Pixel Scroll 2/3/17 The Pixel That Rowed The Scroll Ashore

(1) ASIMOV ON THE AIR. BBC Radio 4, as part of their 15 Minute Drama series, will be adapting five of the stories from Asimov’s I, Robot. Original broadcasts will run from February 6-10. As usual, episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

A couple of clips promoting the series are already online –

Scriptwriter Richard Kurti tells us why Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories were so remarkable in their ability to predict the future.

Actor Nick Briggs introduces his characters and tells us what he finds appealing about Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories. He also explains why he doesn’t think we should fear a future dominated by robots.

Episode One will be ROBBIE.

The rise of robotics in the 21st century, told through the poignant and mysterious story of enigmatic lawyer, Stevie Byerley. Starring Hermione Norris.

Episode One : ROBBIE As a child, Stevie Byerley is raised by Robbie, a robotic childminder, because her parents are too busy working. The powerful bond she forms with the robot is unbreakable. Their relationship will change the course of Stevie’s life.

Originally written over 60 years ago, Isaac Asimov’s stories are becoming truer with every day that passes. The world that he imagined is now upon us.

(2) BURNT ENDS AND ZOMBIES. In Episode 28 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic he feasts on BBQ with Craig Engler, Co-Creator/Writer/Co-Executive Producer of the hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

Join us as we discuss what life’s like when you’re a professional game player for Nintendo, how running the Syfy Channel’s digital side led to him getting a shot at writing TV movies such as Zombie Apocalypse, why he wrote Weight Hacking, his geek guide to losing weight and getting fit, plus much more, including behind-the-scenes secrets on the past, present, and future of his hit zombie TV show Z Nation.

 

Craig Engler

(3) SHE STABS IT WITH HER STEELY KNIFE. Violette Malan ranks “My Top Five Sword-Fight Movies” at Black Gate.

You don’t have to read many of my posts to know that The Princess Bride is pretty well my favourite movie. And though I love the sword fighting scene between Wesley and Iñigo, and the later one between Iñigo and Count Rugen, they are not actually my favourite sword fighting scenes. In both cases, it’s really the dialogue that makes the scenes memorable. So what movies would I rank above The Princess Bride in sword fighting wonderfulness?

Here they are, in the order in which I thought of them.

The Three Musketeers (1973, directed by Richard Lester)

One of the great things about this movie, along with its sequels The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers, is that they all feature the same cast. There are good fight scenes in all the films (Oliver Reed is more impressive in the sequels), but it’s the first one I know the best. I particularly like the fantastic opening sequence, where D’Artagnan’s father teaches him the “secret thrust.” Anything between D’Artagnan (Michael York) and Rochefort (Christopher Lee) is well worth watching. There’s also some terrific ensemble fighting, notably the scene between the four leads and the Cardinals’ Guard in the convent courtyard. It should be noted that Christopher Lee was a fencer IRL as well…

(4) KA-CHING! Mary Rosenblum analyzes “What REALLY Sold in 2016?” at the SFWA Blog.

In 2016, 43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online.  Now, THAT is a reason to break out the champagne!  Why?  Because most readers pay little to no attention to the publisher.  As long as the small press or self published book looks professional and has a professional looking cover,  it’s competitive with books from the ‘bookstore’ publishers.  If your ebook or print book includes those 5 critical elements for success and looks like the other professionally published books out there, readers don’t care who published it.  They’ll look at price.

Aha!  That might just be the reason that self publishing authors sell almost as many ebooks as the traditional publishers. They can usually price their books lower.

But what about print books?

2016 Self Published Print Book Sales

In 2016, 21,800,000 self published print books were sold, mostly published through Create Space.  The average price was $10.34.  Amazon imprints sold another 959,000 copies.

That’s a lot of print book money!

(5) NEW EDITION FROM PENGUIN. Here’s the version of George Orwell’s book for the alternate timeline you’re living in.

(6) COMPLIMENTING SMUGGLERS. Nigel Quinlan writes, “I would like to selfishly draw your attention to the new issue of The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac. It contains a fun Mid-Grade fantasy short story by me, ‘The Gobbleens,’ which is featured on the utterly gorgeous cover.”

I’m happy to give it a mention, in part for the beautiful cover, and in part because I owe them thanks for sending a copy of the first one, which had a great story by Tansy Roberts.

Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC is essential for any SFF fan.

IN THIS VOLUME (JANUARY 2017): BECKY CHAMBERS, SHERRI L. SMITH, A.E. ASH, KATHERINE MACLEAN, NIGEL QUINLAN, ZETTA ELLIOTT, ALLIAH/VIC, KATE C. HALL, NICOLE BRINKLEY, ANA GRILO AND THEA JAMES

(7) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Maura McHugh reviews the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred on Irish national radio, now up as a podcast on this page — “Arena with Sean Rocks, Monday, January 30”

Maura McHugh reviews the sci-fi graphic novel “Kindred” by Octavia E Butler which has been adapted by writer Damien Duffy and artist John Jennings (published by Abrams ComicArts)

(8) BURNING MAN. I09 did a story on the edition of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that was bound is asbestos. John King Tarpinian adds this “Fun Fact” —

Ray had one of his copies with burn marks on it because he would hold a lighter to it to show people it would not burn.

(9) TO THE STARS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has released the fourth episode of is podcast Into the Impossible, about “How to Make a Spaceship”.

How do you jumpstart the private spaceflight industry? Passion, commitment, bold risk-taking, some inspiration from Charles Lindbergh, and a little luck. On today’s show, we hear from Peter Diamandis, whose XPRIZE Foundation launched the competition that gave us the first private manned spaceflight–and paved the way for Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and his own Planetary Resources, among others–along with the prize-winning pilot, Brian Binnie, and the writer Julian Guthrie, who chronicled their stories along with those of the other teams from around the world inspired by this unprecedented challenge. Also on this episode: convincing Arthur C. Clarke to buy your college friends dinner and a nearly disastrous incident with a mother-in-law and a cup of coffee.

Be sure to check out Julian Guthrie’s book, How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight, for the rest of the story!

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE

“The next time you’re abducted, just steal something off the ship.”  — Neil DeGrasse Tyson

(11) TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS YOU NEVER HEARD OF

  • February 3, 1993:  Dystopian satire Acción Mutante opens in its native Spain.

(12) BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born February 3, 1970  — Warwick Davis

(13) HAZARDOUS DUTY. No OSHA in the Empire? “Why ‘Star Wars’ Hates Handrails: Finally We Know Why People Keep Plummeting to Their Death”.

Ever noticed that most of the locations in the Star Wars universe wouldn’t pass a basic safety inspection? A number of characters plummet to their doom throughout the series, and the risk of accidentally falling on The Death Star or in Cloud City, or even tripping into that floor hatch on the Millennium Falcon, seems incredibly high. A new episode of the official web series The Star Wars Show explains that this was by design: George Lucas was against building guardrails on Star Wars sets.

 

(14) THE OUTFIELDER WHO WOULD BE KING. San Francisco Giants baseball player Hunter Pence posted a great photo of him wearing a Hakuna Matata t-shirt trying to free Excalibur from the Sword in the Stone at Disneyland. He couldn’t do it! The throne rests easy tonight.

(15) COMIC HISTORY LESSON. Atlas Obscura remembers “Marie Duval, the pioneering 19th-Century Cartoonist That History Forgot”.

In the late 1800s, London was swept up in the new craze of visual, satirical journalism. When Judy magazine, a twopenny serio-comic, debuted a red-nosed, lanky schemer named Ally Sloper who represented the poor working class of 19th-century England, it was one of the first recurring characters in comic history.

But credit for that character has long gone to the wrong person. Two people were responsible for Ally Sloper—and one of the creators has only recently been rediscovered by academics and comic fans.

Wearing a shabby stovepipe hat and carrying a rickety umbrella, the iconic and popular cartoon is often credited to Charles H. Ross, a playwright, cartoonist, and eventual editor of Judy. However, Ally Sloper was actually illustrated and developed by two artists: Ross and his wife, actress-turned-cartoonist Marie Duval—who was responsible for the bulk of the Ally Sloper comics.

(16) SPEAK UP. This LEGO Batman Movie promo clip introduces the voice actors behind the characters.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Nigel Quinlan, Bruce D. Arthurs, Cat Eldridge, and Martn Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/17 I Wanted To Know The Exact Pixels Of Scroll

(1) DESIRED FUTURE. While we were wondering if Whoopi Goldberg was getting enough love from Star Trek conventions, the truth came out – what she really wants is a role on Doctor Who. Den of Geek has the story —

“I like the idea of doing things the way y’all do them,” the Sister Act and Star Trek: The Next Generation star added. “You do some really fun stuff like Black Mirror or, you know, I’m still dying to do Doctor Who.”

She added: “I always hope when I come to England the BBC will say, ‘Hey we want you to do something [on Doctor Who]’. I would love that.”

(2) A SECOND HELPING. ScienceFiction.com says Arrival is being re-released immediately to capitalize on its Oscar nominations.

This Friday, January 27th, 2017, Paramount is re-releasing ‘Arrival‘ on the big screen with an added 8 minutes of bonus material! Now, this isn’t an extended cut of the film but could be thought of as more of a preview of the special features from the eventual Blu-Ray. Think commentary and behind-the-scenes material that includes the Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and even more of the cast and crew from the film.

(3) STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds tells more about the stage adaptation of Diamond Dogs in Chicago. He’ll be in the audience next month.

Directed by Nathan Allen, the play is an adaptation by Althos Low , a pen name for Shanghai Low Theatricals, a group dedicated to bring challenging works to the stage. Frankly you couldn’t get much more challenging than a piece of space-operatic dark SF, involving interstellar travel, cyborg prosthetics and a monstrous alien structure – but suitably undaunted, Shanghai Low (with chief adaptor Steve Pickering) have put together what is by all accounts a very striking and inventive production, involving hi-tech stage design, imaginative costume work, and the resourceful and skilled puppetry of Mary Robinette Kowal, already greatly respected within SF circles as a fine writer. The script, which I read some months ago, is clever and involving, and very true to the beats of the original story. This is the first adaptation of any of the Revelation Space stories into another medium, and I can’t wait to see it.

(4) BLAST FROM THE PAST. The Traveler from Galactic Journey has a request — “[January 25, 1962] Shameless Self-Promotion (Nominate Galactic Journey For The Hugo!)”.

Galactic Journey has brought you the latest in science fact and fiction for over three years, since October 1958.  It’s been a tremendous pleasure and privilege to review the monthly sff digests, the new books, the best (and worst!) scientifiction TV shows and movies, enormously rewarding to report on the myriad space shots as they happen.  Coverage of 1960’s pitched election season was eye-opening and exciting.

Though it was not originally our mission, the Journey has become a progressive entity, focusing on the women and minority contributors that add to the diversity and value of our fandom, yet who are overlooked and underrepresented.

Oh, how we’ve grown in three years!  Since this column’s humble beginnings, our staff of two has grown to ten, including an overseas correspondent.  Last June, we began providing the latest news on the right-hand side of our pages.  In August, no less a personage than Rod Serling honored us for our coverage of The Twilight Zone….

It’s the 2017 Hugo he’d like to be nominated for – he’s leaving the 1962 field to front-runners Warhoon and Cry of the Nameless.

(5) PLEASE EXCUSE ME. Charles Stross, on the other hand, asks that fans not nominate his work in this year’s trial Hugo category.

(6) YOG’S LAW ENFORCEMENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in “SFWA Statement on Magazines and the Monetization of Writers”, frowns on magazines cashing in on the slush reading.

In the past year SFWA has seen several examples of magazines contemplating monetizing the writers submitting work to them for publication. Strategies for doing so have ranged from the subtle to the overt, including submission fees, fees for personalized feedback, statements that contributors who are subscribers will get preferential treatment, and other charges.

One tenet that SFWA holds to strongly is Yog’s Law, the idea that money should always flow towards the writer. The organization strongly condemns any practice where a magazine take money from a writer and allows it to or implies it will affect the reception of the writer’s submission(s) in any way.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

January 25, 1999 The Blair Witch Project is seen for the first time.

(7a) TODAY’S BELATED BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold

(8) ASK ME ANYTHING. Authors of The Expanse James S. A. Corey are doing an AMA on Reddit on January 26 at Noon EST (9 a.m. PST) — https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/. Got a question about the series? Go on!

(9) BRING ‘EM BACK ALIVE. The topic for the 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate is “De-Extinction.” At New York City’s Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday, March 29 moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson and a panel of experts will take on this topic —

Biologists today have the knowledge, the tools, and the ability to influence the evolution of life on Earth. Do we have an obligation to bring back species that human activities may have rendered extinct? Does the technology exist to do so?

2017 Asimov Debate panelists are:

  • George Church – Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University and MIT
  • Hank Greely – Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University
  • Gregory Kaebnick – Scholar, The Hastings Center; Editor, Hastings Center Report
  • Ross MacPhee – Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology; Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Beth Shapiro – Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

(10) PROP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar:  “San Jose Councilman Takes Oath of Office With Captain America Shield: ‘I Want to Shine a Ray of Optimism’”.

A new San Jose city councilman held a Captain America shield as he was sworn in on Tuesday night, telling NBC Bay Area that the Marvel Comics character “embodies the ideas of America.”

Lan Diep, a Republican legal aid attorney, received cheers after he said “I do solemnly swear” when the clerk asked if he would defend his oath of office. His final vote of his first meeting? Joining the council in unanimously banning the communist Vietnamese flag from flying in San Jose.

In an interview after the meeting, the proud comic book geek and Houston-born son of Vietnamese refugees said that Captain America stands for the “kinds of things I strive for: equal justice, fair play and democracy.” …

(11) WHO KNEW? Cnet blew my trivia-loving mind by proving “The Star Wars Death Star trench isn’t where you think it is”.

Vaziri has some theories about why the mistaken impression is so widespread, even among hard-core fans.

He points out that the Death Star’s two biggest features are the dish and the equatorial trench. “Our brains want to connect this new trench with something we’ve seen before, and because of their similarities, and the simplicity of that connection, it’s not a big leap for us to (incorrectly) deduce the two trenches are one and the same,” he writes.

(12) SPACEWAY ROBBERY. Remember – being ripped off is the sincerest form of flattery. ScreenCrush lists “The Top Five Most Shameless ‘Star Wars’ Rip-Offs”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Porter, and Doctor Science for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m. c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/17 Scroll ‘Em Danno

(1) SOMETHING IN THE AIR. Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer interviews Lois McMaster Bujold at Tor.com: “Fanzines, Cover Art, and the Best Vorkosigan Planet: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold”. Everyone will have a favorite section – here’s mine.

ECM: You published a Star Trek fanzine in the 1960s, while the series was still on the air. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, so I can’t resist asking you about it. What was it like to be a fan writer in the 1960s?

LMB: It was a lonelier enterprise back then than it is now. I go into it a little in this recent interview.

Other than that, I expect it was like being a newbie writer at any time, all those pictures and feelings churning around in one’s head and latching on to whatever models one could find to try to figure out how to get them down on a page. Besides the professional fiction I was reading, my models included Devra Langsam’s very early ST fanzine Spockanalia, and Columbus, Ohio fan John Ayotte’s general zine Kallikanzaros. It was John who guided Lillian and me through the mechanics of producing a zine, everything from how to type stencils (ah, the smell of Corflu in the morning! and afternoon, and late into the night), where to go to get electrostencils produced, how to run off and collate the pages—John lent us the use of his mimeograph machine in his parents’ basement. (And I just now had to look up the name of that technology on the internet—I had forgotten and all I could think of was “ditto”, a predecessor which had a different smell entirely.)

Fan writing, at the time, was assumed to be writing more about SF and fandom, what people would use blogs to do today, than writing fanfiction. So an all-fiction zine seemed a novelty to some of our fellow fans in Columbus.

John Ayotte! There’s someone I haven’t heard of since I was a young fan.

(2) A GR8 NAME. It’s only fitting that the official Star Wars site be the ones who tell us: “The Official Title for Star Wars: Episode VIII Revealed”.

THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

Last Jedi poster

(3) BUMPER CROP. The Razzie czars, explaining the extra nominees this year, said, “The crop of cinematic crap in 2016 was so extensive that this year’s 37th Annual Razzie Awards is expanding from 5 nominees to an unprecedented 6 contenders in each of its 9 Worst Achievement in Film categories.” Genre films stank up the shortlist, for example —

WORST PICTURE

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Gods of Egypt
  • Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTOR

  • Ben Affleck / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Gerard Butler / Gods of Egypt & London Has Fallen
  • Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Robert  de Niro / Dirty Grandpa
  • Dinesh D’Souza [as Himself] Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Ben Stiller / Zoolander No. 2

WORST ACTRESS

  • Megan Fox / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Tyler Perry / BOO! A Medea Halloween
  • Julia Roberts / Mother’s Day
  • Becky Turner [as Hillary Clinton]  Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
  • Naomi Watts / Divergent Series: Allegiant & Shut-In
  • Shailene Woodley / Divergent Series: Allegiant

The “winners” will be announced February 25, the day before the Academy Awards.

(4) CLARKE ESTATE SUES. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the works recast as a “study guide” for elementary school readers. Publishers Weekly has the story: “PRH, S&S Sue Moppet Books’ KinderGuides for Infringement”.

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster have joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and Arthur C. Clarke to file a lawsuit against Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement.

Filed January 19 in the Southern District of New York, the suit alleges that Moppet Books’ KinderGuides, a line of illustrated children’s adaptations that feature versions of The Old Man and the Sea, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Road, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, with “willful copyright infringement of four acclaimed copyrighted classic novels.” The suit notes that PW wrote about the launch of the KinderGuides in August 2016.

The suit charges that the KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

(5) ’69 IS DEVINE. Martin Morse Wooster uncovered a hidden gem. “That Nature profile of Sir Arthur C. Clarke linked to a 1969 New Yorker profile of Clarke by Jeremy Bernstein that  I haven’t seen before. (The New Yorker has been putting some of its older pieces online.) It’s called ‘Out of the Ego Chamber’ and is well worth breaking the paywall for. You learn how Clarke’s experiences in fandom in the 1930s and 1940s informed his fiction, how he wrote many books about the sea even though he never really learned to swim, and how a 16-year old doofus asked Clarke in 1968 to write a scenario for a short film for free in the hopes he would be paid back when the doofus ‘became famous.’”

However, it is only in the last few years—especially since he and Stanley Kubrick wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”—that he has become widely known to the general public. He became even more widely known, of course, during the recent flight to the moon, when he served as one of the commentators assisting Walter Cronkite in his coverage of the event for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Cronkite has been a Clarke fan for many years, and Clarke has done a number of television broadcasts with him, beginning as far back as 1953. In following the Apollo 11 flight, Clarke made some dozen appearances. During an early one, Cronkite asked him if he would mind explaining the ending of “2001,” and Clarke answered that he didn’t think there was enough time—then or later. He went to Cape Kennedy with the C.B.S. team, and at the moment of the launch, as he told a friend on his return, he, like everyone around him, burst into tears. “I hadn’t cried for twenty years,” he said. “Right afterward, I happened to run into Eric Sevareid, and he was crying, too.” After the launch, Clarke returned with the rest of the C.B.S. crew to New York and spent most of the next several days in and out of the C.B.S. studios, watching the flight and, from time to time, going on camera. The actual landing on the moon was, in many ways, the fulfillment of a life’s dreaming and prophesying. “For me, it was as if time had stopped,” he said later.

(6) 2001 ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Sci-Fi writer-director-producer Marc Zicree went to Stan Lee’s Comikaze Convention for his Space Command panel and ran into 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea, who shared a scene cut from the film — and re-enacted it!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 23, 1957 — Machines at the Wham-O toy company roll out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 23, 1923 – Walter Miller, Jr., author of A Canticle for Leibowitz.
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, animation writer, and early leader of the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

(9) BELATED BARBARIAN BIRTHDAY

  • Born January 22, 1906 – Robert E. Howard

(10) THEATER OF THE IMAGINATION. Turner Classic Radio hosts vast quantities of Golden Age shows, which evidently are free to listen to. Includes lots of superheroes (Superman, The Green Hornet) and suspense (Suspense, what else?).

(11) SEVENEVES? Mental Floss compiled a list of “86 Books Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency”, including the Harry Potter series, Seveneves, and The Three-Body Problem.

(12) SIGNERS OF THE TIMES. The Change.org petition to “Repeal California Assembly Bill 1570” (the new law about sale of autographed items) now has 1,612 signatures.

Nearly everyone in California is impacted by AB 1570, California’s new autograph bill, because it affects everyone with a signed item in their possession, whether it’s a painting passed down through generations, an autographed baseball, or a treasured book obtained at an author’s book signing. Under the new law, when a California consumer sells an autographed item worth $5 or more, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity. This requirement applies to anyone reselling the item as authentic, be it a bookseller, auction house, comic book dealer, antiques dealer, autograph dealer, art dealer, an estate sales company, or even a charity.

AB 1570 is fatally flawed and must be repealed with immediate effect. It is rife with unintended consequences that harm both consumers and small businesses. It has been condemned by newspaper editorial boards and the American Civil Liberties Union.

(13) EXPLORE SPACE IN THE DISCOMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME. A BBC reporter speaks of the “lucky” people who have been to ISS, but discovers in just 48 hours that it’s not the least like fun and games: “My unhappy 48 hours as an astronaut”.

Yet, it is not always necessary to travel into space to experience what it is like living as astronauts do. It may come as a surprise to discover on Earth, dozens of people all over the world have spent months, and even over a year, living in specially built confined spaces that mimic life in space. These simulation pods are found in places like China, Hawaii and Russia,  giving researchers the ability to study the effects of long-term isolation and confinement on people in preparation for long-haul space travel.

While we can glean plenty of information from astronauts’ experiences in the ISS and its predecessors, the challenges faced by astronauts will change as space agencies set their sights on the Red Planet. A mission to Mars will mean spending approximately three years in space – six-to-eight months to travel there, several months on the surface, and six-to-eight months to return. The long-term nature of the trip is expected to pose several psychological challenges for those picked to make it

To find out what it might be like, for 48 hours, I tried to live just as astronauts do  – attempting to keep up with the schedule of crewmembers on the ISS. As it turns out, they have a very tightly packed workday. I woke up, drank coffee, ate not-so-great food directly from the bag, worked out, worked and repeated the pattern until the day was done. Oh, and I had to spit into a towel twice a day after brushing my teeth.

(14) NO. 1 SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. Blastr lists “The top 11 composers who have created musical masterpieces for geeky properties”.

  1. Murray Gold

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know the music of Murray Gold. Gold has been the composer for the popular series ever since it returned to television in 2005. Composing for such distinguished Doctors as Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, he’s created some of the best themes and music in the series’ more than 50-year history. His unforgettable work includes “The Doctor’s Theme,” “Doomsday,” “This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home,” and “I Am the Doctor.” His music has made us feel like we’re on other planets, in a different time period, and traveling through time and space in the TARDIS. Gold also created the themes for the spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Notable piece: “A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme)” from Doctor Who

Out of all of Gold’s work, his theme for the current Doctor stands out from the rest. It’s like nothing we’ve heard before in the series and captures Capaldi’s Doctor perfectly, more so I think than a theme has fit any of the previous Doctors. Listening to it, you get a sense of mystery, danger, wonder, adventure and determination. There’s gravity to it as well as playfulness. Gold laces it all together into a complex, catchy piece that makes it hard not to picture everything the Doctor has been through, all he has done and all he will continue to do.

(15) FICKLE FINGERS. Atlas Obscura claims: “One Danger of Flashing the Peace Sign Could Be Stolen Fingerprints”. Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Brunner was right: the future indeed does arrive too soon and in the wrong order.”

Have you ever posed for a photo with your index and middle fingers raised, indicating your desire for world peace? Probably, since the sign has become shorthand for the sentiment after Vietnam War activists popularized it in the 1960s.

But researchers in Japan warned this week that those flashing their exposed fingertips were at risk of fingerprint theft, which in turn could be used for any number of things, like unlocking your iPhone.

Isao Echizen, a researcher at the National Institute of Informatics, said that he and his team were able to lift the fingerprints from someone’s fingers from a photo taken about nine feet away, according to Phys.org.

(16) MAKE AMERICA SMART AGAIN. Owning this shirt will give you an IQ bonus.

Tyson-Nye-Let-Us-Together-Make-America-Smart-Again-600x600

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Steven H Silver, Arnie Fenner, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/16 The Wee Pawn Shops Of Ishtar

(1) ATTENTION ON DECK. Star Trek: Discovery has cast its lead reports Entertainment Weekly.

Sonequa Martin-Green, well known to genre fans for her role on AMC’s mega-hit The Walking Dead, has been cast as the lead of Star Trek: Discovery, sources tell EW.

The casting ends meticulous search to find the ideal actress to anchor the eagerly anticipated new CBS All Access drama. Martin-Green will play a lieutenant commander on the Discovery. (CBS Television Studios had no comment.)

Martin-Green is will continue to serve as a series regular on AMC’s zombie drama, where she has played the tough pragmatic survivor Sasha Williams since season 3

(2) CREATOR OF KRAZY KAT. The Washington Post has a review by Glen David Gold of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand, a 600-page biography of the creator of “Krazy Kat.” Tisserand explains why Herriman was so subversive, literary, and weird that his fans included T.S. Eliot and Umberto Eco.

Genius is simplicity. A dog, who is a policeman, loves a cat who loves a mouse. The mouse throws bricks at the cat, and the policeman jails him. Some aspect of this, more or less every day, for more or less 30 years, was the comic strip “Krazy Kat.” In isolation it seems as though it dropped out of the sky, and when its creator died in 1944, to the sky it returned. It has since been recognized as one of the greatest American comic strips, a mix of surrealism, Socratic dialogue, low-rent vaudeville, jazz improvisation, Native American motifs and, as it turns out, a subtle — so subtle no one seems to have noticed at the time — commentary on the peculiar notion of race.

(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. A Reuters infographic charts the cumulative weekly box office take of all previous Star Wars movies, for those who want to see if the new release is as successful.

With the release of Rogue One, the first Star Wars anthology film, Disney is hoping to expand the Star Wars universe with stories that run outside of and in tandem with the main saga

(4) NEED FOR SPEED. Jay Leno’s Garage had Neil DeGrasse Tyson go to JPL to drive the Mars Rover, reports John King Tarpinian. There’s also a YouTube clip of Tyson along for a different ride “Jay Leno Blows Out The Window In His Jet Car.”

Blast off! Jay Leno takes Neil DeGrasse Tyson for a ride in his jet car. Built in Jay’s garage, the EcoJet has 650 hp and a Honeywell LTS-101 turbine engine. Watch the season finale of Jay Leno’s Garage Wednesday, December 14 at 10p ET/PT on CNBC!

 

(5) NAUGHTY OR NICE. The BBC tells how a gaming company dealt with a “troll”: “Fable video game team hunted down troll”.

The images had been posted to Lionhead’s own forums, which gave the staff access to the internet protocol (IP) address of the person who had uploaded them.

IP addresses can easily be traced back to a physical location through a variety of online tools, assuming the user has not taken steps to conceal the details.

In this case, the 16-year-old culprit had not taken the precautionary measure.

“We knew where the guy was living and managed to get a hold of the guy’s high school record through a mate, including the poem that he had recited at his end of year [class],” Mr Van Tilburgh said.

“We wrote a public message as Lionhead Studios to the group Kibitz and we started the message with the opening lines of the poem he had recited in high school, and we included the landmark he could see from his house where he lived.

“And I said, ‘You have got to stop this now otherwise I pass all this information on to your mum.’

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I’d have called this induhvidual a hacker or thief, but the interesting feature to me is the civil-liberties issue the article completely ignores. I wonder whether the gaming co. tried talking to the police or just assumed that would be useless (or at least not as effective as vigilantism).”

(6) FOX OBIT. Bernard Fox, who specialized in playing eccentric Englishmen on American television, has died at the age of 89 says The Hollywood Reporter. A popular actor who got a lot of work, he found some of his bit parts resulted in repeated callbacks.

Fox appeared as Dr. Bombay on 19 episodes of Bewitched, which ran from 1966-72, and then reprised the role on the 1977 sequel Tabitha, in 1999 on the soap opera Passions and on a 1989 episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

In a 1998 interview, Fox said he drew inspiration for Dr. Bombay from a man he served with in the Royal Navy during World War II.

“He was the officer in charge of the camp that we were in, and it was an all-male camp, and one evening, I was on duty and we got six Women’s Royal Naval Service arrived to be put up,” he recalled.

“So I went to this officer and said, ‘What shall I do?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, give ’em a hot bran mash, some clean straw and bed ’em down for the night.’ And I thought, ‘What a great way to play [Dr. Bombay.]’ And that’s the way I played him, and [the Bewitched writers] just kept writing him back in.

“If I’d just gone for an ordinary doctor, you wouldn’t have heard any more about it. But because I made him such a colorful character, that’s why they wanted him back; he was easy to write for. They came up with the idea of him coming from different parts of the world all the time and in different costumes; that was their idea. The puns, I came up with, and in those days, they let you do that.”

Fox’s genre credits include the movies Munster, Go Home!, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Yellowbeard, and The Mummy, and appearances in episodes of TV series The Flintstones (voice), I Dream of Jeannie, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild, Wild West, Night Gallery, Fantasy Island, and Knight Rider.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1972  — The end of an era: Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan re-entered the lunar lander — the last man to walk on the moon.
  • December 14, 2005King Kong remake debuts.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 14, 1916 — Horror novelist Shirley Jackson.
  • Born December 14, 1946 – Actress Dee Wallace

(9) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? This gallery of 10 actors who have played Darth Vader wouldn’t make a good clickbait quiz because you wouldn’t remember half of them.

(10) POP-UP MUSIC. James Davis Nicoll asked his Facebook friends, “Has anyone done an angry song from Hermione’s point of view? Perhaps called ‘No, I won’t do your god-damned homework.’” His question inspired JTigwell to instantly create one. Tune in at Soundcloud – “(Hermione) I won’t do your fucking homework”

Nicoll has the complete lyrics at More Words, Deeper Hole. Here’s the last verse —

I know you’re always saying,
I’m the girl who has no fun,
But listen up here boy who lived,
I’m the girl who gets shit done

(11) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #16. The sixteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of a Blaze Ward novel AND a Tuckerization.

Today’s auction comes from author Blaze Ward, for an autographed trade paperback copy of AUBERON and a Tuckerization (meaning you’ll show up as a minor character) in one of Ward’s forthcoming books. You can be either a hero or a villain — your choice!

About the Book:

Jessica Keller faces court martial for disobeying a direct order. Her actions also prevented a massacre during the latest starship battle between the Republic of Aquitaine Navy (RAN) and the Freiburg Empire.

What does this maverick commander have to do to impress the RAN high command? To get the Freiburg Empire to declare her a threat? And at what cost to herself?

Auberon–the first novel in The Chronicles of Jessica Keller–combines adventuring to distant stars with seat-of-the-pants excitement. A fascinating expansion to the Alexandria Station universe.

(13) NEW YORK SF FILM FESTIVAL. The first New York Science Fiction Film Festival takes place January 20-22. It’s only a conflict for those of you with Inauguration Ball tickets – which is to say, none of you at all.

The festival will serve as a meeting place where creativity and expression takes center stage with a highly acclaimed lineup of science fiction, horror, supernatural and fantasy films and virtual reality entertainment. Valuing the importance of filmmakers from all walks of life, the festival presents to audiences modern masterpieces where storytelling transcends expectations and possibilities are endless.

Highlights include the USA premiere of Marcos Machado’s UFO’s in Zacapa (Ovnis en Zacapa) (2016), the NYC premiere of Marco Checa Garcia’s 2BR02B: To Be or Naught to Be (2016) and the East Coast premiere of Ian Truitner’s Teleios (2016). Among its many gems, the festival is also proud to screen Hiroshi Katagiri’s Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016) starring Doug Jones (Hellboy) and Lance Henriksen (Alien), Lukas Hassel’s Into the Dark (2014) starring Lee Tergesen (The Strain) and a prominent virtual reality block featuring Ben Leonberg’s Dead Head (2016) and Ryan Hartsell’s I’ll Make You Bleed (2016) set to the music of the band These Machines are Winning.

The festival will run on January 20, 2017 at Instituto Cervantes (211 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017), January 21, 2017 at Producers Club (358 W 44th Street, New York, NY 10036) and The Roxy Hotel Cinema (2 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013) and January 22, 2017 at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue [at 2nd Street], New York, NY 10003).

(14) BUT THERE ARE NO OLD BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Paul Weimer has worked up a great Twitter thread based on the discussion of “The Cold Equations” here at File 770.

(15) POPULARIZING SF IN CHINA. The Hugo-winning author is the genre’s spearhead in China – “’People hope my book will be China’s Star Wars’: Liu Cixin on China’s exploding sci-fi scene” in The Guardian.

When he was a schoolboy, Liu Cixin’s favourite book was Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. This might seem like a fairly standard introduction to science fiction, but Liu read it under exceptional circumstances; this was at the height of the Cultural Revolution, in his native China, and all western literature was strictly forbidden….

But more than 40 years ago, growing up in a coal-mining city in the Shanxi province, a young Liu found the book that would alter the course of his life, hidden in an old box that once belonged to his father.

“No science-fiction novels were published, and people did not have any notion of scientific imagery,” Liu recalls. “At the time, almost all the translated novels from the west were strictly banned, so I had to read it in secret. This very book turned me into a sci-fi fan.”

It wasn’t until the late 1970s, when China experienced economic reform and the strictures on western literature were relaxed, that science fiction was translated widely into Chinese. With this came a sudden surge of Chinese authors writing in the genre – and Liu wanted to be one of them. But instead of studying literature, he got a job as a power-plant engineer in Yangquan. But what looks like a career diversion was entirely strategic: the stability of his career meant he could write, he says.

“For about 30 years, I stayed in the same department and worked the same job, which was rare among people of my age. I chose this path because it allowed me to work on my fiction,” he says. “In my youth, when I tried to plan for the future, I had wished to be an engineer so I could get work with technology while writing sci-fi after hours. I figured that if I got lucky, I could then turn into a full-time writer. Now looking back, my life path has matched my design almost precisely. I believe not a lot of people have this kind of privilege.”

(16) NASA VISUALS. NASA now is sharing its best images on Pinterest and GIPHY.

On Pinterest, NASA is posting new and historic images and videos, known as pins, to collections called pinboards. This social media platform allows users to browse and discover images from across NASA’s many missions in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more, and pin them to their own pinboards. Pinboards are often used for creative ideas for home decor and theme-party planning, inspiration for artwork and other far-out endeavors. To follow NASA on Pinterest, visit:

https://www.pinterest.com/nasa

NASA also is now on GIPHY, a database and search engine of animated images in GIF format. Users can download and share the agency’s creations on their own social media accounts, and can be used to create or share animated GIFs to communicate a reaction, offer a visual explanation, or even create digital works of art. These GIFs are accessible directly from the Twitter app. Just tap or click the GIF button in the Twitter tool bar, search for NASAGIF, and all NASA GIFs will appear for sharing and tweeting.

To see NASA’s animated GIFs on GIPHY, visit:

http://giphy.com/nasa

iss-wave

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/16 “Scrollitively, Mr. Pixel?” “Pixelutely, Mr. Scroll!”

(1) NOT TODAY’S TITLE. “ONCE UPON a time there was a Martian with a wooden leg named Valentine Michael Smith. What its other two legs were named, nobody knows.”

(2) EXFOLIATE! The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has seasonally decorated the club’s Dalek. Michael J. Walsh snapped a photo —

bsfs-dalek-foto_no_exif

(3) ICON RECOGNITION. The Guardian’s “Picture quiz: how well do you know your sci-fi and fantasy?” is really an elaborate ad for The Folio Society.

Calling all Tolkien heads and sci-fi savants: can you match the illustration to the book? Each one has a clue to help you out.

In theory you should be able to guess from the artwork. Although I scored 7/8, without the clues I don’t know if I’d gotten any of them right.

(4) THE ROOTS OF BABY GROOT. Skeptics have been put on notice that this was something done only for wholesome artistic reasons – I’m sorry, did my nose just grow? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 director says Baby Groot was a ‘creative change,’ not a marketing ploy”.

Despite what some may believe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn insists Baby Groot is not a ploy to sell more Marvel merchandise.

Responding to a fan inquiry on Twitter, Gunn wrote, “I’m sure some people think that but for me keeping him Baby Groot throughout the film was the creative change that opened the film up for me. I was less confident the studio was going to buy in on Baby Groot than I was they were going to buy in on Ego the Living Planet” — the latter being Kurt Russell’s character and Star-Lord’s father.

(5) DYLAN’S NOBEL. The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich covered the ceremony — “A Transcendant Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize”.

That Dylan ultimately accepted the Nobel with a folk song (and this specific folk song, performed by a surrogate, a peer) seemed to communicate something significant about how and what he considers his own work (musical, chiefly), and the fluid, unsteady nature of balladry itself—both the ways in which old songs are fairly reclaimed by new performers, and how their meanings change with time. Before Smith took the stage, Horace Engdahl, a literary historian and critic, dismissed any controversy over Dylan’s win, saying the decision “seemed daring only beforehand, and already seems obvious.” He spoke of Dylan’s “sweet nothings and cruel jokes,” and his capacity for fusing “the languages of the streets and the Bible.” In the past, he reminded us, all poetry was song.

 

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 11, 1972 — Apollo 17 landed on the moon. It was the final Apollo lunar landing. Ron Evans was the command module pilot and Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walked on the surface during the mission. Cernan was the last to re-enter their lunar module — the last man on the moon.
  • December 11, 1991 — Amblin’s Hook opens in wide release after its LA premiere days earlier.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 11, 1922  — Vampira, (aka Maila Nurmi).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 11, 1781 — Scottish physicist and kaleidoscope inventor David Brewster

(9) WHAT’S A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO SF? Jason Sanford returns to controversy he wrote about last year in “Let Us Now Praise ‘Famous’ Authors”.

A few years ago I was on a SF/F convention panel about bringing new readers into our genre. I mentioned that science fiction needed more gateway novels, which are novels new genre readers find both approachable and understandable (a type of novel the fantasy genre is filled with but which are more rare in the science fiction genre).

As I stated this another author on the panel snorted and said we don’t need new gateway SF novels because the juvenile novels written by Heinlein in the 1950s are still perfect. This author believed the first exposure kids have to science fiction should be novels from the 1950s. And that this should never change.

That is the attitude people should fear because, in the long run, it will kill our genre.

This brings me back to my earlier point about the “famous” people our world holds up to acclaim. Yes, many famous authors helped build our genre, but so did the work and love of countless forgotten people.

(10) ROGUE SCIENCE. Neil deGrasse Tyson only needs a minute to explain why he is a Death Star skeptic in a video on Business Insider.

Owning a Death Star comes with some serious risk, especially when it was constructed with a serious design flaw. But astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a more practical reason why the ‘Star Wars’ Death Star didn’t quite make sense.

(11) DIGITAL COMICS POLL. You have until December 23 to vote for Digital Comic of The Year 2016 at Pipedream Comics.

It’s been another bumper year for exciting and innovative digital comics in 2016. From boundary pushing webcomics to crowd-funded sensations to cutting edge apps, we have picked out 10 of the best for you to vote on and declare the best Digital Comic Of The Year 2016. So get involved and make sure your favourite joins the likes of Madefire’s Captain Stone and Mono:Pacific, David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly and last year’s champion Adventures in Pulp, as winner of our prestigious prize. Below is our rundown of the contenders for this year’s prize, and you can cast your vote here. (Polls close at midnight on December 23rd!)

Here are links to some of the contenders, where you can see full comics or samples:

(12) DOG SHOW. When Doris V. Sutherland dared to question the quality of Brian Niemeier’s Dragon Award-winning book, the author and another puppy blogger insisted the emperor was so wearing clothes — “Horror Puppies Redux: Is Souldancer Really Horror Fandom’s New Favourite Novel?”.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at the two books that I personally found to be the strongest contenders in the Dragons’ horror category. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay is at #156,590 in ebooks, and at #561,851 (paperback) and #60,849 (hardback) in books; Alice by Christina Henry is at #156,678 in ebooks and #27,655 in books. I stand by my statement at WWAC: if the Dragon Awards truly honoured the works most popular amongst fans, then the award for Best Horror Novel would not have gone to Souldancer.

Niemeier concluded his post by asking his readers to prove me wrong by posting reviews of Souldancer; he confidently predicted that the book will soon have more than fifty ratings on Amazon. This call to action resulted in Souldancer‘s review count going from eight to twelve, prompting Niemeier’s glass-half-full statement that “Souldancer reviews are up 50%”. A few more reviews have been posted since then – although the more recent ones have been somewhat mixed, as is to be expected from the novel reaching a broader audience following its Dragon Award victory.

(13) LIGHTS, CAMERA, NO MONEY! If Sad Puppies made a sci-fi movie, I  bet their promo would sound a lot like the ads for This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy, a New Zealand comedy film.

What happened to the good old days of sci-fi, when spaceships were real models, monsters made of latex and laser guns a curling iron painted silver? Now imagine a universe where everything was just like this for real.

For three ordinary guys Tom, Jeffrey and Gavin, this just became a reality. One minute they were watching an old b-grade movie, the next they’ve been thrust inside the movie itself and at the helm of a rickety old spaceship. Panic ridden they stumble into a space battle. and make a mortal enemy of the evil Lord Froth while unwittingly saving the space princess Lady Emmanor. Then suddenly Jeffrey starts to change into a sci-fi character called Kasimir. They must adapt quickly if they are to survive long enough to find a way home. For all they know they could be next. If that happens they will be lost in this world forever. They embark on a quest to find a cure for Jeffrey and a way back home. This is an action-packed comedy adventure of giant lizards, space battles, robots, aliens, warlords and amazons that has to be seen to be believed.

 

(14) MR. SCI-FI. Marc Scott Zicree shares his afterword for the new Magic Time audio play he and Elaine directed and wrote that will be released by Skyboat Media. It’s based on his bestselling series of novels from HarperCollins, and stars Armin Shimerman of Deep Space Nine and Buffy and Christina Moses of The Originals and Containment.

(15) EXTRATERRESTRIAL SEASON’S GREETINGS. Another sampling from the sci-fi Christmas catalog.

Barry Gordon – Zoomah the Santa Claus From Mars

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. “Not Today’s Title” credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/16 Scrolls From Topographic Pixels

(1) TAKE NO PRISONERS OF ZENDA. Ian Sales’ title “When I read a story I skip the explanations” introduces an extremely skillful dissection of a certain approach to science fictional worldbuilding that Sales compares to Ruritanian romance.

That’s the essence of Ruritanian science fiction. It is genre fiction which builds an invented setting out of elements which might as well not be invented. The labels are different but the objects are the same, or fulfil the same function. It’s not a failure of imagination, because imagination doesn’t feature in the process. And it’s only a failure of craft if the author is attempting something more than Ruritanian sf. If all they want is a science-fictional setting the reader can parse, one that’s uncoupled from the real world but close enough to it that few explanations are required, then if they’ve produced Ruritanian sf they’ve succeeded. Info-dumps are a given, but they’re usually “historical”, inasmuch as they attempt to give the invented world solidity and depth through exposition – but shifting the burden of exposition onto the setting’s own narrative only demonstrates how little exposition the tropes in the story actually need.

Needless to say, I think such forms of science fiction are low on invention and make poor use of the tools at the genre’s disposal. They can be entertaining, there’s no doubt about that; but their uncritical use of tropes, and their failure to interrogate the form, means they have little or nothing to add to the genre conversation.

(2) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPOONS. Andrea seeks the reasons she’s not writing more reviews in “Anger, Anxiety, and Art” at the Little Red Reviewer.

I know what I write on this blog doesn’t matter. I know none of this counts as “writing” or as anything, really.  But in my mind, I put a lot of energy into this.  I like pretty metaphors, ornamented sentences. I like to write book reviews and other articles that I am proud of.  It’s not art, by a long shot, but I am creating something out of nothing. for the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s call what I do here art.  And art requires mental energy. or at least it does for me.

So, where were all my spoons going?  And was there any way to get them back? And thus, we get to the why.

(3) ONE MORE THAN FIVE. Nerds of a Feather has the perfect pairing of feature concept with an interesting author: “6 Books with Julie Czerneda”.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about? The next one Ben Aaronovitch writes in his Rivers of London series. Our travelling offspring lent me the existing books and I gobbled them up, despite trying to ration myself. They are fun, original, and yes, feel a bit Pratchett (wistful sigh) in the best way. Can’t wait to dive back in!

(4) VANISHING POINT. Camestros Felapton is keeping an eye on the internet’s newest knowledge source: “Voxopedia: where information about women goes to be erased”.

The erasure of women’s achievements in science is a known phenomenon, but it is rare that you get to see it happen in such a simple and direct way. Over at our new favourite train-wreck, Vox Day had been busy quite literally erasing women’s contribution to science….

(5)  A MONTH WITH NO FIVES. Rocket Stack Rank’s ”October 2016 Ratings” covers 51 stories, but none of them warranted the highest score of 5, which means ‘Hugo worthy.”

(6) BINARY CHOICE. Matthew B.J. Delaney says characters count in “Characters or Plot, Which Is More Important?” at Fantasy Book Critic.

The 5 highest grossing films of all time are heavy plot, light character:
Avatar 
– Titanic 
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
– Jurassic World 
– The Avengers.

These are all entertaining movies dominated by things happening. The characters are interchangeable pieces to throw explosions or dinosaurs, or sinking ships at. They don’t really matter. People don’t walk around reciting quotes from any of these films, because characters are made memorable by the things they say. And there are no truly memorable characters in any of these movies.

Memorable scenes, yes, memorable quotes, no.

On the other hand, character movies are filled with amazing lines.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Here’s looking at you kid.

These are the kind of things that characters who really blow your hair back say. The cool comebacks and one liners you wish you could have used on anyone who pushed you around or made you fall in love. These are character driven quotes, and the top IMDB highest rated films of all time are filled with them…

(7) NO FEAR. I would need to excerpt about eight paragraphs of Ann Leckie’s “On Blacklisting” to convey how many aspects of this topic she deals with. That’s why you should just click through and read it, eh?

I’ll be honest, I am not down for calls to close anyone out of the field for bad behavior. I mean, for myself, bad enough, or bad in specific ways, and yeah, I don’t want to work with you. Maybe quite a few people don’t. But it’s not my call to make for anyone but me, nor should it be. No one should have that power, to shut anyone out of SFF. Behave badly enough and quite a few editors will prefer not to work with you–but that’s not the same as a field-wide blacklist, and I don’t think there should be one. Ever. Each editor gets to make the call for their venue, end of story. And yes, there will be editors who are all about the purity of art apart from artist, editors who don’t care one way or the other about kittens. You may disagree with those editors’ decisions, but they get to make that choice. You may prefer on balance not to work with such editors–again, that’s your call. You choose where to submit, and you get to have whatever reasons you want for that choice.

I am down for being open about serious problems, though. Someone who’s a really bad actor, who’s strewn destruction in their wake? Yeah, let’s know about that. We can all make our decisions about how to react to that, going forward. Concealing things to whisper networks and private chats just lets the bad actor continue to harm the unwarned.

(8) BELLY UP. This weekend Utah regional publisher Jolly Fish Press announced they are going out of business.

Our Journey Has Come to a Close

It is with deep sadness that we are announcing the closing of Jolly Fish Press (JFP). For nearly five years, JFP has been a beacon of inspiration to many in the publishing industry; we’ve opened up doors to authors, editors, designers, publicists, and illustrators alike, providing them with a platform on which their dreams of establishing themselves in the industry could be realized….

After a long process of seeking investors who believe in our company and what we aim to achieve, we have, unfortunately, failed to secure the funds necessary to grow and move the company forward. While JFP has great propensity to becoming a serious competitor in the industry, the lack of financial investment prohibits us from reaching our potential. We have approached the point where we can no longer sustain our business.

JFP is ceasing business effective October 31, 2016. All rights to our titles will be reverted by October 31, 2016. Book production will stop effective immediately.

JFP’s authors included Johnny Worthen and Jenniffer Wardell.

(9) STUART OBIT. TheRecord.com profiled the late Ruth Ann Stuart (1964-2016), who died of brain cancer on August 12, in “Lifetimes: By day an insurance worker, by night a fantasy fiction writer”.

Ruth Stuart worked in insurance, the past 10 years as quality assurance auditor for Manulife Financial. Her job required a no-nonsense approach in the anything but lighthearted world of insurance. By night, Ruth cast off her serious side and delved into the world of fantasy writing as an author, mentor, editor and inspiration to everyone in the speculative fiction community. She even dabbled in writing eroticism according to her friend and editor, Julie Czerneda.

These were two very different sides to a woman who had so many friends that while in hospital suffering through the final stages of brain cancer, Ruth’s room was constantly jammed packed with visitors, not to mention the steady stream of phone calls and text messages. Nurses suggested they install a revolving door in her room.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born October 17, 1948  — Margot Kidder

(11) APPLYING CODES OF CONDUCT AT CONS. Alexandra Erin suggests where to strike the balance, in “Priorities: Justice vs. Safety in Convention Culture”.

One comment I made in one of my recent posts that has attracted a certain amount of skepticism was my endorsement of a con culture that focuses on safety rather than justice in conflict resolutions. “How can you have safety without justice?” is one typical response. “So justice is a bad thing now?” is another.

Well, justice is most assuredly not a bad thing.

But justice in the sense of criminal justice or what we might call retributive justice is not the most pressing concern of a convention’s code of conduct, nor should it be the focus of a convention’s safety or security team.

Let me put it to you this way: how many comic, literary, or media conventions have you been to or heard of, that you would trust with the weighty responsibility of meting out justice? How many of them do you think have the people, expertise, or time and resources to serve out justice in a meaningful sense?

(12) BURTON BEFORE BEETHOVEN. The Los Angeles Times says symphony-goers have something to look forward to: “’A Freak in Burbank’: Alex Theater Concert to Feature Composer’s Paean to Tim Burton”.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard are looking to start off an upcoming concert on a more eccentric note.

One of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” will be the headlining piece at the chamber’s concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Oct. 29. However, the night will open with a roughly 10-minute work called “A Freak in Burbank,” a composition making its West Coast debut and dedicated to the legendary and eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton.

(13) SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Crooked Timber recommends “A Science Fiction Tasting Menu For The As Yet Uninitiated”.

Hors d’oeuvre—short stories available for free or cheap download

If you don’t like any of these, you won’t appreciate anything that follows

E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops – Dystopia perfectly imagined, in 1909.

William Tenn, The Liberation of Earth – All you need know about war

James Blish, Surface Tension – What imagination can do

Frederik Pohl, The tunnel under the world – Life inside Facebook

(14) TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. A.V. Club got an advance peek — The Simpson’s evil scheme to reach 600 episodes lands in the Treehouse of Horror”.

The promotional materials, including the usually amusing snarky screener announcement sent to critics (or “critics” as such people are called within), hyped the return of still-hotly-debated Homer nemesis Frank Grimes, or at least the poor guy’s ghost. And the opening segment sees the Simpsons in costume, buying Christmas trees on Halloween, as Homer says, “Because in America, everything’s way too early.” (He’s wearing an “Ivanka 2028” campaign button, because nothing matters in America at this point.) There, they’re confronted not only by the ghost of Grimes (“Who?,” asks Homer, to the ghostly Grimes’ chagrin), Sideshow Bob, Kang (or Kodos), and that leprechaun who tells Ralph to burn things, who proclaim themselves the family’s four evil nemeses before being immediately slaughtered by Maggie. (What looked like her Chaplin costume turns out to be her old Alex DeLarge costume, complete with sword cane.) Adios, Frank Grimes—you were used for a throwaway gag, as is your destiny.

The pieces that follow all partake of the same strengths and weaknesses.

(15) GORMAN OBIT. Todd Mason wrote an appreciation of the late writer, “Ed Gorman (1941-2016)”, who died October 14.

The first fanzine I read was an issue of Science Fiction Review, a magazine edited and published by the late Richard (Dick) Geis, and that issue included among much else a bit of autobiography by Algis Budrys, a fiction-writer, editor and critic who has had rather a large influence on me; along with that essay, an interview, conducted by an impressed fan of his (and of other contributors to the literary legacy of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperback line), Edward Gorman. So that’s how I was introduced to Ed, in 1978.

Like Budrys, or Geis, only perhaps even more so, Ed went ahead and did things that he clearly thought needed doing, not only establishing himself as a freelance writer, but launching the magazine Mystery Scene and engaged in the launch of the book-publishing house, Five Star, which have both done notable service to the field of crime fiction and beyond. He co-edited two (or, arguably, three) best crime fiction of the year annual series, and wrote well and often brilliantly in at least the fields of crime fiction, fantastic fiction (particularly horror), western fiction, and historical fiction. His editorial work has been impressive, beyond the magazine and annuals, often assembling key anthologies of crime fiction and more, not least with The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction and The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, and such notable compilations as the nonfiction collection The Big Book of Noir and the interview collections Speaking of Murder and Speaking of Murder 2. 

(16) DO WE BLAME ASIMOV? In a video at Business Insider, “Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why killer robots don’t scare him”.

Movies would have you believe that killer robots  are the inevitable future of technology gone awry — but Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t afraid, here’s why.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bonnie McDaniel, Mackenzie, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Jim Henley and Simon Bisson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/2/16 The Sorcerer’s Appertainment

(1) DISENCHANTED. Sharon Lee responded to the Best Series Hugo announcement in this “Sunday Morning Award Rant”.

There’s never been a Hugo for Best Series, which might strike some as odd, seeing as series is, and has always been, the backbone of science fiction and fantasy literature.  The thought, for many years, was that A Good Book Will Out, no matter if it was part of a series, or a standalone, and, indeed, many books which were parts of series have won the Novel Hugo (*).  In any case, the system kinda sorta worked most of the time, for most of the works involved.

Sort of like Ankh-Morpork under the Patrician’s rule, really.

However, the idea of a Series Hugo had been kicked around for a number of years, and the Collected Wisdom of the Business Meetings decided to go for it, despite the very real difficulties in administering — or even voting on — such an award.

What difficulties, you may ask?….

(2) ANIME CASHES IN. Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie is the highest-grossing film in Japan this year. The Guardian has the story.

Themes of body swapping, the search for love and a frantic quest to save a town from imminent destruction have combined to propel a Japanese animated film to box office gold, and prompted talk that the country has found its successor to the globally acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki.

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s fantasy about two teenagers drawn together by gender-swapping dreams, has been seen by more than 8 million people since its release in August, beating the hugely popular Godzilla Resurgence to become the highest-grossing film in Japan this year, and the ninth highest of all time.

It has earned more than 10bn yen (£77m) in box office receipts, an anime milestone previously achieved only by Miyazaki’s films.

(3) PUPPY CENSUS. Greg Hullender’s “Slate Voting Analysis Using EPH Data: 2014-2016” at Rocket Stack Rank confirmed that what I expected would happen actually did.

Look at Best Fanzine! Very few of the Rabid puppies were able to bring themselves to vote for File 770, even with Vox urging them on. I’m less clear on why almost half rejected “Penric’s Demon.”

rocketstack-slate-graphic

(4) HANDICAPPING TAKEI. When the animated Star Trek series premiered on a Saturday morning in the fall of 1973, the episode seen in the rest of the country was barred from being aired in Los Angeles because of local election politics.

Tom Bradley had been elected mayor of Los Angeles, the city’s first African-American mayor, on 29 May 1973. He’d been the City Councilman for its Tenth District prior to becoming mayor. The city had a special election held on 18 September 1973 to fill Bradley’s vacated position. Bradley had endorsed political consultant David Cunningham, Jr. to fill his seat. A few other men and women also campaigned for it. One of them was George Takei.

Nineteen years after the special election, Cunningham was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “If you don’t exercise political muscle by voting, you are not part of anything but a nondescript group.” Apparently he knew something about the use of political muscle. Complaints were raised during the 1973 campaign for the Tenth District seat—possibly by Cunningham, possibly by a nondescript group: there was no published list of named complainers found at this point in time—regarding Takei’s recognition level within the voting population being higher than for other candidates because of his portrayal of Sulu on ST: TOS.  As a result of the Federal Communication Commission’s equal-time rule regarding political candidates on television, reruns of the original series were not broadcast in Los Angeles until the special election had ended.

Which brings us, once again, to 8 September 1973. The Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC didn’t broadcast “Beyond the Farthest Star” on that date like every other network affiliate in America; instead, it broadcast the episode scheduled to follow it, “Yesteryear”, because Takei-as-Sulu had no dialogue, nor was his character a part of the plotline, which his above-mentioned political opponents were convinced would be a factor in the election. The following week, KNBC broadcast “Yesteryear” again. “Beyond the Farthest Star” wasn’t shown in Los Angeles for the first time until 22 December 1973.

suluanimated

(5) LOOK UP. Here are the prime viewing dates for the Orionid Meteor Shower – and what luck, you don’t need premium cable for this.

In 2016, the Orionid meteor shower will be visible from October 2 to November 7. The shower is expected to peak on the night of October 20 and early morning of October 21.

When Can I See the Orionids?

Orionids tend to be active every year in the month of October, usually peaking around October 20. At its peak, up to 20 meteors are visible every hour.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 2, 1950 — The “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz was published for the first time.
  • October 2, 1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents made its television debut.
  • October 2, 1959 The Twilight Zone, with host Rod Serling, premiered on U.S. television.

(7) TELL IT TO GROUCHO. And three years after Twilight Zone launched, Rod Serling was enough of a celebrity to receive a spot on Groucho Marx’ show.

(8) NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON’S GAME. “Expand your universe with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s new video game” invites this Digital Trends article.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is entering the video game business. His new game, Neil deGrasse Tyson Presents: Space Odyssey, is an educational title developed to encourage players to explore space and science.

Although in early development, it’s being designed as a building game. Space Odyssey asks players to create their own galaxies. While there are elements of MineCraft and Civilization baked into the experience, Mark Murphy, co-creator and developer of the game from Whatnot Entertainment, said it’s something unique.

(9) AMAZING STORIES’ FICTION SCHEDULE. Starting October 5, Amazing Stories will begin posting the fiction comprising its Special Edition issue:

  • Jeremy Lichtman (“Bob the Hipster Knight”); October 5
  • Alex Shvartsman (“How Gaia and the Guardian Saved the World”); October 12
  • Vince Liberato (“Parental Guidance Recommended”); October 19
  • Stephen Power (“The Sounding Cataract”); October 26
  • Karen Skovmand (“The Mesmerist”); November 2
  • Trent Walters (“Awake the Snorting Citizens With the Bell”); November 9
  • James Gordon Harper (“A Clean Start”) ; November 16
  • Matt Downer (“The Size of the Fight”); November 22
  • Stuart Barton (“Lost Phoenixes”); November 23
  • Sean Monaghan (“Penny of Tharsis Montes”); November 24

We will be publishing two additional stories in addition to those Gernsback award winning stories:

  • Kermit Woodall (“We’re all Here in the Future”); November 30
  • David Gerrold (“The Great Milo”); December 7

The above will also be compiled into a special edition issue of the magazine and released in electronic and POD formats.

(10) KEEP ON CASTING. In “Fishing for Contracts”, Brad Torgersen tells Mad Genius Club readers the similarities between a writing career and sport fishing.

I think it’s much the same with the new world of indie publishing, too. In this case, you’re not selling to an editor, as much as you’re selling to the world at large. You’re still casting — each book or individual product is equivalent to throwing out a line. Whether or not your item(s) reel back the customers, is a calculated gamble. Having more item(s) on the market is much more likely to get you action, than having few, or one. More casting with more lures is upping your chances of getting strikes. If you happen to hit the right thing at the right time for the market, you may have the fish practically jumping out of the water at you. But you can’t have a moment like that, unless you can produce first. And production comes down to having a plan, sticking to that plan, and not letting the “skunked” days — when the fish aren’t biting — throw you off your game.

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking accouterment is a replacement for either craft, or effort. I have known some writers who devote far, far more time to attending writing workshops and using the latest software, or creating the perfect home office for themselves, than they do actually putting words down on the blank page. I think they mistake the trappings of the writerly life, for actual writing. An all-too-easy mindset to fall into, I know from experience! Believe me.

But then, all I have to do is look at my little, abused, green-plastic Flambeau box — with its attendant bargain-shopper no-name pole and reel — to be reminded of the fact that you don’t need a $2,000 laptop with the latest genius manuscript program, to haul in a lunker. My first award-winner for Analog was written on a hand-me-down POS computer from work — during nights I hunched at my daughter’s vinyl-padded play table in the unfinished basement. Because it was the only quiet spot I could find, when the family was fast asleep.

(11) NATHAN FILLION AT MOSCOW COMIC CON. This is news to me – a comic con in Russia.

Actor Nathan Fillion has been cracking us up since his role on the TV show Castle — and we couldn’t be more excited for him to keep us laughing in his new role on Modern Family as a weatherman named — wait for it — Rainer Shine.

But lately, his Instagram is where the jokes are at. Nathan is currently in Moscow attending Russia Comic Con 2016, and following along has been a feast of comedic delights. See for yourself:

I keep hearing about gremlins in Russia. Been here all day and haven't seen one gremlin.

A post shared by Nathan Fillion (@natefillion) on

(12) FRAUD AT BAT POLLS? Me TV ranked all 37 villains from the Sixties Batman TV series. I can’t believe The Riddler is Number One! I was always partial to Burgess Meredith squawking it up as The Penguin.

1. The Riddler

(No. 1)  Frank Gorshin

Gorshin appeared in nine episodes, far fewer than Meredith; however, he did earn an Emmy nomination for his work. As the only actor singled out for such an honor, he deserves a place at the top.

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Steve Davidson, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/16 The Dark Nightfall Returns

(1) FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK. A teaser trailer has been released for the Leonard Nimoy documentary.

(2) KEENE LEAVING HWA. Brian Keene cites over a dozen major organizational failures by Horror Writers of America in “Why and When I Will Begin Boycotting the HWA”, a list that ends —

*And most recently (as of today) allowing an avowed white supremacist and fascist who has previously demonstrated a bias against others based on their race, religion, etc. to participate as a Bram Stoker Award Jury member — an award which will include candidates of various races and religions…..

…Effective 1/1/17 (when the new year’s memberships become active) I will no longer work with anyone who is a then-Current member of the HWA, including writers, publishers, editors, etc. I will not give cover blurbs, introductions, or anything else. If I am asked to be in an anthology, and the anthology is being edited by a then-current HWA member, I will decline. If I am asked to submit a novel, and the publisher is a then-current HWA member, I will decline.

So… if you’d like to work with me in 2017, or you’d like my help with something going forward, I’m very happy to — provided you are not a member of the HWA as of January 1, 2017. Consider this an eight-month notice, which I think is more than fair.

I realize that this decision will put me at odds with both dear friends and fellow mutually-respected peers. That’s okay. It won’t be the first time that has happened. But this is my decision. I am not a Conservative or a Progressive, and I hold the extremists in both camps with contempt. But I am a human being, and a father, and I know what is right and what is wrong. Discrimination of someone based on their race, religion, creed, etc. is wrong.

We endorse things by our participation in them. This current debacle — and previous debacles — are not things I endorse, and I will not, in good conscience, contribute my name, my money, my talent, my draw, or my platform to them.

(3) BE MY GUEST. This is not a problem File 770 has, however, Melanie R. Meadors’ advice to prospective guest bloggers makes a lot of sense — “How to Write a Publicity Query Email That Won’t get You Blacklisted by Bloggers” at Bookworm Blues.

8. Offer them content that will draw readers to their blog. Bloggers are not your bitches. They aren’t working for you. They have a blog because they want people to read them. The harsh reality is that book spotlights get skimmed or skipped. No one cares. Anything that is easy for you, the author, is usually the least effective. Bloggers want content. They want an author’s unique view of things, they want to offer their readers something to entertain and inform them. They want something that will be shared on social media. And really, that’s what YOU want, too. You are doing a publicity tour so that you can actually reach readers. Not just so you can check off a box that says “stuck crap up on the internet.” Spotlights don’t reach readers in a memorable way. Posts that make them laugh, let them hear your voice, and show them who you are hit readers in a positive way that will make them click on the link to your work so they can learn more. That type of content is good for bloggers and is good for you. Tell them what type of post you are interested in, and if possible, even offer them a topic.

(4) STANDING UP. Randall at Catalyst Game Labs wrote his “I’m Standing Up” post before Ken Burnside’s appeared, but he subsequently linked to Burnside which is how I came across it:

I’ve certainly not been perfect. I can look back across a lifetime of con attendance and gaming and cringe now and then at stupid comments I’ve made. And for that, I publicly apologize to any woman who ever felt as though I didn’t respected her, or made her feel as though she is less valuable as she is to our hobby, community, and industry.

And perhaps for that very same sense, there are men who feel ashamed to stand up. Well shake it off. Do the right thing. Stand up. This will only change if we shine a bright enough light down into those repugnant currents. If we get enough people saying this is not okay we just might push those currents down where they’re too afraid to come out any more.

Now let me be absolutely clear, here: Harassment or bullying of any sort against anyone for any reason—be it gender, race, religion, you name it—is not okay. And if I hear anyone around me gatekeeping with that tired old mantra “you’re not a real gamer,” I’m gonna slap that down. Catalyst employees know this and swiftly take care of any such situations. (If anyone has ever had any issues that were not treated appropriately by one of our employees or Catalyst agents, feel free to email me randall@catalystgamelabs.com and I’ll immediately follow up). So this filth laps onto far too many. But it seems pretty clear to me over the research I’ve done that women, by a large margin, take the brunt of this hurt.

For anyone that feels even a moment’s regret over any of this, or experiences they’ve had, please spread this post. Plenty of others are doing the same and doing it well. But we need to do it more. I’m adding my voice to theirs to swell the chorus and shine a light on those currents.

And for all those amazing gamers that make the hobby brilliant for millions of people all over the world, thank you!

I’m a white, male gamer. And I’m standing up.

(5) ASIMOV DEBATE. The 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate topic “Is the Universe a Simulation?” was discussed by panelists on April 5 at The American Museum of Natural History.

What may have started as a science fiction speculation—that perhaps the universe as we know it is a computer simulation—has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, moderated a panel composed of David Chalmers, Professor of philosophy, New York University; Zohreh Davoudi, Theoretical physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Gates, Theoretical physicist, University of Maryland; Lisa Randall, Theoretical physicist, Harvard University; and Max Tegmark  Cosmologist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

(6) BILLIONS BEYOND FANDOM. Martin Morse Wooster passed along two fannish points from a profile of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman by Nicholas Lemann in the October 16 issue of New Yorker.

1. In middle school in the mid-1980s, Hofmann was a game tester for Chaosium, located near Hofmann’s home in Emeryville.

“Hoffman got himself into one of the groups, and then returned to Chaosium, offering to correct errors he had found in a set of role-playing scripts for Dungeons & Dragons that the company had published.  He wrote a detailed memo and took it to Steve Perrin, a major game developer (All the World’s Monsters, RuneQuest, Elfquest) who was working at Choasium at the time.  ‘He looked at it and said, ‘This is good feedback,’ Hofmann says.  So they gave me another scenario pack to review.  He also began writing reviews for Different Worlds, a gaming magazine that Chaosium published, and getting modestly paid for his work.”

2. Peter Thiel, a friend and college classmate of Hofmann’s, said that Hofmann “was entranced by Snow Crash, a science-fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992, which takes place in a twenty-first century California where government has collapsed and people create avatars and try to find a new way to live through a technology-based virtual society called the Metaverse….

….Hofmann was playing with a set  of ingredients that he had first explored at Stanford, with Thiel and others–fantasy gaming, computer technology, philosophy–and thinking about whether there was a big idea that could enable him to have a major effect on the world, first through a business and then through the creation of an entire social system.”

“So sf and fandom is responsible for LinkedIn!” says Wooster, and he asks, “Can we collect royalties?”

(7) FIRST LINES. Rachel Swirsky studied her first lines and other authors’, now the third installment in her series answers the question “First Lines Part III: What Can They Do?”. Here are two of her seven points:

After giving close reading to a dozen first sentences, half mine and half others, I’m ready to make a list of things that a first line can do (although probably no first line should try to do all of them).

  1. Include a mystery the reader wants to solve by reading the next sentence.
  2. Set a fast reading pace.

(8) FINNISH WORLDCON’S FIRST PR. Worldcon 75, to be held in Helsinki in 2017, has issued its first Progress Report. Download it or read it online here. The contents include:

  • Tips on small talk with the guests of honour
  • Finland: An assortment of notes and information
  • The word for Worldcon is Maailmankongressi
  • Finnish fandom: Some unique characteristics

You can go directly the online magazine (done in a format where you digitally flip pages) by clicking here.

(9) TOHO BRINGS BACK GODZILLA. Kotaku says “Japan’s New Godzilla Movie Looks Awesome”.

For the first time in over a decade, there’s a new Godzilla movie coming from Japan’s Toho Studios. This one’s being directed by none other than Neon Genesis’ Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Terhi Törmänen,  David K.M. Klaus, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/16 (I’ll Never Be Your) Star Beast of Burden

(1) DANGER WILL ROBINSON! “’Lost in Space’ robot saved from Valley Village fire” reports Daily News.

TV and movie props that included a robot reportedly from TV’s “Lost in Space” were saved from destruction late Wednesday in Valley Village due to the efforts of Los Angeles firefighters.

The LAFD responded about 11:30 p.m. to a garage fire in the 5100 block of Whitsett Avenue. Firefighters attacked the blaze, which was electrical in nature, a fire department spokesman told a photographer at the scene.

The home belongs to a prop designer and special effects artist who was out of town at the time, according to a caretaker who woke to the smell of smoke.

(2) JOCULARITY. Two Easter hams are heard from.

(3) HEARSAY. Mark Evanier’s friend has convinced him this weekend’s blockbuster is “Not the World’s Finest” – as he explains at News From ME.

I don’t have a whole lot of interest in seeing the new Batman Vs. Superman movie, a film which has achieved something I didn’t think was possible. It actually caused my dear friend Leonard Maltin to use the word “sucks” in his review. Even Rob Schneider never managed that and lord, how he tried.

(4) PARAGRAPH FROM A FUTURE TRIP REPORT. GUFF delegate Jukka Halme outlined how he spent the day.

Sunday at Contact 2016 has been a small whirlwind. Moderated my first panel (Through New Eyes), which went really well. Chatted way too long at the Fan Fund table with the Usual Suspects. Bought books. Just a few. Waited ages for my Pad Thai at the hotel restaurant, that was brimming with people and not too many employees, Presented a Ditmar, with a little bit of Bob Silverberg routine (VERY little) to Galactic Suburbia. Held an auction for fan funds, which went smashingly well. And missed the bar, since this is a dry state and while it is apparently OK to sell alcohol during Easter Sunday, places either close up really early, or everybody had left the bar.

(5) AN AUTHOR’S USE OF NAVAJO CULTURE. “Utah author features Navajo characters, history in new science fiction thriller” in Deseret News.

After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, Robison Wells, who lives in Holladay, fell in love with both the area and the people he served. When he wrote his newest book, “Dark Energy” (HarperTeen, $17.99, ages 13 and up), which features several Native American characters and is scheduled to be released March 29, he worried about portraying them in the correct way.

“I wanted to show respect for the culture,” he said. “I didn’t want to appropriate their culture or their traditions.”

He sent his manuscript out to a lot of Navajo readers to get their reactions and tried to adjust his book accordingly. He knew writing a story centering on Native American characters and history would be a difficult and controversial thing to do, but he felt that it was such a compelling story that he had to tell it.

(6) ADDRESS FOR HAMNER CONDOLENCES. Anyone wishing to send a letter or card to the family may do so at the address below.

Jane Hamner
P.O. Box 220038
Newhall, CA 91322

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 27, 1963 — Quentin Tarantino

(8) TODAY’S BLOOD-PRESSURE BOOSTER. Jason Sanford says “The Retro Hugo Awards must be fixed”.

If any particular Worldcon wants to give out Retro Hugos, then e-book and/or online anthologies of eligible authors and stories must be made available to those nominating for the awards. And that must include works which are not in the public domain. Yes, it would take time to do this but I imagine most publishers and/or author estates would be willing to make the stories available for members at no cost.

But even if voters have access to stories from decades ago, it’s still unlikely that as many people will take part in the Retro Hugo nominating process as takes part in nominating for the regular Hugos. This, unfortunately, leaves the Retro Hugos open to missing important works and to being gamed.

To fix this here’s my next suggestion: Use a combination of juries and regular Worldcon members to nominate works for the Retro Hugos. 

I know juries seem like the ultimate insider power play, but when you’re dealing with stories published 75 or 100 years ago it can be useful to have experts in that genre time period also nominating stories. Perhaps the jury could nominate two of the five works in each category, and Worldcon members could nominate three of five. This also seems like a sensible way to make sure the nominated stories are truly the best that year has to offer.

(9) CAN MUSK AFFORD A MARTIAN ODYSSEY? “Neil deGrasse Tyson to Elon Musk: SpaceX Is ‘Delusional’ About Mars”. A writer at The Motley Fool explains Tyson’s reasons.

In less than 10 years from now, SpaceX may or may not beat NASA in the race to Mars. Astrophysicist, Hayden Planetarium director, and host of the National Geographic Channel’s StarTalk Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is placing his bet on “not.”

“The delusion is thinking that SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier. That’s just not going to happen…” Tyson said in an interview with The Verge. Tyson laid out his arguments for why fans of a solo SpaceX trip to Mars suffer from a “delusion.” According to Tyson, there are three main reasons SpaceX cannot go to Mars on its own.

Reason 1: Cost

“So if you’re going to bring in investors or venture capitalists and say, ‘Hey, I have an idea, I want to put the first humans on Mars.’ They’ll ask, ‘How much will it cost?’ You say, ‘A lot,'” Tyson said in the interview.

Tyson says it’s “very expensive” to go to Mars. How expensive? Some estimate $30 billion, but a bill of $160 billion isn’t out of the question, and critics in Congress charge that the total cost could reach $500 billion….

(10) CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE? Camestros Felapton is away traveling for a month. During their absence, Timothy the Talking Cat has taken over the blog, and has been busy posting such literary gems as “Timothy retells Dune”.

…Now there was this posh elitist liberal progressive family called the Artyfarties. They like super sucked at making money. The dad was a real wimp and the mum was in some sort of feminist cult. The son looked like the crazy guy in Agents of Shield but younger and more wimpy. The kid Artyfarties thought he was so much smarter than everybody but was a big wimp.

Now Boss Harkonen took pity on the Artyfarties. Big mistake! But he had a kind heart and he hated to see the Artyfarties suck so badly at businessing. So Boss Harkonen says to Dad Artyfarties: “You can run this planet for me. It is the only place you get Old Spice Magic which makes people young and makes spaceships run. It’s a classic monopoly, you can’t go wrong. Just don’t screw it up!” ….

(11) MEASURING SUCTION. Which is worse? Timothy the Cat’s retelling, or David Lynch’s? It’s close. Here’s Jonathan K. Dick’s evaluation of the movie at A.V Club, Dune can’t capture the novel’s incalculable brilliance”.

So what the hell is wrong with Lynch’s Dune? Before the collective “everything” echoes through the internet, it’s important to understand that the phrase itself “Lynch’s Dune” should already throw up the kind of red flags usually reserved for impending, air-raid level danger. Four years removed from his time behind the chair as director for the spirit-lifting biopic The Elephant Man and its eight Academy Award nominations, Lynch received the go-ahead from producer Raffaella De Laurentiis to direct the film adaption of Dune. This after 20 years, no less than 10 directors, producers, screenwriters, scripts, and general filmmaking anxiety that included the likes of Ridley Scott, Rudy Wurlitzer, Robert Greenhut, and of course the brilliantly documented attempt by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

(12) FIRST SEASON FLINTSONES COSPLAY? The Traveler from Galactic Journey amusingly interprets cosplay at this weekend’s WonderCon in terms of what fans knew in 1961 — “[March 27, 1961] What A Wonder! (WonderCon)”.

These are generally smallish affairs compared to their business-oriented cousins, with attendance running into the hundreds.  But for the fan who normally has a local community of just a half-dozen fellows (and perhaps many more as pen pals), going to a convention is like a pilgrimage to Mecca.  One meets people with completely different experiences, different perspectives.  There is the opportunity to get news from far and wide on exciting new projects, both fan and professional.  And the carousing is second to none, both in the heights of enthusiasm and creativity.

Take a look at my newly developed roll of shots from “WonderCon”, a sizeable affair held last weekend in Los Angeles.  These are some dedicated fans, some fabulous costumes, and some terrific times!

First off, a few attendees who came in street clothes: …

(13) MILESTONES ABOVE THE SKY. Motherboard advises that “‘In Space We Trust’ is a Beautiful History of Exploration”

In the timeline (which for all its beauty will entirely monopolize your CPU usage) you navigate the history of space as a young cosmonaut. The timeline begins with the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik and takes the user through all the major space milestones: first spacecraft, journeys to other planets, landings on celestial bodies.

Each milestone is accompanied by a series of stunning animations, a brief description of the event and a link to a Wikipedia page on the topic in case you want to read more. Your journey is orchestrated with an ethereal soundtrack that is overlaid with sounds from space like cosmonauts on a radio or rocket engines igniting.

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]