Hot Serial:  NYRSF Readings Series Presents an Evening with Serial Box Authors

L to R: Joel Derfner, Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Matthew Cody, Lindsay Smith, Ellen Kushner, Amy Goldschlager.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the spring evening of Tuesday, May 2, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event, showcased Serial Box, a publisher of serialized fiction in text and audio delivered in weekly episodes; it currently runs five ongoing series. In this innovative – or perhaps retrograde – publishing platform, as with television, the serials are collaboratively written by author teams. Representing four of the serials, and reading from their projects, were authors Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Matthew Cody, and Joel Derfner. (Ellen Kushner participated in the events, though did not read.) The stories were as diverse as the “writers rooms,” touching upon Urban Fantasy, Mannerpunk, Magical Espionage, and Young Adult Science Fiction.

Welcoming the audience to the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons in transit-accessible Brooklyn, executive curator Jim Freund, host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, shared the sad news of the death of Ama Patterson, who had been an integral part of Andrea Hairston’s performance at the Series. He thanked members of his own team, hinted at a possible special event later in the month, and announced that the 26th Season would likely close on Tuesday, June 6 with readings by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly. He then turned the stage over to the evening’s guest host/guest curator (and curator emerita) Amy Goldschlager.

Amy Goldschlager, an editor, proofreader and book/audiobook reviewer, related that serialized fiction began in the 19th century (notably with Dickens), and shared worlds with Thieves World and Wild Cards; Serial Box, she saw as “a wonderful confluence of it all.” With that, she introduced the first reader of the night, Joel Derfner, representing the Mannerpunk Tremontaine.

Joel Derfner

Joel Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead, and Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family. (Indeed, he does live, “alas, in Brooklyn, along with his husband and their small, fluffy dog.” He never did explain that “alas,” however.) His selection, from the prequel to – set 15 years before – Swordspoint, and preceding the writing of On the Causes of Nature (which figures in that novel), was characterized by Goldschlager as a “delightfully snarky bit of foreshadowing,” and contained many double entendres – intentional and not – about sausages. (His sex scenes, he said, were too long.)

Lindsay Smith

Next to read was Lindsay Smith, who offered a scene from the “urban fantasy Cold War thriller” (Goldschlager) The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. There are, Smith explained, two factions of witches, the Fire and the Ice (so “the Cold” is not just the Cold War), fighting a war (here in 1970s Prague) alongside the one with American, British and Soviet spies.

Matthew Cody

Like Smith, Matthew Cody is a YA author; his published works include the award-winning Powerless and the Supers of Noble’s Green series, the Robin Hood re-imagining Will in Scarlet, and his current series The Secrets of the Pied Piper. His Serial Box series, ReMade, is about resurrected teens who are kidnapped and sent to the future; the action takes place in the future and in flashbacks (the present), and the scene that he chose was one of the latter. The boy, Holden (yes, named after you-know-who), who played a fairy (the only boy one) with no lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, nervously offers a ride to the cast party to its star (Titania), which does not end as he might have hoped.

During the intermission, a raffle drawing was held for donors in the audience, and two won a season of the Serial Box serial of their choice.

Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone, co-creator of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and creator of Bookburners, describes himself as having “been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drunk almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat.” He is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards­, Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Last First Snow., and the forthcoming Ruin of Angels (which doesn’t have a number in the title!). Bookburners is, he explained, a “supernatural procedural” about secret agents from the Vatican who pursue demons and black magic. For his reading, he offered the audience a choice between the first season and a preview of the third, which is launching in June, and the latter won out (the vote was not “rigged”). (What happened in Belfast?)

Back on stage, Goldschlager said that she and Freund had asserted that there can’t be a NYRSF Readings season without a reading by Michael Swanwick, and he writes for Serial Box. Swanwick has written nine novels – the latest of which is Chasing the Phoenix – 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions, and has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He returned us to The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, prefacing his reading by noting that, as if there aren’t already too many characters in it, he had brought in two more, the Russian general Bitovsky and the Norwegian Magnus. (They must be spies – they’re meeting in “a spy bar.”)

There was a recess as the stage was reset with all of the readers – joined by Kushner – for an interview by Goldschlager. She opened by asking about the process of collaboration, which Gladstone called “a Frankenstein process.” There are a lot of story breakdowns. (As on tv, the editor/publisher equivalent is a “showrunner.”) Smith said that Witch is “more puzzle-piecey,” with people gravitating toward their own characters. Derfner disagreed, and jokingly called her a liar. There are a lot of personal meetings over Tremontaine. Gladstone noted his writers retreats. What struck him, said Swanwick, was how many times a story goes through the editorial process, somewhere between six and 123 (he cited a debate over whether it’s duct tape or duck tape – as in a film or tv show, there has to be consistency, or continuity). There is a “house voice.” Derfner said that he liked “having structure, and not having to make things up.” In Season 1, he said, he had trouble getting Diane’s (the Duchess Tremontaine) voice right and asked Kushner to revise him. She said that she was doing Joel doing herself; the process was “metaphysical” (I offered the word). They had to invent a new way of doing a narrative.

Cody said with his background in theater (he holds a Master’s Degree in Theater, with a focus on Shakespeare), he enjoyed the collaborative process. People would fight for their idea, but only up to a point. Alluding to ReMade, Goldschlager noted that we figure things out (that they’re in the future) before the characters do, and wondered about how “genre-savvy” the readers are, particularly in YA. Whatever the genre, replied Cody, soap opera is the “underpinning” of YA. Finally, she asked Gladstone if The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and Bookburners take place in the same universe. “Stay tuned,” he intoned, providing a perfect conclusion to the interviews.

In the Q&A that followed, an audience member asked how they select people to be “in their zone.” Gladstone looks for writers “who are going to jump on and run with it” and had a “willingness to speak the same language.” Kushner said that she had it easier, had the advantage of everyone being a Swordspoint fan, knowing and loving the Riverside books, and knowing that they can “play well with others.” The writers, she continued, “have to be flexible, open to their ideas being changed.” There are gay men in the story, and so she has “an actual gay man” writing episodes. His theatrical background also helps. (Derfner has, as his biography states, composed the score to musicals that “have played in New York, London, and various cities in between [going counterclockwise].”) Her Tremontaine team, she observed, was “queer or writers of color, or both.”

The next questioner asked if the long form was easier to play with than a shorter form. Gladstone said that it made it easier to “compartmentalize.” Smith said that they have to create an “atmosphere;” she can tell which writer wrote which episode, yet the story unifies and flows. The final questioner asked about how much work goes into the “Series Bible” (again, a tv term). Cody said that it gave “everyone a level playing field,” but, as Gladstone agreed, it changed quickly and almost immediately as everyone gave input.

The customary Jenna Felice Freebie Table returned and there were copies of Tremontaine offered for sale. The audience, which approached 70, included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ “official photographer”), Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (the House Manager and a Nebula Award nominee), John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Terence Taylor (Tech Director), Paul Witcover, and Serial Box co-founders Molly Barton and Julian Yap. Throughout the course of the evening and afterward, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s fare.

Big Year For Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone

By Carl Slaughter: Ruin of Angels, the sixth novel in the Craft Sequence series, by Tor author and Campbell winner Max Gladstone, is scheduled for September 2.

The collected Bookburners series, created by Gladstone and co-written with Mur Lafferty among others, came out in January 2017.

The collected The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, co-created by Gladstone and co-written by Michael Swanwick among others, will be out in June 2017.

THREE PARTS DEAD

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts — and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which lawyers ride lightning bolts, souls are currency, and cities are powered by the remains of fallen gods, Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence introduces readers to a modern fantasy landscape and an epic struggle to build a just society.

TWO SERPENTS RISE

In Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc?casual gambler and professional risk manager?to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, Crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father?the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists?has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire…and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

FULL FATHOM FIVE

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods?perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World.

When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured?then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability.

But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear?which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.

LAST FIRST SNOW

Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation-especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace-or failing that, to save as many people as they can.

FOUR ROADS CROSS

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back–and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm–and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

RUIN OF ANGELS

The God Wars destroyed the city of Alikand. Now, a century and a half and a great many construction contracts later, Agdel Lex rises in its place. Dead deities litter the surrounding desert, streets shift when people aren’t looking, a squidlike tower dominates the skyline, and the foreign Iskari Rectification Authority keeps strict order in this once-independent city?while treasure seekers, criminals, combat librarians, nightmare artists, angels, demons, dispossessed knights, grad students, and other fools gather in its ever-changing alleys, hungry for the next big score.

Priestess/investment banker Kai Pohala (last seen in Full Fathom Five) hits town to corner Agdel Lex’s burgeoning nightmare startup scene, and to visit her estranged sister Lei. But Kai finds Lei desperate at the center of a shadowy, and rapidly unravelling, business deal. When Lei ends up on the run, wanted for a crime she most definitely committed, Kai races to track her sister down before the Authority finds her first.

But Lei has her own plans, involving her ex-girlfriend, a daring heist into the god-haunted desert, and, perhaps, freedom for an occupied city. Because Alikand might not be completely dead?and some people want to finish the job.

Chronological Order of the Craft Sequence series:

  • Last First Snow
  • Two Serpents Rise
  • Three Parts Dead
  • Four Roads Cross
  • Full Fathom Five
  • Ruin of Angels

BOOKBURNERS

The critically acclaimed urban fantasy about a secret team of agents that hunts down dangerous books containing deadly magic—previously released serially online by Serial Box, now available in print for the first time!

Magic is real, and hungry. It’s trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, and only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. She joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad—Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum—and together they stand between humanity and the magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in a fast-paced, kickass character driven novel chock-full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, written collaboratively by a team of some of the best writers working in fantasy.

THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD

The Cold War rages in back rooms and dark alleys of 1970s Prague as spies and sorcerers battle for home and country. The fate of the East and the West hangs in the balance right along the Iron Curtain—and crackling beneath the surface is a vein of magic that is waiting to be tapped.

Pixel Scroll 4/7/17 The Pixel Out of Scrolls (by M.G. Filecraft)

(1) LOOK OUT BELOW. To avoid the chance that the Cassini probe might crash into and contaminate a moon of Saturn, NASA plans to crash it into the planet.

“Cassini’s own discoveries were its demise,” said Earl Maize, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who manages the Cassini mission.

Maize was referring to a warm, saltwater ocean that Cassini found hiding beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, a large moon of Saturn that spews water into space. NASA’s probe flew through these curtain-like jets of vapor and ice in October 2015, “tasted” the material, and indirectly discovered the subsurface ocean’s composition — and it’s one that may support alien life.

“We cannot risk an inadvertent contact with that pristine body,” Maize said. “Cassini has got to be put safely away. And since we wanted to stay at Saturn, the only choice was to destroy it in some controlled fashion.”

(2) ON THE AIR. Hear Hugo nominees Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone on Ottawa radio program All in a Day.

(3) MUSICAL HUGOS. Pitchfork makes its case for “Why clipping.’s Hugo Nomination Matters for Music in Science Fiction”.

Earlier this week, Splendor & Misery—the sophomore album by experimental L.A. rap group clipping.—was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The Hugo is the highest prize in science fiction/fantasy, granted annually to the genres’ best literature, cinema, television, comics, and visual art. But the awards have never been particularly receptive to music. The last time a musical album was recognized by the Hugos was 1971, when Paul Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire was nominated. The Jefferson Airplane guitarist’s solo debut grandly envisioned a countercultural exodus to outer space, helping set the stage for many more sci-fi concept albums to come, starting with prog-rock’s explosion.

The storyline that winds through Splendor & Misery is just as political as Kantner’s. Set in a dystopian future, the LP revolves around a mutineer among a starship’s slave population, who falls in love with the ship’s computer. This Afrofuturist narrative, as rapped by Daveed Diggs, is matched by a dissonant yet sympathetic soundscape from producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes—one that evokes the isolation and complicated passion of the premise. Visually, this arc is represented in Hutson’s cover art: a spaceman with his pressure suit in tatters, revealing bare feet. “It’s a reference to how runaway slaves have been depicted in the U.S. in newspaper announcements and paintings like Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series,” Hutson says.

Diggs is no stranger to awards, having snagged both a Grammy and a Tony for his role in Hamilton, but clipping.’s Hugo nomination is just as profound….

(4) THE ROAD TO HELSINKI. Camestros Felapton begins his review of the nominees with “Hugo 2017: Fanwriter”.

Chunk one: established fan writers: Mike Glyer, Natalie Luhrs, Foz Meadows and Abigail Nussbaum. Chunk two: Jeffro Johnson, the Rabid nominee but one with a track record of informed fan writing on genre issues. Chunk three: the inimitable Dr Tingle. The discussion below is in no particular order.

(5) SF INFILTRATES LIT AWARD. China Miéville’s This Census-Taker is one of eight finalists for the Rathbones Folio Prize, given “to celebrate the best literature of our time, regardless of form.” All books considered for the prize are nominated by the Folio Academy, an international group of esteemed writers and critics. The three judges for the 2017 prize are Ahdaf Soueif (chair), Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Rachel Holmes. The winner will be announced on May 24 at a ceremony at the British Library.

(6) CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. Filer and board game designer Peer Sylvester has been interviewed by Multiverse.

Q:  THE LOST EXPEDITION comes out this year. What can you tell our readers about this board game (without giving too much away?)

PS: Percy Fawcett was arguably the most famous adventurer of his time. In 1925 he set into the Brazilian rainforest with his son and a friend to find El Dorado (which he called “Z”), never to return again. Speculations of his fate were printed in newspapers for years with a movie coming out this year as well.

The players follow his footsteps into the jungle. It’s a cooperative game (you can play two-players head-to-head as well) where you have to manage all the dangers of the jungle and hopefully come back alive. It has a quite unique mechanism that prevents “quarterbacking”, i.e. players dominating everyone else. The game features beautiful art by Garen Ewing.  It will be, without doubt, my prettiest game so far. It has a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Book vibe. But, unlike those books, different dangers come out at different times, so every decision is unique.

(7) GET YOUR KITSCH ON. Submissions for The Kitschies awards have opened and will continue until November 1. File 770 wrote a summary piece about the awards last month.

(8) CHUCK TINGLE’S NEW SITE. Time to troll the pups again!

Like last year, the DEVILS were so excited about being DEVILS that they forgot to register important website names of their scoundrel ways. This year they are playing scoundrel pranks again, but now instead of learning about common devilman topics like having a lonesome way or crying about ethics in basement dwelling, this site can be used to PROVE LOVE by helping all with identification of a REVERSE TWIN! …

THE POWER IS YOURS

Never forget, the most powerful way to stop devils and scoundrels in this timeline is to PROVE LOVE EVERY DAY. Use this as a reminder and prove love in some small way in your daily life. Pick up the phone and call your family or friends just to tell them you care about them and that they mean so much to you. Help pick up some trash around your neighborhood. Let someone go ahead of you in line. As REVERSE TWINS pour in from other timelines, we can do our part to make this timeline FULL OF LOVE FOR ALL, and the power to do that is in your hands with every choice that you make! YOU ARE SO POWERFUL AND IMPORTANT, AND YOU ARE THE BEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD AT BEING YOU! USE THIS POWER TO MAKE LOVE REAL!

(9) THIS YEAR’S PUPPY PORN NOMINEE. Meanwhile, io9 discovered Stix Hiscox is a woman: “Meet the Hugo-Nominated Author of Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By the T-Rex”.

So, who is Stix Hiscock? Is he some Chuck Tingle copycat riding on the coattails of scifi porn parody? Some right-wing heterosexual man’s answer to Tingle’s gay erotica, making science fiction great again (with boobs)? Or, better yet, is he Chuck Tingle himself? Turns out, none of the above.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 7, 1989:  Dystopian brawler Cyborg opens in theaters.
  • April 7, 1933: The Eighth Wonder of the World appears to audiences nationwide

(11) CELEBRITY VISITS JIMMY OLSEN. Don Rickles,who passed away yesterday, and his doppelganger once appeared in comics with Superman’s Pal.

(12) CRAM SESSION. There are always 15 things we don’t know. ScreenRant works hard to fill those gaps, as in the case of  “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Captain Picard”.

  1. Captain Picard Loved To Swear

Patrick Stewart is a great actor, but foreign accents are not his strong suit. Captain Picard hails from La Barre, France, yet Patrick Stewart chose to use an English accent for his portrayal of the character. He also used an English accent for Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies (who is American) and Seti in The Prince of Egypt (who is Egyptian). You cannot argue with results, however, and the Star Trek expanded universe has offered a few handwave solutions to why Picard speaks with an English accent. These range from everyone in France adopting the accent when English became a universal language, to him actually speaking in a French accent the whole time, but we hear it as English due to his universal translator.

There were a few instances of Picard’s Frenchness that Patrick Stewart snuck into the dialogue. Captain Picard would occasionally say “merde” when facing a nasty situation. This is the French equivalent to saying “shit” when it is being said in exasperation.

(13) ELEMENTARY. The names of four new elements have been officially approved.

The periodic table just got some new members, as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has officially accepted new names for four elements. Element numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 will no longer be known by their placeholder names, and instead have all-new monikers decided upon by their discoverers.

The discoveries were first recognized about a year ago, and the proposed names for them were decided upon this past June. Now, chemistry’s highest group has decided they are valid and will move forward with the all-new labels.

  • Nihonium (Nh), is element 113, and is named for the Japanese word for Japan, which is Nihon.
  • Moscovium (Mc), element 115, is named for Moscow.
  • Tennessine (Tn), element 117, is named for Tennessee.
  • Oganesson (Og), element 118, is named after Yuri Oganessian, honoring the 83-year-old physicist whose team is credited with being the top element hunters in the field.

(14) NOT TED COBBLER. Pratchett fans will remember Jason Ogg, who once shod an ant just to prove he could in fact shoe anything (for which the price was he would shoe anything, including Death’s horse). A Russian artisan actually made a life-size flea with shoes.

In a supersized world, Prague’s Museum of Miniatures thinks small. Very small. In millimetres, in fact.

A short walk from Prague Castle, this odd museum houses wonders invisible to the naked eye. After entering the room filled with microscopes, I found a desert scene of camels and palms inside the eye of a needle, an animal menagerie perched on a mosquito leg and the Lord’s Prayer written on a hair.

(15) DON’T FORGET. Contrary to widely-held theories used in various SF stories, short-term and long-term memories are formed separately.

The US and Japanese team found that the brain “doubles up” by simultaneously making two memories of events.

One is for the here-and-now and the other for a lifetime, they found.

It had been thought that all memories start as a short-term memory and are then slowly converted into a long-term one.

Experts said the findings were surprising, but also beautiful and convincing….

(16) NOTHING BUT HOT AIR. Atmosphere is confirmed on an exoplanet.

Scientists say they have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-like planet for the first time.

They have studied a world known as GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of our planet and lies 39 light years away.

Their observations suggest that the “super-Earth” is cloaked in a thick layer of gases that are either water or methane or a mixture of both.

The study is published in the Astronomical Journal.

Discovering an atmosphere, and characterising it, is an important step forward in the hunt for life beyond our Solar System.

But it is highly unlikely that this world is habitable: it has a surface temperature of 370C.

(17) QUANTUM BLEEP. If you’re going to be taking part in one of history’s iconic moments, you’d better prepare a speech.

(18) ANIME PRAISED. NPR likes Your Name — not a Studio Ghibli production, but animation direction is by a longtime Ghibli artist: “’Your Name’ Goes There”.

In the charming and soulful Japanese anime Your Name, two teenagers who have never met wake up rattled to discover that they have switched bodies in their sleep, or more precisely their dreams. And it’s not just their anatomies they’ve exchanged, or even the identities-in-progress each has managed to cobble together at such a tender age. Mitsuha, a spirited but restless small-town girl of Miyazaki-type vintage, and Taki, a Tokyo high school boy, have also swapped the country for the city, with all the psychic and cultural adjustments that will entail.

(19) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?” is a Max-Fleischer-style cartoon on Vimeo, with music by Moby, which explains what happens to the few people who AREN’T staring at their smartphones all day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Peer Sylvester, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/17 The Band Played Scrolling Matilda

(1) ALL WISDOM, Last October, The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar interviewed Talmon Marco, CEO of Juno, a ride-hailing app that is trying to take business from Uber and Lyft by offering its drivers more pay and stock options.

When I asked Marco why he was so sure that Juno would still be around, he said, half jokingly, that he had acquired all the wisdom he needed by reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. “Oh, my God,” he said. “It’s the Bible.  Everything is there.”

…I asked Marco to share what he had learned from the book, and he hesitated.  “Now you’re really putting me on the spot,” he said.  After thinking for a few seconds, he went on, “It claims the math never works in a restaurant, which explains why the bill never adds up.” He wasn’t sure if that was still true, because, he said, he stopped looking at restaurant checks a long time ago — preemptively handing your credit card to the server saves the five minutes it takes to get the bill, look at it, and send it back with the payment.

“It was a very popular book, especially when I was growing up, among geeks in the eighties and nineties,” Marco went on.  “You have to ask the founders of Snapchat.”

(2) A BOOK OF HER OWN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Gabby Rivera, whose “Latina, queer, superpowered and superpopular character” America Chavez has made appearances in the Marvel books Young Avengers and The Ultimates and has now appeared in her own comic book from Marvel, America.

 “Superhero comics seemed so out of my league that I never even imagined it as something I could do. But the second the opportunity came my way, it felt so right,” Rivera told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’ve always dreamt up wild, powerful and carefree superheroes that look like me and my family: thick, brown, goofy, beautiful. And now I get to see them come to life. ‘America’ is going to be all those things and it’s [going to] be wild.”

Before beginning to write “America,” the new solo series (illustrated by Joe Quinones) that debuted in print and digitally last week, Rivera dived into stacks of comic books featuring the superstrong heroine who can fly and punch star-shaped dimension-hopping holes into the air. Rivera called it her “crash course” on all things America.

(3) PODCASTING TIME LORD. Scott Edelman writes, “I was very pleased to have gotten live on the second weekend of March 2017 an episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded the second weekend of March 1995! How? You’ll see.”

Episode 31 is a 1995 World Horror Con Flashback:

So prepare to time travel back to a 1995 mall food court lunch as I talk about my first job at Marvel Comics, how I broke into writing for Tales from the Darkside, and the beginnings of Science Fiction Age magazine, while Adam-Troy Castro reveals how he created the first story in the first issue of that magazine, as well as how a cab ride he feared he wouldn’t survive turned into one of his most memorable works of fiction.

(4) AS THE TWIG IS BENT. Crooked Timber is running one of their seminars on Ada Palmer’s “Terra Ignota” books — Too Like the Lightning, and the just-released Seven Surrenders. So far they have posted –

Ada Palmer’s new book – Seven Surrenders – is out today. So too is our seminar….

Almost all science fiction, as J.G. Ballard remarked in the introduction to Vermilion Sands, is really about the present day. This is certainly less true today than it was in 1971, but it is still often the case that the relationship between our present and the future world that is depicted – or between the present of the imagined world and that future’s past, when anyone inside the story decides to look back – is oddly straightforward and uninteresting. This is certainly not something that can be said of Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota books.

In the genres of science fiction and fantasy, when a book is written in an unusual mode, it’s usually either a gimmick or window-dressing. Window-dressing is when for instance a Victorian feeling book has a faux Victorian style as part of that feel. An example of this would be Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where Heinlein doesn’t have to tell us that the English spoken on the moon is heavily influenced by Australian and Russian, he gives us a first person narrative devoid of articles and peppered with Russian borrowings and Australian slang. It’s great, but really it’s just scenery, everything else would be the same if he’d chosen to write the book in third with just the dialogue like that. It’s quite unusual to read something where the mode is absolutely integral to what the book is doing. In Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, the decaying grammar and vocabulary of the first person narrator, Lola, mirrors the disintegration of society around her, and we the reader slowly move from a near future with a near normal text to a complete understanding of sentences that would have been incomprehensible on page one, in a world that has also changed that much.

Too Like the Lightning and Seven Surrenders tell the story of beautiful, brilliant, compassionate people who are also terribly vulnerable. They are Eloi who have convinced themselves Morlocks do not exist; they are victim-beneficiaries of two hundred years of willful ignorance of growing rot. Like the dragon Smaug, they’ve rested on their hoard for centuries, adding layer after layer to their invulnerable bejeweled armor—but they cannot see the armor’s chink, the soft space waiting for Bard the Bowman’s arrow.

The arrow is shaped like God.

(5) AMERICAN GODS. The creators of the American Gods TV series told attendees at a SXSW panel the show has new meaning in “a climate that vilifies immigrants”.

When Neil Gaiman’s American Gods comes to television next month, it’s going to look a little different than fans of the book remember — and its creators hope they’ll take away a subtle political message alongside the myths and magic.

“Our first task of adapting is to make the show that we wanted to see as an audience member,” said Bryan Fuller, one of the showrunners. But “it’s definitely a different show than we set out to make, because the political climate in America shat its pants,” he said. “We are now telling massive immigration stories in a climate that vilifies immigrants. And so we have a strange new platform to start a different kind of conversation.” Fellow showrunner Michael Green agreed. “The book is joyful, it celebrates a lot of things that we love about America, and have since become weirdly odd about America,” he said.

Neil Gaiman echoed the sentiment on Twitter after the panel. “I don’t think we preach,” he told a fan. “And we didn’t think we were making a politically relevant show, just adapting a book about immigrants and America.”

(6) POLITICAL ACTION FIGURES. You may or may not ordinarily be interested in a review and photos of Pinhead Hellraiser III 1/6th action figure by ThreeZero, but Cat Eldridge predicts many readers will be entertained by the political statement at the very end of the review…

(7) NAFF. The National Australian Fan Fund, to send one Australian fan to the Natcon, has opened voting. The winner will attend Continuum 13 in Melbourne, June 9–13.

There are four candidates from three states:

  • Jason Fischer (SA)
  • Talitha Kalago (QLD)
  • Fe Waters (WA)
  • Jay Watson (WA)

More details available here. Voting ends April 16.

(8) AT THE BACK OF THE PACK. Rolling Stone has ranked all the cast members from Saturday Night Live since the beginning of the show in the 1970s. Although he went on to have a hugely successful acting career in the Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man movie franchises, this fellow came in last place —

  1. Robert Downey Jr.

Era: 1985-1986

Robert Downey Jr. is a comic genius. Making him unfunny stands as SNL’s most towering achievement in terms of sucking. How do you fuck up a sure thing like Downey? He’s funny in anything. I mean, dude was funny in Weird Science. He was funny in Johnny Be Good. He was funny in Iron Man. But he met his Kryptonite, and it was SNL, where he spent the 1985-1986 season sucking up a storm. His greatest hit? A fart-noise debate with Anthony Michael Hall. In a perverse way, the Downey Fail sums up everything that makes SNL great. There are no sure things. No rules. No do-overs. No safety net — when you flop on SNL, you flop big. And that’s the way it should be. The cameras roll at 11:30, ready or not. Live from New York — it’s Saturday Night.

(9) COSTUMING HISTORY. A video compilation of Kat Bushman’s convention masquerade entries from 1967-2000.

(10) LONG-LASTING HORROR. On Fivebooks, Darryl Jones, who teaches at Trinity College in Dublin, is asked to recommend the best horror stories. He turns to 1897 and reminds us why The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Great God Pan are still worth reading.

Can you give some examples?

One of the best places to look for examples is late-Victorian England. Think of 1897, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which marks the zenith of the British Empire.

1897 also saw the publication of a number of landmark works which were very anxious about the status and lasting power of the British Empire. These works often envisage colonial or intergalactic Others coming to invade London, the imperial metropolis. London gets invaded, London gets destroyed.

(11) KEEP ON TINGLING. A reworking of a popular meme —

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Standback, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]