWNS WHAT? THIRD BASE! At Plagiarism Today, they take on “The Strange Copyright of Doctor Who”.

Exterminate… Exterminate the copyright!

….It’s a bizarre show, even for science fiction. However, a recent news story highlighted an even stranger part of the series.

Shortly after the airing of the 2017 Christmas Special, which marked the end of Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor and introduced Jodie Whittaker, the series first female Doctor, a copyright controversy arose.

According to The Mirror, the estate of Marvyn Haisman, the creator of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, took issue with the episode introducing a new character that turned out to be Lethbridge-Stewart’s grandfather. Lethbridge-Stewart is popular character from the series that they hold the rights to.

Though later reports have downplayed the dispute, the story raised an interesting question: Why was one of the series’ most popular characters not controlled by the BBC, which produces the show?

It turns out though that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is far from alone in his bizarre copyright status. Many of the show’s iconic characters are controlled, at least in part, by outside entities. The list includes both the robotic dog K9 and even The Daleks themselves.

How did this happen? The answer is both complicated and simple at the same time but it all centers around how the series was written during its early years.

(9) WE INTERRUPT THIS MAELSTROM. Here is the kind of thing people discuss on days when the news cycle isn’t spinning like mad. Or if they need a break on a day when it is.

(10) MOONDUST AND SAND. Andy Weir was the subject of a podcast with Tyler Cowen (“Conversations With Tyler.”) Martin Morse Wooster says, “I’m sure it’s good because Cowen is a good interviewer.”

Martin adds: I learned about this by listening to Cowen’s podcast with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, which has quite a lot of sf content.  Douthat explained that he wanted to be a fantasy novelist, but settled for being an opinion journalist.  He talks about how Watership Down is his favorite fantasy novel, and about ten minutes of the hour and a half podcast is devoted to a discussion of Dune with an emphasis on the Butlerian Jihad.  The interview revealed that, along with Paul Krugman, there are two New York Times columnists who know a great deal about sf.” — Ross Douthat on Narrative and Religion (Ep. 32).

[Thanks to JJ, Keith Kato, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Christian Brunschen, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/17 The Night They Scrolled Old Pixel Down

(1) A HATCHLING. The Book Smugglers conduct “A Chat With Ann Leckie” about Provenance.

The Book Smugglers: Yeah, and there’s scope for that, there’s so many different worlds and so many different things and the set-up is already there, so…

Ann Leckie: I put in the glass bridges in Nilt, which you may have noticed. And this is not a spoiler per se but an easter egg – There’s a moment in Ancillary Justice when Breq says the tourists come to Nilt and they buy these rugs that they think are handmade by the nomads, but in fact they’re made in a factory and they’re overpriced in the giftshops. So there’s a moment in Provenance, where Ingray meets Zat, and Zat says that she went to Nilt, and she saved up extra to buy this wonderful handmade rug, that was in beautiful colors, that was made by the nomads on Nilt, and that’s a couple of people who got advanced copies. I got a direct message from one person like “Ohh she got cheated!” [laughs] I’m like that’s – that’s just a little tiny easter egg!

(2) CATCH THE NEXT WAVE. The evidence is piling up: “Scientists record a fourth set of gravitational waves”.

Last year, researchers confirmed the existence of gravitational waves with two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. Shortly thereafter, they detected twoadditional gravitational wave-causing events that sent ripples through the universe. Well, we can now add a fourth to that list, as astronomers announced another set of waves. And for the first time, they observed the waves with a third detector — the Italy-based Virgo.

(3) CODICIL. Good luck to Delilah S. Dawson on her surgery:

(4) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESS. The Unbounders has announced that Farah Mendelsohn’s Heinlein book has funded.

(5) KEEP ON PITCHING. Francis Hamit reminds everyone about this appeal for books for s North Carolina school.

Here is a worthy cause: Hoke County High School has put out an online appeal for books; almost any books, for their school library. Hoke County, North Carolina, is a poor rural community where times have been hard and there has been no money for school library books since 2009. The appeal was specific, for writers to donate copies of their own books but we all have a pile of review or other books that have been consumed and can now be repurposed. (Time to attack the clutter people!). We put together three boxes of these yesterday. If you look at the Facebook page for Hoke County High School you will see that they encourage enlistments in the US military, so that’s another reason to donate books. Can’t stand to part with your hoard? Send money so they can buy books they really need.

Here is the address:

Hoke County High School
c/o Rebecca Sasala
505 Bethal Road
Raeford, NC 28376.

(6) NOWHERE NEAR REMULAC. ScreenAnarchy shares a French import: “MISSIONS: Watch This Exclusive Clip For French Sci-fi Series Coming to Shudder”.

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium thriller, suspense and horror streaming service, will launch the first season of Missions, France’s critically praised OCS Signature sci-fi series, on September 28, 2017 across its territories. Shudder will also co-produce the second season, slated to air in 2018.

With the funding of an eccentric billionaire, the crew of a manned craft aims to be the first to land on Mars. Much to the dismay of all on board however, just before the culmination of their 10-month journey to the Red Planet, they are made aware of a video sent by a rival ship that has overtaken them and already landed on the planet thanks to a revolutionary engine. The bad news doesn’t end there however, as the tape contains a cryptic warning from the Americans pleading with the crew not to land as something far too dangerous is happening on the surface. After a chaotic landing on Mars, the crew finds a survivor — but he’s not from their rival mission. His name is Vladimir Komarov. He is Russian. And he is the first man who died in space…in 1967.

 

(7) THIRTY-EIGHT STORIES HATH SEPTEMBER: Jason, of Featured Futures, is back with the “Summation of Online Fiction: September 2017” with its list of recommended stories and honorable mentions.

With Compelling off, Apex doing a lot of reprints, and Tor.com worryingly publishing a single story, September would have been an extremely light month, but a double issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the return of a lost zine helped compensate, resulting in thirty-seven stories of 149K words (plus one I skipped). Regardless, it was a very light month in terms of the proportion of the good stuff (though there was plenty of readable stuff). I’m not sure what happened beyond it being one of those freaky streaky webzine things. Speaking of, the returning lost zine is Terraform.

Ralan.com declared it defunct a few months ago and, after waiting awhile to “make sure,” I declared it dead on April 27th and stopped looking at it. Recently, I happened to take another look and, naturally, they’d published another story on April 29th. But, other than excerpts, interviews, graphic stuff, etc., they did quit producing anything after that until August 24th. Since then, they have managed to publish a story coupled with an article every seven or eight days (two in August and three in September though, to keep the irony ironing, they don’t seem to be doing anything but another excerpt this week). So perhaps they’re back. Only one story was at all noteworthy but, since I gave Terraform‘s death an explicit notice, I feel like I ought to do the same for its rebirth. Now, on with the very short (or “little”) list…

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 28, 1951 — The original The Day The Earth Stood Still was released on this day.

(9) STAND-UP COMIC. As Vox Day prepares to launch his Alt*Hero comics line, he’s running the customary anti-SJW setups to fire up his customers. His mockery of Jack Kirby predictably upset people in the comics field.

I’ve been a little taken aback by the sheer vituperation of the SJWs triggered by the mere existence of the Alt*Hero concept, at least at this very early stage. And, I confess, I have been more than a little surprised by their apparent confusion between the late Marvel/DC artist Jack Kirby and the superheroes that he drew.>

Some responses — I think a bunch of comics type only just found out that he exists. They are not especially impressed…

(10) RETRENCHMENT. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports some shrinkage in the convention calendar.

Dayton, OH based Time Lord Expo has officially been called off just two weeks before the con’s scheduled date. Convention organizer Patrick Baumgardner took to the con’s official Facebook page and announced the cancellation earlier today…

In a press release yesterday, Wizard World announced that they were “postponing” five of their remaining seven 2017 shows. While their Austin and Oklahoma City shows will still take place as scheduled, their events in Biloxi, Peoria, Springfield, Montgomery, and Winston-Salem won’t be taking place this year.

Now a normal person would refer to these events as “cancelled,” but I guess saying they’re “postponed” reads better from a PR perspective.

Considering the financial difficulties Wizard World has had over the last few years, it’s hard to be all that surprised…

(11) GHOST WRITER. Twain’s long gone, so NPR talked to his self-appointed co-authors: “A Modern Collaboration With Mark Twain In ‘Prince Oleomargarine'”.

This week Mark Twain has a new book out.

Yes, we know. He’s been dead for more than a century, but that hasn’t stopped him — or more accurately, his collaborators — from publishing a children’s book, called The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. It’s based on 16 pages of notes, handwritten by Twain and discovered in an archive, in Berkeley, Calif.

Philip and Erin Stead took it from there; the Caldecott Award-winning author-illustrator duo picked up Twain’s trail and finished the story.

“It was never entirely clear to us if there was never an ending, or if Twain just never got around to writing it down,” Philip Stead says. “That said, we had to make a book, so we had to provide an ending to the story.”

(12) NOT BINDING. Margaret H. Willison of NPR discusses “In ‘Dear Fahrenheit 451,’ Loving Books Both Wisely And Well”

The truest testament to the quality of Dear Fahrenheit 451, Annie Spence’s ingratiating collection of love letters and breakup notes to the books in her life, is that my enjoyment of it was, in the end, great enough to outweigh my fury that someone other than me had written it.

It’s lucky that she manages this feat, as anyone who loves books well enough to enjoy reading Spence’s letters is likely to relate so closely to her thoughts that they’ll struggle with that same sense of resentful ownership — particularly librarians. “What are you doing,” they will think, “writing out my life like it’s your own, Annie Spence? Who do you think you are? What makes you special?” Thankfully, Spence’s voice is ultimately so warm, funny, and specific that it answers the question handily — she’s special because she has a unique ability to capture the thoughts and feelings of book lovers, both professional and otherwise, on the page.

(13) THESE ARE THE JOKES, FOLKS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me: “I know Filers spend too much time staring at screens and need to go outside and soak up some crisp fall air.  Why not go to a corn maze?  In The Plains, Virginia, you can go to Pirates of the Corn-ibbean.’”

The website is http://cornmazeintheplains.com. Here’s a review of this year’s theme:

The giant 5 Acre maze with the theme “Pirates of the Corn-ibbean”, has a pirate’s flag, parrot, and a chest full of treasure.  The cornfield comes alive when it is filled with maze goers who enter the 2.5 miles of “cornfusing” pathways. They soon find themselves facing countless choices, while attempting to answer the trivia clues en route to the elusive victory bridge. Whether it is during the night or day, each maze wanderer is armed with a survival guide and flag on a mission to collect puzzle pieces of the maze design and test their trivia skills to help them find their way out.  If one gets “udderly cornfused”, they can always wave their teams flag frantically, to signal the “corn cop” to come to their rescue.

Last’s year’s maze looked like this:

Martin adds, “I know in the UK the word for ‘corn’ is maize.  So do they have maize mazes over there?

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