Pixel Scroll 10/22/17 As You From Scrolls Would Pixel’d Be, Let Your Fandom Bring Forth Glee

(1) SUPPORT WANTED. Jim Barker, Rotsler Award-winning fanartist (and 1979 Hugo nominee), is looking for financial support while he deals with health problems. He hasn’t set up a crowdfunding appeal, but you can reach out to him at the email address shown in the illustration below.

My apologies for the continued absence of the Monday Cartoon. As I said last time, I am Not Well. I have had a problem with my liver for a couple of years now and it’s finally got to the point that I need a liver transplant and I need to go into hospital for tests at the beginning of November, just to find out how suitable I am.

The Problem is that it’s been a very slow couple of months and I simply can’t afford to be out of action for the five days needed for the tests. So while I hate the idea of going round with a begging bowl,I’m asking if you could possibly help out financially. Please contact me if you feel you can. Thank you.

(2) DEEP THOUGHT. The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Nicas reports “How Google’s Quantum Computer Could Change the World”. [Behind a paywall.]

Hartmut Neven believes in parallel universes. On a recent morning outside Google’s Los Angeles office, the 53-year-old computer scientist was lecturing me on how quantum mechanics—the physics of atoms and particles—backs the theory of a so-called multiverse. Neven points to the tape recorder between us. What we’re seeing is only one of the device’s “classical configurations,” he says. “But somewhere, not perceived by us right now, there are other versions.”

David Klaus sent the link with a note:

This much computational ability will finally give us fusion power, F-T-L travel, and the stars. I knew about the idea of parallel universes in 1963 when I was 8, because of The Flash.  Heinlein wrote about them (first?), Niven wrote about them, Robert Anton Wilson wrote about them, but there should be statues of Gardner Fox and Jerome Bixby, because if Fox hadn’t created the DC Multiverse and Bixby hadn’t written “Mirror, Mirror” to soak the idea into the popular culture and triggered the minds of the best and the brightest to pursue this, it wouldn’t have happened. In this universe, anyway.

(3) FOR EXAMPLE. Learning from scratch: “Computer Learns To Play Go At Superhuman Levels ‘Without Human Knowledge'”, defeats program that beat world champion:

“In a short space of time, AlphaGo Zero has understood all of the Go knowledge that has been accumulated by humans over thousands of years of playing,” lead researcher David Silver of Google’s DeepMind lab said in remarks on YouTube. “Sometimes it’s actually chosen to go beyond that and discovered something that the humans hadn’t even discovered in this time period.”

(4) NEW AWARD FOR WHITEHEAD. The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown reports “‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead wins 2017 Hurston/Wright award for fiction”, an award given by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Literary Foundation for significant books by African-Americans.

His award was among those presented Friday by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which was founded in Washington in 1990 with a mission to ensure the survival of black writers and their literature.

Whitehead’s attention to the pain of slavery and “the current state of race in this country is unprecedented,” the judges said. The novel, which was a New York Times bestseller, “confirms Whitehead’s place in the African American canon” of great authors.

The Washington Plaza hotel in Northwest Washington was bustling Friday with literary stars, publishing icons, writers, poets, editors and essayists. More than 200 people attended the annual gala, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who won the Ella Baker Award that honors writers and arts activists who advance social justice. Lewis said he was honored to receive the award named after Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist who helped organize the Freedom Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

(5) BORDERLANDS SEEKS PERMANENT HOME. Shelf Awareness reports that the bookstore that needed a crowdfunded incentive to stay in business is now thinking long-term: “Borderlands Seeks $1.9 Million to Buy Building”.

Borderlands, the San Francisco, Calif., science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore that nearly closed two and a half years ago, has made an offer to buy a building and has launched a campaign to raise $1.9 million in loans from customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. After eight days, Borderlands has raised $500,000 and another $300,000 “is pending.”

In 2015, owner Alan Beatts had planned to close the store, but after customers rallied in support, Borderlands created a sponsorship program; the $100 annual membership includes a range of benefits. The store has a minimum of 300 sponsors.

There is no rush to move: Borderlands still has three years left on its current bookstore lease and eight years on its café lease.

In a blog post last week, Beatts wrote in part, “The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business. Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died. But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession….”

(6) MYSTERY SOLVED. “Not broccoli,” says that sleuth of sustenance, John King Tarpinian, who can tell you what these really taste like:

I bought a mystery box for a friend who likes Oreos.  We all tasted one and it was a generally agreed, they tasted like stale Fruit Loops.  And I have never eaten Fruit Loops.

We even offered one to the waiter.  He had already had one on his own and without our prodding came up with Fruit Loops as his answer.

(7) FROM ROWLING TO REALITY. “Secretly wish you could be invisible? Science is getting close”Quartz discusses five methods for turning invisible, ranked by the inventor of a real-life invisibility cloak.

  1. Cloaking

The idea of making something invisible by bending light is so captivating that, despite the obstacles, scientists continue their attempts to create the effect. And that includes me.

Our group at Duke University, in collaboration with theoretical physicist Sir John Pendry, suggested and later demonstrated one method using a special type of material called a “metamaterial.” Metamaterials are human-made materials with little circuit-like elements—conducting rings and wires, for example—that mimic the properties of atoms and molecules of conventional materials.

Rather than physically warping space, we can use the idea of warping space to find a recipe for a material that will have the same effect. In this way, we can design an invisibility cloak just by picturing the way we would like waves to circulate around the cloaked object. This is a technique called “transformation optics.”

Light—or, in the case of our experiment, microwaves—are redirected in a metamaterial cloak, appearing to bend or flow around the cloaked object. They are then restored on the other side as if they had passed through empty space. The metamaterial cloak is a real device that forces light to flow exactly as it might around a cloaked Romulan ship, which means this type of invisibility device is plausible.

(8) INTRODUCTION TO A NIGHTMARE. Parade’s Samuel R. Murrian, in “Netflix’s Stranger Things Serves Up Thrills and Chills in Season Two “, tells how co-creator Matt Duffer was told the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street by his babysitter when he was four.

“My babysitter in preschool told me the story of Freddy Krueger,” says Matt. “I was 4 years old! From then on, I just knew I had to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. When we were young, we knew we weren’t supposed to be watching horror movies. That made the appeal of them so strong.

“It’s like forbidden fruit. You just want to taste it. I remember wandering into the horror section of the video store and just staring at the covers of these movies, feeling desperate to know what it was.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 22, 2134 B.C. – The earliest recorded solar eclipse took China by surprise:

In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

  • October 22, 2006 Torchwood premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 22, 1938 – Christopher “Dr. Emmet Brown” Lloyd
  • Born October 22, 1952 – Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in Buckaroo Banzai, Jurassic Park and The Fly.

(11) COMICS SECTION

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. Meantime, let the New York Post tell you where the skeletons are buried in Gotham: “The most infamous times Marvel and DC ripped each other off”.

Wonder Man vs. Wonder Woman In a 1964 issue of “The Avengers,” Marvel introduced Wonder Man. DC was not amused, feeling that the new hero sounded too much like its own Wonder Woman. So Marvel honcho Stan Lee agreed to kill him off.

Twelve years later, DC debuted a new female superhero named Power Girl — despite Marvel having introduced Power Man in 1972. Lee felt that DC was perpetrating a double standard and, in a payback bid, decided to resurrect Wonder Man. The hero joined the Avengers in 1977 and is still a major part of the Marvel print universe to this day. Although he’s never appeared in an Avengers film, actor Nathan Fillion did film a cameo as Wonder Man for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” that got cut in the end.

(13) DEADLY PLAZA. This will be handy for me – I’ll head in the other direction: “The Most Haunted Places in Los Angeles”. (Well, I say that, but for five years I worked a block away from the first place on their list….)

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Supernatural spirits abound where the city of L.A. started: at El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its immediate surrounding area. Because this area was essentially the original town square before moving a few blocks west, it was also the town gallows and the site of public hangings and their hanging trees. Some of them occurred directly in front of City Hall, which seems bedeviled by a ghost or two. Security cameras often pick up an image of someone walking around locked offices at night, but when guards go to investigate, they find nothing. When they return to their night shift station, they frequently hear footsteps following them.

Los Angeles was once a dangerous, violent place to live, filled with gunfire and murder. The lawless and the pious were forced to coexist in the establishment of a new sprawling metropolis. At El Pueblo, early adobes were torn down, and the remains of more than 100 people were improperly excavated and relocated from the first cemetery at El Pueblo, next to La Placita church. The area where Union Station now stands, and directly adjacent to it, was not only the site of Old Chinatown but also the infamous and horrific Chinese Massacre of 1871, the largest mass lynching in American history. For a more lighthearted encounter, take your French Dip to one of the upstairs dining rooms at Philippe The Original, where the ladies of the former bordello are said to linger.

(14) HELP ME HONDA. The co-creator of Godzilla unjustly labored in obscurity. The SyFy Wire tries to remedy that in ”7 revelations about the co-creator of Godzilla”.

Despite his status as one of the most commercially successful Japanese film directors of his day, Ishiro Honda has been somewhat neglected when it comes to discussion within critical circles. His science-fiction classics — which include Godzilla (1954), Rodan (1956), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and The War of the Gargantuas (1966) — have reached and dazzled audiences all over the world; and yet his name has only on occasion appeared in serious film studies. But now, from noted kaiju eiga historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski comes the biography Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa.

(15) IRISH EYES. Marcin Klak of Fandom Rover chronicles his adventures at “Octocon 2017 – the Irish National SF convention”.

Golden Blasters – the Octocon’s short film festival

There were four “major” events happening during Octocon. The first and the last ones were very modest opening and closing ceremonies, which lasted for a short time. They were serving a rather informative purpose and didn’t include any performances. On Saturday night there was an Octocon’s Monster Ball. I was able to stay only at the beginning, but it started with some music and dancing. I am not sure how long it lasted. The last one of the major events I participated in was the Golden Blasters film festival.

(16) FUSE LIGHTER. WIRED touches base with Ellison biographer Nat Segaloff in “Harlan Ellison Is Sci-Fi’s Most Controversial Figure”.

Harlan Ellison is the enormously talented author of many classic stories, essays, and scripts that helped transform science fiction, but his long history of inappropriate behavior has also made him one of the field’s most controversial figures. Author Nat Segaloff tried to capture both sides of Ellison in his new biography A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

“Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t like Harlan,” Segaloff says in Episode 278 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “and I wanted to try to get to as many of those people as possible to make a rounded interview.”

(17) LIGO LEVERAGE. NPR tells how “A New Era For Astronomy Has Begun”.

With this kind of precision, astrophysicists will learn more about the size, mass, spin, and internal properties of neutron stars, one of the most exotic forms of matter in the universe. They will also find out whether the final product of the merger is a big neutron star or a black hole, and gain a better idea of how many of such pairs (binaries) exist out there. As a bonus, they will be able to test the properties of gravity at extreme events, and measure different properties of the universe, including how fast it is expanding.

But the truly remarkable discovery, confirming what astrophysicists had predicted years back, is that such violent impacts, which eject something close to 2 percent of the stars’ mass at high speeds, produce loads of chemical elements heavier than iron, including gold, platinum, and heavy radioactive atoms. The collision creates a dense disk of protons and neutrons that circle the remains of the stars; the particles quickly combine into heavy atoms as the cloud grows and cools.

In a million years, the cloud will spread across the whole galaxy, seeding stars and their solar systems with heavy elements. Quite possibly, the gold in your ring or inside your cell phone came from such collisions in the distant past.

(Follow-up to “Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars”.)

(18) LESS SPLAT PER SCAT. ‘Windshield index’ falls: “Alarm over decline in flying insects”.

It’s known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

And the causes are unknown.

(19) AWWWW. See Mauricio Abril‘s sweet painting of Carrie Fisher in character as Princess Leia on Facebook.

I started this piece back in January after learning of Carrie Fisher’s passing but never got around to finishing it until recently. In honor of her birthday today here’s my tribute to the unforgettable woman who’ll continue to inspire generation after generation of little Leias.

(20) ROWLING PAPERS ON DISPLAY. The Guardian says, “Swearing, scrapped characters, editors’ notes – JK Rowling’s exhibits are a treasure trove for fans of Hogwarts.” — “Wizard! The magic of Harry Potter at the British Library”.

While some authors would baulk at showing anyone, let alone hundreds of thousands of museum visitors, their “process”, Rowling is entirely unafraid of sharing even her ropiest Potter ideas in public. She does so at talks, on Twitter and on a website, Pottermore, where she publishes all her unexplored, unfinished plots for a starry-eyed audience. Dumbledore is gay! Harry’s grandfather made hair products! Lupin and Tonks got married in a pub in Scotland! Even for a fan, it is easy to feel suspicious of this seemingly endless post-Potter expansion. There is no hidden significance or justifying quality in Rowling’s titbits that explains their publication. No, we now know Harry’s transfiguration teacher Professor McGonagall had two brothers and a husband who died because Rowling and her publishers believe our appetite for Potter is insatiable – and on that, they’re probably right. What luck then, that Rowling has always written with pen on paper and has produced such a treasure trove, and how lucky too that revealing her failed or abandoned ideas is not an embarrassment to her, even when cushioned by such success.

…Harry Potter, a Journey Through the History of Magic, is at the British Library, London NW1, until 28 February, and the New York Historical Society from October 2018. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is on BBC2, on 28 October.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/16/17 A Hyperloop Named Desire

(1) THE BARGAIN BIN. NASA’s trash is their cash: “NASA flight suits bought for $1.20 could fetch thousands”.

A pair of Florida college students browsing the racks at a thrift shop ended up paying $1.20 for a stack of NASA flight suits that experts said could be worth more than $5,000.

Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth said they were shopping at a thrift store in Titusville when they came across the five blue NASA flight suits and a white “control suit” under some sweaters in a plastic bin.

… The American Space Museum said the names and flight dates on the suits’ labels match the time frame of the 1983-1985 shuttle missions flown by astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, Robert A. Parker and Charles D. Walker.

(2) CROWDFUNDING VOL. 2 OF THE DELANY JOURNALS. Kenneth James is editing the personal journals of Samuel R. Delany in a multivolume series for Wesleyan University Press.  The first volume, In Search of Silence, with Delany’s journals from the 1960s, came out earlier this year and received positive reviews in The New Republic (“Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”), The Gay & Lesbian Review, and at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog by SF critic Paul Di Filippo. (The G & L Review article is unfortunately behind a paywall).

James has just launched a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo — Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany — to fund the completion of next volume.

The next volume, which I’m working on now and which is entitled Autumnal City, collects Delany’s personal journals from the ’70s — during which time Delany wrote some of his most groundbreaking work, including Dhalgren, Trouble on Triton, and Tales of Neveryon.  During this time he also did substantial preliminary work for the novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.

…The goal of this campaign is to raise $30,000 to support the remaining year’s worth of work needed to complete the second volume. This funding will cover three areas: expenses associated with the project (travel to the archives, travel to interview subjects, office expenses, and so on), expenses associated with this campaign (fees and percentages, cost and shipping of rewards, and so on), and personal expenses. Funds raised in this campaign will not support Wesleyan University Press, but rather will go directly to me, in support of my scholarly labor. In academic publishing, an author’s income comes not from book advances or sales, but rather from a university paycheck – or, if the author is an independent scholar (as I am), from some other source. For this project, you will be that source.

(3) ELLISON BIO. As for Paul Di Filippo, today at Locus Online he reviews A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff.

Chapter two takes our hero through high school, through SF fandom, and into the professional world of editing Rogue magazine, among other accomplishments. Segaloff shows that he, as biographer, is willing to skip around in time thematically when the narrative demands. Thus, hearing of Ellison’s first marriage, we also get an immediate foretaste of those to come. And in fact, as we shall soon see, Segaloff will abandon strict chronology at a certain point, in favor of totally thematic chapters, out of which the linear factual events of Ellison’s later life can be readily assembled.

(4) ALL RISE. Walter Jon Williams alerts the media to “Stand By for Greatness”.

So while I was in Finland, Orbit reverted the rights to all three of the Dagmar Shaw books.

I’ll try to make those available as soon as I can.  I can hardly do a worse job of promoting them than the original publisher.

(5) KEEP FIVE IN MIND. Victor Milán knows the magic number – “Five Classic Works of SFF by Authors We Must Not Forget” at Tor.com. Here’s one of his picks:

Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore

Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987) had to use her gender-neutral initials to get published in the 1930s. That didn’t stop her creating the fledgling genre of sword and sorcery’s first female protagonist in Jirel of Joiry. As brave, capable, and arrogant as any man, yet far from invulnerable, Jirel was more than just a red-haired, female Conan. While her adventures were clearly influenced by Robert E. Howard, as well as by Moore’s and Howard’s literary acquaintance H. P. Lovecraft, they focus less on her sword-swinging than her spirit and furious determination. A curious blend of compassion and cruelty, she’s a pious Catholic who’ll risk damnation to gain the means to overcome her foe—then brave the very Hell she sent him to, to free his soul from eternal suffering.

And you’ll never catch Jirel in a mail bikini. She wears the same practical armor as any other warrior of her unspecified Medieval period would.

Moore’s writing is brisk, strongly sensory, and evocative of settings Earthly and alien, though flavored with a few too many adjectives for the modern palate. She had a long and successful career with Jirel and the space opera adventures of Northwest Smith, then writing in collaboration with her husband, Henry Kuttner. Jirel of Joiry is a collection of most of the Jirel tales.

(5) SECOND FIFTH. Moments after posting this Scroll I learned, via Paul Weimer, that Deadline is reporting N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ Book To Be Developed As TV Series At TNT.

N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning sci-fi fantasy novel The Fifth Season is getting the drama series treatment at TNT. The project is in early development at the cable network with Leigh Dana Jackson (24: Legacy, Sleepy Hollow) set to pen the adaptation and Imperative Entertainment’s (All the Money in the World) Dan Friedkin, Tim Kring and Justin Levy serving as executive producers.

Jackson brought the novel, the first in a three-book series, to Imperative, which secured the rights before the The Fifth Season‘s Hugo nomination. Jemisin went on to become the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel. She followed that up last week by winning the prestigious science fiction award for the second consecutive year for the second book in the series, The Obelisk Gate. The third book was published Tuesday

(6) THE RECYCLE OF LIFE. NPR’s “All Tech Considered” asks, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to … Interactive Biodegradable Funerary Urns?”

Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product — a biodegradable, Internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.

At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky — evidently, we’re running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.

Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born August 16, 1991 — Evanna Lynch (actress; plays Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter films)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 16, 1884 – Hugo Gernsback
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Robert Culp. Fans probably know him best from The Outer Limits episode “Demon With A Glass Hand,” written by Harlan Ellison.

(9) FROM HELL. New York City’s Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies relaunches in September with “Paperbacks from Hell”. The event takes place Tuesday, September 19 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY). Admission $12 advance / $15 door.

In the early ’70s, three books changed horror forever: “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Other.” The first horror novels to hit bestseller lists since 1940, they opened the floodgates for an avalanche of horror paperbacks to flood supermarket and drugstore shelves throughout the ’70s and ’80s, before “Silence of the Lambs” slit the genre’s throat in the early ’90s.

Fresh off last year’s one-man show, SUMMERLAND LOST, Grady Hendrix delivers a mind-melting oral history of this wild and woolly world of Nazi leprechauns, skeleton doctors, killer crabs, killer jellyfish, and killer fetuses, featuring hair-raising readings, a William W. Johnstone quote-off, and more tales of terrifying tots, tricycles, clowns, puppets, and heavy metal bands than should be strictly legal. Prepare yourself for a tour of this long-lost universe of terror that lurked behind the lurid, foil-embossed, die-cut covers of… the Paperbacks from Hell!

Following Grady’s illustrated presentation will be a live round table discussion and Q+A with several artists who painted the book covers under discussion, including Jill Bauman, Lisa Falkenstern, and Thomas Hallman.

(10) BRADBURY BY ATWOOD. Yesterday the Paris Review posted Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” with the outro –

This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles. 

….He ducked classification and genre corrals as much as he could: as far as he was concerned he was a tale teller, a writer of fiction, and as far as he was concerned, the tales and the fiction did not need to have labels.

The term science fiction made him nervous: he did not want to? be shut up in a box. And he, in his turn, made science-fiction purists nervous, as well he might. Mars in his hands, for instance, is not a place described with scientific accuracy, or even much consistency, but a state of mind; he recycles it for whatever he needs at the moment. Spaceships are not miracles of technology but psychic conveyances, serving the same purpose as Dorothy’s whirlwind-borne house in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or the trance of the traditional shaman: they get you to the 0therworld.

(11) CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. John Scalzi’s latest op-ed for the LA Times: “During Trump’s present, it’s hard to write the future, says science fiction writer John Scalzi”.

The thing is, science fiction has its setting in the future, but the people writing it and reading it live now, and the stories they’re writing and reading reflect the hopes and fears of whatever age the story is written in. There’s a reason science fiction literature of the late ’60s and early ’70s was about overpopulation, why in the ’80s cyberpunk reflected the uncertainty about the accelerating computerization of our world, and why much of the best science fiction of the last decade, from Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” to N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” is rooted in ecological disaster. Science fiction sees the world today and speculates out from there.

The secret, however, is to come at it from an angle. There’s a thin line between using contemporary themes to extrapolate from and entertain readers, and stepping up on a soapbox and using a political agenda to cudgel people. The least successful science fiction to me is the stuff that takes today’s political catfights and dumps it uncut into the deep future, hundreds if not thousands of years in the future. To have characters in far-flung times prattling on about issues clearly specific to our time would be like writing a novel where people in 2017 are having knock-down, drag-out fights about the Alien and Sedition Acts or the Boer War. Better that science fiction breathes life into today’s anxieties and aspirations in more clever and possibly subtler ways.

His article made me remember the experience of reading Doonesbury during the Watergate hearings, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau found it practically impossible to think up wilder stuff than was coming out in the daily news.

(12) RETRIEVAL. Beyond Skyline shows promise.

A tough-as-nails detective embarks on a relentless pursuit to free his son from a nightmarish alien warship.

 

(13) ONE OF THE FIRST OF ITS KIND. The BBC says “‘Frankenstein dinosaur’ mystery solved”.

Matthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates along its back.

“We had absolutely no idea how the ornithischian body plan started to develop because they look so different to all the other dinosaurs. They have so many unusual features,” the Cambridge scientist said.

“In the 130 years since the ornithischian group was first recognised, we have never had any concept of how the first ones could have looked until now.”

(14) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Connecting to a past discussion of chocolate in various climates: “Truck With 20 Tons Of Nutella And Chocolate Vanishes; Police Hunt For Semi’s Sweets”.

“Anyone offered large quantities [of chocolate] via unconventional channels should report it to the police immediately.”

We trust you’ll abide by those instructions from law enforcement in Germany, where more than 20 tons of chocolate treats have gone missing after thieves stole a refrigerated trailer packed with Nutella, Kinder Surprise eggs and other sweets.

(15) REQUEST FROM TYRION. Gina Ippolito of Yahoo!, in “Peter Dinklage Urges ‘Game of Thrones’ Fans To Stop Buying Huskies Just because They Look Like Direwolves”, says that Dinklage and PETA are combining to urge people not to buy huskies if they can’t handle big dogs just because they want a “direwolf” at home.

“Please, please, if you’re going to bring a dog into your family, make sure that you’re prepared for such a tremendous responsibility and remember to always, always, adopt from a shelter,” Dinklage said in an official statement.

So if Game of Thrones has you itching for a Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, Shaggydog, Lady, or Grey Wind of your own, but you’re not sure you can commit to taking care of a live one, maybe consider an adorable stuffed animal instead?

(16) THOR INTERNATIONAL TRAILER #2. I’ve always been a strong believer that movie trailers are much better with Japanese subtitles.

(17) GODZILLA: MONSTER PLANET. The drawback with TOHO’s own trailer for this animated Godzilla picture is that it doesn’t need subtitles.

 [Thanks to Paul Weimer, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, and Kenneth James for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Ellison Bio “A Lit Fuse” Available for Pre-Order

ellison-wsplat-600

The NESFA Press will release a limited edition of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, An Exploration by Nat Segaloff in late Fall 2016, followed by a general hardcover edition in early Spring 2017.

Written over the course of five years, consisting of exhaustive and exclusive interviews with Ellison, his colleagues, his family, his friends, and his enemies, A Lit Fuse will be published in a 500-copy limited special edition this fall (2016). The limited edition is now available for pre-order at $75 from NESFA Press. A general hardcover edition is expected by early Spring, 2017. The slipcased special limited edition will include features not available in the general edition.

A Lit Fuse is authorized, but that doesn’t mean it’s a hagiography,” says Segaloff. Of course Ellison wouldn’t want a hagiography. If you clean up and smooth over all the controversy, the face-to-face throwdowns, the litigation, all the let-me-show-you-who’s-in-charge-here moments in his career, while you’d still have a lot of really fine stories to talk about, Harlan Ellison the human being would have disappeared in the process.

Those interviewed for the bio include Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Peter David, David Gerrold, Robert Sawyer, Michael Scott, Edward Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Bryant, Alan Brennert, J. Michael Straczynski, Robert Silverberg, Paul Krassner, and Walter Koenig. Segaloff also conducted the Emmy Legends interview with Harlan Ellison for the Archive of American Television.

The press release, following the no-hagiogrphy theme, says, “Of particular note are an analysis of the Connie Willis controversy, the infamous dead gopher story, allegedly pushing a fan down an elevator shaft, and the final word on The Last Dangerous Visions.” But mentioning the Connie Willis episode leads me to say, if it’s going to be anything but a faithful recitation of Ellison’s version of events I’ll believe it when I see it. As for Last Dangerous Visions, what else can the last word be than, “Nevermore”?

If I am not an uncritical Ellison fan, I have certainly enjoyed the decades of drama and entertainment he has delivered. Therefore, the kind of bio I want to read about him isn’t going to be a relentless ideological ripping, or a literary deconstruction. Judging from Nat Segaloff’s resume, he seems likely to strike the balance where I want it. He’s written bios of entertainment industry figures like Arthur Penn, William Friedkin, and Stirling Silliphant, and produced documentaries on Stan Lee, John Belushi, Larry King, and Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop.

Tracing the fractious Ellison’s life and career – and including, for the first time with permission, excerpts from his work –  the biography explores his fears, his demons, and his doubts as well as his principles, his hopes, and his triumphs. “It is, without question, the most vulnerable and intimate he has ever allowed himself to appear in print,” Segaloff says. “This is a portrait of the man and his intensely personal creative process, not the usual list of lawsuits, melees, or tantrums, although they’re in here, too.”

By the way, it’s the NESFA Press that calls this a biography. In Michael A. Ventrella’s interview with author Nat Segaloff, Segaloff coyly emphasized that his title does not include the word biography.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the Harlan Ellison book!

SEGALOFF: It was after he read my Arthur Penn book that Harlan (whom I had known since I directed my Stan Lee documentary) asked me if I would be interested in writing his. He barely finished the question when I said Yes. It’s due out later this year from NESFA Press – the New England Science Fiction Association – and will be a very different book than people are expecting. Everyone who knows Harlan Ellison knows that he is combative, precise, relentless, and brilliant. My book probes the roots of those traits and led both of us into highly personal areas that reveal him as few have ever seen. We’re calling it A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON, AN EXPLORATION BY NAT SEGALOFF. Note that it doesn’t have the word biography in the title. I don’t know what kind of book it is. Yes I do. It’s Harlan.

A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON, AN EXPLORATION BY NAT SEGALOFF

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Morning in the Sunken Cathedral
  • Chapter 2: First Contact
  • Chapter 3: Harlan in Wonderland
  • Chapter 4: Marriage Ain’t Nothin’ But Love Misspelled
  • Chapter 5: Science Friction
  • Chapter 6: Teats for Two
  • Chapter 7: All the Lies That Are His Life
  • Chapter 8: The Cordwainer Chronicles
  • Chapter 9: Aye, Robot
  • Chapter 10: The Snit on the Edge of Forever
  • Chapter 11: The Voice in the Wilderness
  • Chapter 12: The Collector
  • Chapter 13: Repent, Harlan!
  • Chapter 14: The Rabbit Whole
  • Chapter 15: The Lost Dangerous Visions
  • Chapter 16: The Flight of the Deathbird
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword
  • Appendix A: Harlan Ellison on Writing: A Conversation
  • Appendix B: Unrealized Projects (Unproduced Teleplays, Screenplays, and Treatments)
  • Appendix C: Awards
  • Appendix C: Interiews
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index