Pixel Scroll 11/5/17 I’m The Pixel Of Scrolls. What Were You The Pixel Of Again?

(1) RANTS AND RAVES. Three days ago S.T. Joshi ranted about an alleged Lovecraft hater in “The Multifarious Illiteracies of Brian Keene”.

For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.

…The only horror in Keene’s work is that there is so much of it. Since 2000, Keene has published at least forty-three novels, twelve short story collections, and sundry other material—an impressive achievement if his books were of any substance or even bare competence, but quite otherwise if, as appears to be the case, the books in question are nothing but crude and slapdash hackwork. A fair number of his books have been published by Leisure Books, a firm that habitually churns out pablum of all sorts for the great unwashed. It seems to be a match made in hell….

Today Brian Keene answered with “The Ballad of S.T. Joshi, or, Saruman and Wormtongue Meet the Great Unwashed”.

…With that being said, the probable origins of Lovecraft’s work are, in my opinion, repugnant. Lovecraft was racist and xenophobic…. These beliefs fueled his fiction, and the creation of his mythos. So much of Lovecraft’s work is driven by fear and disgust of “the other” or of genetic mutation. And in turn, so much of that work shaped and molded this field.

Despite their repugnance (or perhaps because of it) I think those origins are worth discussing. Joshi does not. He threatened to boycott a recent convention because the programming included a panel discussing the racist themes prevalent in Lovecraft’s work (and then reportedly defied his own personal boycott by signing books in the dealer’s room of that same convention). Because I wondered aloud on my podcast why he’s against discussion of such things, it further inured me as a “Lovecraft Hater”. Joshi also railed against the World Fantasy Awards discontinuing their bust of Lovecraft. When I stated on my podcast, “If I was a person of color, and I won that award — an award from my peers recognizing my work — I wouldn’t want a man who thought I was sub-human glowering down at me from my brag shelf”, this further fueled Joshi and Brock’s insistence that I am, in fact, a Lovecraft Hater.

It’s also important to note that Lovecraft’s racism is not a new topic, brought up by some supposed younger, newer generation of political Progressives or SJWs. The great Robert Bloch himself discussed Lovecraft’s racism in his seminal “Heritage of Horror” essay. Joshi doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Based on his actions, he seemingly only has a problem with people discussing it if they are women (Ellen Datlow), LGQBT (S.j. Bagley), persons of color (Daniel José Older and Nnedi Okorafor), or apolitical “white trash” Appalachians (myself). I find that interesting…

So, again, for the record, I am not a “Lovecraft Hater”. I respect the man’s work. I don’t, however, respect the man.

…Which brings us to last Friday, and the reason why so many of you are asking me, “Who is S.T. Joshi?”.

Why did Joshi turn his attention toward me? I don’t know. Maybe it was our coverage of his antics on my podcast (where he is a recurring source of amusement). Perhaps he was offended that I sandwiched him between “Lovecraft Haters” Ellen Datlow and S.j. Bagley in the inaugural chapter of History of Horror Fiction. Or maybe he was driven half-mad by Jason Brock’s incessant whining.

Regardless, I woke up at 5am Friday morning. Publisher and author Ross Lockhart had sent me the link to Joshi’s tirade overnight. I clicked the link and read Joshi’s Introduction, where he states that I am “A grotesquely prolific blowhard” and that my work left him in “excruciating agony.” This pleased me. I thought it was funny enough to craft a cover blurb out of, so I did. Then some readers asked for it on a t-shirt, so I made this. And that was pretty much it….

(2) AMBIFORCESTROUS. Continuing a thought from yesterday – this comes from Mark Hamill himself.

(3) THOR SCORE. Daniel Dern submitted his non-spoiler review of Thor: Ragnarok for today’s Scroll:

(“Non-spoiler” as in “assuming you’ve seen at least one of the trailers already, but IMHO no how-it-ends spoilers in any case)

My short-short summary: Way loads of fun! Go and enjoy.

  • Among the best snappy multi-character dialog, and lots of it.
  • Basically sticks to one plot from start to finish (unlike, say, Guardians of the Galaxy II).
  • Nice to NOT see Manhattan/NYC trashed/destroyed/etc for a change. Similarly, no S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers harmed (or even sighted) in this movie.
  • Lots of bright colors, great costumes/garb/accessories.
  • a good balance of talking, fighting/battling, and both-at-once.
  • It’s contemporary fantasy and sci-fi. Thor pilots spaceships, etc.
  • prior knowledge needed of Marvel, any of the previous movies, etc. Yeah, knowing some can’t hurt. E.g., Loki and Thor briefly mentioning the time L turned T into a frog was real — one of Walt Simonson’s great arcs (a bunch of issues) in the Thor comic series.
  • In terms of “Marvel movie big picture,” this is sequentially following the events of Avengers/Age of Ultron.
  • Best Stan Lee cameo to date, IMHO.
  • Mentions Avengers by name at times, etc., but only Hulk actually in the movie. Most of the action is off-Earth, so no need to explain why the other A’s aren’t putting in their oar, so to speak.
  • Lots of Jeff Goldblum! Lots!

Offhand I don’t have any complaints or criticisms.

(4) REVIVAL MEETING, And everything considered, this seems a good time to ponder “The Norse gods’ unlikely comeback” as Mark Peters does in the Boston Globe.

Part of why the Norse myths continue to compel so many readers, writers, and artists is their sheer entertainment value, featuring high adventure, low comedy, apocalyptic nightmares, and ample drinking. Karl E. H. Seigfried, adjunct professor and pagan chaplain at Illinois Institute of Technology and author of the Norse Mythology Blog, said by e-mail that the Norse myths resonate on three levels: dramatically, emotionally, and spiritually. Of the three, the spiritual element is often overlooked.

Underneath the troll-smiting mayhem, the Norse myths have an uplifting core, insists Seigfried, who is also a priest of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. “In contrast to the gloomy Nordic worldview often portrayed in popular culture,” he said, “the wandering god [Odin] never stops searching for knowledge and never ceases to rage against the dying of the light. The old gods may die at Ragnarök, but the myth is life-affirming. We will not live forever, but our children will survive us, and their children will survive them.”

(5) HUBBARD. Alec Nevala-Lee, “author of Astounding, a forthcoming book on the history of science fiction, digs into the writing career of L. Ron Hubbard, gaining new insights into the life of the controversial founder of dianetics and the origins and nature of Scientology itself” in “Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology” at Longreads.

And it gets even stranger. When we turn to the stories themselves, we find that most of them have nothing in common with the tale of Xenu. In the pages of Astounding, Hubbard tended to write comic fantasies or adventures staged on a very modest scale, with situations lifted straight from the nautical or military fiction that he was publishing elsewhere. Aliens and galactic empires rarely played any significant role. When he employed these conventions, it was as a target for parody or as a kind of painted backdrop for the action. Yet when the time came to give Scientology a founding myth, he turned to space opera, referring to it explicitly in those terms, and the result didn’t look or sound much like anything he had ever written before.

(6) ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE. Fran Wilde has a tip for convention attendees, idiots, and assholes:

Other reactions:

(7) PROBLEM WITH COMPLAINT-DRIVEN CON POLICIES. A New Mexico event promoter says complaints led him to change a policy — “Comic Con ditches free passes for military, first responders”. How well do you think that worked?

An offer for local military and first responders to enjoy the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Comic Cons for free is about to end.

The promoter, Jim Burleson, said he was getting threats for giving free admission to only military, police and firemen.

Burleson took to Facebook this week with an announcement that’s angered many, saying: “This will be the last year we are offering free admission to police, military and firefighters.”

The decision stems from people — other than military and first responders — who complained about not getting a discount over the years, which, he says, led to threats.

“We actually got threatened at our Santa Fe Comic Con. Somebody threatened to call their dad who was a lawyer to prove that we were discriminating,” he said.

Now, there’s even more backlash from people who said he shouldn’t have given into the criticism, with some claiming they won’t be attending comic con anymore.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy found a scientific breakthrough in Monty.
  • John King Tarpinian passes on the Star Wars nutritional advice he found in Brevity.

(9) LEAF BY TOLKIEN. Glen Dixon of the Washington Post Magazine writes about the death of the Baltimore City Paper which just folded, in “Baltimore City Paper is closing after 40 years. Will it be missed?” The following scene is inside the City Paper’s offices….

The wisdom of the crowd converged when Brandon Soderberg puzzled over the mysterious provenance of Gray Haven, the latest strain of marijuana to cross his palate. Soderberg is both the paper’s editor and one of its pot critics. He knows his weed, but he hadn’t been able to uncover the first thing about this particular variety. Perhaps the name held a clue? He read off some loopy texts from a helpful stoner friend, a Tolkien fan who said there is a place called Grey Havens in Middle-earth. The messages were pipe dreams billowing with head-spinning arcana. “I’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ” said art director Athena Towery, dryly. “I don’t think that’s in there.” The room erupted with laughter, then settled on another Tolkien work — “The Silmarillion” — as the source. Photo editor J.M. “Joe” Giordano added that the bud shares its name with a neighborhood in Dundalk, Md.

(10) SPRING AHEAD, FALL OOPS. Joe Haldeman shared this on Facebook – pretty funny, even if the joke is about the wrong time change:

Another busy night at all the British henge sites as staff work all night to move the stones forward by an hour.

(11) FEDERATION POLITICAL SCIENCE. I don’t remember if I’ve run this before but it sure is fun. And like some Tumblr posts, it needs to be read from the bottom up; the pivot is a Klingon asking the Vulcans why they let humans run the Federation; the answer includes because the last thing they did is ” getting published in about six hundred scientific journals across two hundred different disciplines because of how many established theories their ridiculous little expedition has just called into question. also, they did turn that sun into a torus, and no one actually knows how”

(12) CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Kim Huett advises his article “Temple of the Sphinx”, with some thoughts on the William F. Temple story, “The Smile Of the Sphinx,” is now online.

In a fit of possibly misplaced enthusiasm I have created a website in order to post my Bill Temple article online for all the world to see. Those of you already familiar with this article might like to note that it has been rewritten here and there in order to fix a few errors and to add a little more depth to the story. In regards to the latter I would like to in particular thank Rob Hansen for all his hard work on THEN as that history made my job so much easier. The website in question can be found here at the URL below. Feel free to pass the URL on if you want as I think this is a story well worth sharing. This is especially true since it allows us to increase our count of times the word “cat” has appeared on this blog.

For all this Gillings did publish one story that I find absolutely fascinating, though perhaps not for the usual reasons. The story in question is a novelette by William F. Temple, his third published story. The Smile of the Sphinx appeared in Tales of Wonder #4 (Autumn 1938). In the introduction Gillings wrote:

‘…in the light of his logical reasoning, his fanciful notion loses its air of incredibility, and you will find yourself seriously considering whether it might not easily be fact…’

The story was well regarded at the time of publication. For example noted science fiction fan of the day (and later editor of New Worlds), Ted Carnell was so taken by The Smile of the Sphinx that in Novae Terrae #28 (December 1938) he was moved to claim:

‘For just as Bill Temple’s yarn in TOW will long be remembered as the cat story…’

Now at first glance all this makes very little sense as The Smile of the Sphinx is a rather absurd tale about an intelligent race of cats from the Moon who secretly rule the Earth.

(13) CHOCOLATE EMERGENCY. Adweek shares the laughs — “Snickers Got a Whole TV Channel to Act Weird When It Was Hungry in Great Media Stunt”.

The network is called Dave, and it normally features a millennial-focused grab bag of fun-loving programs. But one day recently, at exactly 3:28 p.m. (which Snickers says is “the hungriest time of day”), Dave suddenly and inexplicably turned into Rupert—a network showing boring and nonsensical shows including chess championships, vintage film noir and an art appraisal program.

Frankly, it seemed like Dave had become PBS.

 

[Thanks to JJ, DMS, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1/17 Surely This Has Been Done Already?

(1) TALESPINNER. Ken Liu’s Star Wars book is out today.

Star Wars: Legends of Luke Skywalker [is] a set of tall tales about the Jedi Knight that have been passing from cantina to freighter and from mouth to audio receptor ever since a certain farm boy left Tatooine for the wider galaxy far, far away…

Devan Coggan interviews me for Entertainment Weekly: “Ken Liu Tells Star Wars Tall Tales in The Legends of Luke Skywalker:

Legends follows a number of young deckhands working aboard a ship bound for Canto Bight (a casino world featured in the upcoming The Last Jedi). Together, they swap six different stories about Luke, each passed down from a different storyteller. One comes from a droid who claims to have witnessed Luke singlehandedly lead a droid rebellion, while another comes from a tiny, flea-like creature who claims to have had a pivotal role in Luke’s escape from Jabba’s palace. One of the particular highlights is the tale told by a former Imperial engineer, who says that Luke Skywalker was nothing but a piece of propaganda made up by the Rebellion. The real Luke is a con artist named Luke Clodplodder, who orchestrated a massive scam with his friends aboard a ship called the Century Turkey.

(2) BORDERLANDS GETS ITS PERMANENT HOME. Via Shelf Awareness, the good news: “Success: Borderlands will buy Haight St. building thanks to its fans”.

Unable to secure a large loan from a bank, Beatts put the question to Borderlands’ clientele – would they be interested in funding the purchase for 1373 Haight St?

They were. In 18 days, lenders put up $1.9 million.

Recycled Records currently occupies the building, but the record store owner was planning to retire after the sale of the building, Beatts said.

Were any lessons learned?

“I learned that I’m the kind of person who can raise close to two million dollars in two and a half weeks, that was a surprise. I also learned that, if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to pursue every single solution,” Beatts wrote in an email to Mission Local.

He’d made offers on two other buildings before Haight Street panned out, and had toyed with other funding models before settling on the patron loan approach.

(3) IN THE SLAM. SPECPO visits Minneapolis: “Outreach report: The Not-So-Silent Planet [MN]”.

This month I had the chance to see the work of the folks at Word Sprout who organize The Not-So-Silent Planet.

As a regular event, The Not-So-Silent Planet currently holds the distinction of being the longest-running speculative literature slam in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the famed Kieran’s Pub. We’ll have to do some research to verify, but so far it seems like it may also well be the longest-running speculative literature slam in the country or even the cosmos. But then again, space is a very big place.

Typically held in the Poet’s Room at Kieran’s, it’s an evocative space with great energy and a supportive and enthusiastic audience. For an October reading they had almost a dozen readers and audience members including their special guest Kyle Dekker, organizer Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, and Riawa Thomas-Smith. There was a good mix of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and experimental works.

(4) GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN. Io9’s Charles Pulliam-Moore tells how “The Gotham City Sirens Are Taking Over Riverdale in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica”‘.

The premise to DC and Archie Comics’ crossover special Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica reads like a piece of fan fiction, something television or film studio executives dream about but would never dare actually writing. Obviously, this is why the comic’s first two issues, written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini with illustrations from Amanda Conner and Laura Braga, so damned good. They’re so ridiculously absurd, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy the hell out of them. [SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment: “Looked fun when I skimmed the new issue (#2) at the comic store, I’ll wait until the six issues are available as borrowable book (or issues show up via one of the legitimate free/low-cost digital comic services I’m using).”

(5) ANOTHER CASUALTY. Book World customers are going into mourning – the chain is shuttering its 45 stores: “Closing the books: Book World to close all its stores and liquidate inventory”.

Book lovers in the Brainerd area are likely to shed a tear at Tuesday’s announcement by Book World Inc.—it is closing all its stores because of poor sales and online competition.

The Appleton, Wis.-based company will liquidate all its inventory starting Thursday in an “everything-must-go” sale at all of its 45 locations across seven states, including the one in Baxter.

“We anticipate that running at least through the end of the year … into January, but that’s really contingent on inventory—and certainly staffing plays a part in that, too—but primarily inventory,” said Book World Senior Vice President Mark Dupont.

The family-owned independent chain of bookstores located throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Missouri offers a huge selection of books for all ages.

(6) IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR. TIME Magazine anointed this pair the winners of the internet’s Halloween costume contest:  “This Couple Won Halloween By Pranking People With Their ‘Levitating’ Star Wars Bike”.

YouTube vloggers Jesse Wellens and Carmella Rose dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but not in their classic Star Wars garb. Instead, they dressed as Luke and Leia as rebels zipping through the forest world of Endor from The Return of the Jedi and the only thing missing was an Ewok or two.

While that retro costume would certainly rate well with Star Wars fans, Wellens and Rose had a plan to put their costume over the top. With a little help from some friends at Lithium Cycles, they built a replica of a Speeder Bike that looked like it was actually floating and rode it through the streets of Manhattan. The sight was exhilarating enough that even wizened, seen-it-all New Yorkers couldn’t help but gawk.

 

(7) ON THE BLOCK. Robby the Robot is one of the star attractions in Bonham’s Out of This World auction on November 21.

There’s also a good article about Robby at New Atlas: “The original Robby the Robot goes up for auction”

Forbidden Planet was MGM’s first major science fiction film. Robby cost US$120,000 to build (US$1.2 million in today’s money) and was constructed out of vacuum-form Royalite plastic, acetate, and aluminum with rubber hands, a Perspex transparent “head” and a pair of men’s size 10.5B black leather loafers inside the feet for the actor wearing the 100 to 120 lb (45 to 54 kg)) prop/costume, which was articulated like a suit of armor.

But Robby was more than a suit. He included seven war-surplus electric motors to power his mechanical “scanners” and “brain,” plus a “mouth” made of blue neon tubes run by a 40,000 Volt power source run via a cable out of the robot’s heel or onboard batteries.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson

(9) COMICS SECTION

  • John King Tarpinian finds a bittersweet farewell to Halloween in Lio.
  • Mike Kennedy was convinced that it sucks to be chosen after reading today’s Basic Instructions.

(10) DUBIOUS HOLIDAYS FOR CHILDREN. Camestros Felapton is back in full stride, in another argument with Timothy the Talking Cat: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter We’ll Be Back After This Short Break”.

“Well I for one endorse the concept,” replied replied replied Camestros, “After all you made up International Tim Day, Catmas and The Feast of Saint Felix the Squirrel Killer.”

“It is a DISTRACTION you fool! A distraction from our important work!” replied replied replied replied Timothy, slamming his tiny fist-like paw on the desk in front of him. “I need some help from you with this project and you are off doing who knows what for that mechanical fusspot!”

“I was burning what Americans call ‘candy’ in a pre-emptive bonfire night.”

“Bonfire night?”

“Ah, yes – you miss out every year because pets must be hidden on bonfire night. It is an annual British festival of fireworks and municipal arson based on 17th-century anti-Catholicism and remembrance of a time some time tried to blow up parliament but with syncretic elements of pagan pre-winter festivals. Also traditionally children beg for money by demonstrating to adults that they have made an effigy of a man who was tortured to death which they will burn later. It is very traditional.”

“Now who is making stuff up?” said the cat skeptically.

“On reflection Catmas sounds more plausible.” agreed Camestros. “So what help do you need?”

(11) HALLOWEEN FOR THOSE NOT IN THE WORLD SERIES. MLB.com has pictures: “The baseball world pulled off some epic Halloween costumes this year”. Here’s one of them:

(12) THE GREAT UNREAD. Mental Floss revisits “15 Children’s Books No One Reads Now”. The list includes a story that stresses how important it is to stay between the lines.

12. TOOTLE BY GERTRUDE CRAMPTON

Ask anyone about anthropomorphic trains and their first response is likely to be “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Or, if you’re a purist, “The Little Engine That Could.” “Tootle,” first published in 1945, is likely way down the list, if he even comes up at all. But for many years, the industrious engine was on track to become one of the best-selling books of all time.

Andrew Porter says, “Gosh, I have the Little Golden Book of this, which includes numerous wonderful illustrations, including –”

(13) ON OLD OLYMPUS’ TOWERING TOPS. Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Since we’re discussing variations in religion, a note on a fannish religion,” “The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too”

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant — hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?

Therein foams a bitter pint of history.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means “climbing wolf.”

(14) TIME TO CONFESS. Keeping up the seasonal theme: “After 20 Years, Can Cornell Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery?”

In 1997, someone speared a massive pumpkin on the spire atop of Cornell’s McGraw Tower … 173 feet in the air.

No one knew who. No one knew why. And no one knew how.

In fact, for a while, no one even knew — for sure — if it was a pumpkin. Suspicions grew as the gourd lingered on, month after month. But some students figured that one out with the help of a drill attached to a remote-controlled weather balloon, which captured a sample. (Seriously.)

It was definitely a pumpkin.

But the other mysteries remain today. And Farhad Manjoo — Cornell alum, former editor-in-chief of the school paper and now a tech reporter at the New York Times — wants answers.

He calls the pumpkin-ing of the tower “the greatest prank in Cornell history.” And he’s asking the pranksters — or those who love them — to step forward and claim their glory.

(15) SPLASH. More data on Chicxulub: “Asteroid impact plunged dinosaurs into catastrophic ‘winter'”.

An independent group earlier this year used a global climate model to simulate what would happen if 100Gt of sulphur and 1,400Gt of carbon dioxide were ejected as a result of the impact.

This research, led by Julia Brugger from the University of Potsdam, Germany, found global annual mean surface air temperatures would decrease by at least 26C, with three to 16?years spent at subzero conditions.

“Julia’s inputs in the earlier study were conservative on the sulphur. But we now have improved numbers,” explained Prof Morgan.

“We now know, for example, the direction and angle of impact, so we know which rocks were hit. And that allows us to calibrate the generation of gases much better. If Julia got that level of cooling on 100Gt of sulphur, it must have been much more severe given what we understand now.”

(16) STILL GOING AROUND. Play it again: “The firm saving vinyl”.

Whether gathering dust in your loft or currently spinning on your turntable, it’s a fair bet that at least some of your vinyl records came from a small factory in the Czech Republic.

The facility in question is the headquarters of GZ Media, based in the small town of Lodenice, 25km (16 miles) west of the Czech capital, Prague.

GZ is today the world’s largest producer of vinyl records, of which it expects to press 30 million this year, for everyone from the Rolling Stones and U2, to Lady Gaga and Madonna.

The success of the company is a far cry from the early 1990s, when vinyl records appeared to be on the way out, with music fans having switched en masse to compact discs.

(According to an NPR interview a few years ago, Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady is a fan of vinyl.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Dave Doering, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the diurnal period Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 8/24/17 Is The Grisly Pixel Scrolling?

(1) THE GREAT UNREAD. James Davis Nicoll fesses up – now you can, too: “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works It May Surprise You To Learn I Have Not Yet Read Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Who knew there were 20 sff books altogether than he hadn’t read, much less ones not by Castalia House authors? Here are a few examples:

  • Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • England Swings SF edited by Judith Merril

(2) MOVING DAY. Meanwhile, at another of his platforms, James Davis Nicoll has gone silent while he works on moving that website.

Why was my site down? Because it turns out the soft-on-Nazis fuckwits running DreamHost thought it would be a good idea to host the Daily Stormer. My site will be moving. Until it has been moved, I won’t be updating it; I will go back to posting reviews on DW.

(3) GENRE TENSIONS. Here’s what Teleread’s Paul St. John Mackintosh deemed to be the takeaway from an all-star panel at Helsinki: “Worldcon 75: Horror and the World Fantasy Award”.

[Stephen] Jones pointed to the origins of the WFA Awards and their parent convention, the World Fantasy Convention, during the horror boom of the mid-1970s. The first WFC, held in Providence, RI in 1975, had as its theme “The Lovecraft Circle,” and that Lovecraftian association has persisted ever since, despite the name on the billboard. Jones attributed the perceived bias towards horror at fantasy and other conventions to the view that “the horror guys the people who go to all the fun conventions.” [Ellen] Datlow, conversely, reported that “from the horror people’s point of view, in the past ten years, they always feel there’s a bias towards fantasy.” Her analysis of actual awards and nominations showed no bias either way, and she saw this as “all perception,” depending on which end of the imaginative literature spectrum it’s seen from. [John] Clute described the situation as “pretty deeply confusing altogether,” given that the WFC externally was intended as a fantasy convention, and the final result has become “terminologically inexact,” though Jones pointed out that “the community itself has changed and mutated, as has the genre.”

(4) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Simon Owens reveals “What’s behind the meteoric rise of science fiction podcasts?” – and these are just the drama podcasts, never mind all the nonfiction ones…

According to Valenti, a serialized fiction podcast is an inexpensive way for aspiring filmmakers to gain recognition in the industry. “The reason you’re seeing all these shows crop up is because it’s so much less expensive to experiment and prove yourself as a storyteller in this medium, more than any other,” he said. It used to be that Hollywood directors got their foot in the door with short, independent films, but even those kinds of projects require significant resources. “With podcasts, you don’t have to spend any money on locations,” he explained. “You don’t have to spend any money on cameras, hardware, or hiring a cinematographer. And even if you have the footage, and you had a decent camera, which you probably had to rent because they cost thousands of dollars a day, you’re getting someone to color grade everything after it’s over.” Podcasts rarely require anything more than decent mics, actors, and audio mixing technology. And speaking of actors, your average voiceover performer costs much less to hire than a SAG member.

(5) INKY AWARDS. The shortlists for the 2017 Inky Awards were announced August 15 – the Gold Inky for Australia titles, and the Silver Inky for international titles. The award recognises achievement in young adult literature, with nominees and winners selected by voters under the age of 20. Some of these titles are of genre interest. Voting is currently open for the winners. [H/T Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(6) MORE WORLDCON WRITEUPS. The conreports keep on coming.

Kelly Robson: “What it’s like to lose a Hugo Award”

The Campbell was the second-to-last award, and sure, I was disappointed not to win, but not horribly. On a scale of one to ten, it was about a three at the time and now is zero. I’m very happy for Ada. She deserves every success.

However, I did feel foolish for thinking I could win, which was painful but mostly dispersed by morning. Being a finalist is wonderful. Winning would have been amazing, but it does come with a certain amount of pressure. So maybe — just maybe — being a finalist is the best of both worlds. And that lovely pin in the first picture is mine forever.

Ian Sales: “Kiitos, Helsinki”

My second panel of the con was at noon on the Saturday, Mighty space fleets of war. When I’d registered at the con, I’d discovered I was moderating the panel, which I hadn’t known. I checked back over the emails I’d been sent by the con’s programming team. Oops. I was the moderator. The other two panellists were Jack Campbell and Chris Gerrib. As we took our seats on the stage, Mary Robinette Kowal was gathering her stuff from the previous panel. I jokingly asked if she wanted to join our panel. And then asked if she’d moderate it. She said she was happy to moderate if we wanted her to, but we decided to muddle through ourselves. The panel went quite well, I thought. We got a bit of disagreement going – well, me versus the other two, both of whom admitted to having been USN in the past. I got a wave of applause for a crack about Brexit, and we managed to stay on topic – realistic space combat – for the entire time. I’d prepared a bunch of notes, but by fifteen minutes in, I’d used up all my points. In future, I’ll take in paper and pencil so I can jot stuff down as other members of the panel speak.

Marzie: “The Long Overdue WorldCon Recap!”

This was the first WorldCon I’ve attended and while I had voted in previous Hugo Awards, and attended other Cons (for instance NYCC) I was kind of taken aback by how non-commercial WorldCon is. A case is point is that there are no publishers hawking books at WorldCon, which, on the one hand is great because you don’t get tempted to buy a bunch of stuff and spend a fortune shipping it home and on the other hand is bad because if you’ve travelled a long way with a carry-on only bag, you’re probably packing clothes, not books for your favorite author to sign. Some authors take it all in stride, bringing their own small promotional items they can sign (Fran Wilde, Carrie Vaughn) or will happily sign anything that you set in front of them (Max Gladstone kindly signed a WorldCon postcard for my friend and fellow blogger Alex, who couldn’t come to WorldCon because of Fiscal Realities of New Home vs. Sincere Desire. So other than some interesting panels (climate change in science fiction and fantasy, readings by Amal El-Mohtar and Annalee Newitz, while I can say that pigeonholing fantasy genres is not for me!) the author signings and beloved kaffeeklatsches, the latter limited to ten people, are the definitely the most exciting thing about WorldCon.

Ian Moore: “Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 1: estrangement, We3, crowds”

Tomi Huttunen introduced the concept of Estrangement, which derives from Russian art theorist Viktor Shklovsky who discussed the topic (Ostrananie) in an article in 1917. Huttunen and others on the academic track offered varying definitions of the concept, noting that different people in the past had come at this in a different way. For all that he was someone primarily associated with the avant-garde, Shklovsky’s own definition appeared to imply that all art involved a process of estrangement because of the difference between an actual thing and its artistic representation. Brecht later attempted his own definition, which appeared to be more about uncanny valley or the German concept of the unheimlich, which I found interesting as for all his ground-breaking approach to theatre Brecht had not particularly involved himself in work that strayed into non-realistic territory.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 2: Saunas, Robert Silverberg & Tanith Lee #Worldcon75”

On Thursday I did not quite get up in time to make it from where I was staying to the convention centre in time for the presentation on Tove Jansson’s illustrations for The Hobbit (which apparently appear only in Scandinavian editions of the book for Tolkien-estate reasons). I did make it to a panel on Bland Protagonists. One of the panelists was Robert Silverberg, a star of Worldcon and a living link to the heroic age of Science Fiction. He is a great raconteur and such an entertaining panelist that I wonder whether people do not want to appear on panels with him for fear of being overshadowed.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 3: Moomins, Clipping #Worldcon75”

After the Tanith Lee discussion there were a lot of potentially interesting things happening but we felt that we had to go to a session on the Moomins (entitled Moomins!). As you know, these are character that appeared in books written and illustrated by Tove Jansson of Finland. They started life in books and then progressed to comics and subsequently to a succession of animated TV series. If you’ve never heard of them, the Moomins are vaguely hippopotamus shaped creatures that live in a house in Moominvalley and have a variety of strange friends and adopted family members. Moomin stories are pretty cute but also deal with subjects a bit darker and more existential than is normally expected in children’s books.

(7) ROBOCRIMEVICTIM. It is a lawless country out there: “Popular Robots are Dangerously Easy to Hack, Cybersecurity Firm Says”.

The Seattle-based cybersecurity firm found major security flaws in industrial models sold by Universal Robots, a division of U.S. technology company Teradyne Inc. It also cited issues with consumer robots Pepper and NAO, which are manufactured by Japan’s Softbank Group Corp., and the Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 made by China-based UBTech Robotics.

These vulnerabilities could allow the robots to be turned into surveillance devices, surreptitiously spying on their owners, or let them to be hijacked and used to physically harm people or damage property, the researchers wrote in a report released Tuesday.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pluto Demoted Day

Many of us are fascinated by outer space and its many mysteries. Our own solar system went through a change in classification on 2006, when Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet. Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. While sad for fans of the former ninth planet of the solar system, Pluto Demoted Day is an important day for our scientific history and is important to remember.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 24, 1966 Fantastic Voyage premiered theatrically on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card

(11) COMIC SECTION. Finnish comic  Fingerpori has a joke about the George R.R. Martin signing at W75. Tehri says it translates something like this (with the third frame being a sight gag):

First panel: (The guy’s name is Heimo Vesa) “What’s going on?”

“George R.R. Martin’s signing queue.”

Middle panel: “Well, I must experience this”.

(As in once in a lifetime thing.)

And Mike Kennedy says today’s Dilbert Classic confirms that publishers exist in order to stomp on potential author’s dreams.

(12) SHE HAS A LITTLE LIST. Kayleigh Donaldson asks “Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?” at Pajiba.

Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community. Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right.

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is the debut novel from the publishing arm of website GeekNation. The site announced this news only last week, through a press release that can be read on places like The Hollywood Reporter, not a site known for extensive YA coverage. Sarem has an IMDb page with some very minor acting roles, several of which are uncredited, but details on the book are scanter to find. Googling it leads to several other books with the same title, but most of the coverage for it is press release based. There’s little real excitement or details on it coming from the YA blogging world, which is a mighty community who are not quiet about the things they’re passionate about (believe me, first hand experience here).

YA writer and publisher Phil Stamper raised the alarm bells on this novel’s sudden success through a series of tweets, noting GeekNation’s own low traffic, the inability to even buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and its out-of-nowhere relevance…

(13) AMAZONIAN BOGOSITY. While reporters are dissecting the bestseller list, Camestros Felapton turns his attention to Amazon and the subject of “Spotting Fakery?”

One thing new to me from those articles was this site: http://fakespot.com/about It claims to be a site that will analyse reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp and then rate the reviews in terms of how “fake” they seem to be. The mechanism looks at reviewers and review content and looks for relations with other reviews, and also rates reviewers who only ever give positive reviews lower. Now, I don’t know if their methods are sound or reliable, so take the rest of this with a pinch of salt for the time being.

Time to plug some things into their machine but what! Steve J No-Relation Wright has very bravely volunteered to start reading Vox Day’s epic fantasy book because it was available for $0 ( https://stevejwright.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-throne-of-bones-by-vox-day-preamble-on-managing-expectations/ ) and so why not see what Fakespot has to say about “Throne of Bones” http://fakespot.com/product/a-throne-of-bones-arts-of-dark-and-light

(14) WORLD DOESN’T END, FILM AT ELEVEN. Kristine Kathryn Rusch got a column out of the eclipse – “Eclipse Expectations”.

The idea for the post? Much of what occurred around the eclipse in my small town happens in publishing all the time. Let me lay out my thinking.

First, what happened in Lincoln City this weekend:

Damn near nothing. Yeah, I was surprised. Yeah, we all were surprised.

Because for the past 18 months, all we heard about the eclipse was what a mini-disaster it would be for our small town. We expected 100,000 visitors minimum. Hotel rooms were booked more than a year in advance—all of them. Which, the planners told us, meant that we would have at least that many people camping roadside as well.

The airlines had to add extra flights into Portland (the nearest major airport). One million additional people were flooding into Oregon for the five days around the eclipse. Rental cars were booked months in advance. (One woman found an available car for Thursday only and the rental car company had slapped a one-day rate on the car of $850. Yeah, no.)

The state, local, and regional governments were planning for disaster. We were warned that electricity might go down, especially if the temperature in the valley (away from us, but near the big power grids) soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). Our internet connection would probably go down, they said. (Great, we said. Our business is on the internet. Phooey!) Our cell phones would definitely go down.

The state called out the National Guard, expecting all the trouble you get when you cram too many people in a small space. The hospitals staffed up. We were told that traffic would be in gridlock for four days, so plan travel accordingly. Dean and I own three retail stores in the area, so we spent weeks discussing scheduling—who could walk to work, who couldn’t, who might stay overnight if need be. Right now, as I write this, Dean is working our new bookstore, because the bookstore employees live 6 miles away, and couldn’t walk if there was gridlock. The schedule was set in stone; no gridlock, but Dean was scheduled, not the usual employee, so Dean is guarding the fort (so to speak).

(15) MAKING BOOKINGS. Website Focus on Travel News has made note of the Dublin win: “Dublin to host the 77th Annual World Science Fiction Convention”.

The successful Dublin bid was led by James Bacon, with support and guidance from the bid committee, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Convention Bureau (DCB) and The CCD. Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki where 1,227 votes were received, of which Dublin won 1,160 votes.

“It’s fantastic that we had such a large turnout, indicating strong support for the bid,” said James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair. “Voting is a vital part of the process so twelve hundred votes is a great endorsement and I’m very pleased it’s a new record for an uncontested bid. Given New Orleans and Nice have declared for 2023 and Perth and Seattle for 2025, that we remained unopposed is indicative of the enthusiasm, strategic determination and commitment from all involved with the bid. It’s absolutely magnificent to be able to say we are bringing the Worldcon to Ireland and we cannot wait now for 2019.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Drones at serious work: “Tanzania Gears Up To Become A Nation Of Medical Drones”

Entries like these popped up as Keller Rinaudo browsed a database of health emergencies during a 2014 visit to Tanzania. It was “a lightbulb moment,” says the CEO and co-founder of the California drone startup Zipline.

Rinaudo was visiting a scientist at Ifakara Health Institute who had created the database to track nationwide medical emergencies. Using cellphones, health workers would send a text message whenever a patient needed blood or other critical supplies. Trouble is, while the system collected real-time information about dying patients, the east African country’s rough terrain and poor supply chain often kept them from getting timely help. “We were essentially looking at a database of death,” Rinaudo says.

That Tanzania trip motivated his company to spend the next three years building what they envisioned as “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life,” Rinaudo says.

(17) ROBOPRIEST. St Aquin? Not yet: “Robot priest: the future of funerals?” BBC video at the link.

Developers in Japan are offering a robot “priest” to conduct Buddhist funeral rites complete with chanted sutras and drum tapping – all at a fraction of the cost of a human.

It is the latest use of Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper.

(18) UNDERSEA DRIVING. Call these “tunnel pipe-dreams”: “The Channel tunnel that was never built”.

The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world – 50km (31 miles) long. More than 20 years after its opening, it carries more than 10 million passengers a year – and more than 1.6 million lorries – via its rail-based shuttle service.

What many people don’t know, however, is that when owner Eurotunnel won the contract to build its undersea connection, the firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second Channel Tunnel… by the year 2000. Although those plans were published the same year, the tunnel still has not gone ahead.

The second ‘Chunnel’ isn’t the only underwater tunnel to remain a possibility. For centuries, there have been discussions about other potential tunnelling projects around the British Isles, too. These include a link between the island of Orkney and the Scottish mainland, a tunnel between the Republic of Ireland and Wales and one between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, lauowolf, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Robot Archie for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 8/23/17 Best Pixel Scroll Title Ever

(1) EVERYBODY NEEDS A HOBBY. They look like inanimate objects auditioning for parts in an N.K. Jemisin novel. What they really are is more easily explained: “How stone poses became a surreal project”.

“Sometimes people assume they must be Photoshopped, but that would be more of a technical challenge than what I actually do, which is throw the rock into the air – or ask a friend to throw it for me – and photograph it while it is up there.

“That way the light and shadow position themselves correctly on the rock without any further intervention.”

(2) GRAPHIC ARTS AND SCIENCE. In “What’s your science teacher doing in a comic book?”, the Washington Post’s Erin Blakemore discuses “S.T.E.A.M. Within The Panels:  Science Storytelling Through Comic Books, Comic Strips, and Graphic Novels”, currently on exhibit at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Space is massive, time is infinite, and the future is limitless. But, with comic books, the massive, the infinite, and the limitless are broken down into individual panels, discrete moments of time that readers ingest and process at their own pace. From the factual to the fantastic, comic books and graphic stories show the application of science in the modern world and well beyond, one panel at a time.

Since very early in their history, comics have been inspired by science, resulting in stories that range from hopeful to bleak, utopian to dystopian, and somewhere in between. In “S.T.E.A.M Within the Panels” we look at how science has been depicted in comics and narrative literature. Some of the pieces are explicitly connected to science, while others reflect reactions to science. Others still are, in the tradition of science fiction, springboards to speculation based on scientific ideas. In all, they show how comics project the complicated and often contradictory ways that the public perceives science.

Includes the work of the following artists and creators: Jordan Clark, Matt Dembiciki, Kata Kane, Sean Gorman, Jay Hosler, Vince Underwood, Paul Hoppe, Magret de Heer, Matteo Farinella, Katie McKisock, Rosemary Mosco, Damion Scott, James Harvey, Orion Zangara, Paul Sizer, Vasco Sobral, Roxanne Bee, D.M. Higgins, Kelly Phillips, Matthew R. McDaniel, and more!

(3) CHOWCAST. Scott Edelman invites you to Brunch on Eggs Benedict with A. Merc Rustad in Episode 45 of Eating the Fantastic.

A. Merc Rustad. Photoby Scott Edelman.

A. Merc Rustad has published fiction in Lightspeed, Uncanny, Shimmer, and other magazines, and their short story “How To Become A Robot In 12 Easy Steps” was included in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. They were on that weekend’s Nebula ballot in the short story category for “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” which is included in their debut short story collection So You Want to Be a Robot, described by Publishers Weekly as “unmissable.”

We discussed some terrible writing advice which messed with their head and the way they got over it, how the Redwall series by Brian Jacques turned them from a reader to a writer, why some fan fiction doesn’t get the fan fiction label while other fan fiction does, the reason the animated television series Beast Wars: Transformers was such a major influence both professionally and personally, why they almost destroyed their Nebula-nominated story “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” the secrets to assembling a short story collection, and more.

(4) A ROYAL WEDDING. TrekMovie.com found a funny video clip to run at the end of their news flash “Terry Farrell and Adam Nimoy To Wed”:

Congratulations are in order for two members of the Star Trek family. Over the weekend Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Terry Farrell confirmed that she was engaged to be married to Adam Nimoy, son of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy. The news first came via Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz and was confirmed by Terry via Twitter.

 

(5) CRAFT TIME. The weapon for the chosen one has been forged.

(6) DESTROYING SF IN PRINT. The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter reached the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction  PHYSICAL BOOK STRETCH GOAL.

Everybody who backs for just that or at $50 and above is getting a FANCY BOOK!

And in another update, they posted a new Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction personal essay:

Here is today’s new Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction personal essay (edited by Nicolette Barischoff). These essays, much like their counterparts in the previous Destroy Kickstarters, will feature disabled creators sharing what it is like being a disabled person in the science fiction community. Shine on, Space Unicorns.

“After the Last Chapter” by A.C. Buchanan

The Chrysalids was different. The edge of panic started to seize me when I read it. I knew it was saying something deeply personal to me; was too scared to contemplate what.

The novel is set in northern Canada, some years after a global nuclear war, in a society ruled by religious extremism which denounces any biological mutation or atypicality as the work of the devil. This is a world in which disabled people are either killed or sterilised, then banished from society. The book follows a group who are forced to conceal their telepathic abilities for fear of their lives. At the conclusion of the novel they are rescued by a woman from the island country of Sealand, where these telepathic abilities are both common and viewed as a positive stage in evolution.

In retrospect, it’s obvious why this work was so important to me. I was both autistic and queer, only partially aware of both, in a conservative country where neither was acceptable. I tried—and failed—to find a balance between the inevitable violence that would follow any expression or exploration of my reality, and the slower, but no less destructive, intense denial of any sense of self. I spent my teens careering between rebellion and obsessive rule following, between internalised self-hatred and burning anger, eventually determining that no matter what I did, the parts of my person I did not yet know to call autistic would always be suppressed whenever they dared to show themselves.

(7) VACUUM PACKED. The Verge has ranked “18 space suits from science fiction, from worst to best”. Here’s one they’re very fond of:

One of my absolute favorite space suits appeared long before real humans went into space: it’s in the 1950s Tintin comics (and later cartoons) Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon. These suits aren’t what we ended up using: they’re hard armor with a bubble helmet rather than lighter cloth, and seem cumbersome to wear and walk around in, not to mention specifically fitted to each person (and dog!)

But, they’re still a beautiful, iconic design that did draw on some real concepts. While they certainly predate the space age, and Hergé does depict the suits in use on the Moon, as well as a couple of points where they’re being constructed and fixed, which means that he did put some thought into how these theoretical space suits might have functioned.

(8) COMICS SECTION. Mike Kennedy appreciates the astrophysical humor in yesterday’s In The Bleachers.

(9) WHAT DO THE SIMPLE FOLK DO? Nancy Kress told her Facebook followers:

Working on draft three of a novel, an insanely complicated sort-of-space-opera-with-physics that STILL has too many inconsistencies in the timeline. I swear, my next book will be single-viewpoint, near-future, on-Earth, and short. Possibly a haiku.

(10) WIELDING THE HAMMER. A new take on Thor:

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! Today, Marvel release GENERATIONS: THE THUNDER written by Jason Aaron with art by Mahmud Asrar. In this new and exciting story, Jane Foster meet a version of Thor she’s never met before – one who has not yet picked up the hammer.

 

(11) HEALTHY SCRATCH. You won’t be seeing this actor in the Han Solo movie after all: “Michael Kenneth Williams’ Role Cut From ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Movie Amid Reshoots” reports Deadline.

“I felt great about what I created with the directors that I worked with,” said Williams, who was cast in the Han Solo origin story by original helming duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who exited in June. “It is what it is.”

“When Ron Howard got hired to finish out the film, there were some reshoot issues that needed to be done in regards to my character, in order for it to match the new direction which the producers wanted Ron to carry the film in,” Williams told Deadline. “And that would have required me on a plane a month ago to London, to Pinewood, to do reshoots. But I’m here, on location in Africa. It’s scheduling. I’m not going to be back on the market until the end of November after [his SundanceTV series] Hap and Leonard, and for them to wait that long for me, that would have pushed back the release date, which I believe is in May 2018. They wanted me now; I couldn’t go. So they had to clip-clip-clip.”

Plot and character details had been kept under wraps, but Williams said he played a half-human, half-animal in the film and that “we created a kick-ass character, in my opinion. I’m proud of it.”

(12) KRAZY PRICES. Twenty-four hours left to bid on these irresistible items being auctioned by Nate Sanders firm, like this George Herriman Krazy Kat Illustration (minimum bid $11,000).

Original ”Krazy Kat” hand-drawn and signed illustration by George Herriman, rendered in multi-color ink and watercolor. An extremely popular comic strip created by Herriman in 1913, Krazy Kat depicts the unlikely love triangle of a cat, a mouse and a dog: Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Officer Bull Pupp. Krazy Kat’s naive, unrequited love for Ignatz is consistently and unceremoniously rewarded by bricks hurled to the back of his head, thrown by the cantankerous mouse. Officer Bull Pupp does his best to protect Krazy Kat, whom he not so secretly loves, from Ignatz’ relentless brick attacks. In this hand-drawn illustration from the early 1930s, the three march along, holding up their respective offerings: a brick, bobby stick, and umbrella and flower. Signed by Herriman, ”Hey ‘Louie’ – Thine – Geo. Herriman”, drawn for Louis Staub, a New York printer. Krazy Kat ran for almost thirty years, from 1913-1944, a favorite of comic fans and such notables as E.E. Cummings, William Randolph Hearst, Jack Kerouac and Pablo Picasso. Illustration measures 9.5” by 6”. Three hole punches at top and light creasing to edges, otherwise near fine condition.

Other auction highlights:

  • Original Walt Disney Signed Bambi Cel
  • Marvel Tales Starring Spider-Man! Cover Art
  • Charles Schulz 1961 Peanuts Strip

(13) POPULARIZING SCIENCE. Award-winner Nora Bourbia tells about “My academic poster at the Worldcon75 in Helsinki (Finland), August 2017”.

For the last two years the Worldcon has invited young scientists (PhD student and postdoc level) to present their work to the public audience via a poster and a five minute presentation. I couldn’t miss this great opportunity to do some public engagement and I was really happy to be accepted among 15 others for the academic poster presentation session. The title of my talk was: The tale of the neuroscientist who modifies DNA of mice with viruses.

…It was great to talk to a variety of people, from both scientists in my field to non-scientists. I was happy to see curiosity and have a range of discussions with the Worldcon75 attendees. On top of that I was surprised and very pleased to win the academic poster presentation judged by the panel of the Worldcon75 and sponsored by the BWAWA (Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association). It was really amazing, the panel judged the poster as well as the presentation. I am so happy about this award and to have been part of the Worldcon75.

(14) WHOO – IS TO BLAME? The BBC asks “Has Harry Potter cursed these owls?” There’s a video report at the link.

Since the runaway success of the Harry Potter series some Indonesians have started keeping owls as pets. More owls are being sold and conservationists are worried about the impact on the population in the wild.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Trailer for Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever with BriTANick” has the smart-alecks at Cracked trying to put every cliché they can into a three-minute video.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rich McAllister.]