Pixel Scroll 9/16/17 We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun, ‘Til Her Daddy Scrolls The Pixel Away.

(1) PROOF AND REPROOF. David Brin, after congratulating N.K. Jemisin for her latest Hugo win, asks readers to predict what’s coming next in the sff genre, in “Perspectives from Science Fiction: Hugos and other marvels”.

Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) – been the genre of literature most welcoming to bold ideas about human and non-human diversity, and brashly exploratory authors. Yes, SF was always “better than its times” when it came to such things, though every decade deserved the reproof of later decades, for its own myopic misdeeds. Leaving our self-critical movement always looking for the next cause for self-improvement!

So what are we doing now, that will cause later generations of brave questioners and boundary-pushers to reprove? What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? I think I know what it will be! (Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be. Discuss in comments, below.)

(2) THE SHAPE OF YEARS TO COME. And at Examined Worlds, Ethan Mills wants to know “Where did all the far-future science fiction go?”

This is a question I’ve thought about a lot lately.  I recently re-read the last book in the Dune series and am working my way through the delightfully/impossibly difficult Book of the New Sun, which my Goodreads review describes as “like taking an acid trip through a thesaurus.”

These days far-future stuff is harder to find.  There’s even a popular genre of science fiction that takes place in the past: steampunk.  Contemporary readers will call a book “far future” if it takes place a mere few hundred years or even sooner. See this list of allegedly “far future” science fiction that puts Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 on the list, and even more weirdly, Charles Stross’s Accelerando.  One of the main complaints about Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves was that people didn’t care for the the part that takes place in thousands of years (which for the record was my favorite part — see my review for more).

(3) THE RONDO OF A LIFETIME. Steven J. Vertlieb recently found buried digital treasure:

Discovered these wonderful photographs for the first time recently on my brother’s cell phone while vacationing in Los Angeles just a couple of weeks ago. This marvelous shot was taken in Louisville, Kentucky during the prestigious annual Rondo Award ceremony in early June, 2016, after which actor, director, artist, writer, and old pal Mark Redfield and I were awarded these coveted Rondo “Hall of Fame” plaques in joyous recognition of a lifetime of creative productivity, and dedication to the arts.

(4) PUPPIES AND RACE.  In “Words Matter, Actions Matter and Race Definitely Matters” at Amazing Stories, Chris M. Barkley rebuts author Christopher Nuttall’s editorial, “A Character Who Happens To Be Black”.

When a writer, of any ethnicity, admits using characters of different ethnicities without even the slightest hint of any sort of context for doing so, it is the worst sort of cultural appropriation and is an insult to his readers as well. Using the “I don’t see color” explanation to pander his own world view about race may be satisfying to his bubble of readers ordering online, but I am quite willing to bet it would not pass muster at most publishing houses or with discerning and critical readers as well.

By erasing ethnicity, class or race as a factor in his characters, Mr. Nuttal is stating those centuries of history and culture, on which his future or fantasy worlds are built upon, don’t matter or worse, never happened. By homogenizing his black characters with his white male viewpoint, he is giving them the “gift” of being white and being as good as anyone else and calling for their heritage and culture is a bad thing and should essentially be swept under the rug. His attempt to do so does not make them equal, it diminishes them. It’s disingenuous at the very least and a patronizing example of white privilege at worse.

No person who is consciously aware of their ethnicity, culture and history would tolerate such a cleansing. By taking away their joy, you also take away their sorrow and their history. We are all human and that is the factor that should unites us, not divide us. By erasing our differences to make everyone the same, no one is special or an individual.

(5) APOLOGIZING. At Fast Company, Mike Su proffers “7 Lessons White People Can Learn From Bodega’s Apology”.

… Setting aside the idea of rebranding a mini-bar and putting it in apartment buildings and street corners and calling it disruption, there are some important lessons that can be learned from their poor apology that can be particularly important for well-meaning white people to understand when they unintentionally offend. Here are my key takeaways:

1. “I Didn’t Mean To” Doesn’t Matter

“Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas…”

Most of the post was focused on helping people understand what they were really trying to do. Why they weren’t super evil, and all the steps that they took, and basically, “I know we seemed like assholes, but we’re not! Or, at least, we didn’t mean to be!”

But here’s the thing?—?just cause you didn’t mean to hurt someone doesn’t mean you didn’t actually hurt them.

But if you spend all your time explaining what you meant to do?—?you’re spending all your effort on trying to make yourself look less bad, and make yourself feel less bad. That may do it for you, but then your apology is not about actually making the person you offended feel any better. Which leads me to…

(6) IN THE NEWS. Brookline, MA Town Meeting member (and noted sf writer) Michael A. Burstein isn’t kidding: “Town Leaders Seek to Make ‘Selectwoman’ the Official Title”.

“There’s been some recent interest in Massachusetts to change the name of board of selectmen to something that would be a bit more gender-neutral,” said Michael Burstein, a town meeting member.

Two warrants have been submitted to the Board of Selectmen and take aim at changing the governing body’s title and title of its members.

“One of them is kind of a straight forward and just wants to create gender-neutral language,” said Hamilton.

The other warrant filed by Burstein is very specific.

“I deliberately and specifically filed a warrant to change the name of Board of Selectmen to Board of Selectwomen,” he said.

The Boston NBC affiliate interviewed him for its September 14 news broadcast.

(7) ROMM OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Minneapolis fan Baron Dave Romm.

Fan Dave E Romm (b.1955) died on September 14. Dave was active in Minneapolis fandom and was an avid photographer, taking pictures of various Minicons and other conventions he was able to get to. He traveled to Antarctic in 2005 and wrote about his experience in Argentus. He also hosted Shockwave Radio Theatre on KFAI-AM and archived the podcasts on his website. Romm became a baron of the micro-country of Ladonia in 2001.

(8) GOGOS OBIT. Bloody Disgusting bids farewell to “Legendary Monster Artist Basil Gogos” (1939-2017)  who died September 14.

Some of the most iconic pieces of classic monster art were found on the front covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine throughout the ’60s and ’70s, that art no doubt responsible for countless monster kids being bitten by the proverbial bug. Vibrant and eye-catching, the magazine’s cover art made horror stylish, beautiful and cool.

Those paintings were the work of illustrator Basil Gogos, who we’re sad to report is the latest in a long line of true horror legends who have recently left us….

Gogos also provided cover art for several other Warren magazines including Creepy, Eerie, Spaceman, Wildest Westerns and The Spirit.

(9) HANGDOG CHARACTER ACTOR. Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) died September 15 says The Hollywood Reporter.

Stanton, who also was memorable in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) and John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986) — in fact, what wasn’t he memorable in? — died Friday afternoon of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John Kelly, told The Hollywood Reporter.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Play-Doh Day

Play-Doh Day is an opportunity for everyone, whether a child or simply young at heart, to celebrate this iconic modeling clay. Play-Doh was originally developed in the 1930’s, not as a toy but as a product for cleaning wallpaper! It was not until the 1950’s that it was marketed as a toy, in the trademark vibrant colors of red, blue, yellow and white.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1926 — Many people reported seeing lake monster Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia.
  • September 16, 1963 The Outer Limits premiered on television.
  • September 16, 1977 — Returned television audiences to the world of Logan’s Run.
  • September 16, 1983 – The aptly-titled Strange Invaders was first screened.

(12) TODAY’S FORBIDDEN PLANET BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 16, 1927 — Jack Kelly
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner

(14) JAY KAY KLEIN PHOTOS. Crowdsourced identification of Jay Kay Klein’s digitized fanhistorical photos is proceeding apace.

J.J. Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at the UC Riverside Library, says —

The first re-index of the Klein photos on Calisphere has loaded. We’ve harvested amazing amounts of amazing information, thanks to the generosity of the fan community.

She has been keeping an eye on the info form and as of September 11 there had been 448 entries, many of them containing multiple identifications.

(15) QUARRELING CURATORS. New Statesman says “Two museums are having a fight on Twitter and it’s gloriously informative”. They’ve collected the tweets.

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum have got in on the action.

It all started with this rather innocous tweet, during The Natural History Museum’s Ask a Curator event on Twitter, where users could tweet in questions to The Natural History Museum’s twitter account. The resulting back and forth is both amusing and educational….

(16) THE TRUE MEASURE OF A MAN’S INTELLIGENCE… JC Carlton’s goodbye to Jerry Pournelle at The Arts Mechanical begins with a memory of the author’s opposition to the lowered expectations policy of the Seventies. That was one of the first things that came to my own mind when I heard he had died. And while Carlton was looking at another collection of his science essays, I was taking down That Crazy Buck Rogers Stuff from my own shelf.

At a time when technical optimists were as scarce as hen’s teeth, at least in the public eye, Jerry was unabashedly that technical optimist.  I did a post about  A Step Farther Out when I started this blog and how relevant it still remains today.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/stepping-farther-out/

At a time when the language of the day all across the media was how we were all DOOMED, DOOMED by the monsters of our own creation and that there was nothing that could be done to save us.  Even the best stuff in media, like the classic series Connections was mildly pessimistic. Contrast that with any column in A Step Farther Out. 

… He thought though that, that people wouldn’t just collapse into a series of unending ghettos and endless tyranny.  he thought that people would use the skill and minds, the technologies that humans had created to overcome the problems we had.  He never accepted that we would just surrender and mostly die. he was also optimistic that with a little more oomph people would reach for the stars and create wealth for all.

(17) THE BREWS THAT MADE SPEC FIC FAMOUS. Charles Payseur is back with another installment of his review column where he pairs short stories with the appropriate beer: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 08/2017”.

Welcome! Pull up a stool—let me tell you what’s on tap today. August represents the height of summer for some, and for others the first step toward Autumn. For my SFF reading, the month seems full of heat, decay, distance, and ghosts. Which makes a certain amount of sense, what with 2017 on its downward slope, having cleared the peak of June and July and entered into the fast descent toward the end of the year. And what a year…

The flavors are mostly heavy, alluding to the coming harvest with the sweet tones of apple and barley. Looming behind that, though, is the specter of winter, and scarcity, and cold. The bite of IPA stands as a resistance to going gentle in that good night, a fire to guide lonely travelers through the chilling dark. The stories are pulled from across SFF, with a lean toward fantasy, from contemporary to historical to second world, but there’s a hint of science fiction as well, a glimpse of the void and a voice calling out into the distance of space….

Tasting Flight – August 2017

“Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb (Book Smugglers)

Notes: Singing with notes of sweet romance complicated by the spices of trust, betrayal, and perception, its cloudy pour slowly resolves into a golden hue that shines with warmth.

Pairs with: Chai Spiced Ale…

 

(18) FAVORITE SON. Are you ready? In “Holy Adam West Day, Walla Walla!” the Union-Tribune tells everyone what’s laid on for the celebration happening Tuesday, September 19.

From before noon and into the evening, businesses around town will display Bat signal stickers and posters of West and offer special promotions. The city will also install a new sign commemorating West near his childhood home at the intersection of Clinton Street and Alvarado Terrace.

Other memorials to West can be found at the post office at 128 N. 2nd Ave and at the Marcus Whitman, both based around photos from the collection of Joe Drazan.

West will also be the focus of a series of events throughout the day. Here’s the itinerary, as listed by Grant:

11 a.m. — Opening ceremonies at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. Mayor Alan Pomraning will present a key to the city to members of West’s family, and attendees will have the opportunity to meet Batman and pose for photos with an exact replica of the Batmobile that West drove as the Caped Crusader….

(19) ESTATE SALE. The LA Times reports “Debbie Reynolds’ family ranch and dance studio to hit the auction block in October”.

The ranch-estate in Creston, Calif., had been offered for sale before Reynolds’ death last year for $4.8 million but was taken off the market in June. The studio on Lankershim Boulevard is for sale, with an asking price of $6.15 million.

Both will hit the auction block Oct. 7-8 in Los Angeles as part of the Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds personal property collection, according to auction house Profiles in History.

Owned by Reynolds for more than two decades, the 44-acre ranch comprises a main house, a guesthouse, a caretaker’s cottage, an art studio and a barn. A 10,000-square-foot support building with metal and stage workshops and a 6,000-square-foot film and television production studio are among other structures on the estate.

(20) HOBBITS INHALE. Matt Wallace’s tweetstorm shows that where there’s smoke….there’s even more smoke.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, JJ Jacobson, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/28/17 This Little Pixel Went To Market

(1) PROFESSOR JOSHI HEARD FROM AGAIN. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, who has repeatedly attacked World Fantasy Award board member Ellen Datlow since the board decided to replace the Lovecraft award statuette, recently climbed aboard his hobby horse to complain about Datlow being named a guest of a Lovecraft-themed convention

August 22, 2017 — NecronomiCon, R.I.P.

Once upon a time there was a convention devoted to H. P. Lovecraft named NecronomiCon Providence. It was run by a well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed individual (rather reminiscent of Edward Derby in “The Thing on the Doorstep”) named Niels Hobbs. The initial conventon of 2013 was a wondrous event that left all participants and attendees feeling good about the state of Lovecraft studies and of Lovecraft’s recognition in the wider literary community. The convention of 2015 was generally successful but had some awkward moments.

By the time the 2017 convention was in the planning stages, trouble was brewing. Specifically, it appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been captured (and, indeed, rather willingly) by the forces of political correctness, so that the focus became less on Lovecraft himself and more on those aspects of weird fiction that those horrible dead white males had evilly suppressed. (It is not entirely clear how this suppression occurred, but let that pass.) And it also appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been swayed by various forces hostile to Lovecraft in the initial stages of programming.

Consider the naming of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow as a special guest. Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence….

…There must be something wrong with a Lovecraft convention that has alienated the two figures—Robert M. Price and myself—who, over the past forty years, have done more to promote Lovecraft scholarship than any individuals on the planet. (I hardly need remark that, with the notable exception of Sam Gafford, no member of the NecronomiCon convention committee has made the slightest contribution to Lovecraft studies.)

And today he posted a roundabout defense of Lovecraft’s racism:

August 28, 2017 — Real and Fake Liberalism

I am a far-left liberal. Especially in the wake of the ongoing nightmare of the Trump administration, I have been speaking out loud and clear about the multifarious derelictions of conservatives and Republicans of all stripes…

What I do not do is launch furious attacks on H. P. Lovecraft for his racism. Of course he was a racist; everyone knows that. But I fail to see what good it does to attack him for this admitted failing at this late date. He has been dead for nearly three-quarters of a century; what is more, his views had no influence on the culture of his own time, or even on his small cadre of friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Indeed, it is telling that Frank Belknap Long, who met Lovecraft on an almost daily basis during his years in New York (1924–26) and frequently in later years, has testified that “during all of those talks on long walks through the streets of New York and Providence, I never once heard him utter a derogatory remark about any member of a minority group who passed him on the street or had occasion to engage him in conversation”—an inexplicable circumstance if one believes that Lovecraft was “obsessed” with the issue of race.

It is easy to condemn Lovecraft as a racist; it gives one a momentary feeling of self-righteous virtue and superiority. But it accomplishes nothing. It does nothing to combat the racism that we increasingly see in our midst today. If this is all you can do, you are indulging in fake liberalism…..

You can see the full text of all these posts by clicking the links. (Note: Joshi’s blog does not assign URLs to separate entries, they’re all under “News.”)

(2) DATLOW RESPONDS. Yesterday, Ellen Datlow went on Facebook and posted a rebuttal against Joshi’s effort to blame her for replacing Lovecraft on the award.

I loathe getting involved in mud-slinging so am posting this with some trepidation.

S.T. Joshi is apparently outraged at my being a GOH at Necronomicon and at my editing anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction. This is why -and I quote this from his blog:

“Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence.”

Facts: I am one of the entire board of the World Fantasy Convention who made the decision to change the physical award from the bust of H.P. Lovecraft to a new physical image. The late David Hartwell brought the issue to the board and we unanimously agreed it was time to retire Gahan Wilson’s amazing (in my opinion) piece of art. I was no more instrumental than any other member of the board…..

(3) NOT EMPLOYEES. The class action lawsuit claiming that Magic: The Gathering judges should be classified as employees and retroactively paid was dismissed. “Judge tosses case brought by Magic: the Gathering judge who wants to be paid”Ars Technica has the story.

A federal judge in California has dismissed a proposed class-action labor lawsuit brought in late 2015 by a man who says that he has now worked for more than 20 years as a “judge” in Magic: the Gathering tournaments and demands to be paid.

In the court ruling, which was issued Wednesday, US District Judge Edward Davila sided with the defendant, Wizards of the Coast. The judge noted that, while Paul Yale’s years of experience to master all of the details of the popular card game and to become certified as a tournament arbiter takes time and extensive knowledge, “the complaint makes clear that Defendant’s program is purely voluntary and could be abandoned at any time.”

(4) AMA FOR JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin will guest on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything feature on August 30.

(5) UNEXPECTED FINDS. These science history documents at Harvard had been lost, then found, and now have been found again: “A team of women is unearthing the forgotten legacy of Harvard’s women ‘computers’”.

Between 1885 and 1927, the observatory employed about 80 women who studied glass plate photographs of the stars, many of whom made major discoveries. They found galaxies and nebulas and created methods to measure distance in space. In the late 1800s, they were famous: newspapers wrote about them and they published scientific papers under their own names, only to be virtually forgotten during the next century. But a recent discovery of thousands of pages of their calculations by a modern group of women working in the very same space has spurred new interest in their legacy.

Surrounded by steel cabinets stuffed with hundreds of thousands of plate glass photographs of the sky, curator Lindsay Smith Zrull shows off the best of the collection.

“I have initials but I have not yet identified whose initials these are,” Smith Zrull says, pointing at a paper-sized glass plate crowded with notes taken in four different colors. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out who M.E.M. is.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1845Scientific American first published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born August 28, 1899 – Cinematographer James Wong Howe. (A long-time friend of Ray Bradbury’s. His wife, Sanora Babb, was an original member of Ray’s writing group.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly

(8) PIXAR EXHIBIT. The Science Behind Pixar is now open at the Science Museum of Minnesota and TELUS World of Science – Edmonton.

The Science Behind Pixar is a 13,000 square foot exhibition touring two copies — one nationally, and one internationally. It was created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. This website features some of the activities, videos, and images from the exhibition that describe the math, computer science, and science that go into making computer animated films.

 

(9) ILLUMINATING THOUGHT. Io9 contends The Defenders’ Best Storytelling Trick Doesn’t Use Any Words at All”.

There are a handful of ways that The Defenders openly nods to its comic book roots, like pairing up somewhat random characters like Karen and Trish for no reason other than to have scenes featuring them together or having certain people like Misty make uncharacteristic decisions just to drive the plot forward. Of all the comic book-y narrative and aesthetic conventions that are used, the one that stands out most strikingly is the show’s lighting and use of color.

(10) LEEPER FILM REVIEW. At SFCrowsnest, “Anti-Matter (aka Wormholes) (2017) : a film review by Mark R. Leeper”.

CAPSULE: Quantum teleportation may have side effects. This film is like a Whitman Sampler of cutting edge physics ideas packed into a Science Fiction mystery. ‘Anti-Matter’ is very much auteur Science Fiction. Newcomer Keir Burrows writes and directs based on his own story. This is a film that could well earn a cult following. There is little visual flash to the story but it is an accomplished technical mystery. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

(11) FORBIDDING PLANETS. Nerds of a Feather’s Vance K is a great admirer of the film made to capitalize on people’s love of Robby the Robot. His writeup, “Microreview [film]: The Invisible Boy”, includes a satirical reconstruction of the producer’s dialogue with screenwriter Cyril Hume.

PROD: Right. Listen, baby. This Forbidden Planet, it’s a humdinger. It’s doing gangbusters. We need a sequel, ready to shoot, right away.

CH: I told you a science fiction version of Shakespeare’s Tempest would work.

PROD: Whatever, whatever. This Shakespeare guy, friend of yours? If he’s got other ideas, great. But listen, we need another movie with Robby the Robot, right now. Like, yesterday. Something real…science fiction-y. For the, uh, for the geeks and stuff.

CH: Yeah, that’s great. Making a film on such a huge canvas was fantastic. We could explore other worlds…maybe on their way back to Earth…

PROD: You kidding me? No, they’re on Earth. Jesus, that fake planet cost me a fortune. And black-and-white. Color film was a nightmare. I chewed through three pillows in my sleep just from seeing the lab bills.

CH: So…a black-and-white sequel, on Earth, to a Technicolor space tragedy that takes place 300 years in the future?

PROD: On the nose, baby! And present-day. No space cities, or future science, or none of that. Just put the robot in it.

(12) DRONES ALOFT. Jess Miller goes through all the steps: “How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Guide”.

Whether it’s amateur racing or professional photography, drones can now do plenty of stuff. They can even move things from place to place.

If you’ve got one and you don’t know how to fly it yet, don’t despair – flying a drone isn’t rocket science.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park, either.

The thing is, with a little bit of determination and practice, you’ll soon get the hang of flying your drone.

We’re here to help you with that.

(13) AMERISPLAINING. Caroline Mersey feels Worldcon suffers in comparison with Nine Worlds: “A Tale of Two Cons: Nine Worlds 2017 and WorldCon 75”.

The panels themselves felt short – 45 minutes compared to the hour, hour and a quarter of Nine Worlds.  This meant they never really got beyond scratching the surface of a topic.  Panellists rarely got to speak more than twice during a discussion.  And some of them felt either poorly organised or poorly moderated – with panellists unsure why they had been selected for a particular panel, or with moderators taking a wildly different interpretation of the brief than appeared in the programme.

That sounds like I’m being harsh, and I guess I am.  But that didn’t stop it being an amazing event and an opportunity to meet and hear from people I don’t normally get to encounter in the UK.  But what really made the event was the awesome crowd of people I met and hung out with over the five days of the event, swapping ideas for panels and badge ribbons.

In two years’ time WorldCon will be in Dublin.  There’s a huge buzz about it already, and I’ve bought my membership.  I can feel in my water that it will be another big event.  Hopefully there will be a bit more sensitivity when it comes to some of the cultural issues (I can’t say I’m looking forward to having Irish history mansplained at me by Americans – I fear there will be some crashing insensitivity displayed, but it will at least highlight the difference between Irishness and the wholly separate identity of being Irish-American).

(14) ROCKET STACK RANK GOES TO THE WORLDCON. Greg Hullender posted his “WorldCon 75 Takeaways”.

Meeting People

Last year, at MidAmeriCon II, we gave away a lot of ribbons, but almost no one had ever heard of us. This year, almost half the people we spoke to at least had a vague idea who we were. A couple of authors told me that they knew who we were because whenever they searched on Google for the title of their stories, RSR’s review came up first, so our SEO strategy seems to be working. Because I had a bad cold the entire time, we didn’t do the Stroll with the Stars events nor did we attend any parties other than a brief appearance at the Hugo Losers’ Party, opting to go home early and sleep. We did attend the File770 events, and enjoyed meeting people we’d only ever seen online.

Greg has solid, more detailed analysis of several business meeting and program items that interested him.

(15) WITH BOOKMONSTER. Selenay tells “What I did on my vacation: Worldcon edition”.

Worldcons aren’t for everyone, but I’ve loved both the ones I’ve been to. Spending several days talking about nerd stuff, seeing other people get excited about the same things I am, is a fantastic experience. I’ve returned with new ideas, new plot bunnies, and new lists of things to read and watch. I got to meet people I’ve only talked to online before. I got to see old friends. It was everything I wanted it to be and that’s really the best anyone can hope for out of a Worldcon.

(16) FIFTY-FIFTY. Theodore Logan and family attended the con together — “Hugo Awards”

At 12:00 I took Calvin and Julian to a kids’ meet-and-greet with American astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a recent ISS mission. He set up a slide show of pictures of Earth from space, talked about being in space, and answered questions from the kids in the audience. (I was surprised that no one asked about managing human waste in low earth orbit. When Calvin raised his hand I gave it a 50/50 chance that he was going to ask, but he asked something else.) Most of the kids in the audience were Finnish (and some required simultaneous translations from their parents). According to the membership statistics, there were only 19 child memberships from the US (and only 10 kid-in-tow memberships for kids under 6 like Julian). Half of the total child members were from Finland, explaining why they were well represented at the childrens’ programming track.

(17) WORLDCON CHAIRS PHOTO. From Kevin Standlee’s Flickr archive:

Worldcon Chairs 2017 (15)

(18) FANTASY MAPS. Paul Weimer joins the fray in: “Not the Territory: In defense of (Good) SFF Maps”

There have been a slate of articles lately about maps in fantasy. Alex Acks has talked about the terrible geology in Tolkien’s Middle Earth Map and then gone on to tell why they aren’t a fan of fantasy maps in general. Adrian Daub has talked about his love of maps, but the problems of Eurocentric maps. There are others, some of whom have been gathered by Camestros Felapton.

We’re at the point in the cycle where a defense of the form, of countering the arguments put forth, and by gum, as an amateur cartographer in my own right, I am the person to do so. It might be facile to hashtag #notallmaps, but, really, not every map is a geologic mess, not every map is a Eurocentric western ocean oriented map, with an eastern blend into problematic oriental racial types. Not every map has borders which strictly follow natural barriers and does not have the messy irregularity that real world maps and borders have.

(19) POSTER GIRL. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna profiles Roz Chast, who designed the poster for this year’s National Book Festival: “Roz Chast writes — and draws — a love letter to New York”.

In April 1978, at age 23, she dropped off her cartoon portfolio at the New Yorker offices on a whim. “I had no hope of selling a cartoon to them because my stuff didn’t look anything like the stuff they ran, but they used cartoons, so why not?” she recounts. “To my shock, I sold a cartoon to the New Yorker. [Comics editor] Lee Lorenz was extremely supportive and encouraging. I remember he told me that [editor William] Shawn really liked my work. I had no idea who he was talking about, but it sounded like a good thing, so I nodded appreciatively.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Marc Criley, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and Stuart Gale for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/17 Rishathra Ain’t Nothing But Love Mispronounced

(1) HELP COMING FOR INDIE AUTHORS. Brian Keene, in the August 17 episode of his podcast The Horror Show, mentioned a new resource for librarians. Dann explains:

Small press and indie authors face the double problems of getting bookstores to carry their books and getting local libraries to put them on their shelves.  According to horror author Brian Keene, those problems are significantly influenced by the fact that books from small presses and indie author are rarely reviewed by recognized resources such as Publishers Weekly.  Librarians, in particular, are reluctant to order books that have not been reviewed by another professional librarian.

There is a new magazine on the horizon that hopes to rectify that issue by focusing on reviews of works from small presses and indie authors. Indie Picks Magazine aims to become a librarian quality resource that focuses on works beyond those published by the Big 5 publishing houses.

The first issue is due out on November 1, 2017. Social media links —

(2) DON FORD. J.J. Jacobson, UC Riverside’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, says 1949 Worldcon chair Don Ford also left his photos to them.

It may also give you joy to know that we have a gift of several hundred similar photos from the family of Midwest fan and photographer Don Ford, some dating back to cons from the 1940s. Ultimately these will join the Klein photos on Calisphere.

(3) ROCKET EXPERIMENT. In “Can We Categorize Clipping?”, the Hugo Award Book Club tries to define a category a musical album can win that wouldn’t have to be called Best Musical Album.

Splendor and Misery from L.A.-based experimental hip hop group Clipping is an ambitious and challenging work that is an exemplar of this tradition. In the 2017 Hugo Awards, it became only the second such work to be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award (after the 1971 album Blows Against The Empire by Jefferson Starship, which finished in the voting below ‘No Award’). However, Splendor and Misery failed to generate much popular support among voters, placing last amongst other nominated works in the category and losing to Leviathan Wakes from the TV series The Expanse. While Leviathan Wakes is an awesome bit of television (and is the work that we voted for) it is kind of a shame that there isn’t a good category to recognize eclectic and unusual works in the Hugo Awards.

(4) ALIENS OF EARTH. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter considers “The Creatures We Base Aliens On”.

One of the interesting things about fictional aliens is that they’re almost never completely alien. We have no real idea what extra-terrestrials would look like, and it’s nigh impossible to imagine an entirely new species unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As such, we usually fall back on earthly species for inspiration, combining known elements to create strange new creatures. And we certainly have some bizarre real animals to choose from.

Last year I wrote about our penchant for basing aliens on cephalopods, but octopuses, cuttlefish and squids aren’t the only creatures that inspire us, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at a broader range of favourite sources…

(5) WONKS OF WESTEROS. The Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute will be hosting a Policy Forum about “The Politics of Game of Thrones” on Monday, August 28. It will be livestreamed.

Why is Westeros mired in 8,000 years of economic stagnation? Should Daenerys firebomb King’s Landing to prevent a longer war? The world of Game of Thrones is teeming with fascinating interactions between institutions, incentives, and power that creates a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga just begging to be theorized. An examination of these issues through the lens of economics, law, international relations, and power politics promises to be both instructive and entertaining. The day after the Season 7 finale airs, join the Cato Institute and the R Street Institute in an exploration of the intrigue and game theory (and inevitable analogies to our current political landscape) that pervade the world of ice and fire.

Featuring Ilya Somin (@IlyaSomin) Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) Co-founder and Executive Editor, Vox; Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) Senior Editor, Reason; Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg) Culture Columnist, Washington Post Opinions Section; moderated by Caleb Watney (@calebwatney), Tech Policy Analyst, R Street Institute.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can watch it live online at www.cato.org/live

(6) PASSING THE HAT. Time for the 2017 Strange Horizons fund drive.

We, Strange Horizons, are a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. We don’t do the whole advertising thing, and we have no corporate sponsors. It’s through your donations, and your donations alone, that we’re able to pay our contributors and publish a new issue 51 weeks of the year.

This year, we’re trying to raise US$16,000 to keep the good ship Strange Horizons chugging along at its current speed. If we manage to hit that level of funding, we’ve got a few new things planned, too. If that’s enough for you, then you can find out how to donate on our IndieGoGo page. And thank you!

But hey, maybe you’re not quite convinced yet. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly we’ve been up to and what we plan on getting up to next year. Read on—the answers you seek are below! …

(7) HUSH-A-BOOM. This is almost worthy of Galactic Journey — the BBC’s story about a Sixties Soviet superweapon: “The monster atomic bomb that was too big to use”.

Tsar Bomba was no ordinary nuclear bomb. It was the result of a feverish attempt by the USSR’s scientists to create the most powerful nuclear weapon yet, spurred on by Premier Nikita Khruschchev’s desire to make the world tremble at the might of Soviet technology. It was more than a metal monstrosity too big to fit inside even the largest aircraft – it was a city destroyer, a weapon of last resort.

The Tupolev, painted bright white in order to lessen the effects of the bomb’s flash, arrived at its target point. Novya Zemlya, a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea, above the frozen northern fringes of the USSR. The Tupolev’s pilot, Major Andrei Durnovtsev, brought the aircraft to Mityushikha Bay, a Soviet testing range, at a height of about 34,000ft (10km). A smaller, modified Tu-16 bomber flew beside, ready to film the ensuing blast and monitor air samples as it flew from the blast zone.

In order to give the two planes a chance to survive – and this was calculated as no more than a 50% chance – Tsar Bomba was deployed by a giant parachute weighing nearly a tonne. The bomb would slowly drift down to a predetermined height – 13,000ft (3,940m) – and then detonate. By then, the two bombers would be nearly 50km (30 miles) away. It should be far enough away for them to survive….

(8) GENTRIFICATION. Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is more dangerous than this. Hell’s Kitchen is no longer as shown in The Defenders: “Marvel Comics Meet Reality On The Not-So-Mean Streets Of Hell’s Kitchen”.

That’s when the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics moved to New York City — in the ’80s. Axel Alonso met me on West 54th St, and I asked him why this neighborhood is so important in the Marvel Universe. “In Marvel comic books, Hell’s Kitchen sort of functioned as Mean Street Central, the underbelly of society, the place where there are predators and prey.”

Today, those predators are more likely to be the people charging you $50 for a blowout, or $20 for an omelette at brunch. “We’re fudging the truth with Hell’s Kitchen right now, you know, as you and I walk the streets, we see the development and the cafes,” Alonso says.

The New York of an earlier time informed so many iconic comics. Alonso says fans would revolt if you moved characters deeply associated with New York to anyplace authentically grittier, like Detroit. Alonso adds that Luke Cage’s Harlem has been updated, much more so then Hell’s Kitchen. And the Marvel universe is making a point of weaving in stories about gentrification: In Netflix’s Daredevil, an evil real estate mogul kills tenement activists who will not move out of their rent-controlled apartments. He’s motivated only by greed.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Actually, it hasn’t been that gritty for some time; Penn and Teller were performing there in 1985, right next to a nice French restaurant, before moving to Broadway.”

(9) CELEBRITY BRUSH. I never met the late Brian Aldiss. Lou Antonelli did, sort of. “The time I stepped on Brian Aldiss”.

That year [2004] was the last where the members of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were inducted at the [Campbell] conference (the event has since moved to the sf museum in Seattle). The living inductees were Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. We arrived in Lawrence just in time for the dinner, and as I rushed into the student center – worried that we were running late – I saw a pair of old timers in tuxes heading for the door from the opposite direction. As I ran up, I realized they were Aldiss and Harrison. In a clumsy attempt to be a gentleman, I grabbed the door to hold it open for Aldiss, who was first. But as I walked around him, I stepped on the back of his shoe and gave him a “flat tire”. (My wife tried to make me feel better later by pointing out that Aldiss was wearing house shoes).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 21, 1920 — Christopher Robin Milne, A. A. Milne’s son who he modeled Christopher Robin after in the Winnie the Pooh stories.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 21, 1981 — John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London premieres in theaters.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian spotted Edgar Allan Poe in today’s Bliss.

(13) IN THE SQUARE. Kalimac, in “confederate statues”, adds cultural context to the monument controversy. Historical analysis precedes this excerpt:

…And I think it’s because of that acknowledgment that, up until now, Northerners have ignored the profusion of statues of Lee and Jackson and anonymous Confederate soldiers that festoon Southern town squares. After all, they were great generals and brave soldiers. Let the descendants have their pride.

Up until now. Not any longer. Because if that’s the history that we had that’s now being forgotten, there’s another history that the books I read had ignored that’s now being rediscovered. And that is that the ex-Confederates and their descendants have not been living up to their side of the bargain. And not just in the hard facts of racial oppression in the South for over a century and still echoing in ugly ways today, but also in the symbolism which is the subject of the consensus.

Those statues. They aren’t lovingly-crafted monuments erected in the echo of the loss, like the WW1 cenotaphs in every British town and college chapel. They’re cheap mass-produced knock-offs from Northern factories, put up later, in the Jim Crow era, not in memory of a loss but in defiance of that loss. (the evidence) Look at the capital letters in the term “Lost Cause” and read what’s been said about it. Its memorializers don’t acknowledge it was bad, they only regret that it was lost.

Nor do we notice who’s being honored. There’s Jackson, who died during the war (of the aftereffects of “friendly fire,” by the way), and thus had nothing to say afterwards. There’s Lee, who retired from public life and quietly became a college president. But where is the CSA’s third best general, James Longstreet? You don’t see many statues of him. After the war, he became a Republican and actively co-operated with the Union government. For that, he’s considered a shame in the white South. Confederate apologist historians retroactively blame him for Gettysburg, at best a dubiously tenable position, even hinting that he was secretly a traitor to his cause.

(14) THE TRILOGY FINALE. His Felaptoncy assays a new release: “Review: The Stone Sky by N.K.Jemisin” at Camestros Felapton.

The future world, the one in which most of the books is set, has descended further into physical disaster. The former community of Castrima is now a band of refugees heading towards an empty city in a brutal march which many won’t survive. In a different novel, this struggle would be an account of good and evil but Jemisin avoids treating even monstrous people as monsters. There is no character that appears in any one of the trilogy who is not granted some compassion by the writer – not Schaffa the murderous guardian, nor Jija the child murdering father. Yet this compassion is not at the expense of a strong moral centre to the story and a channelled anger at the use of hate to dehumanise and to brutalise a society

(15) IN RE DANMORE. Rose Embolism promised to boost the signal for this Medium post, which may appeal to the superscientific among you. I suppose it doesn’t hurt any that the piece begins with a Terry Pratchett quote.

PhD candidate Erin Giglio, who I know from metafilter, has done a response to James Danmore’s Google memo, using actual science. And by that I mean it’s an incredibly thorough, well researched paper on the current science on gender, that looks at and devestates Danmore’s s “scientific” arguments.

Aside from being a comprehensive rebuttle to Danmore’s memo, I find it a fascinating, if long and technical read about the current state of biological science.

“The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo”

(16) YOU ARE NO. 6 The Telegraph answers the question “How did The Prisoner ever get made?”

Fifty years ago, The Prisoner began serving time. McGoohan – its star, executive producer, and sometime writer-director, a hard-drinking, intransigent Irish-American actor with a sharp Olivier-like edge to his voice – became Number Six, a former secret agent who knew too much to be permitted his freedom. For 17 weeks, he struggled against the mysterious authorities of the Village, personified by Number Two – not an individual, but an office occupied by a shifting cast of guest stars. (Leo McKern, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde were memorable incumbents.) He resisted their mind-bending tricks and interrogation techniques, attempted to escape by land, sea and air, and strove to solve the defining mystery of the series – who is Number One?

(17) AT HELSINKI. Finished commenting on the Hugos, Cora Buhlert continues her Worldcon coverage with “WorldCon 75 Photos and a Report”.

All in all, I had a great time at WorldCon 75. I also think the convention staff did a great job, even if there were some hiccups. And indeed, when I still had some of the German candy I’d brought to Helsinki left over on the final day of the con (the chocolate was all gone by this point), I gave the final two bags to the program ops team, because they really deserved a thank you for all their hard work.

Coincidentally, my Mom enjoyed WorldCon a whole lot, too. She’s not a hardcore SFF fan – SFF is just something she enjoys watching and reading on occasion. However, she was very impressed by the sheer number and variety of people who’d been brought together at Messukeskus by their shared love for science fiction and fantasy. There were fans of all ages, shapes and sizes at WorldCon 75, from babies being carried in a sling at their mother’s chests to people in their eighties and beyond (Robert Silverberg, now 82, was the oldest person I recognised). It was a testament to what a welcoming place fandom is.

(18) PROMOTIONAL GIMMICK. NBC Sports’ Chris Calcaterra says a minor league team intentionally scheduled a game during the eclipse: “Minor league teams prepare for a ‘total eclipse of the park’”

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are a class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Today, the path of totality of the big solar eclipse we’re not supposed to look at will pass right through the ballpark in which they play. What’s better: the Volcanoes are playing a game against the Hillsboro Hops as it happens.

This was by design: the team’s owner requested this home game when the schedule was made up two years ago specifically to market the heck out of the eclipse. They’re starting the game at 9:30 this morning, Pacific time, in order to maximize the fun. Spectators will receive commemorative eclipse safety glasses to wear. The game will be delayed when the eclipse hits and a NASA scientist named Noah Petro, who is from the area, will talk to the crowd about what is going on.

(19) LIGHTS OUT. Chris Barkley shot this 9-minute video of his experience watching today’s total eclipse.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chuck Jones –The Evolution of an Artist, Tony Zhou looks at 35 Merrie Melodies to understand Chuck Jones’s genius as an animator.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, Dann, Chris Barkley, Mark-kitteh, Rose Embolism, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/17 A Pithy Pixel Portion Produced Promptly

(1) IT’S ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. Some Filers have already traveled hundreds of miles to get in position to see the eclipse tomorrow, however, there might be somebody who’s just heard it’s about to happen. These NASA resources will help the latecomers prepare:

  • NASA Eclipse Facts
  • NASA Eclipse Path (this is an interactive national map showing eclipse times at each location)
  • NASA Eclipse State Maps: Eclipse State Maps (includes viewable and printable maps showing the eclipse pathway and times)

(2) ART OF DARKNESS. In advance of the eclipse, Steve Duin of The Oregonian finds a thematically appropriate piece of unpublished sf art — “Alex Schomburg and ‘The Day the Sun Died'”.

The family discovered “The Day the Sun Died” several years ago, matted and tucked inside a 9×11 manila envelope. The artwork, in gouache, was apparently meant to illustrate a novel by Daniel F. Galouye, but the editors of Imagination Science Fiction selected a different cover.

 

(3) HAMIT WINS. Francis Hamit’s screenplay for Christopher Marlowe won the award for Best Screenplay at the New Renaissance Film Festival in London today. Shown here is one of the film’s Executive Producers, Stuart Malcolm Honey, who accepted the award on Hamit’s behalf.

Stuart Malcolm Honey

(4) THIRD ROCK. At NPR, Amal El-Mohtar reviews N.K. Jemisin: “In ‘The Stone Sky,’ Some Worlds Need To Burn”.

But the fact that The Stone Sky sticks the landing of this astonishing trilogy with timeliness and rigor is the smallest, simplest thing I have to say about it. The gratitude and love I feel for these books, and for what The Stone Sky adds to the triptych, is staggering….

(5) MEMORY. Decades-old memories can be a hazard. In 2015 Douglas Knipe posted a great gallery of photos from Noreascon 2 (1980) with almost 50 authors, plus shots of the Hugo ceremony. But not unlike this week’s unveiling of the digital photos from the Jay Kay Klein collection, it has a tremendous number of mistaken identifications, leading to a considerable amount of unintentional humor. For example, a photo of Craig Miller accepting the Hugo for Alien is misidentified as George R.R. Martin with his novelette Hugo, while a few pictures later the unrecognized (“?”) person receiving a Hugo from Harlan Ellison is the real George R.R. Martin.

(6) HEAD OF THE GLASS. At Nerds of a Feather, Charles Payseur has come up with an entertaining motif for their short fiction reviews: “The Monthly Round – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 07/2017”. The reviews include the kind of remarks a connoisseur would make about a “tasting flight” of assorted beers.

“Waiting on a Bright Moon” by JY Yang (Tor dot com)

Notes: Conflict mingles in the form of a carbonated fizz, giving this drink a shine that cannot hide a complex and mature flavor, and packs a surprising punch.

Pairs with: Belgian Ale

Review: Tian’s life is defined by duty and distance, and as an ansible singer she is part of a power that allows her empire access to the far reaches of the galaxy. As the story opens, though, bubbling tensions are beginning to boil and the relative safety of being an ansible is shattered as corruption, magic, and murder all meet to devastating effect. The story looks very closely at the ways that Tian has been pushed into living as a literal resource for the Empire, used for her talent but denied the open expression of her identity, stripped of her chance to be someone important because of who she loves. And even then, the story shows that as the Empire allows her a sort of space to be herself, it’s defined by distance, by denial. She isn’t allowed to be with the person she loves, isn’t allowed a physical expression of her desire, is instead pushed into being ignorant and, save for the beauty of the song she shares over lightyears, alone. Until a different woman enters her life with magic of her own and the power to break through the walls keeping Tian isolated and repressed. It’s an opening up even as it comes at a time of growing fear, uncertainty, and danger. They both end up becoming a part of a resistance that pushes them to the breaking point and maybe beyond, each of them willing to risk everything once they realize that they never really had anything, just the lies and illusions of securing and contentment they were fed by the powers that be. The story is violent and fast while still maintaining a definite weight around the very small and intimate actions Tian makes. And even amid the galaxy-altering conflict the story doesn’t lose sight of Tian and her desires, holding to the hope that they won’t be consumed by the ravenous jaws of war.

(7) SPINNING. Bleeding Cool succeeded in getting an interview with Alisa Norris: “We Talk To The Supergirl Cosplayer ‘Along For The Ride’ At The White Nationalist Rally In Charlottesville”. It’s not a very sophisticated exchange:

…Alisa was clearly getting more annoyed and certain tropes seemed to start emerging. She told me:

“There were a couple of KKK members out of thousands. The lying press is labeling every person there a ‘Nazi’.”

I stated that the swastika flags didn’t help. She told me:

“Most flags were American or confederate or white nationalist flags… Of course they only show the swastika… Nazi Germany is dead and doesn’t even have anything to do with what happening today. It was stupid of those protestors to fly swastikas.”

(8) ROCKET MAN. Aaron Pound gives his thoughts about the effectiveness of the rules changes in “2017 Hugo Award Longlist” at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

This was the first year in which the E Pluribus Hugo voting system for nominations was implemented, and it seems to have worked as well as one could possibly hope to expect. The change in the voting rules, coupled with their waning ability to whip their adherents into a frenzy after being shellacked in the voting in 2015 and 2016, resulted in the Sad Puppies kind of slinking away after not even putting a token effort into putting together a voting slate. The Rabid Puppies continued their Quixotic quest, but changed tactics, putting forward only one or two candidates in each category in order to try to get someone on the ballot via “bullet voting”, and that seems to have had mixed results. They managed to get eleven finalists on the ballot, while five more appear on the longlist. They could have had five more finalists, but Rabid Puppy leader Theodore Beale is apparently really terrible at understanding the eligibility rules, so those five potential finalists were all disqualified as ineligible. The Rabid Puppies were able to get no more than one finalist per category.

(9) LEWIS OBIT. Comedian Jerry Lewis died today; the Daily Mail collected the celebrity tributes from Twitter: “‘The world is a lot less funnier today’: Jim Carrey, William Shatner and George Takei lead stars in paying tribute to comedy icon Jerry Lewis after his passing at age 91”.

William Shatner and George Takei were among the numerous celebrities to pay tribute to comedy legend Jerry Lewis, who died Sunday at the age of 91.

‘Condolences to the family of Jerry Lewis. The world is a lot less funnier today,’ Shatner, 86, tweeted on Sunday morning.

‘We have lost a great comedian and even greater heart,’ Takei, 80, tweeted. ‘Thank you for the laughs and the feels, Jerry Lewis.’

Lewis even did a genre movie – Visit To A Small Planet (1960). His legacy also includes more than $2.5 billion raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the annual Labor Day telethon. I remember being at a Worldcon (Chicon 2000?) where, in one of the rooms not taken by the con, MDA was hosting a viewing and fundraiser.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 20, 1973 — Twentieth Century Fox Studio executive Alan Ladd Jr. blessed George Lucas with a small contract to first develop a shooting script and then direct Star Wars for the silver screen.
  • August 20, 1995Amanda & The Alien, based on a story by Robert Silverberg, aired on TV.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 20, 1890 – H. P. Lovecraft
  • Born August 20, 1943 — Sylvester McCoy, the 7th Doctor. (He also played the wizard Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Hobbit.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian got a laugh from Off the Mark.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL DOMINO EFFECT.

(14) CHANGE IN RANKING FOR BEST NOVEL. The Best Novel Hugo voting stats have been updated to reflect the change in fifth and sixth places.

(15) SWEEP. Mimi Mondal’s article in Scroll.in, “Women science fiction writers won big at the Hugo awards this year. Here are five you should read”, is illustrated with great photos by K. Tempest Bradford.

The 2017 Hugo Awards were announced on August 11 at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Helsinki. It has already made headlines for women writers and editors winning all twelve of the individual Hugos, as well as the John W Campbell award. The women writers are a significant part of the team awards as well.

This clean sweep is a first, although women have been dominating the international science fiction and fantasy awards for years now. It is also a triumph, especially for the Hugos, which have been plagued since 2015 by a malicious right-wing voting bloc called the Sad Puppies, who sabotage the nominations every year and oppose any kind of “diversity” in the genre.

(16) TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY’S OVER. The Worldcon 75 social media crew takes a victory lap: “The Road to Worldcon 75”.

To my own astonishment, this tweet gained a lot of traction, being retweeted by over 100 people during the course of a few days. It was my first taste of Worldcon 75 Social Media awesomeness and resulted in me being assigned to work as a Social Media (SoMe) staffer.

I’ve since then been working Worldcon 75-Social Media almost all of my waking hours for 2 years, save for a few breaks, work, and other cons. I did expect to work a lot, but in the end I worked a lot more than initially expected, just because it was such a wonderful experience, and unexpectedly rewarding. I love interacting with people online, and working customer service. Another benefit of working Social Media is that it gave me an overview of the all the different corners of the convention and included working closely with all the other divisions, meeting with and chatting with lovely staffers from all over the world. It’s the best position I could ever have hoped for.

(17) WSFS ROUNDUP. Michael Lee also chimed in with a “Worldcon 75 WSFS Division Post-Con Report”. Here’s a chance to read about something besides the Hugos —

Site Selection

We had done Site Selection for the Kansas City Worldcon, and we new Dublin was unopposed, so much was easier there. I was happy that Johan Anglemark signed on as a Site Selection admin as I wanted to see someone Nordic in the division, and he did an outstanding job.

Despite some mild trolling I participated in of some people opposed to electronic site selection, we never seriously considered it. I’m convinced that generally the current method works for now, and given the political opposition I think there are  other ways to improve the process. Note that emailing signed scanned ballots to someone else to print out and hand carry is allowed.

Electronic validation of voters against the registration database is something that worked and can be improved for future Worldcon site selection. Carrying around all of that Personally Identifiable Information on paper at Kansas City was nerve wracking, and something that could be improved without changing the overall traditions of a paper based site selection. I gather we didn’t save Dublin as much time after receiving the data as we hoped, but that may be something that future Worldcons could improve.

We accepted Dublin’s Advance Supporting Membership rate without sufficient consideration; which had differing amounts in Euro and USD. This was an error, as people would want to shop for the rate that was cheaper when they mailed items in, and our credit card banking was in Euro. Currency rates are complicated, especially for mail in ballots.

(18) VIRTUAL REALITY THEME PARK. The latest progress report on Utah’s Evermore Park, now under construction.

In VR we have been able to virtually walk around our park and understand many of the intricate details that frankly just a few years ago was not possible. 3D renderings on a 2D screen is not the same as walking around in what looks and feels like real space. We were able to fix many aspects of the park prior to the expense of physical construction. For example, one of our buildings was much to small, yet in 2D there was no way assess scale, but standing in front of the building (just like you would in the real world) showed us that it had scale issue and we were able to make adjustments with our architects prior to breaking ground. We were also able to use VR to understand and refine our garden/landscape design and sightlines, etc., making many adjustments. In the next week we will be launching our new website that will provide many new and exciting details about Evermore, including a closer look at the park and our Festival/Shows, Themed Parties and Garden Adventures.

(19) CHANNEL SURFING. British TV science fiction is quite the thing in 1962. Galactic Journey has the story — “[August 20, 1962] A Galaxy of Choices (British TV: The Andromeda Breakthrough)”.

Science fiction on British television used to be one of those once-in-a-blue-moon events.  When it happened, what we got could often be very good.  Certainly Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series was compelling viewing, which drew in a large audience from the general population with millions tuning in each week to find out the fate of the infected astronauts.

The impact of Quatermass cannot be over stated, the name having taken root in the British public’s imagination.  And, now we have a sequel to A for Andromeda, which I reported on last year, to carry the torch for science fiction on British TV, which also looks like it will enter public’s lexicon.  With the additional transmission of the anthology show, Out of this World, we seem to be entering a golden age of science fiction on television.

(20) DEFENDERS. Today, TV shows air in beautiful living color. Camestros Felapton gives his opinion about one of the newest: “Review: The Defenders (Netflix) – minimal spoilers”.

Imagine Pixar’s Inside Out but for grown-ups – each character represents one of the four key emotions: Guilt, Petulance, Sarcasm and Luke Cage. Luke Cage is an emotion now or at least he should be – some sort of combination of every positive association with masculinity you might want, with a deeply smooth voice and an excellent soundtrack.

(21) A VAGRANT THOUGHT. I gather The Philadelphia Story was on TCM today….

(22) NOW, VOYAGER. An overview of our furthest spacecraft on their 40th anniversary: “Voyagers: Inside the world’s greatest space mission”.

Remarkably, both Voyager spacecraft are still working. Whenever Voyager 1 sends back a signal, it is from the furthest distance any human-made object has travelled from Earth.

Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2013 and is (at the time of writing) 20 billion kilometres (12 billion miles) away. Voyager 2, on a different trajectory, is 17 billion kilometres (10.5 billion miles) away. Maybe it’s easier to imagine it like this: it takes a radio signal, travelling at the speed of light, 38 hours to travel from the Earth to Voyager 1 and back. And it’s some 30 hours for Voyager 2. (For their latest position, visit the Voyager home page.)

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Amusing note: the receiver station they mention using is the direct successor to the one that picked up the pictures of Armstrong setting foot on the moon, as vaguely remembered in The Dish.”

(23) IMAGINE THAT. Another sci-fi trope bites the dust – the BBC says most hackers aren’t sophisticated.

The ways in which young people become involved in this sort of activity were recently detailed in a report by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA). The average age of those arrested for malicious hacking activities was just 17 – the offences included vandalising websites, stealing data and breaking in to private computers.

Because our world is so much more connected than ever before, and those connections are often woefully insecure, it’s relatively easy to find ways of exploiting computer systems illegally. And ransomware in general is increasingly successful. In 2016, criminals made an average of $1,077 with every attack. For the BBC’s Cyber-hacks series, Click’s Spencer Kelly discovered how cyber-criminals can acquire off-the-shelf ransomware using only a search engine.

As Woodward points out, the easiest thing to do is “just cast it out there” – whether it’s ransomware, spyware or spam – and see what comes back. Many people are often surprised by the amount of spam they receive, especially because so many of the scams are so obviously illegitimate. But the reason you still get emails from a Nigerian prince offering cash out of the blue is because people continue to fall for such stories. Not huge numbers, but a few. And that’s all it takes to make a profit.

(24) BOARD OUT OF THEIR MINDS. Metro.uk has obviously played these: “Your favourite retro games renamed with the titles they really deserve”. Like the famous game of insincere apologies —

If board games were honest Credit: Smoosh.com

[Thanks to JJ, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Doering.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/11/17 “Scrollpathy for the Pixel” By The Scrolling Stones

(1) RECORD LONGEVITY. Who knew?

Or as Paul Mackintosh says at Teleread: “Hugo Awards get their own award – from the Guinness Book of World Records”.

In the course of Worldcon 75, the organizers have just announced that “the Hugo Awards have been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running science fiction award.”

(2) HUGO VOTING STATISTICS. If you haven’t already seen them, here’s where you can download the reports.

(3)  IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Chuck knew it all along. And had a book ready to go.

(4) BONUS WOMBAT COVERAGE. She dared to enter the Hugo Losers Party.

(5) HUGO VOTING ELIGIBILITY CHANGE. Something else passed at the business meeting —

(6) WORLDCON 75 DAILY NEWZINE. The Worldcon daily zine reports there were 4,759 visitors on Day 1. Who knows what other tidbits you’ll find in the issues linked here?

(7) ANOTHER BRILLIANT OBSERVATION. From a W75 panel:

Er, were we really that reluctant we were to being saved by heroes played by William Shatner and Lorne Greene?

(8) THE WATCHER. Jo Lindsay Walton shares sightings of “Power Couples of WorldCon: A Field Guide”.

Malcolm Devlin and Helen Marshall. Travellers to antique lands frequently flock to Shelley’s two vast and trunkless legs of stone. But why not squint up with the locals into the desert firmament azure, where hover two vast and trunkless arms of flame, Helen and Malcolm?

(9) CYCLIC HISTORY. Ah yes. Those who don’t know the lessons of fanhistory are doomed to repeat them. As are those who do know them.

(10) WIZARDLY INTERIOR DÉCOR. The Evening Standard knows where to find it: “Primark works its magic with a new Harry Potter collection”.

Witches and wizards the world over will rejoice this week at the news that Primark has announced it will be introducing a Harry Potter range to its stores in honour of the famous book series’ 20th anniversary.

The high street retailer, which is famed for its bargains, has created an official range of clothing, stationery and home accessories in line with the wizarding theme which will be available in shops from next week.

Fans of the fantasy world will be able to pick up everything from potion shaped fairy lights (£8) to cauldron mugs (£6) with some items costing as little as £2.

The wait will finally be over for those after their Hogwarts acceptance letter too, which can be bought on a cushion for £4 and whether you’re a Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin, you’ll be able to pick up a pair of pyjamas in your house colours for just £6.

(11) BANK WITH THE BARD. Here’s what the world has been waiting for: “Batman 1966 Shakespeare Bust Bank”.

To the Batpoles! This awesome 20? tall replica of the Shakespeare bust from the 1966 Batman TV series doubles as a coin bank. Like the prop, the coin slot (along with the customary dial and button) is hidden inside the bust’s neck. See it unboxed on video here.

(12) WALKING DEAD CREATOR ANKLES TO AMAZON. From io9: “Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman Leaving AMC, Signs New TV Deal With Amazon”.

The Walking Dead has been a big money-making success at AMC, pulling in an impressive amount of viewers for the network. But Skybound—the entertainment company founded by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman—just announced that Amazon will be the home of all their new TV content moving forward.

(13) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock found more on autonomous cars in Arctic Circle.

(14) THE TRUE SIGN OF QUALITY. Camestros Felapton (or was it Timothy?) put his marketing and design skills to the test.

(15) NUCLEAR FREE ZONE. The South China Morning Post makes an appeal: “If Trump must start a nuclear war, at least let us finish Game of Thrones first”.

I’m not worried about American lives above everyone else’s – hopefully nobody has to die because of two unhinged custodians of nuclear power taking brinkmanship too far – but there is one American who must be kept safe, no matter what.

I’m talking about George R. R. Martin, the author of the epic fantasy book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, better known to most people as Game of Thrones, the HBO hit series that is, hands down, the best show on TV these days.

… But if you’ve read the books, you’ll agree that the TV show is not a patch on Martin’s writing and sheer storytelling genius. He makes The Lord of the Rings look like a slow ride to grandma’s cottage. George R.R. Martin is J. R.R. Tolkien on steroids, and then some.

(16) LOST LIGHT. Electric Lit talks to someone who has seen Octavia Butler’s papers at the Huntington: “Now More than Ever, We Wish We Had These Lost Octavia Butler Novels”

In 2006, Butler died of a stroke outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington. Her many papers now reside at the Huntington, a private library in San Marino, California. Curator Natalie Russell describes the collection as including “8,000 manuscripts, letters and photographs and an additional 80 boxes of ephemera.”

On display there now are numerous treasures, including working manuscript pages from The Parable of the Sower covered in her brightly colored notes: “More Sharing; More Sickness; More Death; More Racism; More Hispanics; More High Tech.”

There are the beautiful, bold affirmations that recently went viral online, which she wrote to frame her motives for writing: “Tell Stories Filled With Facts. Make People Touch and Taste and KNOW. Make People FEEL! FEEL! FEEL!” On one page of her journals she visualized the success that she desired: “I am a Bestselling Writer. I write Bestselling Books And Excellent Short Stories. Both Books and Short Stories win prizes and awards.”

But what is not on public view are the drafts?—?the things she had hoped to write someday and never did, including The Parable of the Trickster.

Scholar Gerry Canavan described getting a look at that work-in-progress for the LA Review of Books in 2014:

Last December I had the improbable privilege to be the very first scholar to open the boxes at the Huntington that contain what Butler had written of Trickster before her death. What I found were dozens upon dozens of false starts for the novel, some petering out after twenty or thirty pages, others after just two or three; this cycle of narrative failure is recorded over hundreds of pages of discarded drafts. Frustrated by writer’s block, frustrated by blood pressure medication that she felt inhibited her creativity and vitality, and frustrated by the sense that she had no story for Trickster, only a “situation,” Butler started and stopped the novel over and over again from 1989 until her death, never getting far from the beginning.

The novel’s many abandoned openings revolve around another woman, Imara, living on an Earthseed colony in the future on a planet called “Bow,” far from Earth. It is not the heaven that was hoped for, but “gray, dank, and utterly miserable.” The people of Bow cannot return to Earth and are immeasurably homesick. Butler wrote in a note, “Think of our homesickness as a phantom-limb pain?—?a somehow neurologically incomplete amputation. Think of problems with the new world as graft-versus-host disease?—?a mutual attempt at rejection.”

(17) NEVERTHELESS. Mindy Klasky has put together an anthology by Book View Café authors, “Nevertheless, She Persisted”. It has released in July Here’s the table of contents.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate. In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View Café authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph—in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges—from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.

From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.

Table of Contents:

  • “Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
  • “Sisters” by Leah Cutter
  • “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
  • “Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
  • “How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
  • “After Eden” by Gillian Polack
  • “Reset” by Sara Stamey
  • “A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
  • “Making Love” by Brenda Clough
  • “Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
  • “Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
  • “Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
  • “The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
  • “If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
  • “Chataqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
  • “Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
  • “In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
  • “Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

(18) RECOMMENDED TO PRODUCERS. Observation Deck tells “Why Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Should Be the Next Game of Thrones”

Fritz Leiber, a science fiction and fantasy author, wrote a story in 1939 called “Two Sought Adventure” starring Fafhrd, a large barbarian from the frozen North, and the Gray Mouser, a taciturn thief. Soon, Leiber realized he could use these characters to not only poke fun at the Conan the Barbarian-type stories that pervaded fantasy magazines, but to also construct his own fantasy world and deconstruct a various number of characters and tropes.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sold their services to anyone with the right coin — more importantly, Mouser was a former member of the Thieves’ Guild and would often go up against his former employers. But they also went on adventures due to bets or because they wanted to have a bit of fun. Sometimes they got into trouble because of drink or because of women — they were often subject to the Cartwright Curse, where their love interests ended up dead by the end of the story. However, later stories gave both of them long-term girlfriends, even if one of them was, uh, a big unconventional.*

* One of Mouser’s girlfriends was Kreeshka, a ghoul, whose skin and organs are all invisible. Which means she looks like an animated skeleton. Whatever you do, don’t think about their sex life.

(19) BUGS, ZILLIONS OF ‘EM.  Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars trailer #3:

(20) SHOOTING AND BLOWING UP. Kingsman 2 trailer #3 TV spot.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lee Whiteside, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

N.K. Jemisin Withdraws from Dragon Awards

N.K. Jemisin has announced she is “Withdrawing from the Dragon Awards”.

Last year, as a 2016 nominee in the Best Fantasy Novel category she says, “I took at face value the DA administrators’ insistence that they were trying to create a fair, open, ‘people’s choice’ award process, I just chalked the problems up to growing pains, took it as an honor, and moved on.” There are a couple of major reasons she has decided against participating in 2017.

…Suffice it to say that the Dragon Awards voting process no longer seems fair or transparent to me, in actual practice.

And then I heard about author Alison Littlewood’s request to withdraw from the awards, and the awards admins’ refusal to honor this request. Important: as of this morning, they’ve changed their minds about this policy and are now removing Ms. Littlewood’s book from the ballot. That’s great. It sounds like this change is enough to assuage John Scalzi’s concerns about the award; that’s also great. I have nothing but respect for other people’s decisions re this whole matter.

It ain’t working for me, though. Let me break this all the way down.

There’s a nasty tendency on the part of some organizations to try and use tokens — most often women and people of color — as ornamentation and flak shielding. It’s a way of saying, “Hey! Look! We’re diverse. We’re fair. [Person X’s presence] proves it!” when in fact the fairness may be an unearned veneer and the diversity a reluctant afterthought. There’s a name for this process when it occurs in corporate settings under certain circumstances. And I’ve become more sensitive to being used this way myself because it’s been happening a lot more, lately. This is the kind of thing that happens when people who don’t understand social justice concepts — or who have contempt for them — attempt to deploy them anyway for appearances’ sake. It’s not always malicious, but it’s noticeable, and it’s never a good look. And those of us who get put into the ornament/flak shield position don’t actually like being used this way, see? I don’t, anyway.

So when it became clear that the opacity of the voting process was intentional — in effect, when I realized there was no way to know if my book’s presence on the list was legitimately earned through individual, freely-chosen votes by a representative sampling of DragonCon members (or SFFdom as a whole) — a gentle ping of flak warning went off in my mind. But when DragonCon initially refused to accept Ms. Littlewood’s request for withdrawal for the reasons stated here, those gentle pings escalated to full-on DANGER WILL ROBINSON alarm bells. It’s good that they’ve changed their minds about letting authors off the list, and I think they meant well… but at this point those alarm bells cannot be un-rung.

So. I had a pleasant phone call this morning from a spokesperson for the Dragon Awards who discussed the process with me, and let me know that they’re planning to fix some of its problems and do a better job in the future. He assured me that the votes which put The Obelisk Gate on the ballot were legitimate — and I was glad to hear that, seriously. Thank you, to all of you who voted for me. However… I still choose to withdraw. I will be happy to participate in the Dragon Awards at a future date, if I am so honored — after the process has been substantially improved. I very sincerely wish them luck in working on this, and will look forward to positive results.

[Thanks to Matt Y and JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 8/8/17 Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Scrolls Of Summer

(1) THE FLAG IS UP. Kevin Standlee and other selected members of Worldcon 75 attended a reception hosted at the Helsinki City Hall to welcome Worldcon to the city.

Worldcon Reception at City Hall

(2) INDEPENDENCE DAY. Did you notice that Hoboken, New Jersey, is a sovereign country now? At least, it has a line of its own in Worldcon 75’s membership update, just like the Vatican City State.

(3) STAR TREK FAN FILM ACADEMY. “Post-Axanar, CBS unveils first official fan filmmaking initiative in Trek history”ArsTechnica has the story.

After pushing a nearly year-and-a-half copyright battle with fan filmmakers toward a settlement earlier this year, CBS and Star Trek New Voyages Producer James Cawley announced the creation of a Star Trek Film Academy equipped to train interested creators and produce future fan films.

This marks the first official, CBS-sanctioned fan filmmaking effort in Trek‘s 50-plus year history. The academy will start business in the fall with the first films expected in Spring 2018. Unlike prior Trek fan films or those made under newly announced guidelines, films done through the Star Trek Film Academy will be able to employ people who’ve worked on professional Trek productions.

These Academy fans and films will also have access to the New Voyages sets and facilities [on Ticonderoga, NY]. New Voyages is a fan-made Web series Cawley helmed from 2008 through 2015, creating about one episode per year. Though the series was not officially a CBS production, sets constructed for New Voyages became licensed as a “Studio Set Tour” beginning in July 2016. Throughout its run, New Voyages featured contributions from major Trek players like George Takei (reprising his role as Sulu) and Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. (as a producer).

(4) LOVE FOR DRAGON AWARD NOMINEES. Congratulatory posts show where some of the nominees have their strongest support.

Inkshares for one:

Congratulations to the Five Inkshares Authors Nominated for the 2017 Dragon Awards!

DragonCon, the pop culture, fantasy, sci-fi, and gaming convention based in Atlanta, has announced their round of 2017 nominations for the coveted Dragon Awards. Previous winners include Terry Pratchett, Naomi Novik, and Neil Gaiman.

This year a whopping five Inkshares authors have been nominated! These talented authors will be representing Inkshares in their respective categories and we couldn’t be more proud!

And the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance for another:

“Multiple CLFA Authors on Final Ballot for 2017 Dragon Awards”

In only its second incarnation, the Dragon Awards have already shot to prominence as one of Science Fiction/Fantasy’s most consequential fan-powered awards. Here at CLFA, we are bursting with pride at the significant number of our members who have reached the Finalist stage of the contest. Scroll down to see which CLFA’ers made the cut; click on any book cover to read more and shop.

(5) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. N.K. Jemisin seems to have learned about her Dragon Award nomination…today?

(6) CHANGING OF THE GUARD. BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow reports “Toronto’s amazing science fiction library, the Merril Collection, has a new head librarian”.

That new head librarian is Sephora Hosein, a “lifelong fan” who has vowed to bring in younger readers and a new generation of fandom by connecting the collection using “social media and programming for people who maybe love science fiction and fantasy, but never dove deep into fandom.”

I think Judy Merril would have loved this approach. I was trepidatious when I heard Lorna was stepping down as the library has been such a fixture in my life, but Ms Hosein sounds like a brilliant successor.

Hosein has taken the reins from longtime collection head Lorna Toolis, herself having moved from managing another formidable research collection — Toronto Public Library’s Canadiana Collection at the Toronto Reference Library.

Gregg Calkins in 2013: a photo from his old blog.

(7) CALKINS OBIT. Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died last week after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates.

He is survived by his wife, Carol.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian found a real fish story in today’s Bizarro.

(9) THE MERCURY 13 STILL AIM FOR THE STARS. An early astronaut candidate, rejected for being female, may finally go into space: “This Pilot Is Headed To Space With Or Without NASA”.

Wally Funk has spent her life in pursuit of a dream. The pilot, flight instructor and almost-astronaut longs to go to outer space.

In 1961, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine whether women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts and the women became known as the Mercury 13.

“I get a call said, ‘Do you want to be an astronaut?’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes!’ And he said, ‘Be here on Monday to take these tests,’ ” the 78-year-old Funk recounted to her friend and flight student, Mary Holsenbeck, during a recent visit to StoryCorps in Dallas.

…. Funk bought a ticket for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial spaceship and hopes to be on board its maiden voyage into space. Holsenbeck plans to be there, cheering Funk on when she finally blasts off.

(10) NEW VIEW. Using glass may be the best way to fix broken bones.

Thompson’s answer was to build the world’s first glass implant, moulded as a plate which slotted in under the patient’s eye into the collapsed orbital floor. The idea of using glass – a naturally brittle material – to repair something so delicate may seem counterintuitive.

But this was no ordinary glass.

“If you placed a piece of window glass in the human body, it would be sealed off by scar tissue, basically wobble around in the body for a while and then get pushed out,” says Julian Jones, an expert in bioglass at Imperial College London. “When you put bioglass in the body, it starts to dissolve and releases ions which kind of talk to the immune system and tell the cells what to do. This means the body doesn’t recognise it as foreign, and so it bonds to bone and soft tissue, creating a good feel and stimulating the production of new bone.”

For Thompson, the results were immediate. Almost instantaneously, the patient regained full vision, colour and depth perception. Fifteen years on, he remains in full health.

(11) STICKER SHOCK. Langford’s basilisks vs. AI: “The tiny changes that can cause AI to fail”.

The year is 2022. You’re riding along in a self-driving car on a routine trip through the city. The car comes to a stop sign it’s passed a hundred times before – but this time, it blows right through it.

To you, the stop sign looks exactly the same as any other. But to the car, it looks like something entirely different. Minutes earlier, unbeknownst to either you or the machine, a scam artist stuck a small sticker onto the sign: unnoticeable to the human eye, inescapable to the technology.

In other words? The tiny sticker smacked on the sign is enough for the car to “see” the stop sign as something completely different from a stop sign.

It may sound far-fetched. But a growing field of research proves that artificial intelligence can be fooled in more or less the same way, seeing one thing where humans would see something else entirely. As machine learning algorithms increasingly find their way into our roads, our finances, our healthcare system, computer scientists hope to learn more about how to defend them against these “adversarial” attacks – before someone tries to bamboozle them for real.

(12) STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. ScienceFiction.com transcribed the show’s new intro.

In case you didn’t catch it all, here is a transcript of Martin-Green’s narrations:

As we stand at the edge of an unknown universe, we know our greatest challenges lie before us, that our future is not bound by fear and that our mission is not to conquer, but to discover. That is our destiny, a destiny written in the stars. So, we boldly go where we have never gone before.

And yesterday CBS put out these brief videos of the crew and characters in the new series.

  • Our mission is not to conquer, but to discover.

Our mission is not to conquer, but to discover. Discovery begins September 24 on #CBSAllAccess. #startrekdiscovery

A post shared by Star Trek Discovery (@startrekcbs) on

  • Captain Philippa Georgiou of the U.S.S. Shenzhou

Captain Philippa Georgiou of the U.S.S. Shenzhou. Stream #startrekdiscovery starting Sept. 24 on CBS All Access.

A post shared by Star Trek Discovery (@startrekcbs) on

  • “We are creating a new way to fly.” -Captain Gabriel Lorca

"We are creating a new way to fly." -Captain Gabriel Lorca #StarTrekDiscovery premieres September 24th!

A post shared by Star Trek Discovery (@startrekcbs) on

  • “My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death.” – Saru

"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death." – Saru

A post shared by Star Trek Discovery (@startrekcbs) on

  • Meet Voq!

Meet Voq! #StarTrekDiscovery premieres on CBS All Access on September 24!

A post shared by Star Trek Discovery (@startrekcbs) on

(13) THOSE AREN’T BABY BUMPS. Nicole Weaver, in “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Cast Reveals Why the Klingons Look So Different”, reveals, among other reasons, that these Kilingons have ESP!

  1. Klingons will have heightened senses because of their new features

According to the designer, Neville Page, the ridges act as extra-sensory receptors on the Klingons’ heads and backs. Per io9, this is because the Klingons are “apex predators” and would need this to make it to the top of the food chain. One of the Klingon actors, Mary Chieffo, went into detail about this new development.

Obviously the hair was the biggest thing people noticed, or the lack thereof. And I will attest to the fact there is a reason my ridge goes back the way it does. There are sensors and pheromones…There is a whole reasoning behind it that is adhering to what has always been true in Klingon canon…So I deeply believe we are in line with what has come before but is also adding a new kind of nuance.

(14) CAMEO. New York Mets pitcher “Noah Syndergaard was on ‘Game of Thrones.’ He died.” says NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra.

The Dodgers absolutely killed the Mets this past weekend. As they were collectively dying yesterday evening, Noah Syndergaard was dying individually over on HBO.

It was on “Game of Thrones,” which featured a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo from Syndergaard as a member of the Lannister army. His big moment: he threw a spear and killed a horse. Best throw he’s had all year given the injuries that have sidelined him since April. He’s likely done for the season when it comes to baseball — he hasn’t started throwing yet — but he’ll never come back to Westeros, as he was burnt to death by a dragon. That’ll put a guy on the 60-day DL for sure.

(15) NOT THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. Adweek finds the drumsticks are bigger in Georgia: “The Giant Chicken From KFC’s Marietta, Georgia, Store Springs to Life in W+K’s New Film”.

It’s not every day you get to see a building in the shape of a giant chicken, let alone one that can get up and walk away. But that’s the delightfully hallucinogenic conceit of a sweet little five-minute animated short from KFC and Wieden + Kennedy, celebrating the renovation of one of its marquee restaurants with a story of a little boy who befriends a roving animatronic fast-food store.

Marietta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, is home to The Big Chicken, a KFC franchise famous for its unusual architecture—namely, a towering, 56-foot-tall, angular red hen with mechanical eyes that roll in slow 360 degree circles, and a beak that opens and closes in sync, like some deranged obstacle in an 8-bit video game.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/17 Is This A File Which I See Before Me, The Pixel Toward My Hand?

(1) THE YOUTH ARE BACK. James Davis Nicoll kicks off Phase II of Young People Review Old SFF with a 1909 tale.

In the hope of selecting more accessible works, I crowd-sourced my selections and now provide my readers with more (well, any) background information on the pieces.

The first Phase II story comes from an author not generally thought of as an SFF author. E. M. Forster is perhaps best known for mainstream works like Howard’s End, A Passage to India and A Room with a View. Forster did write fantastic fiction, however. 1909’s “The Machine Stops” is the one Sfnal work of his many who rarely venture outside SF have read, thanks to all the genre anthologies that featured it. Set in a wired world not too dissimilar to our own, it hides its age well. Or so it seems to me.

(2) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. The band Clppng, whose album Splendor & Misery is a Best Dramatic: Short Form Hugo nominee, will perform in Helsinki at Worldcon 75.

(3) INSIDE LOOK. Dominic Parisien tells Black Gate readers “The Strategy Behind Disabled Stories: The What, Why, and How (but Mostly How) of Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction”.

When I started writing this article my face was spotted with burst blood cells. Earlier in the day I’d had one of my violent convulsive episodes. I was exhausted and aching but I meant to write, because it felt appropriate, topical. I’m here, after all, to write about Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.

But I couldn’t muster the energy for more than a few lines. I lacked the spoons.

The project description goes like this: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a continuation of the Destroy series in which we, disabled members of the science fiction community, will put ourselves where we belong: at the center of the story. Often, disabled people are an afterthought, a punchline, or simply forgotten in the face of new horizons, scientific discovery, or magical invention. We intend to destroy ableism and bring forth voices, narratives, and truths most important to disabled writers, editors, and creators with this special issue.

My colleagues will have guest posts and blog posts going up across a number of venues, and many of them will focus on the importance of representation, of disabled people placing ourselves at the centre of the narrative, of telling our own stories. For my part, I want to discuss the creative process for our project.

(4) ONGOING ACCESS PROBLEMS. Nicola Griffith has issued “An open letter to all writing programmes, workshops, and retreats”.

Everything you do—classes, retreats, workshops—should be accessible. Many of you are not.

I’ve heard all your excuses: But we love the quaint/rustic/boho vibe, and that will be ruined if we have to change! But we can’t have our woods/private chef/coziness if we move to an accessible space! But it’s important we give the students an inexpensive experience, and access costs money!

I have no sympathy for your excuses. To disabled writers like me it does not matter how beautiful/cosy/inexpensive your traditional/sorority/in-the-woods space is because we can’t access it. If we can’t visit, to teach or write, then it’s not beautiful or welcoming or inexpensive, it is a fenced enclosure with a huge red sign on the gate saying CRIPPLES KEEP OUT.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. Ann Hornaday’s story in the Washington Post, “Are movie reviews just more ‘fake news’? Some studios want you to think so.”, covers about Sony’s effort to suppress reviews for The Emoji Movie, which only got a score of 8 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is sinking at the box office.  She notes that efforts by studios to produce “critic-proof” films have led to John Carter, The Mummy, Battleship, and other “high-profile bombs.”

“What other wide release with a [Tomatometer] score under 8 percent has opened north of $20 million? I don’t think there is one,” said Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony, when McClintock interviewed him. He sounded as proud as a farmer who had just sold a poke full of pigs to an unsuspecting butcher.

Greenstein may not have taken into full account the hair-tearing desperation of parents eager to distract kids whose last PG-rated animated movie was “Despicable Me 3” in late June. And he might find that his enthusiasm has dropped just as vertiginously as “The Emoji Movie’s” box office numbers, which by Monday had already plunged by more than 50 percent, indicating cataclysmic word of mouth. No matter: Sony’s following a similar playbook this week with another late-screener, “The Dark Tower,” hoping to beat discouraging reviews to the punch with the brand names of Stephen King, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. (As of this writing, with 20 critics reporting, the sci-fi fantasy had earned a 20 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, along with a prominent green splat.)

(6) DOES ALL MEAN ‘ALL’? Variety’s Gene Maddaus, in “Judge Allows Lawsuit Claiming James Bond Box Set Was Incomplete”, says a judge in the state of Washington has ruled that Mary L. Johnson’s lawsuit against MGM can proceed to a jury trial.  Johnson said MGM violated the state of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act because she ordered a “Complete James Bond” boxed set from Amazon for $106 and didn’t get the 1967 Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again.

In his opinion, Martinez declined to dismiss the claim at this stage, and said a jury would have to decide whether the term was misleading.

“A jury must determine whether a reasonable person would expect ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’ to be included in a complete set of James Bond films,” Martinez wrote. “From the Defendants’ perspective, this claim will have to ‘Die Another Day.’”

(7) THE BIG BUCKS. Forbes has updated their annual guesstimates about what the top authors earned for the 12 months ending May 31, 2017. With new books, a play and more movies, J.K. Rowling returns to the top of their list –

  1. JK Rowling $95 million
  2. James Patterson $87 million
  3. Jeff Kinney $21 million
  4. Dan Brown $20 million
  5. Stephen King $15 million
  6. John Grisham $14 million
  7. Nora Roberts $14 million
  8. Paula Hawkins $13 million
  9. EL James $11.5 million
  10. Danielle Steel $11 million
  11. Rick Riordan $11million

(8) GOODREADS. It’s the heart of the awards season, so no wonder the Goodreads Blog has decided to celebrate this as “Science Fiction & Fantasy Week”.

  • Readers’ Top 50 Sci-Fi Novels From Ender to the hapless Arthur Dent, to returning to beloved worlds created by Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, and many more.

The bar needed to be high. Every book on our list has at least a 4.0 average rating from Goodreads members. Unfortunately, this means that dinosaur king himself Michael Crichton failed to make the cut, along with other big names in the genre like Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, and H.G. Wells. But while some classics may be missing, recent favorites from Emily St. John Mandel, Nnedi Okorafor, and Pierce Brown round out the list.

  • Readers’ Top 50 Fantasy Novels Go there and back again with novels full of legends, heroes, myths, and magic. From J. R. R. Tolkien to George R.R. Martin, these epic fantasies await readers.

These titles were chosen based on reader reviews, so every single book had to meet at least a 4.0 average rating from the Goodreads community. Then, for good measure, we looked at how many ratings each book has received. We also decided to select the first book in a series (although it’s worth noting that the entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings as well as George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire have the rare distinction of being above a 4.0 rating).

Our hunt for the best YA sci-fi books on Goodreads reflects this partiality to the post-apocalypse. We set the bar high, only including books with at least a 4.0 average rating. The result? A sometimes grim, always thrilling peek into the future—where young women and men have the power to change their fates.

As we searched for the best YA fantasy on Goodreads, we stuck to books with at least a 4.0 average rating. This meant that popular titles with big film adaptations like Twilight, Eragon, and The Golden Compass missed the cut. While The Boy Who Lived made it in, surprising no one, the list is dominated by powerful girls with no time for evil royals or rampaging monsters.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 4, 1932 — Victor Halperin’s White Zombie is released theatrically.

(10) THE COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock calls it “today’s cultural acknowledgment” – Pooch Cafe.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to “Share shawarma with Brooke Bolander in Episode 44 of Eating the Fantastic”.

Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander was on Nebula ballot that weekend in the short story category for “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” and is also on the current Hugo Awards ballot for that same story, one of the most talked-about tales of 2016. Her fiction, which has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Uncanny, and other venues, has been honored by nominations for the Locus and the Theodore Sturgeon awards as well. The Only Harmless Great Thing will be published by Tor in 2018.

We discussed how she ended up as a writer rather than a paleontologist, why the videogame Ecco the Dolphin terrified her but taught her to love science fiction, her early days writing fan fiction, how anger over the electrocution of Topsy the elephant and the deaths of the “radium girls” inspired her newest novella, why she avoids rereading her own writing, what broke the writers block that had gripped her for several years, and more.

(12) V’GER. “As the Voyager mission is winding down, so, too, are the careers of the aging explorers who expanded our sense of home in the galaxy.” The New York Times has the story: “The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe”. (May be behind a payroll, though I didn’t have any trouble gaining access, by feeding the URL through a Google search.)

A fleet of JPL trucks made the trip under armored guard to the same destination. Their cargo was unwrapped inside the hangar high bay, a gleaming silo stocked with tool racks and ladder trucks. Engineers began to assemble the various pieces. Gradually, two identical spacecraft took shape. They were dubbed Voyager I and II, and their mission was to make the first color photographs and close-up measurements of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons. Then, if all went well, they might press onward — into uncharted territory.

It took six months, working in shifts around the clock, for the NASA crew to reassemble and test the spacecraft. As the first launch date, Aug. 20, drew near, they folded the camera and instrument boom down against the spacecraft’s spindly body like a bird’s wing; gingerly they pushed it, satellite dish first, up inside a metal capsule hanging from the high bay ceiling. Once ‘‘mated,’’ the capsule and its cargo — a probe no bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle that, along with its twin, had nevertheless taken 1,500 engineers five years and more than $200 million to build — were towed to the launchpad.

(13) KING/KELLEY. Reason.com’s Glenn Garvin, in “Mr. Mercedes and Comrade Detective Breathe Life into Cop Genre Shows”, reviews Mr. Mercedes, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel available on DirecTV.  He says seeing Kelley “work with the characters devised by King is a religious experience, even if the church is Out Lady of Psychos and Degenerates.”

Even the bit players in Mr. Mercedes cannot be left unwatched for a moment; you never know when something querulous quirky or malificently malign is about to erupt.

But Kelley and his director Jack Bender (who worked on Lost as well as another King television adaptation, Under the Dome) are equally adept at the action sequences. The staging of the parking lot mayhem is a marvel of underlit suggestion and squishy sound effects that leverages a Grand Guignol impression from gore that’s actually rather petit. That’s the only thing small about Mr. Mercedes; this is big-time entertainment.

(14) ADAPTIVE LIFEFORM. PJ Media picked “The 5 Best Stephen King Book Adaptations”. Dann Todd notes, “As always, these things are pretty subjective.  This author leaves out The Green Mile.  Relative to the rest of the list I think it could supplant It as a film adaptation.”

(15) ARMENIA’S BESTSELLERS. What are the best-selling books in Yerevan, Armenia? Once a week Armenpress publishes the top 10. Would you believe that Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is #7, and Dandelion Wine is #10?

(16) THE LAMPREY STRATEGY. Brian Niemeier celebrates his Dragon Award nomination the way every true culture warrior does – by spending half his wordage insulting John Scalzi — “2017 Dragon Award FInalist The Secret Kings”. Because when your award-nominated novel has been out for eight months and has accumulated only 12 Goodreads ratings, trying to pick a fight with somebody people have heard of makes a certain nutty kind of sense.

(17) THE RIGHT WAY TO HACK. In “Why can’t films and TV accurately portray hackers?”, Mr. Robot’s Kor Adana explains how the show does it, and why others get it wrong.

Why does Hollywood get hacking so wrong?

There’s an easy explanation for this trend. Most writers, directors, and producers believe that it’s impossible to portray real hacking on screen and still have it be entertaining. (That’s why you see the cheesy game-like graphics, skulls, and expository messages on screen.) I couldn’t disagree more with this mindset.

If a scene needs flashy or inaccurate graphics on a computer in order to increase the drama or explain a plot point, there’s an issue with the writing. On Mr Robot, we work hard to ensure that the stakes of the scene and the character motivations are clear even if you have no idea how the technology works. If you do understand the technology, you have the added bonus of recognising real vulnerabilities, real desktop environments, and authentic dialogue that fits the context of the hack.

Back in the Eighties, the TV detective show Riptide used to make me laugh, as their hacker character regularly broke into IRS systems to get information that, in real life, they didn’t maintain.

(18) GENRE BENDING. Martha Wells wrote an article on eight works that blend science and magic minus typical fantasy tropes for the Barnes and Noble SF/F blog — “8 Books That Blend Science and Magic, Minus the Fantasy Tropes”. Her list includes novels (or novellas) from N.K. Jemisin, Sharon Shinn, J.Y. Yang, Kate Elliott, J. Kathleen Cheney, Emily Foster, Aliette de Bodard, and Kai Ashante Wilson.

Fantasy tropes can be great—that’s why they become tropes. But sometimes you want to read something you feel like you’ve never read before. I love secondary world fantasy books in which standard and well-known tropes are either in short supply, or have been transformed into something new and special by wildly original worldbuilding. I’ve always loved books that combine SF-nal technology and magic (I’ve done it in my own Books of the Raksura, in which technology is usually both biological and magical, and in the Ile Rien series, in which the magic often has mechanical components), and the one thing the eight books below have in common is that each uses different forms of technology combined with magic to build a fresh, fabulous fantasy world.

The Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin These are probably the first recent books that come to mind when someone mentions magical manipulation of science—it’s a key part of this brilliantly original setting. The Orogenes have a hereditary ability to manipulate energy in a world that has been destroyed over and over again. The main character deals with devastating losses as she explores the extent of her abilities and tries to uncover the deliberately erased history that may explain why all this is happening.

(19) NOT ENOUGH SPOONS. Milky Shot by Roy Kafri on Vimeo is a strange film about what happens when a giant alien spoon comes to Earth and tries to steal the world’s spoons!

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Darrah Chavey, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day GSLamb.]