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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

Brooke Bolander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Hollywood get hacking so wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/2/17 What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Tick-Boxed At Last, Scrolls Towards Bethlehem To Be Born?

(1) SOUNDS LEGIT. Newsweek’s Hannah Osborn reports “Nasa Is Hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to Save Earth from Aliens”. If you want to protect earth from space aliens and have the qualifications, NASA is hiring, on a three-year contract with pay from $124,000 to $187,000.

The headline is a little grandiose – here’s what the job is really about:

The role involves stopping astronauts and robots from getting contaminated with any organic and biological material during space travel.

“NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration” the job advert reads. “This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.”

Still want to apply? The USAJOBS listing is here.

(2) STATS. A snapshot of Worldcon 75 membership, with the convention a week away:

(3) HARVEST OF STORIES. Cora Buhlert went into overdrive last month: “The July Short Story Challenge 2017 – 32 Short Stories in 31 Days” . And this is the third consecutive year she’s written a story a day in July!

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation. In one case, googling a research question for one story, namely whether there it’s actually legal to shoot looters after a massive disaster (it’s not, though there have been cases where law enforcement personnel was given carte blanche, with predictably terrible results) led me to the story of a man who bragged that he had shot more than thirty alleged looters after Hurricane Katrina (thankfully, it seems he was lying or at least massively exaggerating) and who amazingly was not arrested as a serial killer. This made me actively angry, so I wrote a post-apocalyptic story where a shooter of looters gets his comeuppance.

(4) CRIME BLOTTER. Alison Flood and Sian Cain of The Guardian, in “Beatrix Potter-pinching and Žižekian swipes: the strange world of book thefts”, look at who is stealing books from British bookstores. The sf connection is that at Blackwell’s in Oxford, Tolkien, Pratchett, Jordan, and Martin are among the top authors stolen, Also, “an 80-year-old woman with a Zimmer frame” heisted Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind from Drake the Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees.

Paul Sweetman of City Books in Hove believes shoplifters appear to have dumbed down over the years. “In the 1980s, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac were the most likely to go missing, The Bell Jar and On the Road competing for being the least profitable books in the shop. We are now forced to keep Asterix, Tintin, Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss behind the counter.”

(5) ALEX, I’LL TAKE LA ARCHITECTURE FOR $100. The answer is: Ray Bradbury. The question is: “Why Does Los Angeles Have a Mall Based on the Babylon Set From the 1916 Film Intolerance?”.

If you’ve been to the Hollywood & Highland Center and have a working knowledge of silent film history, you may have noticed that the hulking mall’s design has been lifted with mixed success from the Babylon set in DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance. (An influential and ruinously expensive feat of filmmaking in which Griffith calls out critics of his previous film, The Birth of a Nation, as the real racists; it interweaves tales of intolerance from ancient Babylon, the life of Christ, Renaissance France, and then-modern America). That’s pretty weird, right? What kind of mind came up with that? In a posthumous essay just published at the Paris Review, late science fiction author Ray Bradbury says it was his idea….

Intolerance flopped. There was no money left to dismantle the set, and for a few years it became an actual ruin in the middle of Los Angeles. It was finally torn down in 1919….

In his essay at the Paris Review, Bradbury—who led a campaign in the early 1960s to build a monorail system in Los Angeles—writes about his career as an “accidental architect,” influencing designs for the 1964 World’s Fair, EPCOT, and, strangely enough, the Glendale Galleria…..

Eventually, a group came to him “looking at ways to rebuilt Hollywood”:

I told them that somewhere in the city, they had to build the set from the 1916 film Intolerance by D. W. Griffith. The set, with its massive, wonderful pillars and beautiful white elephants on top, now stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland avenues. People from all over the world come to visit, all because I told them to build it. I hope at some time in the future, they will call it the Bradbury Pavilion.

The Hollywood & Highland Center opened in late 2001, at the beginning of what has become a wildly successful rebirth for Hollywood. EE&K designed the complex, with a grand stairway leading up to a “Babylon Court” with a replica Intolerance gate (which frames the Hollywood Sign in the distance) and, of course, a few elephants…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 2, 1971 — Zombies in sunglasses: The Omega Man (Charlton Heston’s version) premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 2, 1939 — Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven born.

(8) POTTER CAST TRANSPLANTS. Variety’s Gordon Cox, in “Meet the Wizards of Broadway’s ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, reports seven members of the London cast are going to be in the Broadway production, scheduled to open in April.

Seven members of the West End company of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will open the Broadway production in the spring, including Olivier winners Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle.

That trio and four other British actors will lead the cast of one of the most hotly anticipated productions of the Broadway season. The newest chapter in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” saga wowed both audiences and critics when it opened last summer, and went on to win a record nine Oliviers, including the trophies for Parker (as a grown-up Harry), Dumezwani (as Hermione) and Boyle, who plays Scorpius, the son of Harry’s old nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

On Broadway, Sam Clemmett will reprise his role as Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, alongside Paul Thornley (Ron), Poppy Miller (Ginny), and Alex Price (Draco). Byron Jennings, Kathryn Meisle and David Abeles are among the new actors joining the hefty cast of 28.

(9) X NEXT. Yahoo! says “There’s A Reason You Should Care About The Next X-Men Movie, And That Reason Is Jessica Chastain”.

On her Instagram page, the actress shared an image of her and James McAvoy – who plays Professor Charles Xavier in the films – and writes that she’s off to join the cast in Montreal.

Hey @jamesmcavoyrealdeal you ready for me up in Montreal? Im gonna make you cry so hard 😈 #xmen @simondavidkinberg

A post shared by Jessica Chastain (@jessicachastain) on

The actress also captioned the photo “I’m gonna make you cry so hard”, which could give us a hint as to who she’s playing.

Rumours have stated that the filmmakers were looking to cast Chastain as Princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, and while she hasn’t confirmed this, it’s looking likely.

In the comics (and nineties animated series) Charles and Lilandra are in love, but their duties and very long distance gets in the way of their relationship – hence her comment about making Charles cry.

(10) COMPILATION. Lela E. Buis announces her “Review Project: Greater Inclusion of SFF Worldviews”.

During a recent discussion here at the blog, I was asked to provide examples of underrepresented minority views. I’m now starting a project to review works like this from 2017. I have several candidates lined up, but I’d also be happy to have suggestions on likely candidates. I’m especially looking for Native American and LatinX worldviews, as this group has been pretty scarce in the recent SFF awards cycles, even though Native American and LatinX persons make up about 1/5 of the US population. I’m also interested in other underrepresented worldviews within the SFF community, and I may ask a few people to do guest reviews or articles as the project goes along.

I should probably define what I mean by “worldview.” I’m not looking for just diversity of race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or national origin in the authors here; I’m looking for authors writing from within their own authentic worldview instead of just replaying Western stereotypes.

(11) ART CORNUCOPIA. Digital Arts Online tells where to find the motherlode: “The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download”.

The British Library’s collection of images on Flickr are taken from books it has its collection from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century – so well out of copyright – and are vaguely arranged by theme: such as book covers, cycling, illustrated lettering, comic art, ships or children’s book illustration. There’s also a collection of ‘Highlights‘ that’s a good place to start if you just want a general browse.

(12) I’M MELTING! Riffing on a fannish enthusiasm: is vanilla ice cream on its way out? “Is time up for plain vanilla flavour ice creams?”

But for many years, flavours from the big international brands remained stubbornly conservative, dominated by chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Now though, thanks to migration, long-haul travel, and the internet, consumers are becoming more adventurous and manufacturers are taking note.

Parlours have sprung up across the US offering Persian-style saffron, orange blossom, and rosewater ice cream, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey; and Indian-inspired flavours such as masala chai, pineapple, and kulfi.

(13) NOT EXACTLY WESTWORLD. Film fans recreated the final set of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (technically not sf-related, but this is a story of fan-level enthusiasm): “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly location reborn in Spain”.

But in 2014, a group of local people decided to restore the site to its former glory. They called themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association and after locating the exact cemetery spot, with the help of photographs from the film’s final scene, in 2015 they set about the painstaking process of excavating the site.

“At the start it seemed like it was going to be impossible, but bit by bit people from other provinces of Spain, other towns, and even other countries, came to help us rebuild the cemetery and it snowballed,” says David Alba, the 35-year-old president of the association. Aficionados could help finance the project by paying €15 (£13; $18) to have their name painted onto one of the wooden crosses.

Mr Alba remembers a key moment early in the excavation.

“We were digging in the ground and we saw that underneath the earth were the original stones of the central circle of the site, the place where all the actors, the director and all the technicians had walked across during the filming,” he says. “It was like digging in the ground and finding treasure.”

(14) THE BUZZER. Fun for conspiracy theorists: “The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run” (and several other strange radio stations)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

(15) ANOTHER HACKING OPPORTUNITY. More on implantable microchips: one has already been used to infect the system that read it.

Hacking and security concerns, however, are less easily hand-waved away. RFID chips can only carry a minuscule 1 kilobyte or so of data, but one researcher at Reading University’s School of Systems Engineering, Mark Gasson, demonstrated that they are vulnerable to malware.

Gasson had an RFID tag implanted in his left hand in 2009, and tweaked it a year later so that it would pass on a computer virus. The experiment uploaded a web address to the computer connected to the reader, which would cause it to download some malware if it was online.

“It was actually a surprisingly violating experience,” says Gasson. “I became a danger to the building’s systems.”

(16) DEPT. OF WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? A “Chicago Library Seeks Help Transcribing Magical Manuscripts”  —

The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period, a time of sweeping social, political, and cultural change spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would have scandalized the religious establishment. These texts deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits—and the Newberry is asking for help translating and transcribing them.

As Tatiana Walk-Morris reports for Atlas Obscura, digital scans of three magical manuscripts are accessible through Transcribing Faith, an online portal that functions much like Wikipedia. Anyone with a working knowledge of Latin or English is invited to peruse the documents and contribute translations, transcriptions, and corrections to other users’ work.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.

 

(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.

 

(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/17 All Along The Scrolltower Pixels Kept The View

(1) BY PIXEL AND PAPER. The Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid tells what its publications policy will be for PR’s and the Souvenir Book.

So what should we do about our progress reports?

I note that for some people this is an access issue, and therefore, we will be having hard copies available for anyone who selects them as an access issue. To be clear, Progress Reports are complimentary and we’d like to send them to anyone who needs them for an access issue. Just tick the box please.

We will be sending them out electronically of course if you allow us to.

I noted that some people still liked them, as a historical document or just because they enjoy reading hard copy, and that is very cool, and the Dublin 2019 team will be making sure that anyone who wants a hard copy progress report can get one. There will be a charge of €10 Ten Euro for this.

I hope all of you are OK with this decision and support us in it.

This does not affect our plans for our Souvenir book which we plan to offer in hard copy to all members, full and supporting, and which we are happy to mail to anyone who doesn’t pick it up at con.

(2) HELP PABLO GO THE DISTANCE. Leigh Ann Hildebrand has launched a Generosity.com appeal to send Pablo Vasquez to Helsinki for Worldcon 75. The goal is $1,100. Here’s the pitch:

Bringing NASFiC to San Juan, Puerto Rico was great thing — and one of the prime movers behind that successful bid and con has been Pablo Vazquez. I was really looking forward to congratulating Pablo at the con in Helsinki and to hearing all about that NASFiC.

And then Pablo told me he wouldn’t be joining fans in Helsinki this year.

Money’s tight for Pablo; he’s been prioritizing travel and preparations for this historic and awesome NASFiC. Now he finds himself short of funds for his last travel expenses. He’s got accommodations and a membership covered, but his fixed-cost airfare and incidental expenses are beyond his means this summer.

This is where my fellow fans come in. Help me get Pablo to Helsinki! Here’s what he needs:

$600 for the air fare (it’s a fixed cost, ’cause he knows a guy.)

$500 for food, travel incidentals, walkin’ around money and buying a round. That may seem like a lot, but food in Finland is not cheap, and there’s no con suite this year, so he can’t live on Doritos and free sodas. 🙂

(3) SFF FILM FESTIVAL. Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in partnership with SIFF is now accepting entries for the 2018 Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF).

The festival will accept animated or live-action submissions of original science fiction or fantasy stories (examples: futuristic stories, space adventure, technological speculation, social experiments, utopia and dystopia, sword and sorcery, folklore, urban fantasy, magic, and mythic adventure).

A nationally recognized panel of distinguished film, television, literature, and science fiction industry professionals, peers, and film critics will review qualifying submissions to determine the winners of the Grand Prize, Second Place, Third Place, and the Douglas Trumbull Award for Best Visual Effects. Festival films will also be eligible for the Audience Favorite award.

In order to qualify, submitted films must have been completed after December 31, 2012, and must not exceed 15 minutes. Films that exceed 15 minutes may still be considered for festival inclusion but will not be eligible for awards.

See the link for guidelines, deadlines and fees.

(5) WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING? Adam-Troy Castro sighed on Facebook:

Over the past few years I have encountered Harry Potter fans who were abusive bullies, Star Trek fans who were against diversity, and now Doctor Who fans who were close-minded and unkind.

It’s like none of them were paying any attention at all.

I am looking forward to the emergence of Batman fans who are in favor of crime.

Since the targets of Castro’s comment might miss the point, Matthew M. Foster restated the message more explicitly:

The second is that people don’t see theme. SF is about space ships and explosions. Fantasy is about swords. The actual thing trying to be conveyed is missed far more often than not. The light was brought to this in a “funny” way to our little lit community by Brad and the Pups a few years back when Star Trek was pointed out to be first and foremost, about adventure and action–about combat in space. From the same group, there was a great deal of discussion in which they confused the theme with something incidental to the story because the incidental thing was not part of their normal life. So, if a story happened to have someone gay in it, then the story must be about sexual preference. If the story had a Black lead, then the theme must be about race. These are people that are big fans of science fiction, and they couldn’t see the themes.

(6) MAD PENIUS CLUB. And right on time, here’s Dave Freer’s death-kiss for the Thirteenth Doctor.

The trouble with this is it’s a judgement call, and especially inside the various bubbles (New York Publishing, Hollywood, and in the UK the Beeb’s little Guardian-and-Birkenstock club) they’re often so distant and unconnected with audiences outside their bubble that they assume they think like them and will respond like them. Which is why they have flops like the Ghostbusters remake, because they assumed the audience for the movie was just dying for a feminist version, with lots of man-kicking. Dr Who is trying much the same thing with a female Doctor. It could work because that audience is already pretty much restricted to inside their bubble. Still, with a new writer, and female lead after 12 male ones… She’ll have to be a good actress, and he’ll have to be a better writer. I expect we’ll see a long sequence of designated victim minorities cast in the role in future, until the show dies. I doubt we’ll ever see another white hetero male, but maybe that’s just me being cynical.

(7) HEADWRITER CANON. Prospect’s James Cooray Smith declares: “Uncomfortable with a female Doctor Who? It’s time to admit your real motives”.

…Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Executive Producer from 2010 to 2017, used to make a habit, when asked if there was ever going to be a female Doctor, of throwing the question back to the audience. He’d ask for a show of hands as to who did and didn’t like the idea. Even half a decade ago, those audiences would be roughly balanced into pros and antis—although, as he noted, the proportion of “likes” was exponentially increasing every time he passed the question back.

In the last few years, the idea has gone from almost universally disliked to “Why hasn’t this happened already?”

Laying the canonical foundations

Moffat has played no small part in that himself. The first lines of dialogue given to Matt Smith’s Doctor, the first lines of Moffat’s era, see the newly regenerated Doctor, who cannot see his own face, wondering if he’s now female. A year later in “The Doctor’s Wife,” produced by Moffat and written by Neil Gaiman, the Doctor comments of a dead Time Lord friend The Corsair, “He didn’t feel himself unless he had a tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times”.

Three years after that, Moffat cast Michelle Gomez as ‘Missy’, the Doctor’s oldest friend and arch enemy, a character previously only played by male actors and usually referred to as the Master. A year after that—just to make sure that no one regarded Missy as an exception that proves the rule—Moffat had Ken Bones’ recurring Time Lord character The General regenerate into T’Nia Miller, changing sex and ethnicity simultaneously. Other Time Lords in the series treated this as momentarily distracting but thoroughly routine.

It now seems daft to say that such groundwork needed to be done: after all, the character of the doctor is an alien who merely looks human. But the series itself had never hinted that the idea was possible before 2010. Now, any viewer who has seen an episode with Missy in knows the Doctor’s own people can, and do, change sex. No one can pretend the idea isn’t part of the series, no matter how much they may want to. Moffat’s careful layering over years shows up any objections to the series having a female lead for what they are.

(8) NEVERTHELESS. Alison Scott has a shirt she would love to sell you. I bought one for my daughter. (U.K. orders here; U.S. orders here.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California
  • July 17, 1967 — Contact with Surveyor 4 lost 2.5 minutes before Moon touchdown.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop, released on this day
  • July 17, 1988 – Debut of the sci-fi telefilm Out of Time…starring Bill Maher…yes that Bill Maher.
  • July 17, 1992 — Honey, I Blew Up The Kid in theaters.

(10) COMIC SECTION. Andrew Porter noticed Zippy the Pinhead mentioned d Emshwiller.

(11) READING PLEASURE. Look for the SF pulps! Photos of old newsstands.

(12) ADAM WEST REMEMBERED. “Family Guy pays tribute to Adam West with nine-minute highlight reel” – from Entertainment Weekly.

As famous as he was for playing Batman — and he was very famous for that — Adam West was also known to another generation of fans for his wacky work on Family Guy. The late actor, who popped up and scored in more than 100 episodes as Mayor Adam West, left a colorful, indelible imprint on the animated Fox comedy — as well as on its producers and fans.

 

(13) WORLDCON PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 put its draft program schedule online today.

There are three ways to view the programme schedule DRAFT:

(14) HAUNTED HELSINKI. Adrienne Foster has arranged a “Ghost walking tour of Helsinki” for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members. It will be an English-speaking tour at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 August 2017.

Once again, those interested in reserving a spot on the tour need to be a member of Meetup.com and join Bay Area Ghost Hunters. Joining is free on both counts, but the fee for the ghost walk is to cover the cost of the tour operator. Yes, it was deliberate putting the “prere…gistration” fee in U.S. dollars and the “at-the-door” cost in euros.

As the 75th World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 75) rolls around again, it gives me another opportunity to arrange a ghost walk of its host city, Helsinki. Yes, that’s in Finland. Ghost walks are one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling and it’s always a lot more fun to do them with like-minded companions. To make it even more attractive to the many members who don’t speak Finnish, the tour operator has an English-speaking tour available.

Although this has been timed for the convenience of Worldcon 75 members, all BAGH members are welcome to participate. If anyone just happens to have coinciding travel plans to Helsinki, please join us.

In addition to ghost stories, guests on these tours learn a lot about the history of the locale, particularly some of its macabre past. It even starts at a hotel that is a converted prison.

(15) MINGLE LIKE TINGLE. Is this going to be an “I am Spartacus” kind of thing?

(16) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2017 Aurealis Awards are now open for nominations. Eligible works must be created by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time this year.

(17) VENUS AND MARS. David D. Levine’s second novel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus, sequel to the Andre Norton Award winning Arabella of Mars, comes out this week.

The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire solar system if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

Levine will be doing a book tour:

He is currently drafting the final book in the trilogy, currently titled Arabella and the Winds of Phobos but may end up being called Arabella the Traitor of Mars.

(18) NEWCOMERS TO THE HEARTH. Fireside Fiction is undergoing a change of management, with Brian J. White stepping down. Pablo Defendini is taking over as publisher and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry as managing editor. Julia Rios and Mikki Kendall are also joining the team.

White is leaving to focus on his work as a journalist.

As many of you know, I work at a newspaper. And that work has been consuming more and more of my time lately, with both the volume and the importance of the news rising in a way we’ve never experienced in this country. And it comes alongside a level of furious, violent antipathy toward the press that is somehow both wildly shocking and banally predictable.

Fireside has been the labor of love of my life, and it kills me to step away. But I am a journalist, first and always, and I need to focus my energy on the work we are doing. A lot of people have made fun of the earnestness of the Washington Post’s Democracy Dies in Darkness slogan, but it is true, and I won’t let the light go out.

Mikki Kendall has been signed on as editor to lead the follow-up to last year’s #BlackSpecFic report, which White says will be out soon. [Hat tip to Earl Grey Loose-leaf Links #43.]

(19) THE COOLEST. Arthur C. Clarke would be proud, as the search for extra-terrestrial life turns to ice worlds.

Chris McKay has fallen out of love with Mars. The red, dusty, corroded world no longer holds the allure it once did.

“I was obsessed with life on Mars for many years,” confesses the Nasa planetary scientist, who has spent most of his career searching for signs of life on the red planet.

“It’s seduction at the highest level,” he says. “I’m abandoning my first love and going after this other one that’s shown me what I wanted to see.”

The new object of McKay’s affections is Enceladus, the ice-encrusted moon of Saturn. Investigated by the joint Nasa and European Space Agency (Esa) Cassini space probe, the moon is spewing out plumes of water from its south pole – most likely from a liquid ocean several kilometres beneath the surface. Cassini has found this water contains all the vital ingredients for life as we know it: carbon, nitrogen and a readily available source of energy in the form of hydrogen.

“I think this is it,” says McKay. “From an astrobiology point of view, this is the most interesting story.”

(20) SO BAD IT’S GOOD. Marshall Ryan Maresca extols the antique virtues of the 1980s movie: “ELECTRIC DREAMS: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”.

The Eighties got a lot of mileage out of the idea that computers were magic.  I mean, the fundamental principle of Weird Science is that Wyatt has, like, a 386 with a 14.4 modem and a scanner, which he can connect to the Pentagon and make a goddamn genie with it.  Most Hollywood movies today still let computers be magical, but not to the same degree.  And few movies go as full out crazy with the idea as Electric Dreams.

For those not in the know, Electric Dreams is a relatively small, simple movie, in which an architect named Miles (he might be an engineer—something to do with buildings) lives in the downstairs part of a duplex, below gorgeous cellist Virginia Madsen.  And he gets himself a computer so he can design an earthquake brick.  So far, all normal.

It turns into a love triangle with Wyatt and a sentient PC as rivals.

(21) THE LATTER DAY LAFFERTY. Adri’s Book Reviews praises “Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty”.

As in any good mystery, it soon becomes clear that there are shady things lurking in the past of each and every crew member, as well as the traditional untrustworthy AI. Six Wakes builds its narrative through an omniscient third person narrator which switches between character viewpoints, as well as flashbacks to the crews’ lives in the lead up to being selected for the ship. Each crew member knows the others have volunteered for the mission because they are convicted criminals who will be pardoned upon arrival, but they have been told their crimes must remain confidential. From the ship’s doctor who was one of the original people cloned when the technology began, to the AI tech who has been on the verge of a breakdown since waking, to the shady machinations of the captain and the security officer, Six Wakes uses a small cast to great effect, with the world of the clones coming across as claustrophobic and restrictive even in background chapters set on Earth, thanks to both the Codicls as well as the inequalities and power struggles that arise from a society of functionally immortal beings. Six Wakes’ characters aren’t likeable in a traditional sense but I found them generally sympathetic, and the backgrounds go a long way towards making that balance work.

(22) A BOY AND HIS HORSE. The British Museum blog asks “The Dothraki and the Scythians: a game of clones?”

The Dothraki in Game of Thrones are represented as feared and ferocious warriors. Jorah Mormont describes their culture as one that values power and follows strength above all, and there is no greater way to demonstrate power and strength according to the Dothraki than through war. Like their fictional counterparts, the Scythians were pretty terrifying in battle. The Greek historian Herodotus writes that Scythians drank the blood of the men they killed and kept their scalps as trophies and skulls as drinking cups. While we should probably take Herodotus with a pinch of salt, by all accounts they were pretty brutal! The Dothraki also like decapitating their defeated enemies – guards known as the jaqqa rhan, or mercy men, use heavy axes to do this.

The Scythians and the Dothraki fight on horseback and are excellent archers. They both use curved (or composite) bows to maximise the range and the damage of their arrows. As Jorah Mormont says of the Dothraki, ‘they are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours.’

(23) THE NEXT STAGE. The Verge has learned that “The Twilight Zone is being adapted into a stage play” in London.

The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s landmark sci-fi anthology series about technological paranoia, creeping dread in 1960s America, and monsters and weirdos of all sorts, will be adapted as a stage play, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed this morning.

The play will debut in a limited run at London’s Almeida Theatre this December, with a script from Anne Washburn. Washburn’s best-known play is her 2012 Off-Broadway work Mr. Burns, which is about a traveling theater troupe in post-apocalyptic America that performs episodes of The Simpsons from memory. The play will be directed by Olivier-winner Richard Jones, who is best known for the 1990 London run of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, as well as the short-lived 1997 Titanic musical on Broadway, and has also directed several operas and Shakespeare productions.

(24) LIADEN UPDATE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 81st joint project — Due Diligence (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Book 24) – was released July 10. The pair was also recently profiled by Maine’s statewide newspaper the Portland Press Herald“Welcome to the universe of Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller”.

For Maine writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, all it took to launch a brand-new universe was a single sentence.

The opening line for what would become “Agent of Change,” the inaugural volume of their Liaden Universe space opera series, was “The man who was not Terrence O’Grady had come quietly.”

It’s not quite “Call me Ishmael,” but something about typing those 10 words back in 1984 made Lee say to her husband, “I have a novel here.” And there was sufficient inspiration on the page for Miller to say, “I’m sorry, but I think you have a series.”

Both were right. Reached by phone at their Maine coon cat-friendly home in Winslow, surrounded by oil paintings, prints, book cover and other science fiction and fantasy artwork, Miller remembered, “We sat down that night and fleshed out the basic idea for the first seven books.” Four years later, in 1988, their collaborative debut was published in paperback by DelRey.

Since then, Lee, 64, and Miller, 66, have published 20 Liaden Universe novels and nearly five dozen related short stories. Baen Books published their latest hardcover novel, “The Gathering Edge,” in May.

.And they’ll be Guests of Honor at ConFluence from August 4-6.

(25) YOU WOULD BE RIGHT.

(26) PLASTIC IS NOT FANTASTIC. Jewish Business News has the story behind the commercial: “Mayim Bialik and Hodor From ‘Game of Thrones’ In New SodaStream’s Funny Viral Video”.

Following Jewish celebrity Scarlett Johansson’s campaign for the Israeli beverage company SodaStream, the Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik is the new face proudly representing the company new campaign in a Viral Video.

Features Mayim Bialik as an anthropologist, recalling her first encounter with the Homo-schlepien played by Kristian Nairn known as Hodor from “Game of Thrones.” The story reflects the devastating effect of single-use plastic bottles on Humanity. A habit that is hazardous to Earth and no longer exist in the future.

In this funny story, the Museum of UnNatural History features encounters between Mayim and the last tribe of plastic dependent species, the Homo-schlepien.

The shooting of the campaign was brought forward while Bialik had to rest her vocal chords for one month due to a medical advice. “This campaign has a powerful message and one that needed to be told before I went on vocal rest,” said Mayim Bialik.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Bill, Steve Miller, David Levine, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/17 Lucky Scroll Means Fine Pixel (LSMFP)

(1) LIMERICK DERBY. Fantasy Literature’s Kelly Lasiter says it’s time for “FanLit’s 2017 SFF Limerick Contest”

Your task is to create a limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme…

Full guidelines at the post. Entries are made in comments there.

Here is the winning limerick (by Ben) from 2015:

The day came that I had been dreading,
It would surely end in beheading
and my family depressed
as they murdered their guests,
Never go to a Westeros wedding

(2) PIRATES WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. Otakon, the Washington D.C. Asian pop culture convention, discovered someone trying to victimize members by creating a fake hotel website. Otakon Hotel and Venue Manager John Nadzam has issued a warning. [H/T to Petréa Mitchell.]

To all of our members:

It has come to our attention that an outside party set up a pirate housing website: “otakon2017.org”.

This website was in no way associated with Otakon, Otakorp Inc., or Experient (our exclusive and official housing provider).  We have taken all efforts to shut down the site as soon as we found out, but we cannot determine if any reservations were taken, if reservations through this site will be honored, or what may have happened to any information they may have gathered.

If you did not receive a confirmation email that looks like the one at the end of this message, or if you have any doubts on your reservation’s validity, please contact Experient immediately…

There have been reports of this happening to several different conventions (genre and otherwise) now, and cons are starting to warn members about it. For example, DesignCon 2018 and ASBMR 2017 Annual Meeting have prominently posted “Beware of Unauthorized Hotel Solicitations” on their websites.

(3) MORE EMMY NEWS. The Hollywood Reporter enthuses: “Carrie Fisher Gets Posthumous Nomination for ‘Catastrophe'”.

The actress was nominated for her guest role in the Amazon comedy series’ third season as Mia, the troublesome mother of Rob (played by Rob Delaney), an American who moves to London when his one-week fling leads to an unplanned pregnancy. She had finished filming her scenes in the notable sixth episode shortly before her death in December. Fisher was 60 years old when she suffered a major heart attack during a transatlantic flight and died a few days later in the hospital.

…Fisher appeared in four episodes throughout Catastrophe‘s initial two seasons, and her third-season episode became a tribute to the late star. “It was such a shock to lose her and so unexpected and so awful, that all we had was her performance in episode six to think about,” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan told THR of Fisher’s “funny and heartfelt performance” back in April. “So, that’s what we concentrated on: making that episode a dedication to her, I guess, and beyond that, no, because it’s hard watching her onscreen so alive and yet no longer with us.”

(4) CANNED FROG. Steve Whitmire, in “It’s Time To Get Things Started…” at Steve Whitmire Muppet Pundit, says he was fired by Disney.

In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.

For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.

As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.

(5) ASTRONAUT IN CHARGE. “Former astronaut Julie Payette to be Canada’s next governor general” – the CBC has the story.

Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen’s new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed.

The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the announcement Thursday.

A computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA’s chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

Payette is active on a number of causes and has served as a board member for Drug Free Kids Canada as well as being listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail.

…Acting as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the governor general also serves as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces and represents Canada at events, ceremonies and official visits at home and abroad.

(6) POSTMODERN STOIC. Kameron Hurley tells “How Pro Writers Deal with Pro Criticism”.

You write until the words are the right ones.

So if you think that leveling up as a writer means that nobody ever critiques your work again, or every word you shit will be gold, here is your reminder: it doesn’t get easier as you go. The bar gets higher. You need to jump further, climb higher, level up. If you didn’t make a million out the gate your first time, welcome to the long slog toward the breakout book, where you constantly have to stay on top of your game or fall down and start over again.

I have heard from many writers that I was “lucky” to make it out of the implosion of my first publisher with a relatively high profile (if not high $$, though Legion sales are steady af) career afterward. The best writer career path is, frankly, to have a “hit” right out the gate and build on that success. While it’s VERY possible to get a break out later (I can think of several writers who had written anywhere from 4-11 books before their breakout book), it sure does seem easier, from the outside, to build on that success than to take the long way up like I am, slowly, slowly, selling more and more books with every contract.

But here’s the thing. I’m well aware that to write a breakout book, I have to level up my work. We like to pretend it’s ALL luck with a breakout book, and sometimes that’s true (the “Hollywood bought it!” phenomenon), but sometimes it really is about skill, about writing a story that connects with more people, a story folks can’t put down, a story that everyone goes, “You have to read this trilogy because it’s great and OMG the third book has THE BIGGEST PAYOFF AND MOST EPIC THIRD ACT.” That part isn’t luck, it’s writing a good story. And to write that good story takes consulting with other professionals and working to make the story the best it can be. You will always be the ultimate owner of anything that you write (Meyna is staying in the book!), but you have to learn when to be able to take constructive feedback for what it is and when to throw out stuff that doesn’t work with your own vision. That’s a tough skill, I admit. I struggle with it all the time. Being able to sort through feedback to find the right way through takes a lot of practice, and it’s this, too, that makes you a pro.

(7) COLLABORATION. Stewart Baker has tips for “How to Write with a Co-author” at the SFWA Blog.

There are as many different ways to share authorship of a story as there are combinations of people. Some prefer to split up the tasks of writing, with one author creating an outline that the other drafts from, or vice versa. Others might draft every other scene, or only write a particular character’s sections, and so on.

The benefits of co-authoring are potentially great: Each writer has a chance to learn new habits and strategies, and brainstorming can go much more quickly with two people involved. But, as with any kind of partnership, it’s important to establish early on how the relationship is going to work. Making assumptions about the writing process and your expectations for your co-author can lead to misunderstandings and stress, and has the potential to end friendships and scuttle careers.

(8) MARVEL GENERATIONS. Another spin on Marvel Legacy —

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! These heroic journeys all launch from the same point: the Vanishing Point! This epic 10-issue series brings together iconic and present-day heroes such as Laura Kinney and Logan, Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, and many more of your favorite characters. The stories of GENERATIONS begin at the Vanishing Point where time has no meaning, and these epic tales offer fans a direct bridge and prelude into the senses-shattering Marvel Legacy, as the challenges and revelations of GENERATIONS will alter the destinies of our heroes moving forward in a dramatic fashion!

 

(9) NEXT AT KGB. “Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series” hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Neuler and Genevieve Valentine on July 19 at the KGB Bar. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and this month Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.

Genevieve Valentine

Genevieve Valentine is an author and critic. Her most recent book is the near-future spy novel ICON; her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Best of the Year anthologies. Her comics work includes Catwoman for DC Comics and the Attack on Titan anthology from Kodansha. Her criticism and reviews have appeared in several venues including the AV Club, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. Please ask her about the new King Arthur movie.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Embrace Your Geekness Day

Wellcat Holidays organized the holiday stating that we all should be proud of the things that define us, and little defines us as much as those things we’re passionate about. “Dungeon games, comic books, vampire dress-up” we should have no shame about anything we’re into. In fact, you should shout it loud and proud.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 13, 1984 The Last Starfighter premiered

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 13, 1940 – Sir Patrick Stewart
  • Born July 13, 1942 – Harrison Ford

(13) STORMY WEATHER. Setting up a close view of the Great Red spot: “NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With Jupiter’s Great Red Spot”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be directly over the spot shortly after 10 p.m. ET Monday, July 10, about 5,600 miles above the gas giant’s cloud tops. That’s closer than any spacecraft has been before.

The spot is actually a giant storm that has been blowing on Jupiter for centuries. It’s huge, larger than Earth in diameter.

“It’s lasted a really long time,” says Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and principal scientist for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. “No scientists really understand exactly how that storm is created or why it could last so long.”

(14) NASA BUDGET. The Planetary Society told members the House of Representatives’ NASA budget includes $62.5 million in support of a new Mars orbiter, “effectively matching the recommendations made by The Planetary Society in our report, Mars In Retrograde: A Pathway for Restoring NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.”

The committee released July 12 the report accompanying the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which its CJS subcommittee approved on a voice vote June 29. At that time, the committee had released only a draft of the bill, with limited details about how the nearly $19.9 billion provided to NASA would be allocated.

In NASA’s science account, planetary science emerges as a big winner, with the report allocating $2.12 billion, a record level. That amount is $191 million above the White House request and $275 million above what Congress provided in 2017.

Some of that additional funding will go to missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water that could sustain life. It provides $495 million for both the Europa Clipper orbiter mission and a follow-on Europa Lander, to be launched by 2022 and 2024, respectively. The administration’s budget request sought $425 million, devoted solely to Europa Clipper.

The report also provides additional funding for Mars exploration, including $62 million for a proposed 2022 orbiter mission. NASA sought just $2.9 million for studies of future Mars missions, raising worries among scientists that NASA would not be able to get an orbiter, with telecommunications and reconnaissance capabilities, ready in time for the 2022 launch opportunity.

(15) FIRST COMICS ENCOUNTERS. A companion piece to NPR’s survey: “Cartoonists Tell Us: What Do Comics Mean To You?”

The first comic book I ever read was an obscure DC title that I begged my parents to buy for me from a rotating rack at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop. World’s Finest Comics #306, “The Senses-Shattering Saga of Swordfish and Barracuda!” Not the highest of high art, maybe — even the cover described S&B as “THE GREATEST SUPER-HERO TEAM SINCE — WHAT’S-THEIR-NAMES?” But still — that was the first inkling I had that comics could be portals to other worlds, purveyors of strange wonders, and certainly a hell of a lot more entertaining than the blue “sport cloth” backseat of our 1981 Corolla.

In honor of this year’s big reader poll of favorite comics and graphic novels, we’ve asked some very cool comics creators to tell us what comics meant to them, whether as children or adults.

(16) AND TOTO TOO. A “modern dystopian buffet”: “‘Tropic Of Kansas’ Rips Dystopia From The Headlines”

And as has been said a thousand times by critics far smarter than me, there is nothing that happens in science fiction that is not a reflection of our own grubby reality. We have been afraid of nuclear war, of environmental calamity, of technology, plague and politics and the enmity of our fellow man, and these dreads have always made their way into our entertainment. The worse the days, the more baroque the diversions. And these days are very bad indeed.

So this mess of a present has birthed a new breed of dystopian novels, of which Christopher Brown’s Tropic Of Kansas is the latest. Not simple dystopia, but complicated by present reality and recognizable politics. Not nameless or alien, but very much named and very close to home. And while these books have utopian leanings, they are not happy stories. No one walks away smiling. They are revolution porn.

(17) BOY NEXT DOOR. Whatever’s in that radioactive spider bite is great for romance. Page Six reports “‘Spider-Man’ co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya are dating”, and they’re just the latest.

This isn’t the first time a “Spider-Man” movie brought us new Hollywood romances. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield began dating while filming “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2011. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst also dated during his stint as the superhero in the early 2000s.

We may even get to see Holland and Zendaya’s relationship bloom on-screen as well, as the end of the movie may have foreshadowed a future romance.

(18) WONDER ACCOUNTING. The Hollywood Reporter says Wonder Woman has legs —  “Box Office: ‘Wonder Woman’ Holding Better Than Any Superhero Movie in 15 Years”.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is still going strong as it heads into its seventh week. The movie, grossing $371.3 million through Tuesday, is now assured of topping out at $390 million or more domestically, becoming the No. 8 comic book adaptation of all time, not accounting for inflation. And it will soon pass up Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($385.8 million) in North America to become the top summer earner.

(19) CHICKEN GEAR. Adweek is surprised to discover “KFC Is Now Selling Apparel, Home Goods and a Meteorite Shaped Like a Chicken Sandwich”.

Last week, we mysteriously received a Colonel Sanders pillowcase in the mail, designed to look like we were sleeping together. Now, KFC has explained what that whole thing was all about: As of yesterday, the brand launched KFC Ltd., an online merchandise shop packed with limited-edition goods and high-quality fried chicken apparel.

This includes that randy pillowcase, which you can score for just $14.

It’s easy to compare this idea to Pizza Hut’s Hut Swag idea from last year. But while Pizza Hut was punting stuff like leggings, scarves and hoodies with phrases like “Pizza is bae” (why?), KFC is swinging for a somewhat more discerning (or fetishist) market. Gear includes vintage apparel, “finger lickin’ good jewelry” and—wait for it!—a meteorite they’ve carved into the shape of a Zinger sandwich (which they recently decided to launch into space). The meteorite is going for $20,000.

(20) CHICKEN BLEEP. Io9 has been digging through the documents released from a lawsuit brought by The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont — “Frank Darabont’s Furious Emails to His Walking Dead Coworkers: ‘Fuck You All'”.

Darabont and AMC spent about six months figuring out what should remain confidential as they prepare their cases and exhibits for New York judge Eileen Bransten. After coming to an agreement, they’ve released thousands of pages of documents, which include depositions, expert testimony, and financial details for other AMC shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The documents show how convoluted Hollywood deals and negotiations are, for better and worse, but they also shine an unflattering light on Darabont’s behavior during his time on The Walking Dead.

One of the biggest conflicts behind the scenes of The Walking Dead was AMC’s decision to cut the budget by almost half a million dollars per episode between seasons one and two. Darabont’s solution, which was to film the whole season in one location, the infamous farmhouse, created problems and resulted in arguably the series’ worst season. Darabont became overwhelmed, struggling to create more with less (plus, AMC demanded to see all the scripts ahead of time), and it showed in his behavior toward the team. Here’s an email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others from June 2011, one month before he was fired:

Fuck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering fucking incompetence, blindness to the important beats, and the beyond-arrogant lack of regard for what is written being exhibited on set every day. I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words. Does anybody disagree with me? Then join the C-cam operator and go find another job that doesn’t involve deliberately fucking up my show scene by scene.

This email supports the earlier rumors that Darabont became difficult to work with, along with several other messages that contain just as many profanities toward dozens more behind-the-scenes crew members: camera operators (“Ray Charles could operate better”), an episode director (“It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge”), and even his writing staff, as shown in a particularly tense email to an AMC executive.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Beatles, Hippies, and Hells Angels is a video on Vimeo by Fons Scheidon which is an introduction to a Sky Atlantic documentary about Apple Corps.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

(1) WHAT I READ. Mary Robinette Kowal sent several tweets prodding reviewers to do better assessments:

When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

(2) TOO MANY WORDS. But those reviews we’re complaining about above look like gems beside the work of The Literate Programmer at A Literate Programmer’s Blog who posted his “Hugo Awards – Best Novella” rankings with a confession –

…With the voting deadline for the Hugos coming up on the 15th, I decided that I wouldn’t have the time to read all the books in their entirety, and would instead just read far enough to get a feel for the style….

So I began once again working my way up to the novels, this time reading the novellas….

This Census-Taker by China Miéville was the first of the novellas I dug into. …However, the story definitely has a strange and slow start, so it was easy to move on….

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson sets up a nice inversion right from the beginning…. I didn’t finish it yet, but I expect it to take a rather darker turn eventually, tough not entirely too dark….

Then I picked up Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and didn’t put it back down until I was done. …

Victor LaValle wrote the other novella I finished in its entirety, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is another take on Lovecraft… Definitely something I will finish, as I want to know what happens to Vellit….

Last but not least comes Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like what I’ve read so far and it’s entertaining …

Someone else might have spent the time it took to write this post on, oh, I don’t know, reading the rest of these novellas before voting?

(3) BOOK JENGA. Walter Jon Williams describes the “Tower of Dreams”.

So the other night I dreamed I was in the Tower of Definitive Editions, a giant structure literally built from the definitive editions of every book ever written.  There was some kind of mechanism that would pluck the book that you wanted from the structure without either damaging the book or destabilizing the tower.  (Maybe it stuffed the hole with John Grisham novels or something.)

(4) DON’T LET THE DOOR BANG YOUR BUTT. Tony B. Kim at Crazy4ComiCon does not sympathize with what he calls “Mile High Comics breakup letter to San Diego Comic-Con” by owner Chuck Rozanski. Kim devotes several paragraphs mocking him as a “dinosaur” in “Comic-Con has changed and it sucks…”.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. Will this work? “Nasa to send asteroid away from Earth by firing a bullet at it in attempt to save the Earth from future strikes”.

The agency has laid out the plans for its DART mission – where it will send a space capsule the size of a fridge towards an asteroid to shoot it off course. For now, the mission is just a test, but in the future it could be used to save Earth from what scientists say is an underappreciated threat from asteroids.

The mission has now been approved by Nasa and will move into the preliminary design phase, getting ready for testing in a few years.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

DART’s target is an asteroid that will pass by Earth in 2022, and come back two years later. More specifically, it’s actually two asteroids: a binary system called Didymos B made up of a larger and a smaller rock.

It’s the smaller one that Nasa will try and knock off course. But by using a binary system, scientists will be able to check with more accuracy how well their test has worked.

(6) KEEPING THE STEAM IN SELF-ESTEEM. Jon Del Arroz says 80% of the people responding to his survey recommended he not join SFWA. So our genre’s leading concern troll has worked up a list of what needs to be fixed. With SFWA, that is.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Twilight Zone episode, “A Penny for your Thoughts,” written by George Clayton Johnson was shopped around as a series where each episode would have a different cast experiencing the ability to read minds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 9, 1982 TRON premiered on this day.

(9) CLASSIC ROCHE. Next year’s Worldcon chair Kevin Roche makes a fashion statement in this (public) photo on Facebook.

(10) SOLO ACT. ScreenRant evaluates Ron Howard’s latest news-free tweet.

While Howard’s tweet is amusing, it’s realistic to think that at some point Star Wars fans will grow tired of non-news “news” from the Han Solo set. Since Howard is relatively new to the project, perhaps he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing anything from a film that he hasn’t really taken ownership of yet, his presumably strict NDA aside. Hopefully, that time will come once he not only completes principal photography but the five weeks of reshoots which were previously budgeted into production. Only then will Howard be able to help shape the tone and vision that Han Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally intended.

(11) DRAGON QUEEN. TIME Magazine’s Daniel D’Addario, in “Emilia Clarke on Why Dragons Are Daenerys’ True Love on Game of Thrones”, has a lengthy interview with Emilia Clarke where she says “I’m five-foot nothing, I’m a little girl” and adds that she thought she would be sacked from Game of Thrones because it was her first job out of drama school and she felt insecure.

(12) FIGHTING WORDS. Jonathan Cook, in “Wonder Woman is a hero only the military-industrial complex could create” on Mondoweiss, says the heroine is “carefully purposed propaganda designed to force-feed aggressive Western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism, to unsuspecting audiences.”

My reticence to review the film has lifted after reading the latest investigations of Tom Secker and Matthew Alford into the manifold ways the U.S. military and security services interfere in Hollywood, based on a release of 4,000 pages of documents under Freedom of Information requests.

In their new book “National Security Cinema,” the pair argue that the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency have meddled in the production of at least 800 major Hollywood movies and 1,000 TV titles. That is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as they concede:

“It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld.”

(13) BIG PACIFIER THEORY. Baby’s first quantum-mechanics book: “Something New For Baby To Chew On: Rocket Science And Quantum Physics”.

The books introduce subjects like rocket science, quantum physics and general relativity — with bright colors, simple shapes and thick board pages perfect for teething toddlers. The books make up the Baby University series — and each one begins with the same sentence and picture — This is a ball — and then expands on the titular concept.

In the case of general relativity: This ball has mass.

But some of the topics Ferrie covers are tough for even grown-ups to comprehend. (I mean, quantum physics? Come on.)

(14) SLOW DEATH. A Ghost Story may be too slow for some: “Grief Hangs Around At Home In ‘A Ghost Story'”.

I should mention that the film is virtually without plot, so it requires some patience. Major stars and that title notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is not a Saturday-night date movie. More a provocative art film in the European sense. Though barely 87 minutes, it unfolds in long, static shots, most of them without faces to hang onto. It’s almost a film without genre, and by the end it’s become a story untethered from time itself.

(15) A SERIOUS HARRY HABIT. The 100,000 UKP Potter habit: “Harry Potter fan from Cardiff spends £100K on memorabilia”.

Her collection features posters, scarves in the house colours, broomsticks and the official Harry Potter magazines – with the memorabilia costing more than £40,000.

The rest has been spent travelling to Orlando in Florida to the film studios and more recently to Harry Potter World in both London and America.

(16) AVAST ME HEARTIES. Davidoff of Geneva is sold out of the pen and letter opener set shown here, but they have plenty of other golden loot they would love to sell you.

(17) ANOTHER AMAZON PRODUCT. Brazil gets into horror: “The Blair Witches of Brazil”.

Their titles practically shriek at you: Night of the Chupacabras, When I Was Alive, The Necropolis Symphony. Right away you can guess that these are films you might need to watch through your fingers, tales of horror to quicken the heart. But you might not know where they’re from. Step aside Carmen Miranda and The Girl from Ipanema, these frightfests are from Brazil.

(18) NOT GOING APE OVER THIS ONE. The BBC is disappointed by War for the Planet of the Apes.

The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.

(19) GOOD NIGHT. Next year’s CONvergence GoH Elizabeth Bear signs off from this year’s con:

(20) LAST WORD. John Hertz is never impressed when I use idioms as I please.

(21) DARTH HOMER. Here’s a selection of YouTube videos in which Darth Vader is voiced variously by Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King Tarpinian declares the Homer Simpson version to be the funniest.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/17 The Land Of The Pixel, And The Home Of The Scroll

(1) HAIL TO THE CHIEF. This would not be a typical way of celebrating Independence Day anywhere but fandom. ScienceFiction.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 Supervillains Who Have Taken Over America”. At number nine —

  1. Doctor Doom

Doom conquered the United States in 2099, made himself President and did what you’d expect Doom to do in that position. It’s worth noting that he also became a God of his own universe in 2015’s ‘Secret Wars’, so this President thing isn’t that impressive.

(2) LOWERING THE BOOM. It’s not only the blowing up part that’s dangerous for humans. The wastes are, too. The Verge explains “How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks”.

Another ingredient in fireworks, called perchlorate, helps the fuel combust and makes the colors shine more brightly. But it’s also thought to be toxic, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates how much of the stuff can seep into drinking water.

As with air pollution, it’s not completely clear the extent to which fireworks displays contaminate water systems with perchlorate. But a 2007 study conducted by EPA scientists found that perchlorate levels in Oklahoma surface waters increased by between 24 to over 1,000 times baseline levels after an Independence Day display — and it took from 20 to 80 days to go back down.

Scientists with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) are trying find a cheap, effective replacement for perchlorate. For the military, which uses pyrotechnics to mimic actual battlefield conditions in training simulations, perchlorate contamination of groundwater can shut down training operations. “When soldiers get deployed to real combat theaters, they are less prepared,” says Jared Moretti, a scientist with ARDEC who specializes in pyrotechnics.

(3) A CHANCE TO HELP. In the aftermath of Dwain Kaiser’s death, a GoFundMe has been launched to assist his widow.

We are raising money to help his wife, JoAnn Kaiser, who is in her 80s and lives well below the poverty level. Dwain and JoAnn owned one of the last used bookstores in Pomona, not because they made a enough money to live on, but because they loved educating our community. More importantly, they loved BOOKS. JoAnn is unable to cover the overwhelming expenses she will incur during this time of great loss: funeral, a memorial service, moving, and paying store bills. We reach out to all of you for support. Any assistance you can provide will impact JoAnn’s ability to grieve the loss of her best friend and husband without the burden of wondering how she is going to survive financially. All proceeds will go toward Dwain’s funeral, a memorial service, and moving expenses.

The goal is $10,000, and at this writing they are halfway there.

(4) LORD OF THE RINGS SETTLEMENT. Yahoo! Movies, in “Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle Massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit”, reports the parties have reached agreement.

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have resolved a rights dispute over “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the two parties said in a court filing.

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins had filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract, in 2012, as reported here in  “What  Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”

The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

…The suit also complained the defendants had asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

(5) DC AT SEA. Batman features in the new livery some Italian ferryboats — “Batman jumps on board the new Tirrenia ships”.

Tirrenia, partnering with Gruppo Onorato Armatori and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has started a great restyling of their ferry ships.

The classical white and blue livery will progressively be substituted by the DC Superheroe par excellende: Batman!

Sharden, docked today 7th April of 2017 at pier 18 of the Port of Civitavecchia, is one of the first Tirrenia ships to wear the new colours: both sides of the ships are different from one another: at one side are Batman and Robin, at the other Batman with his fierce enemy, the Joker.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the hammer of Thor (the Norse god of thunder and lightning) as a religious symbol for veteran gravestones. Two soldiers have headstones bearing the hammer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.
  • July 4, 1939 — Julius Schwartz ditched the last day of the first World Science Fiction Convention and went with Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. He still got to see fan history being made. Baseball fan history.

A very special thing happened that afternoon: Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from the game of baseball. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s something I will never forget.

Gehrig’s famous lines echoed throughout the park:

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

(8) THE FIRST COUNCIL. Noting with pleasure that the President has reestablished the National Space Council, Jerry Pournelle remembers the final achievement of the original Council of which he was part.

When the Bush I administration took office, most of the Reagan people were replaced by Bush supporters. As a Reagan man – I chaired the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy that in 1980 wrote the Space and Space Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration – my White House access and contacts effectively came to a halt. There were no more Reagan men in the White House.

However, there was the newly created National Space Council, headed by the Vice President, Dan Quayle. Mr. Quayle was not a space cadet, and hadn’t been well known in the pro-space community. Until the day he was asked to be then Vice President George H. W. Bush’s running mate, he was referred to as “the distinguished junior Senator from Indiana”, and generally well regarded; the day after he joined the ticket he became a buffoon not to be taken seriously by the very same news media. However, he took the post of Chairman of the National Space Council seriously, and when the Citizen’s Advisory Council proposed an X project, the SSX, he met with General Dan Graham, rocket genius Max Hunter, and council chairman Jerry Pournelle.

We presented our proposal for the SSX, a 600,000 gross liftoff weight (GLOW) single stage to orbit (SSTO) X Project; as Max Hunter said, we hoped it would make orbit; it would sure scare it to death. It would also be savable; and it could be flown sub-orbital. Of course it was fully recoverable. The preliminary design description was done mostly in my office, with visiting members of the Council working on it.

Mr. Quayle listened to us, and the asked advice from his technical people. He was told that recoverable single stage to orbit was impossible and had been proved to be so in a RAND study. Mr. Quayle then asked RAND to review that study, which they did, and Lo! It turned out not to be impossible after all. It was a possible X Project. Mr. Quayle tried to get it funded; apparently he took us quite seriously. He was unable to get full funding, but he did get Air Force funding for a scale model. Douglas won the competition for that X project, and it was built, on time and within budget, and delivered to White Sands test range for flight testing. It became known as the DC-X (Douglas Aircraft gave all their aircraft, such as the SC-3, that kind of designation).

One big controversy about vertical rocket landings was that it could not be controlled at low altitude and the speeds involved. Another was that it would re-enter nose down, and wouldn’t be able to turn tail down. DC-X flew 10 successful missions, landing and being refueled and flown again; there are plenty of reports on that. On one of those missions it went from nose up the nose down, then back to nose up in which orientation it made a perfect landing.

Alas after the 10th flight the Air Force turned the ship over to NASA. On the eleventh mission, it successfully landed, but a NASA technician had failed to connect the hydraulic line to one of the landing feet, and it fell over. It could have survived that, but due to over vigorous (and needless testing) the NASA test people cracked the hydrogen fuel tank, then welded it and sent it to fly. Falling over cracked that tank and DC-X literally burned on the ground a hydrogen leaked out.

Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, and in 1993 abolished the National Space Council. President George W. Bush did not revive it, nor did President Obama.

(9) BREAKING OUT. The Verge interviews “Fantasy author Myke Cole on grounding a medieval world with demons in it”.

…For his next act, Cole is changing things up a bit. His upcoming series, The Sacred Throne, exchanges the modern-day world that he’s been using as a setting for a more traditional fantasy realm. The Sacred Throne series is very much a modern-day fantasy thematically, but more on the “grimdark” side of the genre in the vein of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or George R.R. Martin than the more optimistic worlds of Tolkien or Lewis….

Why the change from the more urban fantasy setting from your Shadow Ops series to something closer to traditional swords and sorcery?

This book is super important me. So the Shadow Ops series, when it sold and when it got praised, it was always the authentic military voice. I think I might have been the only currently serving military member writing. At the time I was still on duty to the Coast Guard when that book came out. There’s a lot of retired military guys writing, but I don’t know anyone who is actually active and writing, which is what I was doing. So I kept getting praise for my “authentic military voice.” I was just kind of like, “Okay, I’m glad that people like this, and I’m definitely happy if it sells books,” but the truth is that you start to think “Well, is this a gimmick?” Do people like my writing because I’m a good writer, or do people like my writing because it’s authentic and it’s a military voice? And of course that set me up for kind of growing insecurity, and so it became very important to me to prove to myself that I was a writer with a capital W. That I can do other things.

(10) PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE.  They make number one sound far ahead of the other four — “Five Writers Who Could Be the Next Stephen King”.

  1. Andrew Pyper

The number one writer who could challenge the King for positioning is Andrew Pyper. Pyper’s most recent novel titled “The Damned” is rapidly becoming a massive success. The 2013 novel has already become a best seller. This is number six and by far the most pleasing to his following. The Writer from Toronto has written the horror story and makes no apologies. The book follows “The Demonologist” which established quite a fan base for the writer who is beginning to delve more deeply into horror genre, but without the commercial nonsense that many come to expect. He’s not prone to cliche and you’ll have to read it to find out how he makes use of throwing curves so you won’t really know what’s coming up.

(11) BANGARANGING ON. The Washington Post’s Ada Tseng interviews Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook (an orange-mohawked guy who was killed by Captain Hook in the film), and has now made a short-film about Rufio, Bangarang, which is available online — “Remember Rufio in ‘Hook’? The actor is trying to keep his cult character’s legacy alive.”.

Basco has a cameo in the film, but is too old to play the young Rufio. A new generation of kids now knows him better for his voice-over work as Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But he still gets recognized by “Hook” fans every single day.

“I’ve been Rufio longer than I’ve not been Rufio, for sure,” he says. “To this day, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people have such strong memories of me as a young actor, that it’s hard to see me as anything else. But everyone comes to Hollywood hoping to get a role people are going to remember them for, and I get girls saying I was their first crush, or Asian guys saying Rufio was the first time they saw an Asian kid on-screen that wasn’t nerdy or stereotypical, so I was lucky the character that resonated was cool.”

 

(12) TZ. John King Tarpinian told me he’d be at home today watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. And Steve Vertlieb made a timely recommendation that I read his 2009 post “The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time”:

“The Twilight Zone: An Element Of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the original, classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series may bring to mind your own special memories of the program. Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…”The Twilight Zone.”

Here’s the beginning:

For a writer searching for his voice in the midst of corporate conservatism during the late 1950s, the creative horizon seemed elusive at best. Television, although still a youthful medium, had begun to stumble and fall, succumbing to the pressures of financial backing and sponsorship in order to survive its early growing pains. Navigating a successful career through a cloak of fear and indecision became problematic for a young writer struggling to remain relevant.

Rod Serling had penned several landmark teleplays for The Columbia Broadcasting System, including Patterns, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, but the perils of network censorship were beginning to take a toll on the idealistic author. As his artistic voice and moral integrity became increasingly challenged by network cowardice, Serling found his search for lost horizons alarmingly elusive.

(13) HALF CAST. Stewart Clarke in “Second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Starts Shooting as New Plot Details Emerge” on Variety, says that the second Fantastic Beasts film will be set in Paris in the 1920s and will have Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.

The studio offered new details of the upcoming film, which will see Eddie Redmayne return as magical beasts lover Newt Scamander to take on Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard played by Johnny Depp, who was unmasked at the end of the first movie.

Jude Law will star as future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film, a younger version of the character originally played by the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films. The sequel moves the main action to 1920s Paris, shortly after Scamander’s capture of Grindelwald at the end of the first installment.

Warner Bros. revealed that “Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.”

(14) MORE THAN JUST DECORATIVE. JJ sends this along with a safety warning, “Totally not a suggestion for Hugo winners with annoying neighbors. Purely hypothetically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the e.e. cummings of filers. clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/17 The Love of Pixels Is The Root Of All Scrolls

(1) SIXTY MINUTES. Here’s video of what happened during “Seanan McGuire’s Continuum 13 Guest of Honour Hour.”

On Sunday 11th June, 2017, Seanan McGuire hosted a Guest of Honour hour in which she answered questions at Continuum 13. Unfortunately, not every person waited for a microphone to ask their question. Seanan’s answers are still amazing and you can get the context from the answer. Continuum 13 was the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

 

(2) MORE CONTINUUM 13 GOODNESS. There was a special cake at the launch party for Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but since the Wayward Children series it’s part of is not a zombie series, the cake imagery was probably a callout to her Newsflesh series.

(3) OVERHEARD ON THE INTERNET. More McGuire advice.

(4) WORKSHOP HUMOR. Walter Jon Williams posted a photo of the Taos Toolbox participants and speakers posed “Beneath the Sign of the Bear”.

I realized too late that I should have got a photo of us all lying dead at George [R.R. Martin]’s feet, and titled it “The Red Workshop.”

He also quoted Nancy Kress’ notes from the critiques, specifically the funny parts. Here are a few examples:

* “She got off too easy for eating the child.”

* “This could be cool, if I knew what was going on.”

* “If she had proper self-control, she wouldn’t be blue.” (Color, not mood)

* “We’ve got prehistoric parasites living in people’s brains, and volunteers are going ‘Yes!’?”

* How does dodging bullets qualify you as a good bride?”

* “I admired the multi-purposing of the rabbits.”‘

* “If editors are trolls, are publishers dragons?”

(5) EXPANSE AUTHORS AMA. Here’s the link to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything with Expanse writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

“Can you name a story element that NEEDED to change for TV in order for the show to work?”

Miller had to become much more active in the show. Losing the internal monologue of prose always means finding ways to make the same points in a way that a camera can see them.

“An unforeseen change?”

I hadn’t realized how important it was going to be to pull Drummer forward, or how much that was going to pay off.

“A change that met the most resistance from yourselves or the TV writers?”

There’s a moment in the book when Muss explains to Miller that he’s a joke to the other cops. It’s a gut-punch in the books, and we all fought to find a place for it in the show, but it just didn’t fir anywhere.

“A change that you wish had been made in the books if you had the chance to go back?”

Nope. The books are the books and the show is the show. There are some places in the book where I’d make things a little clearer than I think we left them. Why Ashford acts the way he does, what exactly the timeline of Julie Mao was. It’s all in the books, but sometimes I think I’ve made things clear that are still a little smokey.

(6) REVIVAL. If they weren’t about to bring it back, I might never have heard of it: “‘The League of Gentlemen’ is officially returning”.

Cult TV show ‘The League of Gentlemen’ is set to officially return after writer Reece Shearsmith announced that he was working on a script for the warped sitcom’s revival.

The show, which follows the lives of residents in the bizarre village of Royston Vasey, originally aired on BBC 2 between 1999 and 2002, before a full-length film was released in 2005.

Now, the show’s revival has been confirmed, after talk emerged of an anniversary special earlier this year.

(7) TAXONOMY TIME. In “Municipal Fantasy”, Danny Sichel advocates for a subgenre distinct from urban fantasy,

There’s urban, and there’s fantasy… and there’s the space between them. An enforced separation between the modern world – the urban environment – and the magic.*  They’ve developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.

But what if this weren’t so?

If we undo those justifications… if we assume their opposite… we get fantasy where magic has openly come back into the modern world, or been revealed to the general public to have been here all along. Or, alternately, magic has openly been around long enough that an equivalent to our modern technological society has developed. And, perhaps most importantly, that magic is an issue of public policy.

I propose that this subgenre be called: “MUNICIPAL FANTASY”.

“What’s the difference between ‘municipal’ and ‘urban’?”, you might be wondering. “Don’t they mean essentially the same thing?” And in a way, they do, but synonyms are never exact. They both refer to cities… but ‘urban’ is a general feeling, an environment, a mood. ‘Municipal’, conversely, implies more of a system, with regulations and public services. ‘Urban wildlife’ is raccoons eating your garbage and ‘urban legends’ are just stories you heard about a friend of a friend of a friend, but “municipal wildlife” feels like the raccoons are only eating the garbage because it’s their job, and “municipal legends” feels the story won’t be told outside city limits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie premiered theatrically.
  • June 24, 1987 Spaceballs opened in theatres.
  • June 24, 1997 — U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

(9) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. The four-minute mile. The twelve-minute spacewalk. Records are made to be broken — “600 students dress as Harry Potter to celebrate 20th anniversary of ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone'”

A group of more than 600 students gathered in one place and dressed as Harry Potter to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first book in the series.

England book publishers Bloomsbury Books shared a photo of the hundreds of students as they set the Guinness World Record for most people dressed as Harry Potter in one gathering in celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

(10) COLD FACTS. Space.com’s article “Pew Pew Pew! Why Scientists Are Fired Up About Futuristic Space Lasers” is most excited about the peaceful use of lasers in satellites to monitor vast areas of the Earth.

Another NASA mission using lasers to peer at Earth is named Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2). Scheduled to launch in 2018, ICESat-2 will use an array of six lasers — three paired beams — to track ice-sheet thickness and changes across Greenland and Antarctica, so that scientists can better estimate the risks posed by melting ice due to climate change, panel member Brooke Medley, a research associate with Earth Sciences Remote Sensing at the Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Future Con audience. ICESat-2 is continuing the work started by an earlier mission, ICESat-1, which was the first satellite to deploy lasers from space to measure surface elevation in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, according to NASA. The amount of ice cover in those two regions is enormous: Greenland’s area is about three times the size of Texas, while Antarctica is roughly twice the size of the contiguous United States — far too big to accurately measure elevation changes from the ground or by airplane, Medley said. ICESat-2 will conduct multiple passes overhead at an altitude of 299 miles (481 kilometers), and its lasers will gather data that will enable researchers to calculate ice volume and track changes over time.

(11) SHORT SUBJECTS. Doris V. Sutherland offers insights and intriguing comments in “2017 Hugo Reviews: Short Stories” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Amal El-Mohtar’s award-nominated story.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” shows both a knowledgeable and playful attitude towards fairy tale conventions. In the world of the story, magic operates on a numeric basis, a reference to fairy tales’ fondness for certain numbers, the three little pigs, the seven dwarfs, and so forth. While Amira is granted a constant stream of golden apples that materialise from nowhere, she is allowed only one at a time: she must eat her present apple before the next one will appear. But once Tabitha arrives, and Amira begins sharing the apples with her, this changes: Tabitha is allowed seven apples at a time.

“I think it’s the magic on me,” she says. “I’m bound in sevens—you’re bound in ones.” On a more symbolic level, the story opens with Tabitha musing about the significance of shoes in fairy tales, from Cinderella’s glass slippers to the red-hot iron shoes worn by Snow White’s stepmother. To Tabitha, shoes represent marriage, although they are not her first choice of symbol. “I dreamt of marriage as a golden thread between hearts—a ribbon binding one to the other, warm as a day in summer,” she says. “I did not dream a chain of iron shoes.”

The story is not as revolutionary as it seems to think it is. After all, revisionist fairy tales form a longstanding tradition in feminist circles, one that has been practiced by authors from Andrea Dworkin to Angela Carter. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” adds a queer-positive angle, but in an era with entire anthologies devoted to LGBT SF/F, this is not particularly groundbreaking. When Tabitha and Amira get together at the end, it seems as inevitable as Sleeping Beauty being awoken with a kiss or Cinderella finding her Prince. But then, perhaps that is a sign that the revisionism has worked.

(12) BURRITO-ING FOR DOLLARS. Dan Sandler suggested charity might benefit from an audio collaboration between John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton:

(13) REALLY A WONDER. The Hollywood Reporter has been watching the box office: “‘Wonder Woman’ Set to Become Top-Grossing Live-Action Film Directed by a Woman”.

Patty Jenkins’ movie will achieve the milestone shortly after topping the $600 million mark on Wednesday.

Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman continues to make history in its box-office run.

Sometime Thursday or Friday, the Warner Bros. and DC superhero tentpole will eclipse the $609.8 million earned worldwide by Phyllida Lloyd’s Mamma Mia! (2008) to become the top-grossing live-action film of all time from a female director, not accounting for inflation.

Wonder Woman also has a strong shot of passing up Kung Fu Panda 2‘s $665.7 million to become the top-grossing film of all time from a female filmmaker with solo directing duties. Jennifer Yuh Nelson helmed the 2011 animated sequel.

Starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman passed the $600 million mark at the worldwide box office on Wednesday, finishing the day with a cume of $601.6 million, including $289.2 million domestically and $312.4 million internationally.

(14) CULTURAL CONCUSSION. As ScreenRant sees it — “Wonder Woman: 15 Movie Moments That CRUSH Sexism”.

There’s no denying it: the arrival of Wonder Woman has dealt a massive blow to Hollywood sexism, after years of male superheroes dominating the spotlight in any and all blockbuster franchises. Judging by Wonder Woman‘s opening weekend sales, the idea that ‘women don’t sell’ in superhero shared universes may be permanently vanquished (for DC’s universe, at least). But given how well Diana takes on sexism in the movie itself, it only seems fair that the real-world result should be as big a victory for the feminist ideals of equality, punching the patriarchy squarely in the nose (in front of and behind the camera).

Their list begins:

15. The Amazons Crush The Bechdel Test

…But when Queen Hippolyta and Antiope discuss the Amazons’ duty, the conversation between Diana’s two mother figures is most certainly about her, and not the absent God of War looming somewhere on the planet. For Hippolyta, her mother, all motivation is based in keeping Diana safe, even selfishly turning her back on the Amazons’ duty for her own blood. For Antiope, she wishes to train Diana not because it is required to kill Ares, but because it is Diana’s destiny, and in service to the realization of her potential.

And the first time viewers realize they’re watching two accomplished actresses over the age of 50 discussing their daughter’s future in a superhero blockbuster… well, it becomes clear how rare such a scene really is.

(15) MORE WW BACKGROUND. Well before the movie came Tom Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound:  The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (2014).

This close look at Wonder Woman’s history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman with a golden lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In the 1950s, Wonder Woman begrudgingly continued her superheroic mission, wishing she could settle down with her boyfriend instead, all while continually hinting at hidden lesbian leanings. While other female characters stepped forward as women’s lib took off in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman fell backwards, losing her superpowers and flitting from man to man. Ms. magazine and Lynda Carter restored Wonder Woman’s feminist strength in the 1970s, turning her into a powerful symbol as her checkered past was quickly forgotten. Exploring this lost history adds new dimensions to the world’s most beloved female character, and Wonder Woman Unbound delves into her comic book and its spin-offs as well as the myriad motivations of her creators to showcase the peculiar journey that led to Wonder Woman’s iconic status.

(16) HORROR’S KING. The Guardian asks and answers: “Misery loves company: why Stephen King remains Hollywood’s favorite author”

As a source of adaptation fodder, King is a studio executive’s godsend, because his work is trend-proof. Scan the long, long list of King adaptations and the standout quality will be the steadfastness of it all; ebb and flow as the cultural tides may, King’s work has never lost its luster or lucre. And its eclecticism is the key to King’s perennial popularity; his style never falls out of fashion because King has never defined it to mean one thing in particular.

(17) LITRPG. The English version of Survival Quest, the first in Russian LitRPG Vasily Mahanenko’s The Way of the Shaman, was met with 236 mostly 4 and 5 star Amazon reviews, says Carl Slaughter.  The latest in the series, The Karmadont Chess Set, came out in April 2017.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Todd, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/17 To Your Scattered Pixels Scroll

(1) NATIVE AMERICAN COMICS STORE. Red Planet Books and Comics opened June 3 — “Unique Native American comic book store opens in Albuquerque”.

The idea for the store started in October.

“I kept walking by. I was like, is this shop being used at all? They’re like, no, and I was like, well maybe we might want to do something with that,” [owner Lee] Francis said.

He had already launched Native Realities to publish indigenous comic books.

Now, the company has a storefront for that work, along with other stories of Native American superheroes.

“Because we’re here in Albuquerque, we have such a high population of Native folks. My family’s from the Pueblo of Laguna,” he said.

Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is one of Native Realties’ comics.

Based on the true stories of the Native American Code Talkers this incredible graphic novel features nine original stories by Native American artists and writers documenting the heroic tales of Code Talkers from World War I through Korea. The graphic novel also features a history of the Code Talkers and a lesson plan for teachers who wish to use the book to teach students about the struggle and accomplishments of these Native American heroes.

(2) STILES MEDICAL UPDATE. Fan artist Steve Stiles writes about his medical treatment: “The news is that I have a tumor in my right lung and that there’s a 70% chance (doctor’s words) that it’s cancer. I’m going in for a PET scan on the 14th and a biopsy on the 20th, probably followed by surgery shortly after that.”

Steve says, “I wouldn’t mind having friends know. I think they’ll have caught in time; it certainly came on me quickly.”

(3) INEXPLICABLY THEY ARE NOT DISCOURAGED. Variety asks “Poll: Which ‘Dark Universe’ Movie Are You Most Excited For?”

Though reviews for “The Mummy” have been unfavorable and box office tracking is far from through the roof, the studio hasn’t said it will slow down on its planned monster universe. The films will mine from Universal’s vault of monsters –Dracula, Frankenstein, Invisible Man, etc. — and reboot them for movies in the next few years.

Aside from “The Mummy,” “Bride of Frankenstein” is the only planned movie to be dated thus far, to be released on Feb. 14, 2019. “The Invisible Man” and “Frankenstein” have already nabbed stars in Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem, respectively. Angelina Jolie has been linked to the lead role in “Bride of Frankenstein,” but has yet to officially sign on. A new musical theme for the “Dark Universe,” composed by Danny Elfman, will debut in theaters ahead of “The Mummy.”

(4) IT’S ON THE COVER. I learned a bunch of things I didn’t know before about licensing cover art from Amanda S. Green’s column “Think before hitting enter” at Mad Genius Club.

If you go to Amazon and browse through the various genres, you will sooner or later come across covers that are the same or close to the same. This happens because most indies license their cover art elements from sites like Dreamstime or Adobe Stock. It’s a cheap way to find good art that fits the genre. The danger is you are only licensing the artwork and not buying it. That means others can license it as well.

(5) GREEN SCREEN. Luxury Daily comments on an unusual ad campaign: “Gucci unveils science fiction-flavored teaser for fall/winter 2017”. Will they clean up in the marketplace?

The designs are eclectic and strange

The “Clevercare” video series celebrated Earth Day April 22 with tips for how to maintain Stella McCartney clothes and ways to minimize a consumer’s carbon footprint. The six-part series takes an unconventional approach for most luxury brands by making the films highly comedic in nature (see story).

Gucci’s campaign, curious as it is, is evocative and stands out from typical high-fashion marketing. It taps into a wealth of imagery almost never aligned with luxury: the golden age of cheap ’50s science fiction movies.

“The risk of positioning an ad campaign with a surrealistic humorous bent, such as the new Gucci campaign, may find their current clientele and desired target audience consider it off brand and or too bizarre to waste time trying to figure out the message or how to relate,” Ms. Miller said. “Any strategy, if not well thought out against the DNA of a brand, may suffer if the subsequent intent is not executed well.

“Taking a stand of being different simply to be different may be a slippery slope. Viewers may be so distracted by the obscure that they remember neither the brand nor its intended message.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 11, 1982E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial released. “More legs than Harlan’s A Boy and His Dog,” says John King Tarpinian offering a unique viewpoint. So to speak.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 11 — John Mansfield

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian points to Bizarro artist Dan Piraro’s Batman eulogies. His weekly cartoon for June 11 is another.

John also recommends this baseball-themed sff reference from Steve Moore’s In The Bleachers.

(9) TBR THIS SUMMER. The Washington Post’s Summer Reading 2017 feature recommends Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

(10) BINGO. Here’s a robotic Tingle title mashup.

(11) SAY IT AIN’T SO. No Star Trek beyond Star Trek Beyond? “Star Trek: ‘no guarantee’ of another film says Zachary Quinto” at Den of Geek.

Even though Paramount Pictures got moving on a further Star Trek outing just as Star Trek Beyond was docking in cinemas last year, the incumbent Spock, Zachary Quinto, has played down just a little talk of a further film.

Star Trek Beyond ultimately grossed $343m in cinemas worldwide, over $100m down on the takings for Star Trek Into Darkness. Critically, it fared better, and Star Trek is heading back to the small screen in the next 12 months, with Star Trek Discovery.

But whilst we’d been promised another screen adventure, one that would bring Chris Hemsworth back alongside Chris Pine, there’s been not a great deal of progress since that was first mooted last July. And now Quinto, whilst confirming that a new film is being worked on, has suggested that it’s no certainty.

(12) HE’S ON THE FRONT. Francis Hamit, Managing Director of The Kit Marlowe Film Co. announces “We are offering new affinity products for our fans” in the Christopher Marlowe Shoppe — including the Kit Marlowe movie t-shirt.

(13) NOS4A2TV. The Verge reports “AMC is developing a series based on Joe Hill’s NOS4A2”.

AMC announced that it is opening writers’ rooms to develop three new shows, one of which is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s vampire novel NOS4A2. Jami O’Brien, who worked on the network’s Hell on Wheels and Fear the Walking Dead, will be the show’s executive producer.

According to Deadline, the network is skipping the typical pilot process, and working on a “detailed look at a potential first season,” before deciding whether or not to greenlight the show right out of the gate. AMC first announced that it was adapting the novel back in 2015, but word that Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is still under consideration is pretty exciting. Hill is the son of Stephen King, and he’s forged his own career as a horror author in recent years. This extremely creepy novel is one of his best to date. AMC is also developing a crime thriller, Pandora, and Silent History, about a group of children who are born without the ability to comprehend language, under the same arrangement.

Published in 2013, NOS4A2 follows a girl named Vic McQueen who has an ability to find lost objects by way of a mysterious bridge that transports her to wherever the object that she’s looking for is hiding.

(14) THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. NASA has a plan to touch the sun.

In 2018, NASA will send a probe to one of the locations in the solar system that it never has before: the sun. In a series of orbits, the spacecraft will come closer to our star than any space vehicle before it could possibly withstand, and the mission is expected to reveal things about the sun that researchers have long wondered. In a news conference today, NASA revealed a few key details about its plans to ‘touch the sun,’ including a new name for the daring probe that will make the journey.

(15) INACTION FIGURES. There is such a thing as the LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. I’m just not sure why.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Steve Stiles, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/17 Pixel Me Your Best Shot, File Away!

(1) A LITTLE LIST. James Davis Nicoll returns with “Twenty Core Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field.

There are two filtering rules:

Only one work per author per list

Any given work can appear on only one list

(2) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Sign up for video conference call from 1962 hosted by The Traveler from Galactic Journey.

Hello, friends and fellow travelers!

As some of you are aware, Galactic Journey is a frequent presenter at conventions around the country. In a mix of seminar and road show, the Journey brings the past to life with a personal appearance.

Well, this month, we’re going to take that to the next level — using Visi-phone technology developed for the 1962 Seattle World Fair, the Journey will be appearing live Coast to Coast (and beyond) at 11 a.m. [PDT] on June 17.

Tune in, and you’ll get a peek behind the scenes at the Journey, meeting the Traveler, himself, and potentially the Young Traveler and the Editor! We’ll show off some of our favorite vintage toys, answer your questions — and there will be prizes for the best ones!

RSVP for this no-charge event — The Traveler personally guarantees it’ll be worth every penny you spend!

(3) WORLDBUILDERS AND WORLDRUNNERS. Political lessons with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz at Inverse“Here’s Why Sci-Fi Authors Will Always Tell You To Fuck Off”.

“People will visit my website or Twitter feed where apparently I have political opinions,” said Scalzi. “Then I get the sorrowful email that says, ‘I thought I was coming to you for entertainment, but you’re telling me how to think and regretfully I must not read your books anymore.’ They’re expecting me to say something like, ‘No, don’t leave.’ They’re not expecting the email I actually send, which is ‘Dear whomever: kiss my ass.”

(4) IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS. Discussions about cultural appropriation are not typically about the Irish, but they could be. Fantasy-Faction Brian O’Sullivan discusses “Wading in the Cultural Shallows: How Irish Mythology Became A Commodity for Fantasy”.

One night at a party I was introduced to a woman who proudly informed told me she’d named her baby daughter ‘Banshee’ in celebration of her Irish heritage. Even at the time I was pretty stunned by the announcement. For an Irish person (and I would have thought most people would have known this), this was the equivalent to naming her daughter — Death.

About two weeks later, at another party (I had a life back then!), I was cornered by a different woman demanding a translation for the chorus from Clannad’s haunting Theme Song from Harry’s Game. The Irish lyrics for the chorus had been written on her CD sleeve as ‘Fol dol de doh fol-de de day’!) which she thought was absolutely beautiful and must mean something mythically profound.’ Needless to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed when I translated it as ‘La, la la la, la la laaah!’

These are just two examples of the cultural disconnect between Irish people and those who dabble in Irish mythology. They are however only two of the hundreds I’ve personally experienced over the last twenty years or so and I know many other Irish people who’ve had similar experiences. It’s actually a source of continual bemusement to to see how bizarrely and inaccurately our culture’s been represented over that time.

…I don’t believe for a moment that it’s any author’s intention to be offensive when they use mythologies that aren’t their own. In fact, I’d suspect the vast majority of them would be dismayed if they knew their work was somehow considered offensive. Unfortunately, authors write stories based on their own experiences or what they’ve managed to learn and, frankly, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Different cultures aren’t easily transferable (although if you spend enough time living in them or studying them intensely you can certainly pick up a lot) and this makes wading in the mythological shallows that much more dangerous. This is particularly the case with Irish mythology as there’s so much misinformation already out there (many people, for example, through no fault of their own, still believe W. B. Yeats is a credible authority on Irish mythology!).

(5) WEIMER IN THE WILD. If this is what DUFF delegates get to do, everyone will be running next time. (Having lunch with Ian Mond and Likhain.)

Of course, some things you can do without traveling 12,000 miles:

(6) HERITAGE SPACE AUCTION RESULTS. Heritage Auctions released some sales figures from Space Exploration Auction #6173,which had total sales of $822,203 .

Vintage NASA photographs were strong, especially the nice Selection of “Red Number” Examples we were pleased to offer. The definite “star” of this category was the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” Photo (NASA Image AS8-14-2383) of the earth above the moon’s horizon, taken by Bill Anders on Christmas Eve 1968 from lunar orbit. This is one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century and one tenacious bidder laid claim to this early red number print for $10,625. Another exciting lot was a Collection of Sixteen Apollo 11 Photos (twelve red number and four blue number) which included an example of the famous Buzz Aldrin “visor” portrait. Six bidders competed for the group before one took it home for $7,812.

Robbins Medallions are always a popular category. In this auction, two examples made particularly strong showings. A beautiful Unflown Apollo 15 Medal partially minted with flown “treasure” silver from a 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck ingot closed at $7,500. A rare Flown STS-6 Space Shuttle Challenger Medal (one of only sixty-seven carried on the mission) brought in $11,250. Of particular interest, a notarized presentation letter signed by the entire four-man crew accompanied this one. This was the first from this mission that Heritage has offered in ten years of Space auctions.

One-of-a-kind items are always difficult to estimate and there were a few in this sale that performed quite a bit better than our best guess. Project Mercury was represented in this category by a Capsule Flight Operations Manual that sold for $10,625. At what price would two sets of Gemini Spacecraft Crew Hatch Door Assembly Shingles and their associated blueprints be valued? The answer, supplied by six eager bidders, is $11,250.

(7) HELSINKI BOUND TRAVELER SEEKS ADVICE. Daniel Dern has asked me to put out his request for information, as in, “Seeking European SIM card suggestions for Helsinki Worldcon”.

I’m sure I’m not the only fan who’s not a frequent international (here, “not living in Finland”) traveler, trying to suss out a reasonable (as in “affordable” and “non-complex”) answer to having (moderate) cellular connectivity during and pre/post-Worldcon.

Here’s my particular constraints/deets (obviously, YMMV):

o Aside from Worldcon, looking at ~2 weeks in Denmark/Norway/Sweden.

o I’m in the US. However, since a) my carrier is AT&T, whose international rates are excessive, and/but b) not planning to bring my primary phone, so a) is moot. Yes, I know that being a T-Mobile’s customer would be a simple, goodly-priced answer, but that’s not an option here.

o I’ll be packing an unlocked Android phone. Probably my Moto G4, if I can find it. That’s what I’m looking for a pre-paid refillable SIM card for.

o Initial landing is Copenhagen.

o Main cellular uses: for brief local phone calls to restaurants, etc, and texting “where are you?” etc. Some data. Everything else can be done using Skype (and other VoiPs), etc over WiFi.

o Probably looking for a multi-country 30-day pass with 1 or 2GB data and some local phone, ideally unlimited texting.

Web search is turning up bunches of suggestions, but other than wading through comments, I have no clue. Experienced Eurotravellers, what say ye?

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

There’s a lot to know about Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot/. Like, who was inside?

“One of the first things you do when you design a robot or monster,” [Art Director Robert] Kinoshita recalled in an interview, “is to try to confuse the audience as to where you put the guy inside. It’s difficult to completely fool an audience because they know there is someone inside. But if you make an effort to confuse them it can work in your favor and make the whole creation more believable. Robby was designed so that the man inside could see out of the voice box below the glass head.” Although many people were fooled by Robby’s disproportionate form, he was controlled by Frankie Darro from inside, and his voice was provided by talented actor and announcer Marvin Miller, who gave Robby that distinctive, sophisticated wit so loved and remembered by audiences everywhere.

(9) STALKING THE WILD GANACHE. Gourmet chocoholic Camestros Felapton gives Americans an advance look — “Review: Kinder Joy — eating refined sugar so you don’t have to”.

For those of us outside of the US, the Kinder Surprise egg is a familiar sight. A thin chocolate egg which encases a plastic capsule within which is a small toy. Often you have to assemble the toy and sometimes they are themed collectibles. The chocolate itself — well it’s is an acquired taste. Mass manufactured chocolate is one of those paradoxically regional things.

Americans have not had ready access to Kinder Surpises because of the dangers of them eating the encased toy accidentally. However, the more recent Kinder Joy egg has sidestepped the problem. It retains the egg shape but has two seperate halves — one with chocolate (sort of) in it and the other with a toy.

Wednesday I saw one in the wild and bought one and ate the bits you are supposed to eat. This is my story….

(10) INVISIBLE COVER REVEAL. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj have revealed the cover and contributors list for Invisible 3, the third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.” See the image at the link.

The introduction is by K. Tempest Bradford. The contributors are Alex Conall, Alliah, Alyssa Hillary, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Brandon O’Brien, Carrie Sessarego, Chelsea Alejandro, Dawn Xiana Moon, Fran Wilde, Jaime O. Mayer, Jennifer Cross, Jeremy Sim, Jo Gerrard, Mari Kurisato, MT O’Shaughnessy, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sean Robinson, and T. S. Bazelli.

There isn’t an official release date yet. Hines says that will be coming very soon.

(11) TO INFINITY. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s space opera collection Infinite Stars is available for pre-order. I thought the table of contents looked pretty interesting — it helps that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity is one of my favorite sf stories.

(12) BAD WRAP. Entertainment Weekly reports “The Mummy reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”. Quotes at the site.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(13) NAPOLEON DID SURRENDER. James Davis Nicoll sends along a link to The Watchtower restaurant website, a nerd-themed tavern in Waterloo, Ontario.

They have a fantasy-themed origin story.

Their plethora of monthly events includes Nerd Nite.

On the final Wednesday of every month, KW’s own Nerd Nite takes over the Watchtower. Join us for unique, informative, and entertaining presentations, trivia, and socializing in a fun, positive, and inclusive atmosphere. Presentations are done on a ton of nerdy topics!

They also have a series of YouTube videos of their barmaster making some of their signature drinks.

(14) ROLL THE BONES. One researcher says, “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Or if there is a Garden of Eden it’s the size of Africa. — “Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity’s birth back to 300,000 years” at USA Today.

Digging on a hilltop in the Sahara Desert, scientists have found the most ancient known members of our own species, undermining longstanding ideas about the origins of humanity.

The newfound Homo sapiens fossils — three young adults, one adolescent and a child of 7 or 8 — date back roughly 300,000 years, says a study in this week’s Nature. The next-oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, the scientific name for humans, are about 200,000 years old.

(15) NEST UNFEATHERED. The argument goes on: “Study casts doubt on the idea of ‘big fluffy T. rex'”

Primitive feathers have been identified in some members of the Tyrannosaur group, leading to speculation that the king of reptiles also sported feathers.

In the latest twist, researchers analysed skin impressions from a T.rex skeleton known as Wyrex, unearthed in Montana.

They also looked at relatives that roamed during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and other parts of North America, including Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Skin patches from the neck, pelvis and tail of Wyrex show scaly, reptilian-like skin, says a team led by Dr Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

(16) BOND. 20 LB. BOND. Is your printer tattling on you? “Why printers add secret tracking dots”.

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 — at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

(17) A CLASSIC. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary #94, 60,000 words of lively book talk and analysis, is available for download from eFanzines.com:

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, Gideon Marcus, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]