Pixel Scroll 5/9/18 They Had Many Books For Their Kindles And Nooks And Hardcovers Kept In A Pile

(1) AWARD REVOKED. While I haven’t located any related protests in social media that would explain the decision, evidently the Romance Writers of America received enough complaints after making their award to the Washington Romance Writers to change their minds: “Update on 2018 Chapter Excellence Award”.

On May 1, 2018, RWA’s board voted to rescind the 2018 Chapter Excellence Award granted to Washington Romance Writers. This decision was made after extensive review and deliberation, because the board found it impossible to hold Washington Romance Writers up as an example of excellence due to a number of complaints received after the board voted to grant the award.

Incidents reported to RWA were submitted by WRW members as well as meeting and retreat attendees who were made to feel unwelcome, disrespected, and embarrassed by members of Washington Romance Writers. Such incidents potentially violate RWA’s Code of Ethics for Members, RWA’s By-Laws, Chapter By-Laws, and are clearly in violation of the Chapter Code of Conduct recently adopted by RWA and required to be included in all chapters’ governing documents by March 2019.

RWA’s board is dedicated to ensuring that all members feel respected, and we will no longer tolerate insensitive or biased behavior. We hope and expect that WRW is willing to take steps to ensure its future success as an RWA chapter. Only by working together can we make RWA stronger.

(2) COCKY OR NOT TO COCKY, THAT IS THE QUESTION. You may have already read news stories about Faleena Hopkins’ effort to trademark the word “cocky” for a series of romance books (her works include Cocky Romantic and Cocky Cowboy) and reports that she warned off some other writers who use the adjective in the titles of their books (see “Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry” in The Guardian.)

(3) THE CASE OF THE MISSING COCKY. Now there have been claims that Amazon, a primary sales channel, has been culling other authors’ titles based upon her claim.

What’s more, there have been claims that Amazon has removed some customer reviews using the word “cocky,” and delayed the posting of others (which their makers tried to post either in protest or to test Amazon’s policy.)

You can see this one’s gone:

Original URL: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3A3NXV2FH4Q4A

Google cache copy of page with review: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:zxJaTw9kaAcJ:https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Hard-New-Adult-Anthology/dp/098614150X

However, there are both titles and reviews still on Amazon with “cocky” in them which are not by the author claiming the trademark. There’s no way to tell whether any of those were zapped, then restored, by Amazon.

JJ ran a search of customer reviews containing the word “cocky” and got only 3 hits, which seemed rather low:

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&biw=1234&bih=656&q=%22cocky%22+romance+site%3Aamazon.com%2Freview

I don’t know. It does seem like a very small search return; they’re almost all “trending” results rather than individual review results, which would indicate that they are quite recent reviews.

Heidi Cullinan did a thread on the topic:

If Amazon is deleting things — what’s with their legal staff? Do they really think they have exposure from this?

The Romance Writers of America have gotten involved:

(4) GILLIAM STROKE. And it was just the other day we were reporting his luck had finally changed for the better: “Terry Gilliam Suffers Minor Stroke Days Before Verdict on Cannes Closer ‘Don Quixote'”.

Terry Gilliam suffered a minor stroke over the weekend, days before a final verdict on whether his long-gestating passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be screened as the closing film at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Gilliam, 77, had a minor stroke but is fine now and recuperating at his home in England, awaiting the outcome of a court ruling regarding the screening of Don Quixote on the last night of the festival May 19. French newspaper Nice-Matin first reported the news.

(5) FIRST LOOK. The Daily Beast tells about “The Secret Photographs of Stanley Kubrick”.

According to Michael Benson’s authoritative Space Odyssey, Kubrick shot setups with the Polaroid then, based on the results, he and cameraman John Alcott adjusted lighting and the placement of his Super Panavision 70mm cameras.

“I think he saw things differently that way than he did looking through a camera,” Alcott told Benson. “When Kubrick looked at this Polaroid still, he would see a two-dimensional image — it was all one surface and closer to what he was going to see on the screen.”

It’s estimated Kubrick shot some 10,000 insta-images on 2001, and if you only know Kubrick as a reclusive eccentric that reliance on the Polaroid might seem a characteristic quirk.

But in fact it was an extension of the creative sensibility he developed as a teenager working for Look. From 1945 to 1950, Kubrick was a photographer for the picture magazine, evocatively and empathically documenting ordinary New Yorkers, celebrities, athletes, and post-war playgrounds like the amusement park.

He shot more than 135 assignments for Look while honing the skills, relationships, and chutzpah that led him to filmmaking.

Yet this vital strand of Kubrick’s artistic DNA has been criminally underexplored. The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibition Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, on view through October 28, aims to change that….

(6) HIRED HELP. BuzzFeed takes you “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”. Given the ongoing debate on deleted reviews on Amazon, it may be interesting that a ReviewMeta algorithmic analysis (per CEO Tommy Noonan) of 58.5 million reviews on Amazon found 9.1% of them (5.3 million) to be “unnatural” and possibly fake. Unsurprisingly, Amazon disagrees claiming that <1% are “inauthentic.” Note that this article is concerned with paid reviews (both positive and negative), not tit-for-tat reviews as have been discussed in File 770.

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

…In October 2016, Amazon banned free items or steep discounts in exchange for reviews facilitated by third parties. But Tommy Noonan, CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “unnatural reviews” — that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake — have returned to the platform. In June 2017, Noonan noticed an uptick in unnatural reviews along with an increase in the average rating of products, and the rate of growth hasn’t slowed since.

Amazon’s ban didn’t stop sellers from recruiting reviewers. It only drove the practice underground. Reviewers are no longer simply incentivized with free stuff — they’re commissioned specifically for a five-star rating in exchange for cash. The bad reviews are harder to spot, too: They don’t contain any disclosures (because incentivized reviews are banned, and a disclosure would indicate that the review violates Amazon’s terms). Paid reviewers also typically pay for products with their own credit cards on their own Amazon accounts, with which they have spent at least $50, all to meet the criteria for a “verified purchase,” so their reviews are marked as such.

(7) CYBER TAKEDOWN. Equifax has been in no hurry for the complete damages to be made public. The Register has the latest totals: “Equifax reveals full horror of that monstrous cyber-heist of its servers”.

Late last week, the company gave the numbers in letters to the various US congressional committees investigating the network infiltration, and on Monday, it submitted a letter to the SEC, corporate America’s financial watchdog.

As well as the – take a breath – 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million address information and 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date) exposed, the company said there were also 38,000 American drivers’ licenses and 3,200 passport details lifted, too.

(8) LOOKING FOR CIVILIZATION THAT PREDATES HUMANITY. Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA, published a recent paper about what could be left in the geological record that could identify a pre-human technologically advanced civilization.

The drier scientific discussion is here: “The Silurian hypothesis: would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?”

Abstract

If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? We summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. We then propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event.

Impressively, he has also written a short story about the impact of making such a discovery: “Under the Sun” at Motherboard.

(9) CRAIG OBIT. Noble Craig, U.S. actor, died April 26, 2018. Severely injured during wartime service in Vietnam, he used his disabilities to forge an acting career, taking roles those with four limbs were unable to fill, beginning with Sssssss (1973). Also appeared in Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Big Trouble in Little China (both 1986), The Blob (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Bride of Re-Animator (both 1989).

(10) STAR TOY. Have you fiddled with this yet? — ESASky is an application that allows you to visualize and download public astronomical data from space-based missions. Mlex sent this sample:

(11) 1984. Fanac.org has posted another Hugo ceremony video: “L.A.con II (1984) Worldcon – Hugos and Special Tributes – Robert Bloch, MC.”

Hey, there’s R. A. MacAvoy at 13:00. And guess who at 22:16 and 23:45.

L.A.con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Anaheim, CA in 1984. Toastmaster Robert Bloch’s introductory remarks are tantamount to standup comedy, and the video also includes several special and moving tributes along with the Hugos. The first tribute is presented by Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison to fan and editor Larry Shaw (who died within the next year) and the second to Robert Bloch himself. There’s also some fun with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle on stage having to do with a rocket shaped object. Thanks to the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) for this recording.

 

(12) PLANETARY AWARDS. The 2017 winners of the Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards have been announced.

  • Best Shorter Story: “The First American” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Cirsova).
  • Best Novel: Legionnaire (Galaxy’s Edge) by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole.

(13) FREE CELL. A better model? “Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells”

A new application of artificial intelligence could help researchers solve medical mysteries ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

It’s a 3D model of a living human cell that lets scientists study the interior structures of a cell even when they can only see the exterior and the nucleus — the largest structure in a cell. The model was unveiled to the public Wednesday by the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle.

The technology is freely available, and Roger Brent, an investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who was not involved in the tool’s development, has been using it for several months. He’s a big fan.

“This lets you see things with a simple microscope that are going to be helpful to researchers all over the world — including in less affluent places,” Brent says.

(14) VACUUM POWER. BBC video: “The amazing power of the world’s largest vacuum” — is used for testing spaceworthiness; also tests noise resistance, and was used in first Avengers movie.

(15) DOUBLE STAR. Michael B. Jordan was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about his recent and his upcoming star turns in sff epics.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ star Michael B. Jordan approaches every role by journaling the character’s backstory, including his portrayal of Erik Killmonger in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther.’

 

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rob Day, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributingh editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 3/31/18 It’s An Honor Just To Be Pixelated

(1) FAREWELL, PORNOKITSCH. Yesterday Anne Perry and Jared Shurin signed off their long-running sff blog: “Pornokitsch: The Exit Interview”. The existing content will remain online for some time to come.

Anne: …As you say above, Pornokitsch is what we wanted it to be: a home for thoughtful, fun (and funny) essays about… whatever. Back when it was just the two of us writing for the site, that’s what we did. And it’s been a pleasure to watch the site bloom with much, much more of that…

By and large, I’m happy to say that I think I wrote more or less exactly what I wanted to write for the site. There are a few reviews I would do differently now, if I could go back in time. But we  founded Pornokitsch as a way of talking about the pop culture we love with the humour and intelligence we wished to see in those conversations, and at the end of the day, I think we – and our many brilliant contributors over the years – have done just that.

Jared: On that note… We’ve mentioned our amazing contributors: words and art, regular and guest, past and present. We owe them a huge, huge thanks for all of their hard work and help and patience. Thank you all.

Anne: We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks also to all the publishers – editors, marketers and publicists – who offered us books to review and put quotes from us on the actual books, zomg. And, finally, thanks also to our tolerant and very supportive families, enthusiastic friends and – most of all – our readers over the years.

For those arriving too late, they created a kind of postmortem FAQ on their “Bye!” page.

How can I check if you verbally flensed my favourite piece of pop culture? I need know whether or not I should hate you forever.

An index of features and reviews can be found here.

Is there some Pornokitsch memorabilia that I could cherish forever?

Nope. Buy one of our contributor’s books instead.

(2) PUPPY FREE. I like how this was the fifth point in John Scalzi’s “Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot” at Whatever.

  1. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

(3) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Piet Nel said on Facebook about Sarah Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” (from Asimov’s, September/October 2017), a Best Novelette Hugo finalist —

This is the first time since 2013 that a story from Asimov’s has made the final ballot of the Hugos.

(4) NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER. J.R.R. Tolkien on Elvish:

(5) GRIMOIRES. In the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, Lawrence Berry discusses a source of “Forbidden Words (And When to Use Them)”.

Do genuinely forbidden, occult treatises exist in the modern world?

Yes, definitely.

Who has them and how do I get a look?

The great libraries of the world, private antiquarian collectors, and the Vatican’s Secret Archives all house works on satanism and witchcraft. An interested party would need to earn scholar’s credentials or have someone very good at creating false identities counterfeit them. A wide and nimble knowledge of Olde English, Middle English, Latin, Arabic, ancient German and Italian, along with gifted insight into the science of cryptography would help—a person could be burned at the stake for the sin of heresy in more centuries than not and grimoires were often written in code. It would also be wise to attain a master’s knowledge of very old books themselves—the paper they were penned on, the material used to construct the covers, the ink used in the illuminated borders and illustrations, the quality and flow of period quills and brushes. Authentic editions, with provenance, sell for a great price, and forgeries are rampant. An equally lavish fee is charged for a single reading of the rarest, genuine, and powerful spell-books.

(6) SFF AUTHORS ON GENDER PANEL IN HONG KONG. In conjunction with the Melon Conference 2, the University of Hong Kong recently held a seminar on Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Mlex interviewed an attendee about what the panelists had to say in “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Gender in SFF” for Yunchtime.

To find out more about the Hong Kong Science Fiction and Fantasy scene, Yunchtime reached out to Dr. Christine Yi Lai Luk, at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Univeristy of Hong Kong, who attended the panel discussion….

YUNCHTIME: How did the seminar and panel discussion live up to the proposed topic?

LUK: There is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say. It is a panel of three women SF writers, but they did not explore “the world of women in SF” as advertised in the above description. It is more appropriate to call the seminar “women/gender and SF” because it is just three women talking about their SF work.

YUNCHTIME: How about the panelists, can you describe briefly some of their thoughts or comments?

LUK: I think Becky Chambers‘ views were the most relevant to the proposed topic. Chambers revealed how she was drawn into the world of SF from an early age onward. Raised in a space science-heavy family (her father is a rocket engineer and her mother an astrobiologist), she was introduced to SF and space fantasy movies as early as she could remember.

Her favorite SF novel of all time is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin (a lot of nods from the audience as the name was dropped). She said writing SF gives her confidence as she is an introvert.

I think her experience reflects a certain gender norm in the SF realm: Unlike the blondy sorority type of girls, girls who are into SF are perceived as shy and nerdy, and incapable of drawing the attention from the opposite sex (except maybe from Wookie-dressed superfans).

Tang Fei does not write in English, only in Chinese. Her Chinese works are translated into English and they draw attention in the English-speaking world partly because her works are banned in China. Actually, Tang Fei is a pen name.

Because the conference was being held entirely in English and due to the language barrier, Tang Fei’s sharing was not effective as we could have hoped. She only managed to say a few sentences in English (with a very soft voice). Then, during the Q&A, she was relying on the organizer, Nicole Huang, to act as her interpreter.

The main thing I caught from Tang Fei is that in the future, human beings will exist in disembodied form and thus the only “gender” issue for SF writers to engage in will be purely on the psychological aspect.

Zen Cho talked about her upbringing in Malaysia and her identity as an English-speaking Hokkien among mainstream Malays. She did not identify herself as a SF writer, but as a fantasy writer. I don’t think she has said anything remotely relevant to gender.

(7) STEELE AND SF IN HONG KONG. Mlex also covered “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Allen Steele on the Melon Conference 2018” for Yunchtime.

YUNCHTIME: What is your impression of Fritz Demoupolis? Is he a big SFF fan? Demoupolis is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, do you think he sees a business opportunity for the SFF genre in Hong Kong and China?

STEELE: Fritz Demopoulos is an interesting fellow … a California-born ex-pat who came to Hong Kong about 20 years ago and has stayed to make his fortune. My brother-in-law did much the same thing, so I’m familiar with this sort of entrepreneurship. He’s most definitely a SF fan. He discovered the genre through finding his father’s beat-up copy of Asimov’s Foundation and has been reading SF ever since. He knows the field, is familiar with major authors both old and new, loves the same movies and TV shows the rest of us do, and overall is an example of a highly-successful businessman who also happens to be something of a geek.

Melon is Fritz’s brainchild — he’d have to explain to you why he gave it that name — and it’s unique among SF gatherings. As I said, it’s not a con in the conventional sense — yes, that’s a deliberate pun; stop groaning — but rather a symposium that’s sort of academic without being stuffy or pretentious. The people Fritz invited to be speakers were SF writers — a few Americans like myself, but mainly young Asian authors— scientists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a number of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs working in both emerging technologies like AI and also mass media

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Henry Nicholls, in the Reuters story “Friends, Family, Public Flock To Funeral of Physicist Stephen Hawking,” says that Hawking’s coffin had white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses and a “space music” composition called “Beyond The Night Sky” was played.

The 76-year-old scientist was mourned by his children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, joined by guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.

Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was one of the readers in the ceremony and Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the film also attended the service.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1840 — President Van Buren issued executive order establishing 10-hour workday for federal employees.
  • March 31, 1987 Max Headroom aired on TV.
  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl debuted in theaters.
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHICH COMES FIRST? THE PRESS RELEASE. In “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” the Washington Post says, “Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy.”

…In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

“At Amazon, whenever we build anything we write the press release first and decide what we want the end to be and I bring the same mentality to the backyard chickens,” said Ken Price, the director of Amazon Go, who spent a decade in San Francisco before moving to Seattle. Price, 49, has had six chickens over the past eight years and is already “succession planning” for his next “refresh.”

(12) ENERGIES IMAGINED. In “Fuelling the Future” on Aeon, Aberstywyth University historian Iwan Rhys Morus analyzes Robert A. Heinlein’s 1940 story “Let There Be Light” in an analysis of how sf writers created stories about new power sources.

Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources. This was not a new problem, even in 1940, and it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power? Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? If we want to better understand how we speculate about future energy now, then we need to appreciate the extent to which those speculations have a history, and that their history (from the early Victorian period on) contains such fictions as Heinlein’s story as often as, and frequently mixed in with, highly technical debates about the characteristics and requirements of different modes of energy production and consumption.

(13) RUSS’ INFLUENCE. The Baffler’s Jessa Crispin, in “No Mothers, No Daughters”, an excerpt from her introduction to a new edition of Joanna Russ’s How to Supress Women’s Writing, says “I came at Russ sideways…seeing her name-checked by the punk rock chicks who created their own culture through zines an mix tapes when they failed to see themselves through thee wider culture.”

Reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I wondered, what the hell is it going to take? For decades we have had these types of critiques. We have had books and lectures and personal essays and statistics and scientific studies about unconscious bias. And yet still we have critics like Jonathan Franzen speculating on whether Edith Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, as is his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing, we have a literary culture that is still dominated by one small segment of the population, we have a sense that every significant contribution to the world of letters was made by the heterosexual white man—and that sense is reinforced in the education system, in the history books, and in the visible world.

This complaint wasn’t even exactly fresh territory when Russ wrote her book, which I do not say to diminish her accomplishment. It is always an act of bravery to stand up to say these things, to risk being thought of as ungrateful. Your small pile of crumbs can always get smaller.

But what is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the one we currently inhabit.

(14) THE MARCHING GENIUSES: At Featured Futures, Jason’s prepared another list of bright literary lights in the Summation: March 2018

The fifteen noted stories (nine recommended) come from the 112 (of about 560,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between February 26 and March 31. The printzines were decent, with Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and Interzone (the latter reviewed for Tangent) being represented by more than one story from their bi-monthly issues. On the web, Lightspeed has two from just this month while Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash
Fiction Online
, and Nature also make appearances.

(15) JDA SIGHTING. Kilroy was there.

Or as JDA put it in his press release (!) –

Today was a step forward for the cviil rights of conservative-libertarians in SF/F, as I attended the Hugo Award Nomination ceremony without harassment from the Worldcon 2018 staff. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 1. not disruptive at Worldcon events — or any convention, as FogCon proved and 2. that the discrimination I face from them was for reasons other than my being a danger to any guests (since I am clearly not, and they clearly didn’t think I was here).

The Worldcon Staff was uninviting — a nearly all white group I might add — not seeming to want to have a Hispanic author in their presence. It is something we will have to overcome in fandom together in time.

(16) GRAND THEFT LUNCH. SFF cannot keep up with stories like this from the real world!!!! Begin here —

(17) IN CHARACTER. Jeff Goldblum in his Thor: Ragnarok character in a short film “Grandmaster Moves To Earth.” From 2017, but it’s news to me!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/18 Scrolling Occupants Of Interpixellary Craft

(1) STRANGE TOY. Robin Sloan offers “Voyages in sentence space”.

Imagine a sentence. “I went looking for adventure.”

Imagine another one. “I never returned.”

Now imagine a sentence gradient between them—not a story, but a smooth interpolation of meaning. This is a weird thing to ask for! I’d never even bothered to imagine an interpolation between sentences before encountering the idea in a recent academic paper. But as soon as I did, I found it captivating, both for the thing itself—a sentence… gradient?—and for the larger artifact it suggested: a dense cloud of sentences, all related; a space you might navigate and explore.

…My project called sentencespace, now public on GitHub, serves up an API that provides two things.

  1. Sentence gradients: smooth interpolations between two input sentences.
  2. Sentence neighborhoods: clouds of alternative sentences closely related to an input sentence.

Sentence neighborhoods are simpler than gradients. Given an input sentence, what if we imagine ourselves standing at its location in sentence space, peering around, jotting down some of the other sentences we see nearby?

Mlex sent the link together with a screenshot of his own experiment with gradients between two sentences: “I put in the opening and closing phrases of Dhalgren and got the output (in the screenshot attached).”

(2) JUKKA WINS. The Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association presented Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme with the Cosmos Pen Award, their highest honor.

(3) SPIRIT AWARDS. Get Out won the top two categories at today’s Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony, Best Feature and Best Director.

The Spirit Awards recognize independent filmmakers. Read the full list of winners here.

(4) SUGGEST CHESLEY AWARD NOMINEES. The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists is seeking suggestions for 2017 works for consideration for this year’s Chesley Awards in the categories Hardback Cover, Paperback Cover, Magazine Cover, Interior Illustration, Gaming Related Illustration, Product Illustration, Color Work Unpublished, Monochrome Work Unpublished, Three Dimensional Art, Art Director, and Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Anyone can suggest works for consideration, you do not need to be an ASFA member.

The Suggestion form is here: https://goo.gl/v8QuzP

The gallery of works suggested so far is here.

The deadline is March 5.

(5) THESE BOOTS. Will Terry Goodkind get a veto over his next book cover? Although not yet displayed on the Macmillan website, another service is circulating this draft cover art for the third novel in his Nicci Chronicles series. Siege of Stone goes on sale December 31, 2018. Unfortunately, the banner obscures the character’s footwear, one of the things Goodkind criticized in his recent blast about the cover for Shroud of Eternity.

(6) DID PKD EVER COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS COVERS? Alicia Kroell, in “33 of the Weirdest Philip K. Dick Covers We Could Find” at LitHub, has unearthed some truly creepy covers!

(7) ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. Roy Scranton reviews an Iraqi sf novel in New Republic — “A Surreal Story from Baghdad”.

Frankenstein in Baghdad begins with an explosion in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square, the full significance of which doesn’t become clear until later, when the junk dealer Hadi tells his story to a group of journalists at a coffee shop. One, a German documentary-maker, leaves halfway through, laughing off Hadi’s tale as a fable stolen from a Robert De Niro movie. But Mahmoud al-Sawadi, an Iraqi magazine journalist, stays and listens closely, because what Hadi’s telling him is genuinely weird, even for Baghdad: how after the explosion he’d picked up someone’s nose off the street and sewed it onto the face of a corpse he’d been building in his shed. Then how, while he was sleeping, the corpse apparently got up and walked away.

Hadi’s a well-known liar, and a drunk to boot, but as Mahmoud discovers, this time the junk man was telling the truth. His story sparks the plot of Ahmed Saadawi’s brilliant, rueful novel, which won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and has recently appeared in a crisp, moving, and mordantly humorous English translation from Jonathan Wright and Penguin Books. Hadi, it turns out, created a monster.

(8) STIERS OBIT. David Ogden Stiers, best known for playing Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on MAS*H, died March 3 at the age of 75. He also appeared in several genre TV shows, and had numerous voice acting roles in animated films.

Stiers was a prolific voice actor, working in eight Disney animated features including 1991’s Beauty and the Beast (in which he played Cogsworth), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Archdeacon), Pocahantas (Governor Ratcliffe) and Lilo & Stitch (Dr. Jumba Jookiba). He also voiced Kamaji in the English-dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born March 3, 1920James Doohan, Actor (Star Trek)
  • Born March 3, 1945George Miller, Director & Producer (Mad Max franchise)
  • Born March 3, 1958Miranda Richardson, Actor (Blackadder, Harry Potter)
  • Born March 3, 1980Katherine Waterston, Actor (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant)
  • Born March 3, 1982Jessica Biel, Actor (Blade: Trinity, Total Recall)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DOMAIN

(11) WAKANDA AND COSPLAY. NPR explores how “‘Black Panther’ Brings New Visibility To Cosplayers Of Color”.

The film “Black Panther” has inspired black cosplayers around the country to be more visible within the cosplay community.

Cosplay, which is short for “costume play,” is when people wear often-handmade costumes to embody fictional characters from comic books and popular movies like Captain America and Star Wars. But black and other non-white cosplayers often feel excluded because non-white characters are rarely featured prominently in the fantasy worlds of comics. They are often relegated to the roles of sidekicks or villains rather than the superheroes.

But Black Panther, which features a black lead and a predominantly black cast, offers a multifaceted depiction of African life where people of color play both the villains and the heroes. These characters are transforming the playing field for non-white cosplayers like Tamara Heredia, a black cosplayer from Houston, Texas. …

(12) ANCIENT SAILORS. Learn Moana’s real history — “DNA sheds light on settlement of Pacific”.

Prof Reich, who is lead author of the study in Current Biology, added that Vanuatu was a “gateway to the remote Pacific islands… through that region of Vanuatu and neighbouring islands, people spread all over the Pacific”.

The first people to arrive in the islands belonged to the Lapita culture, who expanded out of Taiwan between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, reaching Vanuatu about 3,000 years ago. “They were really talented seafaring people,” said Dr Cosimo Posth, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. Dr Posth was co-author of the study in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Their secret was the specialised outrigger canoe, which is characterised by the addition of lateral support floats which stabilise the main hull. This innovation, says Dr Posth, “allowed them to cover immense distances of the ocean”.

(13) BUTLER TALK. The Pasadena (CA) Museum of History will host a lecture, “Telling My Stories: The Pioneering Fiction of Octavia E. Butler”, on March 29 at 6:30. Tickets now on sale.

Join Natalie Russell, Assistant Curator of Literary Collections at the Huntington Library and curator of the recent Huntington exhibition, Telling My Stories: The Pioneering Fiction of Octavia E. Butler, for this lecture in celebration of Womens History Month and in conjunction with the new exhibition Dreaming the Universe. Octavia E. Butler was the first female African American writer to make science fiction her career. A shy, only child from Pasadena, she dreamed of ordinary people in extraordinary worlds, and extraordinary people in ordinary worlds, and put them on the page. Her stories brought the voice of women of color to a genre traditionally dominated by white men. That powerful voice tackled issues, not just about race, but themes that continue to resonate with a wide audience: power, identity, gender, class, the environment, and what it means to be human.

This program is presented in partnership with the Historical Society of Southern California – George A. V. Dunning Lecture Series.

Tickets include light refreshments and entrance to the exhibition Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California starting at 5:30 pm. Tickets: Members $10; General $15. Advanced ticket purchase is recommended, visit https://octaviabutlerlecture.brownpapertickets.com.

(14) APPRENTICED TO A PILOT. From 2012, John Hodgman presents “Dana Gould as Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius as Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.” And I’ll throw in a twisted Gilbert & Sullivan reference as the headline.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]