Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/16 To Flail Beyond the Sunset

(1) USE THE FARCE. Entertainment.ie says this Twitter spat between Emo Kylo Ren and Very Lonely Luke is what the internet was made for. Here are the first two tweets in the exchange —

(2) BEWARE FAUX SPOILERS. Will R., who says Hobotopia is a long-running web comic, and one of the nicest things in all of the Internet, draws attention to its ostentatious Spoiler Alert for what turns out to be a pretty obscure The Force Awakens spoiler.

(3) ACTION FIGURES. Here are your prototype action figures for the Ghostbusters reboot. There wasn’t much chance Mattel would repeat the mistake Hasbro made with The Force Awakens of leaving out the female characters, was there?

Amanda Kooser at CNET already has play suggestions.

The action figures come from toy company Mattel and will be 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) in height. That’s a pretty standard size for action figures, so you should be able to fold them into imaginative play along with your Star Wars and Star Trek collection. The crossover possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to see what a proton pack does against Kylo Ren.

(4) STABBY WINNERS. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group has chosen the winners of the 2015 Stabby Awards. Here are the top vote-getters in 3 of the 15 categories:

Stabby Award

Stabby Award

  • BEST NOVEL OF 2015 Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
  • BEST SELF-PUBLISHED / INDEPENDENT NOVEL OF 2015 The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer
  • BEST DEBUT NOVEL OF 2015 The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Click on the link to see the rest.

(5) MEAN STREETS. Tobias Carroll at Literary Hub introduces a review by reminding everyone of the time Raymond Chandler mocked science fiction.

In a 1953 letter to his agent H.N. Swanson, Chandler indulges in a brilliantly entertaining, paragraph-long parody of sci-fi writing, which hits every trope and cliché of the genre. Oh, and he namedrops Google some 45 years before Larry and Sergey registered the domain.

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It is written like this: “I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.”

They pay brisk money for this crap?

In the case of Adam Christopher, Chandler’s rivalry with science fiction gave rise to literary inspiration. In the acknowledgements to his new novel Made to Kill, Christopher writes that “what I really wished did exist was Raymond Chandler’s long-lost science fiction epic.” He describes himself as “amused” by “the way Chandler hated science fiction.” There are a handful of nods to Chandler’s infamous riff on the genre peppered throughout Christopher’s novel, including as its epigraph. Made to Kill can be read as a science fiction-laced detective story and as a way of using the detective story template to investigate more archetypally science fictional themes of memory and identity.

The setting of Made to Kill is an altered 1965: John F. Kennedy is president, the Cold War rages on, and American society has had an unsuccessful dalliance with incorporating robots into everyday life. The last survivor of this program, narrator Ray Electromatic, is the detective at the center of this novel, drawn into a conspiracy involving Hollywood stars, radioactive material, and Soviet spies. Ray makes for an interesting protagonist in a number of ways: as robots go, he has an unexpected moral compass, and the fact that his memory only lasts for a day does a good job of establishing him as a less-than-reliable narrator from the outset.

(6) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. David Gerrold says he’s learned from (bad) experience to avoid feuds, as he explains on Facebook.

Here are 5 of his 10 points:

4) “Forgive and forget” does not apply here. Everyone in a feud, no matter what side they’re on, has already succumbed to self-righteousness, simply by being in the feud. Self-righteousness is terminal.

5) A really spectacular feud, if it goes on long enough, if it gets loud enough, if it gets ferocious enough, will not only destroy the participants, it will destroy the community in which the feud occurs. (I have seen this happen multiple times, where whole forums evaporated because the toxicity reached armpit level.)

6) Sociopaths and attention whores enjoy feuds. People who have not yet learned a modicum of restraint or self-awareness are the biggest victims.

7) Screechweasels and harangutans will outlast everyone and declare the victory of getting the last word. It’s a hollow victory, because most of the other participants will have walked away in disgust.

8) Reconciliation of any kind is almost always impossible — because there is always at least one person who needs to recap the past in one last attempt to prove the other side wrong.

(7) CALL FOR PAPERS. “Reframing Science Fiction”, a one-day conference on the art of science fiction, will be held in Canterbury (UK) on March 21. Keynote speakers: Dr. Jeannette Baxter (Anglia Ruskin University) and Dr. Paul March-Russell (University of Kent).

From William Blake and John Martin to Glenn Brown and The Otolith Group, artists have been producing works of art that are science fiction. And artists and their works have been incorporated into many works of sf.

Meanwhile, on countless book covers and in magazine illustrations, a visual language of science fiction has evolved: bug-eyed monsters; spaceships; robots and so on.

Art in the comic strip and the graphic novel has been the means of telling stories in visual form – whilst artists such as Roy Lichtenstein have made comic panels into art.

The call for papers (which opened some time ago) has a January 15 deadline.

We invite 300 word proposals for twenty minute papers on the intersection of art and sf across the media – painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, film, performance, prose, dance, architecture and so on…

(8) ONE ISLAND’S OPINION. Colleen Gillard’s article “Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories” in The Atlantic is high-brow click-bait.

The small island of Great Britain is an undisputed powerhouse of children’s bestsellers: The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Significantly, all are fantasies. Meanwhile, the United States, also a major player in the field of children’s classics, deals much less in magic. Stories like Little House in the Big Woods, The Call of the Wild, Charlotte’s Web, The Yearling, Little Women, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are more notable for their realistic portraits of day-to-day life in the towns and farmlands on the growing frontier. If British children gathered in the glow of the kitchen hearth to hear stories about magic swords and talking bears, American children sat at their mother’s knee listening to tales larded with moral messages about a world where life was hard, obedience emphasized, and Christian morality valued. Each style has its virtues, but the British approach undoubtedly yields the kinds of stories that appeal to the furthest reaches of children’s imagination.

And it works – people are coming unglued in the comments.

(9) FX. Doctor Science formulates a TV production axiom in “How special effects eat characterization”. The Doctor’s last paragraph says it best, but you should read it there. Here is the first paragraph:

I don’t think this trend is mostly an artistic or marketing choice, even though that’s what people in Hollywood usually say. I think “more explodey” is driven by the need to justify budgets, and by the individual interests of the people who have to do it.

(10) UNEMPLOYED KAIJU. They won’t be needing any special effects for Pacific Rim 2 — it’s dead, Jim.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the follow-up to director Guillermo Del Toro’s monsters-versus-robots epic is “off the table indefinitely” – and in its place, del Toro has entered talks with 20th Century Fox to helm a rather different sci-fi spectacular.

Del Toro is reportedly gearing up to take the helm on ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ a remake of the 1966 sci-fi classic which starred Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasance as members of a team who are miniaturized in a submarine and injected into the body of a dying scientist in order to save his life.

(11) CLASS. The Doctor Who spinoff Class will air on BBC America in 2016. It was already on BBC Three’s schedule in the UK.

The eight-part series is from young-adult author Patrick Ness, who is known for writing the “A Monster Calls” books. The series is exec produced by “Doctor Who’s” Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin and is a co-production between BBC America and BBC Cymru Wales. It is filmed in Cardiff in the U.K.

“I’m astounded and thrilled to be entering the Doctor Who universe, which is as vast as time and space itself,” said Ness. “I can’t wait for people to meet the heroes of ‘Class,’ to meet the all-new villains and aliens, to remember that the horrors of the darkest corners of existence are just about on par with having to pass your exams,” he joked.

(12) BESTSELLER SNARK. Diana Gabaldon zinged George R.R. Martin – The Hollywood Reporter has the quote:

When asked by a reporter whether her work on the Starz drama [Outlander] — she penned a season two episode — would interfere with her meeting the deadline for the ninth installment in her saga — in light of Game of Thrones’ George R. R. Martin’s recent announcement that, of course, his next book will be delayed — Gabaldon didn’t miss a beat. “No. Unlike George, I write no matter where I am or what else I’m doing,” she said, adding: “He admits it himself that he likes to travel and he can’t write when he travels. That’s just the way he works. Everybody’s got their own writing mechanism. When I began writing, I had two full-time jobs and three small children.”

(13) TENTACLE TIME. Matthew Dockrey, designer of Sasquan’s Hugo base, made news with his new piece of public art in Vancouver (WA).

A newly installed tentacle sculpture is seen on Main Street in Vancouver Wednesday January 6, 2016. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

A newly installed tentacle sculpture is seen on Main Street in Vancouver Wednesday January 6, 2016. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

A giant steel tentacle bristling with saucer-sized suckers is slithering from the sewer in Uptown Village at Main and West 23rd streets.

Does it belong to an enormous octopus? A sea monster? Is it the tail of a dragon?

The imagination reels with possibilities.

The sculpture, created by Seattle metal artist Matthew Dockrey, is Vancouver’s newest piece of public art. Called “The Visitor,” the 5-foot-tall appendage cradling a genuine city manhole cover was installed Saturday. It will be dedicated at a celebration at noon Friday by the Uptown Village Association, Arts of Clark County, Vancouver’s Downtown Association and the city.

Karen Madsen, chairwoman of the nonprofit Arts of Clark County, said the artwork selection committee had sought a piece that was whimsical and interactive and that would endure over time. The sculpture, which Dockrey specifically created for the site in front of the old Mission Theatre, fits within the Steampunk art movement, she said.

(14) THE FRONT. Cedar Sanderson has pulled together the Mad Genius Club’s considerable wisdom about cover creation for self-published books into one post.

First and most important: before you start designing a cover, creating art intended for book covers, or even thinking about a book cover, you need to look at book covers. A lot of them. Specific book covers to your genre is even better, as there are subtle cues you need to know and recognize, even if you aren’t doing your own covers. So first, before anything else, go to Amazon and search for your sub-genre (space opera, paranormal romance, werewolf stories, historical military fiction, whatever it is) and look at the top 100 selling books. Not the freebies (unless you are looking at what not to do). Make notes of elements you like, things you hate, and the consistent notes that many of the covers have in common. When you’re done with this, you are ready to begin.

(15) HUGO PREP WORK. Shaun Duke has posted a crowdsourced list – “The 2016 Hugo Awards Reading/Watching List (or, My Next Few Months)”.

Last month, I asked for recommendations for my annual Hugo Awards reading bonanza.  A bunch of you responded with books, movies, TV shows, cookbooks, and so on.  The form will remain open for the next month or so, so if you haven’t submitted anything or want to submit some more stuff, go for it!

So, without further delay, here is the big massive monster list of stuff I’ll be reading or watching for the next few months…

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Doris V. Sutherland resumes her analysis of the comparative quality of Puppy and non-Puppy Hugo nominees in the past two races in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics.

Breaking down the above ten works, we have two stories from the 2014 Sad Puppies slate, four from the 2015 Sad Puppies slate, one from the Rabid Puppies and three that were not Puppy picks. In terms of numbers, this is a strong showing from the Puppies. In terms of quality, well…

Before I go on, I should—in the interests of balance—remind my readers that I generally liked the Puppy choices for Best Short Story; some had their flaws, but I felt that the only out-and-out dud was the Rabid slate’s “Turncoat.” Looking at the Puppy novelettes, on the other hand, I find myself decidedly unimpressed.

(16) ROCK ENROLL. NASA’s new Planetary Defense Coordination Office will coordinate asteroid detection and hazard mitigation.

NASA has formalized its ongoing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs) as the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). The office remains within NASA’s Planetary Science Division, in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The office will be responsible for supervision of all NASA-funded projects to find and characterize asteroids and comets that pass near Earth’s orbit around the sun. It will also take a leading role in coordinating interagency and intergovernmental efforts in response to any potential impact threats….

NASA’s long-term planetary defense goals include developing technology and techniques for deflecting or redirecting objects that are determined to be on an impact course with Earth. NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission concept would demonstrate the effectiveness of the gravity tractor method of planetary defense, using the mass of another object to pull an asteroid slightly from its original orbital path. The joint NASA-European Space Agency Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission concept, if pursued, would demonstrate an impact deflection method of planetary defense.

Even if intervention is not possible, NASA would provide expert input to FEMA about impact timing, location and effects to inform emergency response operations. In turn, FEMA would handle the preparations and response planning related to the consequences of atmospheric entry or impact to U.S. communities.

(17) AFRICAN SF. There are six African authors on BSFA Awards Longlist.

Sarah Lotz has been nominated in the Best Novel category for Day Four, the follow-up on her bestseller The Three.

Chinelo Onwualu of Nigeria has been nominated in the Best Non-fiction category for her essay “Race, Speculative Fiction And Afro SF”, published by the New Left Project.

The Best Short Fiction category features four other African nominations:

Unfortunately Samatar’s story won’t be eligible for the award as she announced hers is a reprint of a 2012 story.

(18) ANIMAL FARM. The extended trailer for Disney live-action movie The Jungle Book looks pretty good.

(19) WUV. Matthew Johnson contributed these instant classic parody lyrics in a comment.

Star Base… LOVE.”

Love, at Warp Factor Two

Beam aboard, we’re expecting you

Love, it’s a captain’s reward

Make it so, it warps back to you

 

The Love Base

Soon we’ll be plotting a different course

The Love Base

You’ll learn a new way to use the Force

Love

Won’t stun anyone

It’s fruity drinks ‘neath the double suns

It’s the Love

It’s the Love

It’s the Love

It’s the Love Base

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Will R., Standback, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4 Reach For The Pixels: Even If You Miss, You’ll Be Among Scrolls

(1) CONSUMER COMPLAINT. io9’s Germain Lussier reveals, “Rey Is Missing From New Star Wars Monopoly, And This Is Becoming a Real Problem”.

The problems of female characters being under-represented in geek merchandise is real. But when it’s a secondary character like Gamora or Black Widow, at least toy companies have an excuse. When the girl is not just the star of the movie, but of the whole franchise, that’s another story.

That character, of course, is Rey, the main character of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the latest problem has to do with Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens Monopoly. In the game, the four playable characters are Luke Skywalker, Finn, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. No Rey.

(2) REWRITING CULTURE. Laurie Penny’s New Statesman post “What to do when you’re not the hero anymore”, while not about marketing oversights, covers some reasons why they should be taken seriously.

Capitalism is just a story. Religion is just a story. Patriarchy and white supremacy are just stories. They are the great organising myths that define our societies and determine our futures, and I believe – I hope – that a great rewriting is slowly, surely underway. We can only become what we can imagine, and right now our imagination is being stretched in new ways. We’re learning, as a culture, that heroes aren’t always white guys, that life and love and villainy and victory might look a little different depending on who’s telling it. That’s a good thing. It’s not easy – but nobody ever said that changing the world was going to be easy.

I learned that from Harry Potter.

(3) GATES KEEPERS. Bill Gates says “The Best Books I Read in 2015” included Randall Munroe’s bestseller —

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe. The brain behind XKCD explains various subjects—from how smartphones work to what the U.S. Constitution says—using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language and blueprint-style diagrams. It is a brilliant concept, because if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it. Munroe, who worked on robotics at NASA, is an ideal person to take it on. The book is filled with helpful explanations and drawings of everything from a dishwasher to a nuclear power plant. And Munroe’s jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. This is a wonderful guide for curious minds.

(4) PHILISTINE TASTE. Cracked delivers “6 Great Novels that Were Hated in Their Time”. Number one on the list – The Lord of the Rings.

The New Republic described the book and its characters as “anemic, and lacking in fiber” which was apparently a real burn back then in the pre-Cheerios days.

(5) TEA TIME. Ann Leckie talks about “Special Teas”.

I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)

Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of Specialteas.com. They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.

(6) SHE BLINKED. A video of Ursula K. Le Guin celebrating Christmas Eve at the Farm.

(7) OPEN FOR SUBMISSONS. Apex Magazine has reopened for short fiction submissions. Poetry submissions will remained closed at this time. Apex Magazine’s submission guidelines and the link to its online submissions form can be found here.

(8) COVER WEBSITE TO CLOSE. Terry Gibbons’ site Visco – the visual catalogue of science fiction cover art will go away when its domain name expires February 9, unless someone else wants to take over hosting responsibilities. He posted thousands of images online before moving on to other projects in 2005 – and for the moment, they can still be seen there.

I have tried to find time to do something about Visco at intervals since then but matters came to a head when I got a new Windows 10 computer recently and realised that I no longer have the technology to maintain it.  It was developed on a Windows 95 platform – remember that? – using Internet Explorer 3 and such and I guess it is a miracle that it is still accessible at all. But none of the software I used to build it now works on my current machine, so I cannot develop it further even if I had the time.

I could leave Visco sitting there indefinitely, or until advancing technology renders it unusable, but it costs a certain amount of money to run and, more to the point, it is a constant reminder of past glories. So I have decided to let it go to that place in cyberspace where once-loved web sites go to die.

(9) READING RODDENBERRY’S DATA. Joe Otterson at Yahoo! News tells how “’Star Trek’ Creator Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Data Recovered From 200 Floppy Disks”.

Although Roddenberry died in 1991, it wasn’t until much later that his estate discovered nearly 200 5.25-inch floppy disks. One of his custom-built computers had long since been auctioned and the remaining device was no longer functional.

But these were no ordinary floppies. The custom-built computers had also used custom-built operating systems and special word processing software that prevented any modern method of reading what was on the disks.

After receiving the computer and the specially formatted floppies, DriveSavers engineers worked to develop a method of extracting the data.

(10) SIDEBAR TO AXANAR. Kane Lynch’s article in comics form, “Final Frontiers: Star Trek fans take to the Internet to film their own episodes of the original series”, is based on an interview with someone who’s worked on both New Voyages and Star Trek Continues.

(11) BENFORD ON NEW HORIZONS. Click to read Gregory Benford’s contribution to Edge’s roundup “2016: What Do You Consider The Most Interesting Recent [Scientific] News? What Makes It Important?”

The most long-range portentous event of 2015 was NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrowing by Pluto, snapping clean views of the planet and its waltzing moon system. It carries an ounce of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, commemorating his discovery of Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh would have loved seeing the colorful contrasts of this remarkable globe, far out into the dark of near-interstellar space. Pluto is now a sharply-seen world, with much to teach us.

As the spacecraft zooms near an iceteroid on New Year’s Day, 2019, it will show us the first member of the chilly realm beyond, where primordial objects quite different from the wildly eccentric Pluto also dwell. These will show us what sort of matter made up the early disk that clumped into planets like ours—a sort of family tree of worlds. But that’s just an appetizer….

(12) PU 238. The Washington Post reports the U.S. has resumed making plutonium-238, in “This is the fuel NASA needs to make it to the edge of the solar system – and beyond”.

Just in time for the new year, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have unveiled the fruits of a different kind of energy research: For the first time in nearly three decades, they’ve produced a special fuel that scientists hope will power the future exploration of deep space.

The fuel, known as plutonium-238, is a radioactive isotope of plutonium that’s been used in several types of NASA missions to date, including the New Horizons mission, which reached Pluto earlier in 2015. While spacecraft can typically use solar energy to power themselves if they stick relatively close to Earth, missions that travel farther out in the solar system — where the sun’s radiation becomes more faint — require fuel to keep themselves moving.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

Tales in the Grimm brothers’ collection include “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” The brothers developed the tales by listening to storytellers and attempting to reproduce their words and techniques as faithfully as possible. Their methods helped establish the scientific approach to the documentation of folklore. The collection became a worldwide classic.

  • Born January 4, 1643 – Sir Isaac Newton. Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me…

(14) ZSIGMOND OBIT. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who won an Oscar for his achievements in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and worked on a long list of major productions, died January 1 at the age of 85.

His genre credits included The Time Travelers (1964) directed by Ib Melchior, The Monitors (1969) based on Keith Laumer’s novel, Real Genius (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and The Mists of Avalon TV miniseries based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel.

(15) THE YEAR IN COMPLAINTS. The Book Smugglers continue Smugglivus 2015 with “The Airing of Grievances”. (I’m getting a migraine from looking at those GIFS, and I don’t get migraines, just saying…)

SOMEONE IS (ALWAYS) WRONG ON THE INTERNET – PART II: THE SFF EDITION

Speaking of awards: Another BIG thing in SFF fandom happened when the World Fantasy award announced that it would be remodeling its award statuette, which had been a bust of the late HP Lovecraft’s face. (Lovecraft, if you did not know, was an openly venomous racist in his personal opinions and in his writings–both fiction and nonfiction.) This news–from one of the most prestigious international awards for Fantasy and speculative fiction, no less!–was a long time coming, and many of us within the SFF community celebrated this move… but there were people who were SUPER upset. Because, you know, by not using Lovecraft’s face on the award, we were all like ERASING HIM FROM HISTORY FOREVER LIKE MAGIC. Or something.

(16) MORE FEEDBACK. After what others have written about reconciliation this past week, the Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer sounds practically mellow.

…To the other side this is life or death important. The clique of Trufen who pushed their favorites (and they’re a small, interconnected socio-politically homogenous group of the same people, over and over) have some short term motives in doing exactly what they did last year and the years before. Long term, for anyone with an intellect above gerbil there is a strong motive for the Trufen in general to get rid of that clique and to reach some kind of accommodation with the Sad Puppies. But that clique are powerful and nasty and regard WorldCon and the Hugos as theirs. They have no interest in a future that they do not control completely.

I don’t see the foresight or commitment to take any of the painful (to them) steps they’d have to take to give the Sad or Rabid Puppies a motive for reconciliation, to get them to sharing motives like going to WorldCon. As a writer I simply don’t see characters of sufficient strength or integrity who have the vision or the following to take those steps.

Besides this an election year, both sides will be heated and angry.

We all love sf.

But the motives for our actions are very different.

I am glad I don’t have to write a happy ending for this one. It’d take a clever author to do it convincingly.

(17) RECONCILIATION. Don’t be misled by the placement — I doubt Freer or Gerrold are commenting about each other, just about the same topic. David Gerrold wrote today on Facebook:

…I know that some people have talked about reconciliation — and that’s a good thing. But other people have pointed out why reconciliation is impossible, because for them, the past is still unresolved. I understand that — but rehearsing the past does not take you into the future, it just gets you more of the past.

The only conversation I would be interested in having is not about who’s right and who’s wrong, who should be blamed, and who needs to crawl naked over broken glass to apologize.

No. What a colossal waste of time.

The only conversation worth having is about what you want to build and how you want to get there — stick to the issues and leave the personalities out of this…

(18) PRE CGI. It’s like seeing a star with and without makeup. Bright Side has large format color photos comparing the scenes in “17 favorite movies before and after visual effects”.

(19) GET YOUR RED HOT FOMAX. Charles Rector heartily endorses his fanzine Fomax #7 [PDF file] hosted at eFanzines. Among other things, it has 8 movie reviews and a fair number of LOC’s.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/24 Yes, Virginia, There Is A Pixel Scroll

(1) A DREAM. Pat Cadigan on Facebook:

It’s Christmas Eve, and you know what that means––it’s time for my favourite Christmas story!

One night, Confucius had a dream about chopsticks…..

(2) THE CASE FOR EMAIL. NASA calculated the surprising amount of money it would cost to send a Christmas card to Mars.

Next: they can calculate how much it will cost to send someone to receive the card on Mars. (With and without potatoes.)

(3) DECK THE TARDIS. Alex Kingston and Matt Lucas kick off the holiday.

(4) THAT SPECIAL TIME OF YEAR. And the Doctor Who Christmas Special is just hours away. Here are two previews.

The Doctor reunites with River – The Husbands of River Song – Doctor Who Christmas Special – BBC

 

“Are You The Surgeon?” – The Husbands of River Song Preview – Doctor Who Christmas 2015 – BBC

 

(5) ART APPRECIATION. An sf art collector discusses a cover artist of the Golden Age — “Hubert Rogers’ Astounding Covers — And His Fascinating Correspondence with Robert A. Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp” by Doug Ellis at Black Gate.

At IlluxCon this past October, one of our major purchases was a pulp painting by artist Hubert Rogers. Rogers was Astounding Science Fiction’s primary cover artist from late 1939 to early 1952, with a break from 1943 through 1946 due to World War II (which he spent in Canada painting war posters and other paintings related to the war). We’d made arrangements over the summer to buy it from a friend of ours, who had owned it for many years, and he drove it up to IlluxCon with him so we could complete the deal.

Ellis maximizes the visual interest of his post with copies of the covers, and reproductions of several letters from L. Sprague De Camp and Robert A. Heinlein.

One of the Heinlein’s 1941 letters to Hubert Rogers says —

I will be interested to see how you have conceived the character Lazarus Long in my new serial I thought of him as looking a good deal like Carl Sandburg, earthy and robust, but not tall. My wife says he likes like an Uncle Sam with a dash of Doctor E. E. Smith. We are anxious to find out what he actually does look like.

(6) Today In History

  • December 24, 2011 – Cheetah, chimpanzee sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s, died on this date. Your monkey’s mileage may vary.

(7) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • December 24, 1910 – Fritz Leiber

(8) SPACE CHOW. “Christmas dinner on the International Space Station: What do the astronauts eat?” in The Independent.

Nasa tends to dominate the operations on the ISS, so the Christmas food is more typically American – turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes and cornbread are staples, and they’re all served out of small plastic packages that can be heated up in a special onboard oven.

However, Russia also has a strong presence in space, so there is some regional variation – Cloeris said the Russians have some “really good mashed potatoes,” as well as excellent cranberry sauce.

(9) AND FOR DESSERT. “Oh, Just a Gingerbread House Rendition of the Overlook Hotel from ‘The Shining’” at Messy Nessy Chic.

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like a cult horror movie turned miniature winter wonderland in the form of everybody’s favourite Christmas cookie!  Come play with us…

(10) THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS I’M LOOKING FOR. Why would George R.R. Martin (“Puppies at Christmas”) endorse Sad Puppies 4 in advance of seeing what they actually do, unless he believes the power of suggestion can make it so?

For decades now, LOCUS and NESFA and other fan groups have produced reading lists at year’s end, long lists generated by recommendations from their editors/ members/ etc. If at the end of this process, Sad Puppies 4 puts forth a similar list, one that has room for BOTH Larry Correia and Anne Leckie, I don’t think anyone could possibly object. I won’t, certainly. A list like that would not be a slate, and the whole “slate voting” thing will become moot.

And that would be great. That would mean no Puppygate II. That would mean a spirited literary debate about writers and books without the acrimony and the name-calling. From that debate a truly democratic and diverse ballot could emerge, one that represents all tastes. That would mean no ‘No Awards’ at Big MAC II, and the Hugo ceremony could once again become a joyous celebration of the best and brightest in our field.

In my post-worldcon blog post last August 31 (( http://grrm.livejournal.com/440444.html )) I expressed the hope that the ugliness of 2015 could be left behind, that Fandom and Puppydom could coexist in peace. That’s still my hope. And right now I am feeling a little more hopeful than I was in August. People are talking books, not trading epithets…

(11) DOCTOR HOOEY. Or will this turn out about as well as people expect? In the comments on Kate Paulk’s “Hugo Category Highlight: Best Fan Writer”, Dr. Mauser pleads for even more attention….

(12) PRODUCTION NUMBER. “California Christmastime,” from Rachel Bloom and the cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19 File Be Home for Christmas

(1) EXACTLY.

(2) NO SERVICE. Geek Bar Chicago has posted an announcement that anyone discussing Star Wars spoilers before Christmas will be asked to leave.

The folks at Geek Bar have been extremely stoked about the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” even offering customers a discount if they show their ticket stubs. But that’s also forced the bar to instill a strict no-spoilers policy, so strict that they’ll boot fans out of the bar if they ruin the movie for other customers. They even posted a sign on the bar’s front door as a warning to guests who blab about important plot lines.

(3) TOLKIEN’S LANGUAGES. John Garth observed on Facebook:

Among this quarter’s crop of additions to the Oxford English Dictionary is “waybread” – a coinage by Tolkien, whose first civilian job was as an assistant lexicography at the Dictionary. Never mind inventing Elvish languages: he’s still helping to invent the English one.

December 2015 Update

Around 500 new words, phrases, and senses have entered the Oxford English Dictionary this quarter, including phabletwaybread, and bank of mom and dad. You can read more about the new and revised words and meanings in this article by Jonathan Dent, Senior Assistant Editor of the OED

(4) FREEDOM. David Brin does threat analysis in “Who Controls the Internet” at Contrarian Brin.

The End of the Internet Dream? Ever since Congress passed Al Gore’s bill, around 1990, setting the Internet free to pervade the world and empower billions, repressive governments have complained, seeing their despotic methods undermined. And yes, democratic governments have often muttered: “Why’d we go and do that?” as their citizens became increasingly rambunctious, knowing and independent-minded!

As we’ll see below, the ruling classes in undemocratic lands have been striving to adapt, and showing real signs of success. So frets Jennifer Granick who was keynote speaker at Black Hat 2015 – a hacker’s conference.  “In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.”

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. Rocket Stack Rank has published a consolidated list of short-fiction recommendations for the 2016 Hugo Awards.

These are divided by category (Novella, Novelette, and Short Story) and result from combining the recommendations of eight different reviewers.

In email, Gregory N. Hullender answered the obvious question head on:

So is it a slate? I don’t think so. The buckets are alphabetical by title, and none of the top few totals to exactly five. Also, we’ve gone out of our way to show people how to (legally) get copies of all these stories; no one can accuse us of urging anyone to vote without reading.

(6) AUTOMATED CODE WRITING. Platinum Rule, The Code of Conduct builder supplies appropriate language based on the user’s answers to basic questions.

However, I found it would quit working when I reached the question about sponsors, which means it’s more a curiosity than anything else.

(7) BEAR INTERVIEW. Suvudu interviews Elizabeth Bear, co-author of An Apprentice to Elves.  

SUVUDU: Elizabeth, it’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk with you. You and Sarah Monette wrote one of my favorite short stories, “Boojum”, which I’ve raved about for years. Stumbling upon the Iskryne series was a real treat. How did the two of you meet, and what is it that first got you working together?

Elizabeth Bear: We were introduced by a mutual friend on livejournal because we were both interested in Elizabethan Theatre. I was working on the book that eventually came to be called Ink and Steel, and she was writing her dissertation. We kind of stuck, and we started writing some collaborations to blow off steam from our allegedly real work.

(8) THE BLUE MARBLE REDUX. NASA has released a new high-resolution Earthrise image.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon.

“The image is simply stunning,” said Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for LRO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The image of the Earth evokes the famous ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture.”

(9) LOCAL STAR WARS. The BBC explores the question “Could a war in space really happen?”

In the past the nuclear balance between the US and the USSR helped to prevent war in space. The modern world is more complex and already some 60 countries are active in space. So is a war involving attacks on satellites now becoming more likely?

Millions have been enjoying the Hollywood version of conflict in distant parts of the universe as the new Star Wars film is released. It’s enjoyable escapism – space conflict is, after all, nothing to do with reality. Or is it? According to military analyst Peter Singer of the New America Foundation, “the idea of… fighting in space was once science fiction and now it’s real”.

Space wars may not involve intergalactic empires or spacecraft zapping each other. If they occur they are likely to be focused on things that matter hugely to all of us – satellites.

(10) LASERS AT WAR. “US Air Force planes armed with laser guns soon and maybe shields too” asserts Marie Singer at Market Business News.

US Air Force planes could be armed with Star Wars type laser guns by the end of this decade, and maybe shields that protect aircraft from incoming missiles and bullets, says the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which is scheduled to demonstrate the technology by 2020.

Larger aircraft are already able to carry laser weapons fit for their size. However, developing effective and usable laser technology for the smaller warplanes is more challenging. Apart from being small enough not to undermine the fighter jet’s agility, they need to be accurate and effective when travelling at supersonic speeds.

(11) Today In History

  • December 19, 1960 – NASA’s first successful launch of a Mercury Redstone rocket. (Via io9.)
  • December 19, 1986 – The Little Shop of Horrors musical remake, was seen for the first time on this date. Both Martin Scorsese and John Landis were attached to direct before the job finally went to Frank Oz.  The original had an unknown actor playing in the title role, Jack Nicholson.

(12) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born December 19, 1975 – Brandon Sanderson

(13) FORWARDING ADDRESS. Jeffrey A. Carver has moved his blog Pushing a Snake Up a Hill. Click the link and you’ll discover where.

(14) BANDERSNATCH REVIEW. Sherwood Smith reviews Diana Pavlac Glyer’s new book in “Bandersnatch—writing and writers’ groups” at Book View Café.

In The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, (which I talked about here) Diana Pavlac Glyer established herself among the foremost Inklings scholars. It’s one of those rarities, a deeply academic book that is also immensely readable.

That book proved that the Inklings really were a collaborative group, and not a bunch of lone geniuses who got together regularly to read bits then retreated to their man caves for more solitary labor.

In Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, she shows how they did it. I reviewed the book specifically over at Goodreads,  but in this post I’d like to use the book as a springboard to write up some thoughts about writing groups and different meanings of collaboration, as this is a subject (or net of subjects) that I always like discussing.

(15) THE BOOK OF PUPPY. Matthew Foster’s Welcome to the Doomsphere: Sad Puppies, Hugos, and Politics was released in Kindle form on December 17.

After several years of unrest in science fiction fandom, a gang of authors under the banners Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies came to town to change the Hugo awards and perhaps publishing, and to turn over a few tables. Regular fandom responded, with many of the major names in F&SF literature being drawn into the brawl. What followed was cheating, lies, insults, rape and death threats, challenges to duel, letters to the police, harassment, boycotts, racial slurs, accusations of censorship, and according to one major Pup author, sodomy…so much sodomy.

For nearly six months, the best authors of our generation stopped writing books and started arguing. Was it the culture wars entering literary science fiction? Was it mainly White, mainly male fans trying to turn back the clock? Was it an attack on freedom of speech? Was it revenge for past slights or a cunning plan to sell a lot of books?

Foster told his Facebook followers the book has already received the first of what he predicts will be many one-star reviews.

(16) THE DOCTOR. I didn’t know any Antonelli apologists before Dr. Mauser raised his hand in “The Antonelli Affair” at Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas.

If one takes the position that Gerrold is merely an internet blowhard, and that he doesn’t actually mean any of it to take place outside of his fevered imagination, then contacting the police over an internet crank was probably taking things too far. And to Lou’s credit, he did what any proper gentleman should have done, he admitted his mistake (such as it was) and apologized.

His apology fit all of the criteria I’ve spelled out before for what makes up a proper apology. He laid out exactly what he had done, owned it, admitted that his actions were inappropriate, made it right by retracting his police complaint, and promised to not do it again. He did not try to justify it by saying anything about what Gerrold had said that concerned him enough to think a police report was necessary. That would be trying to shift blame, and not proper for a true apology.

Mr. Gerrold graciously accepted the apology, and in any civilized society, this would be the end of the issue.

Of course, this is not a civilized society we’re talking about, this is Fandom.

In any case, the SJW side of fandom rose in coordinated furor over this revelation, making all kinds of demands for Lou’s head, literally and figuratively.

Dr. Mauser finds fault with everyone else’s behavior but Antonelli’s, who immediately abandoned the self-imposed penance he announced at the time: “I need to ponder the hurt I have caused. To give me time to think, after Sasquan I am taking a half-year hiatus from attending any conventions and/or submitting any fiction.”

(17) THE LONGEST DAY. Robert Kerr shot this picture at the Hollywood and Highland Metro Red Line station on the way home from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday.

Jedis on the subway. Photo by Robert Kerr.

Jedis on the subway. Photo by Robert Kerr.

John King Tarpinian’s caption: “After a hard day at Padawan school even Jedi need to take the subway back to Coruscant.”

(18) POINT AND SHOOT. Grim humor from Cheezburger – a comic “That Wouldn’t Be a Long Movie – Sean Bean as 007 in….

[Thanks to Will R., Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, Soon Lee, Steven H Silver, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18 Voxura vs. Scrolljira

(1) INCREASED THEATER SECURITY. “’Star Wars’ Theaters Tighten Security Due To Heavy Crowds And Suspicious Activity” reports Deadline.com.

“A majority of the reason why we’re beefing up security is because it’s the biggest movie ever,” said the security expert. He said he might assign one guard in any given weekend at an average 12-plex. Deadline has learned that in a venue, say, in downtown L.A., theaters normally employ about three to four security guards. However, those same locations through the holiday will now get as much as three times that. Disney, Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ distributor, is also said to be providing some security.

Dave Doering asks, “I actually expect to see mock light saber battles, odd costumes and aliens. Anything suspicious about seeing aliens in LA? And for that matter, what is ‘suspicious’ for LA?”

Oh, anybody walking instead of driving. Things like that.

(2) MOST NUTS. LA’s enthusiasm for the movie is apparently only a pale reflection of Dave’s home state of Utah. Or so says the Washington Post, in “This is the state where people are most nuts about Star Wars

That is according to Google Trends, at least. During the past week, Utahns have done more Star-Wars related Googling than people in any other state. People in Utah are about 25 percent more likely to Google “Star Wars” than their nearest competitors in fandom, Californians. And they are more than twice as likely to Google the topic as people in Oregon and Mississippi, the two least Star Wars-crazy states.

(3) BOX OFFICE. The new Star Wars movie killed on Thursday night. Uh, figuratively speaking.

J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens awoke to a record-breaking $57 million in Thursday night previews at the North American box office.

The previous champ was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ Part 2, the final film in the franchise, which earned $43.5 million in Thursday previews in July 2011. The Dark Knight Rises took in $30.6 million in 2012, and Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 took in $30.4 million, also in 2012.

(4) RETURN OF THE LINE. And here are some of the customers, in line at Hollywood’s El Capitan theater at 1:30 this morning. Photo by Robert Kerr.

El Capitan line at 130 12 18 15 ph by Robert Kerr

Photo by Robert Kerr.

(5) NO WAITING. At the International Space Station, the line to watch Star Wars was much shorter.

“I am told that ‘Star Wars’ will be waiting for us up there,” British astronaut Tim Peake wrote on Twitter on the eve of his launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday (Dec. 15). “What a place to watch it!”

The space station’s six-person crew, which includes the newly-arrived trio of Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA’s Tim Kopra, as well as commander Scott Kelly of NASA and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergei Volkov, will be able to watch “The Force Awakens” thanks to Mission Control and a recently-installed theater system on board the orbiting outpost.

(7) FORD RAMPAGE. By now you’ve probably overdosed on Star Wars coverage and are in the mood to see “Harrison Ford continues his ‘Star Wars’ toy path of destruction on ‘Conan’”. The payoff is just after 2:10 in the video.

“Conan” associate producer Jordan Schlansky is a “Star Wars” superfan. Jordan Schlansky is also Jordan Schlansky, so when he got a chance to meet Harrison Ford and J.J. Abrams, he spent most of it boring them to tears asking about the grips on Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Then he asked Ford to sign his Millennium Falcon. And not just any Millennium Falcon — it’s the Lego Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon, which is worth thousands of dollars, according to a quick glance of eBay.

Ford took the Millennium Falcon in his arms and immediately tossed it over his shoulder “accidentally.” As it is a Lego set, it was promptly destroyed. Ford did end up signing a piece of it, but Jordan Schlansky had already walked off by that point, so Ford threw the piece back in the pile and then threw the pen offstage, presumably at Jordan Schlansky’s sad face.

(8) THE FORTE AWAKENS. The mischievous James Langdell asked on Facebook

No spoilers please… but could anyone who has actually seen the movie let me know if it was done as a musical?

All the commenters are pulling his leg so hard it’ll be surprising if it doesn’t come off…

(9) IN TUNE WITH THE TIMES. Cultural commentator Martin Morse Wooster does know where you can find some Star Wars music.

If you go to blackcatdc.com, you will find that Ms. Cherry Pitz and the Hotsy Totsy Burlesque review are doing their “Tribute to the Star Wars Holiday Special” tonight at the Black Cat Backstage in Washington,

“If you want to see Wicket the Ewok in pasties, now’s your chance,” Kristen Page-Kirby says in the Washington Post. “(And if you really want to see Wicket the Ewok in pasties, get some help.)”

You know–and you can quote me on this–“Cherry Pitz” is NOT a good burlesque name.

My goodness, I forgot to include the link!

(10) OVER THE AIR. In the UK, Sian Welby’s weather report on 5 News made 10 Star Wars puns in 40 seconds, all delivered with a straight face.

True, the wordplay varies in quality, ranging from the excellent “A Leia of cloud covering the UK” and “If you’re forced to awaken early tomorrow morning it will be on the dark side” to the groansome “If you Luke father west you will be seeing a glimmer of sunshine – if you’re Wookie” but you certainly have to admire the effort.

 

(11) BOX SCORE. I had to include Mark Lawrence’s new post for obvious reasons: “A Year in Numbers… Five!”

The blog had its millionth hit in 2015 and got almost 70,000 hits in one month!

And finally, Twitter, where at last I broke the 10,000 follower barrier!

(12) ALTERNATE AWARDS. Kary English, who hadn’t posted on her blog for almost six months, has briefly commented on Sasquan and thanked the people responsible for her having  “Rockets in my pocket”.

DuckieRocket-206x300

Shahid Mahmud, my wonderful publisher at Galaxy’s Edge, who made sure I didn’t go home rocketless no matter what happened at the awards ceremony. The lovely red rocket he gave me now has a place of honor on my brag shelf.

Her other rocket is one of Ken Burnside’s Crashlander Awards.

(13) FUNDRAISER. SFWA is auctioning a George R.R. Martin-signed Game of Thrones 2016 calendar on Ebay.

This is a twelve month wall calendar with thirteen paintings (one for each month, plus a centerfold) by artist Magali Villeneuve depicting scenes from each of the published volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire as well as a scene from the forthcoming The Winds of Winter.  The calendar is signed on the front cover by George R. R. Martin.

Auctioned off by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. All proceeds from this auction will be given to the SFWA Givers’ Fund.

The SFWA Giver’s Fund combines non-restricted charitable donations to SFWA and will use these funds to provide needed grants to genre-related organizations and/or individuals and will also disburse funds to the SFWA Emergency Medical and Legal Funds as needed.

(14) GAIMAN READS. From last year, the New York Public Library recording “Neil Gaiman Reads ‘A Christmas Carol’”. (Via ScienceFiction.com.)

Acclaimed author Neil Gaiman performs a memorable dramatic reading from NYPL’s own rare copy of “A Christmas Carol,” which includes edits and prompts Charles Dickens wrote in his own hand for his unique public readings 150 years ago. Dressed in full costume and joined by writer and BBC researcher Molly Oldfield, Gaiman performs the classic tale as its great author intended.

(15) REACTION. Adam-Troy Castro shared his highly negative response to Daniel Enness’ latest Castalia House blog post in a public Facebook post. Some good lines, but you’ll need to read them there. They only work in context with direct allusions to material I’ve chosen not to excerpt here.

(16) IN HIS STALKING FEET. From the BBC: “Author Richard Britain jailed for ‘bad review’ attack”. [Via Ansible Links.]

A former Countdown champion who travelled 400 miles to attack a teenager who gave his book a bad review has been jailed for 30 months.

Richard Brittain, 28, used Facebook to track victim Paige Rolland, 18, to the Asda store in Glenrothes where she worked.

He then smashed a full wine bottle over her head – knocking her unconscious.

Warning – from here it’s turtles Star Wars all the rest of the way down!

(17) CONSPIRACY THEORY. Camestros Felapton explains it all to you in “The True History of R2D2 – Sith Lord”.

In the films we know of five Sith lords, in addition there is one other character who:

  • is directly linked to the dark side in the film
  • appears to use force powers including using a ‘force jump’ to move
  • appears to us the ‘Jedi mind trick’ to manipulate minds
  • shoots lighting
  • holds a lightsaber

(18) HOT STOVE LEAGUE. Cut4, a Major League Baseball blog, has the baseball/Star Wars mashup of your dreams.

Yes, MLB has “Star Wars” fever, but did you know that “Star Wars” has MLB fever, too? In a world as big as the Expanded Universe, did you really think there was no baseball? Life in the Empire can’t be all battling with light sabers and zooming around in TIE fighters. Sometimes, you just want to watch the game. So here’s your introduction to ELB (Empire League Baseball)…

padmeslogo2_xinkz7kd

(19) PLANET POLL. “See the ‘Star Wars’ Worlds Exoplanet Scientists Can’t Help But Love” at Space.com.

Last week, close to 350 exoplanet scientists gathered in Hawaii for the American Astronomical Society’s Extreme Solar Systems III conference. Space.com took the opportunity to ask 20 of these folks about their favorite “Star Wars” worlds.

The scientists we polled were almost evenly split among three worlds from the “Star Wars” original trilogy: Hoth (from “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,”), Tatooine (from “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,”), and the moon of the planet Endor (from “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.”).

(20) DON’T BE ROOKED. Chesshouse doesn’t seem to have updated the Star Wars chess set in time for Christmas – but there is still time to make your own.

(21) BOY TOY. “Sith lord or samurai lord? Darth Vader becomes decorative doll for Boys’ Day in Japan” at Rocket News 24.

A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away (from English-speaking territories, anyway), Yoshitoku Taiko made its first doll. Founded in 1711, the company’s history goes back to a time when Japan was ruled by a shogun, and the country sealed off from the rest of the world.

More than three centuries later, Yoshitoku Taiko is still in business, but Japan is now part of the global community. That’s why the company’s latest offerings are two exquisitely crafted dolls of Darth Vader in samurai armor.

 

Vader doll

(22) CONTENT WARNING. Boing Boing brings us Star Wars medical merch from Scarfolk, the horror-town stuck in the 1970s”. A few of the others have a certain “ewww” factor….

Darth pacemaker

 [Thanks to JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Steven H Silver, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, and Brian Z. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11 Fresh Squeezed Pixel Juice

(1) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. The University of Maryland Libraries is hosting “Exam Wars: The Turtle Awakens” (U of M’s mascot is the terrapin.)

They’re having a Star Wars drawing contest, among other things.

Exam Wars Illustration Contest Students will send us a drawing of a Star Wars character, and will be entered into a drawing for their very own VIP Study Room, (modeled after the University of Dayton <http://www.programminglibrarian.org/blog/very-important-prize>  study room give-away). This room in McKeldin will be available to the winner during reading day and finals week.

(2) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! “Calista Flockhart Thought the Millennium Falcon Was an Airline”, or so she told Jimmy Kimmel.

In recent months, Harrison Ford has grudgingly acknowledged that he has a soft spot for Star Wars — but apparently, not enough to show the films to his wife Calista Flockhart. During a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live last night, Supergirl actress Flockhart admitted that she was completely in the dark about all things Han Solo until this year. In fact, when a producer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens called to inform her of Ford’s accident on the Millennium Falcon, she had no idea what the Millennium Falcon was.

“A producer called me and she said, ‘Hi Calista, I have some bad news. Harrison has been hurt. He had an accident: he was standing on a Millennium Falcon and the door fell,’” Flockhart told Kimmel. “And I thought that he was on some commercial airline, and the door fell off and he flew out of the airplane!”

Totally confounded, Flockhart called a friend. “I said, ‘What the hell is the Millennium Falcon? I have never heard of that airline!’” she recalled. (Never heard of that airline? It’s the airline that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs!)

(3) DAMMIT JIM! ”Dammit Jim!” beer got its name when New Republic Brewing Company had to rename of one its products.

Dammit jim sixpack

The New Republic Brewing Co received a cease and desist letter from a law firm representing Luxco. They demand that we stop using the brand name Bellows as it is in violation of their trademark.  They claim that you, the consumer will confuse their plastic bottle bourbon with our quality craft beer.

Jim Beam apparently has a ‘Bellows’ line of rail-liquor and put pressure on New Republic. Thus, I suppose the message behind the new name is, “Dammit Jim, I’m a beer not a bourbon!”

Chad B. Hill commented, “The closest Captain Kirk will ever get to a 6 pack!”

(4) BANDERSNATCH EXPLAINED. “Diana Pavlac Glyer Talks About New Book, Bandersnatch” at the Azusa Pacific University website.

What common misconception about creative writing does Bandersnatch hope to eliminate?

This is a good opportunity to explain how Bandersnatch got its title. In a written exchange with Lewis an interviewer asked, “What influence have you had on Tolkien?” He responded, “No one ver influenced Tolkien—you might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.” (A bandersnatch is a mythical animal with a fierce disposition created by author Lewis Carroll.) Many researchers argued that Tolkien and Lewis must, therefore, have worked independently. In the very same letter, however, Lewis goes on to explain that Tolkien either ignores suggestions all together, or completely redoes his work.

The idea of the solitary genius is extremely popular, especially in the United States. Many people imagine the creative process this way: Someone struck with inspiration, sits alone with a typewriter and completes an entire book in one sitting. This could not be more off base. The world’s most influential creators are those embedded in a web of collaboration. They communicate deeply with other people about their ideas, and immerse themselves in groups of influence. When we work among others, our own productivity flourishes. We need people not only to work with us, but to do small things like encourage us along the way.

(5) SECRET AGENT NARNIAN. Harry Lee Poe’s title is overdramatized, however, he seems to be literally correct in saying “C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent”, according to the information in his article for Christianity Today.

…[The] British did the next best thing they could do to help Denmark and the rest of Europe: They launched a surprise invasion of Iceland, which was part of the Kingdom of Denmark….

Though British control of Iceland was critical, Britain could not afford to deploy its troops to hold the island when greater battles loomed elsewhere, beginning with the struggle for North Africa. Holding Iceland depended upon the goodwill of the people of Iceland who never had asked to be invaded by the British. If Britain retained Icelandic goodwill, then Churchill could occupy the island with reserve troops rather than his best fighting forces.

This was the strategic situation in which C. S. Lewis was recruited. And his mission was simple: To help win the hearts of the Icelandic people.

The Work of a Literary Secret Agent

The Joint Broadcasting Committee recruited C. S. Lewis to record a message to the people of Iceland to be broadcast by radio within Iceland. Lewis made no record of his assignment, nor does he appear to have mentioned it to anyone. Without disclosing his involvement with military intelligence, however, Lewis did make an indiscreet disclosure to his friend Arthur Greeves in a letter dated May 25, 1941. Lewis remarked that three weeks earlier he had made a gramophone record which he heard played afterwards. He wrote that it had been a shock to hear his own voice for the first time. It did not sound at all the way his voice sounded to himself, and he realized that people who imitated him had actually gotten it right!

(6) MST3K CASHES IN. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter raised $5,764,229 with 48,270 backers , and another $600,000 in add-ons, for a total of $6,364,229. MST3K claims $5,764,229 is a Kickstarter record, beating Veronica Mars to become the most funded media project ever.

We get 13 episodes, a holiday special, and a 14th episode. More importantly we have shown the industry that fans have real power, and in fact don’t need networks and studios to rule our viewing choices. Good work.

(7) SHAGGY. R. Graeme Cameron takes a deep dive into the November 1958 issue of LASFS’ fanzine Shangri-L’Affaires #39 in “The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: ‘breaking people off at the ankles’”.

He begins by reciting the entire credits page (“If the following doesn’t convince you the clubzine SHAGGY was a group effort by a staggering array of now legendary fans in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, there’s no hope for you”), quotes a Halloween party review at length (Fritz Leiber attended in costume), and documents Bjo’s abilities to mesmerize male fans of the 1950s.

(8) COMPANIONSHIP. All I can say about TVGuide.com’s “The Most Fabulous Doctor Who Companions, Ranked” is any such list that doesn’t have Donna Noble at #1 will not be receiving my daughter’s seal of approval.

(9) SECRETS OF CERES. NASA reports “New Clues to Ceres’ Bright Spots and Origins”.

Ceres reveals some of its well-kept secrets in two new studies in the journal Nature, thanks to data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. They include highly anticipated insights about mysterious bright features found all over the dwarf planet’s surface.

In one study, scientists identify this bright material as a kind of salt. The second study suggests the detection of ammonia-rich clays, raising questions about how Ceres formed.

(10) LAST SASQUAN GOH RETURNS HOME. Sasquan GoH and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren had a longer flight than most. He returned to Earth earlier today (December 11).

Expedition 45 flight engineers Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) touched down at approximately 8:12 a.m. EST (7:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time) northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. It was the first time a crew has landed after sunset and only the sixth nighttime Soyuz return from the space station.

 

Kjell Lindgren

Kjell Lindgren

(11) BE YOUR OWN ALIEN. See the cartoon at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal“Why has no one made this?!”

(12) Today In History

  • December 11, 1992:  The Muppet Christmas Carol premieres in theaters.

(13) Today’s Birthday Ghoul

  • Born December 11, 1922 – Vampira, aka Maila Nurmi.

(14) PUPPY SCHOLARSHIP. Doris V. Sutherland in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Short Stories” quotes Gregory Benford’s complaint about fantasy taking over the Hugo Awards, and after a long introduction to the Sad Puppy controversy (excerpted here) assays the sf worth of the 2014 Hugo finalists compared to the stories on the slates.

The grave talk of a fight against a “toxic” and “hateful” ideology that controls the Hugos is a long way from the puckish humour of Correia’s early posts. At this point, what started out as a jokey bit of grandstanding has begun to resemble an online holy war against “SJW” hordes.

This element of moral imperative is the key distinction between the Sad Puppies campaign and earlier exercises in slate-voting, such as John Scalzi’s “Award Pimpage”. When a slate of potential nominees is taken as a simple suggestion, that is one thing; when it is taken as a call to arms against evil forces, that is quite another.

And the Winner Is… Well, Nobody

I am, of course, awfully late to the party, and by now I think just about anyone reading this will know the result of the two campaigns. The Sad and Rabid Puppies gathered enough support to sweep the nominees with a mixture of choices from the two slates. And yet, they also had enough detractors to keep almost all of those choices from winning – even if it meant voting “no award” to the tops of multiple categories.

Both sides took this as a victory. Many opponents of the Puppies congratulated themselves on keeping the slated works from winning, while supporters took the results as evidence that the Hugos were run by “SJWs” who barred any nominees with the wrong ideology.

Myself, I would have to agree with Liana Kerzner: “No one won. It was just a disruption in the Force like Palpatine ripped a big fart.”

(15) CONTENT WARNING. The Castalia House blog has posted the first two of a five-part series “Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End.” The series argues the sf community has a pedophilia problem. Whether you read it, you now know it exists – Part IPart II.

[Thanks to David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8 When Blogs Collide

(1) ROBOTS FLASH. At the Barnes & Noble blog they’re “Introducing the 12 Days of Robot Christmas” — 12 Days of Flash Fiction from Angry Robot Authors (plus eBook discounts). Posted so far —

Still to come — Adam Rakunas (12/9), Marianne de Pierres (12/10), Peter McLean (12/11) , Carrie Patel (12/14), Ferrett Steinmetz (12/15), Peter Tieryas (12/16), Rod Duncan (12/17), and Matthew De Abaitua (12/18)

Matt Hill’s installment “The New Tradition” begins with a strong hook –

Every Christmas Eve since the biological attack, they let me visit Nan to see what was left of her.

(2) LANSDALE. Joe R. Lansdale will be honored with the 2015 Raymond Chandler Award at Courmayeur during the Noir in Festival to be held December 8-13.

With over forty novels and hundreds of stories to his credit, Lansdale is perhaps the most prolific and brilliant writer working in the noir genre today. With models such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mark Twain and Jack London, but also the science fiction of Ray Bradbury and Fredric Brown, as well as comic strips, B movies and “pulp” fiction, Lansdale´s novels are a blend of his jaded sense of humor, unbridled imagination and an unsparing description of reality in its most ruthless, violent and absurd incarnations. His books include The Drive-In and The Drive-In 2, Mucho Mojo, Two-Bear Mambo, Bad Chili, Rumble Tumble, Edge of Dark Water, Devil Red, The Bottoms (winner of an Edgar Award in 2001), Bubba Ho-Tep, and Hap & Leonard.

At Courmayeur, Lansdale will be presenting his latest novel, Honky Tonk Samurai (published in Italian by Einaudi): a new investigative romp featuring the popular characters Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

The Raymond Chandler Award is a lifetime achievement award. Past winners include sf/f/h writer J.G. Ballard (1995), and Michael Connelly, Scott Turow and John le Carré,

(3) COMPANION ISSUES. James Whitbrook tells how he deals with post-traumatic television series stress in his confessional “The Exact Moment When Doctor Who Taught Me to Never Trust Television Again” at io9.

And being an idiot teen, it was shocking enough to basically make myself vow to never be hurt by television again. Oh, teen James. TV drama basically exists to hurt us on an emotional level, you silly fool. But it kickstarted a habit I still have to this day—if I’m invested in a television series, be it Doctor Who or anything else, I keep up with all the behind the scenes info I can. I go as far as to hunt out spoilers, just to see what’s happening or if people are leaving a show, so I can prepare myself. If I’m binge-watching a show and find myself liking a certain character, I absent-mindedly Google them on my phone to find out if they inevitably die or leave the series before it ends. It infuriates my friends and family, but it’s a force of habit for myself now.

(4) Alamo Drafthouse will host a movie-watching endurance contest in Austin — Star Wars : The Marathon Awakens.

Starting promptly at 4 AM, December 17th, the seven pre-selected fans will take their seats at Alamo’s South Lamar venue to view the first six STAR WARS films in sequential order. Following the close of the initial marathon they will then participate in an endless, round-the-clock screening of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS until one final fan is left to claim their mantle of inter-galactic super fan supremacy….

For a chance to be chosen as one of the seven lucky participants in STAR WARS: THE MARATHON AWAKENS, fans need to show the Alamo Drafthouse their Jedi devotion on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the #AlamoJedi hashtag. Tattoos, toy collections, cosplay, Hoth haiku — whatever he or she feels shows their ultimate dedication to STAR WARS should be posted to sway the votes of the Alamo’s Jedi Council.

Rules are a requirement for every budding Jedi and STAR WARS: THE MARATHON AWAKENS is no exception. Participants will be given breaks between movies to stretch their legs and channel their inner Force. Sleeping, illegal drugs and talking & texting during the movies (of course) will result in disqualification and a swift trip to the Sarlacc Pit. However, for those strong enough to persevere, intergalactic immortality awaits.

(5) EDELMAN REVISITS 1974. Scott Edelman’s first Worldcon was Discon II in 1974. He has posted scans of the event schedule.

So which of these programming items did I choose to attend?

Well, there was no way I was going to miss Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison hurling insults at each other across a crowded ballroom, or the screening of a rough cut of A Boy and His Dog, or Roger Zelazny’s Guest of Honor speech, or the Hugo banquet and ceremony. Or endless wandering through the dealers room, where I picked up several items I still own to this day.

Sadly, of many panels I remember little. A women in science fiction panel featuring Susan Wood, Katherine Kurtz, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro? A panel on the problems facing today’s (well, 1974’s) science fiction magazines, with Jim Baen, Ben Bova, Ed Ferman, and Ted White? How I wish there was audio or video of those for us to relive those presentations today!

(6) TRAILER FORECAST. ScreenRant has learned the Star Trek Beyond trailer will premiere with Star Wars 7.

THR is reporting that Star Trek Beyond‘s first trailer will be attached to The Force Awakens in theaters – though, of course, it’s far from the only 2016 tentpole that is expected to hitch a ride aboard the Star Wars train. Indeed, both the recently-unveiled Captain America: Civil War teaser trailer and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s third theatrical preview are both likely candidates to be shown before The Force Awakens. Furthermore, it’s been reported in the past that the first X-Men: Apocalypse trailer will make its debut on the big screen with co-writer/director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars feature, as might also be true for another 20th Century Fox project – Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.

(7) SCULL ANALYZES TOLKIEN BIOS. Christina Scull assays the field in “Tolkien Biographies Continued, Part One” on Too Many Books and Never Enough.

Christina writes: In the Reader’s Guide volume of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide Wayne and I devoted nearly seven pages to a review of biographies of Tolkien which had appeared to date (2006). Carpenter’s of course was, and remains, the standard life, and the source upon which most subsequent biographers of Tolkien have relied to a great extent. The major exceptions, in terms of new research, are John Garth in Tolkien and the Great War and ourselves in the Companion and Guide, but a few others have made notable contributions to the literature. Diana Pavlac Glyer in The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community (2007) has a worthwhile discussion of the importance of the Inklings to Tolkien. Andrew H. Morton has produced two studies (the first in association with John Hayes) centred on Tolkien’s Aunt Jane Neave: Tolkien’s Gedling 1914: The Birth of a Legend (2008) and Tolkien’s Bag End: Threshold to Adventure (2009). Phil Mathison has filled in some details about Tolkien’s life during the First World War in Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917–1918 (2012). And Arne Zettersten in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Double Worlds and Creative Process: Language and Life by Arne Zettersten (2011, previously published in Swedish in 2008) recalls his meetings and conversations with Tolkien in the latter’s final years (although Zettersten refers to correspondence, no quotations are given) and usefully discusses Tolkien’s academic work on the ‘AB language’.

(8) A ROAD NOT TAKEN. The actor’s daughter told the Guardian that “Toshiro Mifune turned down Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader Roles” when George Lucas was casting the original Star Wars movie.

The star of Rashomon and Seven Samurai was approached by George Lucas to appear in his 1977 sci-fi adventure, but the two couldn’t strike a deal, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style,” said Mika.

The plot of Star Wars was loosely based on The Hidden Fortress, a 1958 film that Mifune starred in for director and frequent collaborator Akira Kurosawa.

“At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride,” Mika said. “So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too.”

Other actors who turned down roles in the film include Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, Robert De Niro and James Caan.

(9) BRACKETT SMACK. Christopher M. Chupik volunteers his previously unsuspected ability to identify deserving feminist icons in “To Tower Against The Sky”.

Despite being an inspiration to such writers as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock and E. C. Tubb, Brackett seems to have fallen into a curious limbo. Feminists like to invoke her name in lists of female SF authors, but there seems to be a curious reluctance to speak of the woman or her work. A female writer who held her own in a male-dominated field long before the women’s liberation movement would seem to be the kind of role model modern feminists would want to celebrate, right?

Wrong. Nowadays, she’s mostly known for having written the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, very little of which made it to the screen. And this is often portrayed as the crowning achievement of her career….

And here, I suspect, we come to the real reason the feminists have marginalized Brackett: she was a conservative.

I had to dig a bit to confirm this. I had a suspicion based on her work that her opinions were not quite in tune with modern leftist orthodoxy. Brackett, along with her husband Edmond Hamilton, were signatories to the pro-Vietnam War petition that appeared in the June 1968 issue of Galaxy. Combine that with her disinterest in feminism, and it becomes very clear why Brackett has been allowed to drift towards obscurity

(10) THEY TOLD DISNEY NO THANKS. The Hollywood Reporter says “Plans for Unfinished Disney Park in St. Louis Up for Auction”  — by Profiles in History, on Thursday.

In the 1960s, Disney drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning attention to Florida.

Imagine packing up the kids and heading for that dream vacation to a Disney theme park … in St. Louis.

It almost happened a half-century ago when Disney drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning its attention to Florida. St. Louis’ loss was the Orlando area’s gain: Walt Disney World became one of the world’s top tourist attractions.

St. Louis can only lament what might have been….

On Thursday, one of the few remnants of the park goes on the auction block — 13 pages of 1963 blueprints spelling out plans for “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square” in St. Louis. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company Profiles in History is offering up the blueprints as part of its “Animation and Disneyana” auction

(11) CANDIDATES FOR MST3K. Now that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has successfully crowdfunded a string of new episodes, the crew will have to pick some bad flicks to abuse. CNET’s Danny Gallagher helpfully names “7 movie turkeys the new MST3K needs to tackle”.

Any movie buff knows there are still plenty of bad movies out there that deserve to get the MST3K treatment. Here are seven of those stinkers.

  1. “Yor, the Hunter from the Future”

…The people who made this dud don’t seem sure what genre they want it to be. “Yor” starts as a prehistoric adventure movie, but it morphs into science fiction when UFOs and technological warfare are shoved into the plot. They should have called this one, “Yor, the Warrior from…Squirrel!”

(12) A POLITICAL COMMENT. Apparently having a nose isn’t enough to recommend him — J.K. Rowling tweeted Tuesday that Donald Trump is worse than Lord Voldemort.

Rowling’s tweet came after Trump called for preventing all Muslims from entering the United States.

(13) FOUNDING A CON. Lou J. Berger and Quincy J. Allen’s We Are ALL Science Fiction theme will be embodied by a convention bearing the same name, to be held November 4-6, 2016 in Ocean Shores, WA.

Put on by an all-fan, all-volunteer, non-profit group made up of fans with decades of experience in con running and attending (from all over the globe), our first annual convention will feature award-winning authors Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Jody Lynn Nye, and many others, including Hugo nominee Jennifer Brozek, Anna Korra’ti, Raven Oak, with other guests such as Scott Hungerford (Games), Marvel comic artist (and fine artist) Jeffrey Veregge, Musical guest Dara Korra’ti of Crime & the Forces of Evil, Tor editor Beth Meacham, and actor Drew Hobson (Voice of Marcus, State of Decay).  We hope to be an international fan destination as we add more speakers and guests in the coming months!

An Indiegogo appeal to pay the expenses has raised $25 of its $9,000 goal in the first 23 hours.

(14) THE FOUNDERS’ CODE. The We Are ALL Science Fiction Code of Conduct announced by Lou J. Berger and Quincy J. Allen is:

#WeAreALLSF is open to all comers, no exceptions, no exclusions, and in this place we treat everyone with respect, even if we disagree with them.

There is one rule: If you don’t have something nice to say, then say it someplace else. Lou and I will be rather draconian in removing those who can’t follow such a simple rule.

That is our one code of conduct.

(15) THE PAST THROUGH PHOTOSHOP. artworkofarmies’ collection “Images may not be historically accurate” improves WWII-era photos by adding science fictional references.

View post on imgur.com

(16) RETRO MOVES FORWARD. Von Dimpleheimer, our correspondent from 1940, has made progress with his due diligence for Volume 5 of Retro-Hugo eligible stories.

I went back and double and triple checked all the previous stories and the ones that would be in Volume Five and I found another mistake. In 1950, Nelson Bond made a fix-up novel of the Lancelot Biggs stories and did renew the copyright of that book in 1977. I removed “Lancelot Biggs Cooks a Pirate” from Volume One and uploaded the new version. I actually knew about the book and remember checking for a renewal, but just missed it somehow.

I cut the Lancelot Biggs stories from Volume Five and I am sure the remaining stories are public domain, but I’ll quintuple check them before I send you the links later this week.

On the plus side, all this checking led me to the fact that “Russell Storm” was actually Robert Moore Williams and I now have two more of his stories for future volumes.

(16) FAVORITE 2015 FANTASY. Stephanie Bugis’ list of “Favorite Fantasy Novels from 2015” leads off with a book by Aliette de Bodard.

 

  1. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. Rich, immersive, gorgeous dark fantasy with fallen angels and Vietnamese Immortals, set in a magically post-apocalyptic version of twentieth-century Paris. I read the whole thing on my overnight plane ride back from America to the UK this summer and was so absorbed, I didn’t even mind the lost sleep! You can read my full Goodreads review here.

(17) STOCK THE SHELVES. Melissa Gilbert’s post “Read Like a Writer” at Magical Words takes inspiration from several Stephen King quotes.

I am going to start with the first quotation: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

I cannot express how much truth there is to these statements. Writing is hard work, contrary to the romanticized ideal of a guy with a beret sitting in a Parisian coffee shop daydreaming about the next bestseller. Being a writer is sitting at the keyboard and pushing keys in rapid succession trying to convey into words the sometimes jumbled picture that is floating around in your brain. It’s living off Snickers bars for a while because you have a deadline and no time to cook actual food. It’s reading in the bathroom instead of Facebooking because you need to finish that next chapter. It’s lugging a book or forty with you in your suitcase when you go on vacation so that you don’t run out of things to read. It’s typing with your thumbs on your smartphone while waiting for the elevator or while commuting on the train so you can get your thousand words in that day. It’s talking to people when you get stuck. It’s staring at the blank page in abject fear that no ideas will come. Writing isn’t easy. Okay, maybe it is. Let me rephrase. GOOD writing isn’t easy. But some things (like reading) can help to make it pleasurable.

(18) ONE’S THE LIMIT. Madeleine E. Robins advocates limiting a character’s advantages over others in “A Rule of One” at Book View Café.

I have this theory. Or maybe it’s just an idea. It’s about the advantages you give your characters. And how many advantages you can give them without distracting from the story or making them unbearable.

Advantages? Beauty is one, and very common; but there’s also intelligence, skill, charm, grace, wit, fortune, discernment, athletic ability, good birth, kind parents, a person who encourages them to follow their dreams, etc. All of these things are wonderful. But most people don’t get to have them all. And if you write a character who does get them all, it’s sort of cheating.

This is particularly important in writing historical fiction, or fantasy set in an historically inspired context (it works for SF too, but to keep things simple I’m limiting my scope). It is easy, and tempting, to create a character who is ahead of her/his time: “You fools, feudalism is doomed! Let us storm the castle and demand the birth of democracy!” A reader may want to sympathize with a character who partakes of our sensibilities more than he does of those of his time, but some writers leave out any clue as to where that vision came from.

(19) RED MARS. According to io9, a live-action adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars is coming to Spike TV.

J. Michael Straczinski and Game of Throne’s Vince Gerardis are executive producing, and believe it or not, Spike TV has ordered it “straight-to-series” without a pilot.

(20) SELDES OBIT. Editor and literary agent Timothy Seldes died December 5 reports Newsday. He was 88.

Raised in New York City and a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Seldes grew up around words, ideas and the performing arts. He was the brother of Tony-winning actress Marian Seldes, son of the drama critic and author Gilbert Seldes and nephew of the pioneering press critic George Seldes. He spent much of his editing career at the Doubleday house, where he rose to managing editor and authors included [Richard] Wright and Isaac Asimov.

(21) TWITTER. Your tweetage may vary. Ann Leckie’s certainly does, as she explains in “Me and Twitter”.

Now, I do look at my mentions, and not infrequently reply to those in some way. I do enjoy doing that. But every now and then, someone will turn up in my mentions in some way that’s very clearly designed to get my attention in a particular way–the tweeter wants me to notice their book, or asks explicitly that I follow them back (and they’re not someone I already know). I’m going to be honest, this irritates me. No offense, right? They’re obviously using Twitter as a promotional tool, where I’m using it to hang with people. This is mostly fine with me, in the abstract, I’ve got no problem with publicity or promotion. In the concrete and specific, I’d suggest that approaching promotion on Twitter as largely a question of amassing a lot of followers who you can then tweet to about your book is, perhaps, not as effective as you imagine it might be. I’ll also suggest that, if you want to engage the interest of someone with a lot of twitter followers, whose retweets or conversations with you might bring you the visibility you’re after, you might want to do your research about who that person is and why they have those followers, and not try to engage them with generic questions, let alone passive-aggressive tweets meant to guilt or provoke that person into replying or following back. But, you know, it’s your call, your life, your Twitter feed. And I’m totally okay with using the block and mute buttons whenever it seems convenient. (That would be the way the “react badly” mentioned in the tweets above usually manifests itself.)

(22) DRAWING TO A PAIR OF VONNEGUTS. Ginger Strand’s biography The Brothers Vonnegut is receiving mixed reviews, though all the critics say it’s interesting.

Katy Waldman on Slate finds some of connections discovered by the author “immensely satisfying.”

The Brothers Vonnegut, with its perfect-storm-of-concepts subtitle “Science and Fiction in the House of Magic,” focuses on Bernard and Kurt Vonnegut during the late ’40s and ’50s, when both were involved in the glittering ascent of General Electric during the postwar prosperity boom. Bernard, an MIT graduate and model elder son, researches at the company’s prestigious science lab. Kurt, having survived the Western Front (where he saw the firebombing of Dresden firsthand), takes a job as a PR flack, issuing zingy press releases about GE’s latest innovations.

Ben Jackson at the Guardian concludes:

[Kurt] didn’t hold out much hope for us: in Fates Worse than Death he wrote: “My guess is that … we really will blow up everything by and by”. No doubt Strand is right to locate the origin of many of his concerns in his time at GE, and there is certainly a lot to be said for her interesting book, but Kurt Vonnegut had more on his mind than the weather.

Jeff Milo at Paste Magazine is the most enthusiastic:

The benefits of The Brothers Vonnegut are threefold, starting with Strand’s insights into the professional and domestic lives of these two brothers, both equally strong-willed in their works despite their fields being worlds apart. Strand also draws attention to the vital support these brothers received from their wives, Lois Bowler with Bernard and Jane Marie Cox (Kurt’s first wife). More than that, though, these women are able to substantially enter into the narrative’s insightful spotlight, rather than being merely supportive backdrops for the brothers.

(23) RAMPAGE ON RECORD. Jim Mowatt’s run to Save the Rhino made the Cambridge News.

Mowatt in Cambridge News

(24) PLUTO ON CAMERA. NASA has released a video composed of the sharpest views of Pluto obtained by its New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby in July.

[Thanks to Von Dimpleheimer, Alan Baumler, David K.M. Klaus, JJ, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24 The Choler out of Space

(1) Fans beat the pros at trivia – well, of course they did.

The awkward moment when Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss came third in a Doctor Who pub quiz.

The trio – who called themselves The Time Wasters – clearly didn’t know their wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff

92414

(2) John Picacio teed off against the World Fantasy Con’s call for new award design submissions:

Artists — how do you feel about someone who says, “Give us your ideas for free. If we decide we like one of them, we’ll use it for our own personal branding and for our own prestige. We will hire someone to make multiple images of it and that person will not receive compensation either. We have zero respect for any of you as working professionals.”

As of today, that’s the official message that the World Fantasy Convention just transmitted to all professional artists as the WFC searches for a new image for their World Fantasy Award. See their new “World Fantasy Award Call for Submissions”.

That’s right. Your ideas and your work — for nothing.

It’s an extremely unprofessional message, and it’s not one that befits experienced professionals. It says to all of its members — writers, editors, agents, publishers — that the organization doesn’t value its own branding enough to properly invest in it. That’s very sad to see.

This stirred up debate among commenters on Picacio’s Facebook page, including Ellen Datlow, Sean Wallace, Irene Gallo and others.

(3) Two days ago I ran David Hartwell’s photo of a NY subway car wrapped in a graphical ad for The Man in the High Castle  — but today Amazon announced it will remove the ads amid uproar over their use of insignia inspired by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The online retailer made the decision to pull the ads amid widespread coverage of the wrap, which cover half the 42nd Street shuttle’s seats in decals of the American flag with the stars replaced by an emblem that closely resembles the Nazi Reichsadler, the heraldic eagle used by the Third Reich. The other side features a recreation of a World War II-era Japanese flag in red, white and blue….

Straphanger Ann Toback was disturbed to find the posters wallpapered on the Grand Central shuttle.

“Hate speech, hate insignia requires a response when you see it, you don’t just say, ‘oh, it’s New York,” said Toback. “You see, you have a choice to stare at the Japanese empire insignia or the Nazi insignia.”

A spokesman for the MTA said there were no grounds to reject the ads because they do not violate the authority’s content-neutral ad standards, which only prohibits advertising that disparages an individual or group. ..

Some activists and officials, however, expressed outrage that the advertisements were allowed to run.

“As a Jew, I am offended, and as a New Yorker, I am embarrassed,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Dinowitz. “The MTA should be ashamed of themselves and this ignorant advertising campaign, as it is offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.”

Mayor de Blasio also decried the ads, calling them “irresponsible.”

…Not everyone was bothered by the marketing. One rider said, “It’s not like the end of the world, it’s not specifically targeting a group of people. It’s just for a show.”

(4) Justin Raimondo contrasts the novel and miniseries in “Myths of Empire: The Man in the High Castle: a review of sorts” at AntiWar.com.

Dick’s original version would never be allowed on American television: the political realities of our time forbid it. Empires are founded on mythologies – narratives in which historical events are interpreted in a way that justifies the status quo, and crowds out any dissenting version, consigning the truth – if such there is – to the margins.

(5) Myke Cole posted a photo of him receiving his promotion from NYPD Commissioner Bratton. (All I can find in bios is that he does “specialized work” there.)

(6) At National Review Online, Katherine Timpf discusses how she got death threats after she joked on the Fox News Channel comedy show Red Eye “I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now.”

And:

“Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive.”

Now, I received a few death threats right after I posted the aforementioned tweet — which, by the way, was why I was saying Star Wars fans were “crazy” in the first place. Overall, though, it wasn’t a big deal, and I kind of forgot about it.

Then, this week, one Star Wars super-super-super fan who calls himself “AlphaOmegaSin” made a ten-minute (!) video brutally ripping me apart.

(7) “NASA not ready for dangers of deep space, auditors say” writes Jerry Markon of the Washington Post.

American culture and cinema often glorifies space travel, from the heroic early adventurers of “The Right Stuff” to the more recent rescue of Matt Damon’s astronaut character from Mars in “The Martian.”

But the reality is less glamorous, with journeys into deep space posing serious dangers to astronauts that include inadequate food, radiation exposure and heightened risks of developing cancer and other maladies. And NASA is not yet ready to handle those dangers as it moves ahead with plans to send the first human mission to Mars by the 2030s, according to a recent audit.

NASA inspector general Paul K. Martin found that the legendary space agency “faces significant challenges” ensuring the safety of any Mars-bound astronauts,  and that its schedule to limit the risks is overly “optimistic.” As a result, he said, Mars crews likely will have to accept more risks to their health and safety than their predecessors who went to the moon and work in the International Space Station.

(8) “Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Masterpiece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tantalizing Animation” at Open Culture.

Last year we featured artwork from the Dune movie that never was, a collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky, the mysticism-minded Chilean director of such oft-described-as-mind-blowing pictures as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, and the artist Jean Giraud, better known as Mœbius, creator of oft-described-as-mind-blowing comics as Arzach, Blueberry, and The Airtight GarageIf ever a meeting of two creative minds made more sense, I haven’t heard about it. Alas, Jodorowsky and Mœbius’ work didn’t lead to their own Dune movie, but it didn’t mark the end of their artistic partnership, as anyone who’s read The Incal knows full well.

Telling a metaphysical, satirical, space-operatic story in the form of comic books originally published throughout the 1980s (with sequel and prequel series to come over the following 25 years), The Incal on the page became the fullest realization of Jodorowsky and Mœbius’ combined vision.

(9) Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.

“But more significant,” notes the Washington Post, “was the landing of the rocket booster, which descended, flew through 119 mph high-altitude crosswinds and touched down on the landing pad by firing its engine again. The company based in Kent, Wash., said it landed just four-and-a-half feet from the center.”

 

(10) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman

(11) “How an industry of ‘Amazon entrepreneurs’ pulled off the Internet’s craftiest catfishing scheme” in the Washington Post.

There’s only one problem with Dagny Taggart — she doesn’t exist. Evidence collected and examined by The Washington Post suggests that Taggart (who is named for a character in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”) is a made-up identity used by an Argentine man named Alexis Pablo Marrocco. Marrocco, meanwhile — and other self-described “Kindle entrepreneurs” like him — form part of a growing industry of “Amazon catfish.”

The catfishing process varies according to the specific “entrepreneur” using it, but it typically follows the same general steps: After hiring a remote worker to write an e-book for the Kindle marketplace, Amazon’s e-book store, publishers put it up for sale under the name and bio of a fictional expert. Frequently, Kindle entrepreneurs will then buy or trade for good book reviews. (Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)

At the end of this process, they hope to have a Kindle store bestseller: something with a catchy title about a hot topic, such as gambling addiction or weight loss.

“Making money with Kindle is by far the easiest and fastest way to get started making money on the Internet today,” enthuses one video that promises to guide viewers to riches. “You don’t even need to write the books yourself!”

(12) Cute set of fandom greeting cards.

Sorry fav show canc tumblr_nwv6pwxkGE1r8pdmio3_500

(13) ‘Tis the season to break this out again: WKRP “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” Thanksgiving

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Amy Sterling Casil, Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day GP.]

Orphaned Rover Still Available After Auction

rover2 COMP

Rover exterior.

Editor’s Note: Buddy’s Antique Auction in Arab, Alabama might not be the first place you’d look to buy a genuine Lunar Rover — but it should be! The salvaged LRV recently in the news was scheduled for auction on November 21.

By Dawn Sabados: Around 20 people turned up for today’s auction, including the seller, the auction house staff, and the three looky-loos I brought. Only five of us signed up to bid. I was #1. There was also an online auction open, but there wasn’t any noticeable activity from that.

One of the bidders asked a lot of questions about authentication before the auction. They don’t have a full chain of custody and the retired NASA employee who confirmed the origin by comparison to historic photos had not worked with the prototype when it was at MSFC.

We got a late start, with the auction starting at closer to 12:30 than noon. Bidding started at $25,000 and ended at $30,000 which did not meet the reserve. I have no idea what the reserve was. At the beginning of the auction, we were told we’d find out at the end of the auction, but that information wasn’t included.

As it stands, the auctioneer told us that we were welcome to make an offer directly to the seller. During the auction, we were told someone overseas had offered $250,000 for it, so I certainly won’t be making an offer.

documentation COMP

Dawn Sabados looking over the provided documentation.

rover1 COMP

A look at the remaining interior structure.

auctionstarting COMP

The view from the back row during the auction.

rusted-components COMP

Close-up of what is left of the electronics.